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Carnival Sunshine cruising from New Orleans through April

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New Orleans and Carnival Sunshine. What a fantastic partnership of two great travel choices. Cruisers now can enjoy both of these gems with the Sunshine leaving from New Orleans for cruises through April.

The Sunshine’s winter schedule features a series of seven-day cruises to popular Caribbean destinations. Itineraries include an exotic western Caribbean route featuring Belize, Mahogany Bay and Cozumel; a Bahamas/Florida schedule to Key West, Freeport and Nassau; and western Caribbean departures to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

In 2013, the Carnival Sunshine – formerly the Carnival Destiny - underwent a $155 million, 75-day makeover that added a variety of innovations that are part of Carnival’s Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement initiative, along with several features unique to the Sunshine, plus 182 new staterooms.

“The transformation of Carnival Sunshine is unlike anything that’s ever been done before and the results are simply extraordinary, with a variety of truly fabulous features and unique innovations for our guests to enjoy,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

The Sunshine’s winter schedule from New Orleans will future bolster Carnival Cruise Lines position as the port’s No. 1 cruise operator, carrying 330,000 guests annually on two year-round ships.

“Cruising is big business at the Port of New Orleans and Carnival’s commitment of this fabulously transformed ship is evidence of that,” said Gary LaGrange, Port of New Orleans’ president and CEO.

“Carnival is a wonderful partner of the Port, the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana and has been for more than two decades. Carnival has consistently increased its presence here and we will continue to work closely with them to expand in the future.”

The port is likely to set its third straight record for cruise ship passengers this year, LaGrange said. In 2014, Carnival’s passenger total is expected to go from more than 330,000 a year to more than 400,000 a year.

New Orleans' overall cruise business rose more than 32 percent last year to 977,703 passengers, LaGrange said. The 2011 passenger total of 736,908 broke a record set in 2004, port officials have said, citing a report made for the Cruise Lines International Association.

"This year we have a good shot at passing a million," LaGrange said.

The CLIA report also said New Orleans was the nation's sixth-busiest cruise port last year, up from ninth in 2011.

LaGrange said cruises have risen from about 5 percent of the port's income a dozen years ago to 20 percent of last year's $50 million-plus revenues.

Carnival cruises year-round from the port. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line sails from October through April, and Norwegian Cruise Line from November through April.

Those lines also are bringing in new ships. The 2,376-passenger Norwegian Jewel replaced the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star, and Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas is replacing the newly renovated Serenade of the Seas.

New Orleans' cruise business has risen nearly nine-fold over the past 10 to 12 years, LaGrange said.

"A lot of it has to do with the fact that we're marketing it as two vacations in one: Come down and you get the Big Easy and get the cruise as well," he said.

He said the CLIA study found that passengers usually also spend two nights in area hotels, spending $335 a day in New Orleans compared to an industry average of $93 a day.

Newer, faster ships make the Gulf of Mexico's destinations more accessible, offering more cruise stops than many other ports, LaGrange said. From New Orleans cruises go to Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Florida, Belize, Honduras, San Francisco, the Canary Islands and Spain.

For more information on Carnival Cruise Lines: Visit www.carnival.com

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