This has been, by far, the most interesting posting about travel with Hapag Lloyd that I have read on these boards because it accurately,in toto, summarizes the pluses and minuses of current travel with this company. Of still existing historic passenger shipping companies only Cunard andP&O, compete with its story. That it still survives and is doing so well (2+ years advance for reservations…really?) gives me hope that all is not lost in the current cruise world of ocean-going apartment buildings with water parks.
I have had the privilege of traveling with them twice, once around 1985 on the Europa (1981 build,now sailing as Saga Sapphire) and a cruise on the Great Lakes on the chartered C.Columbus in 2005. The former was an attempt at reintroducing their product to a North American clientele (after all they had a strong presence in the North Atlantic from the 19thcentury into the 1960’s). The latter was a chartered ship, not run to the same high standards. Still, it was a terrific experience and gave us the opportunity to arrive in Chicago by ship!. Since then, the line has had ambivalent feelings about going after non-German speaking clientele. When they introduced Europa 2 it sounded as though they were serious about capturing part of that market, but they have not been particularly proactive in aggressively pursuing that audience. Although I love their product, I do not recommend it to the average non-German cruiser. Those seeking major social interactions with fellow passengers are bound to be disappointed. Although Germans can be very fluent in English, they are not prone to reveal that and, speaking if I may for North Americans, we are not likely to be very fluent in German, although my husband knows some high school German. Still, I am one of those passengers who enjoys sitting in my deck chair reading watching the waves roll by and smiling at those promenading along the deck. The cuisine, as discussed in this posting was always outstanding as was the entertainment, which emphasized, at least on my cruises, cabaret and classical composition. There were no tributes to Broadway/The West End or Disney. On Europa we had a classical quartet playing Mozart in the Horizon Lounge as we sailed in and out of the fjords. It brought me to tears, a great travel moment. And opera in the lounge, I was in heaven…except when I exited the performance reeking of tobacco. It’s interesting, that despite the long interval since I travelled with them, the basic product hasn’t changed that much. Still, I flirt with the idea of getting back on board. Maybe one day although after 57 years of traveling on ships, starting from my teenage years to my retirement years, I’m not so fascinated by the current offerings……..except for Hapag Lloyd.