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Cruise Ship Information

MS Deutschland is a German-registered cruise ship owned and operated by Peter Deilmann Cruises. She is decorated in the Art Deco style made famous by such classic ocean liners as the SS Ile de France and SS Normandie. The Deutschland was launched in 1998. She carries 513 passengers and 260 crew members. She has a gross tonnage of 22,400 and has seven passenger accessible decks.

The German television show Das Traumschiff (The Dream Ship), which is similar to the US-made show The Love Boat, is set aboard the Deutschland.

Air France Flight 4590, a New York City-bound Concorde charter flight carrying passengers for the Deutschland for a 16-day cruise to South America, crashed on takeoff in Paris in 2000 without survivors.

On May 23, 2010 when the ship was at quay in Eidfjord in Norway it was reported that a fire had broken out in the engine room. The 608 passengers were evacuated and the fire in the ship was isolated to a limited area of the ship because of fire doors.

The German Olympic Committee used the Deutschland as a hospitality ship during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Atmosphere on board

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's Europa 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.

Family with Kids/Teens

The only children on my crossing were the two children of one of the officers. They were looked after by their parents. There is a children's room, but it's little more than a cabin, far forward on Deck 4. It is dark, unstaffed, has nicely colored European children's toys and would be crowded with three children and a minder. There are no facilities for older children.

Past Passenger Programs

At 22,000 tons Deutschland is a small ship. The Adlon library has a service bar for private parties and a (non-working) fireplace. There are bookshelves of German, French (not many) and English books. The English books run to classics. (For example, there are two copies both of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Brothers Karamazov.) The Adlon also has the ship's Internet stations. There are two laptops whose only function is to send e-mails. You must use a shipboard account, opened with reception. There is no facility onboard to surf the Web or to check Web-based e-mail. (This is another of those anachronisms that is not attractive.) Rates for sending e-mails are high, depending on the volume of material to be sent and the time taken to send it: Figure 12 euros to say hi to grandma.

There are three shops: the photographers' shop at which photos are sold (4.20 euros); a branch of H. Stern, the Brazilian jeweler with their nicely set semi-precious stones; and a boutique that sells everything else from Mont Blanc pens to Swarovski crystal, and from women's clothing to perfumes and sundries. Items in the shops are not subject to V.A.T., so appear cheap to Europeans; they are not so to Americans (especially as the euro has appreciated against the dollar).

Fitness And Spa

The ship has a small gymnasium located on Deck 5, aft of the Berlin Restaurant. It is accessible from the outside decks. Here there is a sauna with posted times for male, female and mixed use. The gymnasium, with views of the sea, is small with two each of the following machines: cross country skiing, rowing, treadmill, stair climbing and cross training. There are two benches for free weights. A trainer who supervises deck walks and (mild) calisthenics, and consults on use of the gymnasium is on hand.

There is an outdoor saltwater pool, little more than a dipping pool, really. There are shuffleboard courts, a Ping-Pong table, two putting greens and a driving range. Skeet was shot once during my crossing. There are numerous venues for playing chess. There is a large, outdoor set on deck, most cabins have an inlaid chess board on the credenza, and a couple of public rooms, i.e. the Adlon and the Lido Terrasse, have chess sets.

Surprisingly for this day and age, there is an indoor pool (fresh water) on Deck 3, part of the spa complex for both beauty and health conditioning. The pool is surrounded by marble columns with tile massage tables and wicker recliners. There is a Turkish bath and areas for Thalassotherapy, dry heat, tepidarium (cooling down pool), masks and massages. Rates for spa treatments are comparable to other ships, but there are several packages that combine treatments in economical ways. For example, a combination of wet heat, salt oil massage and tepidarium is $160; men's pedicure and foot massage, dry heat and classic massage (120 minutes total) is $155. A spa consultant supervised on-deck yoga and Pilates. A separate hair salon/barber shop is located on Deck 7.

There are teak decks that wrap around the ship, but there are sun loungers and deck chairs (all wood with pads, blankets and towels) that impede a serious walker's progress.

Food & Dining

Passengers can choose from among three choices of venue for dinner. (A fourth option is room service.) Every passenger is assigned a seat for dinner in the Berlin Restaurant, the ship's lovely main dining room. The room has windows on two sides, is paneled in white painted wood, has etched-glass partitions to make the room more intimate, has electrically controlled blinds for shade and is lighted by etched-glass lights. There are fresh flowers on every table.

Because my crossing was under-booked, there was a single seating for all passengers. (Normally there are two for dinner only.) There is a salad bar, which includes some German treats like pickled herring and mackerel. All other courses are ordered off a menu. On the left hand side of the menu are selections that are grouped by category: for example, "vegetarian" or "wellness."

There are two choices for each course, and there are ten courses: starter, soup, salad, cold appetizer, warm appetizer, pasta, fish, sorbet, meat, cheese, dessert. Most diners ordered something for each course. Portions were small, but the presentation was exceptional and the food delicious. The variety of dishes ran heavily toward the German with a strong amount of game, root vegetables and cream sauces. I found the menu a pleasant change from the "international" fare served on other ships.

On my crossing there were three English-speaking passengers, and we received our menus (and all other printed matter) in English. There was also an English language menu posted outside the restaurant.

In addition to the restaurant, there is an a la carte restaurant, Vierjahreszeiten (Four Seasons), open for dinner only. The menu here changes nightly, and passengers make a (free) reservation to dine here. The restaurant advertises tableside preparation and attentive service. Passengers may book once until everyone who wishes to dine here has done so; thereafter, bookings are open again on a first-come, first-serve basis. This restaurant is decorated in light woods with brass accents and mirrors galore. The tables are candlelit. Passengers may also book a private dining room to dine with friends or family.

There is also an informal buffet restaurant called the Lido Gourmet. Tile floors and rattan chairs with colorful cushions decorate this room that flows onto an adjoining deck for dining under the stars. Surprisingly, the menu in the Lido Gourmet was entirely different from the menu in the dining room, giving diners another choice of food, as well as of venue.

In all three restaurants most tables are for two or four diners. There are only some large tables for larger groups.

Breakfast is served open seating in the Berlin Restaurant and in the Lido Gourmet. For breakfast there is a buffet in both restaurants, featuring cereals, juices, fruit (fresh and stewed), cold cuts and cheeses, pastries, smoked fish, breads and jams and German pastries. Eggs and breakfast meats can be ordered from a waiter (in the Berlin Restaurant) or from an egg station (in the Lido Gourmet). Americans will miss the following breakfast staples: skim milk, pancakes or waffles, bagels, whole wheat toast.

Lunch is served open seating in the Berlin Restaurant and in the Lido Gourmet. There is a salad bar in the Berlin Restaurant, but there is also a menu with two choices for each of seven courses. There are also regional German specialties and selections from the crew galley of foods from the lands from which the crew hail. (Most of the crew is German, but there are German speaking stewards and stewardesses from Eastern Europe, and the heavy cleaning is done by Filipinos.)

The room service menu is divided in two. Breakfast may be ordered by checking off a menu and leaving it in the mailbox outside the cabin door. Hot and cold breakfast items are included in the menu. The other room service menu is available 24 hours each day and is comprised of sandwiches and light fare. There is no charge for room service.

At lunch time there is a grill hatch outside the Lido Gourmet where sausages and hamburgers are available. The ship also has the occasional poolside buffet. On two occasions during my crossing there were poolside buffets -- think heavy German picnic fare -- with free beer.

Bouillon is served each morning at 11 a.m. at the Lido Bar. Tea is available in the Lido Gourmet from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Waiters bring pots of tea, and the choice of blend is large. Patrons choose from among trays of sandwiches and sweets from which stewards make up individual plates.

A more formal afternoon tea is available in the Lido Terrasse, a delightful forward facing lounge with wicker furniture. White-gloved stewards serve tea, and there is a buffet of sandwiches and sweets from which patrons may choose. Light classical music is played by one or more musicians.

A late night snack is served at 10:45 p.m. in the Alten Fritz Bar and in the Lili Marlene Bar.

I found the dining schedule overwhelming. There were too many meals, too close together. While individual courses might be small, there were so many of them! An early (Continental) breakfast was available at 7:30 a.m. in the Lido Terrasse. Breakfast was served in the Berlin Restaurant and the Lido Gourmet from 8 to 10 a.m. Late risers' (Continental) breakfast was served from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Lido Terrasse. Bouillon was served from 11 to 11:30 a.m. in the Lido Bar. Lunch in the Berlin Restaurant was served from noon to 2 p.m. Lunch in the Lido Gourmet was served from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tea was served from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Lido Gourmet and the Lido Terrasse. Dinner was served at 7 p.m. in the Berlin Restaurant, Vierjahreszeiten and Lido Gourmet. Late night snack was served at 10:45 p.m. in the Alten Fritz and Lili Marlene Bars.

A word about times here. When I read my daily program called Heute (Today), I saw dinner was listed at 7 p.m. with no span of hours. I went to Reception and asked how long dinner was served. "Oh, 9, 9:30 will be fine." I arrived the first evening at 8:30 to find a displeased maitre d' who said "Dinner is at 7 on this cruise." He said he would let me come at 8:15 at the latest. Later, when I had a drink with the Staff Captain, I mentioned this discrepancy. He said, "Oh, no. You may come whenever you like: We are not so rigid." Alas, that proved not to be true. The German passengers showed up at the earliest time possible for all meals and sat at table for however many hours it took to consume many, many courses. I expected to eat three courses and be on my way, but it didn't work out that way.

Ordinarily, when the ship is full, there are two seatings for dinner of about 250 persons each. We had 350 on our crossing, so there were 100 persons more for our single seating dinner than normal, and the slowing of service showed. On gala nights in the Berlin Restaurant it took most people two and half hours to eat dinner (three hours or longer in Vierjahreszeiten on a normal night). No wonder people opted for the Lido Gourmet! I found the service slow and haphazard in the Berlin Restaurant, but my dining hour may have contributed to that, and I found the service positively glacial in Vierjahreszeiten -- half an hour between courses, and waiters seemingly rushed off their feet serving a not full restaurant and a party in the private dining room.

What really ended my dinner prematurely in the Vierjahreszeiten was smoking. The decor of Deutschland is not all that harks back to a previous era. Passengers are not permitted to smoke in cabins or corridors. They are, however, permitted (I would say encouraged, because there are ashtrays and matches everywhere) to smoke in the bars and lounges, on the deck and (of all places) in the restaurants. Fully half of all seating is for smokers. In Vierjahreszeiten I sat not four feet from people who lit up before, during and after every course. (As I reported earlier, there was lots of time between courses.)

Wine by the bottle is expensive on Deutschland. Cheaper wines by the bottle start at 20 euros and spiral upwards. A nice possibility is ordering a carafe or half carafe of house wine; the former cuts the bill by half from the cheapest bottle.

Entertainment

The main venue for entertainment is the Kaisersaal (Emperor's Ballroom), one of the most beautiful rooms afloat. It's a two-story lounge with balcony seating all the way 'round. The ceiling is a painted mural of sky and clouds from which is suspended a huge crystal chandelier. Seating is arranged in small groupings around tables with hardwired, parchment-shaded lamps. The dance floor is on the stage, and it is quite large. Every evening there is dancing in the Kaisersaal, and there is often entertainment.

The ship's orchestra is Romanian and plays ballroom music with an emphasis on Latin numbers and foxtrots. There is a singer who is quite striking looking. When she sings in English, you are certain she doesn't speak the language because the words she sings don't make sense.

There are four bars on Deutschland. The main bar is the Lili Marlene, named for the World War II song that was popular among both Axis and Allied troops. This is a lovely room (there's that adjective again!) with small seating groups of comfortable chairs and a splendid bar. The room is separated from corridors by walls of small-paned beveled glass. Bar drinks are generous and fairly priced (under five euros). Patrons add their own gratuities to checks. My favorite bar was Zum Alten Fritz, a dark wood paneled space with leather chairs, lighted by brass torcheres. The other two bars, Lido Bar and Pool Bar, were open during the day.

On my crossing there were additional musical groups. There was a five man Dixieland jazz band, Addie Munster's Old Merry Tale Jazz band, that played music from the 20's to the 40's (think "Sweet Georgia Brown"). A trio played standards in the Lili Marlene, where there was also a small dance floor. A pianist played show tunes outside the Alten Fritz Bar. There were two Slovakians, the Pressburger Duo, who played piano and violin, performing light classical music, waltzes and polkas. (They also played Slovak folk instruments.) There was wonderful live music throughout the ship.

There were no shows, per se. There were reviews at which the various instrumentalists played, while the ship's two professional dance couples (who were excellent) demonstrated their skills. (The dancers also gave daily lessons for beginning and advanced students.) The Captain's wife, a professional singer, presented an evening of music that was highly enjoyable, mostly show music from the middle decades of the last century. On two evenings there was dancing under the stars to the music of one or more of the ship's bands.

Otherwise, entertainment was low-key. Movies (in German) were shown twice each day in the ship's small (but lovely) Kino that seats about 50. The ship's Lutheran chaplain had daily services here, accompanied by one or more of the ship's musicians. The chaplain also hosted book club meetings in the evening. There was a bridge expert, a Spanish teacher and a cooking teacher. The navigational bridge was open for tours by reservation. The sole English lecture -- remember, there were only three English speaking passengers -- was given by the cruise director with slides of the ship's around the world itineraries (so it was more of a sales job than anything remote approaching informational). Television programming included two movie channels in English and four in German, plus teletype news in each language. If this doesn't sound like a hectic round of activities, think how little time there was between meals!

Affinity gatherings were held for members of service clubs, doctors and dentists, military veterans and native English speakers (yes, we three saw each other often).

Because this was a point-to-point sailing with no intermediate ports, there were no shore excursions. The television, however, did show clips of former cruises with shore excursions, and the line organizes cruises around interests that suggest excursions, e.g. horseback riding, gardening, golf and classical music, in addition to standard, general-interest excursions.

Fellow Passengers

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.

Tipping

 

Our recommendation

The experienced crew of the MS Deutschland provide a warm welcome to the waterways of Europe. This ship offers all guests riverview cabins that are comfortably equipped with 2 twin beds, private bathrooms, hairdryers and Satellite TVs. The ship's public areas include a bar, restaurant, lounge and partly-covered sundeck with a heated swimming-pool.