Astoria - Springtime Break & River Seine Experience

I had arranged to meet my friend Marie Mariani after 12pm so could have a lie in, until the crew drill.  I had got up too late for breakfast but had a banana in the cabin which would keep me going.  After taking some daylight photos of my gorgeous ship, I caught the 11.10am shuttle.  The journey took just ten minutes, which was pretty good, and we were dropped at Place de La Haute Vieille Tour, a couple of streets away from Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, where there is a tomb which had once contained the heart of Richard the Lionheart.  As I waiting for Marie in the rain, I had a little wander.  I love the mix of old and new in Rouen and the amazing architecture.  Due to my health, I didn't go too far as it was painful.  After Marie arrived, she took me to her favourite place for lunch.  We saw Peter Knego and Mike who were enjoying the pretty town.  

We arrived at La Petite Bouffe, which serves substantial, filling food for students at lunchtime and turns into a normal restaurant in the evening.  I was unable to really do much more so sadly had to return to the ship and rest.  The weather continued changing throughout the day but we weren't sailing until 1.15am.  Afternoon tea beckoned and I was disappointed to find green bell peppers mixed in with the chicken and mayonnaise in the Chicken on Focaccia sandwich.  You can't see it and I only found out after biting the thing.  I now my allergy is pretty rare but there are a lot of people who just don't like them.  When I was at school, you rarely saw any.  They were never used in recipes where they aren't required or as a garnish.  It's only in the past 30 years they're everywhere, usually as colour or pointlessly added to things containing chillies and spices.

Dinner and a French menu.  Peter and Mike had said they'd most likely go to the buffet but changed their mind.  I didn't order my usual salad but bless Damir, he brought it anyway covered in chilli flakes (he checked).  I ordered the Baba au Rum.  Damir said Baba means grandmother in Serbia so I called the dessert the "Old Soak", which got them laughing on the next table.   Whether it's true or not, I have no idea but it was funny.  The show was Around The World and I'd love to know where the dancers got their energy from.  It was another brilliant one followed once again by a 20 minute cabaret.  Everyone is incredibly talented and they do other jobs around the ship, which is unusual.  I charged my phone before rainy sailaway where there was just me and two blokes down the side.

Honfleur.  A provisional bill and letter about the missed port day were slipped under the door at 5.30am explaining that IS refundable and how it was decided that what you don't spend is returned within 14 days.  So many still complained and planned to remove their gratuities.  I did have to sort out one matter on my bill.  I'd been charged £25 for a bottle of wine I never ordered.  My drinks bill at dinner has always been £4.10 for two cans of Coke.  I went back later and it had all been sorted since I'm the only one having Coke during dinner.  Despite never having been to Honfleur, I decided to rest before the journey back home as my dad wouldn't be able to help me with the luggage due to having surgery.  The tandoori chicken in the buffet looked lovely and I was going to have it until the girl told me it was garnished with red bell peppers.  No, no, no!  The head chef was Indian so should know they are not anywhere near it.  I went to the Olissipo for lunch and ordered the burger, since that should be safe.  Our dinner wine waiter came over at lunchtime and explained when he got Peter's bill for signing we'd all gone.  He gave me a free drink to say sorry.  It was very strange slowly going lower with just the view of the dock.  

It was time to start the boring business of packing, which I did before sailaway, which was 4.30pm with Peter Knego's last minute lecture at 5.15pm.  As I was heading up to the deck, the American lady a couple of doors down from me was told she has to get her passport stamped to be allowed out of Europe.  Currently the UK still is in the EU so she's baffled and wasn't told why.  I did wonder if it is something to do with the Schengen Zone.  She was not the only non-EU national who had to go to the terminal and then our departure was delayed by a small cargo feeder then two tankers bloody miles away.  At the time Peter's lecture began, we were off so I popped down for that.  He had an excellent turn out with people fascinated by Astoria's history but I left when he got to the Achille Lauro part due to wanting to see AIDAperla in Le Havre.  Her maiden call to Southampton had been a few days earlier while I was on my cruise.  More packing then dinner, which was 8.30pm this time.  I couldn't decide again.  The food is just sooooooo good and a vast improvement on 2017, so I opted for the Beef Wellington and turkey dinner but Damir had to replace the former due to a yellow bell pepper as garnish on the courgettes.  It was the Baked Alaska parade complete with sparklers!  The wine waiter got Mike to sign the wine bill.  Final menu acquired, DVD not available until the morning, packed, case out and up for the show which was Gerry Graham again singing, telling brilliant jokes and doing impressions of people like Prince Charles, Ozzy Osbourne and Max Wall.  Then time for bed rather than see the farewell cabaret.

Back to Tilbury.  I was up at 6.30am and surprised to see us still miles from land.  It was only talking to some people I discovered we'd had a medevac during the night, docking in Calais to drop the person off, so our 8am arrival was 10.30am.  We still had to be out of the cabins by 7.30am so I went to talk to Lisa.  Due to my Ileostomy, I need access to the bathroom in mine and she said it was fine.  I told Anna I'd get all my stuff by 9.30am and collected my cruise DVD.  Breakfast in the restaurant to kill some time.  Carol found me and joined the table.  Breakfast is a buffet and over by 9am.  As we left, I saw Peter who said they charged them twice for the wine because they had signed the original bill and tried charging for their free bottle of red which they had tried to exchange.  I grabbed my bag and coat then met Carol in the show lounge.  We docked after 10am and had to wait.  

You would think coach transfers would be first due to coach, train and flight connections but no.  Self-disembarkation, Gold Columbus Club and then, after an hour, coach.  Then it became farcical.  We were given a letter by Mark to hand over at Victoria Coach Station requesting a free transfer only because we'd seen him.  It was a different coach company and the driver had only found out he'd be doing it at 9am, arriving at the port for 10.15am.  We finally set off at 11.25am and it was going great until he decided to take a short cut down a narrow road to avoid traffic and needed help getting out of it.  Then we were stuck on the Embankment over an hour due to an scheduled organised protest at Parliament Square no one bothered informing him about and he didn't bother checking traffic reports.  Our driver asked another what they're demonstrating about. He replied, "I dunno. Traffic congestion."  We arrived two hours after leaving the terminal so had missed our coaches.  The letter was bloody useless.  I had to pay £5 while Carol was told she had to buy a new ticket for her coach.

A crappy end with more expense to an otherwise great cruise.  Cruise and Maritime had agreed to refund my new coach ticket and hotel for the 7th/8th.  Medevac can't be helped but it's been a farce before and after and enough to put some people off booking them again.  Not sure I'll bother with Tilbury in the future.  It's as much a pain in the arse via public transport as Harwich., although the CMV transfers do work when nothing goes wrong so I may change my mind in a year or two.

So that was that.  Another fabulous trip on the old girl over and I have FINALLY found my absolute favourite ship to sail on.  She is my Bellastoria - geddit?  As one of the receptionists said, she has a soul which is very true.  There is just something about her and I hope CMV continue to charter her as long as she is available.

For more photos
of AIDAperla in Le Havre, click here.

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