RICHMOND (AP) -- Carnival Cruise Lines is returning to Norfolk.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the news in his first State of the Commonwealth speech Monday.

18 months after announcing it was ceasing operations in Virginia, Carnival will sail from Norfolk in the spring and fall of 2015.

'I am pleased that Carnival Cruise Lines will be returning to Virginia next year, which will further bolster our strong tourism industry and usher in a new wave of economic growth in Hampton Roads,' said Governor McAuliffe. 'Carnival's transition back to Virginia shows the strength of the region's assets, from the infrastructure support the Port provides to the nearby passenger amenities, and is a major step forward in encouraging more ship calls and regular homeport service to the Commonwealth,' he said.

McAuliffe said this will not only generate tourism revenue but will be a catalyst for job growth.

'Norfolk is thrilled to welcome the world's largest cruise line back in 2015,' said Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim. 'Carnival's decision confirms Norfolk serves an important role in the competitive cruise industry. The seasonal voyages will complement our already robust schedule of stop-over cruises.'

Carnival will release the itinerary in the spring, City spokeswoman Lori Crouch told

McAuliffe said his goal is to encourage Carnival to bring more ship calls and, ultimately, regular homeport service to downtown Norfolk.

According to a 2013 study by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, an estimated 8.1 million adults within a five-hour drive of Norfolk are likely to take a cruise over the next three years, making Norfolk a prime location to bring in more cruise line activity, McAuliffe noted.

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