Cruise Adviser has gone on board Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) to test the waters and see what its new flagship vessel Magellan is really like – and whether it can propel the company to new heights.
CMV is a company with ambition. Having only started eight years ago – as what was then a charter business – it has grown at a rapid rate. It now operates a fleet of four ships (Marco Polo, Astor, Azores and Magellan). That’s not to mention its relatively new river cruise division, CMV Signature.
It is first and foremost an ex-UK operator, with its main business being based in Tilbury, serving a customer base that lives within the surrounding counties.
Last year, Cruise Adviser, took a trip with the company to the Norwegian fjords on the Marco Polo; a beautiful destination that was enhanced by being on a small ship, which allowed us to venture into the nooks and crannies of Norway’s mystical waterways. This time round we were invited to take a Scandinavian Cities and Fairytales cruise from Tilbury with calls at Amsterdam, Hamburg, Helsingborg, Copenhagen and Aalborg, where the ship would celebrate its 30th birthday in the city where it was originally built for Carnival Cruise Lines.
Having left Tilbury and settled in to our cabin, we explored what would be our home for the next eight nights. Magellan is, in many ways, a natural progression for CMV. It is bigger and newer than its last flagship, the Marco Polo, and offers guests something a little different while still being on brand. Formerly the Grand Holiday, a ship catering for the Spanish family market and operated by Iberocruises, it has needed some reworking to make it work for the CMV customer. The best example of this is the former kids’ pool, at the back of the ship, which has been fitted with artificial turf and decorated with garden furniture. It’s not a million miles away from Celebrity Cruises’ Lawn Club.
We docked in the Dutch capital the following day and walked two minutes from the ship onto a canal boat for our tour of the city. Amsterdam is beautiful and we urge anyone who has not been before to go: it has more canals than Venice, while the narrow houses that line the waterside are often more than 300 years old. The waterways are far busier than those of the UK, with houseboats dotted along the canals. Many locals also take advantage of a warm afternoon by taking their own boats out and spending a day on the water, with a few cold beers on board too.
The tour, which was organised by the Blue Boat Company, was excellent. With our guide offering an informative and funny history of the city (who knew that the higher your steps were the richer your household was?). We were guided through different neighbourhoods – past famous bridges and the Anne Frank house – before ending up in front of Rijksmuseum.
The rest of our day was spent with the famous works of past Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh – before heading out on our own steam and grabbing a bite to eat at a Dutch café, Singel 404. The canal-side eatery is renowned for serving up the best sandwiches in Amsterdam and they certainly didn’t do their reputation any harm on our visit.
The following day we docked in the German city of Hamburg, which lies on the banks of the Elbe River. Our day would consist of three parts: a walking tour of the Unesco world heritage warehouse area, an open-top bus tour of the rest of the city and an evening excursion around The Beatles’ old haunts, in the city’s seedy Red Light District, St Pauli.
Hamburg’s docks are an area in transition. The city has been an important trading post for centuries, and now has the largest container port in the northern hemisphere. The vast brick warehouses that dominate much of the landscape – the biggest bonded warehouse complex in the world – are now filled with creative start-ups and small businesses. Around them, however, are huge swathes of wasteland that, in time, will become part of Hamburg’s new city.
Our guide told us that they are looking for 50,000 people to populate this area once it has been developed in what is the biggest construction project in Europe, aided by what they hope will be a successful bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.
But it wasn’t until the bus tour of the city, beyond the deserted docks, that we saw what felt like the real, vibrant Hamburg. Around the lakes, past the mansions that belong to the Niveas and Klitchkos, and the five Lutheran churches that dominate Hamburg’s landscape.
We spent our evening in the company of Stefanie Hempl’s Magical Musical Tour. The walk, which centred on St Pauli’s Reperbahn took us to the clubs and sites where The Beatles – then a five-piece – spent their formative years. There, between 1960 and 1962 Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe played more shows as The Beatles than in any other city in the world. They honed their craft here – and met a certain Ringo Starr – before returning back to Liverpool. Eleven days after returning to the UK they had their first Number One record. Stefanie’s tour has become famous because of her ukulele skills, which see her knock out a couple of tunes as we go round the famous area.
The first two full days of this Magellan cruise have been brilliant with many passengers that we speak to impressed with how the company has put everything together. Tomorrow we have a day at sea before arriving in Scandinavia for those much-anticipated 30th birthday celebrations.