October 9 marks the end of the cruise season in Kiel, Germany, with the arrival of the AIDAcara.

However, two further ships  are set to call on the port for Advent cruises in December, according to a port statement.

 “The normal cruise shipping season in Kiel runs from the end of March to the middle of October. That’s two months longer than ten years ago,” noted Dirk Claus, Managing Director of the Port of Kiel.

 He is convinced, however, that “before very much longer, the Baltic will be playing a role as a year-round cruise shipping region”. This year has been a record year not only in terms of the length of the season but also because of the number of cruise ship calls recorded. The port registered a total 138 calls by 26 different cruise ships. (In 2011 the total was 120 calls by 19 ships).

“Since the Ostseekai Cruise Terminal opened in 2007, passenger and tonnage totals in Kiel have doubled,” Claus said. In 2012 about 350,000 passengers embarked or disembarked in Kiel. The total tonnage of cruise ships calling at Kiel was more than 7.4 million GT. To mark the provisional close of this year’s season, AIDAcara  is being seen off with a daytime fireworks display around 5 pm at the Ostseekai.

The 2012 cruise shipping season in Kiel was particularly notable for its variety. At the Ostseekai, for instance, not only very small ships like the 4,300-tpm Island Sky  tied up to swap passengers or undertake day trips ashore, but also bigger ships like the Costa Pacifica at 114,500 tons.

The most frequent visitors to the Kiel Fiord were the AIDAcara, which called 27 times, and the vessels MSC Cruises, which together posted 37 cruise departures from Kiel. On peak days, up to 11,000 passengers left or boarded cruise ships at the Ostseekai Terminal alone. 

Claus said: “This year Kiel is once again Germany’s leading cruise shipping turnaround port. The Ostseekai is one of the most capable passenger terminals in the whole of northern Europe”.

The highlight of this year’s cruise shipping season – apart from the annual Kiel Woche Regatta – has been the visit by Cunard Line’s  Queen Elizabeth on July 24th. Thousands of spectators lined the banks as the cruise ship, escorted by numerous pleasure craft and excursion boats, sailed into the Kiel Fiord.

Already booked in at the Port of Kiel for the 2013 season are 137 calls by cruise ships, among them numerous very large vessels. “We will continue to grow in the coming year,” said Claus:

“For the first time ever, the overall tonnage of cruise ships calling at Kiel will surpass 8 million GT”.  Three ships will call at the port for the very first time, among them the MSC Musica which is expected at the Ostseekai Terminal on April 25th for her maiden visit. Next year however will be quite different from Kiel in 2012 with a slew of days on which multiple ship visits are expected. Eight times during the season no fewer than three cruise ships will berth on the same day and as many as four ships are expected on June 29th, July 9th and on September 7th. Ships will berth not only at the Ostseekai and Norwegenkai Terminals but also, for the first time, at the Ostuferhafen. “We are continuing to expand our capacity,” explained Claus.

“Berth Number One in the Ostuferhafen will also be available for cruise ship handling in time for the coming season.” 

The reasons for the capacity expansion are not only the above-average growth in demand for Baltic cruises, but also the new routes now being offered by international shipping companies.

Commented Claus: “Schleswig-Holstein is gaining in significance as a destination for day excursions ashore”.

 Holland-America Line, for example, is increasing its presence in northern Europe and its ships will call at Kiel ten times in 2013.