This cruise itinery ticked a number of bucket list items- route, destinations and activities such as cruising the Panama Canal and South Pacific.
We caught the coach from Victoria Bus Station to Tilbury (prepaid and trouble free), where we endured a long wait for checking documentation, travel insurance, visas and medicals. After review we were quickly processed and headed to our cabin where our luggage was already at the door.
We toured the ship and found all the bars and lounges plus common areas which had been updated with an appealing decor. The teak outside decks of this 30 year old ship gave a good feel with the top level walking track grassed in plastic turf.
We checked out the bistro and used the dining room most evenings (set table allocation) where we were placed with other guests also departing in Sydney. The waiter service was excellent and friendly, presenting good quality 5 course meals (if you wanted all courses). Presentation was in the main to a very high standard, but quality of meat cut didn't always suit me.
We tried the Grill twice (fee applies) and the Chefs Table (fee applies) as well as Fusion (Indian) (fee applies)- the highlight was the Chefs Table for me.
The Ships Management facilitated a few Cruise Critic activities which we requested and invited and received management attendance (Captain,Hotel Director and others). Room allocation was as requested for our 30 or so members. The Cruise Director Tony provided a "late night interview" along with other guests, and explored what Cruise Critic was all about. It seemed that British cruisers and perhaps some management were not that familiar with Cruise Critic but by the last event more interest was being shown.
Entertainment by the ships Dancers and Singers was first class, some visiting acts we didn't bother with attending the second night. Guest presenter Paul and his wife gave travel/location. They were both excellent and thoroughly enjoyable.
One cruiser and his wife undertook Thai Chi and fitness/relaxation on a voluntary basis and this was amazingly popular with everyone such that three sessions were run during the day along with many other activities offered by the ship. Full credit to Ships Management in permitting these additional activities. Our own activites were holiday based (we needed to relax), we did lots of reading, naps, eating and drinking! The spa area was refreshed at the start of the cruise and the gym had ample resistance weights and treadmills which were well used but not so much by the writer.
We took a VIP drinks package and explored many of the wines and cocktails as part of the package We also enjoyed barista coffee most days (50% discount) and looked forward to that.
We did a number of excursions some with the ship, some simply a walk around the coastal drives, and some onshore excursions (self managed). The Gatun Lake Panama Canal excursion was ordinary due to timings. Credit to the ship and a surprise to us, they refunded portion of this excursion cost due to the issues experienced by the late coaches.
The self arranged boat tour which included swimming with sharks and stingrays, viewing mantra rays and local lunch on an island plus island tour at Bora Bora was fantastic
As we cruised, we had to divert form one port to another due to rough seas and we started to hear about Covid -19 issues, with our first and only port rejection-Tonga. We had a scheduled Cruise Critic meeting where the Hotel Director explained the situation was quite fluid and how the ship was adapting to the changes.His frankness was appreciated.
This was our cruise to relax on after a busy year or so and made much more enjoyable by interacting with our fellow cruisers and crew. It was also fantastic to meet up with our Cruise Critic members after about 18 months of blogging and it felt like we were old friends when we came together in Taverners Bar for the first time. One or two had done thorough Port research before departure and this was invaluable to us when we were planning excursions. Thanks especially to them (unnamed but they will know when they read this)..
So our cruise was 50 nights- the balance of the cruise is 70 nights. The ships return to UK is of interest to us because of the lovely people we met on board. These are troubled times for the industry and we hope that you all get home safely.
Thanks for the great cruise Columbus and CMV.
Our cabin level was upgraded from Cat 9 to Cat 11 (top accommodation floor on Port side with window-without balcony). The cabin was quite comfortable but a little dated with more than ample storage space. Our cabin steward (Gun from Bali) for the next 50 nights introduced himself and made clever towel animals throughout our cruise as well as attending to our needs.