First - let’s talk about parking. Having pre-booked port parking through CMV, I was slightly underwhelmed by the experience. On entering the port, it’s not clear where to park, so we drove to the terminal, there we were relieved of our luggage before being directed to the CEMEX concrete yard.
The pre-paid car park turned out to be a section of a concrete depot where cars were parked tightly and haphazardly. Oh, and the shuttle bus back to the terminal was not what you’d call frequent.
CMV do seem to assume that their clientele are two aged/stupid to use any sort of online check-in, so there is more time spent registering credit cards and such like than with other lines, where’s that’s all done in advance.
Still, once in the Tilbury cruise terminal, boarding itself was very swift, so kudos to CMV for that.
Launched in 1989 as the FairMajesty for Sitmar Line, the ship was actually renamed Star Princess before entering passenger service, reflecting Princess’ acquisition of Sitmar. After the thick-end of two decades with Princess, Carnival Corporation transferred her to P&O in 1997 and renamed Arcadia after a refit.
More change came in 2003 when she was extensively re-configured to become the first vessel of Carnival’s new OceanVillage brand, which aimed to provide more informal, cheaper, cruises to the UK market. This refit included the splitting of suites into multiple smaller cabins, converting some staff accommodation into passenger cabins, a catering setup based around all-buffet dining and, oddly, a steel arch over the pools to enable acrobatic displays. To this day, the steel arch remains.
To the shock of few people, Ocean Village did not prosper and Carnival announced in 2008 that the brand would shutter, with its two ships transferring to P&O Australia, after yet another refit. So, from 2010 to 2017, this ship sailed as Pacific Pearl, before, finally, ending service with the various Carnival lines in March and becoming Columbus, the new flagship of CMV.
It should be noted that, while we didn’t plan it, the cruise we took was the ship’s maiden voyage as Columbus and, to be honest, she was not ready - there was still extensive work being done and clear issues with plumbing and air-conditioning - the corridors were lined with buckets sat atop, already soaking, carpets. Furthermore, despite a dry dock in Singapore then a long voyage back to Europe, during which further work was supposed to be undertaken on interiors, this last refit seems, at best, cosmetic.
The cabins retain dated furniture and, incredibly, stained and sun-bleached curtains that are clearly in ocean village colours. Where upper berths have been removed, there has been no effort to patch up the holes they’ve left in walls and the ship is littered with broken electrical ducting, literally held together with masking tape.
Pools and hot tubs remained empty and unused throughout the voyage, while lounges were either not yet open (Observation Lounge) or regularly used for staff meetings (Hampton’s).
So, it’s probably best to view the subsequent sections of this review through the lens of “it’s probably fixed now”, but given that CMV didn’t make any effort to even accept that there was a problem or apologise, I wouldn’t expect standards to have raised to far.
Formed in 2009, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, or CMV, is a relative newcomer to cruising. The line has offered cruises on a variety of older ships, but has started to introduce some slightly more modern vessels. The current fleet includes the Astoria (built in 1948 as MS Stockholm), the Marco Polo (built for the Baltic Shipping Company of the USSR as Aleksandr Pushkin, in 1945) and The Astor (built 1987).
More recently CMV has added two ships of a (slightly) more modern design to the fleet; Magellan (originally Carnival’s Holiday of 1985) and Columbus, which has been well known the the UK market in previous guises as the Star Princess, P&O’s Arcadia and Ocean Village.
CMV targets customers who maintain a curious fascination for “traditional” cruising and are repulsed by such modern devilment as spacious balconies, a choice of food and cold beer. Why, you might then ask, would people who are sceptical of any cruising undertake such a voyage? Well, CMV do offer convenience and frugality - they sail from a wide range of UK ports and are less costly than a lot of other holiday options. CMV do also provide a wide variety of journeys, from short breaks to full world-cruises, including an annual sailing to and from Australia, should you want to visit but fear the flight.