Astoria - Springtime Break & River Seine Experience
During a mini break on Astoria in March 2017, I booked the 6 night cruise from 8th-14th March 2018, including the same cabin (406).  Despite my first CMV experience being hit and miss, no two cruises are the same plus it was another chance to sail on this fabulous old lady, who was now 70 - well the hull was!

As with 2017, I booked the Star Hotel in Southampton and took the early coach to Victoria.  My buses don't get into town early enough and it gave plenty of time in case of traffic.  After a mid-morning snackette, I waited to join CMV's transfer.  Last year had been a very smooth process, which is why I booked it again.  Then, just before noon on the 6th March, the phone rang. It was Cruise and Maritime, saying Astoria was delayed.  They had also put a notice on their site.

"Due to adverse weather and marine conditions in Lisbon, the River Tagus and along Portugal’s Atlantic coastline which resulted in the port authority suspending all pilot services and shipping services, the departure of Astoria’s first scheduled 2018 cruise has regrettably been delayed by one day and the ship will now be sailing from London Tilbury on Friday 9th March.  This delay will mean the cancellation of Amsterdam and instead sailing directly to Antwerp with the remainder of the itinerary un-changed. One nights cost of the basic cruising holiday will be credited to passengers onboard accounts, plus one day car parking credit for passengers with a car booked in the port car park.  Whilst this situation is totally out of our control, by way of compensation and as a gesture of goodwill, a non-refundable £50 per cabin onboard credit will also be extended to all passengers. Passengers should arrive at Tilbury on Friday 09th March at their original scheduled embarkation time, as shown on their ticket."

On the phone, I had been told about Amsterdam plus the £50 onboard credit per cabin.  Since it was only little me, that was lovely!  She also said to send details of any out of pocket expenses and they would be reimbursed.  I had to cancel the Star Hotel and, because the free cancellation ran out on the 5th, was charged full price.  I also needed to book another hotel for the night of the 8th.  I found the Airways Hotel Victoria, a stone's throw from Victoria Coach Station, which was almost £20 more and that was a discount!  Having been a regular coach traveller since my first foray in 1987, I at least knew the area and where to eat!  I could still use my return coach ticket but again, more expense for one-way.  After all this, they better give me most of that back  People wail, "Why didn't you get insurance?" without realising most begin the day you go away, not weeks before.

So the delayed travelling began up to London.  The hotel was very easy to find but there are no lifts, being in an old house.  My room was in the basement but I did have help with my luggage.  The breakfast room was on the same floor.  The bathroom gets very, very cold but at least the heater worked in the main part of the room.  No view but that's possibly due to the Albanian Embassy next door.  I went to get something to eat afterwards.

I left the hotel before 10am to be there in time for the transfer.  They wanted us there for 11am and we were at Gate 2 due to Gate 1 being closed, and gave us an updated itinerary.  Carol, who I had met on the same transfer a year earlier, arrived.  As with 2017, the process was very smooth then we were off seeing various London sights, including a bus advertising Tina: The Musical, which I'd be back in London to see a few weeks later.  We arrived just before 1pm and the check-in queue was horrendously bad.  Carol was doing assistance so I thought I'd ask due to my Ileostomy and hernia had returned and there was no way I could tackle that snaking line.  We were both taken by Julie to the end desk after she had collected our cruise cards, and on the ship by 1.15pm.  My cabin was wonderfully familiar but the chairs had multiplied.  After the previous cruise where service had been dreadful and buffet food not being replenished, I had no expectations but was pleasantly surprised at how better organised it was.  Maybe it was due to most passengers still being in the terminal!  We had British channels on the telly but it didn't list ITV3+1, Drama or The Horror Channel.

Muster was scheduled to be at 2.30pm but was 2.45pm and the tape broke three times.  My muster station was he starboard side of the Calypso Show Lounge.  The comedian, Gerry Graham, came and sat beside me before being told he was in the wrong place.  This time we weren't led out to our lifeboats because it was raining.  Our 3pm departure was delayed half an hour due to traffic, including a vessel with Southampton's very own Svitzer Madeleine on the stern!  I wish she'd been on ours as she had when Astoria finally arrived the night before.  She had been on the Thames since October having finally escaped from Immingham, where she had been since May 2012.  In 2017 we were pulled out portside by a tug on our stern and bow.  This year, it was starboard by just Svitzer London on our stern.  I finally caught up with Peter Knego and Mike after we were moving and it was raining pretty badly.  The Tilbury-Gravesend ferry wasn't running due to various reasons so they'd had to get a taxi.  Post-sailaway Kiwi Colada but it was quicker going to the bar yourself, even though it still took more than ten minutes.  The photo shop was open so I bought the boarding photos and told I got the cruise DVD free.  Later, Peter phoned to say he'd managed to get us onto the same table for dinner so I'd gone from 66 to 6.  Before that though, I went to reception to check this onboard credit.  It was interesting to see the money for missing Amsterdam was £143.17 for me, but she said anything not spent would not be refunded, there had been a lot of complaints and they had contacted the financial department.

Dinner was at 8.15pm and great.  Our waiter Damir was from Serbia  Service in general was an improvement, as was the food, despite a short time to gel.  Drinks service was still very poor but there seemed to be only one covering our side of the restaurant.  Damir asked at the beginning to let him know if anyone had allergies so I told him about mine to bell peppers.  He replaced the supposed pepper-free Thai salad with one that had none.  Since the menus were dated, Damir said we could keep them after Peter asked, though had to return the covers.  I popped mine back to the cabin then went to the Best of Broadway show in the lounge.  Cruise Director Mitch Rutter is superb.  He also takes part in the shows and has an amazing singing voice.  Before bed, I put my case against the lethal corner of one bed to stop me walking into the corner.  With the slope and extra chair, it was difficult to avoid it.

Morning was Antwerp.  I had been looking forward to wandering around but due to the pain from travelling and plans in Rouen, I had to rest instead, which I had intended to do in Amsterdam.  I spoke to Anna about the beds and she said she'd put them together.  I told her about them sliding apart last year and would let her know if they did it again.  Lunch with Carol in the buffet then a wander before resting until sailaway.  Anna had indeed put the beds together.  Sailaway was 4pm and we had a band, who were undercover keeping dry.  There was a call for one passenger which wasn't in the cabins.  No idea if he turned up but no one boarded while I was on deck.  The gangway was removed and off we went to France!  It was formal night but I discovered I'd left my shoes in the other case when I swapped them over.  Captain Antonio Morais talked about the ship and his history with her going back to 2006.  Sailaway was 4pm and we could hear a band, who were undercover keeping dry.  There was a call for one passenger which wasn't in the cabins.  No idea if he turned up but no one boarded while I was on deck.  The gangway was removed and off we went to France!  It was formal night but I discovered I'd left my shoes in the other case when I swapped them over.  Captain Antonio Morais shook hands with those he had photographs with then, before introducing the officers, talked about the ship and his history with her going back to 2006.  Dinner this night was later at 8.30pm, haf an hour after the party ended.  Damir dropped two sorbets which hit my arm before landing on the carpet.  He was very apologetic.


© Patricia Dempsey 9th-14th March 2018
Not to be reproduced without permission