My husband and I boarded CMV Columbus at Tilbury on 17th December for a 3 night Christmas Markets trip visiting Antwerp and Amsterdam. This was my second time aboard this ship(previous was just an overnighter to look over the ship just before its maiden voyage in June 2017, but my husbands first view of this ship). This was the first time we had done an Xmas markets mini cruise. Previous full cruises have been with P&O (Azura and Britannia), Royal Caribbean (Rhapsody of the Seas), Cruise and Maritime (Marco Polo), Fred Olsen (Balmoral) and Thomson / Marella (Celebration). We have also done 2 additional 'overnight' Christmas events at Tilbury on Magellen which CMV run each year. The embarkation at Tilbury was very good. Parking was at the long stay facility behind the police station in the main dock entrance, followed by a short bus transfer. We parked our car, our cases were loaded onto a large van and the next time we saw them was when they were placed outside our cabin. Our check in time was 11:50 am for a 16:00 sailing. Once we entered the cruise terminal I think we were onboard the ship within 15 minutes. As ususal we could not fault the check in services at Tilbury. The ship overall is what I would call warm, friendly and comfortable. You cannot ,and should not, compare it to the larger ships such as the Britannia. This ship aims (I think) to provide a friendly 'home from home' experience and is not at all intimidating. The staff were excellent; very friendly and efficient service. We had chosen an inside cabin again (we have tried inside, outside and balcony in the past), as we realise now that we rarely look out the window and it saves £££ that can be spent on trips and onboard facilities. We do however pay for the facility to select our cabin number and location on the ship. We chose cabin 11162 (Premium Inside at the rear of Deck 11). Basically all inside cabins are roughly the same, its just the deck and position (front , back, middle of ship) that usually determines the price, although some cabins can be slightly larger. We chose 11162 as it was at the rear of the ship, one floor immediately below the Buffet restaurant (deck 12) and 5 immediately above the main Restaurant (deck 7). A short walk up and a short walk to the lift down. Mega convenient and no need to walk halfway around the ship to get to the restaurants. You can also get an internet signal in the library on this deck while in port. The cabin was immaculate. We had a 2 single bed configuration. It was perfectly fine for the short cruise we had booked and we had enough room to move around comfortably. The layout was similar to P&O larger ships with the large open plan hanging wardrobe in the area leading to the bathroom. There was very genereous drawer space in that same area plus the usual electronic safe. Our safe did not work on arrival and we mentioned this immediately to our cabin attendant. Within 20 minutes a maintenance staff member has replaced the safe for one that did work. Tea and coffee making facilities were in the room (a must for us), the usual wall hung TV, an armchair, coffee table, dressing table, hairdryer, fridge, full length mirror. The two single beds were comfortable and pillows excellent. I did however find the mattress a little on the firm side. The TV did not seem to have a bridge web cam channel (if it did we could not find it) and the complimentary films were old. The cabin was very quiet. Bathroom was compact and good. The shower cubicle itself was excellent, although it had just a curtain, it was almost a step in enclosed area that was generous. The usual show gel dispenser was on the wall for guests use, so no need to bring that. Overall I could not fault this cabin and would happily book it again. Cabin service was excellent and our steward was so friendly and pleasant. Public areas around the ship are plentiful with comfortable seating. There are shops on board with a good range of items but I do wish all ships would have a small section for normal toiletries and essentials that guests may have forgotton to pack (deodorant, hair brush / comb, indigestion tablets, headache tablets, hair spray, sanitary products). We do not all want to pay top dollar for just high end cosmetics and perfumes on every cruise. So beware, if you do not pack all the toiletries you need ,you will have to find a shop in port to buy it. Mealtimes in the main restaurant were excellent. Our table 212 seated 10 and we were again lucky in that our fellow diners were a fabulous group of people. The service at table was very good. Columbus has a 5 course evening menu (starter, soup, salad, main, desert), but none of the courses are over heavy. So think 5 smaller courses, as opposed to 3 gut busters. So very manageable. A complete vegetarian menu option is included every evening plus other dietary reqirements can also be accommodated. Non alchoholic soft drinks at dinner are on the thin side, so if you are after an Elderflower Press (as I was), you will be disappointed. The buffet restaurant was OK, but we were surprised by the lack of choice as regards vegetables and main dishes. But perhaps I am being unrealistic as I now feel that I have to compare every ship to the Rhapsody of the Seas offerings. At certain times the Columbus buffet became very busy indeed and seating was a severe problem with people being forced to sit on the open deck in cold weather with their coats and hats on. Disembarkation morning being a particular nightmare as everyone headed for the buffet early. My husband was amazed that the evening buffet had no icecream offering for desert, nor any blue cheeses. In fact the overall desert offerings were very poor. Perhaps the restricted buffet items were due to the fact that this was just a mini cruise and, if we had been booked onto a 14 day canaries cruise, the buffet would have been very different. The tea and coffee station in the buffet was however excellent, the best decaffinated white coffee from a dispenser machine I have tasted on board any ship. Vegans please note that the buffet breakfast options are grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and plain toast every day – plus some cereals. Vegetarians can add omelets, cheeses and butter. Otherwise its bacon, eggs and sausage, hash browns for breakfast. A watch point is that the fried eggs are on the omelet station, not the main buffet, so you have to wander to get eggs. There is a whole section for cold meats and cheeses at breakfast as well for those that prefer continental. The coffee shop on the reception deck sells excellent coffees at very competitive prices (£1.60 / £1.80), so much cheaper than other cruise lines and it is good coffee. There is also an excellent coffee shop on the pool deck which we used frequently (again at same low prices). The main shows were ok, but again do not compare to the larger cruise liners such as Britannia and Azura. A particular mention needs to be made for the show musicians, they were excellent. Outside space is impossible to comment on as it was a winter cruise, so cold with drizzle most days. From what we could see however a warm weather cruise would be excellent, as the ships has two large pools and plenty of sun deck space on 2 levels. I will mention the trips, as this was the focus of this Xmas Market cruise. We chose a Brussels Xmas Markets transfer for the first trip. An hour into Brussels on a coach, a look at the Atomium from the outside and then on to the market. We has a good few hours to look around ourselves and we took advantage of a number of coffee shops to keep us warm, plus a bite to eat at the market. Loads of main shops to wander around as well. When we got back to Antwerp the gangplank to the ship was not working and so we all had to queue outside for ages, as a result we missed the 17:45 1st sitting for dinner and had to use the buffet (as did many others I think) My husband and I decided to go over the road and wander around a bit of Antwerp. We found a small festive market and loads of shops just over the road. Luckily the ships departure was delayed and so we had more time to wander. We chose the Amsterdam trip that took in the canal cruise. This was a mistake on our part. The ship was late into port due to tides at Antwerp and, as a result we left Antwerp late and were later getting into Amsterdam. Our city centre trip left at 12:30 instead of 10:30. We sat on a canal cruise boat looking at buildings and, by the time that had finished ,we were shown where to find the flower market and we had 1 hour in all for all siteseeing we wanted to do. Not enough time at all. Plus bearing in mind none of us has eaten since breakfast, it was now 3pm. We had to be back on the coach by 4pm or it was leaving without us (we were actually told this by the guide). We rushed into McDonalds for a quick coffee and bite to eat and then wandered down a small part of the flower market. That was it. Very disappointed indeed. The ship docks in the old Port in Amsterdam and it is necessary to get transport into the centre. There is a travel desk at the terminal on arrival for enquiries and independent trips to be booked. Disembarkation process was excellent at Tilbury. Leave labelled suitcases outside cabin the night before, wait in dedicated lounge areas based on deck you are staying on for announcement to leave ship. Walk off ship and collect luggage from terminal, put luggage on van, board separate bus to long stay car park, collect luggage, get in car and drive off. . Would we sail on the Columbus again, well the ports of call and trips available would need to be the main driver for this. Plus points for us would be excellent and speedy embarakation and disembarkation experience, very pleasant atmosphere, warm surroundings, excellent staff, good inside cabin quality, plenty of public areas, good library, good coffee shops, 2 pools and loads of outside sun space. Plus the CMV cruise prices are usually excellent value for money. Main negatives for us would be the small buffet restaurant (restricted food choices and severe lack of inside seating at peak times). This ship could benefit from a third small buffet restaurant INSIDE (such as a salad / hot toastie/ sandwich / breakfast burger / hotdog bar - with seating).