NEW ORLEANS-- Passengers take in the newly renovated Carnival Conquest, before heading to the Caribbean for a week. For many on board, the City of New Orleans provided more than just a Sunday departure backdrop.
"We come out there two or three days before, of course, because we want to have a good time," said Kermit Duhon of Lafayette - a travel agent, who brought 250 people on the cruise through his Travel Machine Travel Agency.
A new study from the Cruise Lines International Association finds that those extra days spent in the city can add up. When it comes to impact cruises have on the area economy. According to the study, the cruise industry directly accounted for $280 million in spending in Louisiana. That represents an increase of 35 percent from 2010. In turn, that spending also helped generate more than 5,500 jobs in the state, with $211 million in income.
"The crew members - when we say you're going to a ship out of New Orleans, they get very excited because of the people and because of the city itself," said Carnival Cruise Lines Senior Cruise Director John Heald, "and they're a great source of revenue and a great advert for the town as well," .
It is also a growing industry: plans are underway to build a third cruise ship terminal at Poland Avenue.
"After six years of effort, we just received the transfer agreement from the Maritime Administration this week, this past week. So, now we can seriously start to think about it," said Gary LaGrange of the Port of New Orleans.
Even without the additional terminal, though, the Port of New Orleans said the cruise industry here is about to hit a major milestone: reaching one million passengers for 2012. The port handled nearly 737,000 passengers in 2011.
"We market it as two vacations in one, spend a few nights in the Big Easy, a few days in the Big Easy and enjoy your cruise as well," LaGrange said. "So, that's a big plus for us that not a lot of ports can boast about."
New Orleans now ranks in the top ten cruise ports in the U.S., based on total passengers.