The pool deck of the Europa is seen in this beautiful photo.
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
 

If you’ve cruised in Europe, chances are you may have seen the ships of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.  With their sleek white superstructures and distinctive orange funnels, this Hamburg-based line has won numerous awards and accolades for its yacht-like ships, Europa, Hanseatic, Bremen and Columbus.  In fact, Europa is famous as being the only six-star ship in Douglas Ward’s well-respected Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships.
The line’s history dates back to 1847, when its predecessor, the Hamburg-America Line, was formed.  One of the line’s most famous employees, General Director Albert Ballin, is also credited with literally “inventing” the first true cruise in 1891 as a way of generating additional revenue from inactive liners.  His vision of a voyage where the journey itself was the reward would lay the groundwork for the cruise industry as we know it today, one hundred twenty years later.
 Bicycles are available for passenger use ashore.
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Although it caters primarily to a German-speaking clientele, the line also offers a number of voyages designed specifically for English-speaking guests; all onboard activities, excursions, and printed materials are delivered in English.
New for 2011 is a series of voyages offered to North America’s Great Lakes region aboard Columbus.  Due to narrow locks and canals, many mainstream cruise ships are unable to visit this interesting region that borders a large section of the United States and Canada.  The ability to take a 12-day voyage from Toronto to Chicago is certainly not one many cruisers are used to seeing!
 View from the bridge webcam aboard Hanseatic during her
Northwest Passage transit this past summer.
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
The line is also poised to resume what is arguably its most popular itinerary: a full transit of the Northwest Passage.  We covered this year’s transit extensively, and the images brought back by the ship’s webcam were nothing short of astounding.  On August 12, 2011, Bremen will sail from Nome, Alaska and transit the Northwest Passage, calling at a number of important and famous locations like Beechy Island, before ending in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 8th. 
 The Northwest Passage has been an object of desire and fascination for explorers and countries alike since the Vikings first inhabited the region.  Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to successfully transit the passage in 1906, but this Arctic maze of ice and water has claimed the lives of countless others, including Sir John Franklin and the crew of his infamous 1845 expedition.
 Bremen navigating the polar regions.
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises remains the only line to offer a complete transit aboard a luxury vessel, and this popular itinerary sells out every year. 
So what are we excited about in 2011?  Without a doubt, the Northwest Passage Transit is the most remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime voyage in the lineup – though for most of us, it will be woefully out of reach at 14,035 per person.   However, there’s plenty to choose from in the line’s 2011 itinerary schedule.
 Here’s two of our favourites:
The Great Lakes – Toronto to Chicago aboard Columbus – September 5, 2011
September 5 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – overnight aboard ship
September 6 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Depart 03:00.  Sail through the 45km-long Welland Canal.
September 7 – Windsor, Ontario, Canada – 08:00 to 19:00
September 8 – Sailing Lake Huron
September 9 – Little Current, Ontario, Canada – 02:00 to 20:00
September 10 – Sailing Lake Huron
September 11 – Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada – 05:00 to 06:00 September 12.
September 13 – Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada – 07:00 to 18:00
September 14 – Duluth, Minnesota – 08:00 to 20:00
September 15 – Sailing Lake Superior
September 16 – Mackinac Island, Michigan – 07:00 to 19:00
September 17 – Traverse City, Michigan – 07:00 to 13:00
September 18 – Chicago, Illinois – arrive 07:30 and transfer to airport.
Pricing starts at $3,540 USD per person.
Gems of the Mediterranean – Nice to Barcelona aboard Europa – May 29, 2011
May 29 – Embark Europa In Nice.  Departure 24:00
May 30 – Porquerolles – 08:00 to 13:00
May 31 – Ajaccio – 08:00 to 19:00
June 1 – Porto Cervo – 08:00 to 13:00; Porto Rotondo – 14:30 to 18:00
June 2 – Relaxation at Sea
June 3 – Ibiza – 08:00 to Overnight
June 4 – Ibiza – depart at 06:00; Formentera – 08:00 to 14:00
June 5 – Barcelona, Spain – arrival 07:00 and transfer to airport.
Pricing for this voyage starts at $4,574 USD per person.
For more information on either voyage, be sure to visit the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises website for complete pricing, itinerary options, and ship details.
 

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