Kiel’s 2008 cruise shipping season opened on the 17th of April with the berthing of the first ship “AIDAbella” at the Ostseekai at about 9 a.m.. Earlier that morning, the ship, the latest newbuilding of AIDA Cruises, was welcomed with a water fountain display by the fire-fighting ship “Kiel”, which escorted the “AIDAbella” from the Friedrichsort Lighthouse to her berth in the port’s Inner Fjord. The Managing Director of the Port of Kiel (SEEHAFEN KIEL GmbH & Co KG) Dr. Dirk Claus later presented the traditional maiden docking gift to Captain Josef Husmann on board the cruise ship. “We are very proud of the fact that AIDA Cruises has brought its brand-new flagship to us here in Kiel, even before its official naming”, said Dirk Claus. The “AIDAbella” left the port about 8 p.m. on April 17th but is returning to Kiel on April 20th and 21st

The port of Kiel had everything prepared right on time for the opening of the 2008 cruise season. Among other things, surface paving was raised as planned between the terminal building and the quay side. The hydraulically operated gangways were overhauled and traffic flow management optimised in front of the terminal. Inside the terminal itself, passenger comfort has been further improved by completion of a new lounge area. In addition, a completely new electronic traffic control system has just begun operation on the approach roads to the Ostseekai Terminal and that will make direction finding even more convenient for arriving passengers. Dirk Claus said “the Ostseekai is one of the best terminals in the whole of northern Europe. We have co-operated closely with agencies, official bodies, service providers and shipping companies to offer a first-class service”, he added.

This year, about 190,000 passengers are expected to board or disembark from a cruise ship in Kiel. That’s an increase of 10% over the 173,000 travellers recorded in the 2007 season. “The demands on the Ostseekai are constantly increasing”, said Dirk Claus. “Shipping companies like MSC, Costa, AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd already call and other well-known international companies will join them in future and send very big ships to Kiel”. Along with its function as a base port, Kiel is also becoming increasingly significant as a port-of-call during cruises. Important new customers in the sector include Crystal Cruises and Holland America Line, which have added Kiel to their ports-of-call from 2009. Commented Dirk Claus: “Kiel is the ideal port-of-call for Schleswig Holstein/Hamburg as a tourist destination and we want to continue to expand this part of our business in future.”

The SEEHAFEN KIEL GmbH & Co KG operates Kiel’s commercial port for the state capital of Kiel and is a 100% subsidiary company of the City of Kiel. With its complete pallet of services and its three modern passenger terminals close to the city centre, Kiel offers benchmark handling quality. Over the past three years, and with the support of the federal state of Schleswig Holstein, well over EUR 35 million have been invested in the expansion of terminal facilities on the Ostseekai and Norwegenkai. A further EUR 16 million are to be invested in a new combined ferry and cruise terminal on the Schwedenkai up to the end of 2009.