Welcome to the World of CMV

Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) has gained an enviable reputation for offering great value scenic cruising holidays from a range of convenient UK ports. In addition, CMV Signature River Cruises unfold the wonders of Europe’s rivers in premium style and comfort.

This blog is a window on the World of CMV. Read interesting articles, meet some of our team and find out more about some of the wonderful places we sail to.

 

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The glorious city of the tsars

Words alone cannot do justice to the breath-taking extravagance of the Imperial splendours of St Petersburg. This Russian city puts the grand into grandeur with its awe-inspiring collection of ornate palaces, museums and cathedrals that rose to royal glory under the Russian tsars and survived the subsequent Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and, more recently, decades of Communist rule.

There is no shortage of tourist sights in this former capital. In fact, visitors need plenty of time to appreciate what this grand city has to offer, which is why CMV ships always stay overnight, giving guests two days to explore. One of the best ways for cruise passengers to discover St Petersburg is on cruise line excursions as UK passport-holders are covered free of charge by the ship’s group visa. Those wanting to go ashore independently need their own visa, and this has to be arranged in advance.

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great and built on a series of islands in the Neva River connected by iron and stone bridges, St Petersburg is overflowing with cultural gems, inevitably spiced up with accompanying tales of murder, mayhem and intrigue. The top draw is undoubtedly the famous Hermitage Museum, housed in the 18th century Baroque Winter Palace, which could easily take days to explore on its own. Dating from 1764, when it was founded by Catherine the Great, it is one of the world’s largest and foremost art museums, boasting more than three million exhibits housed in at least 1,000 rooms.

Trying to tackle this alone is a mind-blowing task, but guided tours ensure visitors don’t miss highlights that include masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Titian and Rembrandt.

Catherine Palace, a short drive from the city near the town of Pushkin, is another unmissable sight. Named after Catherine I, consort of Peter the Great, this 18th Century treasure chest promises to take your breath away, with its stately blue and white façade stretching nearly 1,000 feet. Inside is no less impressive with a collection of grand rooms, culminating in the Great Hall, famous for its opulent fairytale-style interior, while outside lies the vast sweep of landscaped gardens and parklands.

City tours include a number of St Petersburg’s main attractions, such as the impressive Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, also known as the Church of the Resurrection, built to resemble St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Nearby is the magnificent St Isaac’s Cathedral, similar to St Peter’s in Rome with a large dome covered with more than 200 pounds of gold, while the ornate interior is decorated with more than 30 types of marble, mosaics, ceiling murals and sculptures.

Don’t miss the stunning Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg’s answer to Versailles located 22 miles from the city. Built by Peter the Great in the early 18th century to rival the French palace it is renowned as the grandest of the tsars’ summer retreats with its 300-acre park-like grounds, sprinkled with statues and spectacular fountains.

Evenings ashore in St Petersburg are no less captivating. Enjoy a classical ballet performance in one of the many grand venues across the city or take a cruise along the rivers and canals to gain a different perspective of the so-called Venice of the North.

Whether it is seen from land or water, this is a city that cannot fail to impress.

Visit the city of tsars on one of our many Baltic Cities & St.Petersburg cruises by clicking here!

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Few destinations offer a more quintessential taste of England’s coastal glories than the Isles of Scilly. This engaging cluster of tiny outposts dotted just 28 miles off the tip of Land’s End is a delectable haven of escapism, combining effortless natural beauty with a blissfully serene way of life.

In some ways, these sleepy isles are more reminiscent of another era, taking visitors back to a time when life was simpler and moved at a slower speed. It’s easy to fall under the islands’ soporific spell and immerse yourself in the rich traditions and legends surrounding these remote Atlantic settlements, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

These are lands of shipwrecks and treasures; of deserted villages and ancient remains, with granite Tudor castles and military garrisons sitting as a reminder of more turbulent times.

The Scilly Isles’ heritage revolves around the sea, and fishing accounts for a key slice of island life with locally-caught lobsters, crabs and crayfish appearing regularly on local menus. Around 2,200 residents call these hideaways home and the population is spread across five populated islands, each of which proudly boasts its own characteristics.

St Mary’s is the largest and the gateway to the archipelago, with its 1,800-strong population and is generally the first port of call for visitors arriving across the water or by air.

At just two miles long and a mile across, it doesn’t take long to explore. The main hub is Hugh Town which sits astride a narrow sandbar at the top of the harbour, while across the island (a short walk away) is Old Town, noted for its church – the final resting place of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who had a holiday home on the islands and visited frequently.

The second-largest island is Tresco, the only one to be privately owned which, which thanks to the Gulf Stream, enjoys a sub-tropical climate. There is no denying the unmistakably upmarket and sophisticated feel of this isle, but it is best known for the famous Abbey Gardens, established in the 1830s, boasting more than 20,000 exotic plants from across the world, many of which cannot be grown anywhere else in the UK.

St Martin’s is the place for drop-dead gorgeous beaches that have been rated as among the best in the UK, and crystal clear turquoise waters, while the rugged outpost of Bryher is known as “untamed Scilly” with granite hills and rocky pools, pounded on one side by Atlantic Rollers that thunder into Hell Bay. But this is an island of two halves, with a calmer side of picturesque beaches and tranquil Rushy Bay at its southern end.

Sitting on the most south-westerly edge of the archipelago is St Agnes, described as England’s final frontier; untamed, unspoilt and totally peaceful – with idyllic picnic spots and excellent beach-combing for shells and shipwreck souvenirs.

With nature trails that criss-cross the varied terrain, the islands can be explored on foot or by bike. Sailing around them gives a perfect vantage point from which to appreciate the stunning seascapes and sweeping stretches of sand that were made for whiling away sunny days.

Sea safari boat trips showcase the seabird colonies around these isles, where you can spy comical puffins, gulls and guillemots along with playful grey Atlantic seals that cavort and dive through waters where shipwrecks lie in their watery graves. Oh what stories, they could tell.

Visit the Isles of Scilly on one of our many British Isles cruises by clicking here!

South America - an Experience, Education and Adventure

Marco Polo – South American Treasures, 5th January 2016

by CMV Passenger John Wilkes

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The cruise was due to start from Avonmouth but inclement weather on the previous cruise resulted in Southampton being the port of embarkation. Comfortable coaches took us there from our initial gathering place at Avonmouth cruise terminal. Aboard my coach, good conversations were enjoyed; and packed lunches were supplied. I was on board Marco Polo before 4pm and was escorted to my ocean view cabin on Atlantic Deck 6. The pleasantly warm and quiet air-conditioned cabin was kept scrupulously clean and well stocked for the entire voyage. The mattress was very comfortable. The washroom had a shower compartment but no bath. I had two round portholes. After unpacking and some refreshment in the Bistro, I attended the mandatory Safety Drill. We left the port before 9pm seeing two other cruise liners, Boudicca and Queen Elizabeth, in the Solent. The Welcome Show in the Show Lounge was enjoyable.

A full day at sea followed; the ABBA tribute show entertained. Clocks were put forward an hour. Swells as in the Bay of Biscay were not too pleasant. Midday on Day 3, we arrived at La Coruna, Spain. It was raining but I still enjoyed a seafront walk to view the spherical San Pedro glazed elevator and beach-front art works. That evening UK guest act, comedian Andy Leach cheered us all up with his humour. He also performed the following evening, incorporating some magic into his act. Earlier Dr Clive Leatherdale had given the first of his excellent geo-political talks: ‘Introducton to South America’. There was also a Port excursions talk by the Shore Excursions team; and a talk on photography by John Riley ably assisted by his wife Linda.

Day 5 was spent at sea. Bird and wildlife expert Sue Walsh gave the first of her many excellent talks – this time about Albatrosses. There was a get-together for solo travellers. Forty people attended. Later a talk on Landscape Photography. Then our first formal night – Captain’s Cocktail Party followed by dinner. I chose delicious lamb shank for the main course. ‘The Magic of the Musicals’ was the show. Clocks were put back one hour; and, at last, the porthole covers were opened in my cabin.

Sunday: sunny at last. A few glorious hours at Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I walked to the surfing beach then took ‘bendy-bus’ 17 to the Santa Ana Cathedral area. Old Town was beautiful. I met some fellow passengers there enjoying a coffee. That evening the show team including the very versatile Cruise Director, Ross Roberts, performed a pantomime – loosely based on the Cinderella story. Some folks found it hilarious.

Next day was spent at sea, heading south. A talk on bird migration; games of Scrabble with a friend; an architecture photography talk; and the ‘We Will Rock You’ show made for an enjoyable day. Good meals all the while, of course.

Day 8 was much the same. The Marco Polo Orchestra entertained after an ‘Italian Night’ dinner. Clocks back. Thence to Mindelo on the Cape Verde island of St. Vincent. I took the ‘Glimpse of Island’ excursion. Coach to the fish market and viewpoint looking back at Marco Polo. Then part way up Mount Verde and down into the seaside village of Catfish Bay. Back in Mindelo we were treated to refreshments and a display of local dancing outside a very modern venue. Thence to the African Market and Town Hall area. Later that afternoon, friends and I walked to the town’s beach. We chatted to the crews of super-yacht Australis and research vessel James Cook on our walk back to Marco Polo.

Thursday 14th January we were crossing the Atlantic. We enjoyed more interesting talks and a solo travellers’ lunch in the Waldorf restaurant. We had to submit our passports to Reception and did not retrieve them until after we left South America. UK guest act Steve Terry entertained with singing and comedy. Clocks back. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were also at sea. Crossing the Line occurred on Saturday. Neptune made his customary appearance and the usual rituals were performed. The Captain welcomed us to the Southern Hemisphere and the ship’s horn blared out in triumph. ‘Out of Africa’ was the show that night. Sunday – more talks; jacuzzi; solos’ cocktail party; a poolside deck party with dancing. All good fun; clocks back.

We eventually arrived in South America on Day 14 of the cruise. We berthed at Recife, Brazil to the accompaniment of a brass band. I performed a little celebratory dance with one of the Shore Excursions team as we exited the terminal to meet the waiting coaches. The excursion took us to beautiful Olinda then to the city of and beach at Recife. Steve Terry put on another excellent and entertaining show that night. There followed another full day at sea before we arrived at Ilheus. There I walked the beach front and old town. Firecrackers exploded along the roof parapet of the Cathedral. This was a funeral – Brazilian style. MSC’s Splendida was in port. Clocks forward. Day 17 was at sea. Over two nights actress Pauline Daniels performed her ‘Shirley Valentine’ monologue to much acclaim.

Thence to a true highlight of the cruise – Rio de Janeiro for two full days. First day was dull and cloudy. I took the rack railway excursion up Mount Corcovado to view the Christ the Redeemer statue. We skirted the beaches at Ipenema and Copacabana on the way there and saw rowers training for the Olympics on The Lagoon. I walked to view the Favelas area in the afternoon. Back on board ‘Bridge of Spies’ was screened in the Show Lounge. After Friday’s cloud and rain, Saturday was sunny and clear. I took the excursion up Sugar Loaf mountain by two-stage cable car. Breathtaking views. Back in the city we stopped by the concrete cone-shaped cathedral. Back aboard Marco Polo there was a sail-away party and marvellous views of the receding city and landscape at midnight. The floodlit Christ the Redeemer statue seemed to float high above us in the night sky.

Three days at sea before landfall in Argentina. More interesting talks and great food and entertainment. It was warm enough to enjoy the aft deck swimming pool. Buenos Aires in Argentina was magnificent. I took the excursion that visited Eva Peron’s tomb; the central city squares; and the Boca Artist’s quarter. I felt confident to venture back out into the city on my own in the afternoon. One always bumps into fellow passengers on such jaunts. The City is like Paris or Berlin in the Southern Hemisphere and is well worth a visit.

One cannot travel directly from there to the Falklands for political reasons. Montevideo in Uruguay was our next ‘port of call’. Another treat. I walked round the city and enjoyed the variety of architecture and the beauty and magnificence of the public open spaces. I walked to the beach; and to Plaza Independence where there were police on segways. Next day we had a full day at sea with glimpses of albatrosses, flying fish, dolphins and the occasional whale. We enjoyed a very special Columbus Club cocktail party high up on the bridge wing of the ship. Also that night I had, with five other passengers, an exclusive invitation to dine with the Captain and the Hotel Director. Beef Wellington and red wine – all good. Later on the ‘Rat Pack’ show entertained. Next day was a full day at sea.

On Sunday, 31st January we arrived at the Falkland Islands. Fairly calm sea conditions allowed us to tender in from our anchorage in Port William Bay to the jetty at Port Stanley. I walked to the Cathedral, Governor’s House and War Memorials before sending a postcard from the Post Office. Bishop Nigel Stock from Suffolk was in the Cathedral and local TV had been recording the morning service. It was a beautiful sunny day and I walked to Gypsy Cove to see the penguins. On the way, I saw the hulk of the 19th C ship Lady Elizabeth. Reportedly the SAS were secretly holed up in there during the 1982 conflict. There is no access to the beach at Gypsy Cove because of the fear of mines being washed ashore. Locals offered me a lift back from Gypsy Cove to ‘town’. They had emigrated from New Zealand twenty years ago. They also took me on a drive right up to the far end of Stanley Harbour to view the remains of the Marines’ base where the hovercraft were launched in the War.

February 1st was an extraordinary day when to the delight of the many birdwatchers on the ship, hundreds of albatrosses followed and winged their way round the ship for hour after hour. A stunning sight that nobody will ever forget. The ‘From Russia with Love’ show that night was greatly enjoyed.

Thence into the Strait of Magellan in Tierra del Fuego. Too rough to either berth or tender at Punta Arenas, Chile so we proceeded on into the Chilean Fjords. For a full ten hours from 11am till 9 pm we enjoyed breathtaking scenery, jagged peaks, untamed wilderness and deep sea inlets. We passed P&O Arcadia coming the other way in the evening. The bigger ship saluted us with three blaring toots on the horn. The sound echoed off the steep slopes of the Fuegan Andes. We had glimpses of the Pacific Ocean as our Chilean pilot expertly assisted our captain on threading our way through narrow passages to access the Beagle Channel. It was dull and wet the following day in Ushuaia, Argentina. Some of us took an excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The scenery was not as good as we had seen the previous day but there was a nice stop for coffee at the Visitors’ Centre. There were calm tree-lined lakes and ‘End of the World’ sea inlets and beaches to visit. From Ushuaia, ships take cruisers and adventurers down to Antarctica. We saw the ships Plancius’and Stella Australis in port. The following day we forged south to view Cape Horn which lived up to its reputation with high and turbulent seas. A square-rigger crested the horizon. We could make out the Chilean flag on a rocky outcrop on Hornes Island. We had voyaged some 8,600 nautical miles from the UK. Time to head for home!

With temperatures ranging from 8 to 32 degrees C throughout the trip, many people did suffer from coughs and colds. One also needed to be wary of tripping up on high kerbs or on single steps etc while out in the port cities. And one has to be wary of potential street thieves eager to grab one’s expensive personal possessions.

Another day at sea. As usual I enjoyed an omelette cooked to order at breakfast time in the Bistro. Interesting lectures and amusing quizzes filled the day. UK guest act Gerry Graham had flown in to entertain with his music and comedy shows. Day 33 - 6th February, we visited Puerto Madryn on the Argentine coast. I walked miles to the Punta Cuevas headland. Two more Sea Days before Rio Grande in Brazil. The town seemed deserted – everyone was away at the beach on this public holiday. The highlight of the day was a fabulous Carnival-themed deck party in the evening back aboard Marco Polo. Pancakes were served at the buffet. Much fun was had dancing to ‘Waterloo’, ‘YMCA’, ‘La Bamba’ and more.

A further sea day followed packed with the usual activities. Many ladies attended the craft classes. There was also art, musical theatre and choir sessions and a large group played bridge. There were regular quizzes and games. I played Scrabble with lady friends old and new. A daily news-sheet summary covering World and UK news was available at Reception. The new James Bond film ‘Spectre’ was screened in the Show Lounge. I did not like it much.

Next stop Santos, Brazil. It rained all day – warm rain, mind you. Many high rise buildings lined the sea frontage. One or two 1950s buildings were tilting over slightly due to subsidence. I walked the length of the beach front park. There were sculptures and exotic flora and bird-life. I was wearing my ‘Tilley’ hat; plus a gifted clear plastic mac (from Corcovado) over my clothes. When returning to the shuttle coach at the shopping centre I was informed my mac’s hood was full of rainwater and it would be best to empty it before proceeding. All good fun. The Passenger Talent Show was fabulous that evening.

Onwards north for two days. Splendid ‘masked booby’ birds flew around the ship.. ‘Rock and Roll Dreams’ was the show that Saturday night. Clocks back. Salvador da Bahia was visited next with superb colonial architecture in the old town. After the first course of lunch on the ship I walked 2 miles to a local beach for a swim and caught a free public bus back to enjoy the dessert course before 3.30 pm. Then I walked to the Bahia Marina, palled up with some CMV guests and went by taxi out to the Farrol da Barra lighthouse and beach. We returned in another taxi an hour later.

Another day at Sea, then Natal, Brazil. Shuttle bus to city. Then a two mile walk back to the ship through Old Town with four fellow passengers. Stopped for some street food which was delicious. We sailed out under the Newton Navarro cable-stay suspension bridge at 5 pm. Clocks forward. Then three days at Sea before Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde. After a shuttle mini-bus into town I joined two other CMV guests in a taxi out to the Sao Filipe fort built in 1590. Thence to the little fishing village of Cidade Velha. It was warm and sunny. After an hour of strolling along country roads with locals walking by with goods and chattels balanced on their heads, we returned to Praia by taxi.

Two sea days before sunny Funchal. UK Guest act – tenor vocalist Laurence Robinson entertained us with his splendid singing shows. On the island of Madeira, I took the cable car up the mountain and walked down following the famous toboggan route some of the way. In Old Town Funchal there are marvellous public squares and grand buildings. There are also wonderful public parks and botanic gardens. After another sea day (that included the final formal night dinner complete with the Baked Alaska Parade) we enjoyed a full day in Lisbon. Beautiful sunny clear weather. I took the open-topped, hop-on / hop-off, bus and hopped off in the Belem district for a couple of hours. Wonderful architecture old and new – and, of course, the Belem Tower. A revelation was the amazing nearby Centre for the Unimagined. Spectacular modern, all white, architecture. Hopped back on the bus to get back to the ship, then after a late lunch walked up into Old Town on the Tram 28 route by the Cathedral. Marvellous views of our floating hotel berthed on the shore-line of the Tagus River down below. The Crew and Passengers Show that night featured ‘The Choir’; a tap dancing routine; and a tribute to ‘West Side Story’ performed with panache and flair.

Two more Sea Days – a mild swell this time in the Bay of Biscay. Passengers’ Cruise Photos Competition organised and hosted by John Riley. Each of us could submit four in the categories People, Nature, Architecture, Landscape/Seascape. I have never seen my pictures projected that big. Scores of passengers entered. The results show was the following day. The worthy winners and runners up had some wonderful images. Marco Polo arrived back in Avonmouth at 9.15 am on Sunday 28th February after a voyage of 16,595 miles lasting 55 days. I bid my farewells and took a taxi home to Cam, Gloucestershire.

 

Marco Polo - What makes this ship special

8 tips for first time cruisers

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Sailing through Europe along the Danube River is akin to travelling through the pages of a history book. This mighty waterway - the second-longest in Europe after the Volga - brings alive the past glories of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire and the famous Hapsburg dynasty who ruled many of these lands.

In ancient times, the Danube formed the frontier of the Roman Empire while in more recent years, its route behind the Iron Curtain through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary served as a fascinating insight into Communist rule. Forever immortalised by Johann Strauss in the Blue Danube Waltz, this vital artery is a treasure chest of cultural riches, where statuesque palaces and historic castles vie for attention with charming medieval towns and unforgettable views.

From its source in Germany’s Black Forest across central and eastern Europe to the Black Sea, the Danube is acclaimed as the world’s only river to flow through four capital cities: Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary) and Belgrade (Serbia) – and this all adds to its cruising appeal.

Sailing past Budapest’s impressive Gothic parliament building and the distinctive towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion lookout is one of the highlights of Danube voyages, while the night-time view of the city’s illuminated skyline has to be one of the best sights on any river cruise.

Vienna is regarded as the jewel in the crown of the Danube, a fitting title that reflects its graceful streets full of imperial architecture, headed by the extensive Hofburg Palace that was the seat of the Hapsburg rulers, and the Spanish Riding School with its famous white horses. A short distance outside the city is the Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs and a vision of imperialist Baroque splendour with its elegant façade and manicured grounds.

Melk is another Austrian gem. Sitting in the picturesque Wachau Valley, this town is dominated by its impressive Benedictine monastery that blends beautifully with the surrounding landscape. Nearby is the town of Dürnstein, famous as the place where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated in Kuenringer Castle, whose ruins overlook the town. Take time to wander along the narrow cobbled streets and enjoy a glass of locally-produced wine from the many vineyards dotting this region.

Bratislava, with its delightful old town and beautiful classic buildings is a delight to stroll around as the river is just a few minutes away, generally making it a short walk from where the passenger boats dock. Nicknamed the Pearl of the Danube, the first sighting of the Slovak capital is unmistakable as you approach by river with the distinctive Bratislava Castle framed against the skyline.

Then there is the medieval splendour of three classic German cities. While not strictly on the Danube, as it sits on the Main-Danube Canal, Nuremburg is famous for its wartime history, including the Nazi war crime trials following World War II, but today its atmospheric old town is the main draw for visitors. Regensburg, located at the northern end of the Danube, is one of Germany’s oldest towns with wonderful Gothic architecture to match, while Passau boasts its fair share of beautiful buildings and is also the gateway to the Austrian city of Salzburg. This adds yet another flavour to a journey that promises rich rewards for travellers wanting to sample the contrasting tastes of Europe’s past and present. 

- Sara Macefield

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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.

A day at sea ensued. I attended the 'ports talk' given by the Shore Excursions team. Informative as ever. Then the gathering for the Solo's and a few introductions. All very informal and drinks served. Played a game of Scrabble later. And it was our first  formal night which comprised the Captain's Welcome Reception followed by dinner in the restaurant. Then the ABBA tribute show in the Calypso Lounge entertained us all.

During the night there was some sea swell but it was tolerable. We arrived at La Coruna in North-west Spain before noon. I walked through the old town and through a coastal park replete with sculptures before making it up to the Tower of Hercules lighthouse. There I met a fellow passenger and we climbed to the top having paid the entrance fee. The rolling Atlantic waves were an impressive sight. Near the tower there is an Interpretation Centre featuring dynamic computer graphics. All that explained the history of the tower. Thence we walked past the Museum of Mankind to the beach. Later I explored the town a little more on my own.  UK comedian Jed Fry entertained us back on the ship. We left Spain and as our next port of call was in Portugal, we had to put our clocks and watches one hour back.

Friday we arrived in Leixoes, Portugal. I explored that port town with a lady companion in the morning before joining an excursion to briefly tour the city then take the Six Bridges River Cruise on the Douro in nearby Oporto. The excursion included a visit to a port-wine producer where we were shown the mighty barrels of maturing port – and given the opportunity to sample the product in both its red and white forms. The 'From Russia with Love' show, back on board our ship, was excellent.

Next day, Lisbon. It was bright and sunny and Anthem of the Seas was berthed nearby. I went on the Southern Highlands excursion travelling over the bridge and viewing the Christ the Redeemer statue at close quarters. Then up into the hills before a dramatic coastal drive down into the pleasant town of Setubal. We returned to Lisbon via the ten mile long Vasco Da Gama bridge. Clocks had to go forward again by one hour. The 'We Will Rock You' Queen tribute show was marvellous. It was Italian Night in the restaurant. I enjoyed spaghetti bolognese.

Sunday morning we arrived in Gibraltar having had good views of the Moroccan coast. Many dolphins were on view also. I hiked to the cable car station in Gibraltar to find it closed due to high winds. I walked a third of the way up the Rock, had a lift with Danish tourists for the next third; then walked the rest. But I found myself on O'Hara's Battery so I had to walk a little way down and up again to find the Macaques. As usual, these apes were sunning themselves on the concrete walls and being mischievous. I returned to the town via steep flights of steps and via Green Lane through short tunnels. The Marina; Main Street; and Casemates Square were all interesting to see. Jed Fry performed more comedy and songs that night aboard ship – after dinner.

Thence to hot and sunny Malaga. I went on an excursion to Marbella which comprised an escorted walking tour of the Old Town then a visit to see the luxury yachts at Puerto Banus. Back in Malaga, I had a swim in the sea then climbed the zig-zag path up the hill for a city overview. I also visited the cathedral and saw the beautiful coloured glass cube roof-light over the Pompidou Arts Centre. Back on board ship, the band put on a marvellous show of live music.

There followed two sea days en route to Livorno. We glimpsed the coast at Benidorm and also saw the island of Ibiza. More dolphins were seen; and several of us enjoyed swimming in the ship's pool. Dinner at the Captain's table was very enjoyable. Baked Alaska was served after the traditional parade. The 'Round the World' show featured many international dances and songs. The Show Team are superb. The first cruise ended in Livorno. That day I explored the city which has interesting canals and a splendid coastal esplanade, New guests flew in from the UK for the next cruise entitled  'Mediterranean Classics and Treasures'. Safety drill was performed again after the last arrivals flew in from Manchester to Pisa.

Next day, Friday Sept 18th, we arrived in Civitavecchia. Most guests journeyed to Rome. I had a quick look at Civitavecchia town in the morning using the port shuttle bus.  In the afternoon I went on an excursion to visit the Odescalci Castle up in the hill at Bracciano. The castle commanded a fine location overlooking the large lake in that region. A TV programme about the Medici family was being made at the castle. Part of the museum was full of interesting artefacts. After our cultural visit we went to a winery to sample six flavours of wine and enjoy light refreshments of cheese, sliced ham and olives outside by the oleander bushes. Never did wine taste so good.

Saturday and Sunday we were at sea but we did have splendid views of the active volcanoes of Stromboli and Etna. The comedian Andy Ford from Devon put on a good show that first night. On the second of the sea days I attended the ports talk; and enjoyed the lecture 'Myth into Art' by the brilliant, idiosyncratic and entertaining artist/guest-speaker Alan O'Cain. Swimming and sunbathing completed the day.

Thence to Santorini. Ashore by tender boat; uphill by cable car; scenic walks in Fira village along the ridge towards Oia. Walked back to the quay via the paved donkey track. Several other ships – all much larger than ours – were in the bay. That afternoon we journeyed by sea to Mykonos which we explored during an evening trip on to the island. The main village of Chora was extremely busy with boisterous tourists. I caught the 9.10pm free tender back to our ship.

Then to Turkey. Many folk visited Ephesus. I have been before so instead I climbed Ataturk Hill for an overview. A kind young Turkish family drove me back into town in their car. I had a swim at the town beach before exploring the amazing shopping bazaar of the Old Town. It had been amazing to hear the call to prayer by the Muezzin emanating from a nearby minaret. We were in Asia – thanks to CMV! It was a long way from Avonmouth.

Returning to Greece the next day, we berthed in Piraeus. I reached the Acropolis by open-topped tour bus in the morning; and took an excursion to scenic Cape Sounion in the afternoon. The ruins of the Temple of Poseidon were interesting. The weather was gloriously clear and sunny. Next day we reached Katakolon. During our approach I enjoyed Alan's lecture 'Portraiture in Art' in the Cyclops Auditorium on board ship. Lots of people visited Olympia, I walked to the little resort of Agios Andreas and had a swim in the Ionian Sea. By the time I had walked back to Katakolon a tall glass of cool beer served with potato chips at a taverna went down extremely well. Fellow passengers enjoyed swapping stories of their day both at that bar and later on at dinner. The ship Norwegian Jade was also in port at Katakolon. Andy Ford performed more comedy that evening. There was much mirth.

Our next port of call was Corfu. I went on the Corfu Panorama coach excursion. The heavens opened when we were up at a cliff-top restaurant at Bella Vista above Paleokastritsa.  Luckily it was sunny by the time we reached the famous viewpoint looking across to Mouse Island. In Corfu Town they were establishing the Durrell Gardens near the fortress. Sailing away from Corfu we had good views of Albania. A meeting of Columbus Club members attracted many of the 105 on board for a very pleasant cocktail party in the Calypso Lounge.

Thence to gorgeous Korcula, an island off the Croatian mainland. I had a swim in the Adriatic then paid three Euros to climb the cathedral tower. Access to the island from our ship was, on this occasion, by tender boat.

Alan O'Cain wanted to create an Art 'happening' on Deck 4a so I joined him in the rendition of avant garde poems worked around the theme of the ship's bell. Watching passengers were amused – and maybe slightly baffled by this little impromptu  performance.

Finally magnificent Venice where we had an overnight stay. I walked from the ship to St Mark's Square with a couple from Worcestershire. If you are feeling energetic, follow the signs to Piazza da Roma; then Rialto; then San Marco. It's a long way but worth it. I also walked to The Arsenale and enjoyed a lemon ice cream. The city was absolutely packed with tourists. I walked back to the ship keeping to the East if the Grand Canal.  'Rock 'n Roll Dreams' was the production show that night. There is always the alternative of classical violin and piano music in Sirenes Bar.  On the 28th September I stayed aboard chatting on the ship until called to the transfer coach for the short journey to the airport. My flight departure was delayed for a while but I was back at Gatwick by 9 pm having glimpsed the lights of Brussels and Amsterdam from 36,000 feet. After a night at a hotel in Gatwick it was the commuter train to London Victoria station and a National Express coach to Gloucester. Then a local bus home – free of charge to seniors. Wow!... what a lot we saw and experienced – in comfort, with good food, excellent company and drink and entertainment all the way!

It fascinates me that nearly everybody aboard has a slightly different holiday to the person in the next cabin. There are so many options with regard to places to visit and how to use your time while aboard ship. You are bound to get to know a fair few people on a Christian name basis – and you will also visit destinations and countries that will tempt you to return for a more in-depth exploration and a longer stay in future.

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

In 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 visiMarco Polo 50 Golden Years logo REVting 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.

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