New Orleans Cruise Port Guide

Cruises to New Orleans bring you to the heart of the city, where you’ll find a pulsating world of jazz, Mardi Gras, vibrant cuisine, glorious architecture, and joyous multiculturalism. There’s nowhere like New Orleans, which manages to combine ancient cobblestone streets lined by enchanting Creole cottages with foot-stomping music venues, world-class shopping, leafy parks, fascinating museums, and intriguing history. 

Shaped by cultures from Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean, New Orleans exudes a sense of celebration, from the live music on every corner to the delicious street food in the French Market. There’s always something new to discover, taste, listen to, and learn about in this exciting, high-spirited city where the good times roll.

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Top Sights & Attractions on Cruises to New Orleans

French Quarter

The bohemian 18th-century French Quarter is the city’s cultural hub, which is rich in history, architecture, and music. Explore the jazz bars of Bourbon Street, and stroll streets lined by colorful 18th and early 19th-century houses adorned with filigree cast-iron balconies. Visit St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, and watch street performers in Jackson Square. Head for the fabulous French Market for more music, gourmet treats, and art.

The Garden District

Easily reached on the historic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, this upscale neighborhood displays another face of the architecture of the Deep South. Here, you’ll find historic homes and grand, sometimes charmingly faded mansions built by some of the city’s famous residents. Ancient oak trees festooned by Spanish moss curve dramatically over the sidewalks, adding to the leafy atmosphere. While you’re here, explore Magazine Street, lined with top-notch boutiques, bars, and restaurants.

World-Class Museums

New Orleans is packed with superb museums and galleries. The National WWII Museum vividly tells the story of war, while the Contemporary Arts Center offers rotating exhibits of painting, sculpture, film, and photography. Mardi Gras World isn’t a museum, as such, but provides a fascinating insight into the work behind those dazzling Mardi Gras floats. Sazerac House, with its own distillery, takes you through the history of the city’s cocktail culture.

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Top Things to Do in New Orleans

Learn About Jazz

Join a guided tour with a local expert to unravel the origins of jazz, starting in beautiful Louis Armstrong Park in the Treme neighborhood. Explore the hip Marigny district, famed for its nightlife and music joints, and Frenchmen Street, packed with legendary live music venues. Take in street performances and listen to live bands in bars as you discover the history of this musical genre and its connection to the city’s European, West African, and Caribbean cultures.

Take a Steamboat Tour on the Mississippi River

A great way to take in the views of the Louisiana landscapes bordering the broad crescent of the lower Mississippi River is from a traditional river steamboat. A local guide will point out all the sights and regale you with facts, figures, and gossip, while you’ll have a chance to taste delicious local specialties and listen to calliope music and live jazz.

Join a Ghost Tour

New Orleans’ spooky underbelly includes eerie tales of voodoo, witchcraft, and vampires. Join a guided ghost tour at night for a theatrical and entertaining insight into the city’s supernatural past. Start in the French Quarter and visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a place of historic medical contraptions and reputed paranormal activity. LaLaurie Mansion has a grisly history and is believed to be the most haunted house in the French Quarter.

Top Food & Drink Spots in New Orleans

New Orleans has an exciting and distinctive cuisine, influenced by Creole and Cajun spices and traditions. Jambalaya is a thick, spicy stew including chicken, sausage, shrimp, rice, and vegetables. Gumbo, meanwhile, features meat or shellfish cooked in a punchy stock and is flavored with celery, bell peppers, and onions, with rice served on the side. 

Po’ Boy is a meaty sandwich served on French bread, while Etouffée is a rice dish topped with a roux sauce and shrimp or crawfish. These crustaceans, incidentally, are like mini freshwater lobsters, best cooked in a big pot with corn, potatoes, and Cajun spices. 

Dig into the quintessential New Orleans dessert, the sugary beignet, best enjoyed with coffee at the famous Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street.

Culture & History of New Orleans

New Orleans has a unique heritage, making it completely different from other cities in the U.S. The city was founded in 1718 by French colonists and handed to Spain in 1760, after which time it flourished as a port. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, New Orleans became part of the U.S. Since then, despite various booms and slumps, not least the Depression, New Orleans has fostered a multi-cultural ambiance that combines French and Spanish Creole with southern roots and an eclectic arts and music scene. 

Locals are passionate about the city’s jazz heritage and Creole cuisine and take enormous pride in the annual Mardi Gras festival, a celebration that occurs 47 days before Easter. This is one of the largest celebrations in the U.S. with parades, concerts, food, and those famous Mardi Gras beads. 

New Orleans Cruise Port Facilities & Location

Cruise ships dock at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal on the Mississippi River in the heart of the city, just a five-minute drive from the French Quarter. It’s served by the Riverfront Streetcar Line, on which vintage streetcars transport you between the aquarium and the French Market. There are souvenir stands, a refreshment outlet, restrooms, Wi-Fi, and an ATM in the terminal itself.

Julia Street Cruise Terminal is located in the midst of shops and restaurants; it’s right next door to Riverwalk Outlets, which is packed with places to eat, shop, and drink.

Transportation in New Orleans

Getting around New Orleans is easy. Many visitors enjoy walking, as there’s so much to see and the center is relatively compact, but taxis and rideshares are widely available. Riding the old-fashioned streetcars is fun, and the four main lines take in all the major sights. You can also rent a bicycle and explore 100 miles of cycle lanes, zip around by ferry, or summon a pedicab and take in the sights while chatting to your “driver”.

Shopping Near the New Orleans Cruise Port

Shopping in New Orleans is spectacular, ranging from quirky local specialty stores to high-end designer labels. Within a short walk of the cruise terminal, you’ll come to the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, where you’ll find discounts on numerous popular brands. For the most upscale shopping, head to Canal Place on Canal Street, where you’ll find luxury retailers.

For some authentic New Orleans souvenirs, head to the French Market. Here, you’ll find colorful carnival masks, voodoo dolls, any number of hot and spicy sauces to take home, Mardi Gras beads, and pralines. Beignet mix is another fun item to take home to recreate your time in the Big Easy.

Local Currency & Tipping Customs

The currency in New Orleans is the U.S. Dollar. ATMs are located all around the city, including one located within the cruise terminal. 

Tipping is part of the local culture here, as it is throughout the U.S. It is customary to tip 15% to 20% of your total bill in restaurants, while taxi drivers, bartenders, and baristas also appreciate a gratuity. Tip good tour guides around 10 percent of the cost of the tour, per person. 

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