Quick, somebody get on the telephone and call Miami. Tell Mickey Arison to forget that Queen Mary Project he's talking about, because it's already been done. Somebody by the name of Peter Deilmann beat him to it, and it's called the m.s.Deutschland.
If ever there was a classic beauty of an ocean liner presently afloat, the m.s.Deutschland is it. The m.s.Deutschland is a throwback to the days when great countries had their own grand flagships such as the SS France and the SS Rotterdam to head their national fleets. It's nice...comforting, if you will...to know there's still a country building ships, staffing ships and being proud to be nationalistic enough to name them after their homeland instead of slapping a FOC on the stern and prefacing the name with HAL, NCL, RCI, or CCL. Looking at this wonderful ship sitting in it's berth upon arrival next to the Carnival Triumph, one could see which ship owner had the overt Freudian issues and which one was more secure with his position in the industry.
I spent Thursday morning onboard the m.s.Deutschland as it sailed up the Hudson River towards New York for the very first time. Excited Germans grabbed each other and danced on deck as Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played over the loudspeaker. As one of only a handful of Americans onboard, I felt a bit like a mini-ambassador, answering questions and pointing out famous places on folks' sightseeing maps. I felt a sense of pride in my own heritage and for my own country, but I was the one who came away from this short trip amazed and extremely impressed.
Free champagne flowed, courtesy of the ship, but sadly no fireboats or fanfare appeared in the harbor, as would be the case years ago when a new ship made her maiden entrance into a new port. A small pleasure boat came up along side of us in the Lower Harbor, and two men waved and shouted "Welcome to America" at me as I stood by the rail. I shouted back, "Thanks, but I'm from New Jersey!" and just smiled.
The m.s.Deutschland is a ship I've wanted to see since I read a review about it last year. I was hoping to get a chance to get a mere glimpse of her when she came to New York, but was very fortunate to be able to do a short segment of the transatlantic trip that began in Cuxhaven and went on to England before crossing the Atlantic and going to Canada's maritime provinces. We flew to Halifax Sunday and boarded the m.s.Deutschland on Monday when she arrived there for the day.
I am so impressed with this little ship I really don't know where to begin. (Imagine that ... Karen's speechless!) First things first: the m.s.Deutschland's maiden voyage was May of 1998. It is 22,400 grt, 574 feet in length and 82 feet at the beam. The draft is a bit shallow 18 feet 4 inches for a ship that sails the seven seas of this planet. Cruising speed is 21 knots. The m.s.Deutschland carries a maximum of 513 passengers and a staff of 240. This ship displays a remarkable attention to detail and quality in both the design and it's services. There is a level of excellence that is maintained everywhere. As for the decor, the way new cruise ships from the regular offenders such as RCI, NCL, and CCL use mirrors and chrome, the m.s.Deutschland uses etched glass, burled wood finishes, decorative ceiling and wall moldings, and leather. I was regularly astounded by the taste and accomplishments of this ship even days after I first boarded and had a chance to look around. EVERYthing is tasteful. NOthing is over-the-top or overblown. The m.s.Deutschland is the most elegant ship I have ever seen in my life and I (thankfully) haven't exactly been staying home during my vacations.
First of all, what the ship is not: there are no art auctions, no casinos, no gold-chain-by-the-inch sales, no verandah cabins and no loudspeaker announcements unless it is absolutely necessary. Everything on this ship sparkles. There was not a place that I saw maintenance to be slipping or faulty. This ship is dubbed "Das Traumschiff" (The Dream Ship) and it is. Although the staff and officers are German, announcements and printed materials are done in both English and German. I had no trouble communicating and I speak no German at all. There were no warning stickers plastered all over the shower stall warning me that the hot water might be too hot or to hold on when I get in and out of the shower. This was clearly 1) a ship that gave it's passengers credit for being adults who should be able to take care of themselves and 2) a company that has not had to deal with litigious Americans.
A daily ship newsletter is delivered to each cabin, along with a newspaper in the language of preference (we had the Wall Street Journal and "USA Today" daily in our polished brass mailbox outside our door. There is a little wheel nearby, allowing you to alert your cabin stewardess to the fact that you are back on board, or want your room made up or do not wish to be disturbed. The cabin keys are real, not those plastic strips so often seen nowadays. You do, however, receive a plastic ID card which is used to keep track of who's where and for onboard credit purposes, since this is also a cashless ship. Realistically, if the ship had to leave a port of call because of something like expected bad weather ahead, it could know everyone is back on board by checking the information given by this method. The security staff just zips the cruiser's ID card through the scanner when he leaves the ship for the day and zips it again when he re-boards.
Staff could not do enough for the guests. They were simply the most gracious I've encountered. Quickly, several public rooms became favorites because of their staff and because they were so comfortable. Several lounges (such as the newly added Adlon and the Old Fritz) opened up onto wide deck spaces, so one would find themselves wandering outside on a nice, clear night to watch the scenery go by. On one particular night, Hans, Richard Faber (who traveled with us to Halifax to experience this ship, as well) and I spent most of the pre-dinner evening outside sipping martinis as we sailed through the Cape Cod Canal after leaving Boston. Speaking of the Old Fritz Pub, the German passengers traveling with us would gather here nightly to have weinerwurst and mustard, a national appetizer it seems, to enjoy with their evening cocktails and beers. Towards the end of the trip, we found ourselves looking for those odd little pre-dinner snacks, ourselves. I think those Germans are on to something!
And speaking further of food, the desserts, pastries and breads onboard were wonderful, in the German tradition. The food was a bit spotty in other areas, however, but nothing pronounced. For example, at one lunch I had a soup that was so salty ( and I don't mind salty, really) as to be un edible.
The differences in American/European food came into play from both sides of the Atlantic. For instance, at a port call in Canada, the (mostly) German travellers were served a regional style luncheon included with their excursion which included pumpkin soup and corn on the cob. Many complained that, in their country, this kind of food is "pig food". Makes me wonder how much more interesting rec.travel.cruises would be it were NOT primarily an English-speaking newsgroup about cruising.
The Kaisersaal, or the Emperor's Ballroom, is simply the most exquisite public room gone to sea on any ship, ANYwhere, in a long, long time. Graceful, languid baguettes of rich burgundy velvet ending in Edwardian fringe and small intimate cocktail tables, along with a grand chandelier and small, private velvet-draped alcoves in the balcony...stunning!
I'm searching for a negative to even out this review of the m.s.Deutschland, and I can think of only one: fresh flowers. At first glance, it seems that the very well-done yellow silk roses are real on all the tables, but they are not. If cruise lines such as HAL and Cunard and Crystal can provide fresh flowers throughout their ships, I'm sure Deilmann can, too, and he should. It would further add a touch of elegance to an already grand ship.
This ship, the m.s.Deutschland, is one of a kind. I hope it's owner, Peter Deilmann, continues to be very successful and to do his own thing, as it were, completely independent of all that is going on around him in this industry. I fully intend to sail on this magnificent ship again, and I hope to be able to travel on the other Deilmann ships in Europe someday soon.