Hapag-Lloyd Cruises welcomed its newest luxury expedition ship, the Hanseatic Inspiration, with a gala naming ceremony in Hamburg, Germany, on Oct. 11. Attendees witnessed the event in true expedition style from the ship's fleet of 17 Zodiacs and a flotilla of small craft on the Elbe River.
As projections depicting the myriad regions the ship will visit were beamed onto its port side, godmother Laura Dekker, the youngest person to make a solo circumnavigation of the globe, sent a bottle of Champagne smashing into the ship's bow.
The second in what will be three 15,650-gross-ton, 230-passenger vessels, the Hanseatic Inspiration is geared toward an international clientele of both German- and English-speaking guests, while the otherwise identical Hanseatic Nature (introduced earlier this year) and the Hanseatic Spirit (due in 2021) are German-language only.
The Hanseatic Inspiration has a strengthened bow and propellers that can break through solid ice up to three feet thick, giving it an ice class rating of PC-6, which is the highest for a passenger ship. It will also become one of the industry's most environmentally friendly ships when it switches from heavy fuel to low-pollutant marine gas oil in July 2020, and in an experimental move to further cut down on emissions and noise, two of its Zodiacs are electric.
During a short shakedown cruise from Hamburg to Antwerp, Belgium, what stood out the most about the Hanseatic Inspiration was its tasteful decor and practical design rather than trendy bells and whistles.
Unlike the new breed of edgy expedition ships, the Hanseatic Inspiration and its sisters don't have space-consuming assets like helicopters and submarines that can only be used under ideal conditions by a limited amount of guests. Instead, they bring their passengers closer to the natural elements via a pair of glass-bottom balconies that can be extended over the ship's side, an open bow platform and generous forward observation terraces.
They also have a teak-lined open pool area that can be enclosed under a canopy during inclement weather, a sheltered promenade and a sun deck overlooking the stern that will prove popular on temperate-climate itineraries.
In addition to a seasoned team of expedition leaders and top-notch lecturers, guests have access to an interactive educational space called the Ocean Academy that features touch-controlled video screens and Leica microscopes.
The Ocean Academy is an interactive educational space with touch-controlled video screens. Photo Credit: Peter Knego
Another innovative space, the Hanseatrium, features three full-length LED screens with up to 25 high-definition video backdrops. The multifunction venue can be divided into two separate galleries via sliding partitions for enrichment lectures or function as a dedicated lounge and nightclub with moody LED lighting, a dance floor, a bar area and even a programmable Wurlitzer jukebox.
There is also a 2,314-square-foot spa with a Finnish sauna overlooking the sea, a fitness center, the Observation Lounge with 280-degree views through full-length windows, an unfolding stern marina for kayaking and paddleboarding and a spacious changing room where guests can don expedition gear.
Dining options include the open seating Restaurant, the reservations-required but no-charge Nikkei Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant and the casual Lido buffet. Service is exemplary, with white-gloved waiters and courses that feature a diverse range of selections, including eel, reindeer and plenty of vegetarian choices.
The dining nook, living room and balcony in a Grand Suite. Photo Credit: Peter Knego
Thoughtful design pervades a wide range of staterooms that come in 10 categories, the most lavish of which are the 764-square-foot Grand Suites, which feature spacious living rooms that open up to aft-facing balconies, separate bedrooms and bathrooms with full tubs offering ocean views. Even the standard 291-square-foot Balcony Cabins are elegant spaces, with adjustable lighting panels, quality cabinetry and bathrooms with a heated wall to warm towels and dry out wet parkas. There are also French Balcony Cabins and Panoramic Cabins with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows.
In addition to the use of Swarovski Optik binoculars, Nordic walking poles, robes and a parka throughout the cruise, each cabin has a minibar stocked with water, soft drinks and even kombucha; an espresso machine; slippers; and complimentary backpacks and shopping bags.
The Hanseatic Inspiration is not all-inclusive, but drink prices are reasonable, and specialty coffees, teas (with a menu of leaves and bags) as well as an hour per day of internet access are provided free of charge.
Unlike its sister ships, the Hanseatic Inspiration has retractable bridge wings that will enable it to transit the narrow locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway for a season of cruises in the fall of 2021.