A seven hour drive is a piece of cake. If you have never been in NOLa, you have got to spend at least one night downtown. Beware however of the incredible parking rates. We spent one night at the W Downtown, (fabulous location - but parking was $35 per night). Rate at hotel was $225 and that was New Year's eve as well - so other times cheaper. If you want to stay in the French Quarter, be prepared for the constant noise at night - we have stayed on Bourbon Street (and on Royal Street - where Sharon and Adam stayed from the Y&R a few years back) lovely lovely but very pricy and even there we could hear noise. Drive to the Julia Street Pier from downtown is maybe 10 min. Parking I believe was $15 per day at pier.
This last time we were there for a cruise, we stayed at Sheraton at Airport for the night and we left our car with the Sheraton for a grand rate of $129 including 7 nights of parking. Worked out well Cab back and forth was only $34 each way. You gotta check out New Orleans itself prior to cruise. Hit the cemetaries, walk Bourbon at night, see Jackson Square, get a Poyboy sandwich at this place on St. Charles (line are ridiculous but worth it - check out Fodors for exact street address). Go to Riverwalk, see Aquarian |($34 pricy). Just have fun. A seven hour drive is nothing. We drive from canada in the snow and it takes 26 hours on a good day.