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New Orleans Cruises

Swathed in the romance of pirates, voodoo and Mardi Gras, Louisiana is undeniably special. This is the land of the rural French-speaking Cajuns, descended from 18th-century French Canadian refugees, and the haughty Creole aristocrats. In 1718, New Orleans was nothing but a set of shacks on a disease-ridden marsh. But thanks to its prime location, rapid development followed and by the end of the 18th century, New Orleans had become a flourishing port, the haunt of smugglers, gamblers, prostitutes, pirates and escapees from the French Revolution and West Indian slave rebellions.

In 1801, the city experienced two quick-fire changes of government, passing from Spanish to French control and then being sold to America under the Louisiana Purchase two years later.This heralded the most bitter transition in the city's history, literally splitting it into two sections.The Americans who migrated here in droves were seen as crass and uncouth by the Creoles and hated by the blacks, upon whom they placed previously unknown restrictions. Unwelcome in the French Quarter, the newcomers were forced to settle in the areas now known as the Central Business District and the Garden District. Canal Street was the dividing line between the two sectors. Creoles and Americans did however come together briefly in 1815, defeating the British in the Battle of New Orleans, which ended the War of 1812 and ensured American domination. The victorious army of General Andrew Jackson was made up of pirates, slaves, Creoles and native Americans.

The subsequent Golden Age as a finance center for the South, trading in tobacco, cotton and indigo lasted until the Civil War. Occupying Union troops sealed off the Mississippi and isolated the city from its markets. The arrival of the railway, which diminished the importance of the river, plus the abolition of slavery further reduced New Orleans' importance. Then, at the turn of the last century, when jazz became famous in bars and nightclubs, and the spectacular Mardi Gras developed into a tourist attraction, this remarkable city experienced once again a new lease on life.