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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

Nine in '14: Nine worldly events you can get to with a variety of cruises in 2014

One of the more interesting articles to cross our desktops this weekend was from FoxNews.com, which is not exactly known as an acknowledged source of cruise information. This article, by Andrea Rotondo, who appears to be a cruise expert for a network that most of us didn't know had one. It's entitled "9 major events you can attend via cruise ship in 2014" and it's an interesting read.

The events are from all over the world, and they're neatly arranged chronologically, from the Australian Open (tennis) in January to New Year'sAustralian OpenEve in Hong Kong. There is more variety in cruise lines — they're all different — than in events, eight of which are either sports events or parties.

Then again, aren't most "events" that you'd go to great lengths to see either sports events or parties?

The range of cruise lines goes from luxury brands like Silversea and Crystal MardiGrasand Windstar to some of the mainstream lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian…all of which are noted in the same breath as "Mardis Gras" because they all have ships that regularly sail from New Orleans. One "miss" is linking the Monaco Grand Prix only to Star Clippers when Windstar has been taking ships to the GP for a couple of years, at least.

Taking a cruise to a country because a big event was being held there is not something we've ever done, but after reading Ms Rotondo's suggestions (www.foxnews.com), it's worth thinking of taking a flyer.

Or a cruise.

Crown Princess
7 nights
November 30, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysCuracaoAruba
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85
www.princess.com

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