Debbie Gonzales and a few of her friends planned a cruise to celebrate her 60th birthday. A few friends quickly became dozens.
"It went from five to 10 to 12 to 25 and then 45 and then on up to 101," she says.
The group set sail on a long weekend trip aboard the Carnival Elation. As the ship returned to port Monday morning, the group heard Carnival's big announcement. The Elation will be replaced with the larger Triumph next April.
"This is a fantastic ship," says Carnival spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz. "It's got a really cool martini bar, it's got a great pub, it's got a terrific water slide and great family features, and it's got about 500 cabins with balconies which are fantastic."
The Triumph can carry about 1,000 passengers more than the Elation, meaning a lot more people can sail from the city of New Orleans every year. Along with the Carnival Dream, which came to New Orleans last year, the two ships are expected to carry 450,000 cruise passengers. annually.
"It's sizable incremental growth," says Don Allee with the Port of New Orleans. "Obviously, a bigger vessel is always a better vessel. The Triumph is going to be very exciting to have here. It probably equates to about another 50,000 passengers per year simply because this ship is coming to the Port of New Orleans."
Triumph will offer the same itinerary as the Elation, four-day cruises to Cozumel and five-day cruises with stops in both Cozumel and Progreso.
Port officials say many passengers add stays in the city to their cruise plans, which pumps more money into the local economy.
"It's not just the French Quarter, it's everything that New Orleans represents," says Allee. "And then to top that off with a blue water cruise, what could be better?"
The Triumph begins sailing from New Orleans April 4, 2016.