Hanseatic Entertainment & Activities
Hanseatic distinguishes itself by its Zodiac offerings, which are included in the cruise cost. In addition to scheduled excursions, the rafts are sometimes lowered for afternoon cruises. On one such occasion in Newfoundland, we cruised along dramatic rock cliffs before approaching a lobster boat for what we assumed was a quick look-see. Surprise! The ship's hotel manager and maitre d' were aboard to hand out glasses of Champagne. (Sadly, we didn't get to eat any fresh lobster that day.) It was a five-star experience, indeed.
Not only does the crew commandeer lobster boats to amuse its passengers, it often sets up special events on shore. Local entertainers might be on hand to greet passengers as they step on the pier, or the ship's own musicians might give a concert in an unusual venue. In Newfoundland, arrangements were made to have one of the province's oldest wooden churches opened for a midday performance of classical music. In small ports, the ship makes arrangements with local attractions, such as museums or aquariums, to admit passengers at no charge.
Onboard, daytime activities emphasize learning, featuring lectures by scientists, historians or other experts on the destination. Lectures are given in Darwin Hall, an 85-seat auditorium, or the Explorer Lounge, a multipurpose lounge with a bar and a dance floor. Other options include sailaway parties, tours of the engine room and visits to the bridge. Unlike many vessels where the bridge is strictly off limits, the captain has an open-door policy, except when navigation gets tricky.
Evening entertainment is low-key -- no big theatrical productions here and no casino. A classical pianist plays during cocktail hour in the Observation Lounge. Musical groups give concerts, and a band plays dance music after dinner in the Explorer Lounge. Passengers retire early. By midnight, there usually aren't enough folks milling about to fill even a single Zodiac.
Organized shore excursions are a mix of walking, bus and boat tours; guided hikes; kayaking and catamaran excursions, all for additional charge. Cruise literature discloses which tours are offered in English. Shore excursions range in price from about 25 to 140 euros, and those offered in English are generally a good value. In wilderness areas, they cover territory that would be difficult to access on your own.
Editor's note: On more than one occasion, a tour sold as English-speaking morphed into German if the guide spoke German and the majority of participants were German speakers. In these cases, the English speakers were pulled aside and given a summary of the guide's presentation.