maxim gorkiy - sovcomflet phoenix reisen - cruise ship review & photos

Maxim Gorkiy - Phoenix Reisen - cruise ship review and photos
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On February 21, 1968, now more than forty years ago, a new passenger ship was launched at the Deutsche Werft in Hamburg. Appropriately named Hamburg, the 25,000 ton liner was the proud new flagship of the Deutsche Atlantik Linie. With her 'flying saucer' funnel and streamlined looks, she was a tribute to modern German ship design. Alas, she had a short-lived career under the German flag and in 1974 she was sold to the Black Sea Shipping Company of Odessa who proudly renamed her Maxim Gorkiy after one of the former Soviet Union's most famous writers.

Maxim Gorkiy has long been considered the flagship of the Soviet fleet and has lead a colorful existence in the past decades. Thankfully her ocean liner status has always been cherished by her  owners and it is a tribute to her designers that her sleek profile and layout haven't changed at all in the past four decades. Now owned by Sovcomflot and operated by Germany's Phoenix Reisen, Maxim Gorkiy called at IJmuiden on May 11, 2007. ShipParade went on board to discover all that this fine classic liner has to offer.

This lady is a liner. It is clear as soon as we set foot on board and are welcomed in the spacious Reception Hall on Saturn Deck. There is something magically 'old world' about this ship, starting with the three dining rooms that are located deep down in the vessel. Sporting a similar look with wood-framed chairs and deep blue carpeting, Restaurant Odessa on Neptun Deck is the most elegant and therefore reserved for guests staying in the best cabins on board. The two other restaurants are smaller and located one deck down in the bowels of the ship, where you will also find the indoor pool with sauna.

Maxim Gorkiy boasts three full cabin decks, with a single wide corridor running the length of the ship. It is rather fascinating to stand on one end of the ship and looking all the way to the other end without a single obstruction. As the ship was fully booked during our visit we could not see any cabins but in true ocean liner fashion you can count on some very spacious living quarters. Cabins on Maxim Gorkiy feature color TV, radio, mini bar, a lot of storage space and even full bath tubs. Up on Promenade Deck are the most exclusive retreats, well hidden from the many public rooms on this deck. These luxury cabins have floor to ceiling windows and separate bedrooms and living rooms. 

On Promenade Deck the center corridor is the place to go shopping. Other than on modern ships, there are a number of small shops here selling the usual cruise ship trinkets. You will also find the hairdressing and beauty salon here. The lobby further aft also acts as Photo Gallery and leads to Maxim Gorkiy's beautiful theater. Interestingly, this ship has only two passenger elevators and they are both situated in the forward stairwell. With stairs and high thresholds at every corner, this ship is hardly suitable for the physically challenged; in fact Phoenix Reisen states in their brochure that guests with a physical handicap are better off on any of Maxim Gorkiy's fleetmates. 

The large theater is located all the way aft - a rather curious location. With a gently sloped floor and comfortable seats, this room is used for a variety of activities. Most popular are the screenings of popular movies - dubbed in German naturally!

On both sides of the Theater are indoor Promenades with walls of glass providing a superb view of the ocean. These areas are used for indoor activities like table tennis, yoga, aerobics and there is even a foosball table. Both promenades lead aft to a large teak open deck that is chockablock with white plastic tables and chairs. Welcome to the Neptun Bar! On sunny days, this is where most of Maxim Gorkiy's guests congregate to drink a beer and chat. Alas, on a wet and windy day like today the place looks rather forlorn.

For a ship that carries only 630 passengers, Maxim Gorkiy has very spacious open decks. Forward of the Neptun Bar you climb the weathered stairs to Lido Deck where there is a large sun deck (try counting the different styles of lounge chair!) and a raised sports court. In all honesty, I feel like the outdoor spaces could do with some maintenance. The teak decking has seen better times and the whole area makes a cluttered impression. Perhaps it all looks better when the sun shines.

Passing the ultra-slim funnel topped with the signature flying-saucer, we come to the Pool Deck. Quite revolutionary for her time, this is a sheltered, double-deck lido with a modest pool on the lower level and lots of comfortable seating around the pool and up on the 'sun walk'. This is a very popular area on all of Maxim Gorkiy's warm weather cruises.

The pool is surrounded by an alfresco area that is served by the adjacent Lido Café. Looking very minimalist and rather dreary, this is where breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style. Instead of having your meal in the rather depressing surroundings of the Lido Café, my choice would be to grab a chair outside by the pool and start the day with some sunshine! 

Let's move down one deck. Almost hidden from view is the Captain's Club, the vessel's disco and beer garden. All the way forward on the same deck, spanning the entire width of the ship and boasting gorgeous views forward is the charming Rossia Lounge. Done in blues and oranges with many wooden accents, this is traditional ocean liner lounge. The bright room is popular around the day and is home to a live band in the evenings.

Completely unaltered since Hamburg times is the Wolga Bar, located aft of the rather austere Musiksalon forward on Promenade Deck. During my visit this place with the adjacent bar was well attended and rightfully so. The Wolga Bar serves as a prime vantage spot for the 'observation crowd' because of the floor to ceiling windows. It is also home to Maxim Gorkiy's most inviting bar, with a very nice tiled front and a few intimate booths that are very popular.

Amidships on Promenade Deck are two small lounge areas, where foliage and rattan furniture provide a 'winter garden' atmosphere. Perfect to read a book or watch the world go by. 

As a true ocean liner, Maxim Gorkiy has some tales to tell. And to remind all guests of her memorable past, two large display cases are set up in the amidships stairwell. Filled to the brim with memorabilia spanning 40 years of active service, this is a fascinating little museum and shows some of the gifts the ship's captain received when calling at distant ports of call.

A wide corridor that serves as a lounge are leads forward from the amidships stairwell. The white seating groups, the lack of windows and the peculiar lamps make this a unique area that is in between a promenade and a lounge. Simply called 'Galerie', drinks are served by waiters from the Wolga Bar around the corner.

The Zhiguli Club is as Eastern European as it gets, with a gigantic semi-circular couch spanning the entire length of the room. There is really not much else, except some chairs, a globe and a grand piano. You can hardly call this a piano bar and while the area must be perfect for private cocktail parties, there is really no other use for it. 

A door leads directly from the Zhiguli Club to the Library next door. Floor to ceiling windows and a charming decor make this a very nice area. It is also a very historic area, as right here Presidents Gorbachev and Bush discussed the East-West relationships during the Summit meeting in Malta on December 2nd and 3rd, 1989. This signaled the end of the Cold War and not long after, the USSR was split up and Leningrad once again became St. Petersburg. Still, there is one Russian that didn't change. Maxim Gorkiy continues to sail the seven seas, pleasing her mostly German guests - many of whom come back every year. Having seen the ship for myself, I think I can understand why they return. After 40 years this lady is in need of some cosmetic treatment, but still hasn't lost any of her old-world ocean liner charm.

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All photos and text: © 2007 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on September 15, 2007 - this revised version published on February 14, 2009

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