Feature: Cruise Metropolis Hamburg

(Click onto picture to download / Cruise Ship in Hamburg's Port / Dirk Rußmann)

Over the past few years, Hamburg has become one of Northern Europe’s major cruise destinations, and Hamburg’s locals are real fans of these queens of the ocean – which can clearly be seen whenever the magnificent “Queen Mary 2” calls at the port of Hamburg. The biennial Hamburg Cruise Days, as well as spectacular ship launching ceremonies in the port make Hamburg the cruise capital of the north.

When you take a stroll along the Ballindamm on the Inner Alster Lake and pass by the head office of the Hapag Lloyd shipping company, you are taking a trip down memory lane: the street name pays tribute to shipbuilder Albert Ballin, who “invented” the cruise ship industry in 1891. The director-to-be of the HAPAG shipping company came up with the brilliant idea of sending passenger ships, which would normally commute between Europe and North America, on excursions to the Mediterranean Sea over the winter months – a period that would be characterised by low transatlantic crossings.

Soon these excursions became highly popular, and in 1900 the first ship designed specifically for the purpose of cruise lining was commissioned and built by HAPAG. The “Princess Victoria Luise”, which HAPAG expressly referred to as a “pleasure yacht”, had berths for nearly 200 affluent first-class passengers. Within a short period of time, additional ships were built, among them cruise ships specifically designed for the middle and upper-middle classes. Not only did Albert Ballin make sea-going voyages popular, he also initiated the development of an entire maritime branch that quickly established itself and continues to fascinate people around the world.

Hamburg as a Cruise Destination

Hamburg’s reputation as a major cruise city is supported by impressive figures: in 2014, a total of 590,000 passengers came to Hamburg as part of 189 cruise ship arrivals. Guests from more than130 countries came to the city, and in 2014, 85 percent of all cruise passengers were German. The number is expected to increase to one million passengers by 2020, and the city is well equipped for crowds of cruise liner tourists: Three cruise terminals welcome arriving passengers to Hamburg. With currently 158 planned calls and an estimated passenger volume of 525.000 guests, Hamburg is one of the cruise hot-spots of Europe.

The Cruise Center HafenCity at Überseequartier is situated in close proximity to the city centre and connects the container port with its industrial charm with the more contemporary chic of the thriving HafenCity Hamburg district. From here it is just a few minutes’ walk to Hamburg’s main tourist attractions and a broad range of retail shops. While the new building is still provisional at this stage, it will soon include a hotel and a cruise terminal under one roof. The new container terminal will be one of the HafenCity’s most spectacular architectural designs. The Hamburg Cruise Center in the district of Altona was opened in 2011 to supplement the HafenCity terminal. As a special feature, the Hamburg Cruise Center Altona has an accessible rooftop that provides an excellent view of Hamburg’s port. From here, the city centre can be reached via barge or bus in around 15 minutes.

The rapid development of Hamburg’s cruise industry has increased the shipping companies’ demand for higher passenger-handling capacity. Therefore, the city has built a third terminal in Steinwerder in addition to the locations in the HafenCity and Altona. The “Hamburg Cruise Center Steinwerder” has been built on a surface area the size of about two football fields. Following its commissioning in June 2015, as many as 8,000 passengers per arrival can be handled at the new terminal. To ensure smooth baggage transportation, the terminal features separate entry and exit areas. While passengers will depart through the eastern building, new passengers will be boarded at the same time through the western building. (www.hamburg-port-authority.de).

The 2015 Cruise Year: Hamburg is Increasingly in the Focus of International Shipping Companies

From 11 to 13 September Hamburg once again was the center for cruise ship tourism. The Hamburg Cruise Days turned the harbor into the absolute cruising HotSpot in Europe for three days. Vis á Vis with 7 of the largest ocean liner in the world, the festivities took place along a distance of four kilometers at the banks of the Elbe river in the Harbour. After the timing change from 2014 the Hamburg Cruise Days this year and in 2017 again promise a highly attractive program . Highlights are the large ship parade, the impressive fireworks and the lighting project " Blue Port " Hamburg .

With its Hamburg Cruise Days and other maritime events, Hamburg is the number one cruise destination in Germany. But also in terms of passenger numbers, Hamburg has maneuvered itself to the top: the city recorded 590,000 arriving passengers last year, surpassing Kiel (approx. 350,000 passengers), and Rostock (approx. 378,000 passengers). In addition to German shipping companies such as AIDA Cruises, TUI Cruises and Hapag Lloyd, more and more international cruise providers are discovering the advantages Hamburg has to offer as a location. Thus, for the first time, Norwegian Cruise Line are going to send a ship, the “Norwegian Escape”, to Hamburg on 23 October – it is the newest fleet member and will receive its final touches at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg. With berths for 4,200 passengers, the “Norwegian Escape” will be the biggest cruise ship to ever visit the port of Hamburg.

Moreover, MSC Cruises will be positioning its cruise ship “Splendida” for Northern European cruises in Hamburg throughout the summer. Italian cruise operator Costa will offer ten departures on three routes for 2015, and the traditional British shipping company Cunard Line will continue voyages with its popular “Queen Mary 2” from Hamburg to New York in June, August and September. This year, AIDA Cruises will once again have the greatest presence of all shipping companies in Hamburg: five AIDA cruise liners will be calling at the port of Hamburg 55 times.

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