CMV RELEASE AZORES CRUISE SCHEDULE FOR 2015

The Azores, in her previous guise as Athena, on the Croatian Riviera

The Azores, in her previous guise as Athena, on the Croatian Riviera

UK based Cruise & Maritime Voyages has been very quick to release the hugely anticipated 2015 for their recently chartered Azores. The 16,000 ton, 550 passenger ship, owned by Portuscale Cruises, has been lined up as the 2015 replacement for the veteran, 1972 built Discovery. While the latter is facing a far from certain fate, it seems that the Azores- built in 1948 as the Stockholm- is almost indestructible.

Some twenty-one sailings in all are on offer between January 26th and August 28th, varying in length from a one night repositioning cruise between Hull and Tilbury, to an epic, thirty night round trip from Avonmouth, Bristol, to the Caribbean. This itinerary visits no less than ten of the most stellar ports of call in the West Indies, as well as featuring no less than eighteen sea days on the outward and return legs of the voyage. Fares begin at £3,659 per person in a standard inside cabin. A single inside cabin is on offer at £3,779.

Other highlights of the programme include a pair of cruises to see the highlights of the Northern Lights, as well as cruises to the Baltic, the Norwegian Fjords, and  a pair of round Britain cruises.

Especially attractive is an eight night, August 8th sailing that includes three full days at the port of Leith, allowing passengers to see and experience the very best of the Edinburgh Festival. This cruise also serves up a trio of calls at famous northern isles such as Torshavn, Lerwick in the Shetlands, and Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands.

In line with CMV sailings in the past, the Azores will be sailing from a series of regional ports. So far announced are departures to and from Bristol, Hull and Tilbury. 

Beautiful, Art Deco stern terraces on the Azores

Beautiful, Art Deco stern terraces on the Azores

All told, the 2015 Azores cruise schedule introduces some real diversity into a programme of no fly, dedicated ex-UK cruises, as well as showcasing a new, classically styled contender into the market.  Overnight calls at ports such as Rouen, Amsterdam and pretty little Honfleur acknowledge the increasing desire from passengers for more time in certain cities.

There is also a tendency towards longer sailings for this first season; no less than eleven of the cruises are in excess of ten days duration. Apart from the solitary overnight mini cruise on offer on July 17th, the shortest itinerary in the Azores programme for 2015 is a six night, Norwegian Fjords sailing, round trip from Tilbury, on August 28th.

As always, stay tuned.

 

CMV CHARTERS PORTUSCALE VETERAN FOR 2015 SEASON

Upper deck terraces of the Azores

Upper deck terraces of the Azores

It has been announced today that Cruise and Maritime Voyages will charter the 550 passenger MV Azores from Portuscale Cruises as a replacement for the 1972-built Discovery, one of the original ‘Love Boats’ from the popular seventies television series.

Effective from January of 2015, the Azores will sail year round from Bristol on a series of as yet unspecified itineraries.

In any event, this deal looks good for both lines. Portuscale, still a relatively fledgling operation beginning to find its way, gets a substantial cash infusion, as well as gainful employment for its biggest ship guaranteed for a full year at least.

For CMV, the Azores is an excellent choice to replace Discovery. The latter ship is being put up for sale by her actual owners, All Leisure Group. 

With a capacity of 550 passengers, the Azores is, ironically, far older than the ship she will replace. Built in 1948 as the Swedish American Lines’ Stockholm, she became infamous for the July, 1956 collision off Nantucket that resulted in the sinking of the Andrea Doria. 

The ship was stripped mostly down to her riveted hull in the early nineties, and extensively rebuilt as a small, but very comfortable cruise ship. Though her passenger capacity of 550 is a few hundred less than that of Discovery, the extent of her rebuild ironically makes her a far more contemporary ship. The main dining room, located low in the hull in the old transatlantic tradition, has rows of double height portholes down both sides, and even some of the original Swedish American ice buckets still on board.

Cabins aboard the Azores include a set of spacious, upper deck midship, two room suites with balconies, and some exceptionally spacious rooms across most grades.

There is no alternative restaurant on board the Azores; but the ship has extensive deck space, including some very well designed terraces,and even an old style walkway that totally circles the stern itself.

The stern walkway on the Azores

The stern walkway on the Azores

As for the Discovery herself, there has been no word as of yet what her fate might be. All Leisure did have her listed for sale at around five million dollars. Her twin sister ship, the former Pacific Princess, went to the breakers last year after several years’ lay up in Genoa.

This does not mean that Discovery will necessarily suffer a similar fate; she is in far better condition than her late sister ship was at that stage. All the same, many in the maritime community will once more be mentally bracing themselves for the potential loss of yet another classic ship to the insatiable breakers yards of Turkey and India.

As always, stay tuned.

PORTUSCALE CRUISES; BACK FROM THE ASHES

The classics are back

The classics are back

Few things stunned the maritime community quite like the Lazarus style resurrection of Portuscale Cruises, the nascent niche operator that has risen, Phoenix style, from the ashes of Classic International Cruises, and it’s spectacular collapse a couple of years ago.

Make no bones about it; Portuscale is as far removed from the accepted tenets of mainstream cruising as it is possible to be. While modern ships divert their passengers attention from the elements by showcasing a whole string of eye boggling, constantly evolving new features, the Portuscale experience is resolutely, exquisitely retro.

Here you’ll find much smaller, more intimate ships that still have the personal touch, while keeping the base amenities that made ocean voyages such a compelling way to travel in the first place. You’ll find good restaurants offering traditional, fixed seating for dinner, a show lounge and a piano bar, a few shops, and large, commodious cabins that actually give you room- and reason- to relax in. Though not too many have balconies, there is a really agreeable trade off on these small, beautifully crafted gems.

This comes in the shape of their simple, stunning lines; a clear throwback over more than six decades, to an age when seagoing ships had beautiful, bewitching lines. In short, they possessed camber, sheer and poise; things once deemed to be marketing attractions in and of their own right. Things rescued from the scrap heap by Portuscale. And quite literally at that, too.

Liners like Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria once represented the height of seagoing elegance and style

Liners like Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria once represented the height of seagoing elegance and style

Each of the four ships- Funchal, Porto, Lisboa and Azores- represents one of the most elegant and evocative travel experiences available anywhere today- the maritime equivalent of the magnificently resurrected Orient Express luxury train. Vessels that offer two journeys for what amounts to the price of one.

Firstly, each ship will take you on a hopefully compelling voyage of discovery to a string of ports around the globe; the smaller size of the ships also allows them to nip smartly into the smaller, sweeter little port havens that their bigger, glitzier brethren have to glide past. This is a compelling excuse for booking in and of itself.

The second journey? A voyage back in time, to an age when more personalised service actually counted for a lot. To an age when a good steamer chair proved far more preferable to gimmicks like cantilevered walkways and rock climbing walls. An age when you could actually look out at the ocean in all it’s moody, matchless majesty, and feel a real connection with it. A time when ship and sea were unashamedly symbiotic.

The living, breathing proof of this renaissance emerged a few weeks ago, when Funchal emerged from her dusty concrete cocoon like a flower bursting into bloom after three years of darkened lay up.  Scrapyards around the worlds had flexed their cheque books and sharpened their knives over the demise of the Classic International fleet; it seems that those gentlemen- so busy and feted of late- are to be disappointed on this front, at least.

Old style pleasures; steamer chairs and parasols

Old style pleasures; steamer chairs and parasols

God knows, the maritime community needs the diversity that is wrapped up in this quartet of proud, distinctive little hulls. 2013 has seen Sleeping Beauty begin to slowly blink herself awake. It is very much to be hoped that 2014 sees a resurgence of interest in what amounts to a truly largely forgotten form of travel; the small ocean liner.