The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) today announced the 2008 cruise season officially begins Saturday, April 12th with the arrival of the Amadea. This year’s season will run through November 7th. Some 116 ships carrying an estimated 280,000 travelers will pass through Cruiseport Boston. Fifteen cruise lines will offer an assortment of Canada/New England, Bermuda, Caribbean, and trans-Atlantic itineraries. This year’s season will bring some great new ships, welcome back an old one, and bid “bon voyage” to Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth 2.

“This cruise season promises to be a busy one with a 20% increase over last year.,” said Mike Leone, Massport’s Port Director. “This is good news for Boston’s local restaurants, shops, and attractions.”

Beginning in May, Cruiseport Boston will be the homeport for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dream. She replaces Norwegian Majesty, a 1,500 passenger vessel which began calling the Port of Boston in 1994. Norwegian Dream, a 1,750-passenger ship will cruise weekly to Bermuda. She will also embark on a series of seven-day Canada/New England cruises.

Norwegian Dream is 20% larger than Majesty, and boasts two swimming pools, a golf driving range, and a basketball court. She also has ocean-view state rooms with balconies. The arrival of Norwegian Dream also coincides with a new 10-year agreement between NCL and the government of Bermuda which continues NCL’s run as being the exclusive line to sail from Boston to Bermuda.

In 2008, Cruiseport Boston also welcomes back Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas for an assortment of Canada/ New England and Caribbean cruises. Boston has been the homeport for Jewel of the Seas since her launch in 2004. She holds 2,501 passengers. Some of her amenities include a rock-climbing wall, indoor/outdoor country club with a golf simulator, and a beautiful indoor solarium.

Also new this season will be an inaugural visit by Holland America’s newest ship Eurodam. She will be the line’s largest ship carrying 2,104 passengers.

Cunard Line’s QE2 will make a final visit to Boston on her “Autumn Colors” cruise before she becomes a floating luxury hotel in Dubai. Steeped in tradition and one of the most adored ships to ever set sail, QE2 was launched by Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 20, 1967. She has carried more than 2.5 million passengers, sailed 26 world cruises, and crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times. She carries 1,778 passengers.

The Amadea will be berthed at Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Terminal beginning at 1:00pm tomorrow, and will depart at midnight. As, viewing is prohibited from the pier, the best opportunity to see her is on the Summer Street Bridge over the Reserved Channel in South Boston. The best viewing of the ship arriving and departing will be at Castle Island in South Boston a half hour before and after arrival and departure times.