All images copyright Peter and Julie Newall unless otherwise noted.
Peter Newall takes a look at Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ new flagship which is also now the largest ship in its fleet.
Completed in 1989, CMV’s 63,786gt. COLUMBUS has had a fascinating career. She was the first of three new cruise ships ordered by Sitmar Cruises to meet the growing needs of the American cruise market. Her contract signed with the French yard Alsthom-Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St. Nazaire in June 1986 was followed by one for two even larger ships to be built in Italy by Fincantieri. The dynamic owner of Sitmar was the Russian émigré Boris Vlasov. He specified that the new 1,600-capacity, 21-knot ship should have diesel-electric engines because of lower exhaust emissions and less vibration. This was a major breakthrough for Sitmar as all its earlier ships had been driven by steam turbines. Sadly Boris Vlasov was unable to see the completion of his new ship as he passed away in November 1987 whilst she was under construction. Soon afterwards it was decided to rebrand the company with a more modern identity. The familiar “V” for Vlasov funnel marking was replaced by a swan-shaped “S” whilst the FAIR-name prefix was replaced by SITMAR FAIR-. The new ship, which was named SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY, was floated out in May 1988.
In July 1988 whilst SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY was fitting out, Sitmar Cruises was sold to P&O which assigned all the ships, including the three new builds, to its subsidiary Princess Cruises. In March 1989 she was delivered as STAR PRINCESS. At the time she was not only the world’s fourth largest cruise ship but also among the first large cruise ships to have her lifeboats nested lower down in the hull.
STAR PRINCESS was christened in Miami by the legendary film actress Audrey Hepburn on March 23, 1989. With its new fleet, for a brief time, Princess Cruises became the world’s largest cruise line. For the next eight years STAR PRINCESS operated mainly in the Caribbean and on cruises to Alsaka.
In October 1997 P&O’s legendary CANBERRA sailed for the breaker’s yard in Pakistan. STAR PRINCESS was chosen as her replacement and the following month she arrived at Harland & Wolff, Belfast, for a major conversion into ARCADIA. The work which was completed in December included, in her main dining room, the full-size half section replica of a Polynesian war canoe which had been on display in CANBERRA’s first-class restaurant.
ARCADIA’S tenure with P&O Cruise was short lived. In March 2003, shortly before the takeover of P&O and Princess Cruises by the Carnival Corporation, she was sent to Bremerhaven for conversion by Lloyd Werft into the 1,578-capacity OCEAN VILLAGE. Ocean Village was a new cruise line established by P&O to attract younger passengers with cruises for “people who don’t do cruises”. However, unlike the German-based Aida Cruises, which had specially-designed club-style ships for a younger audience, the Ocean Village concept did not quite hit the mark and in 2008 the company announced that it would cease operations in 2010. OCEAN VILLAGE was transferred to P&O Cruises Australia as PACIFIC PEARL. In 2017 she was acquired by Global Maritime, owners of CMV.
The first thing that passengers boarding the eleven-deck COLUMBUS will notice is that she does not have a large cruise ship feel about her. Her passenger flows are excellent as she was designed so that passengers are never far from the main public rooms on the Promenade Deck. Two passenger decks are below the promenade whilst four are above. The lower decks are linked via a three-deck-high Atrium.
The Lido Deck during the day and lit up at night.
The well-sheltered Lido Deck has two substantial heated swimming pools and loads of teak-decking. In fact the use of teak-decking for much of the open air spaces on COLUMBUS is a great asset. The metal structure between the pools was installed when she was OCEAN VILLAGE and was used for acrobatic displays. At night the pool area comes alive with very subtle lighting.
The Dome Observatory and Nightclub.
The Lido Deck is overlooked by the Sun Deck. At the forward end, above the bridge, is one of the most impressive lounges on the ship, the 176-seater Dome Observatory and Nightclub. This beautifully-decorated lounge has large windows which offer panoramic views on three sides of the ship. With a large wooden dance floor the room is transformed at night into a modern nightclub. Unusually, at the after end of the Sun Deck is another observation lounge overlooking the stern.
Plantation, the main buffet restaurant, is situated at the after end of the Lido Deck. This attractive dining area has many interesting objects on display including shells and plants.
Al fresco dining is possible at the after end of Plantation. This is one of a series of small teak-deck terraced areas on the stern of COLUMBUS.
In addition to three sets of elevators, there are a pair of striking staircases aft which descend eight decks.
Three quarters of the 775 cabins on COLUMBUS have ocean views. There are also 150 single cabins and although there are relatively few cabins with balconies this is more than compensated for the numerous quiet lounges and ample deck space.
COLUMBUS is primarily an adults-only ship. The former children’s area aft on Deck 11 has been replaced by a card room and a library where it is possible to spend all day reading in comfortable surroundings. It also has its own toilet facilities.
Although it does not wrap around the ship, COLUMBUS’s wide teak-decked promenade is very impressive and is a welcome sight for those who wish to experience old-fashioned sea travel.
Situated just forward of amidships is the three-deck-high Atrium. A colourful, stylish area with sweeping staircases, this is the proverbial heart of COLUMBUS. With its shops and seating areas, it is also a far cry from the loud, glitzy, statement atriums on other more recently-built cruise ships.
The Raffles bar overlooks the Atrium. It has clean lines and some rather quirky furniture.
The public rooms on the Promenade Deck are linked by corridors which run on either side from the theatre forward to the main restaurant aft. Overlooking the promenade and lit by natural light these rooms include the joyful and relaxing Connections Bar with its patterned carpets and numerous decorative features.
The origins of the neo-English pub-styled Taverner’s Pub go back to the P&O days when it was called the Oval Room.
The 812-seater Waterfront Restaurant is situated at the after end of the Promenade Deck. To create a greater sense of intimacy, much of the seating in this large restaurant is broken up by small partition screens. Compared with the other public rooms the decoration the Waterfront is relatively muted but is nonetheless stylish and attractive. Interestingly, part of the ceiling is coffered.
The 12-seater Chef’s Table is a private dining area in the Waterfront Restaurant’s impressive wine cellar.
There are a number of pay extra cafés and eateries on COLUMBUS including Cappuchino’s, a coffee house, forward on the starboard side of the Lido Deck.
On the port side from Cappuchino’s is The Grill which offers high quality steak meals. Here the Grill chefs are showing off their skills cutting Spanish jambon.
Hemingway’s, on the lower level of the Atrium, serves speciality teas and coffees as well as a wide range of cakes and patisseries.
The two-deck-high Palladium Show Lounge can seat 690 passengers. It has perfect sight lines and a retractable stage which can also be used as a large floor for ballroom dancing.
It was in the Palladium Show Lounge where COLUMBUS was officially named by Angela Rippon, the well-known British television star, on June 8, 2017.
The naming ceremony was followed by a spectacular fireworks display at Tilbury which lit up the Thames and the skies above the historic town of Gravesend.
COLUMBUS sailed on her maiden three night cruise to Amsterdam and Antwerp on Sunday June 11, 2017. Based at Tilbury, CMV’s splendid new flagship will be undertaking a Grand, 121 nights Round the World Cruise on January next year.
A well-known shipping writer, cruise journalist and cruise ship lecturer,
Peter Newall is a former British Airways executive who has, in the past 57
years, visited and travelled on many famous ships. As well as numerous
articles he has written nine highly acclaimed books including the
definitive histories of Union-Castle, Orient and Cunard Line. He also owns
the Newall Dunn Collection, the extensive collection of historic merchant