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New Orleans: Big Growth Not Easy

New Orleans-4

Anniversaries are always reason for reflection, good or bad. It's now 10 years since Katrina.

One word. That's often the case with things that are unforgettable — Hiroshima, Elvis, LeBron — because one word is all it takes.

Katrina.

It was the last week of August 2005. The hurricane that destroyed a city. In the New Orleans-1aftermath, they said New Orleans would never be the same. They said the people wouldn't go back…not to live, not to visit, not to cruise.

But they have.

In 2006, Carnival resumed its New Orleans operations with one ship, the Fantasy. Sixteen thousand passengers. It was a start.

Fast forward.

This year, after gradually increasing the size and number of ships plus the frequency of the cruises, Carnival expects to carry 450,000 passengers from New Orleans. One of its biggest ships, the Dream, is based in New Orleans, taking up to 3,646 passengers on New Orleans-2week-long Caribbean cruises all year long. That's complemented by the Elation, running 4-and-5-day cruise to Mexico. Next spring, another increase…the 2,758-passenger Triumph replaces the Elation, shuttling 700 additional passengers off to sea every four or five days.

It's not all Carnival, of course. Norwegian, Azamara and Crystal also cruise from The Big Easy. But Carnival is biggest, a commitment that has led to port improvements.

Next year, Carnival's 3,000,000th passenger will pass through New Orleans since Katrina.

A decade ago, nobody would have predicted that.

In the news…

• Regent Seven Seas trumpets new Explorer as "most luxurious ship ever built"
• Viking River Cruises going back to the Ukraine after two-year absence

Today at portsandbows.com: Green light for Greenwich


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
December 5, 2015
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

Cruise Port: NOLA And The Long Road Back

Photo by M. Lamar Griffin, Sr.

This week, we're featuring ports you may find on your cruise itinerary, to give you a snapshot of what it's like, what ships usually go there and what some of the options are once you get off the ship. Today it's New Orleans, Louisiana.

This summer, it will be nine years since Hurricane Katrina. Nine years since a city that sits below sea level, and above the expectations of almost every visitor, was crushed. Its population was devastated, along with its infrastructure, its commerce, its spirit and even — as time would prove — some of its moral character.

Would, everybody asked, New Orleans ever make a comeback?

Our first visit was post-Katrina. We saw remnants of the devastation, yet we also saw some stage of the comeback that in places is now complete. We saw the vibrancy and the food and the entertainment that made it so unique, so famous. And it wasn't even Mardi Gras.

If you're a first-time cruiser going to The Big Easy, there are two things worth noting. One is that it's a great port to drive to because in the midst of all the chaos that is downtown New Orleans, there is parking exclusively for cruise passengers that is both reasonable and safe. The second thing is leave some time to see the city.

James-CarvilleThe French Quarter is a day, if you can walk that long. Food and jazz define this funky atmosphere and funky neighborhood, day and night. Literally.

Even when Mardi Gras is not on (it's in February), there are music festivals and street festivals for all genres. If there isn't basketball or football or golf for the sports fan, there's also minor-league baseball, arena football and minor-league soccer.

There are tours to plantations, museums, neighborhoods and cemeteries — everybody's "buried" above ground. One of our favorites was a ride in the swamps, far more fascinating and educational than it sounds. In the midst of it all, the words of one of the city's favorite sons, political animal James Carville, say it best:

"You don't need a guidebook to see New Orleans — just a good pair of shoes."

Today at portsandbows.com:  The newest river cruise line in Europe is on the water!

Norwegian Spirit
10 nights
November 26, 2014
Barcelona (return): CasablancaMadeiraTenerifeArrecifeMalaga
Inside: $679
Cost per day: $67
www.ncl.com

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