On 21st March 2016, I embarked on a 7-night Easter ‘Scottish Isles and Emerald Isle’ cruise onboard Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ recently renamed Astoria. The cruise departed Bristol Avonmouth and was supposed to visit Belfast, Stornoway, Tobermory, Greenock and Dublin, but due to bad weather, calls to Stornoway and Tobermory were cancelled and replaced with a call to Ullapool.
My outside cabin (#314) was very spacious, even more so than the cabin I had on the ship back in August 2015. The room was bright and very clean, but maintenance was an issue. I unplugged one of my European adaptors, and the whole socket casing came out, exposing the live wires behind it. Also in the bathroom, the plughole in the sink would not open, and despite having reported it over 4 times to our cabin attendant and the reception desk, it took over 24 hours for someone to actually come and sort it out. All cabins onboard Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Astoria feature a bathtub and a bidet. As our cruise was over the Easter period, we received a lovely Easter egg on our pillow!
Astoria features three dining areas. The spacious Lotus Buffet serves food in a casual atmosphere and is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The food in the buffet was never very good. Cold plates, luke-warm food and service with no smile, reminded me of school dinners, rather than cruise ship expectations. The choices were limited, and I would have preferred to choose my own portion sizes, rather than the crew serving me. On several occasions I found myself only eating bread rolls, as the options available didn’t look appetising. Sandwiches during the afternoon tea tasted good, but the bread seemed stale, as if it had been sitting under a hot lamp all day.
The main Olissipo Restaurant is stylish and traditional, featuring lovely burgundy and gold wall panelling, and colourful glass light fixtures. The food served in the restaurant was always delicious and there were plenty of choices to choose from each night. I also loved how they displayed all of the dishes on offer each evening, so you could see exactly what each dish looked like and which looked the most tempting!
For £15 per person, guests can dine in the Steak House, an intimate dining venue, separated from the main dining room, seating just 30 diners. For one night only there is also a special Chefs Table, which for £40 includes a tour of the galley and fantastic sounding dishes.
The Calypso Show Lounge is the main venue for entertainment. The entertainment was a lot better than my previous time onboard. Although the show team featured pretty much the same cast as in August 2015, the replacement of one of the singers with newcomer Lucy, was a great, talented addition. The show team performed four shows in total, although I only went to three. The welcome aboard show, showcased what we could expect during the week. The following night the show team performed songs from ABBA. During the cruise they also performed Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams and Around The World. During our Easter themed cruise, we had several special guests onboard, including Pam Rhodes, Tommy Cannon, Yazz and Dave Morgan from ELO.
The Auditorium is home to guest lecturers, port presentations as well as daily movie screenings.
The retro night club, with its silver and pink decor, overlooks the aft of the ship. Unlike our two-night sailing, the night club was often empty. I even saw a couple drinking tea in there one night! The bar staff were really nice and friendly, and not surprisingly remembered our drinks orders when we ordered seconds, thirds and quite a lot more! The DJ didn’t do a great job with picking music. Each night he seemed to just play ABBA, the Beatles and the Bee Gees, along with several slow songs which just killed what little atmosphere was in there anyway. There was also a statue of Tutankhamen which had no relevance to the decor whatsoever.
Sirenes Bar is the main lounge bar onboard and the main meeting point for a pre- or post-dinner drink. In the daytime daily quizzes are held here, along with piano music during the evening.
Astoria has two outdoor bars overlooking the stern of the ship. Elpinor Bar is conveniently located on the terrace area right outside the Lotus Grill. The terrace area is great for al fresco dining in the sun or sipping on a sailaway cocktail. Two decks above is the Aeolos Bar, which would be a great place to sit on a warm, sunny day.
Also located on the sun deck is the beauty salon and gym. The fitness center is very basic and contains just three machines. There is also a small beauty salon as well as a treatment room for massages.
The casino onboard is fairly basic, featuring several slot machines and two card tables.
Located near the casino is the Astoria Lounge, Card Room, Library, Captain’s Club Lounge, Photo Gallery and the Boutique store.
Currently displayed onboard in a cabinet near the boutique shops and Sirenes Bar, is the original bow bell from the ship. The MS Stockholm bell sank to bottom of the ocean, when the ship collided with the Andrea Doria on July 25th 1956. It was recovered from the wreck of the Andrea Doria and restored to its former glory at a price of $1million. It was kindly returned to the ship in June 2015 in memory of the five Stockholm crew members who lost their lives in the collision.
If you love classic ships, then you need to sail on Astoria while you can! From the end of April 2016, the ship will serve the French cruise market with Rivages du Monde. The ship will offer a brief season with Cruise & Maritime Voyages in March and April 2017.