Having acquired the latest addition to its fleet in the last few months, Cruise Adviser went on board with Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) to test the waters and see what its new flagship vessel Magellan was really like, and whether it would propel the company to new heights.
Following on from reports in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Helsingborg and Copenhagen, the final stop is Aalborg, for the ship’s 30th birthday celebrations.
Today is a big day for Cruise & Maritime Voyages. However, it’s an even bigger day for the city of Aalborg. The northern Danish port, once a shipbuilding mecca, hit the peak of its powers 30 years ago with the construction of the Grand Holiday, which is now sailing under CMV’s colours as Magellan.
Back in 1985 it was the jewel in Carnival Cruise Line’s crown. Strangely now, considering recent announcements about 6,600 passenger newbuilds, it was the biggest ship that Carnival operated until the introduction of its Fantasy-class in 1990, a statistic that puts the development of the cruise industry into some perspective.
For Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Magellan carries about 1,250-passengers across its 726 cabins. It represents a huge step forward for the brand, increasing its capacity by around 40 per cent. It also further diversifies its offering – allowing it to take its former flagship vessel, the much-loved Marco Polo, out to the UK’s regional ports, while bringing Magellan into Tilbury.
In the morning we are whisked off to receive the grand honour of being welcomed into the Christian IV guild. After a short drive we are led into the oldest building in Aalborg, the Jens Bang’s Stone House where we are sat at tables surrounding an empty head table. The elders of the guild walk in, wearing full ceremonial dress, and we are unsure what to expect.
However, what follows is an hour of pure theatre. The nine elderly gentlemen sit down and read their rules and commence to rib and wisecrack at their own expense as we are immediately put at ease. We drink aquavit (the local liquor of choice), eat sausages and are given the key to the city. If ever you are in Aalborg then this is a must do. We are now members of a guild that includes such (sometimes questionable) luminaries as George Bush Sr, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
After our initiation we are taken to Lindholm, a local Viking burial site, where we are taught about burial rituals, farming communities and the grizzly fate that was left to Viking slaves (many skeletons were found buried with a smaller headless skeleton). After our tour we meet Jesper Lynge, a chef and storyteller who cooks us up a storm by the burial site and recounts some of his favourite Viking yarns. Jesper is something of a celebrity and has appeared on British cookery shoes before, not to mention MasterChef in Denmark.
Again, Lindholm proves to be another thoroughly enjoyable visit, and one that the city of Aalborg is trying its best to publicise to bring in those extra cruise calls.
As we head back to the ship, I’m reminded that a lot of travel agents we have spoken with recently have told me how much success they are having selling Cruise & Maritime at the moment. It would certainly seem that the company is going through a renaissance. With new ship launches and new brand launches all happening in recent years, it is taking on its sector with every louder enthusiasm. The three-star, ex-UK market is a huge area within the British cruise industry, and because it doesn’t have dodgems, ice skating rinks or vertical waterslides, it can often end up being somewhat neglected by the press.
However, having been a regular guest with Cruise & Maritime over the years, it is clear that when it comes to serving the cruise market outside of Southampton, they are among the best at what they do. Their loyal following – both agent and passenger alike – have certainly proved that they have a place in this industry.
Sam Ballard is co-publisher of Cruise Adviser