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Magellan Cruise Review
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
479 Reviews

Great Itinerary but Mediocre Food

Magellan Cruise Review by Tansy Mews

20 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2016
  • Destination: the British Isles & Western Europe

The Magellan is an older ship that was purchased by CMV just a year or so ago. No glitz, no atrium, few balconies but comfortable and in reasonable condition. About 1200 passengers, just about all British who enjoy that they can drive to the port - no flight needed. No children!

The itinerary was super, a 12 night round trip from Tilbury not far from London. We took the train from Fenchurch Street station in the City of London to Tilbury Town and the ferry shuttle to the cruise terminal (you must show your train ticket to ride for free).

The itinerary was: Invergordon (for Inverness), Kirkwall (Orkneys), Stornoway (Lewis, Outer Hebrides), Tobermory, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Dublin and Cobh (Ireland), the Isles of Scilly (Cornwall, U.K. ), and two French ports - St. Malo (near Mont St Michel) and Honfleur.

The cruise line uses the older style of set dining times in its two formal dining rooms. There are different start times for each - in the Waldorf, the early sitting was at 5:45pm and in the Kensington, at 6:15pm. The late sittings were rather too late for us - after 8, I think. We had charming table mates, two older British couples who were travelling together.

Breakfasts were served buffet style in the two dining rooms and in the self-service restaurant. However they serve you coffee and juice in the dining rooms, but not in the more casual restaurant. There were egg cooking stations. Boring sugary cereals suitable for non-existent kids (no children allowed) as well as porridge and weetabix. You could cobble together the "full English" but it wasn't appealing. "Breakfast in bed" is the only free room service - continental.

I was prepared for average food. The service was excellent but the food did not match. It is Continental cuisine but their best dishes were curries. Their attempt at creme brûlée was terrible - curdled and not creamy. Gordon Ramsay would not allowed it to leave the galley! They made no attempt to cook seasonally nor to reflect the areas we were visiting. Few vegetables. The cheeses were labelled as assorted cheese. (Just finished a Marks & Spencer's sandwich proudly labelled with the name of the cheese - Wensleydale.) It seems a lack of care. Buy or make a few labels and put them on the cheese plate.

Jamie Oliver and gastropubs haven't happened yet! Bacon at breakfast was undercooked in the Waldorf. The sausages were the sort with too much filler in them. The comedian joked about the single brown stripe on them! The food service officer was helpful and he ordered a special curry for us for the following evening. The soups were pretty good but the food felt institutional. They went amiss the most when they tried dishes like a bland creole starter. And their Waldorf salad was like baby food! They only served vanilla and strawberry ice cream - a bit melted, but they were the most reliable desserts. Once my travel companion scored banana and once chocolate ice cream.

They do need a new chef for sweets. The cakes, tarts and squares were boring and not worth the calories - some teatime treats were labelled as "dry cake". The teatime scones were quite good.

However most passengers (almost all were older Brits) seemed happy enough with the food. And we were happy to have wonderful lunches off the ship, including fabulous fish and chips and chowders.

Alcohol prices were reasonable but only tea, coffee and "tap" water are available for free. My tea drinking sisters were surprised they didn't have teapots. (They do have them for room service.)

There was a special get-together for American passengers and we Canadians got a last minute invitation from the "future cruise' staffer. (I had been whining a bit to him.) Free champagne! And a free group photo. Our TA used the Miami-based CMV office for our booking.

There was more food available in bars from 10-10:30 every night and two gala spreads during the cruise - one featured chocolate fantasies and one had a whimsical theme - a roast chicken band plus a whole roast pig. However service didn't start until after 10:30pm. When the hotel director at the American event asked a few of us about the events, someone said it was too late and too much food right after their second sitting dinner. I suggested a gala brunch instead - we were only getting in quite late one day so that would have fit the schedule. I was told that it was impossible! I think they should focus on the core meals and get them right.

They have pools, a gym and a spa as well as a library and a dedicated card room, plus lots of under-utilized outside space.

Be prepared to visit further afield on this itinerary. We had a great archaeology tour in Kirkwall with WildAboutOrkney (Clive). We had pre-booked a taxi for a few hours in Stornoway with STS (Valerie) to see archaeology and black houses. Be sure to have the amazing fish and chips at Cameron's. We took the Stagecoach bus into Inverness to see Culloden. We had a super day trip to the Giant's Causeway, a rope bridge (Carrick-a-Rede), a whiskey distillery, a photo stop at Dunluce castle used in Game of Thrones and scenic drive along the Causeway Coastal road with Belfast City Sightseeing. Before returning us to the ship, our driver, Gary gave us an informative but unsettling tour of Belfast, its sectarian areas and graffiti and murals. Glad we did it though. Btw, we shared this excursion with cruisers from Oceania Nautica that had docked closer to the city.

In Dublin, we had pre-booked a hop on, hop off bus (yellow) and pre-booked Kilmainham Gaol. Worthwhile. We rented a car from Sixt in St Malo for a visit to Mont St Michel then walked the walls in St Malo. We visited the market in Honfleur and had lunch with the rest of the tourists on Vieux Bassin. Two places we just explored locally - Cobh (the heritage centre) and Tobermory (a walk along the path in Aros Park).

And in the Scilly Isles, we took the ship's morning tour to Tresco Abbey Gardens. We were tendered directly to this private island and afterwards, tendered to St Mary's via the ship - just stayed on the tender. Depending on the tides, there can be a long walk (40 minutes) to the garden but there were complimentary shuttles for those less able. Wonderful garden with a garden tour guide.

I guess what got to me most about the Magellan was the lack of flexibility. Breakfast ended fairly early, even when the ship was not getting into port until noon. Most staff didn't seem to know what was happening, and didn't seem to be willing to give a best guess. But they were friendly! My sisters wanted to use one of the whirlpools but either they weren't on (and no one knew the hours for them) or they were cold. Just too much hassle.

We had a higher than usual percentage of tenders because of our itinerary and an added one in Kirkwall because there were two warships there for a military anniversary. We were issued tender tickets (queuing in a lounge) but the people going on excursions didn't fill each tender, departing with quite a few empty seats. We thought they should let independents go ashore then since there was space. We did suggest this and thankfully the excursion person did start allocating extra tender tickets to independent guests.

There was entertainment every night including a few production shows. We went to three very good comic shows during our busy trip. Quite a few venues for music and drinking. There was a lecturer (we went to one lecture on Oscar Wilde). They do have the dreaded photographers on board but I don't know how much they sold. Quite intrusive though. Wifi worked okay but not in our room. There was a repeater in the main hallway so we lurked there sometimes. Cheaper wifi service than on other ships I have sailed on.

At the end of the cruise, we had to be out of our stateroom by 6:30am and we were told express disembarkation would not start until 8am (actually it started about a half hour earlier than that). Surprise, surprise, many people wanted to do express so they could just drive home! They didn't want to wait around in a lounge for their time slot.

I do want to say that the crew was wonderful, friendly and helpful. Other passengers were welcoming and friendly. And the cost for our quad cabin was surprisingly affordable. But I felt stressed - too much rushing to get to dinner or breakfast on time. If you spoke up, you got more services, but I don't want to have to ask for favours. I would assume that since they do this itinerary regularly, they would know what is "usual", but they didn't seem to.

If you do decide to cruise with them, don't expect to hear about the ship's excursions until about a month before you go. I suggest you do your own thing. The ship was very good about supplying tourist brochures the evening before and arranging for local tourism officials to come on board in the morning. They did supply free shuttles in a few ports.

An oddity - the daily program did not give weather forecasts and for the first half of the cruise, the cruise director didn't provide this either. It didn't appear on the ship's webcam page on the tv either. It was hard for us to prep for a full day away from the ship, so we just prepared for the worst!

We wouldn't select CMV again, especially if you couldn't have a meal a day off the ship! However the price was excellent for our quad room and I believe that the extra cost for solo travellers is much lower than average.

Tansy Mews's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 2 5179

The embarkation was quick and easy and a staffer escorted us to our quad inside room. On request, the room steward brought us a rollaway bed in place of the upper Pullman bunk. We essentially had two adjoining rooms with three singles in the inner and the sofa bed in the outer section. There was little drawer space but there were closets with hanging and shelving space in both rooms. There was a retractable laundry line in the shower stall. No hooks for coats or wet raincoats whatsoever. There was a safe and a hair dryer.

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