The classic cruiser enjoyed a strong following in the State and will be missed by many.
Cruise ship Astor first visited Fremantle in 2013 after which word quickly spread around Western Australia about this wonderful smaller classic cruiser.
Our first experience in 2015 was a five-night Fremantle to Esperance and Albany cruise, a surprise birthday present from my wife Kerry. This also enabled us to visit good friends in Albany for a day. Being able to catch a train to the departure port, Fremantle, rather than a plane and passports was an added and very convenient bonus. The cruise was fantastic as were the food, entertainment and my birthday celebration.
Having enjoyed our first Astor cruise so much we became Columbus Club members and participated in a further seven, with our last and final 11-day cruise to Bali and return. This was our final Astor cruise as a consequence of CMV replacing it next year, for the Australian cruising season, with Vasco da Gama (formerly Pacific Eden).
The majority of passengers were in our age group, seniors, with a small smattering of children and a baby or two. Many of our fellow travellers were already in tropical mode sporting some amazingly coloured Hawaiian shirts and shorts. It was not surprising to find many passengers were repeat cruisers aboard Astor, in fact we knew several by name from past trips.
Cocktails and nibbles with the captain for Columbus Club members was always well attended. One lady had done more than 300 days at sea aboard Astor with another coming out from and returning to Tilbury, London every season!
The day we departed Fremantle for Bali was sunny with a rather strong Fremantle doctor blowing and once past Rottnest a good swell pushed us up the coast. Astor was handling the conditions well. The weather improved as we sailed north with the wind and waves declining to postcard conditions. There were no ports of call until we were to drop anchor off Benoa harbour, Bali.
My daytime entertainment began with the incredible sunrises then continued out on deck watching for any ships or marine life that may happen by. Big schools of flying fish, several species of seabirds, large patches of coral spawn, a fin whale and several schools of leaping dolphins kept my camera clicking.
The plethora of on-board entertainment was varied with guest speakers, crafts, movies, sports and quizzes happening throughout the day. Quiet places for reading such as the library could be found while others could enjoy board games in the quaint games room. Live music in the Captain’s Club bar and wonderful nightly shows in the showroom whiled away the evening hours.
Our two days in Bali were spent doing tours of the scenic countryside, visiting the talented local artisans and some amazing temples. A lot has changed since our last visit 28 years ago!
The return trip was a little rough heading into strong winds and a growing swell. It was not the best cruising conditions and many passengers chose to stay inside with the decks mostly deserted.
I found the conditions to be exciting and enjoyed watching the shearwaters flying right alongside the ship. With the big seas and sun shining it was a great opportunity to capture an image of the “spraybows” being generated. The final day was much calmer and seeing Fremantle edging closer was reinforcing the reality that this may well be our final cruise aboard this mighty little ship.
Astor will depart Fremantle for Tilbury on Sunday, March 10. We will be there to wave a sad farewell — adieu Astor.