Tag Archives: columbus

SMALL SHIPS; GOING SOUTH FOR GOOD?

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Black Watch at Flam. Photo is copyright of the author

When Saga Cruises takes delivery of it’s new Spirit of Discovery in 2019, that line’s current, popular Saga Pearl II will leave the fleet. Though no buyer has yet been announced, it is to be hoped that this charming, intimate ship will find another owner, and hopefully within the UK market at that.

One possible interested party could well be Cruise and Maritime Voyages, which operates the Astor on a winter programme of fly/cruises to and from South Africa and Australia over the autumn and winter. Saga Pearl II is the near identical sister ship to Astor, and there’s no doubt that the two ships would make a great working duo. And, by then, it has to be reckoned that the veteran Marco Polo might well be coming to her final sell by date around that period. The slightly smaller Saga Pearl II would make an ideal replacement, with her outdoor terraced decks and similar, intimate styling, so the logic is inescapable here, too.

Against that, Saga Pearl II has a passenger capacity of just over 500- significantly less than the 800 carried by the adults’ only Marco Polo. And the trend lately at CMV has been to buy more bigger, second hand ships than before. The line first acquired the 45,000 ton, 1,300 passenger Magellan, and then upped the stakes significantly this year with the introduction of the near 64,000 ton, 1,400 passenger Columbus. Though relatively intimate compared with the modern big ships of P&O and Cunard, these two ships are still respectively double and treble the size of the Marco Polo. And, though intimacy remains at the heart of the CMV philosophy, the size of the ships is moving inevitably upwards.

A similar, upward gradient has also taken hold at Fred. Olsen, whose last addition- the 43,000 ton Balmoral- is almost twice the size of the 24,000 ton Braemar, and much larger than either of the stable, popular 28, 000 ton sister duo of Black Watch and Boudicca. It’s interesting to note that all four of the Fred. Olsen ships have been ‘stretched’ with the addition of a new mid section. In fact, both Braemar and Balmoral endured the process when already under the Olsen flag.

Like CMV, Fred. Olsen has nailed it’s colours firmly to providing a more intimate, British oriented travel experience, aimed at the older passenger. And, while both lines have succeeded and gained much success with this approach, it’s difficult to see how they expand in the same market; quite simply, the availability of major tonnage is now becoming an ever increasing problem.

Fred. Olsen has failed to add any new tonnage since the Balmoral back in 2009 and, while all four of the fleet’s ships are undergoing significant refurbishments to keep them fresh and attractive, the line is clearly in need of a new ship, or perhaps two. For a long time, the line has cast a covetous eye on the 38,000 ton Prinsendam of Holland America Line. Up to now, the Dutch line has proved very reluctant to part with it’s widely admired ‘Elegant Explorer’. But that might be about to change.

Holland America itself is in the throes of a retrenchment, geared towards providing the line with larger, more luxurious and family friendly vessels. Two of the 50,000 ton, 1990’s built Statendam class vessels- Ryndam and Statendam herself- were recently sold off to the Carnival subsidiary of P&O Australia. The two remaining in Holland America’s portfolio-Maasdam and Veendam– are clearly on borrowed time, especially when Holland America takes delivery of the stunning Nieuw Statendam in 2018.

If those two do, indeed, go- and it is pretty certain that they will- then Holland America might also, finally, divest itself of the Prinsendam. Any of these three fine, well cared for vessels would make great additions to  Fred. Olsen or, indeed, to Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

Elsewhere, other potential pickings are slim. I’ve already mentioned the lovely little Saga Pearl II, but the 19,000 ton Celestyal Nefeli- the original twin sister of the Braemar– might also be in the mix. Her two year charter to Celestyal Cruises comes to an end this year and, thus far, the Greek line has shown no commitment to renewing it. It has returning tonnage of it’s own to hand at the end of this year, coming back from Thomson Cruises. But the latter line’s decision to retain the popular Thomson Spirit for one more season might yet cause Celestyal to rethink again about the Nefeli.

Other than the ships cited above, it seems that the only new route open for both lines is that of dedicated new builds. Indeed, this is the route that Celestyal itself is heading towards, with plans for a pair of new, 60,000 ton cruise ships. And, with the current, on going boom in the number of small sized expedition ships now under construction, builders are beginning to appraise the viability of more general purpose, smaller sized cruise ships, albeit to a limited degree.

That said, none of this is written in the sky, never mind set in stone. It’s food for thought rather than a set menu. But, as the next two years or so play out, the moving of chess pieces here and there should be fascinating to watch.

As ever, pray stay tuned.

 

 

 

COLUMBUS LAUNCH; SOME IMPRESSIONS

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Columbus. Photo impression courtesy of Cruise and Maritime Voyages

I was lucky enough to be a guest at the launch party for CMV’s newest addition last week. Columbus ups the ante for the British accented cruise line on a number of fronts for sure, but nowhere more so in terms of style and space.

Consider that the last addition to the fleet- the 45,000 ton Magellan- can accommodate around 1400 guests, and then understand that the near 64,000 ton Columbus can accommodate the same number of passengers. The spatial difference becomes obvious.

That translates into three principal, critical areas; larger cabins, a larger and more diverse string of public rooms, spread across more of the ship, and a larger, far more expansive amount of open deck space. And, while Columbus has been sympathetically updated and lovingly- nay, lavishly- refurbished across most public areas- it is the cabins that really come to the fore here.

For the first time, a CMV ship has quite a substantial number of balcony cabins, suites and mini suites. While these are not vital for the regular CMV acolytes, it is a big step forward for those who might not have considered sailing with the line before. In addition, the presence of some one hundred and fifty cabins dedicated and sold as singles will not hurt the company’s bottom line, either.

Food and service on board during our overnight stay was top notch. There were many familiar faces on board, recruited from both Marco Polo and Magellan, with the obvious, sensible intention to get the newest member of the fleet up and running in fine style.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the company’s original selling point of creating a unique, intimately styled cruise experience has been forsaken. Columbus feels more extensive than expansive, open rather than overpowering. Fittings and fixtures throughout are fine quality, and nowhere more so than in the oval shaped, three story atrium lobby. Suffused with the sounds of live, late night jazz, it was sheer bliss to just chill out in one of the supremely comfortable armchairs here. I can see this becoming very much the focal point of the ship during the evenings.

What else? Well, there’s a large, upper level open lido area, with two pools- one of which includes a dedicated, in pool sit up bar, plus a new speciality coffee venue located forward. The circular, upper deck dome offers 360 degree views over the ship, and doubles as the late night disco.

My favourite public room has to be the upper deck, mid ship sited Connexions Lounge. Flooded with light from the floor to ceiling windows that flank each side, it is full of raffish wicker furniture that helps to give it a really light, airy feel. Because of it’s location, it acts as one part winter garden, one part public thoroughfare for the ship. On the overnight stay we enjoyed on board, it was hugely popular.

Unlike the other ships in the fleet which sail from a series of ports around the coast of the United Kingdom, the Columbus will remain a year round, Tilbury based ship. This in itself is quite a coup for the Essex port, and the London International Terminal in particular. Transfers across from the capital to Tilbury are brisk, easy and relatively hassle free.

So, fair seas and sunny skies to Columbus; with a range of cruises lasting from three night continental samplers to a mind boggling, full three month circumnavigation of the globe next January, she offers a wealth of travel opportunities for all types of people with different tastes. The ship should be particularly popular in the Canary Islands, where some of her cruises will be sold as family friendly- another step forward from the lines’ previous, adult only sailings.

CRUISE AND MARITIME VOYAGES TO SAIL FROM FOURTEEN UK PORTS IN 2018

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The veteran Marco Polo, a mainstay of the 2018 Cruise and Maritime Voyages programme. Photo by Anthony Nicholas

In what amounts to the most ambitious programme of regional cruises ever offered by a mainland British cruise operator, Cruise and Maritime Voyages will offer departures from no less than fourteen UK departure ports aboard five different ships for the 2018 season.

Line voyages to and from South Africa and Australia for the premium range Astor begin and end in Tilbury, as does the entire  2018 season of cruises offered by new flagship, Columbus, currently on line for a scheduled UK debut in June of 2017.

New to the 2018 programme is a series of seven cruises, departing from both Portsmouth and Poole aboard the retained Astoria. This series of cruises extends the programme for the former, 1948 built Stockholm right through until almost the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, fleet mainstays, Magellan and the veteran Marco Polo will offer a series of regional departures from around the UK on itineraries ranging from two to fifteen nights, plus the occasional overnight, repositioning mini cruise.

The full list of UK departure ports is: Belfast, Bristol (both from the port and Avonmouth), Cardiff, Dundee, Greenock for Glasgow, Harwich, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle Port of Tyne, Newport, Poole, Portsmouth, Rosyth for Edinburgh, and London Tilbury.

It is also worth noting that the company provides many coach links that coincide with sailings from their various ports around the United Kingdom, making for easy connections with all the different cruises on offer.

In the main, Cruise and Maritime Voyages sail to Norway, the Baltic, Greenland and Spitzbergen, plus the Canary Islands in peak season. Shoulder season sees some attractive, short European coastal and city cruises, with winter heralding a series of short Christmas market jaunts. There is also a handful of cruises that take in the stunning, winter time Norwegian Lights.

The CMV fleet is, for the most part intimate, adult’s only ships, though some high season sailings aboard the new flagship Columbus will offer some child friendly sailings for 2017.

Early year sailings now include a mammoth, round the world circuit from Tilbury, an exotic Caribbean round trip, and an extensive itinerary that embraces the highlights of the Amazon.

IS THIS THE END FOR ASTORIA?

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CMV’s Astoria is leaving the fleet in 2017

Cruise and Maritime Voyages has formally announced that the Astoria, which began life in 1948 as the Swedish built Stockholm, will be leaving the fleet at the end of a 2017 charter to  a French company.

The ship- the oldest surviving cruise ship in the world- will operate a short season of cruises for CMV between March and the end of April, 2017 before embarking on her French charter. No future buyer has been announced.

The loss of Astoria from the CMV portfolio is not so surprising, given that a new flagship- the 63, 786 ton, 1400 passenger Columbus– is scheduled to enter service from Tilbury next June,

Though much speculation is already placing Astoria as being on a final, one way course to the scrapyard, this might not necessarily be the case. With the exception of her original, riveted hull, the entire ship was rebuilt over 1993-1994. Though technically sixty eight years old, almost everything on board is actually of 1994 vintage, and the ship is in astonishingly good condition. It is just possible that she might be picked up by another company.

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The Andrea Doria at speed on the Atlantic

In any event, this extraordinary ship has had a career that baffles the imagination. It is now just a little short of the sixtieth anniversary of the loss of the Andrea Doria on July 25th, 1956, after the as was then Stockholm rammed the Italian liner in thick fog off Nantucket.

As the last surviving, in service vessel of the original Swedish American Line, the Stockholm holds a special place in the hearts of maritime historians and ship lovers alike. It is pretty certain that her few remaining cruises will sell out quite quickly.

CMV COLUMBUS INAUGURAL SEASON CRUISES

Columbus-edit-quarterside-web (1)Following on from this morning’s announcement by CMV of the acquisition of Columbus- the former Pacific Pearl- the line has released details of the ship’s inaugural 2017 season.

Seventeen round trip cruises from Tilbury are listed for the ship. Beginning on June 11th and concluding in December, they range in length from a three night, August Bank Holiday weekender to Antwerp and Amsterdam, to a full blown, forty three night round trip to the Caribbean, Central America and Cuba at the end of October.

The maiden listed revenue cruise is another three night weekender to the continent, sailing on June 11th. In addition, Columbus will sail six and seven night cruises to Norway, a trio of nine to twelve night cruises around the British Isles, a Faroe Islands voyage, and a pair of twelve night Baltic cruise itineraries.

In her inaugural season, Columbus will venture as far north as Iceland, and as far south as Madeira and the Canary Islands.

For foodies, the 1400 passenger Columbus will boast no less than five different eateries. The ship will have ten bars and lounges, with live evening entertainment featured across six of these.

Prior to joining Cruise and Maritime, the 63,786 ton Columbus will undergo significant refurbishment in a Singapore dockyard. The current, on boatd Teen Centre will be converted into the CMV signature, maritime themed Columbus Club and library, the creation of a dedicated Bridge and Card room- Trumps and Aces- and the refurbishment of many cabins. In a first for the line, some sixty four cabins and suites will have private balconies.

In all, something like seventy five per cent of the 775 cabins will offer an ocean view.

All things considered, the acquisition of Columbus represents something of a coup for CMV. The vessel- still well remembered from her days as Ocean Village- should prove very popular with passengers wanting a ship with a large entertainment handle in surroundings that are expansive and comfortable, rather than overwhelming.

Stay tuned for further details as they become public.

 

 

CMV ADDS ANOTHER VESSEL TO FLEET FOR 2017

Columbus-edit-quarterside-web (1)In a very surprising move, Cruise and Maritime Voyages this morning announced the acquisition of the 63,786 ton Pacific Pearl from P&O Cruises Australia. The ship, to be renamed Columbus, will join the UK based fleet line up effective of June 9th, 2017.

Pacific Pearl was put up for sale as a result of the Australian company’s recent expansion, but an initial statement from Australia had spoken of an internal ‘transfer’ within the portfolio of the parent company, Carnival Corporation, rather than a third party purchase.

While it was known for some time that Cruise and Maritime were in the market for another ship, the acquisition of Pacific Pearl comes as something of a curve ball.

The ship is very well known as a former stalwart of the UK cruising scene. Originally conceived as the Sitmar Fairmajesty in 1989, she started life as the Star Princess for Princess Cruises when Sitmar sadly went bankrupt.  She was then remodelled as the Arcadia in P&O Cruises. Then, after a long and very successful stint as the popular Ocean Village of Ocean Village Cruises, the ship disappeared ‘down under’ a few years ago to become the first significant cruise ship dedicated to the year round Australian market.

Now she is coming ‘home’.

The French built ship will accommodate some 1400 passengers in her new role as Columbus. The vessel has some 775 cabins, 150 of which will be sold as dedicated singles.

Worthy of note is the fact that the ship has the first significant number of balcony cabins in the CMV fleet, including what will be some ‘fleet largest’ balcony suites coming in at 582 square feet. At the other end of the scale, even the smallest inside rooms come in at around 148 square feet.

Like her CMV fleet mates, Columbus will operate as an adults’ only ship. However, in a first for the line, Columbus will trial a pair of all age cruises over the peak holiday cruise season next August.

In terms of tonnage, accommodation and space, the Columbus marks a significant step up from the recently acquired Magellan and the veteran Marco Polo. And, with a trio of swimming pools and the company’s first ever forward observation lounge, the Columbus will up the ante considerably in terms of leisure facilities and entertainment venues, too.

Like her siblings, Columbus will be based in Tilbury. In fact, she will be the largest passenger ship ever to sail regularly from the famous Essex port, the nearest and most easily accessed cruise port to central London.

Look out for more here as itineraries are made available.