Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus. Maggy Oehlbeck

Cruising on the Columbus offers taste of Japan and China

SAILING out of Yokohama at dusk aboard CMV's Columbus was a promising start to our mini-voyage between Japan and China.

We were on the top deck watching the retreating lights of this famous gateway port to Tokyo. On the docks below, an exuberant Japanese high school jazz band was doing its bit for international relations and we couldn't resist swaying to the beat (or the boat).

We left the rails, smoothed our hair and swooshed indoors to the swank Grill, one of five dining options on board. I couldn't pass up the surf and turf.

Columbus is the flagship of independently owned Cruise & Maritime Voyages' (CMV) fleet of five ships. Many Australians will remember her as Pacific Pearl from her P&O days.

Now with new owners, new itineraries and a makeover she is homeported in Tilbury, UK.

The Atrium and main reception on Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus
The Atrium and main reception on Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus

We joined her on day 67 of her 120-day round-the- world-voyage.

Ours was a six-day stint.

Those who boarded in London had already adopted her as home.

Most were British with a 20 per cent mix of Germans, Dutch and Australians. Many had already signed up for next year's RTW sailing on January 6, 2020.

Columbus carries 1400 voyagers in 775 cabins. 150 cabins are allocated to solo voyagers - a growing trend on cruise ships these days.

We found our ample-size ocean view cabins highly satisfactory. All have plump European bedding, ensuite, personal safe, bar fridge, TV and hairdryer.

As on most cruise ships the atrium is the social hub - a good spot to watch the passing parade, shop, have coffee at Hemmingways, scan newspapers, do crosswords and even have a choir rehearsal!

The pool on the Lido Deck of Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus.
The pool on the Lido Deck of Cruise & Maritime Voyages' Columbus. Bryson Shearwood

I couldn't believe my eyes - or ears when I saw 30 or so British voyagers avidly practising their choral pieces while - at a 'safe distance' - a German choir was doing the same. All good fun.

Wisely both choirs dispersed before cocktail hour so we could enjoy the melodious renderings of the professional piano and violin duo - a classy accompaniment for champagne or tea, a martini at Raffles perhaps, or any other atmospheric lounge bar on board.

The tone is traditional British country house - perfect for couples and solos who like a gracious style of cruising that delivers classy entertainment, fine food, friendly staff and plenty of fun. Yes, there are formal nights and everyone loves them.

Meanwhile in the Palladium Show Lounge, the professional entertainers were brushing up on their dance routines and testing sound levels for the night's performance of Hello Dolly.

Equally, voyagers like the camaraderie of amateur theatrics, ukulele and guitar groups, line- dancing, ballroom dancing, bridge and special-interest talks. And, of course, shore excursions.

Next morning, we awoke to views of Kagoshima's active volcano letting off steam.

Author Maggy Oehlbeck in Japan.
Author Maggy Oehlbeck in Japan. Maggy Oehlbeck

Shore choices were a stroll around its slopes, and visiting Sengan-en Garden and museum complex. Others chose natural sand baths at Ibusuki city hoping to emerge revitalised after being buried to the neck in warm sand. Or alternatively a tour of Chiran's Samurai Houses and Peace museum.

Meanwhile, stay-at- homes were happy with the gym, spa, creating in the Crafters Studio, or snoozing on deck.

Columbus's crowning achievement is the outstanding cuisine.

Restaurants are: Waterfront - full-service dining room; buffet-style Plantation Bistro adjoining the pool deck; Fusion for fabulous Indian cuisine and the exceptional Chef's Table private dining degustation dinner - a not-to-be-missed experience.

For more cruise details, go to cmvaustralia.com.


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