Astoria - Special Gala Overnight Cruise
I fell in love with Astoria during my short 2017 cruise so had booked another while onboard.  Due to her popularity, Cruise & Maritime added extra cruises from Poole and Portsmouth after the French charter.  My dad had decided to cruise and and just had to try her while she was still around so I booked a Voyager Inside Guarantee for the overnight from Poole to Portsmouth on the 15th September 2018 but we were allocated Deluxe Junior Suite Oceanview 453.  This would be my 70th cruise so apt I was spending it on a 70 year old beauty.

At least living fairly locally meant the journey wouldn't be too bad - or so we thought!  There were strikes every Saturday for several weeks, including that day, so our direct train to Poole was subsequently change at Bournemouth involving a long walk from platform 3 to 4.  At Poole, there were no signs for anything at the end we got off apart from an exit.  We had to go to the other side for taxis.  At least the taxi ride was uneventful and surprisingly, only cost £6.40.  Condor Express had a fault so returned, leaving many unhappy passengers.  We were directed to the waiting room.  Stephen Brooke and Gita Garg were there already so we sat with them.  Andrew and Donna Cooke arrived afterwards.  As it was only one night, we had to carry on our own luggage, so I asked Julie Thompson, the Guest Services Manager, about assistance due to my hernias.  She told me there would be plenty.  Mark (who does Future Cruise Sales and was the singles host in March), remembered me and, after collecting the cruise cards, helped me with the case to security.  We had to board a shuttle bus then go up the rickety gangway.  There was absolutely no one to help me, so I had to cause myself a lot of pain.

We went to the show lounge to check-in, since Poole has no facilities.  One of the dancers from 2017 did us then we were taken to the cabin.  The toilet didn't flush - great start!  I reported it and a plumber was repairing it as we went to the restaurant for lunch rather than fight the crowds in the buffet.  As we were leaving, an elderly lady was complaining to the Maitre D' that she wouldn't be able to see the sea from her dinner table. On returning to the cabin, we found the toilet still wouldn't flush and went to report it yet again.  As I waited, some woman was moaning.  They'd been told things by their travel their travel agent which weren't true (not the only ones there!), while Julie managed to find one adaptor for 10 of them to borrow.  When they'd gone, the receptionist started to talk down to me as she explained it's a vacuum system toilet.  Well, a different plumber arrived who looked like the actor Bill Maynard.  He was very patronising, also going on about vacuum until I shut him up by telling him it's my 70th cruise so I know.  Then he tried blaming too much toilet paper even though there was hardly any in it and the damn thing hadn't flushed since we got there.  Just six months previously, when I still had a stoma bag to empty, a hell of a lot more went in the bowl and flushed no problem.  We went for a stroll around the deck and when we returned the toilet was working and had a new button to press.

Muster was supposed to be at 4.15pm but, due to still boarding passengers, it was delayed twenty minutes.  Some people didn't put on their life jackets and the muster guides didn't tell them to.  Then we had a break before 6pm sailaway.  The itinerary had stated we would circumnavigate the Isle of Wight, but there was no information about how we would do it, especially since it was dark by 8pm.  Sailaway was a bit breezy but lovely.  A lady next to me was from Poole so pointing out different things.  We went to the buffet rather than posh up for one night, and ate on the aft deck.  We could see the Island in the distance as we sailed in the opposite direction.
Bed very early after the hectic day thanks to ruddy train strike.  We had to be out of the cabin by 7am, which was when they opened breakfast, so we just ate the Pringles we'd brought rather than fight the hoardes.  We were supposed to dock at 7am but were late, then it took an age for the gangway to be attached.  This was a new thing since I'd last arrived by cruise ship in 2014, but I still needed assistance getting the case off, so Mark arranged it.  A short shuttle ride to the terminal building then waited for the National Express.
So that was that.  Another fabulous trip on the old girl.  I'd seen all the entertainment before and, since we'll be back, my dad won't have missed anything.  I really hope CMV keep chartering her until either her owners sell or she can no longer sail.  I also wish they had her all season.  I'd love to sail her in May or June.

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© Patricia Dempsey 15th-16th September 2018
Not to be reproduced without permission