Select a Caribbean cruise that departs from and/or returns to New Orleans and you’ll get an automatic bonus: some time in one of the most distinctive and historic cities in the U.S. There’s so much to take in that you could plan to spend a few days there before your cruise, after your cruise, or both.
The French Quarter is the oldest and most-visited neighborhood in New Orleans, and it’s a gem. The narrow streets are lined with Spanish-style buildings, many with ornate ironwork balconies (most were constructed during a time of Spanish rule in the late 18th century, after a fire destroyed the old French colonial buildings). Jackson Square is the heart of the Quarter, always busy with horse-drawn carriage rides, street performers and sidewalk artists; at night, palm readers will tell your fortune in front of the Cathedral of New Orleans. Some of New Orleans finest restaurants are in the quarter, serving up savory Creole and Cajun cuisine.
The French Quarter’s Bourbon Street turns into an exhilarating party zone nightly, and the crowd is lots of fun. But, don’t forget to see the rest of the Quarter: the walking tours (which morph into ghost tours in the evening) are fascinating. Afterwards, refresh yourself with beignets and café au lait at busy Café du Monde, a tradition for visitors. The French Quarter is just a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship dock, too.
There’s also a lot to see outside the French Quarter: just to the east, or downriver, is the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, where Frenchman Street has become the center of the city’s live music scene. It’s a lively backdrop for the Frenchmen Art Market, which opens at 7 p.m. Thursday through Monday and stays open for browsing until 1 a.m.
New Orleans’ loveliest homes and gardens are in the Garden District, where the live oak trees are draped with Spanish moss. This is another wonderful neighborhood for a walking tour: many of the stately homes are historic and some are owned by celebrities. For antique shopping and lunch, visit Magazine Street. The elegant Commander’s Palace, generally regarded as the finest Creole restaurant in the city, is in the neighborhood, too, just across from one of the city’s famous above-ground cemeteries.
To visit the Audubon Zoo in Uptown, or expansive City Park – which has a sculpture garden, art museum, small amusement park and more – hop on one of New Orleans’ streetcars.
For more ideas for a memorable pre- or post-cruise stay in New Orleans, talk with your Cruise Holidays Personal Cruise Expert.