NEW ORLEANS -- Want to step out of the fast lane, and enjoy life on the Mississippi River?
The French America cruise line's Louisiana built riverboat Louisiane takes its first cruise to Natchez Saturday.
Its home port is Gretna.
"I'm giddy, I'm just crazy excited, I mean, I don't know how else to say it," smiled Gretna Mayor Belinda Constant. "I was in tears when the boat pulled up here."
The Louisiane carries 150 passengers on river cruises as far away as St. Paul and Pittsburgh. Calling Gretna home is an economic development dream for the New Orleans region, and businesses like Louisiana Motor Coach are thrilled.
"Helping us to build our business further, which is tremendous, but taking pride in local ownership," said Louisiana Motor Coach President Mary Sanders.
The ship also brings more employment to the region.
"We're talking $58 million in economic impact, over 100 local jobs to be produced here, and over 40 vendors," said Jefferson Economic Development Commission (JEDCO) CEO Jerry Bologna.
France America’s employment numbers are also important to residents.
"We are the only cruise operation here employing Americans at high rates," said French America Line CEO Christopher Kyte.
WWL-TV wasn’t able to board the cruise ship, because, at the last minute, the Coast Guard decided they have to do some last minute testing.
So Thursday, with dignitaries on the dock, Louisiane sat in the middle of the Mississippi River.
Cruises cost $3,500 per couple for five days, up to $15,000 for two weeks in the Richelieu Suite, with all amenities included.
"This is the only four-star boat on the Mississippi River," said Louisiane Cruise Historian Christopher Tidmore. "This is every amenity possible, all inclusive, from Hermes bath products to 24-hour room service."
Special packages are available for New Orleans area residents. There is growing interest from passengers. The second cruise to Nashville sold out in a week in Australia. To see more about the Louisiane and France America Line, visit their website at https://www.frenchamericaline.com.