There have been several reviews of the CMV Magellan, which show that passenger reactions can be very varied. We booked a very reasonably priced 6 night cruise called Autumn Gardens on a bogof deal with cabin allocated by the company. We ... Read More
There have been several reviews of the CMV Magellan, which show that passenger reactions can be very varied. We booked a very reasonably priced 6 night cruise called Autumn Gardens on a bogof deal with cabin allocated by the company. We expected a low deck inside cabin and found we had been allocated to a family cabin with small portholes (no view) on the lower deck at the forward end of the ship. First impressions of the cabin were very positive, as there was sufficient room to swing many cats as the wardrobes were in the anteroom which would otherwise be for third or possibly fourth occupants. What we did not know was that cabin 4007 is directly over the bow thruster, a piece of machinery that is activated each time port is reached or left. When the bow thrusters are on, the noise is so intense that occupancy of the cabin is intolerable. As we were arriving in a new port each day, usually in the early morning, we came to expect this noise and when practical, made arrangements to be elsewhere. It also seemed that the rear of the ship could get pretty noisy and juddery at times on several decks, so if you are choosing a cabin, aim for midships.
Boarding at Tilbury on this occasion was fairly easy with lots of road signage if you are driving yourself. There is a big Asda very close to the port for any last minute purchases. The company discourages you from dropping off your bags before parking. The car park is a bus ride away, and whilst it works, it is not as comfortable or as efficient as the experience we had with Holland America at Harwich. A double decker bus is used, and one has to wait until it is full. Given the number of passengers with mobility issues, there may be no space on the lower deck. Bags were picked up at the car park, and did arrive in a reasonable time at our cabin. Our boarding time was set for 2.30 i.e. the last to board, but in the event, we were allowed on board almost as soon as we arrived at the cruise terminal, which is just as well as the terminal facilities are sparse. We were in lunch pretty quickly in the Raffles buffet restaurant, and then looked around the boat, as it was new to us.
We thought the general condition and appearance of the ship was good for its age with plenty of seating, and many bars and public spaces to choose from. It is not the most modern of ships, but it does not pretend to be other than what is publicized. There are not a lot of on-board shops, which has the positive effect of one not being made to feel that the agenda lurches from one shopping opportunity to the next, which does happen on some of the American cruises. The company knows its client demography well, and seemed well-pitched at British blue collar retirement aged folk who know a bargain when they see one.
Food on board is a critical part of any cruise and the Magellan aims to not challenge middle England. It is good plain food for good plain people.
There are three restaurants on the Magellan. Two are formal with two sittings each and one is a buffet restaurant which closes about 8 pm. We had requested a late sitting (8.15pm) and a table for two, and both wishes were granted. We noted that this later sitting in the Waldorf Restaurant had plenty of space at tables, and there were pairs eating at tables for 6 or 8, and even some empty tables. The restaurant staff told us that the early sittings are the most popular (possibly because of access to all the evening entertainment), but we would not want to eat at 5.45 or 6.15, although most of the passengers had opted for this. I would rate the food in the served restaurants as good, with a fair choice (never a problem there and no disappointments).
The buffet restaurant at lunch was, like other ships, a bit of a scrum, with a struggle to find a table unless you come early or late. The temperature of buffet food was poor, but this is typical. You have to keep an eye out for when they change vats of food. Typically there would be a choice of two meats, a fish dish and a pasta dish. Buffet food was bland and uninspiring – more functional than entertaining, in contrast to the main restaurants. Desserts on the buffet were below the quality of the main restaurants, usually being cake based. The buffet tends to run down about 30mins before closing with less choice and fewer serving stations. They regularly ran out of cutlery. There was an impressive gala buffet displayed late one evening: this was splendid and showed that the chefs were capable of great things. It was a pity that it was so shortly after later dinner, so any food eaten was done so out of pure greed
The serving staff was very mixed: it is a bit of a United Nations on the ship with a mix of Eastern Europeans and Asian staff. In my opinion, the language training was very patchy, and whilst most spoke restaurant English, the minute a question was posed which was not on their script, it was unlikely that there would be an answer without consulting management. E.g. are there any knives?
In the served restaurants, there is a wine service, with middle of the road table wine costing about £20-£30/bottle. Otherwise drinks at bars are priced probably below (London) pub prices, and a cocktail of the day was available at £3.10. Unlike on some US based ships, there is no service charge on drinks. There are drinks packages available which allow access to house wine, some spirits and cocktails and other non-premium drinks and cost £17/day provided all the occupants of a cabin buy into it. If you like a drink and would consume more than 5 regular alcoholic drinks during the day, then this may be for you, but our bar bill for two came to a maximum of £20/day on a pay as you go basis.
Entertainment on a cruise is also a very big deal, especially if you don’t get out much or live somewhere where there is no access to live theatre and similar. For a short cruise on a mid sized boat, there was no shortage of set entertainment of the typical middle of the road easy listening style. The shows are put on twice nightly to match the dinner sittings in their fairly large show-lounge. At first glance the show lounge is impressive with tiered seating and a large stage, but the tiering is insufficiently raised, and because of the physical structure, there are only a few seats that do not either have a barrier in front of them or a pole partially obstructing views. By and large, the entertainments were well received, and the casts mostly enthusiastic. On our six nights, there was something to watch every evening, and a late night cabaret in one of the bars.
Excursions were pretty run of the mill and relatively expensive, but not as expensive as on Holland America. At one port, Zeebrugge (for Bruges), it was made quite clear that it would be very difficult to leave the port and go anywhere without one of the supplied trips. At two destinations (Jersey and Guersney), the captain made the decision not to land (i.e. 40% of destination ports and their linked excursions) because of high seas. These ports were serviced by tender boats, and hence the decision. I read subsequently that difficulties with tenders at the Channel Islands were common, but if that were the case, may be they should never have been on the itinerary. (To give you the bigger picture, on our last cruise on CMV Marco Polo, 2/3 tender landings were cancelled, so to date my record with CMV is 1/5 tender landings successful. I would advise concentrating on those trips with no tendering to shore). Instead of Jersey and Guernsey, we were offered the ports of Cherbourg and Rouen on which we had done no research. The ship offered short notice excursions, which filled up quickly, and the remaining passengers were left to sort themselves out, which is easy in Rouen, but tricky in Cherbourg. The excursion in Cherbourg was a scenic drive taking in a couple of small ports and the cabbage fields of Normandy, and priced at £45. To make things even more complex we arrived at Honfleur, our final port, many hours early, but despite this, the captain was taken by surprise by the rise and fall of the tides. After 30 minutes, the original gangway on level 5 was unusable and the exit had to be re-sited on level 8 entailing a delay of 20 minutes on already short outings. Our trip to Bayeux was very rushed leaving insufficient time after visiting the tapestry to visit the tapestry museum and explanatory film in English and still have time to see the town and have a coffee on a trip that did not return until 2p.m.
Staff on the boat is very mixed, and a large contingent coming from Ukraine and lesser numbers from Bulgaria and Romania. English language skills in the lower ranks were poor. The captain is Greek and whilst he spoke English, left us with the impression that he would prefer not to. The captain’s daily announcements were therefore difficult to decipher, and the grand announcement about the loss of the Channel Islands was so indistinct that even members of the crew were left asking what was going on. Others have mentioned the somewhat military style boat drill. Whilst on some cruise ships this has descended to a perfunctory performance just asking people to assemble at the muster stations, possibly with their life jackets, the captain went all the way bar boarding the life boats. This included the crocodile up the decks to the lifeboat area, and inspection by the captain. In our boat, one person was identified as having donned their jacket inadequately, and the captain retied the knots. Perhaps there was something that we should have known?
Very cheap way to cruise UK style with pub prices for drink
Good destinations, and whilst excursions are not cheap, they are cheaper than other lines
Food to UK tastes and not very exciting and of limited variety, and that might not be what you want. I would not recommend the burgers from the grill.
Many of crew with lack of culture of hospitality and care (of the elderly). Some would benefit from more language training.
Cabins and amenities a bit Spartan, but good for price and those in know bring their own toiletries. Not much of a shopping opportunity, but some would regard that as very positive.
Cabins above bow thrusters can be very noisy at arrival and departures.
Ship starting to show age, but mostly works.
Steep steps between decks that might defeat the less abled, but the elevators were adequate.
Overall, a satisfactory basic cruise experience, but watch out for the tender ports. Read Less