If you’re taking a cruise, it’s hard to think of a port city that offers as much as New Orleans. From food to culture to history, it’s not hard to see why the port likes to bill itself to cruise passengers as “two vacations in one.”
And judging by the numbers, lots of people are taking advantage of the Port of New Orleans as a starting point for their cruise. Each year more than a million people take cruises from the city. While that might be just a fraction of the largest ports in the world like Miami or Port Canaveral, it’s a substantial amount for a port outside of Florida.
Are you one of the million people taking a cruise from the Crescent City? If so, then you no doubt have some questions about what to expect come cruise day. We have you covered.
Below, we dive into everything you need to know about taking a New Orleans cruise, including parking, transportation, things to do, and much more. It will give you everything you need to know before cruise day to enjoy your trip.
- Distance from New Orleans Airport: 15 miles
- Number of Terminals: 2
- Passengers Carried Each Year: 1 million+
- Cruise Ship Dockings Each Year: ~200 (not including river cruises)
Port of New Orleans Location
When it comes to location, we can think of no port — except for maybe Miami — that has such a great location in the middle of everything. Specifically, the terminals sit on the banks of the Mississippi River, less than one mile from the French Quarter.
You’re near downtown, Canal Street, the Convention Center (just across the street from the terminals) and more. It’s a great location to stay for a day or two before your cruise, enjoy everything the area has to offer, and then also be right near your cruise ship.
If you are flying in for your cruise, the airport is about 15 miles, or 25-30 minutes away
Driving to the port? You can use this address to guide you there:
1100 Port of New Orleans Place
New Orleans, LA 70130
If there’s one drawback to the port’s location, it is that the trip from New Orleans down the Mississippi means it’s more than 70 miles until you hit the open water. While it is neat to cruise down the river, if you’re wanting to get into the wide open sea, you have some time to wait as your trip begins.
Things to do Near the Port
As we mentioned, the location of the Port of New Orleans means there is a lot to do right near the cruise ships. Whether you want to eat, party, gamble, learn about history, or anything in between, there’s a lot to see and do before your cruise. Below we’ve covered a few of the most interesting items…
The National WWII Museum
Within walking distance of the ports is the epic National WWII Museum. Telling the story of the war, including the European and Pacific theaters, the museum is designated by Congress as the official World War II museum for the United States.The collection includes more than 250,000 artifacts, so if you plan to visit, be prepared to spend plenty of time in order to see everything that’s offered. Adult tickets run around $30. Veterans of World War II are granted free admission.
One of the favorite things to do on a cruise is try your luck in the casino. On the ship there are all your favorite games from craps to blackjack to slot machines. But if you are in the port area, there is also a Harrah’s Casino right nearby. With about 115,000 square feet of casino, more than 2,000 slot machines and 90 tables (plus a poker room), you can no doubt find your favorite game to play.
Of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without a visit to the French Quarter. Perhaps the most well-known party spot outside of the Las Vegas Strip, the Quarter offers a number of bars and restaurants, along with lots of shops and historic architecture. Whether you’re wanting to have a late-night out, a great meal, or just soak in some culture, the French Quarter is what you’re looking for.
New Orleans Cruise Terminals
The Port of New Orleans has two terminals that serve cruise ships. They are located right next to each other, on the bank of the river and tucked behind the convention center.
Erato Street Terminal
Sailing on Carnival? Then you’ll likely sail from the Erato Street Terminal. It’s the more southern of the two terminals, closest to the bridge when looking at the port. The terminal serves Carnival heavily, with some Disney cruises as well. While most terminals have parking nearby, the Erato Terminal actually has a parking garage above the check-in area. That makes it extremely easy to park and head to get on the ship.
Julia Street Terminal
New Orleans’ other terminal is the Julia Street Terminal, located just north of the Erato Terminal. Primarily serving Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, the terminal is just a few minutes walk from the French Quarter, and a number of restaurants, hotels, and shops. Parking is in an open lot across from the terminal.
Hotels in the Port Area
For many people we recommend coming into the port city the day before their cruise. For instance, if you’re flying in there are simply too many things that can go wrong — weather, computer glitches, mechanical issues — that can delay your flight. If you are flying in on the day of your cruise, then the risk of missing the ship is too great.
That said, for just about everyone we suggest heading to New Orleans a day or two early. Even if you are driving into the port, there is simply so much to see and do in the city that adding on an extra day is well worth it.
Of course, that means you need to get a hotel if you come to New Orleans. The good news? As a tourist destination, the city offers a ton of hotel options, including many that cater to cruise passengers with perks like shuttles to the port or cruise parking. There are also a number of hotels just a short walk from the port. Here’s a few:
- Hilton New Orleans Riverside
- Residence Inn Downtown
- Springhill Suites Downtown
- New Orleans Downtown Marriott
- Hyatt Place Convention Center
If you’re interested in more hotels, you can see our list of hotels with shuttles to the cruise port and New Orleans hotels with cruise parking.
Transportation to the Port of New Orleans
Before you can start your cruise, you have to get to the port first. Fortunately, you have a number of different options on getting to the ship. Below we highlight what we think are the easiest for most passengers. You can read more details of all of your options on our port transportation page here.
To say that rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized how we get around would be putting it lightly. In just a few years they’ve entered markets nearly everywhere, including New Orleans. As such, we think it’s usually the best way for you to get from anywhere in the area to the cruise port. Rides will cost about $30 from the airport. We’ve also estimated the fares from other points of interest below:
- New Orleans Airport – $32-36
- Gretna – $9-12
- Slidell – $50-60
- French Quarter – $10-12
- Metarie – $15-18
While Uber and Lyft have put a dent in the taxi business, cabs are still a popular way to get around. They are readily available at the airport and can be called to points around the city. Fares from the airport to the French Quarter run a flat $36 for two people. If traveling with three or more, then the fare is $15 per person.
- New Orleans Airport – $35-45
- Gretna – $18
- Slidell – $75
- French Quarter – $10
- Metarie – $26
Hotels with Cruise Shuttles
We’re big proponents of staying a night or two in New Orleans given the number of things to do and see in the city. The great news is that many hotels cater to cruise passengers — and more than just the hotels right near the port. One perk they offer is transportation to the cruise port. You often need to book a package or pay a few bucks for the ride, but it’s nice to stay at a hotel and then not have to worry about getting to the port on cruise day. For a full list of New Orleans hotels with cruise shuttles, click here.
Parking For Your Cruise
Driving to the port is the easiest and fastest way to get there. Of course, if you drive then you need to find a place to park your car while you cruise. We have a complete run-down of all your parking options here. Below we have the highlights of where you can park for your cruise.
Parking at the Port
The most convenient spot to park? It’s right at the cruise terminal. The Port of New Orleans offers on-site parking. The Erato Terminal has parking literally above the check-in and boarding area. The Julia Street Terminal has a parking lot just a two-minute walk away. Depending on which terminal you sail and the time of year, you’ll pay either $20 or $22 per day. Frankly, that’s expensive and puts New Orleans as one of the most expensive places to park. While convenient, be prepared to pay.
Independent Parking Lots
If you want to save some cash, you can instead park at one of the few independent parking lots offering cruise parking. Rates vary depending on the lot and time of year, but are usually around $10-15 per day. The Fulton Place Parking Garage is one such lot and is right across the street from the cruise terminals. For more details, see our cruise parking page.
Hotels with Cruise Parking
One of the best deals in cruise parking is for passengers who plan on staying in a hotel before their cruise. As a perk designed to entice you to stay, many hotels in the area will allow you to park at their hotel while you cruise for free or at a discounted rate to what you’d pay at the port. You’ll often need to find transportation back and forth from the port, but it’s a small price to pay for the considerable savings on parking. Click here to see New Orleans hotels with cruise parking.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Time Should I Schedule a Flight Home From New Orleans?
Flying in for your cruise? You already know from above that we suggest flying in the day before your trip. Not only is there a lot to do in the area, but it will also give you more time in case your flight is delayed.
As for the flight home, you can certainly fly home the day your cruise returns. Ships get in early — around 6-7 a.m. From there, it will take 2-3 hours for everyone to get off the ship. Meanwhile, it’s another 30 minutes to the airport. To ensure you have plenty of time, we recommend not scheduling a flight before noon from New Orleans on the day your ship returns.
Where Can I Sail to from the Port of New Orleans?
Trips from New Orleans sail all over the Caribbean and Mexico. The most common stops are ports in Mexico such as Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Progreso. Some trips do offer cruises to the Bahamas, and there are even some longer trips that sail to ports like Aruba and Bonaire. For most people, however, you’re likely to head to Mexico and the western half of the Caribbean.
What’s the Cheapest Way to Get to the Port?
There are a few public transit options depending on where you are, but for most people the best combination of convenience and cost is going to be a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. These services offer coverage all around town and you can get a ride with just a few clicks on your phone. As well, the prices are typically cheaper than taking a taxi.
Have more questions about sailing from New Orleans? Let us know in the comments below.