We have recently returned to Australia on a 35 day cruise which began in Rome and concluded in Fremantle. The ship on which we travelled was the M.S.Astor which was on a relocation cruise to spend the summer season sailing out of Fremantle. There were 10 ports of call at some interesting and very different locations, namely, Rome, Livorno, Sicily, Malta, Athens, Aqaba, Salalah, Columbo, Phuket, Singapore, Bali and Fremantle.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Astor to anyone contemplating a cruise. The food quality and variety was consistently great, including the waiters, to whom, nothing was too much trouble. The on board entertainment was exceptional, particularly for a small ship and the array of costumes was amazing. The entertainment in the Captains lounge each night before dinner by two young ladies on the piano and violin was exceptional. The quizzes for the more sedentary like me, although I did my 15 laps around the ship on the walking path most days, were a hit whereas my wife enjoyed the more physical offerings such as Zumba, water aerobics, line dancing and stretch and tone to name but a few. The guest lecturer, archaeologist Mike Stone and Artist Noel with his art classes were both well patronised and engaging.
The shore cruises were all of interest and we visited many places which certainly broadened our knowledge of some unusual and fascinating countries.
Our stateroom (cabin) on the Atlantic deck was quite adequate with the more expensive suites of course being quite a bit larger.
The cruise director Gary, did a great job, making everyone seem a bit special, taking time to chat or seek comment as he roamed the ship. He excelled also as an MC, quizmaster and story teller.
We were fortunate with the weather as most of the cruise was in calm weather, but off the coast of Western Australia with the sea given at 7 the Astor was remarkably stable. Very few people suffered seriously from mal de mare.
The only negatives were the 20 to 30% increase in drink prices since its last cruise in the Mediterranean area, a fact attested to by a couple who had been on a recent cruise. The tap beer was seldom cold enough and of inferior taste but on recommendation of the many Australians on board this problem may be addressed by the time the Australian cruises begin. The concern over prices was addressed when, for a fee of twenty dollars (?) we were given a 20% discount on all bar purchases. We experienced another problem when settling our on board account. Because Astor’s bank account is in Europe, our bank charged a 3% conversion fee, which in our case amounted to around $130. The best alternative is to settle your on board account in cash.
We learned that unless you absolutely must book early to ensure you get what you want, people who booked in the last 2 or 3 weeks received a substantially better deal than we did, for instance an inside cabin and air fare for $3300 and we paid $6200 for an outside cabin, no airfare