Tuesday, 1 August 2017
ASTORIA 9th March 2017, Part 1
Thursday 9th March 2017
I set out for Tilbury Cruise Terminal and, despite the ongoing difficulties with using Southern Rail for part of my journey, I managed to reach my destination. I am booked with friends to go on the good ship ASTORIA, newly acquired by Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) and we are to sail for three nights and visit Amsterdam and Antwerp before returning to the London Cruise Terminal here at Tilbury.
Once at Tilbury railway station I met friends and we took the local bus to the cruise terminal, which saved quite a difficult walk or taxi ride. In the Terminal building I met even more of our group and realised we had come from various parts of the UK, the USA, Denmark and Germany. The internet makes so many friendships possible and we all seem happy to be able to arrange to travel together occasionally on a particular ship and trip (including cruise ships and ferries).
This ship was launched in 1946 at 12,165 gross tons for the Swedish America Line, with the name STOCKHOLM. I think many of us know of her disastrous collision with the ANDREA DORIA in July 1956; she subsequently changed ownership and names over the years. Now at 16,144 gross tons, her past names include ITALIA PRIMA, CARIBE, ATHENA and AZORES amongst others.
I have cabin 415, which is an inside double cabin for single use on Deck 4 Mediterranean Deck. My cruise card shows my name and nationality, plus my Muster station and lifeboat number. I noticed that it also has my date of birth on it, which is something I have not encountered on any other ship's cruise card! I wonder if that will be considered a controversial matter for CMV and their passengers...
Many of us met for lunch in the Buffet Restaurant and afterwards we attended Boat Drill before we left Tilbury at 3 p.m. Up on deck I met someone else who was enjoying photographing ASTORIA and ships generally - more congenial company. He was a retired eye-surgeon from Switzerland who had worked in Syria 'before the war'.
I walked around the ship and up on the Observation Deck at first sight I thought that the deck was wooden but closer inspection revealed that it was very dense carpeting, with almost unnaturally straight lines of caulking. That was a surprise but, after being amused, I realised that although unconventional, it might prove hard wearing.
We left Tilbury and as we sailed along the River Thames out to the sea we could see many of the old Thames Forts (the Maunsell forts), built in the second World War to help defend the United Kingdom. They are built of concrete and metal, and are still an amazing sight.
Later that afternoon one of my friends mentioned that he had seen two Americans taking photos around the ship. He pointed them out to me as they were standing not too far away, and I realised that I knew them! They were friends I had last met in New York several years ago but I recognised them straightaway. Isn't life extraordinary? I went over to say hello and they recognised me too and so, after catching up on news, I introduced them to other 'shippy' friends nearby and they became part of the group for the rest of our time on board. They had travelled over for this ship trip and were then planning more touring in Europe, so it was an amazing coincidence that we should all meet up on board ASTORIA.
I went to unpack in my cabin and later met friends for drinks and dinner. Service was very slow at our allocated dinner tables but we suspect this is because the ship is new in service but we enjoyed the food. After dinner there was a choice of seeing the Welcome Show, dancing or film shows.
Ships seen: Astoria, Duchess M the local cross river ferry, Grande Amburgo of Grimaldi Lines, tug Svitzer Laceby, tug Svitzer Bootle, Princess Pocahontas
To be continued...