We are regular cruisers and have just returned from a 2 week cruise to the Baltic & St Petersburg on the CMV Columbus. We chose the cruise because of the itinery and the price. It is the first time we've cruised with CMV.
The pre cruise communication and organisation at the port on departure was excellent. The ship was clean with all the basic facilites you need on a ship. The cabin was bigger than onther basic inside cabins we've had before and had lots of storage space for a 2 week trip.
The quality of food in the mani restaurant we thought was great and very well presented.The fixed sitting system was fine but the 5.45pm-6.15pm entry window for 1st sitting was early. We tried both the speciality restaurants which we also found to be excellent. We had the VIP package so the restaurants were discounted by 50%. This discount made them good value. We didn't try the Chef's Table as we were told the 50% discont didn't apply to this for some reason. The range of drinks available within the VIP package was good for cocktails & beers. Included in the package were the "signature wines". However this was only 4 white wines, there were reds aswell. Only 1 of these being a chardanney which my wife felt was very limited.
There were shows evry night in the show lounge but these we found to be very disappointing in quality. When compared to what we experienced on Thomson, P and O & Royal Carribean felt rather amateurish. The show lounge was also very small with poor views unless you were prepared to arrive 60 minutes ahed of show time to bag the front row central seats. This was a major disappointment.
Like all ships we've been on the Columbus had a self service restaurant. Compared to other ships of a similar size/ capacity it was small with a limited range of each day. Our teenagers often found it difficult to find something to eat. Only on 1 day of the 14 were they able to get chips from here at lunch. You may view this as a positive. The biggest issue though was the fact that it was always extremely difficult and often impossible to get a seat, especially at breakfast. If you were able to get one it was then a challenge to get cutlery. This was largely due to the limited opening times. Breakfast regularly ran 7.00am-9.30am. The lasted it was on until was 10am. There was no chance of a lie in if you wanted breakfast. We didn't feel that the timings had passengers at the heart of planning. We were all on holiday after all. The self service restaurant closed at 9.pm. From here there was no food available until breakfast, with the exception of a tray of canapeas brought round to bars by waiters in the style of a cocktail party. This lack of late night food would be a significant issue for many based on how popular the late night food offer has been on other ships.
The ship offered a wide range of excersions at each port. The destinations services was accurately called Excersion Services. There were no port maps available and they only wanted to give info on the ships excursions. We found these to be very expensive. Eg the 2 day Grand Tour of ST Petersburg was £320 each. We booked a comparable tour with a local company (Alla Tours, who were excellent) which saved us £780 in total for a group of 6.
On the final day of the trip poor weather resulted in us being 3.5 hours late arriving at Tilbury. Clearly completely beyond the control of CMV and just one of those things. However, they didn't inform us of this until 10 minutes before we were all due to vacate our cabins at 7.30am. We were told that we could stay in cabins until 9.30am. By this time most had vacated. We returned to the cabin to find that the cabin steward, who hadn't been told about the chnge, had not surprisingly, stripped the cabin and cleaned it ready for the new arrivals. Would you have asked to use the cabin again? As we were still on the ship and disembarcation had not started by noon and with a 3 hour drive home we went up to the self service restaurant to eat before we left. Here the manager told us that service wouldn't begin until 2pm and actually said that he'd been told "We're not feeding those getting off, only those getting on". We felt this was profits over customer care.
Overall we had an enjoyable cruise made so by the friendly, efficient staff and the excellent itinerary, especially St Petersburg. However, we wouldn't rush to cruise with CMV again as unlike any other companies we've sailed with it didn't feel like the customer was at the heart of the comapies philosophy. It was more a case of the customer having to conform to the CMV way. Dissappointing
Cabin was specious, with lots of storage. Cabn sterward was excellent.