My travel party
This trip was booked at the end of August with my parents. We tend to like cruises over Christmas, but pricing just didn't work out for us this year. We caught this voyage at a decent price (later found a military rate right before final payment which made it even better) and I found a great cabin. I am D+ and this was my parents' last cruise before becoming D+. We have left from New Orleans once before (and stopped there a couple of times on Carnival cruises) and I was fairly familiar with the downtown area after spending 4 nights there last April for a conference.
I can understand why the Port of New Orleans would seem attractive to cruise lines. New Orleans is obviously a tourist draw in itself and there are also plenty of locals who love having a nice, big ship like the Voyager within easy driving distance. With that being said, though, I'm not a huge fan of NOLA as a cruise port. There seem to be relatively few flights into NOLA, meaning they tend towards the pricey side. The port itself is not that well designed, causing other issues. I guess some may be enamored by Bourbon Street, but I am not ... I live in a college town, so I don't need to travel far to see vomit in the streets on a Friday night. Don't get me wrong ... there are many, many great things in NOLA, but in terms of cruising, I'd take Fort Lauderdale any day of the week.
Our trip started with a Continental flight that kept getting earlier and earlier the closer trip came. It actually wasn't that bad, but I was not thrilled that we ended up with a 5:30 AM flight out of Indianapolis with a 4+ hour layover in Houston on Friday 12/30. Thankfully we got free bags checked because of using the Continental credit card. We were also given "Priority" tags on our luggage and boarding passes which made absolutely no difference whatsoever. The flight to NOLA was on a turboprop ... my first flight in about 15 years that had propellers. We landed in NOLA on time, had the usual longish NOLA wait for our bags, and grabbed a cab to our hotel.
Cab rates are fixed between the airport and downtown/cruise port. 1-2 people will be $33. 3+ people (many larger taxis that were vans or SUV's ... but 5 seemed to be about the limit) run $14/pp. If you are traveling solo, there is a shared-ride shuttle that runs for $20/pp but you might have a bit of a wait. Time to downtown depends on traffic. I've had it take up to an hour during rush hour (when you are thankful for the set price), but with normal traffic, it may take 20-30 minutes.
When I was first making reservations, things were very booked up for 12/30 (Friday night before NYE) and I ended up reserving the Embassy Suites Convention Center for $159/night thinking it would be a quick trip to the port (across the street) and that we would at least get a free breakfast. Closer to sail, however, I ended up scoring the JW Marriott on Priceline for a $70 bid. This moved us further from the port, but also closer to most of the French Quarter attractions. I was very happy with this hotel as all of the service we received was very friendly and the location was hard to beat (right on Canal Street). I was able to request a roll-away for no charge which is always nice.
It was a very long arrival day, but we made the requisite tour of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. I had made a reservation for Emeril's using Open Table months earlier, so we headed there and had a wonderful meal on Friday night. The pricing wasn't too bad considering how easy it is to drop about $50/pp on a meal anywhere in the city. I'd definitely recommend the escargot, pork chop, and banana cream pie. They were all great.
Listening to the local weather on the previous night, they warned of fog. Waking up on NYE morning, we were greeted with and dense, gray curtain covering the city. We headed to The Ruby Slipper on Magazine Street for breakfast as I had visited it previously and enjoyed it. Once again it did not disappoint and offered some great specials like Eggs Cochon (think eggs benedict but instead of ham on an english muffin, there was pulled pork on a biscuit), lemon cream stuffed pain perdue (stuffed into real French bread), and bananas foster pain perdue ... all enormous and wonderful.
After a huge breakfast (which ended up being a good idea), we headed down to explore more of the fog-covered city. My dad and I took off down Riverwalk to see if the ship made it in and then met the rest of our party at Jackson Square. No issues with the Voyager making it to port, though I did talk to several people who missed the ship in NOLA because fog closed down the airport for the entire morning ... one more reason I guess to try to fly in early.
At around 11 AM, we checked out of the hotel and grabbed a cab to the ship. It was probably walkable if we were all a bit more athletic, but with large bags and a few people with mobiilty issues, that just wasn't feasible. Taxis to the ship were a set rate of $10 for 1 person, $7/pp for 2 or more, or the metered rate IF it is higher than the per person rate.
Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same
Cruise Albums on Flickr