Complete Guide to Cruising from the Port of New Orleans

Complete Guide to Cruising from the Port of New Orleans

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.”

Jackson Square in New Orleans

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 hundreds of thousands of people take cruises from the city, making it the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S. 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 many 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.

Fast Facts

  • Distance from New Orleans Airport: 15 miles
  • Number of Terminals: 2 (Erato, Julia)
  • 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.

Port of New Orleans map
The New Orleans port sits near a number of major attractions, including the French Quarter. Map data: Google

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 (20-30 minute walk) 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-$40. Veterans of World War II and companions are granted free admission.

Harrah’s Casino
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.

New Orleans

French Quarter
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.

Port of New Orleans terminal map
New Orleans has two terminals, serving Carnival, Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Disney. Map data: Google

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:

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 $30-35 from the airport. We’ve also estimated the fares from other points of interest below:

  • New Orleans Airport – $30-35
  • Gretna – $15-20
  • Slidell – $45-50
  • French Quarter – $8-10
  • Metairie – $15-20

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 – $36
  • Gretna – $20
  • Slidell – $75
  • French Quarter – $12
  • Metairie – $25

Hotels with Cruise Shuttles/Walking Distance
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. Others are located right within walking distance of the cruise port. 

With one of these hotels, it’s nice to stay 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 or walking distance to the ship, 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 (Recommended)
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 the length of your cruise, you’ll pay around $22-23 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 $15 per day. Even so, we’d recommend simply parking at the port. 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

Broadside view of Carnival ship in port

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.

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