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German Olympians cruise to a warm welcome in Hamburg

Thousands of people in Hamburg on Wednesday welcomed Germany's Olympics team back from London. The team, who won 44 medals, arrived on aptly named cruise ship MS Deutschland.

More than 20,000 people waited for hours to welcome the German team back, and more than 100 smaller boats accompanied the luxury cruiseliner as it sailed up the river Elbe before docking.

After spending two nights on the ship, more than 200 of the 391 athletes Germany sent to the Olympics were greeted by a Hamburg choir dressed as fishermen and women as they disembarked.

A nighttime deck scene on board the MS Deutschland.

Germany's team was on the MS Deutschland for two days

Unsurprisingly, the athletes said they enjoyed the opportunity to relax on the ship after years of hard work preparing for he Games.

"We had two great days, the best thing was the pool party yesterday evening," said gymnast Fabian Hambüchen, who won a silver medal in the men's high bar.

"We had a really great time, the days on the ship were unforgettable," said Moritz Fürste, a gold medallist as part of the men's field hockey team. "I'm really grateful to have been able to experience it."

But after the highs - and in some cases, lows - of London, some of the athletes were happy to be back in the country they represented. Some thought the atmosphere surrounding their arrival in Germany's second-largest city reminded them of the British capital.

"The Olympics were amazing," said Helena Fromm, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo. "The atmosphere in the city, in the arena ... the atmosphere here in Hamburg is pretty close too."

One of the lowest moments for the German team in London was the voluntary departure of rower Nadja Drygalla, who quit the team over questions about her personal relationship with a far-right German politician.

A nighttime deck scene on board the MS Deutschland.

Germany's team was on the MS Deutschland for two days

On Wednesday, officials confirmed a report in newspaper Die Welt that the 23-year-old Rostock resident is still being considered as a potential candidate for the Bundeswehr's sporting program. The Bundeswehr is the German armed forces. Since leaving the team, Drygalla has distanced herself from right-wing organizations.

Official reception in city hall

After presenting their medals and signing autographs the German athletes took five barges along Hamburg's canals to city hall, where an official reception awaited them.

At the 2012 Olympics, German athletes won 44 medals, including 11 gold medals.

bm/ipj (DAPD, dpa, SID)