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Germans launch ‘you’ boat to lure English speakers on luxury cruise

Every cabin on the ship has a mini-bar dispensing unlimited Konig Pilsener, free of charge
  • @SimonCalder

The German firm renowned for running the world’s best cruises is launching its first English-language ship, in an attempt to attract more British holidaymakers.

Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten is ditching Deutsch aboard its new luxury ship, Europa 2. Even though six out of seven passengers are expected to be German, Swiss or Austrian, the main language is English.

The Hamburg-based firm is often rated as the world’s finest cruise line. The British cruise expert Douglas Ward rates Hapag-Lloyd as “five-star plus”, and describes it as delivering “the best cruise experience available today unless you own a private motor yacht”. But with the launch of its new flagship the company is aiming for “a sophisticated, international and cosmopolitan audience”. Going anglophone is part of the battle to lure British, North American and Australasian passengers from lines such as Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas.

“All the marketing material on board is in English, as are travel documents,” said a spokeswoman for Hapag-Lloyd. Europa 2’s onboard lecturers and restaurant staff are all bilingual, while the company will also offer English-language excursions.

In a message aimed at both German customers and prospective English-speaking clients on Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd says the onboard entertainment will be language-neutral: “The shows do not rely on language”.

Voyages on the 516-passenger ship typically cost €500 per person per day, several times the going rate on UK-operated vessels. But Kevin Griffin, managing director of the Cruise People agency, said Hapag-Lloyd’s “service and attention to detail” had already attracted some British travellers, even on German-language cruises.

Hapag-Lloyd is even offering the British tradition of the butler to occupants of the more expensive suites. “Amongst other things, the butler will attend to unpacking and packing the guest’s luggage,” said a spokeswoman. He or she will also serve meals and drinks in the suite, and iron the guests’ clothes – which are likely to be “sporty-elegant”, the official dress code in the restaurants. In another break with tradition, the formal Kapitäns-Dinner has been abandoned.

As an antidote to heavy, Teutonic fare, the ship offers “cuisine legere” plus a sushi restaurant. But one German tradition has been retained: every cabin has a mini-bar dispensing unlimited König Pilsener lager, brewed in the Ruhr, free of charge.

Jacqui Ridler of The Luxury Cruise Company sailed on a preview voyage of the new vessel. She said: “Europa 2 was a fabulous ship – I had no criticism, which is unusual for me”.

Cunard, which operates the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, has no plans to replace English with German as its on-board language. The line’s president and managing director, Peter Shanks, said: “Cunard is Britain on a world stage –the primary language on board is of course English”.