Significant cruise-growth in provincial Denmark

The number of cruise ships visiting Denmark rises almost seven times faster in the provincial ports than it does in Copenhagen.

The Danish provincial ports benefit from the annual growth rate of the global cruise industry of around 6.6 percent, which this year is expected to send 26 million people on a cruise. More than 6.7 million of these will chose to go on this seaborne form of holiday in European waters.

ALBATROS off Ærøskøbing. Above: CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE passes Strib in the Little Belt from Fredericia.

This significant annual growth also expands the industry’s product range relative to destinations. Both driven by the need for increasing capacity and product development, extending the shipping companies’ focus from the well-known hotspots, often capital cities or otherwise metropolitan areas, to new so-called back country destinations in the provinces. A trend that applies to all European regions.

Over the past three years, the total increase in Danish cruise calls outside Copenhagen is thus 96 percent, while the number of cruise ships visiting the Danish capital has only risen 14 percent in the same period.

A total of 535 calls in 2018

This year a total of 535 cruise calls are expected in Denmark. Of these, 192 are spread among 11 Danish provincial ports. The 535 ships will, when the provincial and capital season respectively end 14 October and 23 December, have brought more than 1.1 million tourists to Denmark.

MEIN SCHIFF 4 departs Skagen.

This is a new record for the number of cruise passengers in Denmark and interesting to consider in conjunction with the total number of cruise passengers in Europe this year. However, the figure covers that the same specific cruise may well call more Danish ports during the same itinerary.

According to the capital’s tourist organization, Wonderful Copenhagen, the 875,000 of the cruise passengers will call in Copenhagen.

The provinces receives the smaller ships

This figure is not entirely consistent with the actual number of individuals, as Copenhagen, in contrast to all provincial ports, has a high number of annual turn-arounds where ships end and start a cruise. Something, which means that the same passengers are counted on both departure and arrival.

However, the same two numbers can be used to calculate the average number of passengers on the ships calling the provinces this year. This is almost 1,200. With the cruise industry’s pricing structure, which causes ships to sail with a high average occupancy rate, it is obviously smaller ships that choose to include provincial and back country destinations in their programs.

A huge mass-market ship in Aarhus.

But, the concept of “smaller ships” covers the entire market spectrum of the cruise industry from the budget segment to the ultra-deluxe segment, while the diversity of the capacity-driven largest ships in the industry is far less. Here almost all ships are operated in the lower and upper mid-segments; mass-market and premium.

Luxury in Aalborg

Port of Aalborg is very successful in relation to attracting the upper part of the market segments. The port, which has a couple of hours of inland sailing through the fjord Limfjorden from Kattegat, has in recent years become one of the most frequent ports of call of the very exclusive Norwegian shipping company Viking Ocean Cruises.

Other shipping companies from the top segments, such as Seabourn Cruises, Silversea and Azamara Club Cruises, are also regular customers in Skagen, at the upper-most tip of the Jutland peninsula, as are the smallest ships from the expedition segment in the Port of Rønne on the Baltic island Bornholm.

Viking Ocean Cruises is a regular guest in Aalborg, which offer one of the most exclusive cruise terminals in Denmark.

However, the typical cruise ship in a provincial port is from the lower end of the product scale up to premium and is sold mainly in the German or British markets under brands like Fred. Olsen Cruises, TUI’s new Marella Cruises, Saga Cruises, Aida Cruises or Phoenix Seereisen.

Four big and seven small

Though, some of the major mass-market brands such as Costa Cruises and RCL are also found in three of the Danish provincial ports with the best conditions for the largest ships, Aarhus, Skagen and Fredericia. Costa Cruises even introduced a turn-around opportunity for a smaller number of passengers in Aarhus some years ago, something that still does not take place in other Danish ports outside of Copenhagen.

The 11 Danish ports in the provinces, which receive cruise ships this year, can be divided into two categories: The four major with each between 33 and 47 calls this year – and the seven small, with between 1 and 7 calls. Three of the four major provincial ports have either undertaken or are in the process of making large-scale investments in quays and terminals aimed at the booming cruise industry.

Facts: Provincial cruise calls

Share of cruise calls in Denmark:

  • 2018: 36 percent
  • 2017: 33 percent
  • 2016: 24 percent

Growth in cruise calls 2016-2018:

  • Copenhagen: 14 percent
  • The provinces: 96 percent

Growth in the four largest provincial cruise ports 2016-2018:

  • Skagen: 174 percent
  • Rønne: 123 percent
  • Aalborg: 65 percent
  • Aarhus: 42 percent

All 11 Danish provincial cruise ports after number of calls in 2018:

Rønne, Skagen, Aarhus, Aalborg, Fredericia, Kalundborg, Esbjerg, Ærøskøbing, Hundested, Faaborg, Sønderborg and Aabenraa.

The 10 most frequent cruise companies calling the Danish provinces in 2018 alphabetical:

Aida Cruises, Birka Cruises, Costa Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruises, Grand Circle Cruise Line, Marella Cruises, Noble Caledonia, Phonix Seereisen, Saga Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises.


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