The first four-day Disney cruise sold out in just an hour, and more cruise lines are about to launch bigger ships and longer cruises from the Port of New Orleans.
Disney announced in September that cruises out of New Orleans would start in early 2020.
When tickets went on sale, “You wouldn’t believe the people that jumped on that,” said Brenda Walker. She and her husband Billy Walker own Coast Cruises and More, a Cruise Planners franchise, and are American Express Travel representatives.
The day Disney opened reservations to the general public, she was on the website trying to book cabins.
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“It sold out in one hour. The whole cruise,” she said. “It just shows you how eager people are to cruise local.”
For years, people in South Mississippi had a choice of one Carnival ship out of Mobile and two out of New Orleans, Brenda Walker said, or they had to fly or drive to take a cruise out of Florida or Texas.
Now, more cruise lines are “testing the waters,” she said, and even Carnival has expanded its trips.
Choices for the winter season include:
▪ Disney Cruise Lines has six cruises scheduled from New Orleans beginning Feb. 7. The last, which leaves March 6, is a 14-night Panama cruise that boards in New Orleans and ends in San Diego.
▪ Norwegian Cruise Lines starts sailing from New Orleans in November aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. The 3,963 passenger ship will sail seven, 10 and 11-night trips to the Caribbean through April.
▪ Royal Caribbean will start week-long cruises aboard Vision of the Sea out of New Orleans in January after three years away from the port. The company features cruises over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, with trips to the Bahamas and Mexico.
▪ Carnival Cruise Line expanded its service in Mobile from four to five nights and began offering six- and eight-night cruises, Walker said. “This year they did a 10-day Panama Canal cruise from Mobile,” she said, again testing the waters. Out of New Orleans, four- to seven-day cruises to Cozumel, Mexico and Belize, starting at $239 a person.
Norwegian has operated seasonal cruises from New Orleans in the past. “This year they’re bringing in one of their big new ships,” Walker said.
Breakaway is the length of three football fields. It was refurbished this year to add The Waterfront, a quarter-mile promenade with restaurants and bars along one level. Passengers can choose to eat and drink inside or out, Walker said, and with Italian, French, Brazilian and other cuisines, “You pretty much have the world,” she said.
Depending on the cabin, passengers can get an unlimited drink package that will save them money, she said.
The ship also has five water slides, a sports complex with a rock climbing wall and ropes course along with a miniature golf course.
Carnival is so popular with travelers in South Mississippi, many whome aren’t familiar with Norwegian, Walker said. To get acquainted, the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a seven-day cruise March 3-10 through Coast Cruises and More. The deadline to go along on the Mardi Gras cruise is Nov. 3, Walker said.
The Disney cruises have activities for adults and children. “Behold Broadway-caliber musicals and fireworks at sea, celebrate at deck parties and watch new Disney movies in 3D,” the website says. Mickey and other Disney characters are on board to entertain the kids and nightclubs are there for adult entertainment.
Disney cruises are more expensive than other cruise lines, “but they’re Disney,” Walker said.
Is the price right?
While some people believe cruises are only for the rich, she said that’s not the case.
A seven-night Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean out of New Orleans — which has eight pools and hot tubs, sushi classes and movies under the stars — starts at $429 and others that go over New Year’s Eve starting at $899.
“When kids are out of school, prices are higher,” she said.
But cruising has become more affordable, Walker said. They include meals and many activities, are family-friendly and she said passengers don’t have to pack and unpack like they do on other vacations.
For the largest ships with the greatest amenities, such as an on-deck go-kart track, people still will have to board cruise ships from the larger ports.
Those who go out of the New Orleans cruise terminal near the Convention Center can ride the street car and eat fresh beignets by the river before the ship leaves the port.