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Newer, larger cruise ships to deploy from New Orleans

New Orleans, La. - The Port of New Orleans will soon get a lot busier, as Carnival Cruise Lines is sending in newer, larger ships that can accommodate more passengers.

On any given weekend, cruise ships are lined up at the Port of New Orleans, ready to set sail to destinations in Mexico and beyond. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian all sail out of New Orleans, and studies show the passengers that board those ships spend lots of money in the region.

Port CEO Gary LaGrange says, "The normal spending out of pocket for cruise ship passengers in any other port is $92 a day. Here in New Orleans they spend $335 a day."

LaGrange says we can expect to see even more cruise-goers in the coming years, as Carnival Cruise Lines prepares to bring in newer and larger ships to the port, starting with the 2900-passenger Carnival Sunshine in November, replacing the Conquest. Other changes will be made shortly after that.

LaGrange explains, "In April 2014 the Sunshine will be replaced by Carnival's largest ship, the Dream, coming from Cape Canaveral - 4,000 passengers. Passenger-wise it's an uptick of about 22 percent over the Conquest, about 700 more passengers."

In addition to new ships coming in to the Port of New Orleans, the city is also planning on opening a new cruise ship terminal along Poland Avenue. LaGrange says, "We could have up to six ships here during the season. We could have two docked at Erato every weekend, two at Julia every weekend, and two at Poland every weekend once Poland is completed in late 2014, early 2015."

The hope is that additional cruises would bring more money to the city. Already, the amount coming in is staggering. "In 2011 we know those numbers were right at a half a billion dollars in direct spending and income. 5,512 people employed because of the cruise ship industry," LaGrange said.

Something that helps, LaGrange says, is that cruises leaving from New Orleans are often marketed as two vacations in one. People are encouraged to spend time in New Orleans before or after their cruise.

Sarah and Robert Thompson are in New Orleans from California to catch a cruise and tell us, "This time, since the Essence Festival is here, we thought we'd be good to cruise then spend a few extra days and go to the festival."

Such plans are music to city officials' ears.

LaGrange says he's trying to bring in other big ships to the port, such as the Disney Cruise. With an additional terminal on Poland Avenue, there will be plenty of room for new ships.

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