In a big boost for New Orleans, NCL Corporation announced today that it will homeport Norwegian Spirit in the Big Easy for the November 2007 -- April 2008 season. The itinerary will feature calls at Belize City, Santo Tomas, Guatemala, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.

The ship will begin its cruises from New Orleans on November 18 (remember, we're talking 2007 here), and will replace Norwegian Sun in that market. Norwegian Sun, one of the first to return to NOLA this year, will handle fall and winter Western Caribbean sailings over the 2006 - 2007 season.

The 76,800-ton, 1,996-passenger Norwegian Spirit is one of the fleet's most distinctive ships. Originally known as SuperStar Leo when it sailed for parent company Star Cruises, the ship debuted as Norwegian Spirit. Many of its original features, meant to appeal to the Asian traveler, remained, such as Chinese decor throughout and a specially designated room for mah-jongg.

Even after its recent upgrade, the ship still retained some of its unique qualities. "To make a long story short," writes a Cruise Critic reviewer after a recent cruise onboard Norwegian Spirit, "we thought for sure the lines of modern convenience and Asian custom would be blurred after Spirit's latest refurbishment. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see that many special Eastern touches still remain -- and, according to NCL, are here to stay. Asian artwork remains on the walls in public areas and suites, and public spaces are toned down in color compared to other NCL vessels (no bright neon as on Norwegian Jewel and Dawn), making the atmosphere feel a bit more upscale and setting the ship apart from others in the fleet." Norwegian Spirit will spend the summers of both 2006 and 2007 sailing New York-based itineraries that alternate between 8-day voyages with calls at Bermuda, St. Thomas, USVI, and Tortola, and six night trips to the Bahamas and Florida.