Cruise Review: European cities cruise on Columbus

by Adrian Lucas

Amazing cruises are within your reach and don’t require much travel. From Tilbury on the Thames, you can embark on a five-night cruise to three different countries with Cruise and Maritime Voyages. When you visit in the off-season, you can take advantage of lower pricing, fewer tourists, and the beautiful fall foliage.

The cruise

This adventure begins in a historic location, in Tilbury on the Thames, in a brick cruise port from the 1930s that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. You may leave Southend (with its long pier lit up in the twilight) and arrive in Amsterdam the following morning. The next day, you’ll visit Hamburg, then spend a day at sea, then spend the night in Antwerp, Belgium, and return the following morning feeling rejuvenated.

On the other hand, this is not just any cruise; it’s a cricketing trip that stops at three different cities. CMV’s tours sometimes have a specific theme, such as the 1960s, the stars of the British comedy show Carry On, or a sports legend. Former “They Think It’s All Over” presenter Nick Hancock hosts a panel discussion with former England captain Mike Gatting and fast bowler Devon Malcolm on Cricket Legends.

The ship

The traditional form of the Columbus allows it to transport 1,400 people. Relax in comfortable accommodations, see a wide variety of performances, listen to live music in one of many bars (including the stunning Dome), and feast on delicious cuisine without any of the usual hassles.

The upscale Waterfront serves five-course meals, while the laid-back Plantation Bistro serves fish & chips and creative curries in a nautical setting. The ship’s Master Chef, Goan Michael Shaji, ensures that the £15-per-person boutique Fusion restaurant is top-notch. The clean small steakhouse Grill is just as expensive, but it’s just as nice. A pint of Spitfire bitter only costs $4.50, and everything is beautifully British and reasonably priced.


Before we know it, we’ve woken up and are gliding towards the center of the city at the end of the North Sea Canal. The glass-topped boat we’ll be taking across the canal system is just a two-minute walk away.

Coffee and apple pie are served as we cross narrow bridges and ride by the Anne Frank House Museum and dozens of bicycles. 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.

Along with the flower-adorned wood “worm hotels” that serve as communal gardens in place of parking spots, the disposal of green waste and the ensuing compost are bountiful attractions in the narrower streets.

You can take a leisurely walk through the magnificent Rijksmuseum, down the canals, through the Rokin retail district, and back to the ship without missing departure (first buying a Delft blue and white pottery Christmas decoration from the stall at the port).

After a late lunch, we’re back on board for Nick Hancock’s Cricketing Highlights show in the Palladium theater, where we hear from 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.


The next day, we spend the morning cruising along the River Elbe, which is vast, picturesque in the mist, and lined with elaborate hotels and, on occasion, 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.

The baroque tower of St. Michael’s Church dominates the beautiful town square as we pull up. You should start by checking out the newest addition to the riverfront: the Elbphilharmonie music hall (the “Elbe”), which was built from the renovation of one of the old warehouses that now contains galleries, studios, and restaurants. Within (visitors are not charged) lies a maze of crooked stairs, bars with sweeping views, and a stunningly contemporary performance hall.

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 24 meters down to the Old Elbe Tunnel, the first river tunnel on the continent to accommodate vehicles when it opened in 1911. It’s a treat, and it’s totally free, thanks to the gorgeous tilework, the relief panels depicting aquatic life, and the fact that the occasional car still travels down the narrow road.

We proceed past the Submarine Museum, which features a functioning Russian sub housing displays on the horrors of war, and the elegant Fish Market (which dates back to 1703 and is open every Sunday morning, selling fish along with flowers, clothes, souvenirs, and much more among the coffee and food stands). 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 musical skills here, performing for hours each day to American military personnel in basement clubs.

We meet Stefanie Hempel, our Beatles tour guide, at Beatles-Platz, a circular, record-like space ruled over by stainless steel statues of the Fab Four (actually the Fab Five, with one-time member Stu Sutcliffe, integral to their time here), and we embark on a tour unlike any other, complete with a ukulele and frequent stops to sing songs while viewing various sights, including several where they performed.

The entryway of the apartment building where John Lennon stood gloomily for a photo that would eventually be used for the cover of his Rock ‘n’ Roll album is included, as is the monument marking the location of the old Star Club. By the time we leave the Reeperbahn, it will be dark, and we will have to return to the ship for supper.

Time for cricket

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. Nick Hancock, with the help of the cricketers, fields questions from the audience before a Q&A with England bowler John Lever, Essex bowler and author Ray East, and Essex batsman and bowler Graham Napier.

Even if you’re not a die-hard cricket fan, you’ll enjoy the stories of teamwork, beer, and outlandish international adventures.

After midday, fans go to the Dome to see their favorite cricketers at a reception called “Meet the Cricketers.” Afterwards, the men will be put to the ultimate test of their cricket lore at the Question of Cricket Quiz at teatime (with more than a touch of humor from Hancock).


The Scheldt is another significant river and harbor. Near the beautiful Gothic and Baroque St. Paul’s Church, where we dock, is the old town. After getting out of the car, here is where the trip begins on foot.

The inside is even more impressive (it’s broader than Notre Dame in Paris) because of the several enormous altar paintings by local boy Peter Paul Rubens. In contrast, the Boerentoren, a 97-meter Art Deco structure built in 1932, is sometimes cited as Europe’s first skyscraper.

De Koninck brewery, 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

Three nights on the Amsterdam and Antwerp Break, leaving Tilbury on October 31, 2019, for just £289 per person, is just one example of the cruise line Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ lineup of affordable European short-break itineraries. There will be future cricket cruise announcements.

Take note that beginning on December 6, 2018, you can go on a five-night vacation that visits Christmas markets in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Antwerp.


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