Hamburg Cruise Center (HCC) is poised to embark on its best year in more than a century, expecting 140,000 passengers during 90 port calls and becoming home port to a second AIDA Cruises ship, according to HCC Managing Director Gerd Drossel.

The Hanseatic City also will host maiden visits by five ships this season, a christening, and the first round-trip QM2 voyage from the port.

“Hamburg’s continuing growth in numbers of cruise ship calls and passengers, the enthusiasm of ship visitors to Hamburg, and the success of our various themed events demonstrate Hamburg’s rise as a key cruise destination in Northern Europe,” Drossel said.

AIDAcara will begin calling Hamburg home in 2009, joining her sister ship AIDAaura, which made Hamburg her base last year. The two AIDA Cruises’ ships will sail a total of 28 cruises to and from Hamburg this season.

AIDAluna, the newest ship of Germany’s largest cruise line, with a passenger capacity of approximately 2,050, kicked-off the 2009 cruise season in Hamburg on March 18 by making her debut in the Free and Hanseatic City, before sailing to Palma de Mallorca to be christened.

Four other ships also will pay maiden visits to Hamburg this year -- Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, P&O Cruises’ Arcadia, Silver Sea Cruises’ Prince Albert 2, and Hamburg-based TUI Cruises’ newest ship, Mein Schiff, formerly Celebrity Cruises’ Galaxy, which will be christened on May 15th.

The fully renovated TUI vessel will offer premium cruises for the German market and have a total of 974 cabins and 430 outside-cabin balconies. Germany’s Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven is converting the ship, which will be the first for the new TUI brand.

For the first time, the Queen Mary 2, which Cunard Line calls the “most magnificent ocean liner ever built,” will embark on a seven-day, roundtrip cruise from Hamburg after sailing across the Atlantic from New York. Departing August 7 on a “Northern Splendours” cruise, the QM2 will visit Norwegian coastal cities and fjords. After returning to Hamburg, the QM2 will set sail August 15 on a transatlantic crossing back to New York.

During the 2009 season, on 10 occasions, two cruise ships will be moored in Hamburg, four ships will be moored at one time, and three cruise ships will be moored on three occasions, all evidence of the city’s growing attractiveness for cruising. The anticipated 90 port calls in 2009 represent an increase of 14 percent over last year.