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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

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