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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEWORLEANS - The cruise ship industry is booming in New Orleans, and port officials are expecting a record number of passengers this year.

'We're right at one million pasengers, which will be the first time that we ever hit one million in a given year,' said Port President Gary LaGrange.

The four cruise ships that dock here generate 20 percent of the port's revenue.

However, Royal Caribbean is relocating its one seasonal ship when the current contract expires in April.

'We think they're simply testing other markets, to see if the per diem on board the vessel can be higher than it is here in New Orleans,' said LaGrange. 'We have all the faith and confidence in the world in them coming back at some time.'

LaGrange says contract negotiations are nearly complete for a four-year deal with Norwegian Cruise Lines, and eight years for Carnival, which has two ships docking here weekly.

'We're close, we're close,' said LaGrange. 'It could happen today, it could happen Monday, it could happen Tuesday.'

Cruise ship passengers are good in a tourist town for businesses like the Court of Two Sisters restaurant.

'When they're here, we defintely feel it,' said Court of Two Sisters Owner Alex Fein. 'They get off the boats, they've got to eat somewhere, and we definitely see an uptick when they're here.'

But at the same time, port offiicals are looking to increase cruise business here. They're talking to new cruise lines about bringing in new cruise ships.

'We met last week with Holland America, and also Princess,' explained LaGrange.

LaGrange says Carnival knows how popular New Orleans is.

'They like it so much that they've asked us to host the 2016 convention of the largest cruise ship organization in the world.'

LaGrange also noted that other cruise lines send ships to New Orleans only a few times a year, plus there are the paddlewheel boats that cruise the Mississippi River. He added that construction is scheduled to begin in January on the new cruise ship terminal at Poland Street.

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