Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

History, Review, Itineraries, Ships, Deck Plans, News

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Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet

Review of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (officially Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten, hl-cruises.com) is a premium travel brand a Hamburg Germany-based company part of TUI AG (via its subsidiary TUI Cruises GmbH). Between 2017-2020, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises was fully owned by Hapag-Lloyd AG (German-Chilean shipping company, one of the world's oldest) which is currently ranked the world's 5th largest container shipping line in terms of fleet capacity.

On February 7, 2020, TUI AG (aka TUI Group) announced that Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (as of 2020 valued ~EUR 1,2 billion / ~USD 1,36 billion) becomes part of TUI Cruises (50-50 joint venture between TUI and RCCL-Royal Caribbean). The contract was signed in Hamburg (on Feb 7), the cash transaction from RCCL (~EUR 700 million) was closed on July 6, 2020. The company's current CEO is Julian Pfitzner.

The Hanover Germany-based TUI AG (British-German multinational) is currently ranked the world's largest leisure and travel company. It was founded in 1923 and until 2002 was named "Preussag AG". TUI Group's companies specialize in hospitality and tourism services worldwide, with a portfolio including passenger airlines, cruise shipping (shipowner), package vacations, hotels and resorts, travel agencies, retail shops.

Company history

The Hapag-Lloyd company was founded in 1970 as a merger between two of Germany's oldest steamship companies - "Hamburg-Amerikanische Packfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft" (Hapag) and "Norddeutscher Lloyd". Both companies were created in the 1840s for shipping freight and passengers via Transatlantic crossings between Germany and the USA.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises logo

On July 12, 2017, TUI AG sold its remaining 8,5 million shares in Hapag-Lloyd AG, which raised about EUR 244 million. The operation was an open market block trade (Accelerated Book Building) to a guaranteed minimum price close to the day’s market closing. Prior to this trade (March 2017), TUI AG disposed of a total of 6 million Hapag-Lloyd shares in individual open-market transactions. By disposing of all its Hapag-Lloyd shares, TUI AG concluded corporation's non-core business disposal program defined after the TUI AG and TUI Travel PLC merger in December 2014. The revenues were used for TUI's tourism business (hotel brands and cruise ships).

In 2017, the brand Hapag-Lloyd Cruises reported record average daily rates of EUR 594 (pp per day) or an increase of 2,6% over 2016. In 2017 the company also reported highest-ever customer satisfaction and quality ratings. Company's average daily ticket prices increased as follows - 2011 (EUR 399), 2012 (EUR 420), 2013 (EUR 450), 2014 (EUR 536), 2015-2016 (EUR 579), 2017 (EUR 594).

For FY2018 (fiscal year), TUI Group's earnings (from the 3 cruise brands - TUI, Marella, and Hapag-Lloyd) increased by 10,7% - to EUR 901,9 million. Company's turnover was EUR 324 million (26,8% increase over 2017). Group's average daily rates increased to EUR 178 euro (TUI, up from EUR 173), EUR 141 (Marella, up from EUR 131) and EUR 615 (Hapag-Lloyd, up from EUR 594).

From July 2020 onwards, HL's fleet will use only LS-MGO (low sulfur marine gasoil) with max S content 0,1%).

Hapag-Lloyd cruising experience

As a product, HL Cruises offers higher-end luxury travel deals, featuring:

All Hapag-Lloyd's cruise liners offer in-port and shipboard experiences ranging from zodiac expedition to luxury. Vessels are budget-wise, as fares are on the high side. Hanseatic and Bremen are expedition ships with the highest given to passenger ships E4 ice-class rating allowing year-round Antarctic and Arctic navigation. Bremen is 4-starred, while Hanseatic is 5-starred and with upgraded enrichment and cuisine, plus larger cabins.

The launch of the first Hapag-Lloyd newbuild - Europa 2 - was in May 2013. The project was aimed at the ultra-luxe market and younger, more active and less luxury-minded travellers, including families (with kids facilities for toddlers to teens). MS Europa 2 is the brand's most contemporary and chic liner, featuring dynamic and sophisticated entertainment ranging from jazz club to kitchen studio (for cooking classes). Its appeal is to younger, less luxury-minded cruisers, including families.

Hapag-Lloyd's all-suite liners Europa 1 and Europa 2 provide the largest space-per-guest ratio of any cruise ships currently on the market. All Europa 2 staterooms have balconies. The Hapag-Lloyd has also marketed MS Europa 2 as company's "bilingual ship", reaching international customers with enhanced activities geared to English-speaking passenger sourcing.

New ships

Next is shown Hapag-Lloyd's new expedition cruise ship design. Three such Polar-Class vessels are currently under construction and scheduled for launch in 2019 - Hanseatic Inspiration (October) and Hanseatic Nature (April) and 2021 (Hanseatic Spirit).

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises expedition ship design (bow view)

The newbuilds are of the same design (sisterships), each with max capacity 230 passengers (199 passengers on Antarctic cruises), 3 restaurants, extensive wellness area, water sports marina (aft), a fleet of Zodiacs (large-capacity inflatable boats used for landings and shore tours).

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises expedition ship design (aft view)

On July 3, 2018, VARD Holdings Ltd and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises signed a shipbuilding contract for a 3rd HANSEATIC-series vessel (Spirit). The new ship is scheduled for delivery in 2021 Q2. All ships in the series have their hulls built by VARD Tulcea shipyard (Romania).

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises expedition ship design (marina tendering)

In late-February 2019, Hapag-Lloyd announced a user-friendly digital concept for onboard learning never seen before on expedition vessels. The new "study wall" is available on the fleet's three new Hanseatic ships (Inspiration, Nature, Spirit).

The innovative touchscreen technology (screen size 6x1,8 m / 20x6 ft) allows passengers to research information and various topics related to the ship's current cruise itinerary destinations. The digital Study Wall was developed over a 2,5-year period via a partnership with two German (Hamburg-based) companies - Intermediate Engineering GmbH, and mpg ErlebnisRaumDesign GmbH.

Digital content (articles, biographies, photos, videos) is divided into 5 categories. Most of the information is provided by GEOMAR (Kiel Germany), also by journalists, scientists, and experts. The Study Wall is located in Knowledge Studio (Wissens Atelier / Deck 8). The research facility also has four Study Seats (with touchscreens to explore the content), Study Poster (visual scientific explanations), a dedicated area for microscope research.


In mid-August 2017, MS Bremen (now Seaventure/1990-built) received "Polar Code" certificate that allows the vessel to operate in polar regions. All its fleet mates were also due to receive the certificate by Hapag-Lloyd’s 2018 Arctic season. Polar Code (adopted by IMO) contains regulations about polar cruise vessels' construction and onboard equipment, as well as crew training requirements. In 2017, as part of the HL fleet's routine drydocks, all ships were brought in line with the Polar Code's requirements. MS Bremen was scheduled to operate 3 Arctic cruises (2018-2019 season), including one Northeast Passage (summer 2018).

(Coronavirus crisis) passenger shipping pause 2020-2021

Due to the COVID pandemic, Hapag-Lloyd suspended its entire fleet's passenger shipping operations (all liners) by canceling all voyages with pre-scheduled departures in the period March 18, 2020, through May 2021.

HL cruise operations resumed in 2021 on May 24 (Hanseatic Inspiration/Baltic), July 9 (Hanseatic Nature/Norway), August 14 (MS Europa/Baltic from Hamburg), October 2 (Hanseatic Spirit/Asia-Japan), October 3 (Europa 2/Canaries).

All affected bookings received full refunds, including on prepurchased through HL packages and services. All current voyages were completed by March 21, 2020.

Itinerary of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Currently, Hapag-Lloyd offers a wealth of "high-end luxury" cruises for well-heeled travellers. The line's signature destinations are the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, as well as the Caribbean, Asia, Australia, plus expedition itineraries to Antarctica and Alaska (Northwest Passage).

The current Hapag Lloyd cruise fleet includes the following vessels:

On January 15, 2019, Hapag-Lloyd announced that MS Bremen was sold to Scylla Cruises and will be officially delivered to the new shipowner in May 2021. As of 2019, Scylla owned 31 riverboats, most of which are chartered to different European cruisetour companies.

Together with the introduction of expedition cruise catalogs for the 2020-2021 season, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises also announced that low-pollutant MGO (marine gas oil) is to be exclusively used on all routes of its expedition ships (Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration) from July 2020. Joining the fleet in 2021, Hanseatic Spirit is also expected to use the fuel.

The use of low-sulfur fuels in the Antarctic has been mandatory for a number of years and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises already uses marine gas oil voluntarily in sensitive regions like the Arctic and Kamchatka. The low-pollutant fuel features a sulfur content of just 0.1%. In addition, the new expedition ships do not only feature an SCR catalytic converter reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 95% but are also fitted out to use cold ironing.

The fleet of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is also equipped with seawater desalination technology producing clean water, and with biological sewage treatment plants. Ships' bow thrusters and stabilizers run on bio-petroleum which is environmentally-friendly.

Highlights from the routes of Hapag-Lloyd expedition fleet in 2021 include:

  • Hanseatic Inspiration sets sail for the Antarctic 10 times, including on a 23-day itinerary from Tierra del Fuego to South Africa through the Antarctic. The journey stretches from Cape to Cape (Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope).
  • A change of travellers in Goose Bay, northern Canada is a first as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ expeditions have never started and ended there before. It makes it possible to combine a couple of spectacular expedition destinations - the icy landscapes of Greenland and the remote region of Labrador.
  • Travellers can enjoy the Arctic experience on a couple of cruises on Hanseatic Inspiration. The South Africa voyage is another first, in which Hanseatic Inspiration is due for the first time to circumnavigate “the cape of wild animals”, sailing from Cape Town to Walvis Bay.
  • Hanseatic Inspiration also offers expeditions in Europe and passengers can explore the Azores, the British Isles, and the coastlines of the Baltic and North Seas.

2 ships of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises built for the international marketplace, ms Europa 2 and HANSEATIC inspiration, are scheduled to restart the operation of bilingual sailings from January 2022. The 5-stars plus ms Europa 2 commences the New Year in the Indian Ocean - on Reunion IslandMauritius, and Seychelles; and heads on to South Africa, Cape Verde, and the Canaries, visiting Madeira and the Azores.

For international passengers onboard expedition cruise ship HANSEATIC inspiration, the destinations awaiting in 2022-2023 include the Great Lakes of North America; Antarctica and the Arctic; South America (the Panama Canal and Chilean Fjords) Cape Verde, and the Canary Islands.

Northwest Passage cruises

Hapag Lloyd was the world's first cruise line with a Northwest Passage Cruise itinerary. In 2011, MS Bremen became the world's first-ever cruise ship crossing the Passage from Kangerlussuaq Greenland to Nome Alaska. In 2012, MS Hanseatic (now RCGS Resolute) made a full transit with a 25-days itinerary leaving from Nome AK (on August 14) and ending in Reykjavik Iceland (on September 7).

(animal cruelty) The Faroe Islands cruise boycott

In mid-July 2016, Hapag-Lloyd became one of the three cruise ship companies (together with Disney and AIDA) that have banned Faroe Islands (a Danish territory) as destination part of their North European itineraries.

The boycott is due to the island nation's traditional mass slaughter of pilot whales each year. The protected by Denmark gruesome practice of killing whales is called “Grindadrap Grind". Locals use motorboats to drive a pod of whales into a harbor. The defenseless animals are dragged to the shallow water and brutally slaughtered by locals armed with knives (16-19 cm / 6-8 inches long) while their families cheer them on. The killing party even rip out baby whales from their mothers.

The Faroe Islands have a population of about 50,000 and kill each year 1000+ pilot whales. You can see the cruise ship schedule of Torshavn - Faroe's most visited port. All cruise lines with scheduled visits to the Faroes are accused of supporting the brutal whaling practices. Whaling is still officially approved and carried out by the "civilized" countries Japan, Norway and Iceland, killing over 2000 whales each year and trading in whale products.


HL's response was to the "Faroese Pilot Whaling Act" by the local government, which continues to allow pilot whales to be culled or massacred. It also empowers local authorities to imprison (for up to 2 years) people found guilty of impeding these whaling activities - despite all the international condemnations.

Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace are among the largest organizations taking direct actions against the "Faroese Pilot Whaling Act". Most of the available online haunting images of slaughtered whales lying in a sea of blood are released by these organizations.

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