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MV Funchal on Cruise-Australia.com

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Classic Ocean Voyages” 

With Reuben Goossens

Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Maritime Historian, Author & Maritime Lecturer

 

MV Funchal

A Comprehensive Ship Review

Please Note: Cruise-Australia is a non-commercial and privately owned cruise site and it is NOT associated with any cruise company or travel agency! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960 and is semi-retired, but continues to write cruise and ship reviews and articles in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts and provide information for those intending a cruise in the future. Please read my statement at the bottom of the page!

Funchal seen departing Singapore in the mid afternoon

Photograph 2008 R. Goossens

Introduction:

Updated May 2011: MV Funchal is famed for her proud Portuguese maritime heritage and she once served as the Portuguese Presidential Yacht for State visits. She was eventually purchased by “Classic International Cruises” (CIC) in 1984, thus the MV Funchal is the true veteran of the CIC fleet for she was their very first ship and today they have a fleet of 5 superb ex classic liner; Their flagship MV Athena ex MS Stockholm. MV Funchal ex SS Funchal. Sisters MV Princess Daphne & MV Princess Danae ex Port Sydney & Port Melbourne and the intimate yacht like MV Arion ex MS Istra.

When Funchal became the leading ship of the “Classic International Cruises” fleet she very quickly proven to be one of the most popular and greatly loved cruise ships around as she served the British and European cruise market for some several decades and then she headed for Australia where she was based in Fremantle, Western Australia during the Australian summer season.

For this reason the intimate yacht like Funchal would undertake a relocation voyage via the Suez Canal from UK/Europe to Fremantle (Perth) and operated a series of cruises along the Australian coast as well as up to Asia, especially that ever popular destination Bali, and she certainly made inroads into the cruise markets in Western Australia and she became an extremely popular ship, not just with Western Australian’s but with Australian’s from all States who were more thjan happy to fly up to 6 hours to cross the country.

What makes the Funchal such ship is that  she is has that genuine classic liner heritage and therefore she offers her guests something that no modern built ship can possibly offer, the feel of a real ship, as well as a relaxing and an informal style of cruise. She is perfectly suited to those who enjoy a classic, or an old-fashioned style of service that is more personal, and as we all know that is something that is lacking on those modern huge square box-like apartment blocks ships that accommodate anything from 2,200 to up to a massive 6,500 passengers and up to 3,500 crew, therefore you simply become a number and are constantly standing in a long queue attempting to board, disembark or attempting to entering a venue. Whilst on the delightful Funchal there are usually no more than 465 fellow passengers who are accommodated in 241 cabins. This year the author had decided to book a cruise on the delightful MV Athena and what was so special about her, that not long after having boarded her crew soon knew you by name, in addition I also began to know many of the passengers by name. The fact is that on a CIC ship you very quickly become part of the ships (CIC) family and believe me that is such a wonderful experience!

Since writing this review in 2008 the Funchal has been refitted several times, and she is being comprehensively and when completed, she will almost be like a new ship. All her cabins will be brand new and much larger that they were before and her facilities greatly improved! She is due to return to service late in 2011 or early 2012.

There is no doubt that CIC maintains all their ships to such a high standard that whilst I was on board the Athena for 40 days from Fremantle to Portsmouth UK in 2011, I simply could not find one single small spot of rust anywhere, as the ship was that clean in every respect. The fact is this, CIC keep their ships up to date on the very highest level, be it in area of safety equipment and navigational technology as well as their supreme general maintenance! As a maritime historian, ex manager of a major passenger shipping company and past owner of a cruise company with 51 years of experience, I give CIC and its Chairman, Mr. George P. Potamianos my highest admiration for his company is doing something that not even many of the largest cruise corporations are able managing to do!

 

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You will discover the very best of facilities on the MV Funchal. There are four lounges and bars, a casino, a well stocked duty free shop, library, card room, hair salon two restaurants a pool and medical facilities. Five of her six passenger decks are serviced by three lifts. The buffet overlooks the pool on Promenade Deck aft is located on Navigators (Boat) Deck and is reached by one flight of stairs.

After Funchal’s recent refit the Veranda deck forward of the Gama lounge is now open to passengers as her derricks have been removed

She is seen here in Dublin in May 2010

Ship Review - MV Funchal in Singapore - 14 March 2008

Please note: All photographs (except those marked otherwise) were taken by the author, Reuben Goossens, and Hun-Eng Tan in Singapore on March 14, 2008. Please see credits at bottom of page for details regarding images marked (AH) & (CIC).

 

As this image indicates, as do all others, her paintwork is immaculate!

I had the pleasure of spending time on Funchal whilst in Singapore last March, and below you will find my review based on this visit as well as a photographic “Deck by Deck Tour” of the Funchal. But from my time on her I can say in short, she is an amazing ship, and I personally have a great desire to spend more time on her and I certainly hope to do so again in the future!

Prior to departure from Australia, I arranged with Mr. Grant Hunter Managing Director of Classic International Cruises, Sydney for Mr. Hun-Eng Tan and myself to inspect the MV Funchal whilst we were in Singapore on March 14, 2008, whilst we were on the MV Oriana en route to Southampton. Whilst the supposedly far more luxurious Oriana was berthed at some rather remote container wharf, the Funchal on the other hand had the privilege of being berthed at the far more glamorous “Singapore Cruise Terminal,” which is more like a gigantic glamorous shopping centre and massive food court. It is centrally located close to Sentosa Island as well as connected to the Met Rail system.

My first impression of the ship was how spotlessly clean she looked for a 47 (in 2011 she became a 50) year old ex classic liner, for her external paintwork was sheer perfection, and the same can be said of all paintwork on board and throughout the ship. There is no doubt, she is a shinning example of how a ship should be maintained and the truth is, some of the larger cruise companies could well learn a lesson from Classic International Cruises (CIC), especially considering this is a Value for Money cruise company and they do not pretend to be a more glamorous cruise line, like the one I was on at the time!

Here we see the forward hatch open, whilst items are still being loaded in the morning

Windows are to the Gama Lounge

Having passed all the usual security measures, as we boarded, we were greeted by Hotel Manager Joaquim Innes and Cruise Director John Eagan who was given the charge to show us around. John took myself and Mr. Tan on an extensive tour of the ship, covering all her public rooms, facilities and decks. Due to all cabins being fully occupied we were unable to view any, however, we did manage to look at some through the open door whilst several were being cleaned up on Navigator deck, although for privacy reasons I did not photograph any.

Whilst having an enjoyable drink in the Piano Lounge I had the opportunity to chat with quite a number of passengers, as well as a good number out on Navigators deck. These conversations proved to be most helpful, for each and every passenger I spoke with spoke very highly of the ship and the crew. Passengers were obviously impressed with the superb service they received from all the staff, being a mixture of Portuguese and International staff. The standard of food on offer received many comments and all I can say is that these were some of the best fed and happy passengers I have met, certainly much happier than those on the ship we were on at the time! Obviously, John Eagan and his staff did an excellent job as did all those who provided the entertainment, the shows, bands, cabarets, etc, etc. The list just went on. I was beginning to think that the people I was speaking to were paid by Classic International Cruises, but no they were of course just passengers!

As the ship was on a voyage from Australia to the UK sailing via the Suez Canal, whilst we on the Oriana were sailing via South Africa, it was interesting to learn there were quite a few aboard who were past P&O passengers who had changed companies and now had chosen to sail annually on Funchal rather than P&O, as they felt that they were receiving far better value for money! Also, as one couple told me, “being on a smaller yacht like Funchal, we get to know all the other passengers and this has made this a happy ship and thus a wonderful cruise. When my wife and I sailed on the XXXXXX in the past, it was OK, but we really just felt like a number, and frankly the food here is just so much better as is the wonderful service. We will never go back to P&O, for here we simply feel like part of the family!”

All these comments really lined up with the countless emails I have received over the years. The vast majority of these have been more than favourable, with only a few having the odd problem. Generally these related to not to having a 24 hour dinning venue, or 24 hour coffee facilities, etc. The point is: CIC is a traditional cruise company and they are a “Value for money Cruise Company.” Some people tend to forget that Classic International Cruises do not claim to be anything like Cunard and they make no claim of being a 4.5 or 5 star luxury cruise line, but they do offer an excellent cruise product. It is worth noting that tea and coffee is available at 6.30am for those early birds. I suggest that you also read my MV Athena 2010 Cruise Review, see the link at the bottom of the page.

How do the passengers rate the Funchal?

Whilst on board I managed to obtain a copy of the passenger questionnaire results. This was based on the cruise prior the line voyage from Fremantle to the UK, but the results were certainly a revelation! I was given permission by the Hotel manager to provide the information.

The Results.

“Atmosphere onboard” had a 98.79% rating. The overall cruise satisfaction rating was 94.22%. Meals (restaurant & buffet) scored 96.8%. Entertainment scored 97.3%. However the most amazing score of all was the "Politeness of the crew" which had a score of 100%, which is simply unheard of in the business!

As my readers will know I have been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and started as a simple office boy, but in  due course managed a major passenger shipping company and later part owned a cruise company in 1970’s, thus I fully understand what satisfaction percentages mean, for they can make or beak a company! Obviously Classic International Cruises has researched their market well and they operate good ships and they maintain them to the very highest level, well frankly to perfection, and ensure that their passengers receive total value for money, offering them, excellent service, food, and superb entertainment as well as a vast variety of ports.

Is she a good sailing ship?

This is a question I am frequently asked by those who have never sailed on a smaller sized cruise ship. Passengers on Funchal will tell you that she sails just fine, if not as well or even better than many of the larger ships. The point is this; the movement of a ship is not related to the size of a ship, but good hull design. You will find that ships designed in the 1960’s, as is the Funchal, had superior sailing capabilities than many of the large cruise ships of today. Many of these modern ships were certainly not designed for heavy seas. In addition many of these ships will have up to 13/14 decks in their square superstructures sitting on a low 3 deck shallow draught hull design, whilst Funchal is a long and sleek ship having a low profile. In addition, for your comfort Funchal is fully stabilized and of course air-conditioned!

A photographic deck by deck tour of the ship:

Navigators Deck:

Public Facilities: Aft is the delightful fully covered Buffet, which offers breakfast and lunch daily, as well as especially themed buffets on various occasions. This is also the venue for deck parties at night.

 

Above and below: The Buffet

 

 

Accommodations: Cabins on this deck are as follows: Category 9, being Outside Premium Twin bedded cabin with windows, with a TV, refrigerator, safe and a hairdryer - also on Azores Deck. Category 10, being Outside Superior twin bedded rooms with a picture window, with a TV, refrigerator, safe and a hairdryer - also on Azores Deck. In addition there is one category 11 two roomed Suite, with a separate bed and sitting room with the aforementioned “Superior” facilities and more.

Open deck: This deck is blessed with a spacious promenade on both port and starboard, ideal for sport facilities and just relaxing in the sun reading a book, as many did whilst in port just prior departure.

A well kept ship with superbly kept lifeboats

 

 Navigators (Boat) Deck Starboard looking aft

 

Whilst in port, this is a perfect place for a rest, or whilst at sea, some sport activities!

 

 Portside looking aft

Promenade Deck:

Public Rooms & Facilities: Forward is the delightful Gama lounge. This room has a delightful ambience with the curved bar centrally located on the forward wall, sided by windows on both sides making a bright and colourful room, as the photographs hereunder prove. The aft wall contains both fine timbers, providing those touches of yesteryear, yet also modern art work.  During the cruise, movies are shown in the Gama Lounge on a large screen through the ship’s TV system.

Gama Lounge – looking forward

 

Gama Lounge – looking port/aft

 

Gama Lounge – looking starboard/aft (AH)  

 

The Gama Lounge Bandstand – located forward starboard of the Bar (AH)

 

The lobby just aft of the Gamma Lounge

The lift and a remarkable semi circular forward stairwell face these chairs

Library, Zarco Hall Casino & Slots: The Library is located on the starboard side of the Zarco Hall Casino. As can be seen from the library photo there are ample books to choose from. The tables can also be used for cards or whatever game you may wish to play. The main hall between the Library is named “Zarco Hall” and this is the Casino venue at night complete with tables, etc, whilst on the portside there is a separate room for those noisy slot machines. For those who like a gamble, there are suitable facilities onboard. Update: I note from new plans that now on the Port side at the amidships lobby is the “Club lounge” (no photo available), which I assume has taken the place of the one that was originally located down on Azores Deck, but was replaced by cabins?

 Library & Games Room – looking starboard/aft

 

Zarco Hall (Casino) - looking towards the Slots Room on the port side (AH)

(The Casino tables are out of the way during the day)

Piano Lounge: This delightful room, has fine timber wall cladding and a large curved bar and with its well arranged furnishings this rooms makes for a delightfully intimate environment for a chat with fellow passengers, enjoying a drink and enjoying the sounds of the ships pianist & band.

Porto Piano Lounge – looking aft/port

 

Porto Piano Lounge – looking forward to fwd/port

 

Piano Lounge – the author with Cruise Director John Eagan

 

Piano Lounge – looking to starboard (AH)

Hairdresser, Photographer, Shop: The starboard hallway leading aft contains these three facilities, all of which have excellent facilities for a ship of Funchal’s size!

Ilha-Verde-Lounge: Aft on Promenade deck is the 350 seat Ilha-Verde-Lounge. This is the ships main Show Lounge and entertainment venue of the ship. During the day this room is used for general entertainments, whist at night it is rearranged with seats facing the stage for the show presentations. This room also has a large dance floor near the stage and a bar offering waiter service to the tables. Again, during the day this room is bright and airy, but I am told at night it takes on a whole new atmosphere!

Ilha-Verde-Lounge – looking aft

Open deck: Promenade deck has wider deck space available forward of the ship, rather than aft, next to the Ilha-Verde-Lounge. Aft on Promenade deck is the Lido Bar with ample tables and chairs in the shade to enjoy a drink, then there is the Pool with two showers at the side, and a huge sun deck with ample deckchairs to soak up the sun!

Promenade Deck – Portside looking forward

 

The Lido Bar

 

 The Pool and Sun Deck

 

The Pool and Sun Deck – looking up to the Buffet

Azores Deck:

Reception: Forward in the main lobby and the Reception Desk. One of the unique features of the Funchal is the forward semi circular stairwell that commences at Madeira deck and heads up to Navigators decks. Funchal has three lifts available servicing all except Navigators deck.

Pursers Office / Reception Desk

Coimbra Restaurant & Club Room & Bar: Just aft of Reception, on the starboard side is the small and delightfully intimate Coimbra Restaurant. Apparently this venue is only when the ship is fully booked. On the port side is the Club Room & Bar. It is a pleasant and a cosy lounge or used for a variety of meetings and gatherings. The room can also be hired for private functions. However, I was told by one of the passengers, that it was a popular venue – “comfortable hide away”, and the “perfect place to watch a movie on the TV monitors.” Please Note: During later refurbishments The Club was replaced by several cabins.

Lisboa restaurant: Further aft is the ships main Restaurant. This room has a spacious feel, which has much to do with the light timber wall cladding and the use of pastel colours. The Restaurant has a good atmosphere about it and I would be happy dinning here, as do the many passengers I had already spoken with in the Piano Lounge earlier!

 

 Lisboa Restaurant – looking aft

 

Lisboa Restaurant – looking aft

The Gym: Far aft, and yes you cannot go any further aft than this, is the Gym. As the photograph shows, it has some of the basic equipments as well as a few not seen. However, there is always walking around the deck and sports to add to the list of activities. But there is no reason to leave the ship not fit, unless of course you decide to spend less time in the gym and more time in the restaurant and buffet!

The Gym

Madeira/Algarve & Estoril Decks:

The ships medical centre is located aft on Madeira deck, apart from that these three decks are occupied by cabins of various grades, be the value for money inside cabins or outside ones with a porthole or a picture window. Check the Classic International Cruises brochure for cabin details. This page only contains a few of the cabin grades available. However, no matter which cabin you choose, you will be comfortable and have the facilities of the ship!

The following four images were provided by (CIC) - Classic International Cruises.

 Outside Twin with a window

 

Outside Twin with a porthole

 

Inside Twin

 

Inside Twin/Three or four berth cabin 

Funchal departs Singapore:

With the inspection over we sadly had to say farewell to this magnificent classic lady of the sea and as we headed to our very much larger and newer ship, I have to be honest, we were jealous, for we wish we could have stayed on Funchal, for let’s face it she is a real ship not a floating hotel pretending to be ship.

Funchal with her long elegant sleek lines!

 

She has a fine stern view

 

From my day onboard, I know for sure, there goes one of the happiest ships afloat!

SOLAS 2010:

MV Funchal has been so well maintained and constantly upgraded by Classic International Cruises that she will fully comply with the new Safety Of Life At Sea regulations, which will come into effect in October 2010. I have bee advised that CIC Cruises will continue to operate this fine ship for quite some time yet, which is good news for all classic ship lovers and for those who enjoy that special cruise experience!

A wonderful photograph of the Funchal from the air, revealing her ample deck space!

A Special Update: As I reported in 2008, the Funchal will certainly not be sold and head the way of so many other classic ships and head to the Indian breaker's yards. For her owners have meticulously maintained this fine ship and constantly upgraded her and the good news is MV Funchal has been upgraded and now is fully SOLAS 2010 compliant. This year (2011) Funchal received yet another comprehensive refit, thus this fine ship will thankfully sail on for many years yet!

When I had the joy of visiting her in Singapore in March 2008 I found her to be such a delight and in A1 condition. Little to no fault could be found anywhere; she is the perfect classic style ship and she had that special atmosphere, something that is just not found on many ships, not even on some other ships that are meant to be classic.

During one of her earlier refits, her two forward cargo masts and booms, that were used to serve the forward holds were removed, which is great news for this means that the forward “Veranda Deck” is now open and available to her passengers, which was not the case in the past, and now finally all passengers will have a fine view over her bow when arriving and departing ports, etc!

Here we see an updated photo of the MV Funchal in 2010 – Note: her forward derricks (masts & booms) have been removed

As many will by now know, the Funchal and three other ships of the3 previous company have been obtained by

SS/MV Funchal – INDEX: Updated July 2013.

Page One                SS Funchal - Her History from her building in 1960 to this day!

Page Two …               Portuscale Cruises - MV Funchal – A brand NEW start for a fine ship!

Page Three …             Deck Plan – Her new Deck Plan.

Page Four …               MV Funchal – My Ship Review of her back in 2008 – This page.

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