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Culture

Germans Taking to the Seven Seas

Some 600,000 Germans booked a cruise last year and more are expected to do so in 2006, and even as fuel prices increase, experts expect more passengers to increase cruise companies' profits.

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Cruising is becoming more popular among German vacationers

The port for cruise ships in Bremerhaven is still called the "quay of tears," but thousands of camera-toting tourists have replaced the countless emigrants who said their goodbyes to Germany here, and cruise companies are doing their best to keep the vacationers happy.

On some summer days, three cruise ships pull up to Bremerhaven's Columbus Quay at one time, as Germany's taste for cruising continues to grow.

"A cruise has become an option for normal vactioners," said German Travel Association Vice-President Johannes Zurnieden. He said he expected the industry to grow by 7 percent to 9 percent in 2006.

In 2005, the number of Germans booking cruises increased by nearly 10 last year and revenues up 7.2 percent to 1.22 billion euros ($1.56 billion) with the industry continuing to develop new ideas, said Alexis Papathanassis, a professor of cruise management at the Bremerhaven University.

Theme cruises with on-ship entertainment

Queen Mary 2 mit Schlepper

Modern ships have become floating entertainment centers

"There are a couple of interesting concepts on the market, such as club cruises," Papathanassis said, adding that cruises need to fit the people booking them. "For some customers a German travel guide is enormously important, others have an easier time dealing with other languages if the price is right."

John Will of Transocean Tours said theme cruises are also a popular development in the cruise industry.

"This summer we are offering a cruise that follows in emigrants footsteps in the classic emigrant route from Bremenhaven to New York," Will said of the cruise that will have an emigration expert from the University of Oldenburg on board. "Before leaving you can visit the German Emigration Center and then see Ellis Island in New York."

Most Germans, however, are sticking to shorter trips of a week or less on European waters, while the British and Americans, where the number of vacationing cruisers has doubled and quadrupled, respectively, tend to take longer cruises, according to Zurnieden.

BdT Hafenfest in Hamburg Queen Mary II

The Queen Mary II pulls into Hamburg

German harbors popular with foreign ships

But German ports also stand to gain from foreign ships, according to Dirk Moldenhauer, head of the Hamburg Cruise Center.

"Naturally the city's attractiveness and the proximity to Berlin -- 90 minutes in an express train -- make Hamburg especially well-liked by cruise companies," he said.

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