A new build inevitably comes with challenges, particularly an expedition ship that needs to withstand the rigours of travel in the polar regions, so I was delighted that Hapag-Lloyd's new vessel Hanseatic Inspiration was delivered exactly as scheduled.
I was invited to spend a couple of days on board the ship prior to her first voyage, sailing from Hamburg to Antwerp. Hanseatic Inspiration is the perfect size for an expedition ship, carrying 230 guests except for in the polar regions, when numbers will be limited to 199.
The ship is, as Hapag-Lloyd say, 'inspired by nature', and has some lovely features and surprises on board, including two extendable glass balconies on the sun deck which give you the feeling of floating above the ocean. On the sun deck you have the excellent Ocean Academy, which has an interactive wall of knowledge where you can call up information on your destination.
Here you can also chat to the onboard geologist and view various samples under the microscopes, which you can connect to your phone to download the images. This is the perfect place to spend time on sea days and deepen your knowledge.
One of my favourite places on board, which really showcases the 'inspired by nature' theme, is the HanseAtrium, which is used for pre- and post-excursion briefings, along with presentations and lectures.
Here there are large LED screens with moving images of the areas the ship will visit, and my favourite was the footage of Antarctica; on the ceiling above me there were whales moving slowly through the ocean, really getting you excited for what you will see en route to your destination.
I was impressed with the variety of accommodation the ship has to offer, in particular the Panoramic Cabins, perfect for polar itineraries. You can also upgrade to a cabin with a French or full balcony, or for even more space the Junior and Grand Suites offer up to 71 square metres (765 square feet).
Anyone who has travelled on an expedition ship will know that the balance between indoor and outdoor space is critical. Whether you are travelling in the polar regions or in steamy jungle, you need to be able to have great views of your surroundings in the temperature-controlled environment indoors, but also to be able to get outside onto the open decks easily, with plenty of space so you are not jostling with others for the first sight of that elusive polar bear or pink dolphin. These expedition ships have more deck space than any of their competitors, and it will be put to very good use.
The expedition team on board will ensure you get the most out of your journey, with a wealth of knowledge and some great stories to share with you. Unlike sister ships Hanseatic Nature and Spirit, which will both be German-speaking, Inspiration is an international ship, with all voyages conducted in both English and German. As Hapag-Lloyd have 20 years of experience in luxury expedition cruising, their expertise is second to none.
But perhaps the most exciting aspect of this ship is the amazing destinations she is going to visit, including the Arctic and Antarctica, the Great Lakes of North America, the Russian Far East and the beautiful wilderness of Alaska.