CMV Columbus Review

Columbus 10/06/17 Tilbury (Click to enlarge)

Introduction

British based Cruise Operator, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), has added Columbus to their fleet. She commenced service as their new flagship in June 2017.

Columbus has had quite a varied history:

  • Columbus (2017)
  • Pacific Pearl (2010-2017)
  • Ocean Village (2003-2010)
  • Arcadia (1997-2003)
  • Star Princess (1989-1997)
  • Fair Majesty (1988)

Brits will know her best as P&O’s  ‘Arcadia’ (not the current  one) or ‘Ocean Village’.

CMV call themselves a ‘Traditional British Cruise Line’ and now operate five Ocean vessels, mainly from UK ports. They generally aim their product at the adults-only market, although children are welcome on selected summer cruises. They are very popular with the grey pound.

Limitations of this Review

I was on-board Magellan for an overnight stay. I was not able to sample multiple evening meals or the full variety of entertainment on offer. However I fully explored the ships hardware and layout etc. I have not been on this vessel before so cannot compare this re-incarnation with her previous ones.  I have cruised on all the other vessels in CMV’s expanding fleet.

MV Columbus

Columbus entered service in 1988, but does not feel her age. At 63,786 gross tonnes, carrying  1,400-18,00 passengers, she is CMV’s biggest ship.

This supersedes their previous biggest ships size, Magellan’s, which is 46,052 gross tonnes. Columbus is 20,000 gross tonnes bigger than any of Fred Olsen’s current fleet (in 2017), for example. However by modern standards Columbus would be classed as small-to medium sized, but by CMV standards she is a mega-ship.

To put Columbus’s  size in perspective, the Marco Polo at 22,080 gross tonnes is just over a third of her  size.

(Magellan Left, Marco Polo Right - Tilbury 03/15)

Magellan Left, Marco Polo Right (Tilbury 03/15. Click to Enlarge)

Prior to Columbus entering service with CMV, she underwent a refit.  This included the adaptation of the existing child and teenage areas to suit CMV’s more mature market.

In addition the casino has been scaled down and renamed Captain’s Club & Casino while the previously named Captain’s Lounge has been renamed Taverner’s Pub offering a selection of draught beers, bottled beers and a wide selection of wines and spirits.

Decks

Columbus has eleven passenger decks number 2-14 (no 3 or 13) which also have names: Caribbean (2)Pacific (4) Reception (5) Main Promenade (6) Columbus (7) Boat (8) Upper (9) Navigator’s (10) Lido (12) Sun (14)

The number of public rooms is surprising.

The central focus of the ship, is a three deck high atrium on deck 5, with a shopping gallery (two levels) overlooking it. Reception and Hemingway’s cafe are located on the lowest level of the atrium.  Most of the public rooms are located on deck 7 which is exclusively public rooms, with no cabins.

The Palladium show Lounge is at the bow of deck 7 and has two levels spread between decks 7 and 8. Moving from the bow we reach the port and starboard shopping gallery and photo gallery, which look down onto the Atrium. Then we reach the spacious ‘Connexions’ bar/lounge, which has a small stage for entertainment. (normally a duo or trio). Moving aft is the ‘Tavener’s Pub’ which as the name implies has  ‘Pubic House’ themed decor.  Continuing to move towards the stern, we finally come to the ‘Waterfront Restaurant’ at the very aft of the ship.

The Gym/Spa/Beauty facilities are located on deck 2.

There is a forward facing circular observation lounge called ‘The Dome’ at the very front of  the sun deck, 14. This is also the nightclub. It’s nice to see an observation lounge overlooking the ships bow. Modern ship designs tend to omit this classic feature.

At the very aft of deck 14 there is also a smaller rear facing lounge.

The Atrium with overlooking Shopping Galleries.

Décor

My first impressions when boarding is that the whole ship look reasonably modern with much contemporary décor and fashionable carpets in all rooms, corridors and cabins. None of the public rooms looked ‘well worn’.

The ship décor is generally tasteful (understated) or even a little ‘bland’, especially if compared with American ships. Magnolia  is extensively used in the cabin corridors and stair landings – in fact it has arguably been over used. There are quite a lot of modern-art paintings around the ship and in the cabins, but I personally found them a little bland/meaningless, but then I am not a fan of modern-art. However any art is better than blank walls.

Columbus has very little ‘Las Vegas’ glitz, apart from in the Atrium.  Many Brits will see this lack of ‘glitz’ as a positive comment.

Embarkation

Tilbury’s  modest Are Deco cruise terminal rarely accommodates a ship as big as Columbus. In fact I had never seen so many people inside the terminal. However embarkation was relatively smooth.

I entered the ship via the attractive three deck Atrium.  I’m not used to seeing Atrium’s on CMV’s older ships, they are a more recent must-have in ship design. However the Atriums 1980’s design looks quite contemporary due to the modern carpet, almost like a mini-Princess Cruises Atrium.

A crew member escorted every passenger to their cabin.

Cabins

Standard Twin Plus

The ship has 20 grades of cabins. There was a cabin grade on offer that would suit most people tastes and pockets, unless you required a very opulent suite.

77% of the cabins have a sea view, 24% are inside (no view). 

CMV have created 150 single cabins, which were originally smaller doubles.

There are 64 balcony cabins (De Luxe Balcony and Junior Suite grades) all located on deck 11, Navigator’s deck.

Most outside cabins have picture windows, although there are 20 cabins on 4 Pacific deck with port holes. 

Lifeboats partially or fully obstruct the view of some cabins on decks 8, Columbus deck and deck 9, boat deck.

There are cabins available with third and fourth berths which folded down from the ceiling. A limited number of cabins had facilities for the disabled.

It does not seem to matter how many refits a ship has, a ships cabins tend to give away the ships age. I did not see all of the cabin grades, but the ones that I did see were surprisingly spacious in the main, with an average size of 17.5 sqm. The inside cabins are the same size as the standard outside ones.

The cabin furniture and panelling was of dark wood, probably original, but did not look too dated. The same with the bathrooms – they were obviously not new, but did not look ancient either.

I would expect some engine noise and vibration particularly in the aft cabins on decks 4, Pacific, and 5 Reception decks.

Some cabins had two single  beds, some had real doubles, rather than two singles pushed together?

I was in cabin 5176, a ‘standard plus twin’ on deck 5, reception deck. 

My cabin had a large picture window, double bed , plenty of floor space with a table and chair, a walk in wardrobe and an impressive number of draws. There was a TV, fridge, separate mini-bar fridge  and a safe. 

The bed was reasonably large (a Queen maybe) and quite soft/comfortable. In fact it might have been too soft for some people tastes.

The carpet and soft furnishings were new.

The bathroom, with shower, was adequate in size . It was in very clean/good condition. The shower was of a reasonable size.

The toilet was the modern ‘barking dog’ (vacuum) variety. Strangely the flush button was just behind the toilet seat, not on the well, behind the actual seat on the toilet. This does not seem like a very hygienic area to keep touching.

The air-con was novel. There was no adjustable thermostat on the wall. I was beginning to think that it was not adjustable at all. However I eventually found the control low down, near a bedside cabinet. It was a rotary know which looked like a speaker control, but it was not.

Dining

There is one main restaurants, ‘The Waterfront’ which is a single height room offering two traditional allocated sittings at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

The restaurant is located at the rear of deck 7, the promenade deck. This location will not be as stable amidships location. It may also be subject to some engine vibration.

The restaurant is pretty large, and has an impressive foyer area. It has a capacity for up to 812 passengers on various size tables for 2’s to 10’s.

The space between the tables is good and there are many tall dividing walls (topped with fake grass) which divide up the restaurant giving it a more intimate feel. You are often only aware of a few tables around you.

The ‘Plantation Buffet’ located on deck 12, the lido deck, was attractive and functional, but quite small for the size of the ship.  However I have never seen a buffet on-board any ship with can cope with periods of peak demand. This offered  causal dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There was a lido (open air) area for ding out the back of the buffet, with tables overlooking the ships wake.

Part of the ‘Plantation’ buffet is sectioned-off, to form ‘Fusion’, an Asian restaurant which can accommodate 88 passengers. It  had attractive Asia themed decor and carried a surcharge.

There was also another very attractive and intimate restaurant called ‘The Grill’,   located on deck 12, the lido deck. It was a steak house and could accommodate 63 passengers. This also carried a surcharge.  Lido deck also had a very attractive coffee shop called imaginatively ‘Cappuccino’s’.  There was also an external grill area on this deck, that is used in good weather.

The atrium had its own cafe called ‘Hemingway’s’ on deck 5, reception deck.

The Chefs table was a very  exclusive and ‘classy’ little dining room for 14 persons. Once again a fee applies.

CMV’s evening meals are normally of very good quality and with a good selection of choices. CMV’s food is arguably often better than P&O’s, RCI’s and NCL’s standard fare.

In my case the evening meal was excellent, with six courses being served, plus tea/coffee.  (See menu) I chose classic Prawn Cocktail, Tomato and Gin Soup, Caesar Salad, Aloo Gobi Mutter Masala  and Baked Alaska (complete with the traditional parade).

My waiter was very efficient and the gaps between courses were perfectly timed. The whole experience took two hours, but was never rushed and never felt slow.

(Click to enlarge)

The Palladium Show Lounge

The show lounge is an interesting hybrid. It wasn’t a modern raked auditorium, yet it was  better than the old style one-level show lounges. It is in the traditional location at the bow so there is no through-flow of passengers. The furniture was fixed and consists of  soft-benches, with small tables for drinks, typical of older ships ‘show lounges’. However it had  two levels (across two decks) just like the Theatres on more modern ships, accessed by two spiral staircases inside the lounge.

The sight-lines were generally very good, apart from a few poles which I suspect held the ceiling up. The stage was low but large and cleverly could be retracted to create a floor for ballroom dancing (always popular with mature Brits.)

CMV have been offering many of the same shows for probably a decade now. Their Queen and Abba shows often feature on overnight events and mini-cruises. They are both very good, but I’ve seen them both quite a lot.  We were treated to a new show (well new to me) called  ‘Back to the 80’s’. The singing and dancing were of a reasonably standard, there was a live band providing the backing, although largely hidden from view. The content was hardly original, but the cast were energetic and audience enjoyed the show none the less.

Open Decks

The open decks are teak and appear to be spacious, but I have not seen the ship in a hot climate, so cannot easily judge the sun–lounger to space ratio.

There are two pools, located  amidships and a giant video screen on the sun deck. There are also two hot-tubs.

There promenade deck is wider than some but only runs along a section of the ships port side and starboard side. It does not wrap-around.

At the aft of the ship are some attractive tiered decks overlooking the ships wake. On decks 8,9 and 10 these are called ‘Oasis’ the adults only area, with its own bar.

Miscellaneous Comments

TV personality Angela Rippon is the Godmother of Columbus.

Deck 5 (main deck) features the biggest self-service launderette that I’ve ever seen on a ship. I guess it was left over from the ships P&O days, which must say something about us Brits.

Conclusion

Columbus is a welcome addition to the CMV fleet. 

You can forget Columbus’s previous history (good or bad), she’s now a new and different product.

She is CMV’s biggest ship so far.  She is absolutely nothing like the much smaller and much-loved ‘Marco Polo’, ‘Astoria’ or ‘Astor’.

She feels big and modern, rather than cosy and traditional. However what Columbus loses in intimacy, she gains in spacious and plentiful public spaces. 

I did meet some passengers that felt that Columbus was just too big. However when compared to most other cruise ship in the world, she is definitely ‘small’.

There are 20 cabin grades to choose from including 64 balconies and 150 single cabins. Most cabins are quite spacious, including the cheaper grades.

Columbus  offers very different ‘hardware ’ to CMV’s smaller ships, but her ‘software’  is very similar. For example the food and entertainment is surprisingly good for the fare paid.

The more mature traditionalist cruiser including P&O, Fred Olsen and Thomson fans should feel particularly at home on-board Columbus.  CMV’s British adults-only experience will suit them well. Those looking for a family-friendly floating Las Vegas resort, complete with water chutes, should look elsewhere. 

People often ask me what my favourite ship is. My answer is that it tend to be the one that I’m on at the time.  If I’m pushed to be more specific about CMV’s two bigger ships, I think that I  preferred ‘Columbus’ to ‘Magellan’. This is due to Columbus’s range of  public rooms. However I’d cruise on either ship again, time and money permitting.

I still love the Marco Polo, but her and Columbus are chalk & cheese.

Malcolm


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Clumbus Review 2

By Guest Contributor – Bruce Tucker, 20th June 2017.

After reading some mixed reviews of CMV via Cruise Review, we were somewhat sceptical about this trip and had low expectations.

However we had always wanted to circumnavigate the UK and this was a good opportunity. The Port of Tilbury did not create a good impression being scruffy with poor signage and a somewhat hazardous mix of heavy goods vehicles and private cars, but Embarkation was the fastest and most efficient we have experienced in 25 years of cruising.

Columbus is an exceptionally beautiful old lady, looks like a proper ship (not a block of flats as with so many modern mega liners) and maintenance is slowly being upgraded. She has a beautiful teak promenade deck but unfortunately this is not continuous around the ship.

There were lumpy seas and strong head winds North of Scotland and then seas on the quarter (causing a slight corkscrewing effect) but the ship handled them well.

At 180 sq ft, our cabin (9120) was well proportioned with more storage space than we have ever had before and with new soft furnishings. The cabin is advertised as obstructed view although this had very little impact on sea views and protected the window from poor weather. The cabin has a small dressing area off the shower room with plenty of draws and hanging space although the latter is not high enough for long dresses. Cabin was very well sound proofed. Roopa, our stewardess was a lovely, happy young lady, highly efficient and ultra friendly, probably the best we have ever known.

The shower has a curtain rather than doors, but it’s ample room lessens the problem of it sticking to the body.

The Ships Company is efficient and very friendly. Dinner menu the first night was very comprehensive and tasty but let down by a shortage of advertised wines. Generally meals were of good quantity and average choice but quality of raw materials obviously suffers from mean accountants.

Breakfast in the Main Dining Room (MDR) first morning was efficient but let down by food quality, ie rubber sausage, cold toast and fatty bacon. Omelets freshly cooked ordered the second day and turned out to be the best choice from then on. Plantation café found to be crowded and disorganised, food selection uninspiring and suffered poor table clearing service. Self service generally not to our taste so MDR chosen from then on for much more leisurely meals.

Bar service very good and prices certainly reasonable against most other lines.

Although there are hand gel machines around, more could be done to encourage useage by those passengers who obviously don’t care about hygiene.

Being an old vessel, she suffered typical vacuum toilet problems. Initially this was just a few minutes delay in flushing but problems worsened as the cruise progressed and eventually became a serious nuisance. One must obviously put part of the blame on her previous owners for letting things deteriorate prior to selling her. Air conditioning worked well in this particular cabin.

Plenty to do on sea days from talks and shows to a cookery and tasting demonstration. A power breakdown to the hob was probably unplanned but the presenter handled this with a lot of humour which added to the fun.
There was always plenty of good, live music throughout the ship although consideration could be given to matching music style with average age of passengers.

In the main theatre, there was an excellent band, troupe of singers and dancers who put on some first class shows, the best we have ever experienced at sea.

Winston Churchill b, WW2 and Crimea lectures were excellent as was the Astronomy Lecturer who knew his subject well, presented without notes and had an obvious passion for his subject. If only my teachers had been as inspirational.

Owing to a poor forecast for wind and sea state, two Scottish ports that would have needed a tender operation were cancelled and replaced with a visit to Belfast. As this involved an extra day at sea, the whole ships Company worked exceptionally hard to provide entertainment during the day and evening. In fact there was not enough time to do everything on offer, unlike some of the bigger lines on sea days. Full marks to the team for all their efforts.

Belfast was the alternative port of call and very welcome being one of the few destinations left on my bucket list. Last minute organised tour arrangements meant we were able to visit the Titanic Exhibition, well worth the cost.

Very pleased we went ashore in the beautiful Isles of Scilly. St. Mary’s is very quaint, peaceful and with lovely white sandy beaches.

Security checks on key cards were always made entering docks, jetties and ship, but no body or bag scanning which could lead to future problems with terrorism as it is.

Coxwains seem well trained. Landing deck and boat’s crews very good and highly safety conscious.

Finally, Columbus is a ‘Happy Ship’. The ships company are ultra friendly and usually greet passengers with a smile and a greeting.

Bruce Tucker