Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus: A Review

Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

Update: I originally wrote this article in February 2020 and it was due to be published at the end of March. Due to lockdown I delayed publishing the article and now CMV have sadly gone into administration. However, when I asked on Twitter a lot of you said you would still enjoy reading the review so I decided to publish it regardless.
Hey Owlets,

Yes, I’ve been on another cruise and yes, I might actually be addicted to cruise ships (if that’s possible!) but another trip means I have another cruise ship review for you, and today I want to talk to you about Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ (CMV) MV Columbus. I originally tried out CMV on a 3 day cruise to Ireland aboard MV Marco Polo.

Mv Columbus is the current flagship of the fleet and the biggest ship they own. CMV are a budget cruise line and buy ships from other cruise lines rather than building their own, which means each ship has it’s own unique personality; Columbus was built for P&O Australia which makes her a unique addition as she still has the “P&O-ness” - if you’ve been on P&O before you have to keep reminding yourself who you’re sailing with!

Despite being over 30 years old Columbus doesn’t really show her age. Unlike other older ships that I’ve been on CMV have clearly put the work in to make sure that she’s well maintained and continues to be an asset to the fleet. There are a few places where her age is starting to show (there is the odd rusty, leaking pipe around) but it’s to be expected when she’s spent 3 decades being battered by waves and salt-water spray - even relatively new cars rot if they’re exposed to salt/salt water on a regular basis. 



Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

One thing I have to give CMV credit for is their boarding system. When we walked into the terminal we heard a familiar voice saying “hey, weren’t you on Marco Polo?”, turning round to be greeted by the same cruise director that we’d got chatting to on our previous CMV cruise. Mum struggles to walk and we were looked after throughout the whole check in process. The crew found my Mum a seat while Dad and I went to check in, then they went to get her when we were ready to board. Despite giving everyone specific check-in times people always arrive early, and as soon as the queue cleared a little they allowed anyone who’d checked in early to board, meaning everyone got on a little earlier than planned. Everyone we met during check-in was very friendly but efficient. 

One thing that baffles me is that on both CMV cruises we’ve been on our cabins have been ready as we boarded, rather than needing to go to a bar or restaurant to wait to be called. Mum and Dad had a standard inside cabin which was small but comfortable none-the-less. I had been upgraded to a superior inside cabin which really did make a difference, and was probably half the size again on top of Mum and Dad’s cabin. However, I cannot stress this enough when I warn you to pay extra to choose the location of your cabin rather than letting them allocate it. 

Despite my cabin being beautiful and spacious, I had no end of issues in the first few days. When I first walked in it seemed a little loud but you expect some noise on a cruise ship. The toilet also got stuck and wouldn’t stop flushing the first time I went in there, but you can usually expect some issues with your bathroom when you first board, although I didn’t appreciate the maintenance team coming to fix it at just after 5am (vacuum toilets are VERY loud and not the nicest sound to be woken up by. It’s fair to say I was very awake after that!). The problems with my cabin really started when we left port. It turns out that cabin 10236 (I’m giving you the number so you can avoid it!) is directly under the funnel, and the entire cabin vibrates to the point that you feel like you have pins and needles when you’re lying in bed. 


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

We did go to reception who told us that we’d have to pay over £200 for an upgrade so I tried to bear with it but by day 3 I’d had barely any sleep and started to feel ill because of it. It’s at this point that the guest services team asked if I’d be willing to take a downgrade to move - of course I said yes (anything to get out of the vibrating box!) but I think they were just testing to make sure I wasn’t trying to get a free upgrade, because that afternoon I received a letter from them, and when I went to reception they took me to see a different cabin (which, after they’d asked about downgrading me, was actually a window cabin) to make sure I was happy with it. I have to say, after three days of no sleep the silence was blissful - they sent someone to my old cabin to collect my bags and within a few hours of moving to my new home I’d already had a nap and felt much better! Even though it took a bit of time to get moved I can totally understand the process and can’t fault them for looking after me. My cabin situation became a bit of a joke between my family and I over the next few weeks, because it turns out that the reason this cabin was left empty is because you got to listen to the show before anyone else with the daily soundcheck coming through the walls, but I didn’t mind that at all. Also, being the furthest forward cabin just above the waterline means that it’s not a place you want to be during a storm, but one night of sitting in the atrium was a lot better than three weeks of no sleep so I was very happy with my new cabin!


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

One thing that has to be noted is the atmosphere on board. When I’ve sailed with other cruise lines there’s sometimes a bit of snobbery and the attitudes of other guests has really affected our holiday - I know it shouldn’t but as much as you try to ignore it, nastiness is always going to spread. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything quite like Columbus - whereas on bigger cruise lines you sometimes find the crew are just there to serve and you’re not really allowed to talk, we ended up having such a laugh with some of the crew that we became friends and I’ve kept in touch with them since the cruise. It wasn’t “crew and guest”, it was just another person who happened to be doing something to help you and that made the cruise a lot more enjoyable. 

I actually met a barman, called Vincent, who saw me reading a Spanish magazine and asked if I spoke Spanish. I told him I did but I wasn’t fluent and was trying to improve, at which point he told me he was from the Dominican Republic and spoke to me in Spanish to help me. It actually got to the point that he told me which bar he was working in each day and, if it was quiet, he would talk to me while he worked. This honestly meant so much to me and from talking to him my Spanish improved more in those three weeks than anything else I’ve done. Vincent was just one of the crew members I considered to be friends - I could name so many people who made our trip special. This attitude spread from the crew to the guests, to the point that we got so close to two couples on board that we referred to them as “Nan and Grandad”. 


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

The only thing that lets the ship down is the quality of food and the way they cater to allergies. We were asked to tell them about any allergies in advance, which we did, but when we arrived at dinner on the first night we took the waiter totally by surprise, although he did his best to look after me. I’m quite used to having issues with not being able to eat gluten, so I usually pack snacks when I’m travelling and it’s just as well that I did because for the first three days of the trip I ate salad and nothing else. On the third day they had a meeting for anyone with dietary issues to attend - I don’t normally go to these as it’s usually just people having a moan but I actually felt like I needed to and it was worth it. We met the head chef and when I said I was struggling to find anything gluten free on board he asked to speak to me afterwards, made a note of all of my allergies and arranged to send snacks to my cabin once a day to make sure that I at least had something. 

That was great, in theory, and for a few days it was but towards the end of the first week it all went downhill. They’d been so generous that every day I shared the food they’d sent with my parents and I’m glad I did because one day I was sat on their bed and I’d eaten a couple of bits before Dad had walked in, at which point he said “that looks like squid” - I didn’t think it would be but I didn’t eat anything else in case Dad was right (he was, of course). For me, my allergy is so severe that if my food has come into contact with squid at all I get sick, and within 20 minutes of eating the cheese canapé I was sat semi-conscious on the bathroom floor - I made it back to my cabin but I didn’t get any sleep. The next day we went to reception and asked them not to send anything else because I didn’t want to get sick again, but for two days after the snacks kept arriving, so I ended up leaving the “do not disturb” sign on my door all day. I really appreciated the effort that the crew went to to look after me, but they had such an issue with communication that it didn’t matter how many times you told someone, the information never quite made it to the right place. 


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

Unfortunately it wasn’t just allergies where the food was disappointing - I think CMV have tried to do the usual fine-dining cruise ship food that you’d expect on higher end cruise lines, but on a really tight budget and it just didn’t work. Throughout the cruise I actually had a game with my boyfriend where I would send him a photo and he had to work out A) what course it was, and B) what it was, and he didn’t guess that many right!! The sad part is that when CMV stick to their budget approach the result is so much better- I don’t need them to pretend they’re higher end with fancy dishes and sauce on everything. I enjoyed my meals most when they were paired back and more simple, and if the menu was exclusively more simple dishes I would’ve been really happy with that, and it’s a feeling we heard echoed from a lot of other passengers. I like CMV best when they’re not pretending to be anyone else - simple food, kind crew members and good entertainment is all I need to enjoy my holiday and I wish they’d stick to that.

If you do go on Columbus, I’d really recommend you book into The Grill - it’s a speciality dining restaurant so it does cost extra and even though £25 does sound a little steep when you’ve booked a holiday that includes all your food it’s absolutely worth it, and if you have a drinks package you get a discount. We had the VIP drinks package because I drink way too much gin and coffee, so it was only £12.50 each and we didn’t have a bad meal once. The restaurant is looked after by the same two crew members and they got to know us so we didn’t have to worry about my allergies (we even heard them repeat it to the kitchen when they put the order in and again when they went to serve, so I felt totally safe). We also tried Fusion, the Indian speciality restaurant, but unless you’re one of those people that orders a super hot curry then puts more chilli in it, it’s not going to be for you - I left hungry!


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

During the cruise one of the crew we’d become friends with gave us a heads up that someone had been diagnosed with Norovirus and told us to be extra careful. As soon as a few cases had been diagnosed it was clear that they had a plan in place and the staff instantly stepped up. The pools and jacuzzis were closed and drained, we constantly saw crew spraying public areas with disinfectant and crew members were placed at every bar and restaurant to make sure that if you were going in you sanitised your hands, rather than trusting guests to do it without being asked. Norovirus is something that affects every ship, just because it’s an enclosed environment - someone will always lie on the health questionnaire and there’s always going to be someone who’s lack of hygiene standards affects everyone else. It’s important to know that it’s nothing with the cleanliness of the ship, but how bad the outbreak is is largely down to how the cruise line handle the situation, and the crew on board Columbus were absolutely faultless.

It was clear to us that they’d really stepped things up for life on board their flagship - the nightly entertainment was incredible, both from the in-house team and the guest performers, and even though we were on board for three weeks, every single show was different which is incredible in itself, but especially considering that other cruise lines repeat their shows on a two week cruise. 


Cruise and Maritime Voyages MV Columbus Cruise Review

I’m not sure if this is a benefit of being on a smaller ship or simply how CMV choose to operate, but the presence of the officers and entertainment crew really surprised me. On every other ship I’ve sailed on you see the captain for their welcome party and then maybe for the farewell show, but I can’t count on one hand the amount of times I bumped into the captain or senior officers, and every single time they would take the time to stop and talk to you and ask if you were enjoying your holiday, and it felt like they were genuinely interested in your response.

Honestly, even a few months after the cruise I’m still not sure how I feel. I had an amazing time and have so many great memories but I don’t know if I would go back, at least not on a three week cruise, purely because the food was so bad and I don’t want to risk being ill again. If you didn’t have issues with food allergies then I think your experience on board would entirely depend on your expectations. CMV is the cheapest cruise line you can sail on, and you have to accept that the smaller budget is going to have a knock-on effect. Considering we paid less than £50 per night, they did incredibly well to provide us with everything you’d expect from a cruise, even if the quality wasn’t the best at times. Did we have a good cruise? Yes. Did we get value for money? Absolutely. Columbus was my second cruise with CMV and as long as you’re prepared to have a laugh when things go wrong then you’ll enjoy it. If you go expecting P&O or Royal Caribbean standard then I’m afraid you’ve booked with the wrong cruise line. It’s a holiday, leave the misery at home, appreciate that you’re fortunate to be able to afford a cruise and make the most of it!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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