Hamburg is expecting 500,000 passengers this year – a 16 percent increase over last year with 430,329 passengers, according to Gerd Drossel, managing director of Hamburg Cruise Center. He pointed out that 2012 had seen a 37 percent increase over 2011.

The growth is not only driven by the German cruise brands, but also by such operators as Cunard Line and MSC Cruises. Thus, the German portion of passengers embarking in Hamburg has dropped from 73 percent to 69.5 percent. The second largest group was British, followed by French and Italian passengers.

Drossel told Cruise Industry News that Hamburg is expecting 177 calls this year, including 154 turn-arounds, 14 partial turn-arounds and 9 transit calls.

The most frequent itineraries from Hamburg go to Europe’s Atlantic coast, also calling at British ports along the Channel. The second most frequent itineraries go to Norway, mostly to Oslo and Bergen, followed by cruises around the British Isles, to the Baltic and to Northern Norway.

The cruising season is practically year around with only one month without calls. The most frequent caller is AIDA with 73 cruises from Hamburg this year. Combined with Costa and Cunard, Carnival brands are the ports biggest customers.

Drossel also said that 30 percent of the passengers spend more than two days in Hamburg either before or after their cruise.

Among this year’s highlights is the christening of the Europa 2.

In October, the Hamburg Cruise Center will celebrate its 15th anniversary. Going forward, Drossel said that as the ships continue to get larger, Hamburg will expand its facilities accordingly.

Every May, Hamburg celebrates its “birthday” – usually with the participation of cruise ships – and every other year arranges Cruise Days – with ships in port and a large turnout of spectators.