Explorer Christopher Columbus famously sailed ‘the ocean blue’ in 1492. Now his namesake is doing the same thing more than 500 years later for Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
The 1,400-passenger ship Columbus became the fifth vessel to join the British independent cruise line when it was christened by broadcaster Angela Rippon in its home port of Tilbury, Essex, on June 8, 2017.
The 64,000-ton flagship has a long and colourful career. In 1986 it was ordered by Sitmar Cruises to be called My Fair Lady, but during construction the company was sold to Princess Cruises and the ship was christened in 1989 as Star Princess by Hollywood star Audrey Hepburn.
In 1997 it was transferred to P&O Cruises and named Arcadia by Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd. Six years later the ship had a refit and was christened Ocean Village by TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson. In 2010 there came another move to P&O Australia as Pacific Pearl before the ship was acquired and upgraded by CMV.
Here’s how the numbers shape up: Columbus has 11 passenger decks and 775 cabins, of which 75 per cent have an ocean view. There are 64 cabins with balconies and 150 others set aside for single travellers.
The ship offers five dining options, seven lounge bars, six entertainment venues, two swimming pools and deck bars, a wellness centre and a gym.
On the top Sun Deck is the circular Dome Observatory, which wraps itself round a nightclub performance area and dance floor. At the other end of the ship is a big screen and the Columbus Observation Lounge.
Below, on Deck 12, is The Grill offering relaxed steakhouse eating, Cappuccino’s cafe, a pool with bar, Gelato’s ice creams and Alfresco Grill. At the stern is the Plantation Bistro for buffet food plus the Fusion restaurant.
On deck seven is the lower level of the two-storey, 690-seat Palladium Show Lounge as well as a shopping gallery, photo and video centre. Taverner’s pub is a cosy venue to enjoy beers and wine close to doors opening out to the Promenade Deck. There’s also the main Waterfront Restaurant with a hidden room for the Chef’s Table private dining.
As well as an eye-catching three-storey atrium, the remaining decks offer a spa, hair and beauty salon and gym in the depths of the ship, as well as the opulent Raffles Bar. There are even two launderettes if you need them.
CMV prides itself on its small-ship, British experience, sailing from 16 ports around the UK and Ireland with Columbus and its other ships Magellan, Marco Polo, Astoria and Astor.
The christening of Columbus took place at the London Cruise Terminal with performances by mezzo-soprano Carolyn Holt and dancers Luke Miller and Ellie Beacock before a gala dinner, deck party and fireworks display.
Now fully in service, the ship offers a variety of itineraries from two-day breaks to Amsterdam to two-week voyages to Iceland, the Baltics, Canary Islands, round-Britain and Med.
Those wanting more time on board can enjoy a 46-day trip to Cuba, Central America and the Caribbean in October 2017. Even that pales in comparison to the epic 121-day world cruise beginning on January 5, 2018.
Columbus has packed in a lot of names, owners and experience in its 28 years at sea. With some gleaming new touches, it’s set for an exciting new chapter under the CMV flag.
So how was our experience during one night on board for the christening? Our room had a useful hanging space for clothes, plenty of drawers and a large picture window – as this is a ‘classic’ style ship most of the outside rooms, including ours, had picture windows or even portholes.
However, the lack of a balcony did mean we had some more space in the room and everything was comfortable and welcoming apart from a weak shower.
Evening entertainment in the nightclub was lively with a singing trio enthusiastically encouraging guests on to the dance floor. The group later appeared on deck and got everyone moving to the music.
And I could see myself spending lots of time in the Taverner’s pub, despite not getting the Spitfire beer I ordered. First world problems!
We enjoyed an excellent meal in the Waterfront Restaurant and I really liked the smart look of The Grill. In warmer weather, a drink from the pool bar while relaxing on a lounger would be beyond temptation.
Minor grumbles apart, this was a ship I could warm to…