CMV: The quiet achiever
Britain's Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) might not be particularly well known to east-coast Australians but over the past five years the line's boutique ship Astor has gained a loyal fan base in Western and South Australia. Astor is returning for its sixth season this month but will be replaced next year by CMV's latest ship, the considerably larger Vasco da Gama, which will sail out of Sydney and Singapore, as well as Fremantle and Adelaide.
The 1200-passenger Vasco da Gama will be CMV's sixth ship. The independent cruise line operates Columbus (1400 passengers), Magellan (1300), Marco Polo (800), Astor (600) and Astoria (550), from 11 regional British home ports to destinations across the globe. Vasco da Gama will join the CMV fleet in April, having gone into dry dock in Singapore as P&O Cruises' Pacific Eden and emerged "refreshed", with new name and livery.
CMV Australia's managing director Dean Brazier is delighted to welcome the new ship during the company's 10th-anniversary year. He says CMV's clientele tend to be empty-nesters and Baby Boomers who want to see new destinations in a comfortable setting and at a competitive price point. CMV has a high-level of repeat passengers and Brazier, a dual Australian-British citizen, has observed many similarities and differences between Aussie and British cruisers over the years.
"For example, Brits really like to get dressed up for dinner, while Aussies tend to be more casual and relaxed," he says. "Aussies also tend to be more adventurous eaters than the Brits, so I expect there will be a lot of guests trying to dine in all six of our restaurants on board Vasco da Gama. Both enjoy a drink, although Aussies prefer their pints cold, so having six bars and lounges on board means there's plenty of choice.
"But when all is said and done, both Aussies and Brits have a great sense of humour and tend to get along really well so there is always a bit of friendly banter over a drink or two at dinner or in the lounges."
Vasco da Gama will arrive in Sydney in December next year for its inaugural three-month Australian season. Itineraries will range from a two-night Western Australia weekend escape to 10-night voyages around Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, plus exotic escapes to Southeast Asia.
Brazier says the ship's introduction is a direct result of the increased demand for traditional, boutique cruising. "We're always looking for new ways to meet growing demand, so further expanding the fleet is a distinct possibility." See cmvaustralia.com
THE PORT Istanbul, Turkey
WHO GOES THERE Celestyal, HAL, Oceania, RSSC, Ponant, Silversea.
WHY WE LOVE IT Although cruise lines have given Turkey a wide berth in recent years, Istanbul is back on a few select itineraries. The city that sits at the crossroads between Europe and Asia has a rich history going back some 3000 years and is one of the most spectacular ports in the world. Illustrating this complex heritage is one of Istanbul's most significant landmarks, Hagia Sophia, which was built as a cathedral in the 6th century, became a mosque in the 15th century and is now a museum.
TAKE A TOUR OR GO IT ALONE? Ships dock at Karaköy, where the Golden Horn flows into the Bosphorus. Karaköy is becoming a hip and happening district – art lovers should see the fabulous Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. You can walk to Galata Tower or take the funicular to Taksim, the modern part of Istanbul. A walk across the Galata Bridge takes you to the old quarter of Eminönü and Sultanahmet, where most of the historic sites are located. If you're visiting Istanbul for the first time, it's advisable to take a guided tour that includes a cruise across the Bosphorus to the Asian side – and if you've been before, why not take a day trip to Büyükada (the biggest of the Princes' Islands)?
MUST SEE Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and the Byzantine Basilica cistern. On the Asian side, Beylerbeyi Palace, Mihrimah Sultan mosque and a ride on the heritage tram to Moda for antiques and book shops.
MUST EAT Balik ekmek, a sandwich containing grilled fish, onions and salad; pide, boat-shaped baked dough filled with minced meat, spinach, eggs or spicy Turkish sausage; simit, round crunchy rolls covered in sesame seeds; icli kofte, spicy meatballs wrapped in a crispy bulgur shell; and midye dolmasi, stuffed mussels.
NEED TO KNOW If you arrive in Turkey by sea as a tourist and will stay in the seaport city or nearby provinces for 72 hours or less, you won't need to get a visa. Otherwise you need to apply for an online visa at evisa.gov.tr
More than 14,000 ships a year pass through the 82-kilometre Panama Canal between Colón on the Atlantic side and the Bay of Panama on the Pacific side.
The Vikings are coming
Viking Orion, the newest ship to join Viking's growing ocean fleet, will using Australia as its home port for three months every year from December. Arriving in Darwin on December 4 en route to Sydney, Viking Orion will spend the next three months sailing between Sydney and Auckland. The ship will leave Sydney in early March 2019, heading for Indonesia via Australia's east coast. Viking Sun will also be travelling Down Under in March, on a 128-day world cruise and will visit Adelaide and Perth for the first time. "The fact that Viking is about to start home-porting in Australia and New Zealand demonstrates just how fast the cruising market is growing here and how much we believe in it," said Michelle Black, managing director of Viking Cruises Australia and New Zealand. See vikingcruises.com.au
Showtime on Norwegian Jewel
Norwegian Jewel is returning to Sydney on December 1, having undergone a two-week bow-to-stern refurbishment in Singapore. Jewel will sail seven- to 19-day cruises to Tasmania, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands before heading off to Singapore and Southeast Asia on February 13. Among the sparkling new features on the ship are two bars, the American retro-style Pit Stop and late-night entertainment spot Bliss UltraLounge; two huge Haven Deluxe Owner's Suites; and two new shows, Rock You Tonight and ship exclusive Velvet. Rock You Tonight showcases a medley of songs from the best bands of the 1970s, including Queen, Journey and the Who. The Australian hit musical Velvet makes its debut at sea with disco classics, a stellar combination of circus acrobatics, cabaret and burlesque elements. See ncl.com