Cruise Review: European cities cruise on Columbus

by ontravelx

Fabulous cruises are within your reach and don’t require much travel. With Cruise & Maritime Voyages, you can spend five nights exploring three countries and three amazing cities from Tilbury on the Thames. Do there in the off-season and you’ll get the best deals, the streets will be less busy, and you can enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.

The cruise

At Tilbury on the Thames, the trip starts in a listed brick structure from the 1930s, where cruises depart. You can leave Southend (with its long pier lit up in the twilight) and arrive in Amsterdam the following morning. The next day, you’ll see Hamburg, then spend a day at sea, and then visit the Belgian city of Antwerp before returning home the following morning.

“Setting Sail on an Unforgettable Journey: Cruise on Columbus

This is a cricketing cruise that also includes visits to three other cities. CMV’s tours often have a specific theme, such as the 1960s, the stars of the British comedy series Carry On, or famous athletes. Here, former “They Think It’s All Over” presenter Nick Hancock hosts a group of cricketing greats for a variety of events, including a quiz show, a chat show, and a party. Among the guests are former England captain Mike Gatting and fast bowler Devon Malcolm.

The ship

The traditional form of the Columbus allows it to carry 1,400 people. There’s no need to hurry or worry here; simply comfortable lodgings, a wide variety of entertaining performances, lively music in the several bars (including the sweepingly beautiful Dome), and delicious cuisine.

The upscale Waterfront serves five-course meals, while the laid-back Plantation Bistro serves fish & chips and creative curries in a nautical atmosphere. The ship’s Master Chef, Goan Michael Shaji, ensures that the £15-per-person boutique Fusion restaurant is top-notch. For the same price, you can dine at the equally charming Grill steakhouse. Everything is delightfully British and reasonably priced, with a pint of Spitfire bitter going for about £4.50.


By the time we finish our coffee and croissants, we’re already in the middle of the city at the end of the North Sea Canal. In only two minutes, we’ve reached the glass-topped boat that will take us on the must-do tour of the canal system.

We ride through the Anne Frank House Museum and dozens of bicycles while enjoying coffee and apple pie. We get out at the Albert Cuypmarkt, a daily street market where we purchase waffles and other delightful goodies, and then explore the up-and-coming neighborhood of De Pijp.

As an added bonus, parking spaces on the side streets have been transformed into communal gardens, complete with flower-draped wood “worm hotels” used to decompose yard trash. There is just enough time to go through the impressive Rijksmuseum, along canals, through the Rokin retail area, and back to the ship.

Back on board for a late lunch and the Cricketing Highlights show in the Palladium theater, where Nick Hancock interviews cricket greats like Mike Gatting, Devon Malcolm, former Sussex captain Alan Wells, England bowler John Lever, Essex bowler and author Ray East, and Essex batsman and bowler Graham Napier about their favorite cricket moments before showing an inspiring film of career highlights.



The next day, we spend the morning cruising along the Elbe River, which is broad, picturesque in the mist, and lined with grand hotels and even a few beaches. After a leisurely breakfast at 10:30, we tune in to “An Audience with Mike Gatting and Devon Malcolm,” an in-depth conversation that focuses on show business rather than sports statistics (a la the Parky program).

The baroque tower of St. Michael’s Church looms above us as we enter the city’s magnificent center. The glassy, wavy-roofed Elbphilharmonie music hall (the “Elbe”) emerges from one of the historic warehouses that today comprise a complex of arts, apartments, and restaurants along the riverbank. You may enter at no cost and go up winding stairs, through bars with sweeping vistas, and into a strikingly contemporary music venue.

Scenic View of Hamburg Hammerbrook: Central Canal and SBahn StationImage source:sweasy/

We take a leisurely walk down to the riverfront, where ferries, sailing ships, and tour boats do their trade (under the magnificent iron pillars of the overhead railway,

now carrying the contemporary metro). We ride the lift down 24 meters to the Old Elbe Tunnel, the first river tunnel on the continent to accommodate vehicles when it opened in 1911. It’s a joy—and it’s free—thanks to the gorgeous tiling and the relief panels depicting marine life.

We continue on through the Submarine Museum, where a functioning Russian submarine holds exhibitions on the horrors of war, and the exquisite Fish Market (which dates back to 1703 and where fish, flowers, clothing, souvenirs, and much more are sold amid the coffee and food kiosks every Sunday morning). We take a detour through the exciting St. Pauli neighborhood and amble through the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s famous red-light district, a frenetic boulevard lined with risqué businesses and kebab joints. The Beatles honed their skills here, performing for hours on end for American military personnel in small clubs.

We meet Stefanie Hempel at Beatles-Platz, a circular record-shaped space dominated by stainless steel statues of the Fab Four, for her Beatles tour with a twist: armed with a ukulele and stopping to sing songs as we see various sights, including several where they performed.

Among these landmarks are the entrance to the Top Ten club (formerly the grand Hippodrome and now the trendy Moondoo), the monument on the site of the former Star Club, and the apartment house doorway in which John Lennon posed gloomily for a photo that would later be used on his Rock ‘n’ Roll album. The Reeperbahn is deserted at nightfall, so we decide to return to the ship for supper.


Time for cricket

Embracing the tranquility of evening, friends gather to play a spirited game of street crickeImage source: Gokul DC/

The day begins with a cricket quiz that has all the polish of a stand-up comedy routine but all the charm of a test match. With the help of the players, Nick Hancock poses questions to the crowd before a panel discussion with England bowler John Lever, Essex bowler and author Ray East, and Essex batsman and bowler Graham Napier. Even if you’re not a cricket fanatic, you’ll enjoy the stories of teamwork, alcohol, and outlandish international travel.

Guests eager to talk with their idols line up for autographs and pictures at the Meet the Cricketers function in the Dome after lunch. Later in the day, at tea time, the men compete in the final round of the Question of Cricket Quiz (with more than a touch of humor from Hancock).


Captivating Aerial View: Sunset Over Antwerp, BelgiumImage source: STLJB/

There is still another major port on the Scheldt, on another river. The old town is where we make landfall, not far from the magnificent Gothic and Baroque St. Paul’s Church. This is the starting point of our walking trip. The inside is even more magnificent than the exterior (it is broader than Notre Dame in Paris) and has several enormous altar paintings by local lad Peter Paul Rubens. In contrast, the Boerentoren, a 97-meter Art Deco structure built in 1932, claims to be Europe’s first skyscraper.

De Koninck brewery, which opened in 1833, is still brewing but is a state-of-the-art attraction with an industrial chic bar and several restaurants, including the brand-new Black Smoke barbecue, which opened in November 2018. Rubens’ home is located just off the main shopping street and is a delight among chocolate shops, cafes, and bars.

Fact File

Regular short cruise breaks to Europe are available through Cruise & Maritime Voyages, such as the three-night Amsterdam & Antwerp Break leaving Tilbury on October 31, 2019, for just £289 per person. A later date will be set for other cricket cruises.

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