Simon Rowland from Wildfoot Travel headed off to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to catch the luxury ship MS Hanseatic in port there and report back. Join fellow travellers on board one of two special group departures with Wildfoot Travel on board Hanseatic to the Antarctic.
MS Hanseatic is the only official 5 Star Expedition Vessel in the world according to Berlitz Guide. The ship takes-around 170 passengers (88 cabins plus 4 suites) when full and holds the highest type of Ice Class status E4. It was a purpose built in Finland as an expedition ship in 1993 and on board the languages are English and German for the sailings featured by Arctic & Antarctica Bound. The vessel is also equipped with stabilizers for rough seas. The passengers are serviced by 125 crew. There’s a hospital on board and GP available with all expeditions.
I was introduced to the vessel by Matthias Mayer the Cruise Director and Captain Thilo Natke who has lead over 80 Polar expeditions on Hanseatic since 1997 when he joined the vessel.
Carrying 170 passengers, my initial concern before I arrived at the vessel is that it would be quite large, rather impersonal therefore losing the feeling of intimacy, essential to the camaraderie on board any expedition vessel. Delighted to say this is not the case and nor could it be further from the truth. I’ve sailed on many expedition vessels and I must say I usually prefer the smaller ships but I would now add Hanseatic to my preferred list without doubt. It’s intimate, friendly and totally unpretentious even though the surroundings are obviously luxurious, tasteful and of the highest quality. It’s a classic look rather than modern but I feel this lends to it’s relaxed ambiance. The interior is spacious, light, and easy to navigate around all decks with clear signs and uncomplicated layout. The staff and crew were genuinely friendly, polite and eager to assist which is exactly what you should expect.
Because during an expedition I personally spend much time looking for whales and other wild life on deck whatever the time of day, I’m extremely critical when viewing expedition ships I’m unfamiliar with. Again Hanseatic ticked all the boxes as I could not fault inside or outside viewing areas and in fact I would give it 10 out of 10. Even the dining room offers large windows so you don’t miss a thing even when having meals. The Captain insists on an open bridge policy until late at night unless weather conditions prohibit. This is wonderful because it’s an ideal observation point which is well used by passengers.
Even though there are 14 Zodiacs available during Antarctica expeditions there’s a limit to the number of passengers you can land at any one time. The way Hanseatic team get around this is by splitting the passengers into two groups and taking out one group at a time. In the Arctic there’s not such requirement and all passengers are landed easily, quickly and without hassle. There’s a full lecture program conducted separately in both languages. These can be seen in the lecture theatre or you can see it live from your cabin or other parts of the vessel via link.
There are two restaurants, one of which is a little more formal, offering buffet breakfast and lunch but full waiter service in the evenings. The other dining room which offers inside and on-deck tables (conditions permitting) opens for simple breakfasts, lunches and themed evening dinners which you can book on a request bases. Dress code for evening dinner is country club casual with trousers and collared shirts for the gents; ladies smart casual.
The fitness centre offers the latest cross trainer, spin bike and running machine, with aerobic mats for floor work. Steam room and sauna were of excellent condition with separate times of use for male and female during the day. Spa offers treatments and massage which you can book in advance.
The library combines a small bar and lounge area and what I really liked about this as well as the bar is the positioning – it’s rights at the bow of the vessel with excellent viewing potential on three sides. The library itself is fairly limited but offers books in both English and German as well as PC for passengers’ use.
Very well appointed cabins and suites. Regardless of where your cabin is located they are of similar size and 88 in total. The cabins are very comfortable, of the highest quality, spacious and well laid out offering 22 sq meters. Lounge area, separate shower room and WC. The lower grade cabins have two port holes and the higher grades feature picture windows. On the Bridge Deck there are also four larger suites offering a generous 44 sq meters, open plan bedroom and lounge area with separate bathroom, WC shower and dressing area. The suites offer butler service and complimentary minibar on most voyages.
There are lifts on every passenger deck and the corridors are very wide and suitable for wheelchairs.
The souvenir shop selling branded expedition clothing and other souvenirs is open during selective hours.