Hamburg's vibrant port regularly welcomes more than just container ships and special-purpose vessels from all over the world. With each passing year, more and more international cruise liners call in at the city. Hamburg is one of Europe's most popular cruise destinations and in 2011, the city's most successful cruise season yet, 118 ocean liners made a visit – and the figures keep rising! In recent years Hamburg has also established itself as a leading 'base port', where holidaymakers start and finish their adventures at sea. Many tours embark from here, particularly cruises of northern Europe: Norway, Scotland and the North Cape are popular destinations offered by companies such as AIDA, MSC and Costa Cruises.
You can watch the gargantuan ships come and go from the two cruise terminals at their central location near the Landungsbrücken promenade. The unconventional architecture of the HafenCity Cruise Center, which can accommodate two cruise liners at the same time, fuses the rather industrial charm of the container port with the modern elegance of the up-and-coming HafenCity district.
Over at the Altona Cruise Center there is room for liners measuring up to 300 metres in length. A distinctive feature of the terminal building is its roof terrace offering exquisite views of the moored cruise ships and Hamburg's port.
The locals of Hamburg feel a particular affection for the Queen Mary 2. Each time she approaches the city, she is greeted by thousands of jubilant well-wishers lining the Elbe – and often a huge fireworks display too, creating a unique atmosphere. At 345 metres in length, the QM2 is one of the world's biggest and most impressive cruise ships, and the only ocean liner to make regular transatlantic voyages – via Hamburg, of course. Make sure you're in town when she arrives!