From The UK To Australia: By Container Ship From Southampton To Port Kelang In The CMA CGM Musca (And Flight Beyond)

Several months ago, our client Peter Giles travelled in the CMA CGM Musca and was kind enough to send his report. Travels have delayed us posting it but here it is now with Peter’s comments:-

CMA CGM Musca © Klaus KnepelSince returning from Australia in November, I’ve been preoccupied catching up with the inevitable consequences of two months’ absence as well as all Christmas and New Years.  I do, though, want to let you know how much I enjoyed my “cargo cruise” from Southampton to Port Kelang aboard the CMA CGM Musca.
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You had, quite rightly, emphasized the need for flexibility in one’s travel arrangements, as there are so many variables involved in the logistics of large container ship movements, some of which demand decisions with short times.  Over a long period of time our sailing date had moved from September 11th to the 13th, the 14th, then the 16th and finally the 19th.  Just the week before planned embarkation, the Southampton port agent was in contact with me advising that weekend movements in the port were somewhat chaotic due to multiple late arrivals.  Musca had meanwhile gone from Rotterdam straight to Zeebrugge rather than calling at Southampton first.  Even so, she was held off the Isle of Wight for hours before being allowed into port late on the night of 18th September with a planned departure of 12:00 the next day.  The port agent had telephoned me on the 18th to suggest I arrive at the Port Security Office as early as possible because they might be able to set sail as soon as 09:45.
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None of this caused any problem;  in fact, by arriving at the Container Port before 08:00, we avoided all the peak traffic, so my wife had a relaxing journey as my driver.  From this point on, I found my expectations were exceeded.  It’s a daunting sight to be standing on the quayside looking up at the ship’s gangway running all the way up to the upper deck:  with Musca‘s considerable freeboard, the gangway seems to go on for ever – very different to boarding a vessel like the P&O Aurora, where the gangway runs to the ship from high up on the terminal building!
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I had expected to carry all my luggage (1 large & 1 small case) aboard myself, but the port agent’s minibus driver insisted on taking my large case aboard.  Once brief reception formalities were completed, the steward took both my cases along the corridor to the lift and settled me in to my cabin on F deck.  To my surprise, although it was now 08:20 and breakfast time was officially 07:00 – 08:00, the steward (Syrel Alimpuyo, from the Philippines, official job title Messman)  invited me to come down to the Officers’ Mess, where he prepared a welcome meal of scrambled eggs with all the trimmings. Not that it mattered to me, but we did depart at 12:00.
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CMA CGM Musca
, one of twelve similar vessels on the FAL3 route, is big (11,040 TEUs, Summer DWT 131,830 tons, 347 m LOA) but is eclipsed by the company’s newest 16,000 TEU ships (CMA CGM Marco Polo, Alexander von Humboldt and Jules Verne), themselves now overtaken by Maersk Line’s brand new McKinney Møller at 18,000 TEUs.  Even so, to get acquainted with Musca is to understand the huge and sophisticated scale on which the modern commercial world operates.  If, like me, you’re interested in these things and prefer in any event not to share your transportation with thousands of other passengers, this is a remarkable and privileged experience.
CMA CGM Musca Lounge

Cabin living area

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Musca
has four double cabins on F deck (three face forward and one aft), the penultimate deck level before the bridge, and above container load height.  Only the captain and chief engineer have their cabins and office on G deck, together with a Pilot’s cabin.  On this voyage I was the only passenger, so not only did I have a very spacious cabin all to myself, but the entire passengers’ recreation lounge as well..

CMA CGM Musca is very typical of the international multiplicity which characterizes the maritime industry: French company owned and operated, registered in London (a port she never visits) and thus subject to British merchant marine regulations, captain and officers mainly Croatian plus Ukrainian and Filipino, lower ranks Filipino, official language on board being English – and there were notices on display reminding people of this fact.  ..

CMA CGM Musca Bedroom

Cabin sleeping area

Understandably, when a bunch of Croatians come together at lunch or dinner, they will speak their native language, often quite excitably;  but, since the Ukrainians and Croatians did not speak each others’ languages, there were usually interludes of English conversation, and the captain was always attentive to bringing me into discussions from my adjacent table.  I can handle Italian, German and French , but none of their languages.  The Filipino officers usually seemed to work differential shifts and took their meals in the crew mess, but I was struck by the polite and friendly behaviour of all 28 members of the ship’s complement..

Hospitality on the bridge, to which I had almost unrestricted access, was very enjoyable, where I could study the output of the control and navigation systems, monitor the charts and look up all manner of maritime details in the extensive library of reference manuals - and the watch officers competed with each other to make the best espresso or cappuccino with their fresh coffee machine.  I had expected the bridge to be out of bounds to me when a pilot was on board, but was delighted to be there during the Suez Canal transit – it might well have had to be different had there been several other passengers.
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On the first full day at sea I was given a very comprehensive introduction to and tour of all facilities and stations relevant to on-board safety and emergencies. Quite apart from the emergency procedures summarised in a folder in my cabin, together with hard hat, ear defenders, and full immersion suit, the formal safety introduction included familiarisation with one of the two fully enclosed lifeboats, as well as a visit to the “citadel”, which is a large secure facility accessed via the stern lower deck.  The citadel’s purpose is to provide impenetrable protection for crew (and passengers) in the event of a hostile boarding:  while the ship cannot be navigated or controlled from there, it does contain all forms of marine communication for continuous contact with emergency agencies, both military and civilian.  During our voyage to Port Kelang Captain Dakic organised two fire fighting emergency drills which were formally timed with all appropriate reporting and subsequent debriefing.  There is no substitute for the reassurance of knowing that everyone is quite clear what they have to do in the event of any type of emergency.
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While it is quite unlikely that anyone could actually manage a seaborn hostile boarding of a ship the size and design of Musca, all CMA CGM vessels operating in known areas of high risk are equipped with very effective anti-grappling devices around the stern lower deck – trained Royal Marine Commandos have failed to get past these, even when stationary in calm water.  When we passed through the Gulf of Aden a full lighting blackout was enforced, which meant all illumination except navigation lights was made invisible from the outside.  Again, the guiding principle was to make no convenient assumptions and to take nothing for granted..

CMA CGM Musca passes through Suez

CMA CGM Musca passes through Suez

My main motives in choosing to travel by container ship rather than simply catching an aircraft from London to Perth, Western Australia (my ultimate destination) were:  to enjoy the peace and rest of a long sea voyage, get plenty of sea air, pass gradually from one time zone to another, read and write at leisure, observe how these giants of the sea operate and how their crews live, and to eat three square meals a day – the latter being something I rarely do at home, despite being one of the minority who could actually benefit from gaining some weight!  I can say with confidence that these objectives were all very well served – my only regret being that Musca couldn’t take me all the way to Perth..
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I did miss two meals during my 26 days on board:  a breakfast one morning when I overslept (though Syrel subsequently reminded me that I could come down to the Mess at any time to get cereals, toast and coffee), and a dinner one evening when I simply had no capacity for any more food, settling instead for some fruit.  The meals were good and varied, with some amusing Filipino versions of the menu descriptions (e.g. Chicken Gordon for Cordon Bleu, Crockets for Potato Croquettes, Leche Flan which proved to be Creme Caramel).  Captain Dakic occasionally influenced the choice of menu by calling for fish as well as meat, and bringing out the ice cream or the blue cheese.  Wine was usually served with dinner, with the alternative of German lager if preferred – the only exception being while we were in port at Jeddah, when all alcohol had to be locked away in the ship’s bonded store:  “Saudi prohibition”, as the captain ruefully described it!  On two or three occasions meat was barbequed in a surprisingly large semi-enclosed BBQ facility on E deck:  there was room enough for the crew to sit and eat in the same facility, while the officers and I were served in the Mess..
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Keeping fit is a matter to be taken seriously when you’re at sea for months on end.  If you take two tours of the upper deck on Musca, you will have walked 1.5 km.  For me as a passenger, I was required to contact the bridge first, so they could advise me of any work in progress on the upper deck and they would be aware of where I was going;  I would then let them know when I returned.  One would not normally be allowed on the upper deck after dark or in extreme weather conditions and certainly not when cargo operations were underway in port.  Common sense is required on deck at all times, as much of the time no one will be able to see you – least of all from the bridge.  I always made a point of walking down from F deck to B deck for all meals, though it was a tall order to walk back up again after three courses, so the lift was usually preferred afterwards..
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The alternative, though, was the gymnasium – well equipped with treadmill, weights, punchbag, as well as table tennis and darts – although the most impressive sight was the oldest crewmember, the 61-year-old chief engineer, jogging round the upper deck.  He did this most days, irrespective of the high temperatures, finishing by returning to his cabin on G deck via the external stairs.  Even though I’m seven years older, he made me feel quite inadequate as I smiled at him through the window from my air conditioned comfort in the passenger lounge.  Then, if you’re not hot enough, there’s always the sauna!  Better still was the lure of the swimming pool, freshly filled with seawater pumped up from the Red Sea at 32°C..
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Management gurus will always emphasize the importance of teamwork and bonding when considering how the best organisations operate.  A real sense of mutual support, as well as personal commitment, was very evident aboard Musca, and there is always plenty for everyone to do, both mundane as well as technically complicated - in fact, it is remarkable that a complex vessel of this size, running 24/7, only requires a crew of 28.  Officers and crew rotate at different intervals, from three months to as long as nine or occasionally twelve, so individuals go on leave and are replaced on a continuous rolling basis.  Any running repairs are handled according to circumstances, with any major works being undertaken in port where, if necessary, additional spare parts might have to be made available.  The ship does, though, carry a wide range of spares:  I even noticed a new piston and connecting rod in the engine room.  If additional skills and manpower should be required, company engineers are flown out to join the ship at a port of call and will stay aboard for as long as it takes..

CMA CGM Musca passenger and captain with crew

Passenger Giles (check shirt) with captain and crew

An on-deck BBQ party was organised one evening as we cruised across the Indian Ocean – this was on the starboard side of F deck, which was large enough to have a big portable BBQ and tables and benches for all to be seated.  Several of the Filipino crew were keen amateur musicians and there was no shortage of entertainment, much enjoyed by all.  I was quite surprised by the number of guitars on board, together with microphones, amplifiers and speakers.  Making your own amusement is a valuable skill..
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Extended cargo operations which seemed to go on forever in both Beirut and Jeddah made a further dent in our schedule - and we had waited a whole day outside Beirut pending clearance to get in on a berth.  Such are the routine frustrations confronting these ships – even if the vessel is ready to go, you’re still dependent upon tugs and pilot.  While the plan had been to arrive at Port Kelang on 13th October (having originally been the 11th), we were only able to get there on the morning of 15th October.  What had originally been anticipated as a 28 day voyage had been replanned at 24 days when the Southampton and Zeebrugge calls were reversed, but had gone out again to 26 days due to the further delays.  CMA CGM’s operations manager responsible for the FAL3 route had once told me all his ships had operated to schedule over the last two years;  I know now how he did that:  by moving the goalposts!  To be fair and realistic, I don’t envy him the constant challenges of his job though.  As things worked out, I had no regrets at all..
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Captain Dakic had offered me my own on-board email account quite early on.  I didn’t do this, as I didn’t want to encourage a flood of incoming messages, especially those of a casual nature.  Instead, at his invitation, I used his email account to keep my wife up to date, to confirm progress with a friend of mine who had been trying to track the ship on-line via AIS – impossible between Suez and the Malacca Strait unless you can justify the cost of Satellite AIS –  and to contact the hotel I had prearranged in Kuala Lumpur.  When I disembarked, most crew-members made a point of saying farewell and wishing me luck, and they insisted on carrying my luggage down to the quayside.  The captain had also taken it upon himself to negotiate with the Port Agent in Port Kelang for him to get me to central Kuala Lumpur after taking me to the Malaysian Immigration Office outside the port for passport formalities.  This the agent did for US$20, good value considering how far he drove me and the 1¼ hour Kommuter train ride, for which he paid, and which deposited me just 100 metres from my hotel.  It’s not the captain’s job to do these things, but these people know how to use their contacts and get things done..
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The humidity in Kuala Lumpur was very oppressive and , while I had intended to look around for a couple of days, I was not displeased to be on a flight to Perth the next day.  After a month in Australia, winding up in Sydney, I was, however, less than thrilled to be subjected to 24 hours of flights to get back to the UK.  Where was Musca when I needed her?.
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Any regrets?  Well, I should have chosen to do an engine room visit in port rather than at sea, if only to make it easier to have a conversation – though it was reassuring to see the huge propeller shaft actually turning!  Would I do such a voyage again?  Without hesitation!.
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For details of how to book a cargo ship voyage with CMA CGM please contact Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

First CMA CGM Passenger Service From London Gateway Is To Colombia, Chile and Peru – More South America To Follow

CMA CGM Sambhar © Björn-Marco HalmschlagCMA CGM has just announced its first passenger service from the new London Gateway container terminal in the Thames will be the Eurosal 1 service to Cartagena (Colombia), Punta Manzanillo (Panama), Callao (Peru) and Valparaiso (Chile), returning via Callao, Punta Manzanillo and Cartagena. European boarding ports include Rotterdam, Hamburg, London Gateway and Antwerp.

So far, one passenger-carrying ship, the CMA CGM Sambhar (above) has been assigned to this service, although another chartered vessel, the Balthasar Schulte, also carries passengers. CMA CGM Sambhar counts five double cabins in her accommodations so she can take a maximum of ten (10) passengers.

Eurosal 1Sample fares on the new service are €1,650 from London to Cartagena, €2,420 from London to Callao and €2,860 from London to Valparaiso, all per person in double occupacncy. The full round voyages is 56 days and costs €6,160 per person double and €6,720 single. The Single Supplement is about 9.1%.

The six new deep-water berths at London Gateway will add 3.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) to the UK’s port capacity to handle the largest new ships, so expect more sailings from here in future. Routes to Brazil and Argentina will be next.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

 

 

Three Cargo Ships On A Round-the-World Itinerary Connected By Rail

For a world cruise that’s different, you can try the French Line CMA CGM. Its Columbus Loop service now offers a total of nine partial world cruises in each direction throughout the year, with the 89,787-ton CMA CGM Dalila, built in 2011, and 90.931-ton CMA CGM Figaro and CMA CGM La Scala, built in 2010.

World Cruises - CMA CGMThese three ships run between New York, Norfolk and Savannah on the East Coast and Seattle and Vancouver on the West Coast, sailing by way of the Suez Canal, or sometimes the Cape of Good Hope, and ports in Malaysia, China, South Korea and Japan.

The only thing is that one must travel by train or plane between the two coasts of the United States in order to complete the full round-the-world circuit.

Ports of call on the way out from New York include Tanjung Pelepas, Hong Kong, Yantian, Shanghai and Pusan, and in the opposite direction back from Seattle, Yokohama, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong, Yantian and Tanjung Pelepas.

World Cruises - CMA CGM 2013These modern container ships carry seven (7) passengers each in three double cabins and one single. They come equipped with indoor  swimming pools, and meals are taken in the officers’ mess. The fare of €100 per person per day includes full board, port charges, deviation insurance and complimentary French table wine with lunch and dinner. CMA CGM Dalila and CMA CGM Figaro fly the French flag, while CMA CGM La Scala is registered in London.

Part voyages are also possible but the full 112-day round voyage from New York to Seattle and back, or vice versa, costs €11,200 (about $15,495 or £10,075). New York to Seattle is €6,000 (about $8,300 or £5,395) for 60 days and Seattle to New York €5,200 (about $7,195 or £4,675) for 52 days.

The next sailings from New York are by CMA CGM La Scala on August 7, CMA CGM Figaro on September 16 and CMA CGM Dalila on September 30, followed by CMA CGM La Scala again on November 25. Sailings from Seattle are by CMA CGM Dalila on August 8, CMA CGM La Scala on October 3, CMA CGM Figaro on November 14 and CMA CGM Dalila again on November 28. Departues from Vancouver take place three (3) days after Seattle and one-way fares to New York are €300 ($415 or £270) lower per person.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at passenger agents The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Last Minute Opportunity From Europe/UK to Tahiti on October 22; Also Three 2012 Cabins Northbound From Sydney

Due to a cancellation, there is now an Owner’s Cabin available from Tilbury to Tahiti on October 22, 2012, on board the CMA CGM Manet.

Please also take note that we have one cabin available from Australia to Europe on each of the following sailings: spot/prompt on/about September 27, also cabins on/about November 9 and December 7, 2012!

The fare is €110 per person per day including full board, port charges and complimentary French wine with lunch and dinner. Non-US and Canadian citizens will need full US visas as cargo ships are not included in the US visa waiver program (also known as ESTA).Each double cabin is about 235 sq ft, fitted with a double bed, sofa, desk, chair, wardrobe, a bathroom (wc/shower) and a fridge. The Owner’s Cabin has twin beds and its own door into the Passenger Lounge. Common areas include a Gymnasium and Library, Passenger Lounge with: TV, video, DVD and an indoor Swimming Pool. The port rotation for each voyage is Tilbury – Rotterdam – Dunkirk – Le Havre – New York – Savannah – Kingston (Jamaica) – Manzanillo (Panama) – Panama Canal – Papeete (Tahiti) – Lautoka (Fiji) – Noumea (New Caledonia) – Sydney – Melbourne – Napier – Tauranga – Manzanillo – Kingston – Savannah – Philadelphia – Tilbury.

For further details please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

The Cruise People Sample a Cargo Ship Voyage With CMA CGM

On Sunday, August 19, at 9:30 pm, The Cruise People’s Miri Lopusna and I joined the 5,780 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) container ship CMA CGM Chopin at Southampton Container Terminals, berthed just forward of Hapag-Lloyd’s gigantic new 13,200 TEU Hamburg Express, calling on her maiden voyage. It is late and we have eaten on the train on the way down from London, so we sign on board and turn in early, anticipating a 6:30 am departure. Running into Commandant Jean-Michel Serra, however, we learn that our departure has been delayed until 10:30 am, so we are able to sleep in a little — breakfast runs 7 to 9 am.

My colleague Miri has lucked in on this one, as while we are both on Deck F along with the commandant and chief engineer, she gets the Senior Officer’s Spare Cabin A with 4’7” double bed, while I am accommodated in the Owners Cabin, which has two 3-foot beds. Both staterooms are forward-facing and as they are on the highest cabin deck have a view over the container load.

The CMA CGM Chopin and her sister ships CMA CGM Puccini, Verdi and Wagner are each furnished with five cabins for passengers, two of which have double beds. Each cabin is en suite and has its own sofa, coffee table, desk, chair and fridge as well as two wide windows facing forward and its own deck chairs stowed away next to the wardrobes. Those on Deck E, however, are likely to have their windows obscured by containers. The ship is also equipped with an outdoor swimming pool on Deck E and a gymnasium, rowing machine, bicycle, ping pong table and library on Deck A.

As our Monday morning departure has been delayed we are able to enjoy a relatively relaxed breakfast in the Officers Mess on Deck B — the four decks between our cabins and our meals also make for good exercise. Breakfast is fried eggs and brown toast with tea for me, and baguette with jam and coffee for Miri.

We also meet our fellow passengers, Pat from Washington DC and Jewel, an American now living in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, near Playa del Carmen. Both ladies boarded at Southampton and will be accompanying the ship as far as Jebel Ali, and then flying home from Dubai. Departure is interesting as, with the tide out, we have to reverse through a narrow channel and then turn in the congested waters off a local yacht club anchorage before we are able to proceed down the Solent and thus to sea.

Once down the Solent, our lunch as we pass Cowes is Salad Nicoise, Hamburger Steak with mustard sauce and green beans, assorted cheeses with fresh baguettes, tea, coffee and an ice cream stick. Meal hours on French ships are quite a bit later than on German ones, with breakfast typically running as late as 9 am, lunch the usual 12 to 1 pm and dinner at a reasonable 7 to 8 pm. This compares to German ships with 7:30 to 8 am breakfast, 11:30 to 12:30 lunch and 5:30 to 6 pm dinner. Coffee and tea on the French ships is also available between 10 am and 3 pm.

At 4 pm we have our safety drill on the bridge and are instructed on the signals for Emergency, Fire and Abandon Ship and shown to the lifeboats six decks down on Deck A. Having walked down from the bridge (there is also a lift) we four passengers decide we might as well continue down to the Upper Deck and do a circuit of the ship, walking the port side up to the bows and climbing into the forecastle and later back on the starboard side all the way to the stern to complete the full circuit and re-enter the ship on the port side again.

This class of ship has the superstructure three-quarters aft with containers stowed both forward and aft of the accommodation. The walk-around promenade passes under the outboard containers and gives access to all areas of the ship while at sea, but passengers should only use this area in calm seas and  inform the officer of the watch when going forward so that the crew are aware of their whereabouts. And they should never enter this area while the ship is working in port as moving equipment makes it very dangerous.

Our ship was built by Samsung Shipbuilding in South Korea in 2004, measures 910 feet overall by 131 feet, and has a maximum speed of 25 knots. While only half the size of the Hapag-Lloyd ship berthed astern of us in Southampton, the CMA CGM Chopin is still a post-Panamax ship, too wide to transit the old locks of the Panama Canal. Her senior officers and cadets are French and her Filipino  junior officers and crew have just taken over from a Romanian crew on the previous voyage.

This we learn from Adelfo, the Filipino third officer who signed us in on Sunday night and from Anthony, our steward, who, as it turns out, had served five years on board Queen Elizabeth 2 (and was on board when I crossed in her in 2001) and a year in Queen Mary 2 before moving over to CMA CGM five years ago.

Dinner that evening is a very good vegetable soup (we all have seconds), Chicken Cordon Bleu with spaghetti, assorted cheeses and fresh fruit for dessert, accompanied by the French line’s usual complimentary table wine. Much revolves around the meals on the French-flag ships especially as the chef is of course French and wine comes with the meals. That evening, as we coast past Dunkirk and the beaches of Flanders and Holland, we all turn in early for an expected 5 am arrival at the Nieuw Waterway into Rotterdam the next day, where we will be duly alongside our container berth by 7 am.

The European Container Terminal’s Amazonekade, where we berth in the Port of Rotterdam is forty kilometres from Central Rotterdam. The terminal itself is quite fascinating as most of its trailers and straddle carriers are driverless, with the real people only operating the ship-to-shore gantries and removing the twist locks from containers coming ashore. Worth a visit in Rotterdam itself are the preserved Holland America liner Rotterdam, the Hotel New York, once the headquarters of the Holland America Line, and the city’s Maritime Museum.

Rotterdam is modern, having been heavily bombed during the Second World War. Be warned, however, that the taxi fare between the container berth and the city itself can be €100 each way. Luckily, the passengers on our ship are able to split the expense four ways. Dinner on our return to the ship is a pink grapefruit seafood cocktail followed by roast pork tenderloin with gravy (and the lunch we missed was chicken).

The next day is another day at sea, with more great soups, salmon for lunch and lamb stew for dinner, along with the usual complimentary wine and assortment of cheeses and baguettes. That afternoon, we are invited to go on a guided engine room tour to see the ship’s 10-cylinder 77,000-horsepower diesel engine and controls, shaft and shaft and auxiliary generators, workshop, freshwater condenser and oil and water separators.

This is followed by time on the bridge observing the navigation of the ship. We pick up our Elbe pilot at about 5 pm, pass Cuxhaven before the river narrows, and then the locks at the mouth of the Kiel Canal, making our way up the Elbe and finally coming alongside in Hamburg at 11:30 pm. After a fascinating four nights, we disembark early the next morning to go about our business.

Our fellow passengers meanwhile will carry on to Antwerp, Dunkirk and Le Havre, where the ship will be replenished with new supplies, and then on to Port Said East, Khor Fakkan in the Emirates and Jebel Ali, Dubai, where they will disembark.

For those wishing to investigate longer voyages more than 350 passenger-carrying cargo ships are now available, and 65 of those are operated by CMA CGM. Bookings can be made through Miri Lopusna (pictured above with the two lady passengers) at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or by e-mail at cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

The Cruise Examiner Samples A Cargo Ship Voyage – Star Clippers To Cruise From Cuba – American Queen Steamboat Company

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 27th August 2012

Last week The Cruise Examiner sampled freighter travel on a coastal voyage from Southampton to Rotterdam and Hamburg, and today reports on his experience on board the French-flag container ship CMA CGM Chopin. Cargo ship cruises are now offered on over 300 cargo ships worlwise and can be booked through specialist agents such as The Cruise People Ltd. In other news, this weekend Star Clippers announced a program of Cuban cruises for its 170-guest Star Flyer in 2014, while the Great American Steamboat Company has quietly changed its name to the American Queen Steamboat Company, the better to reflect its business as operators of the 436-berth American Queen, while the 150-berth competitor Queen of the Mississippi was christened in Nashville this weekend.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

French Asia Line 1 Brings the World’s Largest Passenger-Carrying Container Ships to the Southampton-Far East Trade

CMA CGM CHRISTOPHE COLOMB en navigation - Copyright Thierry Dosogne

CMA CGM is now the third largest container line in the world, but its illustrious history includes some of the world’s greatest ocean liners, such as the Paris, Ile de FranceNormandie, Liberté and France. It was in recognition of this past that, after CMA acquired the state-owned CGM in 1996, CMA CGM chairman and ceo Jacques Saadé instructed that passenger accommodation be installed in a number of their newbuilding container ships. Many CMA CGM ships to this day still carry up to twelve passengers each, the maximum number allowed on a cargo ship.

The Cruise People first announced the introduction to service of the giant container ship CMA CGM Christophe Colomb in November 2009 but in her initial period of service the passenger accommodation was reserved for company guests and VIPs. More recently, the 13,800 TEU CMA CGM Christophe Colomb and sister ships have been operating on French Asia Line 5, but with a recent realignment of Far East schedules with the Mediterranean Shipping Company, these ships are now transferring to the French Asia Line 1.

Voyages now commence in Southampton and calls are made in  Hamburg, Bremerhaven,  Zeebrugge, Le Havre and Malta before the ship sails for Khor Fakkan, Jebel Ali, Ningbo, Shanghai, Xiamen, Nansha, Hong Kong, Chiwan and Yantian, returning via Port Kelang and Tanger Med to Southampton, a full round voyage of 77 days.

Along with five ships of the 11,400 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) “Cassiopea” class, five French-flag and two British-flag 13,800 TEU ships, the largest passenger-carrying container ships in the world, have been placed onto the French Asia Line 1 route and a brief description follows:

French flagCMA CGM Christophe Colomb, CMA CGM La Perouse and CMA CGM Amerigo Vespucci.  British flagCMA CGM Magellan and CMA CGM Corte Real.

Cabins and Suites: Each ship has five passenger cabins on Deck F. Each Cabin or Suite is fitted with: refrigerator, sofa, coffee table, desk, an easy chair, wardrobe and chest of drawers, wall mirror and private lavatory unit with shower, washbasin and WC. Double beds measure 200 x 160 cm (6’6½” x 5’3″) and twin beds 200 x 120 cm (6’6½” x 3’11¼”) each. Suite E-718: about 37 m² (398 sq ft), twin beds, two side windows and three windows aft, plus 14 m² (150 sq ft) Terrace Deck with the cabin; Cabin A-701: about 30 m² (323 sq ft), one double bed, three forward and two side windows; Cabins B-712 & C-714: about 23 m² (248 sq ft), one double bed, three forward windows; Cabin D-716: about 23 m² (248 sq ft), one double bed, two forward and two side windows.

Public Areas: Gymnasium, about 28 m² (300 sq ft), on Deck A, Ping-Pong table, rowing machine, home trainer, darts; Swimming Pool on Deck A; Passenger Lounge, on Deck F, fitted with a game table, TV and DVD reader ;Library on Deck F with a desk; Officers Mess Room (by invitation only). Like the “Christophe Colombe” class ships, the slightly smaller (but still huge)  “Cassiopea” class also feature five double cabins and similar public areas.

Fares: Valid from February 2012 in Euros, per day and per person, covering travel with full board and complimentary wine with lunch and dinner, including port charges.  Cabins €110 per person per day in double occupany, or €110 for single occupancy. For Owners Suite, please contact us for details. Note: For voyages of less than 10 days duration, daily fare is €130 (double occupancy), and €150 (single occupancy).

For further details and information on any of these voyages please call Miri Lopusna at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7273 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

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