We did a 10 week cruise so we had a fairly extensive experience of life on board. The ship was built in 1963 for the Russian market and refitted in 1993.
The hot three hot drinks machines, two inside and one outside, continually ran out of cups and shut themselves down with fault codes which appear to be due to over-use and they run out of hot water.
There was a good choice of food for the buffet breakfast but the equipment in the Bistro failed to keep it warm, I would suggest a couple of microwaves for those who like their food hot. The main restaurant was slightly better. Omelettes, fried and poached eggs were always cooked fresh in both.
The main cut fruit available was melon with a bit of pineapple, apple and occasional orange, but always a large proportion of melon. Whole fruit was always apples. There was the occasional banana, orange, pear or plum in the early days but scarcer as the cruise went on.
There is a shortage of drinks waiters at peak times and the ship still uses plastic straws and stirrers.
The show lounge (theatre) has very poor acoustics. There is an annoying rattle from the roof panels and despite complaints they seem unable or unwilling to fix it. The floor is not tiered and there are 7 pillars partially obstructing the view from just about every seat more than two rows back.
The furniture definitely needs replacing, all the padded chairs were sagging in the seats and many were frayed or worn. Externally she was definitely showing her age with numerous areas of rust bubbles in the deck metalwork.
There is no do-it-yourself laundry on board so everything is on an individual cost. With a handkerchief or item of underwear costing £1 with an incremental scale it wouldn’t take long to run up a huge bill, especially on a long trip. There were two Magic Bag days during our trip where you could cram a laundry bag with as much as you liked for £12, wash and dry only.
The swimming pool was not heated and was filled with sea water when conditions permitted but this amounted to only a few days when in warm weather. There was an appeal early on for water saving if we went to sea for more than a couple of days yet remarkably the toilets used fresh water for flushing. I understand the hot tubs used fresh water and they were therefore mostly out of use, either with covers over or a notice saying ‘Closed For Maintenance.’
Following numerous complaints about the lack of information the Cruise Director placed an ‘Entertainment Suggestions’ box in reception for a few days but I am not aware of any changes resulting from this. The lack of information was typified by our visit to Carcass Island which required passengers to get a ticket for the tenders. The first two tenders departed and then the Captain said he was temporarily suspending the service due to safety issues and would review the situation in an hour. So we all waited in the designated place and two hours later when we had heard nothing we started to drift away. Nothing else was said except for a brief mention in the evening broadcast.
For our journey from the Falklands up the west coast of Chile through the fjords, a map was delivered each evening to your cabin with waypoints marked and a time of arrival. We were supposed to enter Darwin Passage and Narrows at 10am. The ship actually arrived at 8am and by 10am we were leaving so a lot of people missed it. Not a word about the amended time or the reason they managed to get it so wrong with a simple overnight passage. On the way we passed several shipwrecks and memorials but despite having a pilot on board there was not a word of explanation so having seen some beautiful scenery we were non the wiser about any of it. A guide did join us for the Panama Canal but the first hour of her commentary was lost due to an intermittent microphone. The microphone in the Captains Club where the organised games and quizzes were held was intermittent for the whole trip.
The ship only did one Sailaway Party from our last port of call.
For the last few days they ran out of several things including tonic, marmite and till rolls.
The Good Bits:
The ship appears to have some very devoted passengers with one chap we spoke to had done over 30 cruises on the ship and several others were well into double figures.
The entertainment team were very good with many different routines and costumes.
A gin and tonic was £4.55 so comparable to UK and with two of us a round of drinks could come to £10 so it didn’t take long to rack up a hefty bar bill. The company we booked with ’Imagine Cruising’ did an all inclusive package for £300 a couple so within about ten days we were already in credit and as the cruise lasted seventy days we were very happy with the deal.
We also got £800 cabin credit which we used to pay for the organised port trips which were very good and lasted either half a day or a full day with lunch. As anyone who has cruised will know trips around the town will usually be architecture, town history, museums and churches and cathedrals so it is better to do the national parks and out of town trips.
The ship laid on free shuttle buses to town centres when they were not immediately outside the port which was a bonus we hadn’t expected.
The ship was kept immaculately clean inside with the crew continually cleaning walls, ceilings, stairs and washing carpets at night.
Embarkation was very slow but disembarkation was excellent, done by deck number.
The food on board was excellent and you could purchase special meals, eg a full Indian experience meal, surf and turf etc and we thought these were excellent value for money. The food was of a very good standard and this was maintained for the whole 71 days.
The waiters and hotel staff were brilliant and we couldn’t fault them. Any requests were dealt with very efficiently.
There were a whole range of activities including craft, acting, choir, ukulele, chairobics, creative writing, bridge, ballroom dancing, etc.
The cabins were mainly two single beds with one 4 draw chest with slide out writing table plus a five foot wardrobe. We got an unrequested upgrade to cabin 625 and ended up with 4 chests of drawers, an absolute bonus on a long trip but with a restricted view. Next door had the same layout but with a good view. There are no balconies on the ship.
The electric supply was a 220V socket with 2 round pins. There was also a 110V three flat pin socket and a dual volt shaver socket in the bathroom. The shower was good and on a flexi hose. There is a 2’ 6” (75cm) drying line across the shower for small items.
Suitcases can be stowed under the beds or in the wardrobe. There was a temperature control on the wall. We had a kettle, two cups and packets of tea, coffee, etc. A lot of cabins do not have this.
Overall, the ship is showing her age with few of the refinements of modern cruise liners. She is a graceful old lady and possibly the oldest still cruising. If you don’t mind a lack of facilities and want to get into some of the smaller ports then this could be the ship for you but CMV could do so much to improve passenger pleasure at virtually no cost with simple innovations like providing more cups and cutlery, senior staff mixing with the passengers and providing tourist information commentary at special locations.
Ours was very good apart from the restricted view, with four chests of drawers and a 3 door wardrobe. Only one 220V socket and one 110V flat pin socket. A hair dryer and kettle were provided.