Small wonder Australians feel right at home on board vessels from Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV).
The line’s flagship, Columbus, sailed our waters as Pacific Pearl for seven years. It’s next new ship, Vasco da Gama, is sailing under P&O as Pacific Eden until April.
Perhaps that’s why Australia has quickly become the line’s second biggest market, with its 2019/20 season out of Adelaide and Fremantle 55% sold out, its world voyage sailing with 1,000 passengers booked for the entire trip, and its Adelaide based team confident 2020/21 will do well.
The fly-cruise traffic back to Europe is equally impressive, with a healthy demand for its itineraries in Norway, Baltic, Greenland and Iceland, round Great Britain and the Canary Islands.
The line’s relaxed, well-priced cruises seem to suit both British, European and Australian cruisers. And the itineraries, including ports other lines ignore, make for unique and fascinating journeys.
“Life’s at ease with an ocean breeze” says a message on the window of the deck 7 coffee lounge. “A cup of tea solves everything”, says another.
And perhaps that sums up the appeal.
Aboard Columbus on route to Queensland, Japan and eventually London, Cruise Passenger got some insight into how CMV, which has been sailing in Australia for some seven years, is now setting out to build its brand.
“We are doing more marketing than we’ve ever done, growing our sales team and making ourselves known,” says Dean Brazier, managing director of the company in Australia.
CMV sails ports where there is little competition but lots of interest. Adelaide and Fremantle have been home to the Astor, a three-decades old classic ocean liner with just 600 guests, during the wave season for several years.
At the end of 2019, she will be replaced by Vasco da Gama, which will sail from the two western Australian ports for longer than ever before.
Among their destinations in South Australia is the copper belt port town of Wallaroo, on the western side of Yorke Peninsula, 160 kilometres northwest of Adelaide. CMV is the only line to sail there.
“We’re very excited,” says marketing manager Tom Benson.
Cruise and Maritime has operated for a decade out of the UK. The line buys second or third generation ships and recreates them to service its 50+ market of leisure cruisers – singles and couples looking for good service, interesting itineraries and good value.
All meals and entertainment are included. Drinks packages and shore excursions are extra for those that want them, with VIP drinks packages on offer at around $60 per day.
Shows are cabaret style. The smart Waterfront restaurant and buffet style eatery on deck 12 are included, and there are specialty steak house and fusion Indian restaurants with an extra charge ranging up to $46 a head.
The line operates out of the UK, Germany and Adelaide, and will have six ships when Vasco da Garma joins.
In the two years since Pacific Pearl become Columbus, she has been “tweaked” rather than refitted.
What’s changed? Columbus is an adults only vessel, so the kids’ club is now a recreation area for guests. There is an enormous spa, a pub and a crafter’s studio, featuring lessons in knitting and even scrap book making.
She takes 1,400 guests on 11 decks and in 625 cabins plus 150 single cabins. There are 64 balcony cabins and junior suites.
We lunched in the Waterfront, a great design which P&O aficionados will recognise at once. There is a fabulous chef’s table at the centre for degustation menus.
There are lots of bars, nooks and crannies. A lovely library with comfy Chesterfield sofas and chairs
Themed cruises are coming – Cruise and Maritime specialise in these in Europe, and are looking to introduce the same in Australia. They are seeking an Aussie chef to come on board and produce local food experiences.
Itineraries are set to include cruises to Bali and Asia next season.
Mr Benson says the CMV typical cruise is 50-55+, couples and quite a lot of single travellers – hence the large number of solo cabins allocated on each ship.
The Pacific Eden will be handed over in April, and will sail to Singapore for a refit before heading off for an almost sold-out journey to London. She will sail with CMV’s German company before returning to Australia.
Cruise Passenger visited the Columbus in Sydney Harbour. A full review of the ship at sea will appear shortly