Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is planning a major expansion of its expedition fleet, with two new Expedition Class ships, the Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration, set to launch in 2019. Hapag-Lloyd CEO Karl J. Pojer shared details on the new ships with Travel Agent and other media at an event in New York City.
The new ships will be designed to operate in environments ranging from the Arctic to the Amazon, with Pojer noting that they will be built with “the highest ice class ever built for passenger ships to date.” The Hanseatic Nature will debut in April 2019, primarily targeting Hapag-Lloyd’s German-speaking clientele, while the Hanseatic Inspiration will set sail in October 2019, targeting both English- and German-speaking markets. The two ships will be structurally identical, with a capacity of 230 passengers each (dropping to 199 on Arctic/Antarctic itineraries), although some details, such as dining concepts, will differ between the two.
Pojer noted that prebookings for the two ships were already very strong, and that once bookings officially open on January 23, 2018, the line would begin thinking about educational opportunities for travel agents.
“Once we see the conversion rate for prebookings, we will see how to bring agents onboard to help them understand our product,” Pojer tells Travel Agent.
The new ships will aim to offer a destination-focused experience with a minimal environmental impact. While he did not name any names specifically, Pojer did draw a parallel between the two new ships and other upcoming luxury expedition vessels, like the Scenic Eclipse, with flashier features like helicopters and submarines.
“You don’t need a helicopter on an expedition ship,” Pojer said. “It’s focused on a true expedition experience. We’ve selected equipment our team will actually use, and not just gadgets that sound good in marketing.”
Helicopters, Pojer noted, bring added noise to a destination, which could be a problem in a quiet destination like Antarctica. Similarly, a submarine that could only seat a small number of guests could pose crowding issues on a ship with a capacity of up to 230 people.
In terms of design, Pojer said, the ships incorporate a number of nature motfis, such as branches and waves, as well as an emphasis on the outside – the ship has 50 percent more open deck space, not including the ship’s cabin balconies, than the line’s current expedition vessel, the Hanseatic. The new ships will also have an outdoor viewing area right at the bow of the ship, plus a glass balcony extending outward from the sundeck 15 meters above the water. At the ships’ aft, a marina will offer a departure point for 17 Zodiacs, plus watersports equipment like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on warm-weather itineraries.
The ships will incorporate a number of other environmentally friendly features, such as an energy-efficient hull and propeller design, e-Zodiacs, cold ironing, an infrared ice detection system, an SCR catalytic converter and a biological wastewater treatment plant. In a bid to reduce emissions further, the ship will use marine gas oil as 70 percent of its fuel.
The ships do not use liquefied natural gas (LNG), another low-carbon fuel, Pojer noted, because the line does not anticipate LNG fueling stations being widely available in the remote areas in which the ships will operate within the next 10 years. Additionally, making the ships LNG-fueled would have made them too large to operate many of the routes the line has planned. “LNG would have added almost one deck more to the ship for the tanks,” Pojer said.
The ships will have a number of opportunities for guests to learn about the destination. They will sail with a minimum 16-member expedition team, and the “Hanse Atrium” will provide space for daily expert lectures and other talks. In the ships’ Ocean Academies, a large touchscreen media wall will provide an interactive exploration of the ships’ routes.
In terms of accommodations, the ships will have “mainly balcony cabins and suites,” Pojer said. The ship will have 14 Junior Suites with a separate sleeping area with a panoramic view, plus a bathroom with two sinks, a rain shower and a steam sauna. The ship’s four Grand Suites will be larger, 764 square feet to 452 square feet, with a bigger private verandah, 172 square feet versus the 64 square foot private balcony of the Junior Suites. Both suite categories will have butler service.
The ships will have three main restaurants with flexible mealtimes and free choice of seating. The bar, just off the Observation Lounge and the HanseAtrium, will have a panoramic 180 degree view of the area. A bistro restaurant will have an outdoor barbecue and show kitchen, plus 100 outdoor seats (versus 84 inside).
The specialty restaurants will be the main point of differentiation between the ships. The bilingual Hanseatic Inspiration will have a Japanese/Peruvian concept Pojer describes as “ceviche meets sushi.” On the German-focused Hanseatic Nature, the specialty restaurant will serve North American and German cuisine.
At the ships’ destinations, the line also aims to offer a number of “unexpected” experiences, such as a barbecue on a remote island beach, or a cocktail reception on the ice.
Other amenities will run the gamut from a pool with a counter-current system, plus a retractable canopy to allow it to operate in various types of weather. There will be a fitness area with sports hosts and a course room, both with an ocean view, plus the Ocean Spa, which will have a Finnish sauna (also with ocean view), an indoor and outdoor relaxation area, and hairdresser, beauty and massage treatments.
The two ships will sail an Antarctica route roundtrip from Ushuaia from January 19 – February 4, 2020. Starting March 25, they will begin offering an itinerary up the Amazon River from Belem to Iquitos, which will run through April 11, and from June 17 through August 1, they will sail a 14-day Great Lakes itinerary. The Great Lakes itinerary will make them the only deep sea vessels to traverse Lake Superior, Pojer noted.