International Adventures

Hapag-Lloyd's CEO explains its strategy to woo guests
International Adventures

By Lynn Houghton |

When luxury cruise line Hapag-Lloyd Cruises launches a new vessel, the industry sits up and takes notice. The five-star-plus Europa 2, delivered last year, is no exception. Guests will first notice the vast amount of space on board (80 metres per passenger to be exact) and the almost clinical whiteness of the interior. Indeed, many of the 890 artworks are white to match the background. The nearly floor-to-ceiling windows allow vantage points to the sea from almost anywhere on the vessel. And the accommodation is exceptional. For instance, the Spa Suite is 52sqm, boasting its own sauna, Jacuzzi bathtub, rain shower and a 10sqm balcony as well as butler service.

This is also the first time the cruise line has designated one of its ships as ‘International’ (bilingual), signifying a significant departure for the Germanic Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and a new marketing focus. Pojer is adamant that the cruise line’s future strategy should be to highlight and focus on its luxury and expedition cruises. In September 2012, it was decided that to grow these segments, the company would need to expand its international marketing activities. The decision was taken that all cruises onboard the futuristic 500-guest Europa 2 would be in German and English; all staff and crew would be bilingual; and all signage and documentation – including menus, announcements and safety drill instructions – would be presented in English as well as German. Pojer explains: “We are committed to ensuring English-speaking passengers feel comfortable from the moment they step on board, with travel documents and information being provided to guests in English prior to their trip.”

Feedback from English-speaking guests has been “extremely positive”, he says. “Starting with our third cruise, we received a 100% recommendation rate from our guests. In the next two years, we hope Europa 2 will carry up to 15% English-speaking guests.”

Pojer has been with TUI AG since 1996 and in May 2013 was appointed CEO of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, where he has overseen the final phases of the construction of Europa 2 and the refurbishment of her predecessor, Europa. Early on, he worked in the hotel sector and held senior hotel management positions in the USA, Germany, Belgium and Portugal. He was then appointed to the Austrian consul in Madeira and subsequently became the managing director of Robinson Club, a part of TUI AG. He has been with the tourism giant ever since.

Coming over to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises from TUI AG’s enormous hotel segment must have been quite a sea change. Europa 2’s construction had begun in September 2011 and was well under way when Pojer was appointed head of the cruise line in 2013. But as the World of TUI is the largest hotelier in Europe, with 248 hotels and 158,000 beds, and ranks 17th among the world’s largest hotel chains, the switch from hotels to the much smaller cruise line did not prove onerous.

Pojer is immensely proud of the line’s latest offering as Europa 2 not only sets the highest, five-star-plus standards in terms of its design, accommodation and dining, but also in its technical features. He is clearly pleased to report that the ship has received an independent Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) certification from DNV GL; it is the first cruise ship in the world to do so. Calculated using a set formula to indicate a vessel’s CO2 emissions, the EEDI was developed by the IMO to establish a uniform global benchmark for the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of ships. This certification indicates that the CO2 emissions produced by Europa 2 are substantially lower than average for the industry’s global fleet, emitting 31% less CO2 than cruise ships of a similar size.

Europa 2 is also the first cruise ship to utilise Safe Return to Port (SRtP) technology. The ship is capable of running on two engines, even though it has four. There are also two fuel tanks in the bow of the ship and two in the stern. If there is a fire in one part of the ship, it can be compartmentalised so only that area will be affected. The same is true of the water tanks and airconditioning. Even the toilets have a standby unit to cope with any problem with the vacuum flushing system.

The luxury vessel is the world’s first cruise ship to be fitted with an SCR catalytic converter, which reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 95 per cent. Optimised hull and water treatment technology ensures that resources are used sparingly.

The retractable roof, which can cover the entire pool deck, weighs 20,000 tonnes and is one of the most sophisticated at sea, taking only a few minutes to close. There is 100% fresh air on board Europa 2; no air is recycled. A sensor in every suite ensures that the air contains no more than 411ppm of CO2. The list of technological wonders onboard is seemingly endless.

Meanwhile, the 400-passenger Europa has undergone extensive refurbishment while in drydock last October. A total of 156 suites were redesigned, with new carpets and furniture added. All 152 Veranda Suites on decks 5, 6, 7 and 9 were given a new colour scheme and new furniture; and deck 7 Spa Suites were also renovated. There is now new carpeting in the public areas and the atrium and pool area are upgraded.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is also renowned for its luxury expedition ships, the five-star, 175-passenger Hanseatic and the Bremen. Pojer explains that this ship offers adventurous travellers a small-ship, personal experience combined with essential hardware suitable for close-up expeditions into polar regions. It is the highest ice class, E4, for passenger ships; and has 14 onboard zodiacs suitable for landings in remote areas.

A key element of the ship’s success is her exciting itineraries. “The 2014 season sees us operating two premiere cruises in virtually untouched expedition regions of the world,” says Pojer. “In May, the Hanseatic will offer the Expedition Siberia itinerary, cruising in unspoilt south-east Siberia; and at the end of July 2014, the ship will head towards Wrangel Island and the rarely visited Chukchi Peninsula.”

He adds: “Precisely 135 years after the first successful Northeast Passage expedition, the Hanseatic will follow in the wake of those famous explorers and be the first non-Russian cruise ship to sail this route, departing from Nome, Alaska on 13 August, and then arriving in Bodø, Norway on 10 September 2014.”

Pojer and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have come alongside at a mutually beneficial time. With his extensive international experience, Karl should be able to chart an effective course through the strategic waters that lie ahead.

This article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2014 edition of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.

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