Farewell, CMV – the small British cruise line that offered a bargain way to sail

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Flagship: Columbus (Picture: CMV)

The news that Cruise & Maritime Voyages has gone into administration is a blow to thousands of loyal customers who loved sailing at a bargain price with the Essex-based company.

The six-ship line, which was due to expand by two more next year, was known for its ‘buy one, get one free’ offers, cheap short cruises and other discounts. It employed nearly 4,000 seafarers and shore-side staff and was due to carry almost 200,000 passengers in 2021.

But the coronavirus pandemic was a fatal blow to the line that sold low and sailed full.

CMV operated a fleet of veteran vessels – owned by Global Cruise Lines – which included the 74-year-old Astoria and Marco Polo, built in 1966, as well as Magellan, Astor and Columbus from the Eighties and the relatively new Vasco da Gama from 1993.

Due to join in 2021 were Amy Johnson and Ida Pfeiffer, the new names for two ships bought from P&O Australia.

All the vessels, with the exception of Astoria – which was due to leave the fleet – were scheduled to join a special parade and regatta in Rotterdam on August 28, 2021.

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Favourite: Magellan was one of the loved ships in the fleet (Picture: CMV)

CMV hit the headlines recently when four of its ships, docked at the home port of Tilbury, and Marco Polo at Bristol were detained by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency over breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention. The company said the problems arose from the challenge of repatriating crew during the worldwide Covid-19 lockdown.

As with many lines, the company had its loyal repeat cruisers who enjoyed the traditional service and old-school ships, and were prepared to overlook the sometimes dated fittings and furnishings that survived major overhauls.

The line delighted in providing themed cruises featuring topics such as Eighties tribute bands, TV game show hosts or cricketers.

But it was the bargains that kept passengers coming back, with cruises often under £60 per person per night. A 120-night world cruise in January 2021 was originally offered at fares under £9,000.

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Newcomer: Amy Johnson was due to join the fleet next year (Picture: CMV)

CMV offered no-frills, great value-for-money cruises. But in the end the deals couldn’t sustain the cost of keeping up six ageing ships during a pandemic.

Administrators Duff & Phelps tonight announced that CMV had ‘ceased trading with immediate effect and its international sales offices in Australia, France, the United States and TransOcean Kreuzfahrten in Germany have also ceased trading’.

It added: ‘Administration is likely to result in the redundancy of the UK employees and an uncertain future for those employees in the wider group.’

Paul Williams, joint administrator, said: ‘The travel, tourism and wider hospitality industry has been engulfed with a devastating and unprecedented global pandemic of seismic proportions impacting very hard on CMV’s once thriving cruise business compounded by last week’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office advisory against cruise travel.’

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Memories: The pool deck on Columbus (Picture: Dave Monk)

The suspension of CMV’s worldwide cruise programme on March 13 had affected more than 50,000 British and international passengers, he added.

CMV chief executive Christian Verhounig said the line had a record trading year in 2019, but added: ‘The CMV journey has tragically been cut short by this unprecedented global pandemic. We could just not get the financing deal over the line in time to save this wonderful business.

‘We are truly sorry to our loyal and hard-working shore-side staff and seafarers, travel trade partners and suppliers who have all patiently stood by us, and to our valued passengers for the disappointment and further disruption to their cruising holiday plans.

‘On behalf of the CMV family, directors and shareholders, I would like to thank everyone for their great support and sincerely apologise for these circumstances which are directly related to Covid-19 and beyond our control.’

Details on how affected customers can make a claim can be found on the Cruise & Maritime Voyages website. 

See also:

CMV celebrates launch of Columbus

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4 thoughts on “Farewell, CMV – the small British cruise line that offered a bargain way to sail

  1. Just so sad that this has happened. The crew and employees worked tirelessly to make our cruising a pleasure and I feel devastated for the loss of jobs. It was like being part of a family.

  2. I loved the fact that they kept older, smaller ships alive. I shudder to think of the fate of Marco Polo, Astoria and other classics that may likely end up being broken up for scrap! Farewell to a great line. R

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