Astoria Cruise Review by David Wheeler
- Sail Date: March 2017
- Destination: British Isles & Western Europe
Embarkation in Tilbury was flawless. Easy parking at the terminal, a scheduled building of considerable interest. A bit of a wait, with ample explanation, on board on schedule and guided to our cabin.
In practical terms, what is this ship like as a cruise ship? She is among the smallest. Her decks have a marked sheer. That is the decks rise towards the bow and to the stern. There are thresholds to cross to access the decks. Some of the stairs are quite steep. To go ashore, the steps can be very steep indeed - the ship uses her own companion way and if the tide is in, the deck will be high above the quay. Not easy if you have mobility problems. The exterior reflects her age and the shape and design of the era. In her Atlantic heyday she was known as the White Yacht. Her interior dates from the 1960s and was the brainchild of Dr Quiriconi of Genoa. Despite numerous name changes, what you see today is very much as this Italian owner and his team designed her. Described then as refined and elegant. A matter of taste, but I share it. But a serious matter: engine noise. With an upgrade, we had a deluxe junior suite amidships on deck 4. A very pleasant spacious cabin, plenty of room with two big windows, and a large bathroom with working jacuzzi, bidet and marble floor. But noisy. Engine noise seemed to be transmitted up through the floor and through the pillow. Really quite noisy. Some people on this deck complained. What it was like on other decks I do not know. earplugs perhaps, if this might worrry you.
Food in the restaurant - two sittings for dinner - was overall quite good. Not exceptional but then on the whole, we thought, quite fair. Many chose the £17 per person per day drinks package. You can get quite a lot for that. There was adequate comfortable public space and attentive service. We found, as with other ships of this line, service throughout to be friendly from a multi national crew. The only non committal members were the security team. They looked tough and perhaps just as well.
Entertainment was limited. But this is a small ship. For a six day cruise we had one speaker, an elderly comedian, and a young and vigorous singing and dancing troupe who did their very best. A lot better than some. And the ship's band lead by their female keyboard player was competent and enthusiastic. Fine soloists. Individual or duo musicians in the bars. Plenty of quizzes and such. Basic cruise entertainment.
The real gem of this ship is where she can get to. Amsterdam along the North Sea Canal is always fun, but Ghent is rare - not many cruise ships visit this splendid town. And Rouen, well up the River Seine is as magnificient as the river itself. And if you are just a little bit of a ship enthusiast - we had some on board - this small ship is not as nimble as her younger but larger sisters such as the Harmony of the Seas. She needs a bit of help when berthing. The tug handling can be a real joy to watch. Even at Honfleur she needed a tug to push her onto the quay in the very early morning.
This was an experience very different from the standard cruise. This was a real adventure on a real ship. I doubt there will ever be another like the Astoria. 69 years old, even her enormously strong riveted steel hull cannot last forever with increasing regulation. Of the twelve different ships we have been on in the last two years this was the one I was looking forward to and she did not disappoint. If you like the sound of it, we were told that this was to be her last limited UK season, shortly ending. But she has been reprieved for at least one more two month UK season next year. So there is still a chance.
I give this ship 5 stars for what she is: unique. Because she is worth it. A survivor. Different. A joy.
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