The Best Cruises from New Orleansby Donna Heiderstadt | October 26, 2016
Whether you are looking for an affordable, party-focused getaway to the Caribbean or a luxury trip to the islands, you'll find that the Big Easy has multiple options. The city also sits at the base of the Mississippi, so if river cruising to historic sights appeals to you more than island hopping, you can also head north on the famed waterway for a cruise steeped in Americana. Here are seven of the best cruises from New Orleans.
1. Norwegian Dawn
Norwegian Dawn winters in New Orleans, and the ship's Western Caribbean itineraries visit Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico and Roatan in Honduras, plus Harvest Caye, the line's new private island in Belize. There are also two sea days, giving you time to laze by one of the ship's pools. The 2,340-passenger ship underwent a renovation in 2016 which added new dining spots including Los Lobos Mexican cantina and O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill.
2. Carnival Dream
There are three different seven-night itineraries out of New Orleans to choose from on the 2,646-passenger Carnival Dream. The rotating trio of Western Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries gives you the option to visit Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel; Roatan, Belize City, and Cozumel; or Key West, Freeport, and Nassau. No matter which one you got for, you'll get three sea days to enjoy the high-energy scene on board and enjoy a tipple or two from the RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
3. Norwegian Pearl
The 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl will be cruising out of New Orleans in late fall in 2017, doing nine-night Western Caribbean itineraries that visit Mexico, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. There's also a lot of activity on board, including a bowling alley and a rock climbing wall. Or head to the forward-facing spa, where you can take in the view of the Caribbean from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
4. Carnival Triumph
This ship does five-night Western Caribbean cruises that give you a good amount of time on the sand, plus lots of time to party on board. The affordable cruises include two port stops: one for the beaches and snorkeling in Cozumel, the other in Progreso, Mexico, which gets you access to the Mayan ruins and jungle wonders of the Yucatan. Carnival Triumph is one of the oldest in Carnival's fleet, but it underwent a major upgrade in 2013 which added the line's newer spots including BlueIguana, Guy's Burger Joint, RedFrog Rum Bar, and Alchemy Bar.
5. Crystal Serenity
If you are looking for a longer, more upscale cruise, the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity will do two Caribbean sailings this winter. The ship does a two-week trip that includes major spots in the Caribbean as well as some smaller islands. You’ll visit Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Curacao, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barts, and Grand Turk before docking in Miami. The all-inclusive ship has lots of high-end touches on board, including Nobu Matsuhisa-created dishes at Silk Road and global tapas at Tastes.
American Cruise Lines' brand-new 185-passenger America may have launched in 2016, but it looks like one of the classic paddlewheel ships that used to ply the Mississippi. The ship does roundtrip cruises out of New Orleans, visiting historic places such as Oak Alley, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, and Houmas House in Louisiana plus Natchez and Vicksburg in Mississippi. These cruises move at a slower pace than the Caribbean cruises above, with tropical drinks and days on the beach replaced with cups of tea and tours of historic homes and battle sites.
7. American Queen
The much larger paddlewheel ship American Queen also cruises up the Mississippi, offering both one-way and round-trip between New Orleans and Memphis. The food on the 436-passenger ship is as authentic as the surroundings, with beignets at breakfast and dinners that include fried catfish and seafood gumbo followed by slices of pecan pie. You can grab a rocking chair on deck to sit back and enjoy the scenery, or — if you feel like you had one too many pieces of that pie — head to the onboard gym with floor-to-ceiling windows. Shows at the Grand Saloon include revues of regional music, while the Engine Room Bar features smaller bands playing bluegrass and ragtime.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.