New Orleans has a lot going for it in terms of sightseeing opportunities, various attractions, and great food. The New Orleans Cruise Port also tops the list and is a great homeport of choice for cruises going to the Caribbean or Mexico.
If you’re not sure whether you should choose the New Orleans Cruise Port, or cruise from somewhere else, consider the pros and cons we have provided here just for you. There are many excellent reasons why you should cruise out of New Orleans, but you will also need to take a few other factors into consideration as well.
Top 5 Pros of Cruising from the Port of New Orleans
If you’ve honestly considering choosing New Orleans for your cruise homeport, you’ll be glad to know that there are many advantages to enjoy. Below we’ve detailed as many pros as we could fit in this article, so you can know what to expect should you choose the Port of New Orleans for your cruise.
1. Stunning Views of the Mississippi River.
One of the most amazing things you’ll find if you visit New Orleans is that the port, and various places around the city, offer amazing panoramic views of the Mississippi River.
Located right next door the Julia Street Cruise Terminal is the Riverwalk, which stretches all the way from the Julia Street Cruise Port, all the way to the Canal Street Ferry Terminal.
From any place on the Riverwalk you can stand to take pictures, or just take in the views of the river. The Riverwalk is also home to The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, which features various shops and restaurants. Some of the shops you’ll find there are:
- Sunglass Hut
- Café Du Monde
- NOLA Tropical Winery
- Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen
- Famous Footwear
- Haagen Daas
- Nordstrom Rack
The Riverwalk also has various events that you can participate in while visiting. To find out about any events taking place during your vacation, visit https://www.riverwalkneworleans.com/events.html.
Woldenberg Riverfront Park
If you travel just a bit further past the Canal Street Ferry, you’ll find yourself in the Woldenberg Riverfront Park, which runs alongside the river in the French Quarter.
There was a time when inhabitants of New Orleans were cut off from using the river for various reasons. But in the 70s and 80s, the Woldenberg Riverfront Park was put in between the city and the river, offering a mile-long stretch of grassy park starting at the Canal Street Terminal and ending somewhere around Clay Street.
This sprawling 16-acre space between the river and the French Quarter gives you excellent access to the river and the many photographic opportunities there. If you arrive a few hours early before your ship leaves, this is an excellent place to hang out, relax, and enjoy nature until it’s time to board your ship.
If it’s super hot while you wait, the 90-foot water feature out in front of the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is a great spot for kids to run through and cool off while the adults watch from the shade.
After you’ve had some fun splashing in the water feature and taking in views of the Mississippi River, head inside the Aquarium to find yourself immersed in a breathtaking underwater world. Visit penguins, stingrays, sharks, turtles, and more, the aquarium is a great place for children or any animal lovers to learn about all kinds of various underwater tropical animals.
For a little bit of history, and some more amazing views of the river, you don’t want to miss Jackson Square, located in the French Quarter. It’s actually right next to the Woldenberg Riverfront Park.
Back in the 18th Century, Jackson Square was known as “Place d’Armes”. At the time it was used only as a public square, home to military parades and an open air market. After the battle of New Orleans in 1814, the square was redesigned, a statue of General Andrew Jackson was erected, and the square was renamed after the general.
This famous landmark which provides stunning views of the Mississippi is also surrounded by other historic locations, such as the St. Louis Cathedral and the Louisiana state museums Presbytere and Cabildo.
While you’re there soaking in the views and the history, you’ll want to stop into the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments, the oldest apartment buildings in the US, as they provide visitors and locals various retail stores, galleries, museums, and even a few restaurants on the ground level.
2. Downtown New Orleans is Within Walking Distance of the Cruise Port
Another advantage that the New Orleans Cruise Port has above others is its proximity to downtown New Orleans. No matter which terminal you’re parked at, just take a few steps toward the city and you’ll land right on downtown streets.
Once downtown, you can go anywhere you want and not miss a thing. You’ll find three main districts downtown: the Warehouse District, the Garden District, and the French Quarter. Inside each district you’ll find restaurants, museums, and attractions that you should visit.
About 2-3 miles southwest of the terminal is the Garden District. Take a stroll up and down the streets of this gorgeous district and let the peaceful vibes melt away any stress you may have. Within you’ll find Victorian structures still standing, gorgeous mansions, and a variety of cafes, shops, and museums.
Here are a few locations you should visit in the Garden District:
- Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar
- New Orleans Ballet Theatre
- Mojo Coffee House
- Escape My Room (escape room activities)
- ShiNola Art Gallery
- The Dryades Theater
The Warehouse District is directly across the street from the Julia Street Cruise Terminal and has a lot to offer anyone walking up and down its streets.
Also called the Arts District, you should expect to find many museums and art galleries here, along with numerous shopping and dining opportunities. This district is described as a place where “the past and the present meet up for drinks while the future texts ‘I’m on my way.’”
To learn a few new things about World War II, and how New Orleans played a part, step into the World War II Museum on Magazine Street. Or view Roger H. Ogden’s private art collection (and more!) at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. For more art and history love, visit the Contemporary Arts Center or the American Italian Cultural Center.
The Warehouse District is also home to Emeril’s New Orleans restaurant (his flagship restaurant), Lafayette Square, and many hotels that you should consider (which we’ll go over in more detail soon).
The French Quarter
We briefly mentioned the French Quarter when talking about the park and Jackson Square located by the river. But what is in the French Quarter that is worth visiting? Quite a lot, actually.
First of all, it is one of New Orlean’s oldest neighborhoods, but just like the Warehouse District, you’ll also find a lot of new easily mixed in with the old. There’s a French Market, boutiques and artisan shops mixed with antique stores and art galleries.
The French Quarter is also said to be haunted in some areas, and you can visit these paranormal hotspots by booking a ghost or cemetery tour, some of which will take you The Haunted Hotel, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Lalaurie Mansion, and Hotel Monteleone.
3. Cruise Line Choices
Of course, when it comes to pros and cons of a cruise terminal, it is always helpful to know what cruise lines are offered there. Some ports will only serve one or two cruise ship liners, which can greatly limit someone’s options.
That isn’t the case with the Port of New Orleans. First, New Orleans is homeport to the four most major cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Lines (Erato Street Cruise Terminal), and Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International (Julia Street Cruise Terminal).
The cruise vessels that ship from the Port of New Orleans are:
- Carnival Glory (7-night Caribbean cruises)
- Carnival Valor (4 & 5-night Caribbean cruises)
- Norwegian Getaway (7-night Caribbean cruises)
- Royal’s Majesty of the Seas (7-night Caribbean cruises beginning January 2020)
- Disney Wonder (4, 6, & 7-night Caribbean cruises)
American Cruise Lines and the American Queen Steamboat Company offer Mississippi River cruises (between New Orleans and Memphis, TN) with the Port of New Orleans as their homeport.
Mississippi River cruise vessels that ship from the Port of New Orleans are:
- Queen of the Mississippi (7-night cruises)
- America (7 to 21-night cruises)
- American Harmony (7-night cruises)
- American Duchess (7-night cruises)
- American Queen (7-night cruises)
- American Countess (7-night cruises)
4. Endless Lodging Options
If you like to arrive a day or two before your ship leaves, and are curious about hotel and lodging options near the port, you do not have anything to worry about. There are endless lodging options to choose from.
There are quite a few hotels that are within walking distance of the cruise terminal, avoiding the need for a shuttle, but there are some that do provide parking and/or shuttle service to and from the port, making your visit as stress-free as possible.
Below is a list of some of the best hotels near the Port of New Orleans. This is by no means an extensive list. These are just some of the best hotels we have found for cruise passengers.
Hotels Within Walking Distance from the Port of New Orleans
If it’s just you and maybe one other person traveling, it’s possible that you would rather stay at a hotel where you can walk to the port. This way, you don’t have to worry about finding a shuttle, taxi, or some other way of getting to the port. All you need are your own two feet.
The list below are all located less than a mile from the cruise terminal, and are excellent hotels to stay in before or after your cruise. All are reasonably priced and offer all kinds of amenities to make your stay the best hotel stay ever.
The last two on the list, the Hampton Inn and the Hilton Garden Inn, do offer shuttle service to and from the cruise port. Just in case you decide last minute that a shuttle would be a very nice thing to have.
- Hyatt Place New Orleans/Convention Center – Provides parking for $17 per night
- Springhill Suites Downtown
- New Orleans Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center
- Omni New Orleans Riverfront
- Courtyard New Orleans Downtown/Convention Center
- Hilton New Orleans Riverside – 20% room discount, $13/night parking during cruise
- Embassy Suites by Hilton New Orleans Convention Center
- Hampton Inn & Suites New Orleans Convention Center – $25 discount on parking during cruise
- Hilton Garden Inn New Orleans Convention Center
Park & Cruise Hotels Near the Port of New Orleans
The following list of hotels all have some sort of package for cruise guests that either offer parking during a cruise, shuttles to and from the terminal, or both. For more New Orleans parking tips check our dedicated article.
- Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome – 8 nights free
- The Queen Anne Hotel – 7 nights free, must book minimum of 2 nights for package
- Prytania Park Hotel – 7 nights free, must book minimum of 2 nights for package
- Prytania Oaks Hotel – 7 nights free, must book minimum of 2 nights for package
- Holiday Inn New Orleans West Bank Tower – Free parking for entire cruise duration
- Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter – 7 nights free
- Maison St. Charles – 7 nights free, $15 each additional night
- Ramada by Wyndham Metairie New Orleans Airport – Free parking for entire cruise duration
Parking & Shuttle:
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Metairie (New Orleans) – 7 nights free, one-way shuttle only
- Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport – 14 nights free, one-way shuttle only
- Courtyard Marriott New Orleans Westbank/Gretna – Parking for entire cruise duration, roundtrip shuttle
- Comfort Suites Harvey – New Orleans West – Parking for entire cruise duration, roundtrip shuttle
5. Delicious Food
Many will agree that New Orleans cuisine is among the best, whether they live locally or are frequent visitors. If you’re in the mood for some spicy Cajun food cooked Louisiana style, or you just want to find somewhere to get a quick bite, here is a list of restaurants you should look for near the cruise port:
- Mike Anderson’s Seafood
- Dino’s Bar & Grill
- Café Du Monde
- Ugly Dog Saloon & BBQ
- Two Chicks Café
- Cochon Butcher & Restaurant
- Galliano Restaurant
- Barcadia Bar & Grill
The Top 3 Cons of Cruising from the Port of New Orleans
Unfortunately, even the absolute best cruise port isn’t perfect. Every location offers something different that can make visiting or cruising less than 100% amazing.
Thankfully, New Orleans only has a few cons for cruise passengers, some of which are unique to just the Port of New Orleans. Whether or not these cons are deterrents is entirely up to you and the overall cruise experience you wish to have.
1. Weather Delays
Louisiana’s location in the southern part of the United States and so close to the Gulf of Mexico means that the Port of New Orleans isn’t a stranger to weather delays due to fog out on the waters.
If you wish to avoid weather-related delays, the best time to travel is probably during the winter and spring months. Summer and Fall, because of the higher temps and humidity, can easily give rise to heavy fog or even hurricanes. As a result, sometimes cruises may get delayed, or in more serious cases, be canceled.
Winter and spring have milder climates and have a much lower probability of storms or delays.
No matter when you decide to come to New Orleans, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather so you’re comfortable. We also suggest arriving at least a day in advance to allow for flight delays or traffic issues.
2. Waiting for Onboard Amenities to Open
One big draw to cruising many people like is having access to every onboard amenity upon boarding, sometimes before the ship even takes off.
While this is true for many cruise ports that are already located on the ocean, it’s a little different for ships leaving from the Port of New Orleans. Cruise ships there are docked on the river, not the ocean, and the river is considered United States territory.
Unfortunately, this means that there are some onboard shops that won’t be allowed to open for business until the ship hits international waters.
You will definitely see this with the casino on board. Due to various maritime laws, casinos on cruise ships are not allowed to open and conduct business until they are out of internal and territorial waters and instead are on international waters.
From the time the ships leave the Port of New Orleans and hit the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico (where it will be in international waters) is about 100 miles, so you should be prepared to wait about 7-8 hours to be able to start your gambling fun.
While you wait, we recommend going for a leisurely walk on deck, or bring a book to read and hit the lounge. There should be a buffet open, or maybe the main dining room, so go get something to eat. Or, if you’re super tired after a long flight and drive, use this opportunity to take a much needed nap in your cabin.
3. Rough Sailing in the Gulf of Mexico
Something else to consider when it comes to cruising from New Orleans is the roughness of the trip. While many cruises will eventually make their way to the Caribbean, coming from New Orleans they must first travel through the Gulf of Mexico.
During certain times of the year, the Gulf of Mexico can be a much rougher ride than sailing through the Caribbean. This is due to any cold fronts coming across the Gulf. For that matter, cruising in the winter out of New Orleans might come with some especially rocky riding.
This isn’t so much a safety issue, as the waters in the Gulf aren’t going to rock enough to tip your cruise ship. But if you get seasick easily, or are would rather ride through smoother waters, it’s certainly something to consider.
FAQ About Cruising from the New Orleans Cruise Port
Where do cruises leave from New Orleans?
The Port of New Orleans is located at 1350 Port of New Orleans Place. Cruise ships will leave from either one of two terminals: Julia Street (920 Port of New Orleans Place) and Erato Street (1100 Port of New Orleans Place).
Once the cruise ships leave the Port of New Orleans, it’ll take about 7-8 hours to travel along the Mississippi before getting to the Gulf of Mexico and international waters.
Where is the best location to stay in New Orleans?
Any of the hotels within walking distance are great places to stay. However, our top recommendation is the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, located at 2 Poydras St.
Why that one? First, it is super close to the cruise port (0.3 miles). But the amazing thing about them is while many hotels charge extra for the park & cruise packages, this hotel automatically gives you a 20% discount on your room just for being a cruise traveler.
They also provide you with cruise parking at a heavily discounted rate of $13 per night (normally $44 per night), which is a steal. They don’t have a shuttle for the port, but being so close to the terminal you aren’t going to need it.
How Long is a Typical Cruise from New Orleans?
The average length of a cruise shipping out from New Orleans is 7 nights. There are a select few that are either shorter or longer, but 7 nights is the typical cruise length.
As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to choose the Port of New Orleans as the homeport for your cruise. From amazing views of the Mississippi River, easy access to downtown, and unending hotel options. However, there are also a few cons to weigh against those pros, and it’s ultimately up to you which is more important.
The biggest downside is the chance of riding on rough waters, which can be problematic for those prone to seasickness.
But even with that, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the land of Cajun cooking and Mardi Gras. If you decide to come to New Orleans, we know you’ll have a blast.