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7 London (Greenwich, Tower Bridge, Tilbury) to Arctic Cruise Reviews

This Northern Lights Cruise surpassed all my expectations. I chose this cruise because it had been a very long standing ambition to do so and I had at last found a friend was willing to go with me. Shortly after booking I was diagnosed ... Read More
This Northern Lights Cruise surpassed all my expectations. I chose this cruise because it had been a very long standing ambition to do so and I had at last found a friend was willing to go with me. Shortly after booking I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease, which causes severe episodes of vertigo and sickness and for some weeks was convinced I would have to cancel. However, I researched the condition thoroughly with the help of the Meniere's Society and my doctor and with careful planning to cover every eventuality I decided to fulfill my dream. I booked all the on-shore activities I really wanted to do and determined not to over-reach myself. As a result I was able to enjoy all my choices and kept well. It is almost 2 weeks since I returned home. Was it worth it? Did I make the right decision? Absolutely. It was a fabulous experience and helped me regain my confidence. I had such admiration for all other passengers with health problems and their courage in undertaking such an adventure. For two weeks the weather was coming from Siberia and temperatures were lower than they had been for years. The results were perfectly clear skies: blue and sunny every day; starry by night. The benefits were several Northern Lights sightings; breathtaking scenery with fabulous photographic opportunities; access to all the scheduled ports; remarkably calm seas and good humoured passengers. I haven't enjoyed myself or laughed so much in years. The crew was exceptionally helpful and pleasant. They all seemed very happy in their work and nothing was too much trouble. I was particularly impressed with the standard of hygiene. Wherever you went, crew were continuously cleaning and "disinfecting" all surfaces being touched by passengers. The excursions were superbly organised and managed. The food was fantastic. We had been allocated a table in The Waldorf restaurant where the waiter service was slick, cheery and professional. I would recommend sitting at a table for 8 people for dinner as my friend and I had a table for two and missed out on sharing experiences with other passengers. We ate Dinner at 8.15pm and just retired to our cabin afterwards, so I cannot comment on the quality of entertainment. The excellent quality of accommodation, service and excursions was enough for me I am hard of hearing and had to rely on my friend to relay to me information being disseminated via the tannoy system. On our return to the UK my friend and I developed colds but during our absence so had her husband and daughter who live in different regions of England. Some tips: take an extra battery for you camera; if the sea is rough put a wet paper serviette under your mug of tea or coffee to prevent it moving; beware of being oversold in the fitness centre; choose a cabin that satisfies your expectations. Unreservedly, the best holiday I've ever had! I would highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We wanted a winter cruise to celebrate my 70th birthday. Having called into the co op travel agents in Lincoln ,this one was recommended to us by one of the cruise specialists.we couldn't have enjoyed it more! The staff on board were ... Read More
We wanted a winter cruise to celebrate my 70th birthday. Having called into the co op travel agents in Lincoln ,this one was recommended to us by one of the cruise specialists.we couldn't have enjoyed it more! The staff on board were all amazing and friendly- nothing too much trouble. I was ill a couple of days into the trip and needed to use the ships medical department. The treatment I got was first class and with a couple of days intensive treatment I was fit to enjoy the rest of the cruise. Food on board was delicious and plentiful and was presented in the first class restaurants as if in a top class hotel. There was a less formal restaurant but the food was excellent in there too. Entertainment was first class with terrific shows each night as well as many and varied day time activities. There was also a wide range on shore excursions ( not cheap as Norway is expensive) and we took advantage of a few of them which we thoroughly enjoyed. We made some good friends who we hope to cruise with again in the future with this line. Now, try as I might, I can't think of any negatives. There was an incident of burst pipes which I believe caused flooding to some areas but the staff worked so hard to sort the problem and did so quickly. I did overhear some guests complaining about various things but they all sounded quite trivial to me. I do feel that some folks complain for complaining X sake!! However, everyone is of course entitled to their opinion. We certainly enjoyed ourselves and would highly recommend cruise and maritime and the Magellan to anyone. Many thanks for a memorable trip. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We chose this cruise to see the Northern Lights in Norway Everything started off ok with embarkation and the cabin (6064) seemed ok and throughout the cruise the cabin attendant was very good. As the cruise went on our cabin became very ... Read More
We chose this cruise to see the Northern Lights in Norway Everything started off ok with embarkation and the cabin (6064) seemed ok and throughout the cruise the cabin attendant was very good. As the cruise went on our cabin became very noisy with creaking and banging coming from around the wardrobe area. The food we found to be very good for breakfast in the Waldorf and dinner in the Kensington was also very good,. We only used the buffet restaurant sometimes for lunch because as usual people sat at the tables after their breakfast not allowing others to sit down. This was very bad on sea days. We attended the Chefs Table which was paid extra. The food was very pretty and well presented but I think the chef had not heard of seasoning overall not worth the price paid almost £100.. We had the drinks package which if you like a drink is well worth paying for. The entertainment was very poor around the bars unless you like a violin and a piano ( very good at what they did) or a solo singer singing old songs no lively music until after 11 at night if at all. I believe that the cruise director was changed just before our cruise so changes may be made although speaking to the cruise director was very difficult as he always seemed to be in a rush with no time to talk. The shows at night were very good. Places visited were good and the trips we did were good Many people had coughs and colds at the end of the cruise including us. One person that we know of sadly died and as far as we were told there were cases of the dreaded winter virus on board. A lot of comments about Magellan suggest that the air conditioning is at fault to which we agree. Pneumonia on the new year cruise, chest infections on the Amazon cruise with illness on our trip. Announcments were bad throuhout the ship. It was impossible to understand the Captain when he announced something but announcements made by another person in German and Dutch were very clear. Having travelled on many cruises with other companies we feel that the comment "You get what you pay for " is not valid as we find in may cases it compares with other companies. Obviously if you book way ahead there are discounts. Would we go on the Magellan again answer no Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Chosen because we wanted to see the Northern Lights, and we did. There were some very good things about this cruise. The food and waiter service in the Waldorf restaurant were excellent. The cabin steward was excellent and kept the cabin ... Read More
Chosen because we wanted to see the Northern Lights, and we did. There were some very good things about this cruise. The food and waiter service in the Waldorf restaurant were excellent. The cabin steward was excellent and kept the cabin spotless. The cruise was advertised as the 'Northern Lights' and they did appear - wonderful. BUT there were many small irritations about this cruise that combined to warrant a poor rating overall. It would be tiresome for the reader if I detailed them all and in fairness to C&MV some of them were beyond their control. Here, in no particular order, are the main ones: a) the airconditioning/heating system. Public areas cold throughout the duration of the cruise. Cabins freezing cold initially and then became like ovens. Old ship not designed for operation in Northern waters? b) Lifts insufficient in number and size to cope with passenger numbers (ship full). One lift 'temporarily out of order' for duration of cruise. An extraordinary number of passengers on mobility scooters, in wheelchairs and using wheeled mobility aides did not help the situation and many of them barged into the lifts as did some uncouth able passengers. Some bad behaviour in evidence as a result of frustration due long wait for lifts. c) The Bistro on deck 10. What a shambles. Poorly designed and never enough seating. Poor quality food. Supposed to provide 24 hours tea/coffee but 2 of 3 drinks stations closed at night. No sachets of coffee 2 days running. Again selfish and boorish behaviour on display because of frustration at long queues at drink stations and lack of seating. d) Bossy and unfriendly restaurant waiters at breakfast and lunch directing passengers where to sit to suit their convenience and not that of the passenger. e) Bridge (the card game) players!! I admit I detested them before boarding the Magellan. C&MV saw fit to allow a group (I counted 24 passengers out of 1250) of these card players to monopolize a public space that provided access to a rear viewing deck for the Northern Lights. They posted a note on the door stating 'private function, bridge in progress, no entry'. I ignored their notice but walking through the room to get to the rear deck I could sense the eyes burning into my back. I didn't pay for a cruise to be intimidated in his way.[They were an anally retentive lot - there was a beautiful display the Lights one night and dozens of passengers intruded on their stupid game. And yes, they kept right on playing rather than step out and see one of nature's marvels.] f) The reception staff - efficient but brusque and lacking initiative. Epitomized by one of officer rank, small in stature but huge in ego, who was totally incapable of applying logic to the distribution of complimentary bus service tickets. 'I am obeying my orders. You will wait in line until the appointed time even though I am sitting here ready to distribute the tickets. You will also obey orders.' Yes mein Feuhrer! g) Having to limbo dance under the ship's doorways to get on and off the vessel because the gangway was always too low to the quayside. h) Entertainment. Some very good (comedian, classical duo, banjo player, showband) but others appalling especially the singers who could NOT sing in key, were flat, nasal and apparently tone deaf. Enough - probably will not use C&MV again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Review of Cruise W1610 Black Watch: Arctic Adventure and Exploration July 17th- August 12th “Not again, even with discounts….” PART 1 THE REVIEW: This is at best a mixed reaction and review of a specialist cruise, which ... Read More
Review of Cruise W1610 Black Watch: Arctic Adventure and Exploration July 17th- August 12th “Not again, even with discounts….” PART 1 THE REVIEW: This is at best a mixed reaction and review of a specialist cruise, which was anticipated with great promise, but was compromised by a series of running flaws. Not many ships visit Greenland, certainly not with an itinerary that lasts just short of a full month, crosses the Arctic Circle and visits Norway, The North Cape, Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland. This means that the cost factors were comparatively high, and the ship was –at least initially- full to capacity. Things got off to a bad start after a drive to Tillbury found me and three suitcases (plus numerous other confused passengers besides) on a dockside with no ship in sight: in the event it was stuck at Dover so emergency coaches had to be quickly ordered as many hundreds of people began asking why they had not been informed of this so that they could have made their own arrangement to go directly to Dover. Fred Olsen’s explanation that it was simply not possible to contact everyone at short notice looked like a more than lame excuse when they had been sending passengers sms texts for some days reminding us all of arrival times, etc. No refreshments were provided for the journey and the coach driver- who could barely speak English- was completely flummoxed by the air-conditioning, which only worked intermittently. (“Oh my God, Oh my God” was all he was heard to utter.) Apparently a passenger’s plastic walking stick somewhere towards the coach’s rear began to melt! Fred Olsen’s Black Watch is by now clearly an ageing vessel and one desperately in need of a complete refit, severe updating, or putting out to pasture. The carpets were manifestly ancient and everywhere- corridors and public areas- covered with stains as if previous passengers and simple expired there (well maybe they had). The staff tried to cope with this on a more-or-less daily basis by soaking them thoroughly then aiming massive blower heaters on them (result: much noise plus humidity). My cabin (outside with view) was the size of a cramped prison cell with what seemed to be beds for four- all narrow and no more than 20” wide with two metal ones slung from the walls, presumably to accommodate a family, and reminiscent of primitive holiday conditions more suited to Butlins in the 50’s. The outside view was provided by two (I assume) original portholes bolted shut with rust all around on the outside. I asked for a change of room, for which I was fully prepared to pay additionally if necessary, but none was available and I was not informed of any subsequent vacancy although passengers did leave throughout the voyage. The walls were not well soundproofed and a noisy party next door allowed me to participate in most conversations, should I have chosen to, from a very short distance. (PS There is ALWAYS another cabin available; believe me I know this from friends who work in the business.) Here I must introduce another cautionary note: this cruise is adult only and attracts a comparatively aged group of guests. Indeed I think the average age was well over pension age, and to be amongst such a group was certainly a double shock; firstly in the realization that oneself is now probably perceived as an “older person” , but secondly as to how infirm many of the passengers are. Wheelchairs, walking frames and many with stick struggling in the public areas, particularly in rougher seas. I was unable amongst the 750 or so guests on board, to spot anyone under the age of 50: the downside of a combination of destination, price, length of voyage and ‘adults only’ appellation. (Just as I am completing this report I have spotted two who might just qualify not to compete in a senior tournament.) Food was reasonably good but on sea days always taken in very crowded conditions. Entertainment was of varying quality with an enthusiastic troop of young dancers who barely mixed with passengers, except when obliged to (on “Captains Cocktail Night”, etc.) a good trio, an excellent guest violinist and a very good pianist for the lounge areas. One thing I have noticed with Fred Olsen is that extras such as photography packages are increasingly “pushed” at guests, as are future cruises with added discounts and inducements. I suppose people fall for these ploys or else there would be much less activity of this sort, but it is a very unwelcome part of the Olsen cruise experience, in my opinion. Also, beware of hidden extras even with an all-inclusive package. I bought the drinks package @ £10 per day which in theory allows unlimited house spirits, wine and soft drinks. However, even though I presented my inclusive card to bar staff I was still charged for a Bloody Mary although the ingredients of tomato juice and vodka are part of the package. When I challenged this at the Guest Services counter a couple of days later this produced a dramatic encounter enjoyed by many staff and guests. The Bar Manager was called who explained that a Bloody Mary was a cocktail requiring expert preparation, hence the charge. When I explained that I had been making them for years by simply putting these ingredients together, I was repeatedly told, again and again, that it was classed by Olsen’s as “a cocktail”. When I said this should have been made clear by the bar staff and that I considered £8 excessive for 6 drops of Worcester sauce a guest listening nearby turned her prune-moon face at me and said “do be nice!” “That’s all very well madam,” I countered “but it is not your bill that’s been docked twenty four quid!” I was promised a complete refund and left the scene through a wave of clapping and supportive passengers. The departure from Greenland and the subsequent 3-4 days at sea was a terrific strain both on the inner resources of the ship and the passengers, many of who did not cope well with rocky sea conditions. Also, we steamed rapidly past the Faroe Isles, which seemed to me to be madness given that everyone was begging for a break from the lengthy sea days, and many would have given their eyeteeth for the chance to stretch their legs on dry land. From the reactions I canvassed from many guests, most thought well of the cruise and enjoyed much of the itinerary; although quite a few criticized the cost of many of the shore excursions which were all extras to the original cost (for example £90 for a guided 2 mile walk on one of the islands, easily accessible on your own from the ship, and therefore unguided and potentially cost free). I went for three reasons: Icelandic waterfalls, Greenland icebergs and to complete the draft of a novel. Frankly I was not too interested in local craftsmen weaving winter apparel from seal dung or whatever regional materials they use. So this made my reasons for travelling quite specific and probably unusual. But for those in general I noticed a measure of “British stiff-upper lip-ness” which I have to say I admired, but did not feel obliged to participate in. Cabin TVs looked like something out of “Crossroads” circa 1960s and performed about as well. Internet access was totally unreliable and very expensive, and I insisted of refunds of £41 and £13 respectively for connection to the server but thereafter NOT to the internet. If few other passengers complained then someone was making a lot of money out of this failed service. Much better to wait for a port day and connect to Wi-Fi in a local café for cost of a coffee (and very often entirely free.) In conclusion if you require dance lessons, craft and art classes (the art teacher’s own exhibition was a severe embarrassment to any half-competent watercolourist) basic lectures on ports of call, or geology, being sold overpriced jewelry and branded goods, expensive snaps of your trip et al, then this might be the one for you. But, I’m sorry to say, as I have travelled in the past with Olsen and have a soft spot for Fred Senior’s determination to continue with his pet loss-leader, this is not one for me, not again (even with 5% plus 4% plus 5% special offers off.) PART TWO: THE REPORT This part of the review has not yet been substantiated or commented on by The Fred Olsen Company. Currently I am waiting for confirmation that the following information is basically correct. I sent this directly to the M.D of Olsen who declined to respond or comment personally, and his Customer Service Dept. demanded 28 days to reply. I’m afraid, again, this is not good enough Messrs Olsen! The delay at the start of the cruise at Tilbury/Dover was due to a severe engine fire on a previous voyage, which had to be curtailed as a result. The marine authorities were not apparently satisfied with the quality of the repairs undertaken and requested that additional works be carried out. This meant The Black Watch was unable to sail to Tilbury due to a statutory entitlement for the crew to rest before setting out. It was fairly clear during our Arctic Adventure trip that problems with the engine(s) persisted. On our return from Greenland (three days non-stop at sea) in the mid-Atlantic and well over 24 hours from any safe haven, mechanical trouble seemingly struck again resulting in a severe loss of power. Speed reduced to approximately 8 knots, from 14 knots, and the ship began a series of circular manoeuveres transmitting a much greater degree of motion on board, sending many passengers to their cabins. This mechanical problem apparently manifest itself –at least as it was recounted to me- with a degree of panic on the bridge, and also seemed to affect the ships stabilizers which only appeared to operate spasmodically. A total engine failure in our position in the mid-Atlantic could have been a major calamity, and whilst it would clearly be unwise to transmit any kind of panic from crew to passengers, a blanket of silence is not a good solution either. In an era when transparency is a worthy goal to aim for, it seems that Fred Olsen have only managed to score one entirely of their own. 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Sail Date July 2016
Just returned from a Northern Lights Cruise on the Magellan. The cabin staff and the restaurant staff are great, friendly and helpful, as are the medical team if you need them. However the chef is not properly in charge of his kitchen; I ... Read More
Just returned from a Northern Lights Cruise on the Magellan. The cabin staff and the restaurant staff are great, friendly and helpful, as are the medical team if you need them. However the chef is not properly in charge of his kitchen; I had to send 5 main courses back as inedible. The worst was the fish in batter, good old fish and chips which I chose as being a safe bet, but the fish was totally raw inside the batter. One dish, tortellini in a cheese sauce,had the pasta so overcooked it was slimy and to add insult to injury it had not been properly drained so the cheese sauce was watery beyond belief. When the food was good it was very good, but the chef was not doing adequate quality control, or has low standards and some of his staff are obviously sloppy workers. The other down side is that there is inadequate seating when everyone is aboard and the weather not suitable for people to sit out on deck. We had to spend one whole afternoon in the cabin in order to sit down while others were having to sit on the window sills in the main lounges and hallways. The wifi is astronomically expensive and just about functions some of the time. The cruise itself was an interesting trip - we visited some great places but I would not travel on Magellan again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
CMV Marco Polo P500 Cruise March 2015 (review delayed due to poor response by CMV to valid complaints). This cruise was advertised as an “Eclipse and Northern Lights Spectacular” and we should have known that things were not quite ... Read More
CMV Marco Polo P500 Cruise March 2015 (review delayed due to poor response by CMV to valid complaints). This cruise was advertised as an “Eclipse and Northern Lights Spectacular” and we should have known that things were not quite right when the invoice had the correct dates but the wrong days of the week. Generally we found the food quality, cabins and staff helpfulness much better than we had anticipated from previous CC postings. Maybe we were lucky that the seas were kind from Tilbury to Reykjavik and the vessel was reasonably stable both ways. In general we found the Marco Polo was very pleasant considering the age of the vessel. The areas that could benefit improvement were the scanning of passengers on and off the vessel and the labor-intensive handling of luggage, both of which were certainly dated. The unfortunate problems lie with the planning. The docking location in the Faroe Islands was changed from Torshavn to Kollafjordur. Although this was less convenient, CMV finally offered a free bus service to Torshavn but the additional travel time was not appreciated. More disturbing was the change in leaving Reykjavik from 6 PM Monday to 6 AM Monday, especially as it was not clearly pointed out and came as a surprise to some passengers. This was probably a typo. Several passengers complained about this change and were given all sorts of tales about the port not having docking space but the fact remains that there was insufficient time to reach Invergordon unless the Marco Polo left early Monday morning. The main problem with this cruise was that it was advertised as “Eclipse and Northern Lights Spectacular” and it failed miserably on both these counts. The cruise was first advertised about two years before the eclipse and after quickly becoming fully booked CMV decided to add their newly acquired Magellan to attempt to view the eclipse. A total eclipse of the sun is a spectacular event that can last from a few seconds to about seven and a half minutes. Clear skies are essential and we understood that we only had about a 40 percent chance at best for this eclipse. What we did not anticipate is that CMV appeared to have no clear understanding of viewing a solar eclipse. Although CMV denies aiming for the point of maximum eclipse, a live plot of the Marco Polo course shows no deviation to seek clear skies. Many other vessels were able take the weather conditions into account and to at least see a partial if not a total eclipse. Unfortunately all the Marco Polo passengers experienced was a sudden darkening of a very cloudy sky with many not understanding what they had missed. CMV was more concerned in trying to video the Marco Polo and the Magellan cruising together rather than attempting to view totality! The Northern Lights experience was equally frustrating. Five coach loads of passengers were taken from the ship (where the moon was visible) to a dark site that was so clouded that no glimmer of the moon was present. Northern Lights tours by local companies were cancelled due to the poor viewing conditions and those from the Marco Polo should also have been cancelled. Complaints to CMV regarding the Marco Polo P500 cruise not living up to the two main advertised attractions were fruitless. Responses to specific complaints were miserably slow to non-existent. What has been learned is that any complaints to CMV regarding non-performance should be made while still aboard the vessel. Although one hopes it will not be necessary any future cruise complaints will be made before the end of the voyage irrespective of the cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015

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