Once again, we will note that this was a “maiden voyage”, so, we assume, many of the inoperable facilities will, surely, be up and running by now. We’d hope.
As what was, for it’s time, a fairly large ship designed for sailing in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, Columbus does come with a large central lido area, featuring two pools; one of which was filled but closed, and the other of which was empty. Neither looked particularly clean. Note, there is no retractable pool or indoor pool, so think about how important swimming is to you if you’re booking a sailing in Northern Europe.
However, in parts of the ship, CMV has gone all-in on some weird faux-Victoriana approach. In some places, notably the pub, this almost works, in others, such as the library, the combination of pleather chesterfields and “flame effect” electric fires, which I thought ceased production around 1979, is simply awful. I should also note that, while there were books in the library, they were locked away - can’t have passengers reading them and wearing them out!
Then, we have areas like the new, expanded, card room, that look slightly less inviting than the staff canteen at a poultry processing facility, littered with industrial hand-sanitzers.
Finally, there were facilities, like the new Observation Lounge, were locked shut, presumably to be finished.
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.
We're headed to Marseille to board the Costa Favolosa. Naming you ship "Fabulous", even if in Italian, is setting expectations rather high - follow along live to see if ours are met.
As ever, connectivity permitting, we'll be posting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Overall, we can’t see ourselves rushing back aboard Norwegian Jade or any other NCL ship. Certainly not in northern Europe, where their ships, built for the tropics, seem ill-equipped to accommodate people sheltering from the climate.
I suppose, it might be a different story in the Caribbean, but then we would say that out past experience with Carnival was far superior, so we’d go with that.
In short, not an actively awful experience, but when thinking of the things we look for in a holiday experience, we wouldn’t seek out:
Not a lot to be said about disembarkation from Norwegian Jade in Hamburg. NCL did a good job of dealing with both those of us ending our cruise and others who were remaining onboard for a longer voyage who had shore excursions booked in Hamburg.
Despite holding back in a lounge on the ship for a later disembarkation, we were still at the airport with hours to spare, despite the bad traffic in Hamburg.
The mix of travellers on Norwegian Jade was, I think, a bit different from what you’d find on other cruises leaving Southampton - it certainly seemed to have more in the way of American’s wanting to explore northern Europe than Brits on holiday. There were quite a lot of older Brits on board, but the majority of passengers seemed to be large American family groups, with the exception of the huge, aforementioned, Chinese tour group.
Given Norwegian’s, generally, lower marketing profile in Europe, my assumption is that their European sailings will carry more visiting American’s than other lines.
Go on a cruise,” they say “there’s something to do every minute of the day.”
Well, yes and no. Jade offers the standard production shows, some kids activities and the odd quiz, but we were hardly overwhelmed with options. And, so apologies, we’ve really don’t have much to tell you.
In truth, I’m sure that the situation would be different in the Caribbean and come back to an earlier point - this ship isn’t suitable for cruising in Northern Europe, there simply isn’t enough indoor space available when it’s too cold or wet to be on deck.
After a few months of inactivity (actually, crouched in a darkened room, rocking from side to side, trying to forget the horrors of Fred Olsen's Balmoral), we're off again.
This time, it's Royal Caribbean's huge Navigator of The Seas. Now, we are led to believe that Royal Caribbean has some sort of fancy internet service that's actually usable, so we should be posting live to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook - follow along!