By Associated Press Writer
updated 8/19/2008 2:25:47 PM ET 2008-08-19T18:25:47

Carnival Cruise Lines will move the Carnival Triumph to New Orleans when the smaller Carnival Fantasy moves to Mobile, Ala., in 2009, officials announced Tuesday.

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The Triumph, which carries 2,758 passengers — about one-third more than the Fantasy — also will add two one-week Caribbean cruises a month to the Fantasy’s current rotation of four- and five-day cruises to Mexico.

“We’re very pleased to bring a newer, larger ship to New Orleans as well as expand our operations with new seven-day western Caribbean itineraries,” Carnival spokesman Terry Thornton said.

“In addition to serving as an excellent homeport for Carnival for nearly 15 years, New Orleans is a one-of-a-kind vacation destination and we’re delighted to continue our relationship with this wonderful city,” he said.

Carnival announced Monday that it will move the Fantasy to Mobile, where it has been based since a tanker-barge collision in July temporarily closed the Mississippi River.

The 2,056-passenger Fantasy will return to New Orleans on Sept. 1 and use the port for 14 months until the Triumph takes over.

“The port and the entire New Orleans tourism community is thrilled by Carnival’s decision to homeport the Carnival Triumph here,” port president Gary LaGrange said in a news release.

The announcement is a sign spending is up among cruise ship passengers in New Orleans, which was home port to four cruise ships from three lines when Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005.

In addition to the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest and the 2,052-passenger Sensation, Norwegian Cruise Lines had the 1,754-passenger Norwegian Dream and Royal Caribbean had the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas in port as well.

Three of those ships moved to New Orleans in the year or so before the storm, and the port had announced plans for a third cruise ship terminal.

About 734,000 passengers boarded and departed cruise ships at New Orleans in 2004, the year before Katrina. “Right now we’re hitting in the high 400s — close to 500,000,” said port spokesman Chris Bonura.

Norwegian returned with a slightly larger ship, the 1,999-passenger Norwegian Spirit. Although Royal Caribbean announced in 2006 it would resume sailing from New Orleans, that never happened.

“Royal Caribbean — they’ve moved some of their fleet around; they’re testing out some markets in the Far East and other markets,” said Bonura. “We’re still in touch with Royal Caribbean. We think we still have an opportunity with them.”

Carnival announced plans last year to add a second ship at New Orleans, but that also fell through.

“They were filling the Fantasy, but they had to get a higher level of spending from the cruise passengers,” Bonura said Tuesday.

The decision to bring in the larger Triumph indicates spending per person has risen, he said. The Triumph’s 7-day cruises will also test New Orleans’ ability to attract air travelers and the drive-in market, he said.

“They’re interested in getting back to having two dedicated vessels year-round but want to be sure the market’s there,” Bonura said.

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