Having never cruised with CMV before, we drove toward Tilbury with some trepidation as the car radio warned of congestion on the M25 but as it happened we drove right up to the Terminal with time to spare.
I decanted a ton of luggage, The Management and the Mother-out-Law, all of which was immediately gathered up by a lady porter and whisked into the Departure Hall as I drove back to the Long Stay Car Park. Got parked up (squeezed in very tightly) and boarded a nearly empty shuttle bus with only my hand luggage to worry about. The driver didn’t set off until the bus was full to capacity and that turned out to be the longest wait of the day. The embark procedures were very swift and within minutes we were onboard Columbus, located the M-o-Ls cabin on Deck 6 and were delighted to see she’d been upgraded from inside single to outside twin cabin.
We then proceeded to deck 10 to locate our billet to find our cases already there. This was probably the quickest most efficient embark in our experience. Well done CMV.
Our Cabin was of a reasonable size with large bed and room under for cases. Small tv on window wall, dressing table bearing the tea/coffee facilities which was a pleasant surprise as we thought there would be none, two chairs and a storage unit housing the fridge and space for the provided sun lounger towels. The en suite was accessed from a short corridor at right angles to the main passageway with a large chest of drawers and an open wardrobe. The shower unit was just large enough to avoid bodily contact with the shower curtain, the water was piping hot with good pressure and space for the usual products. For a 29 year old ship – not at all bad and no worse than any other comparable ship. The décor was plain and simple and easy on the eye. Small 4-drawer units either side of the bed provided more than enough storage for us. The cabin was very quiet and vibration free and the air con worked well. Access to the cabin is with your credit card size key which identifies which drinks package you have. We initially needed a stewards help to open the door as there was a slight knack to it and the same with the room safe. This is where the age of the ship shows as the door locks and the safe were pretty ancient and well used. The tv sound was not good – really crackly so we only used the tv for the navigation charts and forward view camera. Also the window was filthy on the outside but was cleaned on the penultimate day. Any other little niggles were sorted out by very obliging steward who said he was known as Oh Oh.
The compulsory life boat drill was carried out before we set sail and was actually held under our designated lifeboat – much better than in a crowded theatre like on other lines.
We pre-booked the VIP drinks package so set off to put it to the test. We chose VIP as it meant we would always have bottled water in the cabin, small bottles of water on disembarking and specialty teas and coffees. Ordinary tea or coffee isn’t good enough for The Management so she was pleased to be able to order decaff soya lattes or Camomile tea around the ship. Over the course of the week we sampled many excellent cocktails and the gin is Bombay Sapphire but you have to specify this otherwise you’ll get Gordons. Knowing you won’t get a huge bar bill at cruise-end is very liberating but with such reasonable bar prices, a light drinker would not need that package or could opt for a cheaper one.
We dined 2nd sitting in the Waterfront Restaurant and found the food generally to be of a higher standard than we were led to believe and the presentation was excellent. Our waiters and drinks servers were lovely friendly guys and very efficient. No complaints at all.
Alas the same cannot be said of the breakfast service in the MDR. We tried it on the first morning only and didn’t bother again until the last day. The service was haphazard and slow and the food quality was merely adequate. The only alternative was the smash 'n’grab or Plantation as its called. Food on offer was OK with reasonable variety. A bit crowded on sea days and we couldn’t always get a table at our favourite place - the open aft deck - but this is no different to most other ships we have been on.
I don’t do lunch as I usually eat a reasonable breakfast but thought I’d give the afternoon tea a try. This is self-serve and therefore not a patch on say P&O. The sandwiches were pretty dry after being out for a while but tasty enough and there were some pretty colourful looking cakes on display but I resisted the temptation.
On one occasion we tried The Grill (£7.50 supp with the VIP package) and it was very good. Huge 10oz Ribeye was superb and after the 3 courses we were very full. It wasn’t quite the sophisticated experience as say on Celebrity but very enjoyable and extraordinarily good value. There is also an Indian cuisine speciality restaurant but we didn’t have time to try that.
The staff we met were all very friendly and professional and most of all helpful and keen to please. Mainly from the Asian sub-continent, Burma and E Europeans, they all spoke very good English and were a credit to CMV.
The first port of call was Amsterdam. Here I will offer a warning. There was an Amsterdam Tourist office presence in the arrival hall with the usual maps and leaflets. We enquired about a canal cruise and were sold tickets for €20 each for a hop on-hop off trip, and given a map. We were told to pick up the boat at the adjacent canal landing stage. Soon enough a red hop on/off canal boat arrived (in the same livery as the red double decker tour buses you find in many ports) but we and several other people were turned away. We were advised to look for the pale yellow boats with a green band. Soon one such boat arrived – again we were turned away as this was for a pre-booked party. We realized we were in the wrong place and after sheltering from a fierce thunderstorm and wandering many alleys and canal under-passes, eventually found a basin with many boats. We sought out the correct liveried boat only to be told our tickets were not valid and were pointed toward an identical vessel across the basin. The M-o-L is 87 and we were heartily sick of all this traipsing about so returned to Columbus. Infuriatingly the Tourist people had by now de-camped to the next pier to enlighten the hordes descending from the MSC ship that had just docked. I am happy to report that after a full and frank discussion with the manager I got a full refund.
After departing Amsterdam the ship felt somehow a little more crowded and it transpired that many new passengers had embarked, mainly Dutch and Germans who stay on after Tilbury as Amsterdam was the next port on the following cruise. Cunning marketing there, CMV!
The journey back to the North Sea takes a couple of hours including passage through a large lock. There followed a sea day before arrival at delightful Eidfjord. The tour from there wasn’t cheap but we had a brand new Volvo coach and an excellent guide so probably worth it for a first-timer to Norway.
To avoid turning this into a travelogue I will summarise by saying the weather in Norway at the 3 ports of call was fabulous, the scenery was fantastic, the sunsets sublime, the other ports of Flam and Bergen were beautiful, the Flam Railway was very interesting from this rail buff’s point of view and the whole cruise was just a delight.
As a 29 year old ship Columbus has seen better days but her pedigree as a former P&O vessel amongst other owners is there to see. The inside areas feel open and spacious especially the 3 deck Atrium and the ambiance is relaxed and uncrowded. Although some of the décor is a little dated, the lighting has been improved in parts but could do with more work in other areas. The adjoining Taverners pub and the Connexions bar are very comfortable and sometimes busy and there are nice coffee bars including Cappuccinos on the Pool Deck serving good coffees and especially good Whittards Teas – all included on VIP but otherwise at modest extra charge.
We only visited the Palladium theatre a few times but what we did see was very good and one of the regular performers, Chloe, has the most fantastic singing voice. The cruise theme was The 70’s and turns included The Rubettes and an Elvis impersonator. The last 2 night’s shows were performed in the Atrium so everyone could join in. There were a small number of young children on board and they were mainly to be seen in and around the pools and flocking round the performers at the Atrium shows. Credit to the parents here as they were very well-behaved and I think had a great time. Start em young as they say. The shows were mainly aimed at the British in content, showcasing Beatles songs and Queen songs for example so what the Dutch made of all this is not known.
Blessed with such fantastic hot weather and with 2 sea days the pool deck was very busy but you would eventually find a lounger somewhere.
Disembarkation was well flagged with leaflets in the cabins asking for cases outside by midnight and colour coded labels distributed. It actually ran ahead of schedule in our situation, everything went smoothly, cases found in the hall, shuttle bus waiting and the car started so all good.
All in all a very good cruise, terrific vfm and I’m sure we’ll try CMV again subject to the itinerary. There are some exciting long voyages on their new ship Vasco da Gama coming up so who knows…
Plainly furnished and presented but comfortable and reasonably roomy. Plenty of storage space, tea making facilities, reasonably sized en suite, fridge, safe but inadequate TV.
Kept clean and tidy and towels etc changed regularly.
Main review describes misinformation given by Tourist Office staff. Wasted a lot of time and failing to find how to use use the tickets we had bought was disheartening and tiring.
A shame as we were looking forward to this port of call.
Organised tour to a waterfall and dam and finally to a nature centre wide screen film presentation.
Excellent modern coach provided and guide spoke good English. Timings at the sights were confusing and a little rushed, needlessly
Very short walk to station for a late departure which gave a lot of time to explore the town independantly. Interesting train ride to great altitude with an intermediate stop at a spectacular waterfall. No time to explore at the top end station. Train possibly a little oversold as it was very crowded. Massive amount of wheel screech on some of the bends.View All 212 Flam Railway Reviews
Easy walking tour. Guide got us to the funicular railway early which was good as we had better access to the superb views from the top and an easy ride down to witness massive queues going the other way. Also visited a house/museum from the Hanseatic era of Bergen's past.View All undefined undefined Reviews