Carnival will use bigger ship next year for New Orleans-based cruises

The Carnival Sunshine won’t start sailing from the Port of New Orleans until November, but it has already been replaced.

Carnival Cruise Lines announced Thursday that the Carnival Dream will take over for the Sunshine in April after the latter’s six-month run at the Erato Street Wharf.

The Dream, one of the three largest ships that Carnival sails, will operate a year-round, seven-day schedule to the eastern and western Caribbean.

The 3,646-passenger Dream will be the largest-capacity vessel ever to call the New Orleans port home, port spokesman Matthew Gresham said.

Carnival has sent progressively larger vessels to New Orleans in recent years. The 3,006-passenger Sunshine, for instance, is replacing the 2,984-passenger Carnival Conquest.

To prepare for the massive Dream, the Port of New Orleans on Thursday agreed to spend $750,000 to retrofit the gangway systems at its Erato and Julia street cruise terminals.

The Dream will be one of four ships to home port in New Orleans, joining the Carnival Elation, the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas and the Norwegian Star.

Carnival Corp., which announced earlier this week that New Orleans native Arnold W. Donald would take over as chief executive next month, recently committed to keeping two ships in New Orleans year round through at least Feb. 12, 2016.

“Carnival Cruise Lines has shown tremendous commitment to the Port of New Orleans and to Louisiana,” port President and chief executive officer Gary LaGrange said. “Carnival is a true partner and has worked alongside port officials to help shape New Orleans into a world-class cruise port.”

Last year, a port-commissioned study found that cruise passengers in New Orleans stay an average of 1.8 nights in area hotels either before or after their cruises and contribute $27.9 million annually in direct spending on lodging, food and other expenses.