Illustration courtesy Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Many North Americans may not be aware of Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and that’s a shame.  Their five-star vessels have been taking hundreds of happy European passengers on exotic, interesting voyages for years now.  Their ships are the only vessels in the world to consistently be awarded five stars or better in the annual Berlitz Guide to Cruise Ships

While Hapag-Lloyd caters mainly to German passengers, they also offer a wide list of bilingual cruises geared towards English-speaking travelers as well.  One of those voyages is so unique that Hapag -Lloyd is the only cruise line in the world to offer it.

Departing August 16, 2010 from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, the MS Hanseatic spends the next 26 days traversing the fabled Northwest Passage, ending in Nome, Alaska

In 1845, Sir John Franklin attempted the very same thing, with disastrous consequences.  Beset by pack ice and poisoned on a daily basis by putrid and improperly canned foods, much of the crew – minus Franklin himself, who succumbed in June 1847 – managed to survive until the spring of 1848, when they deserted their ships Erebus and Terror and set off for Back River, where they had hoped to raft down until they could reach civilization.  None would make it.

In 2010, however, the 183 lucky guests of the MS Hanseatic will experience a far different, more luxurious journey.  Purpose-built for icebound journeys, the MS Hanseatic offers all the conveniences of a luxury cruise ship, including exceptional service, excellent cuisine and extensive enrichment programs.

Even 165 years after the Franklin expedition set out, the journey will be somewhat similar – the itinerary is heavily subject to change due to the unpredictable nature of ice in the Arctic, and ultimate port decisions rest with the Captain.  One port of interest to history buffs, though, will surely be Beechy Island, were three Franklin expedition crew members were buried in the winter of 1845-46.  Their grave markers still stand on the gravelly shore to this day.

Pricing for this incredibly unique voyage starts at 16,990 Euros per person.  For more information, including full itinerary and pricing as well as MS Hanseatic deck plans, visit Hapag-Lloyd’s website. 


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