As we approached the end of our first week on-board, Debbie and I took stock of our experiences so far on the cruise and turned it into our version of the 10 pearls of wisdom for enjoyable cruising, so enjoy!
- The Astoria being a traditional shape for a transatlantic liner, as well as being the oldest still sailing, was a lot more fun (& potentially safer) than the floating glass office blocks that are the norm these days.For example, with all cabins full there were only about 500 passengers on board, compare that to the ill-fated Costa Concordia at 3200! As a result we got to know many passengers and crew, something we were told was virtually impossible on the larger floating hotels.
- Portholes &/or windows are over-rated. We talked to many passengers most of whom had such views as people feet going past on the promenade deck, tasteful views of the inside of the lifeboats. Also, perhaps, during bad weather because you could see the horizon over the sea that added to the sense of movement (specially if they were higher up on the upper decks) with occasional unfortunate occurrences of “mal de mer“. Now to be fair those grand (rich) enough to have balcony suites probably had better views, but was it worth the extra dosh for the average porthole. Our drinking companions Maggie & Colin didn’t seem to think so when I cannily pointed out that the saving of our inner cabin had more than paid for our “all inclusive” package. In any event it must be true as the lady trying to sell our next cruise (unbooked as yet much to Debbie’s chagrin) said she’d always go for the budget option as you don’t tend to spend that much time in the cabin anyway.
- Long cruises at sea are a no-no. We only had two such days – namely day two & six – and although the entertainment was great and the seas relatively gentle there was that feeling of longing for the next stop. In today’s case we were about to alight on our favourite stop of the holiday in Honfleur, France the next day so more on that tomorrow. You just can’t beat having a variety of places to visit that you’ve never been to before in our opinion, after all life is all about experience!
- Tenders are more fun than gangways – unless it’s bad weather – full stop! It’s the Dunkirk spirit of little ships that makes the difference together with that thrill of will we, won’t we break down? I also like making sure the lifeboats actually deploy and work well just in case of emergencies….
- Organised tours are not as good as independent travel if you like taking your time getting up & stem from Yorkshire (£). Some of the tours left at 7.30am when you’re supposed to be on holiday for goodness sake!
- On board entertainment, shows and quizzes are not to be missed! Debbie and I were amazed at the quality of the musicians, singers & dancers on board. Two of the singers, Simon & Annalise, also took over quiz master duties with the former in particular having a great sense of humour and calling me “Ed Moses” after a particularly energetic rendition from me as part of an answer to a “hurdles” question. Daniel the Cruise Director in charge of entertainments aboard was impressive in terms of funny but confident announcements to drum up attendance through out the holiday.
- Throw all diets or abstinence out of the window for the duration of the cruise. I have never eaten so much (& potentially drank so much) as on this cruise. By the end my trouser waistline was significantly under threat although it has to be said that Debbie’s willpower overcame a fair amount of foodie temptation. When ashore eat as many shucked oysters as you like as well as grilled langoustines but avoid crabs claws and mussels (more on this later).
- Pack your (prescription) sunglasses, it can get very bright on deck with the sun reflecting off the sea. There is so much more to see of the sights with them on. In colder climes make sure you also take a wooly hat and gloves in a small rucksack when ashore.
- Make friends with people who obviously are there to enjoy themselves and avoid like the plague any moaning Minnies . We only encountered one during the whole cruise and we steadfastly avoided her throughout. Fortunately in my experience a professional complainer is easy to spot, they seem to loom large in unattractiveness and loudness and hence is easy to give the slip!
- Cleanliness is close to Godliness. I’m pleased to report that the Astoria was kept really clean by a very friendly crew. They really deserved every penny of the tips that were automatically charged to our account each day even though they could be reversed on request. No-one in my experience did so however thank goodness.
Well, back to day six and as the ship steadily crushed southwards we experienced some beautiful weather, by exploiting the ship’s upper superstructure we both got a facial tan sunbathing on deck and the clean sea air refreshed our lungs.
Later we listened to the very talented Astoria band in concert and very talented they were too, displaying individual prowess in set pieces such as Stevie Wonder and the Eagles. To be honest we did think there was a little bit too much of a jazz influence throughout the rest of the set, the saxophonist looked to be mouthing “Nice…” on a fairly regular occurrence.
Afterwards the TV Themes Quiz was entered and won by our table of four (Colin, Maggie, Debbie & I) despite the opposition having marshalled additional resources onto their table of twelve in order to beat us…
With one last night cap we set our watches forward an hour ready for the invasion of France tomorrow afternoon!