Germany’s Port of Kiel, a gateway to the Baltic Sea, has posted a record number of cruise guest arrivals in 2023, representing an eye-popping 40% increase compared to last year.

The port’s passenger total reached its highest level thanks to larger cruise vessels that included Kiel in their itineraries, even though fewer ships called at the facility.

With the officials closing of its cruise season as winter approaches, the Port of Kiel announced its 2023 cruise data on November 6, 2023, revealing it welcomed 1,174,000 cruise guests between April and October, a record for the facility and a roughly 40% hike compared to last year’s 835,000.

Ship calls totaled 215 vessels, versus 243 in 2022, but included several mega-ships that either home-ported or called at Kiel, including MSC Cruises’ 6,334-guest MSC Euribia and the 6,654-guest AIDAnova, which both home-ported at Kiel, and other large ships such as Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream, with capacity for 4,000 guests. In fact, 2023 was the first year when a Disney Cruise Line vessel called at Kiel.

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AIDA Cruises, a Carnival Corporation brand that caters mainly to the German market, has a big presence in Kiel; in 2023, it home-ported three ships.

Along with AIDAnova, the cruise line based its 2,050-guest AIDAbella and the 2,500-guest AIDAluna at the German port. All three AIDA ships sailed Northern Europe, Scandinavia, and/or Arctic Circle itineraries through the summer season.

Disney Dream Docked in Kiel (Photo Credit: Seehafen Kiel GmbH & Co. KG)

Other large ships that called at Kiel this year included Costa Cruises’ 3,800-guest Costa Fascinosa and 5,000-guest Costa Firenze, and MSC Cruises’ 4,000-guest MSC Fantasia.

Port officials in September 2023 marked a milestone when they announced the port had reached its one millionth cruise arrival for the year.

We are closing the 2023 season with a good result. The development in the tourism industry shows a clear trend towards the cruise sector, which was also evident in Kiel this season,said Dirk Claus, Managing Director of Seehafen Kiel GmbH & Co., which manages the port.

The port’s outlook for the 2024 season is bright, with officials expecting another busy season and high numbers of cruise arrivals, along with some cruise lines making their inaugural visits to the port, although their names were not disclosed.

Located on Kiel Fjord, an inlet of the Baltic Sea, the Port of Kiel also functions as a major embarkation and debarkation port for ferries headed to and from Northern European and Scandinavian destinations, and operates a substantial cargo facility.

The Port of Kiel is considered one of the greenest in Europe, with the ability to simultaneously connect two cruise ships to shore power. About 30% of all ship calls in 2023 were emission-free as a result of the port’s shore power infrastructure.

In 2023, roughly 50 cruise calls used shore power facilities, and although the number fell below the port’s goals, officials see the total number as a positive sign. Problems surfaced, they said, due to some technical defects, which are being addressed and will not be obstacles next year.

Cruise Ships Docked In Kiel, Germany (Photo Credit: MartinLueke / Shutterstock)

We have learned a lot in the past months and have created a good starting position for the coming season. We expect to supply a total of 100 calls with shore power in the 2024 season,said Managing Director Claus.

“On the one hand, many of the ships that will call at Kiel are capable of using shore power and have completed all the necessary tests with us; on the other hand, we can now offer shore power at all cruise terminals,” added Claus.

Also, in 2023, cruise ships powered by LNG (liquified natural gas) were able to refuel at Kiel for the first time. These included AIDAnova and MSC Euribia.

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