Peter Deilmann Cruises, a German company best known for its fleet of four- and five-star river boats, has a cruise ship as well. This ship competes with Hapag Lloyd
for the German premium market. The late Peter Deilmann, the founder and president of the line that bears his name, had a unique vision of what a cruise ship in the grand hotel tradition would be. Your view of his flagship, Deutschland, will depend on whether or not you share that vision.
Let me say at the outset that I have never sailed on a ship where attention to quality in decor matched that of Deutschland. Everything onboard this ship is of the finest quality -- furniture, soft furnishings and appointments. One thing Deutschland cannot be called is bland. All textiles are richly patterned, including carpeting, curtains and bed linens. The ship is filled with paintings and sculpture culled from the Deilmann family's collection. Wood -- and the ship's interior is almost all wood -- gleams. There are beveled and etched glass mirrors everywhere. To ride in an elevator is to enter another world: a wood paneled chamber with shiny brass trim and beveled mirrors. No two elevators are alike -- they are moving rooms.
There are photographs throughout the ship of famous German film actors, of German liners before World War I and between the wars, of scenes in German cities, all of which are nostalgic evocations of an idealized past.
Throughout my seven-night crossing from Tenerife, Canary Islands, to Bridgetown, Barbados, I felt like Miss Marple at Bertram's Hotel. It was hard to believe the illusion was not a front for some scam, so different is Deutschland from the mass market behemoths of other lines.
Deutschland is a German ship, marketed primarily to Germans. While the cruise line is sincere in its efforts to lure and cater to English-speaking passengers, there's no getting around this being a German ship. The primary language of communication is German. All lectures are given in German. Most of the television channels are German. Films are in German. Entertainment is geared to German tastes.
The decor is not the only thing that harks back to an earlier mode of cruising. On Deutschland, passengers dine at assigned tables in the Berlin Restaurant, and the maitre d' encourages (dare I say requires?) punctual arrival at dinner. There are only two balcony cabins because Peter Deilmann believed guests should be encouraged (dare I say forced?) to socialize in public spaces. And then there's the smoke. While cabins are, at least in theory, nonsmoking, it is impossible to avoid cigarette smoke in the dining rooms, lounges and open decks.
But unlike Hapag Lloyd, which requires a certain percentage of passengers to be English speaking before designating a cruise as bilingual -- and there's no knowing before you board if your cruise will be or not -- all cruises in Deutschland are bilingual.
Announcements that concern English-speaking passengers are made in English. There are also English-language television channels.
The daily program and menus are printed and posted in English. On my cruise there were three English speaking passengers, and I felt the line knocked themselves out providing translated materials. But do you really want to be one of three English speaking passengers? I was told by ship's staff that the usual complement of English-speaking passengers on Deutschland was 20 percent and sometimes higher. That figure declines as Deutschland makes its annual, segmented voyage around the world. To attract American passengers the line often offers incentives: discounted shore excursions, free or subsidized airfare and cruise rates published in dollars.
Prices onboard are listed in euros; the exchange rate we're using is approximately 1 euro to $1.30; check XE.com's
currency converter for more up-to-date rates.
This ship was built for the German cruising public. Of the 350 persons on my crossing 320 were German, two English and one American (me). The rest were German speaking Swiss, Austrians and Italians. Unlike other lines that are trying to attract English-speaking passengers, Peter Deilmann promises that every cruise will be bilingual. I was amazed (and often touched) by the extremes to which the ship's personnel went to accommodate just three passengers. Our menus and daily programs were translated. All announcements were made in German and English. We had our own lifeboat drill (in English). We had a hosted cocktail party. We received two English language newspapers daily.
On my seven-night crossing, two nights were black tie. Virtually every man wore a dinner jacket, and women wore sequined gowns. On one of the black tie evenings passengers were asked to dress to evoke the 1920's. Out came the tiaras, boas, walking sticks and hats -- quite a display, and everyone took part. All other evenings were designated "coat and tie" in the Berlin Restaurant and in the Vierjahreszeiten. People dressed even in the Lido Gourmet. Shorts were not permitted anywhere after 6 p.m. nor in the Lido Terrasse for afternoon tea. Casual dress was suggested only for late night dancing under the stars (and, of course, throughout the day on deck).
The line recommends dividing 8 euros per day among cabin and restaurant personnel. Tips are tips, not salary. This is a German-flagged vessel, and the crew are paid German wages. Opportunity is given for adding a gratuity to bar, wine, spa and hairdresser services. Tipping is not a big issue on the ship, and there are no mandatory charges to the shipboard account.