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With Reuben Goossens
CruisenShip Reviewer, Maritime Historian, Author & Maritime Lecturer
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!
Photograph © 2008 R. Goossens
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 Australians but with Australians 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!
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 Funchals recent refit the Veranda deck forward of the Gama lounge is now open to passengers as her derricks have been removed
is seen here in
Review - MV Funchal in
note: All photographs (except those marked otherwise) were taken
by the author, Reuben Goossens, and Hun-Eng Tan in
As this image indicates, as do all others, her paintwork is immaculate!
Prior to departure from
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
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
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 1970s, 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 1960s, 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:
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
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
in port, this is a perfect place for a rest, or whilst at sea,
some sport activities!
Whilst in port, this is a perfect place for a rest, or whilst at sea, some sport activities!
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 ships 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)
lobby just aft of the Gamma Lounge
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?
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.
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 Funchals 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!
Deck Portside looking forward
Promenade Deck Portside looking forward
The Lido Bar
The Pool and Sun Deck
The Pool and Sun Deck looking up to the Buffet
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
Pursers Office / Reception Desk
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
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!
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/Three or four berth cabin
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 lets face it
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 lets face itshe 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
my day onboard, I know for sure, there goes one of the happiest
From my day onboard, I know for sure, there goes one of the happiest ships afloat!
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
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!
we see an updated photo of the MV Funchal in 2010 Note:
her forward derricks (masts & booms) have been removed
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.
Return to the - Cruise-Australia.com - INDEX
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Cruise on a superbly maintained Classic ex Liner that now sails as an up to date and modern cruise ship!
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Photographs on Cruise-Australia and associate pages are by the author or from the authors private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me in order that due credit may be given.
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