CMV’s illustrious, 1965 built Marco Polo will embark on an epic, 31 night round trip to Canada next year, recalling the heyday of transatlantic crossings, and her own, original career as the Russian ocean liner, Alexsandr Pushkin.
The voyage proper begins at Edinburgh’s port of Rosyth on August 30th, 2019. Subsequent embarkations take place at Newcastle’s Port of Tyne on August 31st, and at London Tilbury on September 1st.
After a call on the coast of Southern Ireland at Bantry, the Marco Polo then spends five nights crossing the Atlantic, before making landfall on Canada’s east coast.
The fabled ship then explores Canada’s eastern maritime provinces, before making a stately procession along the stunning St. Lawrence Seaway. Ports visited en route include St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown, Gaspe, and Montreal.
The centre piece of the trip is an overnight stay in gorgeous, French accented Quebec, before the ship begins the long voyage back to Europe.
En route, she visits such popular Canadian staples as Saugenay, Baie-Comeau, Havre St-Pierre, Corner Brook, Cap au Meules and, finally, Sydney.
From there, the Marco Polo makes a leisurely, five day eastbound crossing before making landfall on the coast of Southern Ireland again, this time at Cork. One last sea day brings the ship finally back into Tilbury on the morning of October 1st, 2019.
A classic trip on a classic ship, and Canada at it’s absolute best in the fall. What’s not to love?
It’s a question that bears asking, in light of CMV’s audacious new move in acquiring the 55,000 ton Pacific Eden, effective as of April, 2019.
The newer, much larger ship has a far greater passenger capacity than the Astor- more than double, in fact- and is much more spacious, as well as having a substantial entertainment handle. Her 55,000 tons compares to around 19,000 for the Astor. And, as well as being much more spacious, the new ship also brings a raft of some 159 in demand balcony cabins and suites, where Astor has only a handful attached to the premium suites.
And she is to be employed on exactly the same basis that Astor currently is- that is, for the German market in Europe during the summer, and for the Australian market ‘down under’ each winter.
It’s an interesting conundrum, one made more so by the fact that Astor’s near identical twin sister ship, currently sailing for Saga Cruises as Saga Pearl II, will also be up for sale at about the same time.
Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that some astute, savvy buyer- hi there, Gerry Herrod- might snap up both ships? Time alone will tell, of course.
Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has acquired a sixth vessel, in the shape of the Pacific Eden, from P&O Cruises Australia for delivery next year. The ship, originally built as the Statendam for Holland America Line in 1994, is one of a quartet of near sisters built for the line after it’s takeover by Carnival Corporation.
The ship will continue in the CMV tradition of being named after a famous explorer; in this case it could be Amerigo Vespucci, Vasco da Gama, Henry Hudson, or Pytheas. The actual name will be determined by a poll of travel trade members, as well as those members of the line’s on board Columbus Club of frequent travellers. It will be formally announced this coming March 20th.
The renamed ship will be delivered to CMV at Singapore in April 2019, where she will undergo refurbishment and livery change to prepare her for her inaugural season with the company. Provision will be made to accommodate some 1,250 passengers over nine decks. This includes approximately one hundred single cabins, a move in line with the current fleet’s existing roster.
The ship will see some pretty substantial employment in a new, dual role. In the summer, she will sail from the German ports of Kiel and Bremerhaven for Transocean Cruises, the German arm of CMV.
Each winter, she will sail ‘down under’ to operate cruises for the Australian market, with departures from both Adelaide and Perth’s port of Fremantle.
In between, repositioning voyages between Australia and Europe will be marketed by CMV in England, North America, and other areas of potential traffic growth.
The coming of such a highly styled ship definitely raises the CMV profile, especially on the international stage. Known for having large indoor cabins, the ship also boasts some 149 balcony cabins and suites.
Interesting days at CMV, for sure. As ever, stay tuned for updates.
It’s a question worth asking, in line with a trio of developments I’ve noticed in the cruise line industry over the past week or so. Pray consider the following:
On February 27th, the highly respected Cruise Industry News website (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) ran a story about an upcoming, five week refit for a cruise ship at Spain’s Navantia Shipyard. The yard’s commercial manager commented that ‘this is going to be very heavy on the hotel side, as the vessel is being sold and modified to the new owner’s target market’.
While the website shied clear of naming any actual ship, the accompanying headline photo shows a ship in dry dock that is unmistakably either the Horizon or her sister ship, Zenith. Both are currently with the Spanish operator, Pullmantur.
Meanwhile, Celestyal Cruises appear to have an as yet unspecified charter for the Majesty, which will make a final, three day sailing for the line from Piraeus on April 27th. It would seem that negotiations have been going on for some time. Indeed, the ‘Celestyal’ prefix was never added to the ship at all after her long term charter to Marella Cruises ended last November.
And today, Genting Group announced the end of passenger sailings for it’s Superstar Libra, effective as of June 27th (see previous blog). The ship will be redeployed ‘to facilitate other arrangements for Genting Hong Kong’.
What do all of these three ships have in common, apart from a ‘destination unknown’ factor?
Well, all are in the 42,000-46,0000 ton range. All three have a passenger capacity from around 1400 to 1700 passengers. And all three are of a size that is becoming increasingly rare in the mainstream passenger ship market.
Could we be looking at the creation of a new, destination focused cruise line here?
Time will tell but, if so, then this is something that the mainstream cruise market is crying out for right now.
Genting Group has announced that it’s 42,000 ton, 1,480 guest Superstar Libra will cease public cruises operations for Star Cruises, effective as of June 27th this year.
The move is said to be a redeployment ‘to facilitate other arrangements for Genting Hong Kong’. Beyond that, there are no other details regarding a sale or redeployment at this stage.
Reading between the lines, a transfer to uber-luxury Crystal Cruises- another Genting brand- seems unlikely. And, with Genting Cruises itself bringing much larger tonnage on line, a transfer there seems unlikely also.
More likely, an outright sale or long term charter is the most likely option for the popular veteran.
The ship, built in 1988 as the Seaward for Norwegian Cruise Line, was distinctive as being that company’s only true new build throughout the 1980’s. At 42,000 tons she was a one off ship, built by Wartsila in Finland.
She was later renamed as Norwegian Sea to keep her in line with her fleet mates, before being hived off to then parent company, Star Cruises, in 2005.
Restyled again as the Superstar Libra, the ship underwent a substantial refit to make her suitable for the Asian market. She then undertook Star Cruises’ one and only (thus far) deployment out of Asia, when she appeared in the Mediterranean for one season. It was an experiment that the line has not repeated since.
The vessel currently sails on a programme of three and four night cruises that allow for embarkation in either Port Klang, Penang, and Phuket.
The area now known as Durban was originally discovered by Vasco Da Gama back on Christmas Day, 1497. It took me somewhat longer than that, but Boudicca afforded us a level of comfort and technology that made it well worth that wait.
Durban, or ‘Durbs’ as it is known to many, is the third most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town, and it is actually the country’s busiest port. It was first colonised by the Dutch, and then cajoled into the British sphere of interest. That said, a lot of the old Dutch influences remain intact to this day.
We had two days and one night in this beautiful sea city, where the waters of the South Atlantic collide with those of the Indian ocean to create a thunderous cavalcade of surf that drums that city’s broad, honey coloured sweep of beach front.
As the capital of the KwaZulu-Natal region, Durban boats the largest concentration of ethnic Zulus in the country. And it also has the largest collection of settled Indians outside of the mother country itself.
Being mostly devout Hindus, many Indians still worship the snake. They create random, ornate, tiny little ‘snake temples’ at intervals along the major roads. And, while they are perfectly at liberty to worship whoever (and whatever) their hearts desire, this was one place of worship that I fully intended to steer well and truly clear of.
This rich mix of Zulu and Hindu heritage makes Durban a pretty spellbinding place, in and of it’s own right. We’ll visit a traditional, ,native Zulu village later in this series of blogs but, for now, I preferred to check out the beach scene on day one of our two day stay here.
As to that beach scene, it is still much more laid back and less intense than in places such as Barcelona or Miami. The long, beach side swathe of cafes, bars and restaurants that characterise those places are notably absent here. There are a few venues dotted at intervals, of course, but the prevailing vibe- at least in daytime- is pretty relaxed and genteel in comparison to those other places I mentioned.
That said, the Durban beach waterfront is a really pretty place, with serried tiers of slender palm trees that are often whipped into amazing contortions by offshore breeze. Beautifully manicured swathes of hibiscus and oleander spring up in random, lush clumps that stand like sentinels against the powder blue sky.
The surf seems endless, like waves of charging cavalry coming on all the time. And, if you’re one of those hardy, intrepid souls that enjoy shark cage diving, then this is truly the place to get ‘up close and personal’ to a whole armada of ferocious Great Whites. Not for me, thanks: the only bite I like is from my beer.
And speaking of bites, those with adventurous taste buds should definitely try the local ‘Bunny Chow’- a spiky confection of a half loaf, hollowed out, and then filled with varying degrees of the local curry. It’s another contribution from the local Indian community. While they serve this dish- and variants of it- all over South Africa, the original concoction is native to Durban itself.
So, with this brief intro into a very beautiful and vibrant city sampled and photographed, it was back to the clam, air conditioned serenity that is Boudicca for some welcome respite from the sun, and a chance to draw breath before the coming day’s adventure…..
I’ve been lucky enough to sail on many great, fine and famous ships in my time. But, like many other writers, I retain a kind of wistful nostalgia for the ones that ‘got away’, or went way before my time.
If I could go back in time and travel on any ship, then the Normandie would be at the absolute top of my list. But, my word, the Ile De France would not be far behind in the pecking order. And here’s why…..
After World War One, as the shattered ocean liner fleets began to rebuild, there was no desire amongst any of them to resume the great superliner races of those pre-war days.
That era- between 1907 and 1914- had seen an ever larger trio of super ships enter service for Cunard, White Star, and the Hamburg Amerika Lines, respectively. Those nine vessels were, collectively, the largest moving objects ever built.
But, by wars’ end the Titanic, the Lusitania and the Britannic were all gone. The trio of German giants were surrendered as war reparations to the victorious allies but, even then, the feeling was that the surviving big ships were no longer good economic role models.
As they rebuilt post war, all of the lines went for smaller, more cost effective new builds that were typically in the 20,000 ton range. It was a move that fitted the cautious mood of a world still reeling from the after effects of the most disastrous single conflict in human history.
But, in 1927, all of that changed with the birth of one stunning new ocean liner; a ship that would become one of the most adored and legendary vessels ever to cut salt water.
The Ile De France.
At 43,000 tons, the new French Line flagship was more than twice the size of any new build, but still not quite as large as the likes of the ageing Berengaria, Olympic and Majestic. And her knife like bow, counter stern and trio of smokestacks made her look like a hangover from the Edwardian era. Externally, she was as conventional as they come.
But her interiors were entirely another matter. Here, the French simply threw out a rule book thought almost sacrosanct for nearly a century.
Where every large liner before her had tried to emulate the look of some Gothic theme park, grand Edwardian hotel or Roman palace, the Ile De France was sheathed from bow to stern in the new, Art Deco style of interior design that was then all the rage in Europe. It was a look that catapulted her light years ahead of the opposition.
Instead of overly fussed, dark wood panelling, the Ile De France was a slick, streamlined riposte, wrought large in glass, marble, and hammered bronze. Her vast interiors boasted simple lines, elegant curves, bold new geometric furniture and avant garde carpets, right throughout the ship.
This trendy, totally different take on interior design was allied to the matchless standards of food and service for which the French Line was already justly renowned. The first class dinner menu on the Ile De France listed no less than two hundred and seventy five different items nightly. Table wine was always free in all classes, at both lunch and dinner. The passenger lifts came complete with scarlet jacketed bellboys, who were simply there to show Monsieur or Madame to whichever part of the ship they might wish to visit.
Though most of her passengers would be American, announcements aboard the Ile De France were always made first in French. The company insisted that you were actually in France from the moment that you crossed her gangways, whether in Le Havre, Southampton, or New York.
And the travelling public loved her. Regular passengers on the Atlantic crossing were prepared to wait an extra week just to be able to sail on her, rather than the competition. In the 1930’s, she carried more first class passengers than any other ship afloat.
She never went for the speed record, which was regarded as pretty passe in the 1920’s. It would take the return of the big German liners to re-ignite the race for the Blue Ribband a couple of years further down the line.
She was sailed with great panache as well. When one English passenger mentioned to her captain that the Ile De France was ‘not the biggest’, he replied sweetly: ‘No, madame, but then neither is the Ritz’.
And, way beyond her sheer magnificence and sense of panache, the coming of the Ile De France triggered the second great era of superliner building. After her sensational debut, every line wanting to corner the cream of the North Atlantic trade had to look to their laurels.
In Germany, her success triggered the construction of both the Bremen and the Europa. Mussolini’s Italy would also launch it’s own stunning, twin riposte, in the shapes of the Rex and the Conte Di Savoia.
These four ships in their turn acted as lightning rods for the construction of the two greatest liners of them all; Normandie and her great British rival, Queen Mary.
Collectively, these seven ships would dominate the 1930’s ocean liner trade. And the Ile De France herself would sail on until as late as 1959, becoming a decorated war heroine in the process. In July 1956, she rescued the survivors of the Andrea Doria after her collision with the Stockholm off Nantucket.
If ever any ship was a true game changer, it was surely the Ile De France. Every passenger ship that followed was influenced by her in some way or another. She was a truly beloved legend, and one of the most immortal ships ever to sail anywhere.
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