Cruise - Ocean Cruise
Changing the way Brits travel to & from Australia
117 people found this review helpful
I spotted Astor as I was walking towards Dover's cruise terminal, enjoying the clear blue skies & the acrobatics of the local seagulls. Nestled at terminal 2 it looked elegant at the dockside, not like the behemoths of the seas that tend to dwarf a port. I had the distinct feeling I was being invited to a day on a billionaire's yacht, rather than viewing a block of flats that floats. Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) are chartering the 20,606 tonnes Astor for the winter season over the next three years. They invited Silver Travel Advisor to get an advanced look at how their new cruises offered a major change to the way guests could travel to & from Australia.. First stop was the Captain's Club, with its steering wheel, decorative cargo netting, piano & comfortable feel. Sadly the wheel didn't mean I could have a go at steering Astor into the channel, but the bar would serve as an ideal place to meet up for a pre dinner drink & chat with your new friends. I'm sure the intimacy of a ship carrying just 600 passengers would lend itself to a friendly atmosphere. Indeed The Captain's Club plus the further seating alongside in the gallery (nice place to enjoy your drink & watch the waves roll by) set the scene for the style of decor throughout the ship. Described as a 4 star, it gave me the impression that I had booked into the very nicely appointed boutique hotel & spurned the regulation & conformity that comes with massive chain hotels. Traditional cruising CMV call it….OK I'll go with that. Also on the Promenade deck is the main entertainment area, the Astor lounge, which is the biggest of the five lounge areas on board. This looks like a nice intimate theatre style experience, but despite my offer, no one seemed interested in me "doing a turn" then & there. The Astor offers fifteen categories of cabins & suites, where some of the £14 million lavished on the refit of the ship in 2010 must have been spent. I thought all the cabins we visited were nicely decorated & light. Guests familiar with the Marco Polo (part of the CMV fleet) said that overall Astor (including the cabins) had a much more spacious feel to it than Marco Polo. This would be as you'd expect for a ship that you may be on for 40 days odd, heading to or from the southern hemisphere. By way of comparison, Astor is a similar size ship to the Marco Polo, but carries only 600 passengers to Marco Polo's 800. It does that in 289 cabins vs. 425. So its easy to see why it feels more spacious. There was a curious numbering system where cabins in the 200s would be on the same corridor as the 300s, rather than the first digit commonly indicating the deck, but I'm sure guests would soon get used to it. Room 101 is not the torture chamber in George Orwell's Ministry of Love (1984), quite the opposite it is the most indulgent suite on the ship. The Astor suite provides generous accommodation, with its own terrace at a prime position on the boat deck. Despite talk of this ship getting back to traditional cruising & nodding to the historic days when the £10 poms cruised to their new life in Australia after the second world war, my offer of £10 to book the suite was outrageously refused. Its worth noting that there are no balcony cabins on the Astor apart from the three suites with terraces. Moving on to everyone's favourite part of any ship, The Fitness Centre (yes you know it is). Equipped with a reasonable amount of equipment for a ship of this size, it should be enough to combat the clothes shrinkage so often experienced on cruises (you know its nothing to do with the humidity). Supplemented by a nice sized swimming pool, sports court, walking or jogging track, table tennis etc. there is plenty of opportunities to be active if you wish. The Wellness Centre offers an indoor pool plus an array of ways for you to pamper yourself on the voyage. Right next to the Gym on the Bridge Deck was the location of my favourite part of the ship. Just outside the Hanse Bar was an outdoor covered area with overhead heaters, comfy chairs & blankets. I could really picture myself sat there on the cooler parts of the voyage with a fragrant coffee (or even a cold beer) watching the world slip behind the aft of the ship with not a care in the world (I'm letting out a deep sigh of contentment at this point). An area of Astor that nobody wants to visit is the Hospital, but on this ship its worthy of mention because, as well as dealing with any sea sickness problems which inevitably arise, they have some special facilities. The hospital is equipped with an x-ray machine & the staff are qualified to treat small fractures. They also have Dialysis machines with a six bed set up. Such a facility could well be the difference between someone being able to make such a voyage or not & in the case of small fractures, being able to continue their voyage or not. I was very impressed with this area when I talked to the staff. Now I know the food side of a cruise isn't that important but I'll cover it for good form (are you mad they all cry). CMV offer four dining options on Astor. Toscana & Romantic provide the speciality dining, whilst a more informal option is available at the Ubersee Club Bistro. I had lunch at the Waldorf restaurant, which offers a traditional two sitting fixed time dining experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience. I found the dishes well presented & very tasty, served by a very polite & attentive staff. Were I to be picky, the curry flavour of the curried lobster did overpower any taste of lobster. The beef tenderloin was cooked perfectly for me though & the overall blend of flavours & texture combinations was glorious. Being fed like this for 30 to 40 days would be a pleasure in itself. The first voyage to Australia sets off from Italy on 5th November 2013, which means cricket fans can be there in time for the third Ashes test at the WACA in Perth. Recent price reductions mean that you can secure an inside cabin for just £1999pp, which for 37 days cruising makes me tempted to clear the schedule & head for Aus'. CMV tell me the round Australia itineraries are selling well but if you want to sail from the UK, then look to book for November 2014, when the voyage will start from Tilbury & go via Cape Town. Tempted? I am.
117 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.