When Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) announced last year they had acquired Pafific Pearl from P&O Cruises Australia, it was a game changing announcement from the company. She was to be re-named Columbus and would become the flag ship of CMV’s fleet. Soon after the announcement, we booked on her maiden voyage and since then we watched with interest the announcements and developments throughout her transition from Pacific Pearl to Columbus. Fast forward a year and it was time to embark her on her maiden voyage…….
DAY 1: Embarkation, London International Cruise Terminal, Tilbury:
After being on board for Columbus’s naming ceremony on Thursday 8th June, our editor, Anthony, was excited to be heading back to Tilbury to embark Columbus for the 3 night maiden voyage, The coach journey to London Victoria from Southampton went very smoothly and we then had to take the underground from Victoria to West Ham and then C2C overground train to Tilbury Town station. After what seemed like an eternity walking from Tilbury Town to the port, we finally made it to the terminal and checked in fairly quickly. Security was an interesting situation as we were ushered through without having to put our bags through the scanner, this was indeed very odd, we had never come across this before and surely not a good sign from London International Cruise Terminal. However, we were on board just soon after mid-day and we went straight to the Plantation Buffet Restaurant for some lunch as that is the law of the sea. Food was much needed and after refuelling, it was a case of exploring the ship and also to watch the arrival of Silverseas’s Silver Wind which was sailing up the Thames to berth next to HMS Belfast as her sister ship, Silver Cloud was sailing down river.
Initial impressions of the ship were the same from the naming ceremony. Fantastic amount of outer deck space, really good promenade deck and very tastefully decorated throughout. Having said that, the refurbishment in Rotterdam was pretty much purely cosmetic as there was clues from around the ship of her P&O Cruises Australia days. Having had a major refurb in 2015, the need for CMV to spend money on another full refurb was therefore not needed, although there was a few areas that could have benefited from more attention, particularly the windows on decks 12 and 14 which were pretty dirty.
Muster was soon upon us and we were to head to Taverners Pub as this was our muster station. It was a busy muster station and hardly any seats. Most people would have to stand and the air conditioning didn’t seem to be working as it was very warm. Was an uncomfortable muster. Also some passengers were talking over the announcement and laughing too.
Once muster was over, it was back to the cabin to put our lifejackets back and then a mad dash up to deck 14 for sailaway from Tilbury. We decided to head to the front, with a view overlooking the bow. As it was a maiden sailaway, we were expecting big things. However, was slightly disappointed that there was just a splurge of a water cannon and a rather tame ticker tape cannon to see us off. Not like the naming ceremony, when we had fireworks. However, the maiden voyage had officially began and so it was time to enjoy the sail down the Thames.
My friend and cabin mate, Dan and I then decided, after taking photos and videos of the sail down the Thames, to enjoy a nice refreshing Coca Cola. Whilst doing so, Dan got a call from our other friends on board, Jordan, Harry and Gavin, asking for us to meet them on Deck 11, forward. Litte did we know, we were being invited to the bridge, courtesy of Harry Cotterill who was presenting his drawing to the Captain. That was a real nice surprise that we managed to get on to the bridge. There were spend a good 25 minutes getting pictures on the portside bridge wing and observing the bridge team at work.
After the bridge visit, it was time to get ready for the show, ‘Anchors Aweigh’ before dinner at 20.30. The show was very good and had a distinct nautical feel to it. Was highly entertaining and set up nicely for dinner ahead.
Dinner was second seating in the Waterfront Restaurant at the rear of the ship on Deck 7, Promenade Deck. A lovely appointed restaurant with a modern vibe to it. However, service was very slow, with dinner taking close to 2 and a half hours to complete. Food was of good quality though. After dinner, we had a brief walk before heading up to the Dome on Deck 14 forward. This venue would turn into the late night disco venue from 11pm but we managed to get to see one of the residence groups give a few numbers before proceedings were handing over to the DJ. A couple of hours in The Dome and then it was time for bed. What a long, exhausting and rewarding day that was.
DAY 2: Amsterdam.
Today’s port of call was in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. Having had the clocks put forward during the night, it was a bit of an initial struggle to actual get up but once up and about, it was time for breakfast.
Breakfast in the Plantation Buffet was rather interesting. Whilst having a good selection of food, the layout was somewhat disconcerting. People didn’t know which side they were going to and then there was the wait for food to be replenished after something ran out. It was bit of an organised chaos to be fair at times.
Once breakfast was over, it was time to go ashore but not before waiting in a rather long queue to disembark the ship. There had been a problem with the gangway and so we were behind scheduled which meant our scheduled departure was changed to give us more time in the city. Once off the ship, it was then through passport control and then out to explore the city. Initially, Harry, Gavin and Jordan joined Dan and myself on our walking tour, however Dan and I split from the rest of the group to go and see the Windmill whilst the others went to play mini golf.
It was quite a comprehensive walk around Amsterdam we did and yes, we managed to see the windmill. We then met up with Jordan back close to the centre of the city and then went to have to lunch at an international eatery known as McDonalds. We then went to have a look at the impressive Central Station before heading back to Columbus via some river cruise ship spotting.
Back on board, it was time for afternoon tea and a visit to the Plantation Buffet. There was a fairly good choice of items on offer but I chose the traditional scones, with cream and jam and a minute cake or two. All washed down with a fantastic cup of coffee.
We then met up with Harry and Gavin in the atrium where photos of the wonderful drawing of Columbus were taken. Having spoken with them, we then headed up to the outer decks to see us sail from Amsterdam.
Tonight, Dan and I had chosen to eat at the Plantation Buffet as we had wanted to see us sail down the River Amstel and into the lock. Even though we did dress up, as it was formal evening, it was nice to get our evening meal at our own pace. However, the service in the buffet was pretty poor this evening and the wait for food to be replenished again was another problem. By the time I got back to my seat, my food was nearly cold. However, it was tasty and nourishing and that was the main thing.
After dinner, it was time to go and see the show “Back to the 80’s” and yes, you’ve guessed it, it was a tribute to the music decade that was the 1980s. Again, an excellent production and was very entertaining. After the show, it was time to go and meet our travelling party upstairs in the Dome. Harry, Gavin, Jordan, Jason, Janet and John. We had a few drinks there and enjoyed the atmopshere before heading to bed. Again, another fufilled day. Tommorow, Antwerp.
DAY 3: Antwerp.
Having been to Belgium on a few occasions previously, I had never been to Antwerp so was excited to be going ashore.
After a hearty breakfast in the Plantation, we had a thorough tour of the ship to get some photos and videos as this was the quietest the ship would be as most passengers had already gone off ashore to explore.
After the tour, it was time for lunch and then a trip ashore.
We initially took the tunnel under the river to get to the otherside so we could get some photos of Columbus berthed at the cruise terminal. It was a unique experience going more than 30m under the river and the walk from one side to the either was around 300m. At the other side, we got some great angles of Columbus, which enabled us to get some decent photos.
We then took the tunnel back across to the main city centre area and had quite a walking tour around the city. Our furthest point would be the main train station. What an impressive building that was. It remnded us of a Cathedral, very ornate and spectacular. Antwerp is a beautiful city with some fantastic buildings. A friendly city with a friendly atmopshere.
After another gruelling walk, we eventually got back to the ship and for myself, a lie down on the bed was in order whilst Dan, Jordan, Harry and Gavin all went up to the pool deck to enjoy the swimming pool and the sunshine. So I missed out on afternoon tea. However, I did tuck into the Belgian chocolate bar that I had bought ashore.
After a suitable rest, it was time to go and see us sail. What seemed like an eternity to actually release the lines, life the gangway off and depart, we finally slipped away from the berth and made the spectacular 180 degree turn in the river. That was quite a sight indeed and with blasts from our horn to say goodbye, the day in the beautiful city of Antwerp had been a success.
Again, Dan and I chose to eat the Plantation so we could see us sail down the river and tonight, the food was so much better as was the service and I didn’t have to wait for food to be replenished, it was so much better.
After dinner, it was showtime again. Another fantastic production entitled “Feel the Rhythm” and this time there was a plethora of up beat songs throughout the ages. Was very good. Then as it was the last night, we went to the atrium for a farewell display from the entertainment team, which was excellent and poignant. After that. we hotfooted it to the Dome where we met with John, Jason and Janet and enjoyed a few drinks together for the last time in the cruise. Was a convivial evening. But all good things must come to an end and another good evening was drawing to a close. It was time for bed but not before a walk on deck and a chat with Harry and Gaving before retiring. An early start tomorrow!!
DAY 4: London International Cruise Terminal, Tilbury: Disembarkation
After another great sleep, it was time to get up and vacate the cabin before 7am. We then headed to the Plantation for our last breakfast on board and we managed to get seats out on deck to enjoy breakfast. It was rather busy in the Plantation but that was to be expected as it was disembarkation day.
Whilst having breakfast, we heard the awful news of the fire at Grenfell Tower, London. We were shocked by the images we saw and couldn’t believe it.
After breakfast, it was time to disembark the ship as we decided to choose express disembarkation whereby we take our own luggage off with us. It was now official, the cruise had come to an end and all that remained was for us to get back to Southampton from Tilbury, via train, underground and coach.
We arrived back in Southampton just after 3pm.
Overall, I enjoyed the cruise. Absolutely loved the ship and the entertainment was superb however, service both in the restaurants and reception were left to be desired and hopefully these troubles will be ironed out along with the key card problems experienced throughout the cruise. Although, these problems won’t deter us from sailing with Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) and Columbus in the future. She certainly is a gem of a ship which is going to fit in very well at CMV.
Ratings: Stars (out of 10)
Cleanliness and upkeep: ******
OVERALL RATING: ******
Onwards and upwards for both Columbus and CMV!