German shipowner/entrepreneur Sven Paulsen is launching a new cruise brand, Adler-Schiffe Expedition, with the 1,211gt Quest time-chartered from Arctic Travel Co.

From July 25 until October, Quest will operate four-night itineraries from Hamburg to Heligoland, Sylt, Amrum, Hooge and Langeness. The ship will carry up to 54 passengers, with prices starting at €1,600 per person, including shore excursions. The itineraries, which take passengers to the Wadden Sea World Nature Heritage, will have a strong focus on nature and sustainability.

Family venture expands to cruising

While new to the ocean cruise business, Paulsen is an experienced shipowner running a fleet of 27 coastal ships operating in the North Frisian area, along the German Baltic coast and to Poland, on the Kiel-Canal and on various inland waterways. This operation — nowadays branded as Adler-Schiffe — has roots dating back to 1950 when Paulsen’s father launched a one-ship operation on Schleswig-Holstein’s west coast.

In addition to passenger shipping, Paulsen’s group also manages a variety of touristic properties and public transport on Sylt through its bus-operating subsidiary, Sylter Verkehrsgesellschaft. With his new cruise venture, Paulsen envisions an alternative to mass tourism and a product encouraging domestic vacations. Paulsen, who has participated in a number of expeditions including to the North and South poles, developed the concept of Adler-Schiffe Expedition during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While acknowledging his project is not without risk, he is nonetheless optimistic, saying that travel behavior is going to change as a consequence of coronavirus.

‘We want to do something for our coastal regions, and we aim to make domestic vacations even more attractive,’ he said.

Quest’s cruises will have an expedition character, be full of experiences and informative, in a small and exclusive environment. In line with his sustainability focus, Paulsen teamed up with organizations and authorities in charge of environmental protection in the Wadden Sea region, including the National Park Authority, Schutzstation Wattenmeer and the Alfred Wegener Institute. Quest’s expedition team — to be led by Christian Kruse, a seasoned expedition leader with Arctic and Antarctica experience — will receive additional training by the National Park Authority before the cruise venture starts.

Program optimized for COVID-19 era

Quest will operate 17 five-day itineraries using Hamburg as the turnaround port. At night of the first day, the ship will reach Heligoland, where the morning of the second day will be spent, focused on a gray seal colony and the rich bird population. The ship will proceed to List on Sylt Island. Most of the third day is spent at Sylt, before the ship proceeds to Amrum Island. On the fourth day, Quest will be positioned off Amrum, with excursions there and to the holms (islets) of Hooge and Langeness. At night, Quest departs for Hamburg, to arrive at 10 the next morning.

The cruises have been optimized for COVID-19 conditions by offering ‘a lot of nature, a lot of fresh air and no crowds,’ in Paulson’s words.

Minimizing risk

A comprehensive hygiene concept will be implemented, but the entire program is built around minimizing risk. For example, Quest is going to leave Heligoland before other passenger ships with day-trippers arrive. All excursions will be carried out with the ship’s six Zodiacs.

Science-based talks are planned in the evenings and bridge visits will be allowed.

The 49.65-meter Quest, built in 1992 and most recently upgraded in 2018, is ideal for the shallow Wadden Sea area due to the ship’s shallow draft of 3.5 meters.

Quest has two suites, seven superior cabins and 13 comfort cabins. Prices range from €1,600 per person in a comfort cabin to €3,200 in a suite. Only beverages cost extra.

Dream come true

Paulsen said his new offering is making a dream come true: ‘As my parents established coastal boat excursions 70 years ago, I want to proceed by launching an attractive, sustainable and informative expedition cruise product for the future.’

Initially the cruises are being marketed to Germans and carry German-speaking expedition staff. Bookings are taken by Sylter Kreuzfahrten Kontor, a Sylt-based travel agency specialized in expedition cruising.

Expedition cruising revives the sector

Adler-Schiffe Expedition has potential since domestic tourism is booming this summer in Germany, where COVID-19 is widely under control. Accommodations along the North Sea and Baltic coasts as well as on the islands are mostly booked up during July and August.

It has long been expected that lines like Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Plantours Kreuzfahrten with its Hamburg could launch domestic itineraries or sightseeing cruises from German ports without calls abroad, but no plans have been disclosed so far. Hurtigruten started expedition cruising with Fridtjof Nansen from Hamburg to Norway at the end of June, receiving heavy coverage in German media.

While Adler-Schiffe Expedition has published a program only for this year, it is expected the concept will continue in 2021.