Sparkling Waters, Azure Seas

I had booked a bespoke CMV cruise consisting of two brochure cruises - 'back-to-back'. The first – 'Iberian Classics and West Med Highlights'  was sailing from Bristol Avonmouth to Livorno in Italy; and the second one followed on with a cruise to Venice, weaving through the Greek Islands and taking in mainland Turkey and Greece along the way. Also this second cruise would visit a Croatian island in the Adriatic. September was a good month to go. The Mediterranean sunshine beckoned.  As usual packing the luggage and dealing with all the necessary domestic issues needed some careful planning. I did not take my car to the port as the return journey to the UK involved a flight to Gatwick. I used a private taxi to take me to Avonmouth on Tuesday, Sept 8th. I was on board 'MV Azores' by noon. One's luggage is collected from you at the terminal and the next time you see it is outside your cabin. I had an ocean view cabin on  Deck 2. It was very comfortable and spacious and equipped with a bath in the en-suite. Digital TV showed films, news, location and the bridge webcam view.

After the mandatory safety drill, the ship was passing through the lock gates and out into the Severn Estuary by four o'clock. I met people that I knew from previous cruises and we enjoyed viewing the islands of Steepholme and Flatholme; as well as seaside towns like Clevedon,  from our vantage point on the aft deck. That night a tasty meal with fellow solo travellers; the Welcome Show; and clocks forward one hour.

Take a look below at our Cruise & Maritime Voyages infographic which provides you with interesting facts and figures that should help you decide why you should ‘set sail with Cruise & Maritime Voyages today.

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Having been lucky enough to sail on both Magellan and Marco Polo this year, I thought it might be a good idea to flag up some of the salient points of each ship for those undecided about which of the two they might possibly like to sail on next year.

First, a few general points;

You have to bear in mind that the two ships were built some twenty years apart, and for very different purposes. Lithe and beautiful, Marco Polo is every bit as much an obvious ‘Sixties Girl’ as, say, Dusty Springfield or Diana Rigg. Her long, lean lines and fine, low slung hull reflect that era to cosmetic perfection.

Magellan, by contrast, presents a chunkier, more vibrant profile, and her broad open decks betray the fact that she was built for open, expansive cruising from the start. That silhouette- so ridiculed back in the day- has filled out to resemble something more welcoming and almost matron-like with the passage of time. But she is still a very different experience on many levels to her storied sibling.

In terms of size, Magellan is twice as large again as the Marco Polo- 46,000 tons against 22,000- yet, at the same time, she carries just over half as many passengers again (1250 as against 800). Hence, Magellan feels more open and spacious than the Marco Polo, assuming both ships are full. And, on my two cruises, both ships were sailing at full capacity.

In terms of cabins, those aboard Magellan are of a more uniform, almost cookie cutter type of design. They are generously proportioned, and all around the same size- both insides and outsides- so that the real pricing difference lies largely in location rather than specifications. Magellan also has a handful of balcony cabins and- a real deal- some 125 rooms are set aside as dedicated single cabins on each voyage, at a supplement of just twenty five per cent of the twin rate. A smart move.

Cabins aboard Marco Polo have a lot more individual charm in general, great wardrobe space, and absolutely beautiful interior woodwork. They come in a vast variety of grades and, if booking one, you’ll need to check out the deck plans really carefully to ensure that you get exactly what is best for you.

In terms of dining, the Magellan has two main restaurants- Kensington and The Waldorf- that operate on a two sitting system for dinner. Interestingly, the opening times for both first and second sitting are staggered some fifteen minutes apart each evening.

Magellan- like Marco Polo- also offers a more casual, upper deck lido alternative for all main meals, including dinner. The newer ship also features an almost round the clock pizza corner, and a lunchtime burger food outlet located near the main, central pool area.

The dining operation aboard Marco Polo revolves mainly around the midships situated Waldorf. This beautiful dining room also offers dinner in two sittings, with open sitting for breakfast and lunch. As previously mentioned, the lido offers another main dining option. Outside, there is a separate deli area that serves up delicious hot sandwiches, wraps, and hog roasts on some sea days that are very popular.

On both ships, food and service is very good indeed, and most passengers are more than content with the overall preparation, content and delivery of the food on board. You will not starve on either ship and, in my opinion, you will often be both surprised and delighted. Both ships deliver an excellent, value for money product in this respect.

In terms of indoor spaces, it largely comes down to personal taste. The Marco Polo is, quite simply, one of the most exquisite jewels still afloat; a beautiful ship, suffused with Art Deco accented nooks and crannies that ooze cosy, old world intimacy and comfort. You soon get to know the staff, and vice versa.

Magellan, by contrast, has much better passenger flow, and a chic, Scandinavian flair that makes strolling her broad, open interior walkways a true pleasure. Long, expansive lounging areas flank a row of floor to ceiling windows, creating a long, languid space ideal for strolling and people watching alike.

The showroom on the Magellan also wins out over that on the Marco Polo. Hardly surprising, as it was installed as a purpose built, two story high auditorium for Vegas style stage shows when the ship was new.

Both ships feature good quality live music across a number of disciplines, from rock and soul to classical piano and violin duos. Sadly, neither ship has enough musicians on board. Each, for instance, would benefit from having a genuine live jazz music handle.

In terms of open deck space, the broad, capacious exteriors of the Magellan offer more expansive lounging spaces, with two separate pools and a trio of hot tubs. The centre pool, located in a kind of sun bowl, has both sunshine and shade on really fine days. Purpose built for cruising from day one, her open spaces are both diverse and delightful. And the aft facing garden area, located right aft, is as lush and elegant as that of any six star ship. It has proven extremely popular from day one.

But for sheer, symmetrical beauty and balance, nothing beats that triple tier of cascading sun decks at the stern of the Marco Polo. The extended arms of these seem to almost cradle passengers in an embrace of sun splashed teak styling, and the open expanse behind the popular Scotts Bar draws people with its magnificent, almost Olympian vista over the wake at any hour of the day or night. It remains one of the most compelling, totally alluring open deck spaces on any ship afloat, regardless of style, size, or presumed prestige. Quite literally, there is nothing else like it on the ocean.

In terms of other stuff, Magellan has a decent sized casino, where Marco Polo does not have one at all. There is a more expansive shopping gallery on Magellan, but the branded logo stuff is pretty much the same across the board on both ships.

So, hopefully, this should provide readers with some insight to help them make a choice. Personally, I find both ships to be good, solid and appealing vessels, each in their own way.

Of course, the Marco Polo is- and always will be- the true beauty of the pair, thanks to her harmonious marriage of Art Deco interiors to timeless, perfectly proportioned Sixties styling. The ship is as elegant as James Bond’s original Aston Martin and, in my opinion, every bit as iconic.

But Magellan, too, is winning people over. Her boxy, high sided hull is softened immensely by her new paint scheme, and her sharp, raked prow truly is a thing of beauty. And, with that graceful ‘whale tail’ funnel looming above a pert, perfectly squared off stern, the ship looks much more sleek and beautiful from most angles than many of the newer, far more modern new builds of late.

Both ships serve up a well programmed, carefully co-ordinated cruise and shore experience that is very good value indeed for the price. And, with attractive all inclusive drinks packages from £17 a day as part of the optional on board menu (more on short, two and three day taster cruises), you can budget to sail on either- or, indeed, both- without breaking the bank.

Your cruise, your choice. Enjoy ;-)

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There was a time when ex-UK cruises were viewed as something which people went on who were afraid of flying or too old to undertake a journey by air. In the same way, flying was seen as part of the holiday experience, jetting off to arrive in foreign climes in a matter of hours.

Times have changed and the once pleasurable flying experience is, for most of us, an endurance test! It begins with parking the car; transferring to the terminal with all your luggage; checking in; queuing through security and then walking to the gate (at what seems to be the opposite side of the airport). The whole process can take hours before you have even stepped onto the plane. And then when you do arrive the other end, there’s that awful sinking feeling when the carousel stops and there’s no sign of your luggage.

By contrast, a cruise departing from a UK port can be simplicity itself. Most of CMV’s guests live within a 50 mile radius of their chosen departure port and with more and more UK ports developing their cruise terminals, ex-UK cruising is becoming more and more convenient. On arrival at the port, luggage is whisked away by porters. The next time it is seen is outside the cabin door. And when cruising, unlike flying, there is pretty much no luggage restriction. None of that weighing your case and deciding whether you really need those extra pair of shoes; take as many pairs as you like!

At CMV, we operate a staggered check-in arrangement according to cabin position so that waiting to board the ship is kept to a minimum. A short walk will lead you directly on board where you will either be escorted or directed to your cabin. A quick freshen-up, a light embarkation meal awaits and your holiday has begun! Compared to an air holiday, there really couldn’t be a simpler, less stressful start.

If you book on a British based cruise line like CMV, the on board currency will be sterling, so there’s no need to worry about exchange problems. The bars and shops will all be priced in pounds. What is more, we cater mainly for British guests, so the on board language is English. Another great advantage of ex-UK cruising is being able to easily reach destinations like Norway and Iceland where your ship is your hotel. These countries are extremely expensive to visit and stay in and would cost a fortune on a land based holiday. Also popular are short two to six night cruises combining two or more European cities in one short break.

Ex-UK cruising with CMV is growing as more and more people discover the hassle free way to a great holiday.

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I have never been on a cruise before, let alone travel by sea, so as you can imagine, I was very excited to be experiencing my first cruise, even if it was for only two nights.

On a warm sunny morning, I met Magellan at the port in Tilbury, and I have to admit, she certainly looked bigger than what I had imagined. As I entered the ship I was instantly struck by how lavish the ship was. I was greeted gracefully by my cabin steward and couldn’t wait to see my cabin. I must say, it really didn’t disappoint, with a modern bathroom, the layout of the cabin was fantastic. I was given a cabin with a large window, giving me an impressive view of the beautiful blue ocean that we glided on. Before I embarked on exploring the ship and what it had in store for me on my travels, I unpacked and took my time and got comfortable with my new home for the next two nights.

Being a regular gym goer, it was the obvious stand out room that had to meet my expectations; thankful, it didn’t disappoint! Having the opportunity to actually workout for the next two days was marvellous (crazy, I know!).

As we sailed the ocean, I spent time and enjoyed the open deck experience with my fellow passengers, soaking up the sun and taking the time to relax in the Jacuzzi, whilst indulging in a cold drink. A truly wonderful experience.

We arrived at our first destination, the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. Our shore excursion was a walking tour around this wonderfully beautiful city and with the weather being as glorious as it was, walking for three and a half hours didn’t sound too bad. Many locals also took advantage of the warm afternoon by taking their boats out and spending the rest of the day on the water.

Our tour was tremendous, with the tour guide providing a very educational and funny history of the city as well as demonstrating some of the landmarks of the Dutch capital. Amsterdam was brilliant, a beautiful city with a great history, I loved it.

We arrived in Hamburg on the 2nd day, unfortunately, it was time to say goodbye to the stylish Magellan as I was due to jump on a plane back to the London. Luckily, I did get to see how amazing Hamburg really is on the way to the airport, definitely a city worth coming back to.

My first cruise, it was a magnificent adventure. If you’re the sort who loves exploring different countries and cities with ease, then cruising is for you, it takes the hassle out of travelling entirely. In fact, cruising is just that – an introduction to new places. I would definitely recommend cruising (particularly if you want a little introduction to different cities and then exploring it in-depth later on. Although it was only a 2 night cruise, I truly couldn’t believe I actually got the time to fully explore two great cities in the world, Amsterdam and Hamburg in one weekend!

As a food lover, having the chance of having catering included in the package was just a dream. The buffet was amazing; the evening dining was one I couldn’t miss. Absolutely one of the best dining experience I have ever had, great staff, great company, along with an outstanding menu dressed to perfection.

A huge thank you to everyone on board Ms Magellan for making my two nights unforgettable. Thanks for the adventure, hope to sea (see what I did there) you soon.

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Sunday, June 7th 2015 saw the commencement of a splendid eight-night cruise to the Scilly Isles and the Continent from Bristol (Avonmouth). I travelled on 'Cruise and Maritime's MV Azores – a stylish old cruise ship that can take about 550 guests on cruises out of several UK ports. I like the smaller ships as they are more welcoming and friendly in my book. It was good to get away from home having secured the house; informed the neighbours; and set the central heating and electrics to holiday mode. Arriving at the dock gates a little early, I was advised to come back at the appointed time. So I went into the village of Avonmouth and sat in the park for a while. Better to be early than late considering I first had to drive down the M5. Anyway, I parked my car in the allotted car park near the cruise terminal and embarkation was swift and efficient. When, at 3.45 pm, I was escorted to my comfortable spacious cabin on Aegean Deck, I found my luggage had already been placed outside my door. Safety drill at the muster stations was performed soon after. Then dinner. I was on a table for four. Being a Platinum class Columbus Club member, there had been a welcome card; and a bottle of champagne, in an ice bucket, in my cabin. I shared the champagne with my fellow diners. The Welcome Show gave us a taste of the treats to come. MV Azores left the dock - through the lock - at sunset; and headed off down the Bristol Channel.

After a good night's sleep and a hearty cooked breakfast in the Lotus Buffet, I attended the Port Excursions presentation. It is always good to attend to get all the gen. Also there was a get-together for solo travellers hosted by the lovely CMV Social Hostess, Georgia Shaw. The day was sunny and soon we were travelling past the jagged rocks surrounding the Isles of Scilly. We dropped anchor midway between St. Mary's and Tresco. Many folk visited the Abbey Gardens on Tresco. I went in by tender boat to Hugh Town on St. Mary's and spent a few hours exploring and walking round the headland beyond Old Town. I met people who had come over for the day on the'Scillonian ship from Penzance. Back on board Azores that evening, actress Pauline Daniels performed the first half of her Shirley Valentine monologue.

High winds were forecast for the vicinity of Guernsey so the Captain decided that tendering would be risky there. Instead we visited Cherbourg on the Cotentin peninsula of Normandy. With friends from a previous cruise, I walked round the town and visited the church, botanic gardens and submarine museum. I returned to our ship at 4 pm as the wind was brisk and it was getting rather chilly. Dinner that night was by special invitation to the Captain's Table where we enjoyed the Hotel Director's hospitality and bonhomie. Other attendees were celebrating birthdays or wedding anniversaries or simply being splendid nonagenarians. Pauline Daniels performed the concluding part of her Shirley Valentine monologue. It was much enjoyed by all. Later that night the sea was rough. We were all glad to enter the estuary of the Seine and the quieter waters of the meandering river. I arose at 5 am to watch our ship pass beneath one of the mighty suspension bridges over that stretch of the river.

The day following that particularly stormy night was warm and sunny. I was on the 'new' CMV excursion – day trip to Paris. Our escort guide, Barbara, was marvellous. It took us two hours to reach the city and the coach parked close to the Eiffel Tower. We boarded a river cruise and spent the next hour admiring the bridges and buildings of Paris while we went up beyond Notre Dame and back round the other side of Isle de la Citee. Time for some refreshment back by the Eiffel Tower before we boarded the coach for a brief tour. We had a photo-stop at the Trocadero; then up round the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysee. Getting off the coach by the Opera House we then had two and three quarter hours to explore at will. With other passengers, I walked by the shops to the Madeline Church, the forecourt steps of which were bedecked with red, white and blue petunias. We then walked via the Place de la Concorde to the Tuileries Gardens. One can rest by the lakes there on comfortable chairs. I left my new friends to walk alone to the Louvre to see the glass pyramid there. Thence via Place Vendome back to our rendezvous point near the Opera House. I did not buy a 9000 Euro wrist watch from Tiffanys or from any of the other exclusive shops that I passed along the way. The coach took us back to the ship in Rouen arriving at 7 pm. After dinner I watched the excellent 'From Russia with Love' show in the Calypso Show Lounge.

The ship was berthed in Rouen overnight and we had the morning to explore that city. So much fine elaborate Norman architecture to see; and also the astronomical clock was well worth seeing. Having taken the complimentary shuttle bus from the ship to the city earlier, I walked back along the riverside crossing back and forth and three bridges to get a better view of first the city then MV 'Azores'. The afternoon was a highlight of the cruise as we gracefully travelled the 65 mile distance to Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine. Wonderful scenery all the way. Limestone cliffs, wooded hillsides and neat Normandy towns flanked the broad and meandering River Seine. We passed beneath three splendid suspension bridges. In the distance, we glimpsed the white limestone ruins of Jumieges Abbey. That night the entertainment team put on their show 'Magic of the Musicals' which was nothing less than 'sensational'. Such amazing talent all round.

The following day we were 'alongside' very close to the pretty harbour town of Honfleur. The Garden of Personalities and the beach beyond that are well worth the stroll. That evening we enjoyed the Gala Night Dinner – including the Baked Alaska' Parade. Then to the Calypso show lounge for the entertainment - 'ABBA – Dancing Queen – so good I saw it twice.

Next was Amsterdam which we reached in late afternoon on the following day. With two energetic companions, I walked to the central basin and took a one hour, 10 Euro, canal cruise. Thereafter we glimpsed the Red Light District but preferred to escape the rowdy 'stag' and 'hen-party' groups there and make our way over to see Anne Frank's house. No time to visit the museum there but we did go in the cheese 'museum' and tulip 'museum' across the canal – both being 'shops' in all but name. Then, by walking at a brisk pace, we managed to get back to the ship by 8.30 pm and I enjoyed the pirate-themed dinner in the Olissipo restaurant.

The ship was overnight in Amsterdam and armed with a city map I was off by 8.15 am to further explore the city. I went to Dam Square, then viewed Rembrandt's house before having coffee on the rooftop terrace of the Nemo Science Centre. I popped into the impressive modern library before returning to the ship, where I cashed in the last of my Euros for Sterling. I had a good fish and chips lunch on the ship. The Entertainers put on a cabaret in the afternoon and also hosted a Q. & A. session which was most interesting. We heard about their backgrounds, theatrical training and lifestyles and people expressed appreciation of their talents. We left Amsterdam mid-afternoon and were soon in the North Sea. That night, after dinner, 'Rock & Roll Dreams' was the show. I participated in the Blankety Blank quiz which followed. I won a Cocktail of the Day for my efforts. And Mother Nature laid on a show of her own with a spectacular sunset just while we were passing by and between the host of oil and gas rigs in that area of the sea..

Monday 15th of June was our last day. We docked early in Hull. Then we were transferred back to Bristol by coach. Using the M1, M42 and M5 we made it back to the Avonmouth cruise terminal at about quarter to three having stopped at a couple of service stations along the way. Time to bid goodbye to friends old and new; and then to drive home to Gloucestershire after a wonderful cruise.

 

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The cruise industry’s multi-billion pound contribution to the British economy continued to grow in 2014, according to a Europe-wide report released today by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The cruise industry’s direct contribution to the UK economy, including items such as goods and services purchased by the cruise lines, and the salaries of their employees, grew to £2.247 billion.

The industry created around another 800 jobs in the UK in 2014, taking the total number to 71,222, and accounting for a fifth of all cruise industry jobs across Europe. The UK remains one of Europe’s biggest cruise markets, with a 25.7% share of passenger numbers in 2014 – a year in which 1.64 million British passengers took an ocean cruise.

The port of Southampton retained its position as Europe’s largest embarkation and disembarkation port. However, the London Cruise Terminal, Port of Tilbury, is also seeing a large jump in cruise traffic. 2014 passenger traffic totalled 54,000 and the port is forecasting that this will almost double to 100,000 passengers in 2015, with further growth also expected in 2016.

Other ports predicting an increase in cruise traffic include Liverpool and Bristol Avonmouth both used by CMV. Cruise traffic to islands around the UK mainland is forecast to grow strongly too with cruise traffic through Guernsey port predicted to jump 20% to 130,000 and through Orkney by 17% to 79,000 passengers.

Andy Harmer, Director, CLIA UK & Ireland, says: “Today’s report reaffirms the UK’s position not only as one of the world’s major cruise markets, but as a country which continues to reap multi-billion pound dividends from the cruise industry. Across the UK, ports and the cruise lines that serve them are playing an ever-increasing role in boosting the economies that surround them.”


Written by Mike Hall.

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Ferdinand Magellan was one of the great explorers of his era. He was the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean and played a crucial role in the first circumnavigation of the world.

Born in 1480 into a noble Portuguese family, Magellan’s parents died when he was still a boy. In 1505, he enlisted in the fleet of the Portuguese viceroy to the Indies and spent the following years involved in a series of expeditions in India and Africa. In 1511, he was with the fleet that conquered Malacca on the Malay Peninsula, gaining control of the most important trade routes in the region. He also explored the islands of present-day Indonesia as far east as the Moluccas (also known as the Spice Islands).

After a disagreement with the Portuguese king, Magellan went to Spain and enlisted the Spanish king's support for an expedition to reach the Moluccas by sailing westwards to gain a share in the valuable spice trade for Spain. In September 1519 he set out with a fleet of five vessels and, in spite of a mutinous crew, rough weather, scurvy, a desperate lack of provisions and unknown waters, Magellan’s expedition became the first to sail from the Atlantic ocean into the Pacific Ocean. The passage was made through the straits at the southern point of South America which were later named after him.

Now with only three ships, Magellan sailed on into the Pacific with rapidly diminishing supplies, which led to many of the crew dying of starvation and scurvy. They then sailed on to the Philippines and eventually one ship from the fleet reached Spain in September 1522, having completed the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.

Magellan himself did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed after becoming involved in a local battle in the Philippines. However, the expedition reached a region of Southeast Asia which Magellan had reached on previous voyages traveling east. Magellan thereby achieved a nearly complete personal circumnavigation of the globe.

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In Marco Polo’s 50th years she has seen many different ships but this is the first time she has met P&O’s newest addition to their fleet, Britannia.  They met in the beautiful Norwegian town of Flam, which gave their meeting a spectacular backdrop.

Thank you to Karen Bradbury for the image

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The morning of March 20th is marked by one of nature’s grandest sights – a total eclipse of the Sun. Such events happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, casting a shadow down onto a portion of the Earth’s surface. Unfortunately, the shadow’s track is narrow, so to see the full eclipse you’ll need to travel north to either Svalbard or the Faroe Islands. That has not deterred veteran eclipse chasers who booked up flights and hotels years ago, but the rest of us who will be stuck with a partial eclipse should not be too discouraged. While nothing compares to the magnificence of a total eclipse, a partial eclipse, too, is full of interest and the timing of this one should ensure that it is enjoyed by many.


The closer to totality one is, the more of the Sun’s disc will cover the Moon. In Aberdeen, for example, an eclipse, which begins at 8.32am, will peak at 9.37am with more than 93 per cent of the Sun obscured, whereas those as far south as London will make do with 84 per cent eclipse. In both cases, the show is over by 10.45.


To guarantee you have the best possible vantage point to witness this memorable experience, travel aboard either Marco Polo, Azores or Magellan (on her maiden voyage!) that, as part of their Solar Eclipse and Northern Lights itineraries, will cruise to the Faroe Islands and position themselves so that passengers enjoy the best position to view the solar eclipse.

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Early January was miserable and cold. A Caribbean cruise sounded 'just the ticket'; and I booked on CMV's debut voyage for their recently acquired and renamed ship - Azores.  It was formerly the Athena but has had many names since being launched as the Stockholm in 1948. Packing for a month away; setting up the house; and informing neighbours were the next tasks – the usual routine. Checklists help!

The smaller ships appeal to me as a solo traveller. 450 passengers were aboard Azores. By the end of the cruise I would get to know at least twenty on Christian-name terms. The marvellous CMV staff introduce solo travellers to each other at informal get-togethers. Cards, chess and Scrabble players arrange informal meetings too. There are also craft sessions for interested passengers.

For logistical and operational reasons the cruise embarked from Plymouth rather than Avonmouth. 'Time and tide wait for no man'. I had arranged to park my car at Avonmouth Docks and cruise guests travelled in comfort from there to Plymouth by coach. Checking-in was swift, easy and well-organised. Time to explore the ship. A pink 'mackerel' dusk sky heralded the start of our grand voyage. After the safety drill – and dinner with wine – we left the Devon coast about 10.15 pm. Tug boats assisted our departure while the harbour pilot kept a close eye on things from his boat.

The following two days were sea days. The port excursions talks were excellent. Time to sign up for a few, The 'ABBA' tribute show was very good as was the 'Rat Pack' tribute show the following evening. The highly talented Richard Sykes was our Cruise Director on this trip. I enjoy playing Scrabble and enjoyed at least 30 very enjoyable games over the course of the holiday. On the evening of the second sea day', we enjoyed our first formal night. Dinner Jackets or lounge suits for the men; glittering couture for the ladies. Introduction to our congenial Portuguese Captain at the pre-dinner cocktail party, where champagne and canapés were served. All the senior officers were introduced on stage in the Calypso Lounge. The Captain told us there were 220 crew/staff of 21 nationalities.

Next day, the 29th January, we were in Lisbon all day. I walked three miles through the city in the morning then joined an organised coach tour in the afternoon visiting Sintra, the Guincho coast and the resort of Cascais. The weather was misty up at Sintra. We passed through Estoril on our way back to the ship. Richard Sykes performed a 'Neil Sedaka' tribute show in the evening. I later watched the James Bond film 'Skyfall' in the on-board cinema.

A full sea day lay between us and our next port of call, Funchal on the island of Madeira. During the sea day – artist and guest lecturer Alan O'Cain gave his talk on Portraiture. It was fascinating. That night the guest comedian performed his first one-man comedian show which entertained us all.

So to Madeira. The organised tour – 'A Touch of Madeira' was great. Several photo-stops at high view points then some free time at the town of Ribeira Brava. Funchal itself was clean and bustling. We began our six day crossing of the Atlantic after lunch. More Scrabble; the usual tasty dinner; then a show entitled 'A Night at the Opera'. The lady singer was Polish; the lady violinist was Ukrainian. Puccini music was played. Also popular contemporary numbers such as 'A Stranger in Paradise'.

So what's it like to be at sea for six full days? Well there is always plenty to do on a CMV cruise. Quizzes, games, craft, travel, art and 'creative writing' lectures. And meals every few hours! Time for more port excursions talks. Great shows like 'From Russia With Love'; a 'Shirley Valentine' monologue by actress Pauline Daniels; an 'Elton John' tribute show by the indefatigable Richard Sykes; another comic show by Gerry Graham. I participated in the game-show 'Just a Minute' and found out just how difficult it can be to avoid repetition, deviation or hesitation when talking on a given subject. I also enjoyed regular games of Scrabble now played outside as the weather was warming up. Clocks were moved back one hour four times during our westward voyage. A swim in the ship's pool was enjoyable. A crew member demonstrated fruit carving; another - cocktail making. Much juggling of bottles. None was dropped. Approaching the Caribbean we had our first deck parties – enjoying great dancing and live music from the band.  Reggae music was played. 'Kingston Town' was well received as was 'Walking on Sunshine'. My groovy moves even made it on to the cruise DVD !

On Saturday, 7th February, we finally arrived in St. John's, Antigua. I walked round the market for a while then joined fellow guests in hiring a taxi to take us out to the exquisite Jolly Beach – and then come back and collect us three hours later. The swimming there was heavenly and in the grounds of the Jolly Beach Hotel I saw a hummingbird taking nectar from a hibiscus flower. The sight of its iridescent plumage, high-tempo wing-flapping and long curved beak will stay with me forever.  There was a 'Fifties' themed deck party on board that evening. Sailaway was at midnight.

Next day St. Barts and St Maarten. Tendered into Gustavia, walked over to St Jean's Bay past the air-strip. Enjoyed a swim there near the Eden Rock Hotel before walking back to Gustavia to meet friends on Shell Beach.  A tender back to our ship. Lunch on board while we moved over to St Maarten. There I took an organised coach tour of the French side of the island stopping at Marigot for a while. That night we enjoyed a 'Sixties' music deck party. We left Philipsburg shortly before midnight. Then to St Kitts where I took an open-sided taxi/charabanc up to the beautiful Romney Manor gardens then back to the Nevis viewpoint on Timothy Hill. The show onboard ship that night was 'Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor'. The following day we were in St. Lucia and friends and I hired a taxi to take us to Choc Bay for a day of swimming and sunbathing. The Celebrity Summit and P&O Azura were in port in Castries, The 'Seventies' deck party completed a very happy day.

Onward to St. Vincent where I was booked on an all-day trip to visit the coast of that island and then transit the 15 km channel to the neighbouring island of Bequia in the Grenadines. The weather again was hot and sunny. We were aboard a twin-hulled pleasure boat that could power along at 18 knots. We stopped at idyllic beaches. I viewed the underwater angel fish, pipe coral and waving frond coral using the provided viewing masks/goggles. Many people availed themselves of the provided snorkels and fins – or flippers as we used to call them. We enjoyed a grand hot chicken lunch with rum punch near Port Elizabeth, Bequia before swimming later off the exquisite Princess Margaret Beach. Royal Clipper was in Admiralty Bay and made a grand sight. We tendered back to the ship in the evening.

Thursday, February 12th, we arrived in Scarborough, Tobago. Friends and I hired a taxi to take us out to the Pigeon Point beaches and nature reserve, It was 35 degrees C in the shade that day. We swam and then relaxed beneath the palm trees. Richard Sykes performed his 'Elvis Night' show that night. The talent of the man knows no bounds!

St. George's on the beautiful island of Grenada was our next port of call. The organised coach tour in the morning was entitled 'Discover Grenada' and we visited a cocoa processing station; the Grand Etang Rainforest Reserve; Annandale Falls; and Fort Frederick - as well as seeing the diverse range of spices and fruits growing everywhere on the island. After lunch on the ship I walked the four miles to Grand Anse, had a swim and took the water taxi back to St Georges. On the beach, I chatted to Canadian holidaymakers as well as Azores crew members who were enjoying some well-deserved time off.  A 'Totally Tropical Deck Party' back on board ended an energetic day.

Then to sunny Barbados. With eight other passengers I orchestrated a taxi tour which took in the Highland viewpoint and the dramatic Atlantic coast at Bathsheba before delivering us back to Carlisle Bay near Bridgetown for a very welcome swim. From there, it was a two mile walk back to the ship. Some took a taxi. It was Valentine’s Day and that night the show team put on a show built round popular love songs and melodies.

Farewell to the Caribbean and another six days at sea before we reached the Azores…aboard the good ship  MV Azores.

Clocks were put forward one hour every other day. The Art lectures by Alan O'Cain were great – we even had a poetry session. My contribution included the words 'Gigantic Atlantic' which seemed appropriate. By now, many friendships had been made aboard. And there were so many on-board activities that there was no time to get bored. I participated in the 'What’s My Line?' panel show but my mime for 'Architect' was easily guessed. We enjoyed a Columbus Club cocktail party and I was also invited to the Staff Captain's table at dinner. Very exclusive! A lamb shank main course with red wine was really delicious. There was also another organised get-together for the solos group where more complimentary beer and wine was served. 'The Magic of the Musicals' show was great one night in the Calypso Show Lounge. We eventually reached Ponta Delgada in the Azores on February 21st. I walked round town in the morning and joined an organised excursion to Ribeira Grande after lunch. Unfortunately, there was no view of Fire Lake up in the highlands as the cloud cover was low. The visit to the pineapple plantation, which I have done before, was good. The complimentary pineapple liqueur and pineapple chutney samplings were very welcome.

The following day we were at sea. A severe storm was forecast for the Western Approaches so we diverted to Lisbon to let it blow over. This meant we had another great day in that beautiful city. Explorations on foot with fellow passengers included visits to the Flea Market, the National Pantheon and then, after much walking through the narrow streets and alleyways, a visit to the Santa Justa Elevator, the top viewing platform of which, commands fine views over the city centre. The day after Lisbon the sea swell up past Portugal was not too pleasant for a while. CMV passengers on the follow-up cruise to Norway were being delayed by a day so a decision was made to go into Portland Docks near Weymouth where we could disembark and where they, the group for Norway, could get on board. All worked out well and comfortable coaches drove us back up the M5 to Avonmouth Docks near Bristol, where many of us had parked our cars. We had enjoyed beautiful bright, clear, sunny weather for our return back to dry land in Dorset. I was back home in Gloucestershire by 8 pm.

So, another marvellous cruise. Lots of scope for exploring all the islands and cities visited. New friends to make on board. Familiar faces from previous cruises – appearing as staff or crew members or lecturers or tour guides. Everybody fortified by excellent food provided with style and panache by the maitre d' and his very able staff.

If you don't want to travel on one of those impersonal-looking 'mega-ships', try the friendly, intimate environment of a CMV cruise.

“Listen very carefully; I shall say this only once……”

Pint sized pocket firework and heroine of the ray-zis-tance, Mimi La Bonq, will be joining Cruise & Maritime’s venerable Marco Polo on a special, six night Great European Cities and Rivers Cruise, sailing from Tilbury on October the 24th.

The cruise is one of a number of special voyages lined up to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Marco Polo, and is sure to be very popular.

In addition to being able to say ‘Gid Moaning’ to Mimi- real name Sue Hodge- you will also find on board both Boycey and his lovely wife Marlene, the Rhett and Scarlett of the hugely popular sitcom, Only Fools And Horses.

This cruise has a great itinerary in itself, calling at both Amsterdam and Antwerp, before making overnight stays in Rouen and Honfleur. This allows passengers to dine ashore in the evening if they wish, or perhaps to sample some of the local nightlife.

Although it is unlikely that they will find Mimi returning to her old profession of waitressing in the cafes of the French towns, it would be quite in character for the spiky blonde force of nature to cook up some intriguing adventures all by herself.

Famed for spending many years serving ‘under’ Rene Artois, ‘ero of the ray-zis-tance and late proprietor of the Café Rene in Nouvignon in the popular, long running BBC sitcom, Mimi became one of the heroines of the epic struggle against the ‘Cherman’ occupiers. In this role, she appeared as everything from a hunch backed monster in a haunted castle to a flying nun, a habit she never quite got over.

However, Cruise & Maritime have been able to provide assurances regarding certain other related characters…..

Lovers of a traditional Gin and Tonic tipple might be rather relieved to hear that Madame Fanny La Fan, the one time toast of the Follies Bergeres, will not be roused from her bed to join the cruise and potentially empty the ship’s entire supply of gin over her breakfast corn flakes each morning.

And, her lovely daughter- Madame Edith- will, alas, not be able to entertain passengers on board the Marco Polo with her various unique and wildly eclectic vocal stylings.

On the other hand, a report that General Von Klinkerhoffen will be boarding the Marco Polo at Honfleur to make a personal tour of inspection has yet to be denied.

And, should anyone feel the need for some in depth, local sightseeing, it is possible that Lieutenant Gruber could just take you for a spin in his little tank.

By Anthony Nicholas.

Remote, wild and starkly beautiful, the Faroe Islands are one of northern Europe’s best-kept secrets. Few travellers have heard of this collection of 18 rocky outposts sitting off the north-west coast of Scotland halfway between Iceland and Norway – and even fewer know where they are. But their dramatic landscapes covering nearly 550 square miles ensure that once experienced, they are never forgotten.

 

Visit the Faroes and you will find nature at its very best; a place where sheer cliffs tower majestically above the untamed North Atlantic Ocean; waterfalls tumble down steep rocky slopes; and crystal clear brooks bubble across lush meadows dotted with shaggy mountain sheep. This pristine environment is a birdwatcher’s paradise, attracting thousands of seabirds in huge noisy colonies gathered along the cliffs, with around 300 species including puffins, guillemots and the Faroes’ national bird, the oyster catcher.

 

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Travelling through these islands not only provides stunning views of the coastline, but perhaps an opportunity to spot seals diving and frolicking in the surrounding waters, and pilot whales and pods of dolphins carving through the waves. But while the Faroes are a veritable goldmine of flora and fauna – helped by their position at the heart of the Gulf Stream that blesses them with a relatively mild climate – there is more to the islands than this. With a history spanning more than 1,000 years from when the first settlers are thought to have been Irish monks who arrived around 750AD, to be followed by Norwegians and Vikings, the islands are full of Nordic stories and old traditions.

 

Today the Faroe Islands are a self-governing region of Denmark that makes its money from fishing and tourism. Colourful settlements containing houses topped by eye-catching traditional turf roofs are dotted across the island landscapes, but with a population of just over 48,000 you could never call the Faroes crowded. On the Isle of Streymoy sits Torshavn, a picturesque hub full of brightly-coloured buildings and known as one of the world’s smallest capital cities, with a well-preserved old town.

bursting with culture. It is the perfect complement to the stunning surroundings that promise to stay in your memory long after you sail away.

 

Sara Macefield

Marco Polo 50 Golden Years logo REVIn 2015, Marco Polo will be celebrating her special golden anniversary and fifty memorable years of ocean voyages and cruising. During the past half century Marco Polo has sailed the seven seas and all the oceans of the world visiting every Continent from Antarctica to the Arctic.

We are truly proud to be the custodians of such a fine classic ship which is steeped in maritime tradition and adored by so many of our passengers. To mark such an auspicious occasion, in 2015 we will be operating a special commemorative programme of cruises including special themed nights and dinners, quizzes and a nostalgic trip down memory lane to the swinging sixties and 1965, the year Marco Polo was launched.

Head of Marketing is Mike Hall who has been with CMV since the start. Mike has a wealth of experience in the travel industry as a travel agent, call centre manager, training, sales and marketing. We ask Mike about how he sees the CMV cruise product.

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Q As a marketing man, how do you make sure that CMV stands out from the crowd and what do you feel is its USP (unique selling point)?

We specialise in offering no-fly cruising holidays with convenient departures from a wide range of UK ports. Our smaller sized classic and more traditional style ships provide a more leisurely and friendly ‘home from home’ style of cruising. These vessels are accessible to more interesting and remote ports of call making our itineraries the top reason for guests choosing to book with CMV.

Q What is the biggest challenge of your role?

The cruise market is highly competitive, so having a clear but flexible strategy is important and then staying focused and organised to ensure that it is delivered on time. Marketing these days is a bit like spinning plates with so many different mediums. Digital marketing via computer, tablet and smart phone means that we can now deliver news and offers instantly when compared with more traditional print based advertising.

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CMV Baltic Cities & St. Petersburg Cruise August 21st  to September 2nd 2014

The Baltic beckoned; and an enticing CMV itinerary visiting six overseas countries in twelve days 'fitted the bill to a tee'.. 

I booked the trip. The usual prelims and packing ensued, working from checklists and trying to anticipate all one's needs. Formal dinners would be part of the cruise so appropriate clothes and shoes needed to be packed. 165 miles lay between me in Gloucestershire and the 'Marco Polo' at  London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury. The M4; a very busy M25; and the Dartford Tunnel allowed me to cover the distance in about three and a half hours.

Dockside parking at Tilbury was pre-booked.  Having first offloaded my luggage, I was escorted to the parking area then brought back to the terminal on the shuttle bus. The friendly face of our Cruise Director Richard Sykes greeted us at Check-in. A health declaration was signed; passport checked; and hand luggage, jackets and metal accoutrements X-Ray scanned by Port Security. I was on board 'Marco Polo' by quarter after Midday and found my luggage outside my internal cabin on Amundsen Deck. A friendly member of the ship's 'hotel staff' had escorted me to my cabin and my cabin steward for the cruise introduced himself to me. I had a solo occupancy twin-bed cabin. The shower room facilities were immaculate and well-arranged as usual. It was a sunny day in Essex. Safety Drill next; then dinner. We departed Tilbury and headed east out along the Thames Estuary at 4 pm. Lots to see – wind farms, Southend pier, shipping; and wartime forts. The 'Welcome Show' aboard that night featured Greek, Irish, American, Scottish and English songs and some dancing. Jolly and upbeat. Time to move the clocks forward one hour. There were 820 passengers and 329 crew aboard 'Marco Polo'.

 

Flam

By now embraced amidst the stunning scenic sprawl of the Norwegian fjords, the Marco Polo sailed slowly through the night toward our next rendezvous with Mother Nature. Sometime in the early hours, while most of us were still sleeping, the anchor went down just off the small town of Flam,located deep in a branch of Aurlandfjord.

Brilliant sunshine greeted me as I padded up on deck for an alfresco breakfast with a side order of sublime visual splendour on all sides. Plump, fluffy clouds hung like becalmed, ghostly galleons in a powder blue sky. Ranks of pine tress marched down to the still, silent edge of the fjord like ranks of Grenadier guards. Ashore, coaches sat at the edge of a vast, rolling meadow carpeted with a riot of multi coloured fauna, waiting to take the passengers on their day’s adventure.

I have always considered Flam to be one of the true highlights of any Norway cruise. It has an air of surreal, unhurried calm that seems to affect everything and everyone around it; a Norwegian Brigadoon, writ large in glowering granite, gushing waterfalls, and a dozen different shades of dazzling greenery. It never fails to grab the heart like a vice.

After a sunny, fun filled day at sea, the sudden stillness that greeted our arrival in Eidfjord was one hell of a stunning contrast. Low, rolling hills stood against the backdrop of an ominously leaden sky. Nearby, the German cruise ship Aida Luna- which I had last seen in Bermuda three years earlier- ghosted past us to the one available pier in town. The Marco Polowould be tendering passengers ashore today.

Stopped at anchor, and with her tenders slowly being winched down to water level, the sheer, implacable vastness of Norway seemed to surround the Marco Polo in a kind of uneasy embrace.

Eidfjord is actually part of the vastly larger series of inlets, small harbours and waterways collectively known as Hardangerfjord. One of the ‘greatest hits’ fjords on the Norwegian cruise circuit, the Hardangerfjord unwinds in a seventy five mile long, serpentine sprawl. In places, it has a depth of almost 2,700 feet; an almost unimaginable body of enclosed water.

The first full day of our Norway adventure aboard the Marco Polo dawned sunny and calm, with a gently rolling gunmetal swell kissed by fitful whitecaps. The early morning sun sparkled on the royal blue hull plating and washed across the serried tiers of teak decks at the stern. The coffee was hot, and the whole day sparkled with benign possibilities.

With her deep draft and relatively broad hull, the Marco Polo rode out the often capricious North Sea swell with an almost effortless ease. From time to time, she rolled gently to port and starboard, as if attempting to shrug off some imaginary seabirds that tried to cling to the rails. On the lido deck at the stern of the ship, breakfast was being served. The tables around the aft pool were soon full.

If you’re looking for a day full of sensational, show stopping diversions and a whole conga line of time consuming, money eroding gimmicks, then the Marco Polo is not for you. Instead, you’ll find the library is open, arts and crafts classes are taking place in the various lounges, and the first lectures on the upcoming ports of call are taking place.

It was a surreal, brilliant cruise. The storied, veteran Marco Polo and an eight night sweep through the Norwegian fjords at the height of the summer season. A serene venue and a sensational ship. What more could anyone ask for?

Well, how about a twenty piece big band that laid down a blistering sound track of everything from Duke Ellington to platinum chip disco? Big band, big ship. A combination as natural as Rogers and Astaire, or Goffin and King. A perfect fit, almost symbiotic. Yet to experience it out there, as the Marco Polo surged through a conga line of implausible, incredible northern nights, was something else.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Norway many times, and always enjoyed the experience immensely. But this cruise had something else. For, with her unique outdoor cascade of tiered, semi circular decks, the Marco Polo offered a string of amazing vantage points from which to drink in the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful country.