On Site: Hanseatic Inspiration's Christening Ceremony

A spectacular 3D projection show displayed on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' new Hanseatic Inspiration Friday night in Hamburg, Germany, preceded the luxury expedition ship’s christening by Laura Dekker, the youngest person ever to sail around the world solo.

Approximately 230 invited guests took to Zodiacs and other boats to watch the festivities from the Elbe River. Travel Agent was on site in one of the boats to witness the spectacular event that transformed the entire side of the ship into a humongous stage of sorts – 459 feet wide and 72 feet high.

The high-tech presentation created by 12 projectors showcased the experiences that adventurous guests sailing on the new ship can expect. The crowd “oohed” and “aahed” as imagery of wildlife appeared. It was a virtual cruise through the remote, off-the-beaten-path destinations (the Arctic, Antarctica and the Amazon, among others) that the ship will venture to this year and beyond, accompanied by music from German pop star Oonagh and Terje Isunget, a Norwegian musician known for unusual instruments made from ice.

Following the spectacular 11-minute show, Decker, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises CEO Karl Pojer and Captain Ulf Wolter took their places on a pontoon boat positioned adjacent to the ship. Then, in a storied maritime tradition, Dekker released a mechanism, and the champagne bottle swung into the ship’s hull – symbolizing good luck and smooth sailing ahead for the vessel.

“Naming the Hanseatic Inspiration against the wonderful night-time backdrop of the port of Hamburg was a very special moment for me,” said Dekker. “I’m sure that this expedition ship will more than live up to her name and take her guests on many inspiring cruises to show them the wonders of nature up close.”

Unlike the first in the series, this second ship will sail with a bi-lingual approach. English and German will be spoken onboard as “official languages.” The cruise line’s other bi-lingual ship, designed to appeal to an international audience, is the classic luxury oceangoing ship, Europa 2.

Hanseatic Inspiration is expected to attract many international guests including English speakers from United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.

The third Hanseatic-class ship, Hanseatic Spirit, launching in April 2021, will be targeted at German-speaking guests. All three vessels have the highest ice-class rating for passenger vessels: P6.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises HANSEATIC Inspiration
L to R: Cindy Tanenbaum, Karl Pojer and Michael Steffl
of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

At a press briefing onboard the new ship ship, Pojer said that “with the three new ships, we are positioning ourselves in the exclusive five-star expedition segment." 

The ships have 175 crew members to serve a maximum of 230 guests (199 in polar regions).

Pojer also addressed the issue of rapid-paced cruise industry expansion in the expedition segment, noting that some 20 new expedition ships are expected to launch in the next few years.

When asked about potentially too much growth coming at once, he said that it’s important to put things in perspective – looking at the market and size of the ships. Also, he said, “Last year there was not much development.”

Most importantly, he noted that all those expedition ships together only add up to 6,000 passengers total. That's about the size of one mega-ship. Given burgeoning consumer demand for adventure travel, that’s not that much.

One interesting factoid? Hanseatic Inspiration was built with a retractable bridge wing, unlike the first ship in the class.

That means that it will be able to cruise into the Great Lakes, navigating through the region’s many locks and canals. That’s unlike many other oceangoing ships, which have to turn back east after reaching Montreal.

In 1997, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises sailed into the Great Lakes with the former Columbus, and now, with Hanseatic Inspiration, it will sail there in May and June 2020. Pojer said those voyages are already sold out but space is available during 2021. 

For clients interested in any itineraries on the new vessel, it’s important to understand that while the ship is English in focus, it still attracts a large number of Germans, who book well in advance. So the space can be filled much further out than what’s typical on U.S. brands. Waiting to book isn’t a good idea if the client truly wants to sail on a particular itinerary.

Hanseatic Inspiration sailed from Hamburg on Saturday with media and travel partners onboard. Arriving this morning in Antwerp, Belgium, the ship will sail later today on a 15-day maiden voyage to Tenerife, with calls at La Coruna, Lisbon, Casablanca and Madeira, among other destinations.

The new expedition ship is fitted with cutting-edge equipment and environmental technology. Starting in July 2020, the entire Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet will stop using heavy fuel oil and will use low-pollutant marine gas oil fuel on all routes. The line also recently reduced its ships’ speed by three knots, using 30 percent less fuel.

Safety is the top priority, said Pojer in discussing expedition ship operations in remote regions across the globe. He noted that Captain Wolter has more than 10 years of experience in sailing in heavy ice conditions. “Expedition does not leave any space for experiments,” he stressed.

Passengers shouldn’t expect either helicopters or submersibles on the new ship, but instead an “inspired by nature” focus. Pojer said guests come to the line for its experience in expedition cruising and that they also want the pure experience of getting up close to nature, so there will be no helicopters.

“It’s all about nature,” Pojer stressed. “We have a responsibility to protect" the ecosystem. He also said that helicopters with such limited capacity could also become a guest satisfaction issue if, for example, not all guests are able to get aboard. 

The ship carries a fleet of Zodiacs, a few of which are e-Zodiacs, using electric battery power for propulsion. The e-Zodiacs have pros and cons. They’re silent, which guests like.

That said, they can’t be used all the time, such as in high waves, and they can’t be used as long time-wise, so it limits the exploration. Also, space is “lost” within the Zodiac itself to accommodate the electric system. But the line is using some of those e-Zodiacs, as they're eco-friendly. 

Pojer said that one way Hanseatic Inspiration allows guests to get close to nature in a different way is via two extendable glass-floored balconies on the Sun Deck. These are public spaces guests can access. They're cantilevered off the ship's side, and they have floors of glass. 

It’s an opportunity for cruisers to look down and see the ocean, as well as, hopefully, whales, porpoises or other marine life. It’s freedom, he said: “High-tech is not important. It’s high-touch.”  

“Expedition is in our DNA,” Pojer added, and said that many guests who’ve sailed on Europa and Europa 2 are now coming over to try expedition cruises. Pojer said that the line's goal for the English-German ships, Europa 2 and Hanseatic Inspiration, is to have 10 to 15 percent English speakers onboard.

Certainly Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has competition for its new expedition ship from other luxury players currently operating or soon-to-be-operating expedition vessels; these lines include Crystal, Silversea Cruises, Scenic, Seabourn and others.

Also, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is not well-known to many U.S. consumers. Seeking to improve brand awareness, Michael Steffl, international sales manager, told the travel partners in the room: “We still have to tell them we’re not only orange container guys."

That's a reference to the brand's former owner, Hapag-Lloyd, the cargo shipping company. Today, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is not affiliated with that cargo company. Instead, it's owned by TUI Group.

The new expedition class with three structurally-identical ships is being financed by a TUI Group investment. In fact, the entire Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet is the property of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and the TUI Group, which is investing in, enhancing and modernizing the line's existing ships, too. Additional ships are set to be added to the fleet in coming years. 

Stand by in a few days for a slide show and details about multiple public spaces on the new Hanseatic Inspiration, including the attractive HanseAtrium, with its eco-scenes and a cool vibe; the fitness area and full-service spa; the Ocean Academy for scientific exploration, research and delving into the destinations visited; and several accommodations, including #701, a Category 6 Balcony Cabin, as well as the top suite on the ship, #734, which is one of four Grand Suites

As Hanseatic Inspiration begins its expeditions across the globe, Pojer reiterated the line's approach in the marketplace. It wants to “project luxury” and also celebrate “the spirit of expedition. That’s what’s been driving us from the beginning,” he said. 

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