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.

Valentyn Zhukov - Captain

Valentyn ZhukovBorn in 1952 in Crimea, Captain Valentyn Zhukov graduated from the Odessa High Engineering Marine School initially working on various cargo vessels from 1980 to 1988. He is married to Liliya and has a 20 year old daughter Victoria.

His career progression saw him rise up through the ranks from Junior Officer through to Chief Officer. From 1989 he started working on passenger vessels initially in the position of Staff Captain and after gaining his licence as Deep Sea Captain in 1992 he was initially promoted to the position of Navigational Captain.

In August 1997, Captain Zhukov had risen up the ranks to gain his first position as Master on M/V Astra 2.

The midnight sun is ones of natures phenomena that takes place during the summer months in locations north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle when the sun is still visible at the local midnight.

  • Around summer solstice (June 21 in the north and December 22 in the south) the sun is visible for the full 24 hours.
  • The number of days per year with potential midnight sun increases the farther towards either pole one goes.
  • Countries you can see the midnight sun Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) Iceland, Finland, Norway, Greenland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States (Alaska),
  • In Norway, Svalbard the northernmost inhabited region of Europe, there is no sunset from approximately 19 April to 23 August.
  • At the poles themselves, the sun only rises once and sets once each year.
  • During the six months when the sun is above the horizon it spends the days continuously moving in circles around the observer, gradually spiralling higher and reaching its highest circuit of the sky at the summer solstice.

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.

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 (thought to have been Irish monks) 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.

National Geographic Traveller magazine has rated the Faroe Islands as one of the world’s most authentic and unspoilt destinations.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages pride themselves with a British traditional style cruise experience this includes fruit and ice carving demonstrations on board. No CMV cruise would be complete without the ‘Baked Alaska Parade’.  As waiters and chefs parade through the dining room holding their famous dessert complete with sparkling firework on top, guests usually cheer whilst twirling their napkins.

In the hit musical Hello Dolly the characters Cornelius & Barnaby sing the line in the song ‘Put on your Sunday clothes’ – We’ll see the shows at Delmonico’s. It was here in New York’s famous restaurant the dessert was first used to celebrate the USA buying Alaska in 1867. The idea being it was meant to look like an igloo made of ice cream, cake and meringue.

On board CMV ship’s Baked Alaska is always popular. Executive Chef Basheer Vettickal on board Marco Polo shares his secret for a dessert for 10 people that can give you a standing ovation.

Early June 2014 and this was my first visit to Iceland. What better way to achieve that than in the comfort of CMV's sleek and elegant cruise ship – 'Discovery'. With some 700 guests on board, it was a marvellous way to see the scenic delights of Iceland's fjords and view some of the interior of the 'Land of Fire and Ice'.. Only having to unpack one's luggage once is always a bonus. The itinerary took us to Iceland via the Outer Hebrides and the Faroes.  Thereafter we cruised round Iceland in an anticlockwise direction, taking in three of the smaller ports before our last stop at the capital, Reykjavik.

The cruise industry’s contribution to the British economy grew sharply in 2013, as did the number of UK jobs it supports, according to a report released on 16th June 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 by 6.5% to £2.54 billion in 2013 from £2.38 billion the year before. The cruise industry’s direct contribution to the combined economies of Europe grew by 4.7% to £13.2 billion in 2013 with the UK economy the second highest beneficiary after Italy. The overall contribution of the cruise industry, including indirect items such as spending by cruise line suppliers, to the economies of Europe jumped 22% to £32.1 billion.

The Football World Cup kicks off in Brazil on Thursday 12th June and all England fans will be watching on Saturday 14th June when England play Italy. Their first match will be played at the Arena Amazônia in Manaus, Brazil. Cruise & Maritime’s cruise ship Marco Polo kicks off her 42-night Amazon & West Indies voyage 5th January that includes Manaus the gateway to the Amazon. Cruise & Maritime Voyages is offering this amazing trip of a lifetime sailing from London Tilbury from just £2499pp.

Tony ParkinsThis morning commenced with a Commemorative Service on the back deck of Marco Polo with the Veterans on board as guests of honour and all the ship’s officers in attendance.

The service was led by Tony Parkins, Cruise Director, who ended the ceremony with a special poem written by him for the occasion. After the Last Post was sounded all the Veterans stood up and came up to the pool. Those who had their own wreaths tossed them in the pool and the Staff Captain with the Safety Officer tossed the ship’s wreath as well.

At around 10:00hrs Marco Polo passengers could see Discovery approaching on the starboard side and the two ships came as close as possible. Just before 11:00hrs both ship’s sounded three long blasts.

The Cruise Director announced a salute to the two ship’s with a cheer and a ‘Hip Hip Hooray‘.

You fought D-Day beaches all
This day we share with you,
Still you walk proud and tall.

The Captain, Officers & Crew give thanks,
you travel this trip
Remembering memories & mates on
our cruise ship

We meet you one by one
Each with dignity I see and know
Every smile in the evening you enjoy our show.

You think yourselves not heroes be
Mothers give birth everyday salute you,
You conquered foes, so proud are we

We sleep tonight you gave us the day
We live our lives with hope in hearts
And for those who died we eternally pray


Anthony Nicholas recently enjoyed a cruise of Northern Europe’s aboard one of the world’s most illustrious ships.  Read his Marco Polo cruise review and find out why he believes this distinctive vessel still has a lot to offer.

Day One - Friday

Arrive at Tilbury to a drumbeat of falling rain. None of which dampens my enthusiasm for being back on Marco Polo. Even through the drizzle, the ship looks great after all these years.

The hull is a sixties throwback. Curves gracefully upwards at both bow and stern like a slow, languid smile. Looks beautiful in royal blue, with two blue bands running around it. The bow is sharp, raked and wonderful to behold. From the rain speckled Thames, the hull rises upwards into a pair of soaring flanks.

The outlook from the aft decks of our cruise ship 'Discovery' was sublime. This was the start of a 13-day cruise to the Baltic and St Petersburg. I had booked with 'Cruise and Maritime Voyages' and had acquired an excellent deal on a solo occupancy twin cabin.

I had done the macro-planning for the holiday – house security, utilities programming, getting to the port and parking. I had also done the micro-planning for the trip remembering to take items like packing a suit, bow-tie and black shoes for formal nights. My digital camera battery was fully charged and health insurance, passport and debit card were to hand – all with checked dates of validity and expiry.

The hand of history will be hovering over Tilbury when Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ newest ship, Astor, sets sail on an epic 38-night voyage to Australia in November.

This departure promises not only to relive the bygone era of long distance ocean voyages, but comes nearly 70 years after the first Britons sailed from the Essex port as part of the famous £10 Poms assisted migration programme.

This post-war initiative prompted the departure of more than a million emigrants as they sought a new life Down Under, and now CMV customers will be able to follow in their footsteps as Astor sails for Fremantle near Perth. With the sailing date set for 5th November, Bonfire Night, fireworks will light up the skies as Astor cruises down the Thames and into the Channel at the start of a 9,000-mile journey southwards.

Bob McGownHaving worked for Thomson Holidays and Thomson Cruises, Bob joined Cruise & Maritime Voyages in 2010 as Passenger Services Director on board our ships. After a brief spell in the UK hotel industry, Bob returns to CMV as Head of Customer Services based at our Head Office in Essex.

Here we ask Bob some questions about his new role and on servicing the demands of our customers.

You were previously guest services director on Marco Polo and Ocean Countess – how different is this role?
I look at this role as an extension of the ship. I work very closely with the on-board team to ensure I know how the cruise is going and what is happening. Customer satisfaction is key to the success of our business and we are always looking at ways to develop our product so feedback from customers through our customer questionnairesis paramount.

What are your main responsibilities?
My main responsibility is heading the customer service departments, which include shore-side operations, customer services pre-cruise and customer services post-cruise. It doesn’t sound like a big job, but when you take into account that nearly everything we do involves our customers,we need to make sure we are constantly delivering a high level of service.

It was with no little trepidation we walked up the gangway to join the Marco Polo in Leith for our five-night cruise to the Faroe Islands and the isles of Lewis and Orkney. It had been almost 18 years since Hazel and I last sailed the high seas (I don’t suppose taking the Waverley to Tarbert counts), and so we wondered what lay in store for a couple – one mid-fifties and one slightly less – more used to boarding a plane in Glasgow with one piece of hand luggage each and landing in the Costa del Sol three hours later.

Winter Cruising in Norway has become a great success for CMV since our first winter cruise to Norway in 2010.

The Northern Light activity operates in cycles of 11 years and as we are at the height of this cycle we want to clarify what to expect in the years to come as there seem to be a misconception that the Northern Lights will be severely reduced during the cycle once the peak is over. This however is not the fact according to experts on the topic.


Exploring the Norwegian Fjords in early Spring by cruising from a port near my home. This was a truly tempting prospect. Finding an archive photo of a 1960's family holiday in Norway - coupled with the thought of only having to unpack one's luggage once - 'sealed the deal'. In late April last year, I drove a mere 20 miles to Avonmouth near Bristol and boarded CMV's 'Discovery' – my comfortable floating hotel for the 8 day voyage.

On 5th November 2013 Cruise and Maritime’s newest ship Astor sets sail for Australia from Rome’s Civitavecchia port. A week earlier the England Cricket captain Alastair Cook rounds up his men and also heads down under to begin their defence of The Ashes urn. In truth the team’s journey will be far shorter than the Astor’s 36 night southbound voyage (and will ensure they will be in Brisbane and Adelaide for the first two tests) but they will not have luxury of the Astor nor take in some wonderful countries enroute!

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that has puzzled and charmed generations, but what is the science behind the Northern Lights?

One of the charms and appeals of the Northern Lights is that each appearance is completely unique. Commonly seen is three green bands across the night sky or the lights come as rollingsmoke or even flickering curtains. The colour is an electric green, often with a hint of pink along the edge, and occasionally with a deep violet centre. The colour palette seems to definitely have a disco vibe from the 1980s!

If there is a lot of activity in the skies, the Northern Lights spring into life for a minute or two in a corona. The next minute it is all over and you are left with magnificent memories.