I had been tempted when I saw the offer of a one night Gala Cruise on the Astor as I was curious to look around that ship, but my wife was working and unable to go. However, just one week before the cruise, I received an email that told me the price was now £99 with "no single supplement"! That clinched it for me, so I rang and booked it straight away. I agreed to pay an additional £15 for the coach transfer from Stansted, since that is where the included flight returned to, and where I left my car.
Approximately 30 passengers were on the coach from Stansted to Harwich. Embarkation was smooth, we carried our own bags to our cabins and I was unpacked by 11am. I was very pleased to find that I had been allocated cabin 122 (a premium cabin up on the boat deck) in which the second berth had been made into a settee and had a picture window with clear views out to sea.
I went to the Waldorf restaurant for lunch and only three tables were occupied. I was asked if I wanted a table on my own, but I said that I would rather share. One couple, on a table for four, immediately asked me to join them. Shortly afterwards, another solo traveller also joined our table and the buffet lunch was most enjoyable.
We sailed at 12.30 and I joined a group of passengers who were being given a tour of the ship. I had never been on a ship with so few passengers and, when I asked how many were on board, I was told that there were less than 70 passengers ! I was very impressed with the cleanliness, the layout and the decor and the hip had a feeling of calmness and serenity.
There were several groups of passengers who had boarded in Freemantle and were staying on board. Indeed, I met one Norwegian couple who had stayed on for three consecutive back-to-back cruises and were planning to disembark in Stavanger after being on board for almost 90 days!! They told me that they enjoyed the cruise very much.
I then joined two other passengers for a complementary bingo session, in which some twenty others took part so the chances of winning were high.
We attended the captain's cocktail party, which was less formal than usual. It was more like a family gathering and, instead of introducing all of the senior officers to us, Captain Emmanouil Psarrakis sang to us in italian.
Five of us, who had met earlier, sat together for the gala dinner and had a great time. The food and the service could not be faulted. We attended the show in the Astor Lounge (popular Abba songs plus dance routines) and this was followed by a female singer and piano accompaniest. She sang german songs in recognition that the summer cruises out of Bremerhaven would commence the following day.
The next morning we had be out of our cabins by 9.30am (which is the latest that I have known on any day of disembarkation). We docked and left the ship at 11.30am and were taken by coach to Bremen, where we had the day to ourselves. We were picked up by the coach in the evening for our Ryanair flight back to Stansted.
In my opinion, this was fantastic value for £99.