THE BIG EASY; TRYING TO WOO NEW CRUISE BUSINESS

Holland America is one of the lines being courted by the port of New Orleans

Holland America is one of the lines being courted by the port of New Orleans

In a move to bolster its cruise business, the city of New Orleans has apparently been in talks with a number of mainstream cruise lines that have not hitherto home ported a ship there. Names in the frame include Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, MSC, and even Princess Cruises.

The move comes hard on the heels of a decision by Royal Caribbean International not to base a ship in the famed Louisiana port any time through 2015-16. Current regular New Orleans staple, Serenade Of The Seas is being redeployed in April of 2015, possibly out of Hong Kong.

That would leave the port with a brace of year round,  Carnival ships in residence; the Fantasy class Carnival Elation, which operates short, four and five night cruises to the highlights of the Yucatan, and the far larger, first of class Carnival Dream, which offers seven night sailings to such western Caribbean destinations as Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

In addition, Norwegian will send the 92,000 ton Norwegian Dawn round to New Orleans in November 2014. The ship will make some twenty one, seven night western Caribbean cruises through to April, 2015, when she relocates to Boston for her series of summer cruises to Bermuda.

While ideal as a cruise port for passengers on the American continent, New Orleans presents something of a logistical hurdle for UK and European fly cruise passengers, as there are no direct, point to point flights between the UK and New Orleans. On my last couple of cruises out of the city, I used scheduled services that necessitated flight changes in Atlanta and Washington DC, respectively.

The Louisiana port is also some way inland, a sixty mile sail to and from the Gulf Of Mexico. In the past, thick fog has delayed the passage of different ships along this waterway on several occasions; causing delays and sometimes even shortened sailings.

Still, it is to be hoped that the gap left by Royal Caribbean will indeed be filled. With Disney Cruise Line currently only fielding a four ship fleet, it seems more likely to me that any potential new ‘Big Easy’ resident will come from the fleets of the far larger Princess or Holland America stables.

This seems more likely, as the focus of both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises seems to be on Asia.  As for MSC, that line will soon be withdrawing its only dedicated, USA based year round ship- MSC Divina- back to Europe next spring. So a new arrival in New Orleans would seem very unlikely.

As always- stay tuned.

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