EURODAM: GOING DUTCH THE FUN WAY

Holland America blends traditional ocean going luxe with modern maritime excellence

Holland America blends traditional ocean going luxe with modern maritime excellence

There are some ships that you just fall in love with at first sight.

For me, that was the case with Holland America Line’s gorgeous Eurodam. The great HAL flagship was docked behind us in mid summer in Germany’s port of Warnemunde, at the start of a really memorable circuit of the Baltic on the venerable Marco Polo- no mean looker herself, as it happens.

In the high summer sun, the Eurodam was a towering, triumphant revelation. Sunlight danced across her dazzling, royal blue hull and her serried tiers of balconies. The prow- far more tapered and graceful than I expected- was a thing of supine beauty.

Smitten at once, I knew right there and then that I wanted to go on that ship.

A little over four months later, I stared up at that same, stately prow in the warm, welcoming sun of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. But this time, my view would be much more up close and personal.

Hours later, and I’m standing on board the Eurodam as she surges majestically out into the open sea, past rows of spindly, soporific palm tress waving idly in the fall Florida breeze. The siren booms out a sonorous, beautifully pitched farewell to the Sunshine State as a handful of well wishers wave from the shore. And off we go, standing out into the balmy, welcoming waters of the western Caribbean.

Inside, the vast, beautiful ship is spacious, and yet surprisingly intimate. Winding corridors on the public decks, each one carpeted in shades of rich, oriental red, lead the way past a stunning succession of paintings, ancient exhibits, and fresh cut flowers. Everywhere, the priceless heritage of Holland America- one of the most illustrious names in maritime history- suffuses this beautiful ship like a series of benign shades.

There is the head wear, sword and musket of a Spanish conquistador here, and a brace of imperious dragon heads there, glowering at head height with their sightless eyes. Off to starboard, the strains of a plaintive violin floods the lobby with some half forgotten aria. It fills the air with a kind of deft, delicate sound that produces a mild tremor in the soul.

Above the stunning, beautifully scaled lobby bar, the sultry, mellow sounds of a jazz combo mixes with the gentle clinking of pre dinner martinis to produce a rhythm as old as time. Stewards in their smart white jackets deliver trays of canapes and drinks to groups of first night passengers huddled around tables.

Outside, on the long expanse of the bone white promenade deck, a line of proper wooden steamer chairs stands at attention, as perfectly turned out as a parade of the Grenadier Guards. The setting sun falls from the sky like a blazing theatre curtain, turning the entire ocean into what looks like so much smouldering straw. The waves roll lethargically by; they resemble a kind of magical roller coaster, taking the Eurodam off on another, epic ride.

Inside, the sunset vanishes behind rows of deftly drawn drapes. Pools of warm, languid lighting dance across the acres of sparkling glass and brass finery inside. From somewhere, the strains of a sultry bossa nova floats through the ether like stardust.

The first Sunshine Martini from the Pinnacle Grill Lounge hits us like so much healing balm. In the restaurant itself, the delicate, barely audible chink of tables being laid with exquisite china and fine cutlery creates its own subtle, delightful symphony. The food, which we are already eagerly anticipating, will of course be centre stage.

And there we leave her for now. The proud, mighty Eurodam, ablaze with light and chasing a sunset she can never, ever reach. Poised and beautifully polished, the great lady is not one to be hurried by such trivia as time, temperament, or even actual reality.

It is my fervent hope that you will be kind enough to rejoin us for the rest of this wondrous voyage as it unfurls over the next few blogs in this series. Though we are not on the bridge in any sense, it is already plain to most of us on board which way our course is set. We are on an ageless, elegant path in the finest of styles.

It is my great fortune and privilege to be able to share such wonders with you.

MARCO POLO RETURNS TO MONTREAL FOR 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

A very special welcome awaits CMV’s veteran Marco Polo when she arrives in Montreal next Thursday as the highlight of her 50th anniversary cruise.

The 22,000 ton, 1965 built vessel was a regular caller to the Canadian port during her days as the Alexander Pushkin, sailing for the Russian merchant marine. The ship sailed a frequent transatlantic service between Leningrad  (now Saint Petersburg once more) and Montreal from 1966 onwards.

However, this is the first time that the storied cruise liner has been back since her renaissance as the Marco Polo and, in honour of the occasion, the Canadian authorities are rolling out the red carpet for what promises to be a very special occasion.

The Marco Polo is expected to receive the full, ceremonial fire float and siren welcome when she makes her way up the Saint Lawrence into port on the morning of Thursday, August 13th. Once she has docked, the ship will then host a special, on board lunch for representatives from both Port of Montreal and Tourism Montreal, as well as some sixty local dignitaries and media people.

Following the lunch, a special film detailing the ship’s long and unique history will be screened on board.

For the 800 passengers already on board Marco Polo for the long since sold out sailing- around 500 of whom are members of CMV’s regular Compass Club repeat cruisers- the festivities will begin the night before, with a special Gala Dinner on board, prior to the spectacular fireboat serenade on arrival the next day.

So popular has this commemorative voyage proved that a second special, round trip sailing to Canada has been arranged for September. And the exercise will also be repeated during the 2016 season.

These nostalgic, round trip crossings offer almost the only opportunities anywhere to cross the Atlantic on a real, purpose built ocean liner. With a combination of long, lazy sea days and the sheer, stunning beauty of a voyage along the famous Saint Lawrence seaway, it is hardly surprising that they have sold so well.

And, in related news, CMV has also announced that their popular Astor will make a fourth, consecutive round trip liner voyage to and from in Australia in November 2016, after a trio of sell out sailings with the ship.

Marco Polo, still stylish at fifty, will receive a traditional fire float and siren welcome in Montreal next Thursday

Marco Polo, still stylish at fifty, will receive a traditional fire float and siren welcome in Montreal next Thursday

MARCO POLO IN THE BALTIC; PASSING THROUGH THE KIEL CANAL

Lazy Sunday afternoon; I’ve got no time for worries. Close my eyes and drift away…”

Steve Marriott, Lazy Sunday by the Small Faces.

The words of that iconic song flitted through my mind like a butterfly surfing a gently rolling meadow as the Marco Polo made a sublime, sedate passage down past the tree lined banks of the Kiel Canal, bound for Warnemunde on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

It was as perfect a day as you can imagine; a brilliant summer sun shone benignly on the still, sparkling waters of the fabled waterway. Children were flying kites in rainbow hues, people walked their dogs, and lovers strolled arm in arm under the gently waving trees. Rustic waterside inns dotted the meandering waterway like random exclamation marks, their outdoor terraces full to overflowing with crowds that spilled out almost down to the edge of the canal itself. Many of these looked up and waved at the Marco Polo as our beautiful ship passed by in stately procession. From their vantage point, she must have been quite a sight.

From my own vantage point on the gracefully curved aft terrace decks, I took in this slowly unfolding panorama as it gradually unwound behind us, picking idly at chocolate cake and cookies as the sun beat down directly on us. From where I was, the scene below presented an intriguing contrast.

Because we were so close to the land, everything seemed almost close enough to touch; cows grazing in slow motion on a patchwork quilt of gently rolling fields, local ferries beetling across the waterway in our wakes. The odd cyclist went barrelling by, sometimes ringing a shrill, tinny sounding bell in salute. There were people enjoying picnics and small, dainty yachts that flitted like toy boats across our track. The slow, rolling pace at which all of this unwound gave it a kind of dreamy quality, a chocolate box pretty hinterland that our ship slipped through without leaving a trace behind her.

At the same time, there was a sense of utter, unreal detachment on board the Marco Polo. The view down below and our gentle pace gave the entire scene a sense of exaggerated height, it was an almost Olympian panorama that just unfurled behind us like a series of gently muffled drum rolls. We could just as easily have been on a magic carpet ride as anything else.

Yet that same, sedate waterway has history in spades. It was originally built as the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, solely in order to give the pre world war one German navy a way of passing from the Baltic through to the North Sea. Nowadays, this fantastic, beguiling stretch of water forms a perfect short cut; it slices right across the base of Northern Germany and Denmark. For those cruise ships small enough to use it- and there are not that many of them- the Kiel Canal saves many hours’ sailing time around the Jutland peninsula.

The Bismarck came this way, too. That vast, tiger shark of a battleship transited the Kiel Canal three times during her brief life; there are still photographs of her, passing under the Rendsburg Bridge, her phalanx of anti aircraft guns bristling like a host of drawn swords.

Any way you slice it, getting that huge ship- twice the size of the Marco Polo- through the relatively narrow canal was one fantastic feat of seamanship; and now, here we were on a perfect Sunday afternoon some seven decades later, ambling lethargically along in her wake. Our passage, it has to be said, was much more peaceful and enjoyable.

So, on we went. We meandered under vast, vaulting bridges that cast long, fleeting shadows across the sun splashed teak real estate on the aft decks of the Marco Polo, only to vanish again as we emerged back into the sunshine. Under my feet, the decks trembled slightly as the ship moved cautiously forward on her way. A good, ice cold German beer seemed an apt, poetic way to enhance the flavour of this fantastic scenic smorgasbord.

For those few, slowly unwinding hours, all seemed well with the world. A kind of surreal, dreamy calm suffused the Marco Polo like the aroma of freshly gathered hay. Only the odd, sporadic car horn briefly disturbed our gentle reverie. I hardly dared breathe, in case I unwittingly shattered the spell forever.

Up ahead lay the fairy tale cities and old world charm of the summer time Baltic; a string of compelling dream destinations with few equals. Soon, the Marco Polo would emerge from the Kiel Canal like the proverbial genie, freed from its bottle, intent on achieving this riot of riches in one stunning, spectacular sweep.

Yes, life looked pretty sweet on that balmy, benign, Sunday afternoon.

‘Close my eyes and drift away……’

Sunlit aft terraces on the Marco Polo

Sunlit aft terraces on the Marco Polo

MARCO POLO TO THE BALTIC- DEPARTURE FROM NEWCASTLE

Sailing day; it still leaves me with that ‘kid-on-Christmas-Day’ feeling….

Add in the fact that I’m sailing on one of my favourite ships-the magnificent Marco Polo, celebrating her 50th anniversary this year-and you’ll perhaps understand why my adrenaline was running like tap water as we pulled up at the North Shields passenger terminal.

Originally designed to service the overnight ferries sailing to and from Amsterdam, the terminal- used for Newcastle/Port Of Tyne sailings- doubles up for cruise use on seasonal summer sailings from the Tyne. And, for someone used to making the long treks down to Southampton, Dover and Harwich to board a ship, the sheer ease and convenience of being able to rock up at my local home port never fails to amaze me.

Check in was arranged deck by deck and, though the ship had sold out (Capacity 800, adults only), the boarding process took exactly twenty five minutes. That’s from entering the terminal to walking into the warm, Balinese themed lobby of the Marco Polo. Pretty damned good, that.

Though she is as pretty as a postcard, the Marco Polo remains refreshingly intimate. More comfortable than luxurious, the feeling of boarding her is akin to sagging gratefully into a pair of favourite, comfortable slippers. There’s a feeling of gentle, contented ease that comes from being cocooned in something that is at once instantly welcoming, and yet wonderfully familiar. On both counts, the Marco Polo hits the bullseye.

A thorough but relatively short lifeboat drill follows, by which time my luggage is already outside my room. I have time enough to check out the daily programme, before being pathetically overcome by the need for that first, invariable ‘bon voyage’ drink.

Almost inevitably, I take this on the gorgeous, curved terrace that frames the outside of Scott’s Bar, overlooking the stern. Sat back on cafe chair, feet braced against the deck railings- the classic Marco Polo cruising stance- I tip my vodka and cranberry briefly in the direction of ‘Rudy’, the statue of Rudolf Nureyev that forms a focal point on the aft lido deck. Rudy and I have become well acquainted over the course of three decades.

This contented little reverie is gently shaken by a muted trembling that passes through the deck rails; one that always sends a shiver of delight running up my spine. I glance to port and, to my sheer, infantile joy, the Port Of Tyne terminal is already falling away like a fading souffle. The gangway is gone, as are the ropes. Those last, little tenuous links with reality are no longer needed.

Poised and perfect as a swan, the Marco Polo gives a first, tentative surge forward. Her whistle roars out a stately triple salute to the Tyne as a squadron of gluttonous, over fed gulls shriek, scream and swoop in her wake like so many demented dive bombers. People on house balconies lining the stately, steel grey river look over and wave as this fantastic floating time machine surges majestically past them, almost close enough to touch. Another vodka and cranberry appears at my elbow. I can’t help but smile.

Now out, past Tyneside’s historic breakwater, following in the wakes of the Mauretania, the QE2, and many other famous legends of yesteryear. Out of the Tyne, on a ship still writing chapters in her own, imperishable legend. One we are sharing, even as we savour it.

The North Sea welcomes us with benign skies, and sparkling sunlight dancing on languid, lapping waves that seem to speed the lady on her way. A stately, gentle roll begins to assert itself; the immutable overture to our voyage up ahead. Feet back up on the railings, I sit staring at the clouds, drifting by in the sky like fleets of ghostly galleons.

A sense of freedom dances in the ether around me. It clinks the ice cubes together in my glass as if in celebration. At least, that’s how it seems right at that moment.

And so, we are off. It begins again….

Sunlit aft terraces on the Marco Polo- 'Rudy' is centre stage

Sunlit aft terraces on the Marco Polo- ‘Rudy’ is centre stage

UNDER NORTHERN SKIES- MARCO POLO IN THE BALTIC

Sharp as  a butter knife, the slender, raked prow of the Marco Polo cut an elegant swathe through the grey, rolling swells of the summertime Baltic. To port, the last, lingering remnants of the setting sun cast a surreal, golden slant across the top of the thin membrane that separated sky and sea. Inside, soft light glowed on beautiful marble and etched glass, bathing the entire ship in a warm, cosy glow. From somewhere up forward, the sound of a moody, throaty saxophone caught my ears for a moment.

We were less than two hundred miles from Saint Petersburg, and a million more from reality.

Celebrating her incredible, fiftieth anniversary in 2015, the Marco Polo- a ship that first set sail in the same year as the first keel plates of the QE2 were laid on Clydebank- was returning to the waters that had actually given birth to her. With a sell out capacity of just under eight hundred passengers, the adults only, awesomely anachronistic ship provided the perfect platform for the adventure of a lifetime.

And what an adventure it proved to be. A string of stunning sea cities throng the edges of this ancient, alluring sea like so many gems, danging from an ornate necklace. Taut, compelling Tallinn, that amazing medieval theme park; cool, classy Stockholm and bustling, beautiful Helsinki. Warnemunde, the gorgeous, stunningly vibrant German beach resort used as a jumping off point for Berlin….

As for Copenhagen, even Danny Kaye underestimated how ‘wonderful’ Copenhagen truly is. Day or night, this rollicking, largely pedestrian city is the fun capital of Scandinavia; a compact city of green copper spires, long, winding streets and vast, open squares. Canals full of fishing boats and one of the world’s most amazing theme parks are suffused by the warmest and most welcoming vibe anywhere in the region in this shimmering, ethereal summertime playground.

Saint Petersburg is, of course, different. More remote, a city with so many different facets. One part Faberge egg, one part Russian matroshka doll, this fabulous, turbulent city merited the two days we spent there, and would have merited many more as well.

Grand, imposing and full of almost relentlessly European architecture, the great city wears the scars of it’s turbulent, three hundred year plus past like a series of battle honors. Revolution and suppression; war and famine. siege and a seat of government; Saint Petersburg has seen it all. A city where Tsars, assassins and men like Rasuptin, Trotsky and Lenin once strolled, plotted, and set into motion the events that defined an entire new world order. As destinations go, it has compulsion and attraction on a scale perhaps unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll visit all of these amazing places in more depth. And, even more importantly, we’ll get under the skin of the relatively small, massively alluring ship that carried us to and from this amazing series of fairground rides.

Make no mistake; the Marco Polo is truly unique. And she gets more so as the years pass, because nothing like her will ever be built again. Part time capsule, part antidote to the fleets of mega ships breaking out across the world’s oceans like some vast, incurable rash, the Marco Polo is a voyage of discovery all by herself.

So, I’d like to cordially invite you on board. May I recommend that you check out the expansive, aft facing outdoor terrace of Scott’s Bar, and perhaps treat yourself to a cold Vodka and Cranberry? Grab a seat, kick off your shoes, and just breathe.

We have three thousand or so miles to go. The ropes are off, and a slowly widening gap is opening between the quayside and that gorgeous, flaring blue flank.

Let’s see what’s out there, eh?

Marco Polo, at fifty still sailing in style

Marco Polo, at fifty still sailing in style

CMV GOES WORLDWIDE; MAGELLAN TO MAKE LINE’S INAUGURAL WORLD CRUISE IN 2017

In something of a surprise move, Cruise and Maritime Voyages has laid out details for a first ever world cruise for 2017. Utilising the newly refurbished Magellan, the ambitious, four month long global odyssey will sail from Tilbury on January 5th, 2017, and return to the Essex port on the following May 5th.

In between, the 46,052 ton, 1,250 passenger Magellan- originally built as the Holiday for Carnival back in 1985- will cut an ambitious furrow through some of the most magnificent, remote and remarkable waters on earth, showcasing an entire conga line of must see highlights including the Azores, the Panama Canal, and the highlights of French Polynesia.

Then it’s on to Australasia, and the fantastic cultural melting pots of the Far East, followed by India and a Red Sea transit, before a final series of adventures around the Holy Land, and a last, languid sweep through the springtime Mediterranean, prior to returning to the UK.

In addition to the grand event itself, a series of no less than nine, separate fly cruise sectors have been provisionally pencilled in. These will allow passengers to board and leave the Magellan at a whole raft of signature ‘greatest hits’ ports including Auckland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney, Australia.

Thus far, five of the ports en route are offered with an overnight stay on board. These are; Cairns, Hong Kong, Phu My for Ho Chi Minh city, Singapore, and Sydney.

For single passengers, this voyage represents an excellent bargain, with rates coming in at £13, 269. Twin saver rates come in from around £8,999- roughly equivalent to around £75 per day per person. This is on sale as of now.

Although Cruise and Maritime has run several longer cruises to both the Amazon and the Caribbean with both Magellan and Marco Polo- plus a series of ongoing, old style ‘liner’ voyages with the Astor- this first, world cruise is an enormously significant statement of intent from a company still not yet a decade old.

Magellan herself offers some 726 cabins, all of a good size, and a vast amount of open deck space, as well as an entire, interior, window walled boulevard of shops, bars and clubs. And, with a trio of dining venues on board, the ship- recently extensively renovated- could very well prove to be a formidable new competitor, especially for the no-fly types wanting to take a little ‘slice of home’ with them as they voyage around the globe.

Interesting development, for sure. As ever, pray stay tuned.

Visit vibrant Singapore on Magellan's stunning, inaugural world cruise in 2017

Visit vibrant Singapore on Magellan’s stunning, inaugural world cruise in 2017

BALMORAL COMES TO THE TYNE FOR 2016

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has just announced that it’s flagship, the 1,350 passenger, 43,000 ton Balmoral, will come north to operate a series of eleven cruises from Newcastle between May and August of 2016.

The ship, originally built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg as the Crown Odyssey back in 1988, is the largest vessel in the current, four ship FOCL fleet, and will take the place currently occupied by fleet mate Boudicca, originally the fabled Royal Viking Sky.

The addition of the ship will increase the seasonal summer numbers sailing from Newcastle by an estimated forty five per cent. Ironically, it might also see Balmoral reunited from time to time with her former Orient Lines’ fleetmate, Marco Polo, which now sails for the rival Cruise And Maritime Voyages from the Tyne in summer.

The programme for Balmoral commences on May 21st, with a five night Norwegian fjords cruise. Standing out among the mostly Scandinavian itineraries is a rather attractive, eleven night cruise that showcases the best of Spain, Portugal and Guernsey.

Rightly famed for her beautiful, Art Deco styling and wide amount of open outdoor decks, Balmoral is an elegant, supremely comfortable vessel, decorated with great style, and features the excellent levels of service and cuisine for which the Fred. Olsen brand is well known in the cruising fraternity.

Her arrival in northern parts definintely ratchets up the increasing high profile of Newcastle/Port of Tyne as an ideal departure point, especially for the highlights of Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland.

An interesting development, for sure. As ever, stay tuned.

Balmoral is Tyneside bound for summer 2016

Balmoral is Tyneside bound for summer 2016

LITTLE GEMS; SHIPS I’M GLAD THAT I ENCOUNTERED…..

For someone like me, born and blessed with a deep and abiding love of the great ocean liners, it has been an incomparable thrill, privilege and pleasure to sail on many of my favourite ‘ladies’ over the years.

The likes of Norway, QE2, Canberra and Rotterdam were all wonders that did not disappoint. And yet, in so many ways, I am just as enriched by sailing on many of the smaller, more traditional ships that have now mostly sailed on beyond the breakers. Many of these ships were- or are- just as big on character as those grand dowagers that have now rang down ‘finised with engines’ for the last time.

There were the two wonderful, heavily rebuilt sister ships that sailed for Classic International Cruises; Princess Daphne and her near identical twin, Princess Danae. I sailed on the Danae twice, and her sister ship just the once.

They were long, low seaboats, with a hull that curved slightly upwards at both bow and stern like some kind of wry, supine smile. The aft lido decks were some of the biggest and most expansive of any ships afloat. Each boasted huge cabins with thick, chunky furniture, and a suite of public rooms that ran out to the hull along both sides, a window walled, heavily mirroed promenade that made strolling a true delight. And, despite being only around 17,000 tons each, they were both superb as sea boats, proper 1950’s paragons that were as elegant as they were warm and unassuming.

The Ocean Countess was definitely of the next generation. Sleek with her swept back, aerodynamic funnel, rakish bow and squared off stern, she was as ‘seventies modern’ as it was possible to get back in 1975. Her cabins were so small that they would have left the average pygmy in agonised contortions.

She had a lofty oberyvation lounge with glass walls that afforded fabulous views out over the bow. To her last days, engraved Cunard ‘lions’ remained etched into the glass doors that led into this room.

There was a centrally sited pool and hot tub lounging area midships, perfectly shaded from the wind, and a fabulous indoor/outdoor night club that extended out over the stern. On warm summer nights in the Aegean, there were few more perfect places anywhere for watching a mellow sunset. She was a fine, funky little ship, one whose heart and character more than made up for her shoe box sized accommodations.

The Marco Polo, happily, remains with us. Now in her fiftieth year, she is literally unmistakable for any other ship, with her glorious, curved prow, stately single funnel and series of elegantly stepped terraces cascading down her stern in a veritable torrent of immaculate teak.

Inside, a run of perfectly proportioned Art Deco lounges and bars allow for a stately evening’s progress through a series of softly lit venues, suffused with wonderful live music. The trim blue hull and sparkling white superstructure truly mark her out as a thing apart. Whether stealing into a magnificent, mist shrouded Norwegian fjord at dawn or lounging off the hot spots of the French Riviera, the Marco Polo looks- and feels- utterly different to anything else out there today.

I remember the stately little Odysseus, too. Built in 1962, she endded her days with Epirotiki, which then became Royal Olympic Lines before it went bankrupt in the wake of 9/11.

She, too, had a long and low hull, swathed in shades of pristine royal blue. Her funnel- small, domed and slightly swept back- seemed out of all proportion to that seemingly endless, long hull.

Truth be told, she had quite a short superstructure and, like the CIC twins, she boasted an enormous, seemingly excessive amount of outdoor deck space aft, running all the way to the fantail. My most vivid impression of this quirky, quite intersting little ship was that she felt a hell of a lot bigger than her supposed 12,000 tons.

So, there we go- just a few of the ships that flit in and out of my memory like patches of Atlantic fog. If this article appeals, please let me know, and I’ll look at the possibility of a follow up piece in similar style.

On board the magnificent Marco Polo in Flam, Norway

On board the magnificent Marco Polo in Flam, Norway

TYNE AND TIDE; CMV’S MAGELLAN INAUGURATES PORT OF TYNE 2015 SEASON

Maiden calls always guarantee a bit of a media ‘splash’ for a new arrival, and this was definitely the case for the new Cruise and Maritime flagship, Magellan, when she inaugurated the cruising season from Port of Tyne on March 27th.

The 46,052 ton ship- built in 1985 as Carnival’s Holiday- arrived to embark some six hundred passengers for a Norwegian Fjords cruise after an overnight voyage from Tilbury.

While she was here, the company hosted a group of writers to a drinks reception and lunch. Boarding something like an hour earlier gave me time to wander round and run an eye over the ‘new’ flagship.

The first impression you get is of how much more spacious she is compared to, say, her fleet mate, the veteran Marco Polo. Magellan is wider by quite a way, and this allowed the creation of a string of open public spaces, both inside and out.

A long, finely styled interior boulevard with a Scandinavian accent contains many of the main public rooms. Lit by a long expanse of floor to ceiling windows, this space is a delight to stroll in it’s own right. Many of the main public rooms debouch from this walkway, and extend right out to the port side of the ship.

Nicely done is Sinatras, an evocative jazz bar that forms an elegant, expansive focal point for after dinner mood music and cocktails. I should imagine it will prove very popular with regular passengers.

All of the public rooms have been toned down in terms of decor from the Carnival days, though the casino is still bigger than on any of the other ships in the fleet. Overall, this is a ship where strolling from bar to bar after dinner is an indulgent affair, with music to suit every mood and whim.

Outside, the Magellan benefits from having a central pool located in a vast, teak lined well deck, thus shading it from the wind all around. Another pool overlooking the stern has a pair of Jacuzzis just behind it, while another, oval shaped Jacuzzi is located right forward, on the highest deck.

The two main restaurants- Kensington and Waldorf- are both located on one of the lower decks. Each serves the same menu and spans the full width of the ship. They are done in a slighly more vibrant, but not over the top, shade of green that gives them a fresh, warm feeling when sunlight floods in through the big windows on either side.

It is worth noting that the Magellan is an adults-only ship. Twice the tonnage of Marco Polo, and with a maximum capacity of 1,250 passengers, she offers roughly half as much space again per person as the smaller ship. And, because of her later, mid eighties design, many cabins are of a uniform size and layout. In fact, they are the largest standard cabins on any ship of this size in the UK market.

CMV has been smart in selling quite a large number of these- both inside and outside- as dedicated singles, at a smile inducing 25 per cent supplement on the normal fares. They represent some of the best buys available anywhere in the UK cruisng scene today.

In short, Magellan looks like a smart acquisition. Sure, she is bigger than Marco Polo, but the level of intimacy is still there. There are more lifts, a good passenger flow, and more spaces in which to pause and play in. There’s an aft facing spa and wellness centre on this ship that looks particularly alluring as well.

The renovation of the ship has been quite sympathetic, keeping the open, breezy largesse of the former ‘Fun Ship’ while, at the same time, enhancing and expanding her appeal for the British cruising passenger. Offering everything from overnight cruises to grand, thirty plus day round trip sailings to the Caribbean, the Magellan will have some cruises on offer to suit eveybody’s budget and timescale.

Definitely an experience worthy of consideration. I hope to do a short cruise on her later this year, and I’ll have a fuller, more comprehensive report on the ship then.

As ever, stay tuned.

The Norwegian Fjords will be a highlight of the 2015 Magellan season

The Norwegian Fjords will be a highlight of the 2015 Magellan season

SPOILT FOR CHOICE; UK MINI CRUISES IN 2015

Live it up for the weekend on the glamorous Queen Mary 2

Live it up for the weekend on the glamorous Queen Mary 2

For those looking to dip a first time toe into cruising’s alluring world, one of the best and most economical options is the mini cruise. With options ranging from between two to five days, these are a good deal both in terms of time and cash outlay. You can break the assumed preconceptions without breaking the bank.

And, no matter what type of ship and short break you might be into, 2015 serves up more options and styles of seagoing fun and fascination than ever before. From the seriously intimate to the stunningly spectacular, there’s a seagoing smorgasbord on offer in 2015 that has never been equalled before.

First up, Royal Caribbean International has the spectacular, ground breaking new Anthem Of The Seas doing some short, three night summer cruises to ports such as Le Havre and Zeebrugge. if you’re into technologically advanced ships laden with a wealth of fascinating gimmicks, this ship is an excellent, if rather expensive option.

Want smaller, more intimate ships that can access the spots that the big ships find difficult to access? Consider Cruise and Maritime, which is offering a series of two to five night options on the veteran Marco Polo, a classically styled, adults only ocean liner. Built in 1965, this unique ship- very much a one off- is celebrating her fiftieth anniversary this year.

Larger and more contemporary, but still human in scale, the line has a new flagship in the shape of the Magellan. The 46,052 ton ship also offers a series of short cruises and, with her large number of single cabins, she is an excellent buy for the solo traveller.

In similar vein, the highly styled quartet of ships belonging to Fred. Olsen Cruise Line remain perennially popular favourites on the short break market. With excellent food and service, plus some enticing overnight stays, these lovely ships have a style and atmosphere that is truly all their own.

Go bigger? No worries. P&O Cruises has long been one of the most established names in the cruising firmament. This year, the new Britannia– the largest ship ever built solely for the UK cruise market- joins her recently restyled fleet mates to offer a string of exhilarating short jaunts out of Southampton, varying in length from two to five days, throughout most of the year. Some of the pre Christmas sailings in particular make for fantastic shopping opportunities on the continent.

Of course, Cunard remains the very epitome of the great ocean going experience. The line celebrates an unparalleled 175 years of success this year, and you can be part of it on a mini cruise of between two and five nights on any one of their trio of opulent, expansive vessels.

And, if you are not too worried about flying one way, the magnificent Queen Mary 2 offers several opportunities throughout the year to sail between Southampton and Hamburg, or reverse, on a two night voyage that allows you to get an incisive little glimpse into this most storied of ocean liner experiences.

All of these voyages are short on time, but they do provide an experience somewhat akin to a film trailer for a major feature. And, because all of these lines want you to see them at their best, they will often push the boat out-pun wholly intentional- to offer up the best in food, service and, of course, entertainment. All are crucially aware that today’s two night neophyte passenger is next year’s potential two week voyager.

So-different stokes for different folks. And you can always tailor your break to suit your moods. I know many people who simply never leave the ships at all, staying on board to soak up all the luxury on board for the duration. Others treat them as extended, exotic spa breaks and spend the weekend in a bathrobe. Others consider sleep as an optional extra, and simply want to party from A to Z. And, of course, still others use them as an excuse for an indulgent shopping and sightseeing break.

Whatever your pleasure, there is more than enough on the menu on one of these enticing, exhilarating little breaks to leave you wanting more. Have fun,