Why go to New Orleans?
The party begins before you board your ship in NOLA; there's always a festival or event taking place
The best hotels aren't in the immediate port area; consider staying a 10-minute drive away
Art, music and libations suffer no shortage in the Big Easy; it has a carefree flavor all its own
New Orleans Cruise Port Facilities?
The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk puts stores such as Neiman Marcus Last Call, Coach and Tommy Bahama within minutes of the cruise terminal; it's even connected by an elevator. Thanks to the port's central location, you're a 10-minute walk or a streetcar ride away from the French Quarter, with its endless array of shopping, music and dining options. Try your luck at the nearby Harrah's New Orleans casino, where you can play the slots. Or stroll along the adjacent Fulton Street Square, a pedestrian walkway with eateries including the seafood-centric Grand Isle and a Gordon Biersch brewpub.
Good to Know?
Asking a local for directions can be a comedy of errors. Most of the older city neighborhoods were laid out following the crescent-shaped Mississippi River; the city's main nickname is the Crescent City. Except for the French Quarter, which is thankfully in a grid, streets were laid out either following the river's curves or perpendicular to them, not according to north, south, east and west. The four compass points are "up" (or "up river" or "uptown"), "down" (or "down river" or "downtown"), "river" (or "toward the river" or sometimes "in") and "lake" (or "toward the lake" or "back" or sometimes "out").
To stay oriented, just remember the French Quarter is roughly a one-mile square sandwiched between Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue, and the Mississippi River and Rampart Street. A good city map helps. If you really want to feel local, try mastering street names like Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-a-too-lis).
By Foot: Because the cruise terminals are directly behind the New Orleans Convention Center, adjacent to the Warehouse District and Central Business District and within walking distance of the historic French Quarter, you don't need to worry about a shuttle service or taxis, although cabs are available. It's 10 short blocks to Canal Street, the beginning of the French Quarter.
By Trolley: There's no streetcar named Desire anymore -- in case you were wondering, the line ran from 1920 to 1948, down Bourbon Street through the French Quarter to Desire Street in the Bywater neighborhood, before looping up to Canal Street. But the city has invested heavily in new streetcar lines to make getting around a breeze, for just $1.25 each way (transfers are $0.25 and are good for two hours; one-day and three-day passes are also available).
To get to the French Quarter from the cruise terminal, take the Riverfront Trolley line with stops at Canal near Harrah's and Decatur, where you'll find the popular French Market. Catch the trolley at the Convention Center, just steps from the terminal.
The St. Charles Line starts at Canal Street (at Carondelet) and heads uptown, around the river bend, to Carrollton Avenue. This route shows you some of New Orleans' most scenic architecture, and you'll pass antebellum mansions, restaurants, hotels, Loyola and Tulane Universities, and Audubon Park, within walking distance of the Audubon Zoo.
The Canal Line takes you up the city's main thoroughfare, with two endpoints. One spur drops you at what city officials call the Historic Cemetery District near City Park. While these aren't the oldest above-ground mausoleums in New Orleans -- that honor belongs to St. Louis #1, just off the French Quarter on Basin Street -- you can walk around and take plenty of photos commemorating your visit to the City of the Dead. The City Park/Museum route takes you into City Park, a 1,300-acre expanse that's home to oak trees more than 600 years old, as well as the New Orleans Museum of Art.
For streetcar information, call the Regional Transit Authority (504-248-3900) for transit times and info.
By Car: All the standard rental car agencies are located at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, about a 30-minute ride from downtown. Popular day trips include visits to famous plantations such as Oak Alley; swamp tours in the city's outlying bayous or nature trips to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve on the West Bank.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
There are ATMs all over the French Quarter and many at banks near Canal Street. Tip: Pick up supplies at Rouses, a local grocery store with outposts in the French Quarter (701 Royal) and Central Business District (701 Baronne Street) and get cash back with your purchase (no fee) if you use your ATM card.
Yes, they speak English there, with an accent more Brooklyn than Southern. But New Orleanians have a vocabulary all their own. A few examples of N'Awlins speak:
Dressed: the way to order your po'boy if you want it with the works: lettuce, tomato and mayo.
Gris gris (gree gree): a voodoo spell or good luck charm.
Lagniappe (lan' yap): widely used in all kinds of contexts, it means a little something extra thrown in gratis. A baker's dozen is one example.
Making groceries: that's what the locals call going to the store to pick up dinner.
Neutral ground: called the median everywhere else, this strip of ground in the middle of a road could refer to what became Canal Street, a division between the French Quarter and American sector, or it might have been a meeting spot for the adversarial Spanish and French settlers. Now, it's a place where kids play and people walk their dogs.
Second line: the happy followers of a neighborhood brass band parade.
Where y'at?: the standard New Orleans greeting, equivalent to "What's up?" or "How are you?"
Where You're Docked?
New Orleans Cruise Port Address:
920 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA 70130
Located just behind the New Orleans Convention Center on the Mississippi, the Erato Street and Julia Street cruise terminals are in the heart of downtown with easy access to hotels and attractions. There is an ATM available, as well as a refreshment stand serving snacks, coffee and ice cream, and a souvenir kiosk in case you need to make last-minute purchases before boarding.