New luxury expedition ships are setting sail with increasing frequency, among them Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' new Hanseatic Inspiration, christened in October in Hamburg, Germany.
Hanseatic Inspiration accommodates 230 passengers or 199 guests while sailing in polar regions. The vessel carries a PC-6 rating, the highest ice rating for a passenger ship.
Good to know? This is Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' new "international" expedition ship, so both English and German are the official languages onboard. The expedition ship is expected to attract many English speakers, much as the line's classic Europa 2 does.
What spaces did we like? Here's a quick look with some personal observations. Most spaces mentioned below are featured in our original slide show above.
Less traditional than a typical ship's atrium, as it doesn't soar upward, HanseAtrium is impressive in its own way -- both in its comfort level and its eco-presentation abilities. Located behind the purser’s desk (with entrances on either side) this multifunctional lounge has wow-factor LED and presentation technology perks.
For example, multiple humongous screens show stunningly gorgeous photos of eco-scenes or videos, while a central overhead panel of light also shows the moving imagery of a bird flying overhead or a ray swimming by.
Guests who meander in will find comfortable seating, a jukebox, a stage area, a grand piano and a cool, elongated bar with aqua blue lighting (see slide show above).
One big plus? Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' crew can pull out a large soundproof movable wall in HanseAtrium. That nicely allows simultaneous presentations in English and German. In the past, guests might have been asked to go to a different room for a different language, but now that's not necessary.
HanseAtrium hosts lectures by enrichment experts, movies and nightly entertainment. It's also the place for expeditionary “recaps” of the day’s activities and “precaps,” or information provided by the expedition team about what’s to come the next day.
As the main gathering point on the ship, this space is easy to “sink into” with soothing eco-imagery and lighting.
Multifunctional Pool Deck
At 6,781 square feet, the spacious pool area is a great place to relax with both lounge chairs and water loungers, plus it has an adequately sized pool for an expedition ship, as well as a small bar.
We liked that throughout this ship, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has "fun" with the art, reflecting the expedition nature of the product. Thus, one corner of the pool area is "inhabited" by a large artistic penguin painted in multiple colors and a smaller, more realistic black-and-white penguin, too.
What’s most unique about this space, though, is that while it’s open air, a canvas roof can be extended over it. That’s good in bad weather. Plus, it’s a flexible space. During our visit, at night the deck was cleared of the lounge chairs, and high-top tables were set up under a cool “rose” glow for a cocktail event.
Reached via a forward door on Deck 6, Inspiration Walk is a lower-level observation area accessible to guests, allowing them to get to the front of the bow for whale watching, other wildlife views and scenic sights ashore.
It's also a good space for fitness buffs who may desire to walk multiple laps to continue their daily regimen. The "walk" is simply in a triangular shape reflecting the ship's bow design, rather than an oval.
Hanseatic Dining Room
Given the short nature of our preview cruise, we dined in all three of the onboard dining venues. In the 180-seat Hanseatic Restaurant, the ship’s elegant main dining experience, I liked the lovely lattice-like wall upon entry.
With a light, airy feel, this one-level restaurant also was split into several different areas, so it didn't seem cavernous. Several artistic wildlife sculptures continued the expeditionary theme. Most of all, though, the cuisine was excellent.
One evening's entree choices included Atlantic Lobster, Tournedo of Veal Tenderloin, Panzotti Truffles or Gnocchi di Polenta alla Romana. Guests enjoy full table service and sit where and with whom they want.
I also dined at the more casual Lido Restaurant, a buffet-style restaurant with 84 interior seats and 110 seats al fresco on the deck. Pluses include the carving station and cooked-to-order pasta station.
This venue offered a nice selection of entrees, veggies, salads, freshly made soups and yummy desserts, including multiple flavors of gelato.
I also dined at Nikkei, the ship’s 44-seat specialty Japanese-Peruvian restaurant, located adjacent to the Purser's Desk. Guests who dine here can expect such tasty menu items as Kamo Nabe, duck, catfish with nut butter, sweet potato tempura and Dulce de Leche Creme for dessert.
The "wow factor" in the forward Observation Lounge is two-fold. First, there are the 180-degree views via walls of glass, so guests seated here -- or on the lounge's outdoor deck -- have stunning views of the scenery or wildlife in the vicinity of the ship.
Second, I loved the "library wall" with books in both English or German and the cool blue lighting. This lounge also has a central "in the round" seating area and plenty of other cozy seating areas. Some separators between the seating mimic "waves" with their curves.
A coffee-tea station with accompaniments such as croissants and pastries was at the entry area, too. And, of course, there's a full-service bar.
For those seeking the ultimate pampering in their accommodations, the ship's four 764-square-foot Grand Suites on Decks 6 and 7 await.
Entering this Category 10 suite, the small formal entryway has a bench seat and just beyond opens up to a large entry area with a lovely art piece and easy access to either a short corridor to the bedroom area or a guest powder room, or separately into the dining area and beyond to the main living room.
One "wow" is the master bathroom with two sinks, a free-standing tub and a separate rain shower. Nice touches? There is a heated wall in the bathroom for towels or wet parkas. And guests can access the private veranda directly from either the master bathroom or the living area.
That veranda spans the entire suite length and has plenty of space for entertaining, plus terrific aft views.
The ocean is never far from view or mindset on this expedition ship. For example, an attractive white wall with "waves" of sorts is behind the couch/settee in the living area.
That living space also had floor-to-ceiling glass, a writing desk, entertainment center, mini-bar and more. The nearby dining area had a table with three chairs.
Perks for guests staying in the Grand Suite include butler service, a table reservation if desired in the Hanseatic restaurant (that eatery is typically open seating but first-come, first-served); a choice of which Zodiac group to join; use of binoculars by Swarovski Optik and Nordic walking poles; a complimentary mini-bar; and a coffee machine.
An expedition voyage is quite different than a normal cruise ship voyage. With more eco-discovery outside in the water and ashore, the ship itself becomes a floating center of knowledge. On this ship, that center for research and information is the Ocean Academy.
The space's stellar feature is a humongous, touch-screen electronic study wall with an interactive poster display. Multiple people can use it at the same time.
Passengers will find articles and information about marine research, geology, glaciology, history, biology and culture, among other topics. Plus, expedition team members, naturalists or other experts can conduct sessions here using the touch screen.
Separately, private “study seats” in Ocean Academy have their own swivel screens and allow guests to focus on their specific interests.
In an adjacent room within Ocean Academy, passengers also can use binocular microscopes to view organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. We'd urge guests to check these out.
The microscopes reportedly cost $10,000 apiece, so peering through them is certainly not something the average person will ever do at home.
Hanseatic Inspiration's 2,314-square-foot holistic spa focuses on natural treatments and sustainability. The spa's walls, for example, are made from all-natural materials. Spa treatments too use natural products with premium plant ingredients and vegan formulas.
The spa encompasses several treatment rooms, a Finnish sauna with ocean views and a large spa relaxation room with loungers, chairs and a fireplace; this room was larger than some similar facilities we’ve seen on big ocean ships.
Just keep in mind that the European spa "normal" is a bit different than that in the U.S. or Canada. Some guests may come to the Finnish sauna fully naked, others covering up a bit. So just be prepared.
The ship’s 1,076-square-foot Sports Club consists of a fitness room with the latest fitness machines, free weights and equipment plus a separate course room. What’s nice? Both areas have ocean views through large expanses of glass.
A fitness coach will assist guests with the equipment and personalize work-out plans. Fitness classes are also offered either in the Sports Club course room or on deck.
Hanseatic Inspiration carries 19 onboard Zodiacs (17 regular Zodiacs and two quieter electric ones), which allows all guests to explore at the same time. As such, it’s important to have a well-organized Mud Room (changing room) so guests can don waterproof boots and clothing as well as life vests.
In our brief look at the Mud Room, it impressed with roomy stacked cubbyholes for storing boots and other gear, plus there was seating so guests could sit down and pull on/off their boots. The Mud Room is also on the same level as the marina for Zodiac boarding.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises provides guests with use of boots and jackets during the length of their cruise.
Extendable Glass Balconies
No, the Hanseatic Inspiration isn't like some other new expedition ships. It doesn’t carry helicopters or submarines. Why? Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' theory about that is that those are not particularly eco-friendly.
Instead, this cruise line has created a different kind of "wow" element to bring guests closer to the action -- two extendable Glass Balconies cantilevered off the ship's sides on the Sun Deck (Deck 8).
Adjacent to the pool area, they extend out over the water with glass for flooring and glass walls, so guests stand atop the glass and feel as though there’s nothing between them and the ocean.
For example, at times, passengers will view whales and dolphins that follow the ship. Or, they'll simply have a better perch to be closer to the scenery in such places as the Arctic or Antarctica.
I didn't encounter the balconies extended during my time onboard. Keep in mind, this was not a true expedition cruise but simply a preview cruise. Check out the photo above, though, which was provided by the luxury line to show this nifty concept.
Currently, Hanseatic Inspiration is sailing Antarctica voyages and that will continue throughout the winter, before the ship heads for Brazil and the Caribbean in early spring, then to the Great Lakes in June and July 2020, and then on to the Arctic.
Highly anticipated is the ship’s arrival in the Great Lakes, as the expedition vessel is purpose-built to navigate the locks there, something many ships cannot do.
In fall 2020, the ship will sail to western Europe and the Atlantic Islands, followed by South Africa voyages in early spring 2021, the Atlantic islands in April 2021, northern and western Europe in April and May 2021, the Arctic in summer 2021 and the Great Lakes again in fall 2021.