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Ja, more bilingual cruises ahead

Hapag-Lloyd, a German-centric luxury line, is gearing voyages toward U.S. travelers. Top-rated Europa is part of the expansion.

August 01, 2004|Jane Engle | Times Staff Writer

One of Europe's top cruise lines, offering super-luxe sailings, Great Lakes crossings and exotic voyages around the world, is unfurling its marketing sails in the United States.

Germany's Hapag-Lloyd, whose 408-passenger Europa was rated the best vessel in the world in Berlitz's respected "Ocean Cruising & Cruise Ships 2004" guide, is more widely known to Germans and other Europeans, its main customers, than to Americans. Although crews speak German and English, cruises have traditionally been offered in German, said Sebastian Ahrens, managing director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Now the company is expanding its bilingual voyages; more than 15 are scheduled this year on three of its four ships and, so far, more than 20 next year.

In 1997, the company pioneered big-ship Great Lakes cruises, offered on its 420-passenger Columbus. Its 184-passenger Hanseatic has taken adventurers to Antarctica and other faraway places on behalf of the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History and other educational institutions.

The Europa, which handles diverse itineraries to the Americas, Europe and elsewhere, has an "incredible sense of space and grandeur" and provides the "most luxurious ... cruise experience available today," according to Berlitz, which bestowed its only five-stars-plus rating on it.

Europa's bilingual voyages this year include an 18-night trip departing Sept. 14 from Hamburg, Germany, to Montreal; and 10-night cruises from Philadelphia to Nassau, Bahamas (Oct. 12), and from Nassau to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Oct. 22). Cruise-only prices start at about $6,081 per person, double occupancy.

The Hanseatic will go bilingual for an 11-night Mediterranean cruise (Sept. 6) and a 19-night Australia-South Pacific cruise (Nov. 8), among others. Prices start at $5,822 per person, double occupancy. Nine- and 10-night Great Lakes cruises in September on the Columbus start at $2,405 per person, double occupancy. (Some cabin categories and cruises on these ships may be sold out this year.)

The line has expanded its network of sales agents in the U.S. and now markets through several companies, including Nonstop Travel in Torrance, (800) 949-6362, www.nonstoptravel.net; and Euro Lloyd Travel Group in East Meadow, N.Y., (800) 334-0284, www.eurolloyd.com.

Hapag-Lloyd's main website, www.hlkf.de, is in German. It also maintains an English-language website, www.hapaglloydcruises.co.uk.

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