Setting Hapag-Lloyd Cruises up for success

After working with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises for over a decade, Julian Pfitzner became CEO in 2021. He tells Susan Parker his plans for strengthening the brand

Setting Hapag-Lloyd Cruises up for success

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Hanseatic inspiration and Hanseatic nature both feature extendable glass balconies created by Brombach + Gess to maximise views of the ocean and marine wildlife

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (HLC) aims to remain the benchmark for luxury and expedition cruises, according to Julian Pfitzner, who was appointed as CEO in January 2021 after more than a decade at the company. “This is part of our DNA and part of our successful strategy of the past few years,” he says.

The brand’s long-standing tradition of travelling around the world, cruising to remote areas and destinations far off the beaten track has, Pfitzner believes, stood it in good stead for achieving this goal and managing the difficulties of the pandemic.

“Planning – and especially executing – itineraries to remote destinations has taught us to be flexible and adapt to changing conditions,” he explains. “Managing these particularly challenging times is, more than ever before, a team effort. And we employ a very professional and experienced team – both onboard and ashore.”

For decades, HLC has been serving the luxury and expedition ship business sectors. “Our ships are designed to meet the needs and characteristics of the itineraries of these two types of cruises,” says Pfitzner. “We benefit a lot from the fact that we operate small ships in general and, in particular, from the outstanding capabilities of our new and modern expedition fleet.”

Although the brand is primarily targeted at the German market, it is now aiming to attract more international passengers. Both luxury ocean ship Europa 2 and expedition vessel Hanseatic inspiration are dedicated to the international market and the language spoken onboard is English.

“We can hardly wait to welcome international guests onboard our fleet again,” says Pfitzner. “For the time being, however, HLC is very much dependent on the rules and policies of the harbours and countries where we are calling. Against this background, we’ve unfortunately had to adapt our source markets, but this is in no way a general change in our strategy.”

In the meantime, HLC is welcoming German-speaking passengers back onboard. It is proud of its “very loyal customer base” in the country and regularly sees more returning than new customer bookings. The amount of new customer bookings has remained stable, despite the pandemic. “This underlines what we see in our pre-bookings: there is and remains a strong demand and desire for our cruises and the experiences we are creating,” says Pfitzner.

Feedback and customer satisfaction rates have been consistently high too.

“We are currently seeing even more increased levels of customer satisfaction,” says Pfitzner. “One of the reasons is that our passengers feel very secure onboard, and they are enjoying a ship that offers all the highest standards of comfort. One could say that the investments in an unrivalled passenger-to-space ratio while building our ships, as well as our certified health and hygiene concept, really pays off [in the current situation].”

The vital part the crew plays in delivering that satisfaction is likely to be more important now than ever. Given the present cross-border travel difficulties, HLC has had to carefully manage crew recruitment and retention strategies. Pfitzner explains: “We are working closely with our crewing partners and are currently able to handle the cross-border travel difficulties quite well. The fact that – together with our partners – we were able to offer our entire crew a vaccination already is very helpful and beneficial in this matter.”

Looking towards the future, Pfitzner plans to capitalise on his previous experience with HLC to ensure the brand continues to grow successfully. As director product management, for example, Pfitzner was heavily involved in the design, production and delivery of Europa 2 in 2013. At the time he commented: “The general challenge of the ship is that it has to be the best floating on the seven seas when it is completed.” The ship certainly achieved this goal, making it easy to see why Pfitzner was chosen for his new role.

“Having had the pleasure to work with the team for over 10 years and share many joint achievements, as well as being able to work closely with my predecessor [Karl J. Pojer] and learn from him, I trust that I can perform this task,” he says. “Taking HLC into a successful future is a task that our entire onboard and onshore teams are working on intensively – and very passionately – every day. It is a great honour for me to perform this task in my new role as CEO.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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Susan Parker
By Susan Parker
17 November 2021

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