Hapag-Lloyd’s Arctic Explorations

Cruises offered by Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd—with four ships sailing to hundreds of destinations worldwide—present an interesting and different perspective for adventure-minded clients, especially those sailing on one of the company’s small expedition ships to either the majestic landscapes of the Arctic or Antarctica.

Indeed, expedition cruises are gaining in popularity and according to Sebastian Ahrens, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ managing director, the reason is that, “The more people travel, the more they feel a desire for discovering places off the beaten path and for seeing the world and its beautiful flora, fauna and cultures from a different perspective.

“Our expedition cruises to the Arctic and to Antarctica bring them closer to the natural habitats of exotic species and open up new experiences. We are the only operator in this field who offers an unmatched combination of an expedition cruise experience drawing on years of hands-on experience with a luxury cruise product for the well-experienced, discerning travelers.”

life on the bremen Luxury cruise product, indeed. Recommend sailed on the company’s 164-passenger Bremen—on a route that ran from Halifax to Greenland’s west coast, ending up in Reykjavik, Iceland—and had a chance to sample the high-end onboard amenities, including the myriad onboard lectures presented by experienced lecturers who also serve as guides during visits to the numerous Inuit villages on the mainland.

Built in 1990, the Bremen provides a high comfort level. The cabins are spacious with ample closet space. One can become familiar with the entire ship within an hour of boarding and feel like it is “their yacht.” There are no casinos or lavish Vegas reviews. In fact, the whole experience aboard ship is very intimate—a welcome delight in this world of 3,000-plus passenger ships.

Most of the passengers on the Bremen’s Greenland cruise were Europeans, mainly from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There was a nice mix of English-speaking passengers hailing from the U.S, U.K., Canada and Australia. So, in addition to offering the excitement of polar expeditions viewing gigantic icebergs, cruising aboard the Bremen gives an internationally minded client an opportunity to mingle with passengers from around the world.

Most passengers on Hapag-Lloyd’s bilingual (German and English) cruises, according to the company, are over 60 years of age. Of particular note is the fact that 50 percent are repeat cruisers.

Hapag-Lloyd classifies the Bremen as a four-star ship, but don’t tell that to the staff and crew who, according to Frank Newman, the Bremen’s hotel director, exemplify the term, “five-star service.” The wait staff is young, bilingual and attentive and have significant service experience. Before they are employed by Hapag-Lloyd, they must have worked in a four- or five-star hotel or restaurant for at least one year and then are given vigorous training prior to being deployed to the ships.

The Bremen has a single seating in its unpretentious dining room. The food was not the usual standard American fare. Passengers feasted on such appetizers as mousse of smoked eel with beet root and horseradish, and grilled pheasant breast with mousse of truffled turnips and cassis coulis. Entrees included grilled partridge breast with cognac cream sauce, brussel sprouts and potato croquettes, and braised venison in cranberry red wine sauce with stuffed white cabbage balls and walnut spaetzle. And, yes, of course, there was prime rib, turkey, rack of lamb, a variety of fresh fishes and other items for the mundane appetites.

The desserts were also creative with such offerings as gratinated port wine figs with butterscotch ice-cream. And, of course, since the Bremen is a German ship, Vienna-style apple strudel with coffee ice-cream. Food portions are small, but a client can have as much as they want. There is an effort to get fresh local products, such as fish and vegetables at various ports as the ship sails throughout the world.

the experience Sailing aboard a Hapag-Lloyd expedition cruise is a top-notch experience, but the most memorable part of the cruise are the visits to the many remote spots on the Zodiacs, which provide adventures not normally offered by cruise ships. One of the cruise’s most unforgettable experiences is motoring among a mass of icebergs and having an up-close view of these wonders. That alone justifies the trip.

According to Ahrens, the Bremen and the 184-passenger Hanseatic rely on their fleet of Zodiac crafts for landing in exciting spots. For example, the Zodiacs are used on the 25-day Northern Passage itinerary—a cruise similar to the one Recommend experienced that takes passengers through the historical Northwest Passage route from Nome, Alaska around Greenland and the Arctic Circle and ends in Reykjavik and for which bookings for the August 2009 sailing are still available on the Hanseatic. “The Zodiacs are launched onto the water just off Herschel Island—[in the Beaufort Sea three miles off the coast of Yukon, Canada]—and passengers are able to visit a former whaling base where the local rangers will take guests to the cemeteries of the whalers and the Inuit,” he explains. Additionally, on the Northwest Passage itinerary, Zodiacs take passengers into the port of Holman, a remote northern Canadian community located on the Western side of Victoria Island with a small settlement of only 350 Copper Inuit.