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New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the most iconic cities in America due to its historic streets, charming architecture, epic festivals, and mouthwatering cuisine. New Orleans cruises take you right to the heart of the city at its bustling port, which is a short distance from the historic quarter and many of New Orleans’ top sites.
There are a number of New Orleans cruise itineraries that travelers can choose from while on a Caribbean cruise, ranging from 10-night, 11-night, and 12-night options, all of which have overnights while in port in New Orleans. Other ports of call include those along the eastern coast of Mexico, islands of the western Caribbean, and Key West, Florida.
The French Quarter is the area of New Orleans you don’t want to miss. It is a cultural hub that is home to history, architecture, and music. For the French Quarter’s infamous bar scene, you’ll want to head to Bourbon Street, where you’ll find an assortment of bars, many of which have live music. The most popular music to seek out while there is jazz at one of the many jazz clubs in the French Quarter.
The architecture of the French Quarter stands out due to its charm. You’ll feel a bit like you’ve been transported back in time as you walk along the colorful streets lined by creole cottages, many of which date back to the late 18th and early 19th century. You’ll immediately notice creole cottages due to their heights of one-and-a-half stories, colorful façades, and gabled roofs.
Some of the other top sites to see in the French Quarter are the historic Pontalba Buildings which make for a great photo op; St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States; and Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley that was built in 1752.
Another beautiful area to explore in New Orleans is located along St. Charles Avenue, which gives you a taste of the residential and uptown side of the city. St. Charles Avenue has historic row homes and mansions built by some of the city’s famous past residents, leafy and towering oak trees that curve dramatically over the sidewalks, and an assortment of bars and restaurants.
This well-maintained and historic Roman Catholic cemetery is worth a visit due to its stately tombs, mausoleums, and above-ground vaults. The cemetery is rumored to be haunted and has been featured in several Hollywood blockbusters. Saint Louis Cemetery consists of three different cemeteries built at separate times. Each has a bit of a different ambiance from the others. No. 1 and No. 2 are part of the National Register of Historic Places.
New Orleans cruises don’t just get you close to the city center. You’ll also be just a shore excursion away from one of Louisiana’s most interesting attractions: Oak Alley Plantation. Located about 55 miles from New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation provides guests with an excellent account of the complex history of Louisiana at its onsite exhibitions. You’ll also be able to tour the house itself as well as explore the grounds. Oak Alley Plantation spreads out across 1,300 acres and is home to a gorgeous 300-year-old pathway of oak trees covered in moss, which you’ll go through to get to the main entrance.
A great way to take in the view of the Louisiana land bordering the Mississippi River during cruises to New Orleans is to board a river steamboat. You’ll be taken around the river on a historic ship while enjoying a meal and live jazz on board.
Audubon Park is a gorgeous nature reserve located right in the city center of New Orleans that has walking paths, beautiful oak tree allées, playgrounds, a lagoon, and even a zoo and aquarium. It’s a great place for families with children to visit or anyone of any age who enjoys beautiful nature.
Cruises to New Orleans will excite your taste buds as well as your sense of sight. The food is heavy on Creole and Cajun spices and fresh seafood, from jambalaya and gumbo to seafood markets featuring the fresh catch of the day. The quintessential dessert in New Orleans is the homemade, sugary beignet.
Top places to eat in New Orleans:
Café du Monde
A café famous for it beignets. Get them with a coffee and enjoy a relaxing start to your day or eat as a midday snack.
An upscale restaurant famous for its Caribbean cuisine with a New Orleans twist.
For drinks, most people think to head to the lively bars on Bourbon Street. Just be aware that some can get pretty raucous and Bourbon Street is far from the only place to get a drink in a classic New Orleans setting.
Here are some standout options:
Located in Hotel Monteleone, this iconic bar is set up like a carousel – one that actually revolves! The bar does a full rotation every 15 minutes.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte’s touts itself as being housed in the oldest building in the U.S. used for a bar. It’s located at the lower end of Bourbon Street and is situated in a Creole home that was originally built around 300 years ago.
There’s no other city in the U.S. quite like New Orleans thanks to its unique heritage. The city was founded in 1718 by French colonists and was part of France until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 when it joined with the U.S. Since then, it has gained a multi-cultural ambiance that combines French and Spanish Creole with southern roots and an eclectic arts and music scene. The city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and took a long time to recover, but today it has gotten its groove back and is a great place to visit on a cruise.
From a cultural standpoint, you’ll find that locals are passionate about the city’s jazz music and Creole cuisine. The other thing that defines this city’s culture is the annual Mardi Gras festival, a celebration that occurs 47 days before Easter. It’s one of the largest celebrations in the U.S. with parades, concerts, food, and those famous Mardi Gras beads.
New Orleans cruises pull into port at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal Complex, which was originally built for the 1984 World’s Fair that took place in New Orleans. It became a cruise terminal in 1991 and has undergone many makeovers over the decades. Today, it has an air-conditioned gangway, covered drop-off and pick-up area, and two berths that span enough space to accommodate large cruise ships.
Julia Street Cruise Terminal is located right by shops and restaurants and is just a mile away from Bourbon Street.
New Orleans cruises are convenient since you can walk to most attractions in the city, but if you need to get somewhere faster or aren’t comfortable walking long distances, you have several options for transportation. Taxis are often waiting outside the cruise terminal and there are taxi stands throughout the city. You can also find cheaper transportation in the form of New Orleans’ streetcars, which zip around the city and have multiple stops in the French Quarter. For a historic mode of transportation, board the St. Charles Line, which is the oldest continually operating streetcar line in the world.
Shopping is located just a few blocks from the cruise terminal. Within a short walk, you’ll come to the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, where you’ll find discounts on popular brands like Coach, Gap, and Steve Madden. There is also a Nordstrom Rack and Neiman Marcus Last Call.
For some upscale shopping, head to the Shops at Canal Place. Located along a gorgeous part of Canal Street, the shops encompass a number of beloved brands, like Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, BCBG, J. Crew, Vineyard Vines, Louis Vuitton, and Tiffany & Co.
For more classic souvenirs, take a walk around Forever New Orleans, a large gift shop with items centered around the city of New Orleans.
Businesses in New Orleans accept the U.S. dollar and many will also accept credit cards. ATMs are located all around the city, including one located within the cruise terminal.
It is customary to tip 15% to 20% of your total bill in New Orleans.