Christmas market cruises to Hamburg were so popular in 2008 that three cruise lines once again have scheduled Christmas shopping-theme cruises to the Hanseatic City for 2009, according to Hamburg Cruise Center (HCC) Managing Director Gerd Drossel.

Cunard Line’s Victoria, whose maiden voyage in 2007 included Hamburg’s Christmas market, will return to “the cradle of cruising.” Ships from P&O and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines also will bring shoppers to Hamburg in 2009 for a third season of Christmas cruises.

Passengers surveyed on Fred. Olsen’s Black Watch in 2007 said Hamburg exhibited a unique Christmas flair and the best Christmas shopping possibilities of any city on their Christmas cruise.

Drossel said, “With their offerings of traditional handicrafts and foods, the Christmas markets offer the cruise lines an unparalleled opportunity to extend the cruise season in Northern Europe and create a unique brand involving wintertime activities.”

The most charming of Hamburg’s seven Christmas markets is the traditional festival at the city hall (Rathaus), an easy walk or bus ride from the HCC terminal. The Rathaus market is ringed with fir trees and filled with 100 merchants selling traditional stolen, ginger cookies, marzipan, roast apples, sausages, the famous Glühwein (hot mulled wine), hand-crafted items, wood carvings, and pottery. Cruise ship visitors encounter their first Christmas market at the HCC terminal, where they receive a warm welcome from 10 singing Santa Clauses and a guide to all of the city’s markets and other shopping and entertainment.

The Christmas market cruises were among many maritime highlights of Hamburg’s 2008 season.

Nearly one million visitors were attracted to the Hanseatic City during Hamburg’s first Cruise Days, July 30-August 3, 2008. A gigantic maritime catwalk along the Elbe turned the famous port into celebratory platform from which spectators viewed the amazing parade of tall ships and cruise ships, observed art and entertainment, and sampled the city’s cuisine. Five cruise ships – Cunard’s QM2 and Queen Victoria, Deilmann’s Deutschland, AIDA Cruises’ AIDAura, and Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus – already have scheduled visits for Hamburg’s next Cruise Days, July 29-31, 2010.

For the first time ever, a Japanese cruise ship, MOL’s Nippon Maru, docked in Hamburg. The ship, on a round-the-world cruise, spent two days in the port. Hamburg’s cherry blossom princess was among the dignitaries who greeted the Nippon Maru on her maiden visit.

Following her christening in Rotterdam, Holland America’s Eurodam visited Hamburg July 3 on her maiden voyage. Welcoming ceremonies for the newest ship in the Holland America Line included a fireworks display and the traditional exchange of a plaque and key to the city of Hamburg.

Hamburg’s 2008 season included 79 calls and a total of 89,791 passengers.