19 December to 30 December 2015
Fremantle – Bali – Fremantle
Christmas in Bali Cruise
Our family group of 8 (our ages 7, 11, 19, 41, 44, 64, 70 and 77) have travelled together for many years… This is a review of ... Read More
19 December to 30 December 2015
Fremantle – Bali – Fremantle
Christmas in Bali Cruise
Our family group of 8 (our ages 7, 11, 19, 41, 44, 64, 70 and 77) have travelled together for many years… This is a review of the latest cruise we undertook aboard CMV’s Astor.
Having previously cruised aboard the more modern mega cruise ships, this was our first trip on a smaller ocean liner and approaching the Fremantle Cruise Terminal, it was quite an exciting novelty to be greeted by the Astor’s smoke stacks peeking above the building in an elegant fashion, rather than a towering 15 story high floating city dwarfing the terminal below.
This does not mean however that we found the Astor’s dimensions to be undersized. In fact, for the most part, we were greeted with plenty of space.
The embarkation process was a little haphazard, but quite speedy. Though there were a few issues with our birth dates and particulars having been mixed up amongst our group. I for one quite enjoyed being 19 for the trip, though my eldest was a bit disgruntled at being labelled as 64 yrs old, and hubby being classed as 7 years old was amusing for all concerned. This card printing error caused no issues at all, and was easily fixed in the onboard system at check in. No new cards were required and the novelty was enjoyed.
Once onboard we were guided towards the rear of the vessel. This is where the two restaurants Ubersee – casual buffet, and Waldorf – main dining room, are located, as well as the pool deck and the late night, intimate Hanse Bar. This is one of three relaxation zones onboard.
The others being the large comfortable Astor (show) lounge, and the main bar – the centrally located Captains Club with its flanking corridor seating areas.
Upon boarding we enjoyed a casual lunch in the Ubersee. The food is a main topic of conversation amongst our family group and other guests onboard, and is one of the things that you should consider if you are considering booking a cruise aboard the Astor.
Compared to larger ships the options are limited, but certainly adequate and do vary enough to keep you satisfied. All meals are served in both the buffet and main dining room, with strict opening hours. While the presentation changes, for the most part the same food is served in both venues.
As a general guide, in the Ubersee all meal times offer the following… A choice of cheeses and cold meats, 3 ready-made salads. 3-4 salad vegetables and accompaniments in a DIY section, a good selection of bread and rolls and always two choices of soup (hot or cold). Hot selections for breakfast are always bacon, eggs 3 to 4 ways, sausages, fried tomatoes, potato of some type, and an omelette station… A few other offerings alter daily.
Lunch and dinner usually feature 2-3 meat/fish options, a vegetarian option and pasta, rice, mixed vegetables and potato. Dessert is approx. 3 options plus fruit salad. Fruit salad is always available, with ice cream offered at lunch time. Made to order, and pre-made Sub Sandwiches are available at lunch time.
The Waldorf offers a very similar buffet style breakfast as that in the Ubersee, though definitely more stylish. This is a good option to consider to avoid the crowds.
Lunch in the Waldorf is a different affair. There is a small salad/cheese/cold meat buffet on offer, but this is just for a light snack as you wait. You are instead offered a 5 course menu similar to that offered at dinner time. You can then pick and choose which course’s you wish to order… though this can cause some delays if your table mates order more courses than you.
Dinner in the Waldorf is a fancy affair. Absolutely no shorts, no flip-flops, no bathers. While they are relatively casual (with an open seating policy), there is a standard to be maintained. On a normal night your menu consists of 5 courses, which are as follows:
Appetiser – two choices. These are small tasting portions.
Soup – two choices.
Salad – one choice only which changes daily.
Main – three choices. Meat, Fish and Vegetarian.
Dessert – three choices. Cheese, Fruit Salad, and one other option.
Please note that there is the option for grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and the Curry of the Day, offered in small print at the bottom of the menu if none of the offerings suit. The menu is listed outside the dining room each afternoon. We found it to be a good policy to check the menu early on, to ensure that the menu suited all of our party. A couple of our group, being more the meat and three vegetable types, chose on a couple of occasions to eat in the Ubersee, where they could focus on the more standard fare offered for the evening.
It also bears mentioning that seating a large group is all but impossible in either the Ubersee or the Waldorf. Both restaurants cater for smaller numbers 2, 4, & 6, and we inevitably had to split between tables. Arriving early at Waldorf ensured we were well situated, however Ubersee was always very very busy during the breakfast and lunch meal times, and we often resorted to sending our party down in groups of two or three, holding the table for each subsequent group. It was normal for any spare seats to be snatched up by others hunting for somewhere to eat. This is great if you want to meet new people.
This was however one of the only failings by the Astor team… they should have either made a greater effort towards encouraging use of the Waldorf for breakfast and lunch, or had the Ubersee open for a longer period to cater for the circling crowd.
One of the most impressive features offered by the Astor team is the all inclusive drinks package. Offered at $29 per day per adult, this package well and truly pays for itself and is MUCH cheaper than other similar packages offered by other cruise lines. The drawback for us being that all people in a cabin need to purchase a drinks package including children ($19 per day).
Master 7 thoroughly enjoyed the mocktail menu, and his 11 year old cousin was quite the knowledgeable party, learning the mocktail ‘drink of the day’ listed in each evenings Ship Newsletter. Normal consumption of soft and hard drinks comfortably covered the cost for adults, while some of our party far more than covered their (and everyone else’s) costs… and their livers will be punishing them for some time to come!
There are three bars on the ship. The Captains Club, the main central bar.. the Hanse Bar, located on the 8th deck overlooking the pool deck, with a comfortable outdoor lounge area, and intimate booths inside… and the Pool Bar, which was only open during daylight hours.
The restaurants do not offer bar service, but we found the waiters and waitresses were happy to supply cocktails/mocktails/spirits upon request which were sourced from the Captains Club. Occasionally, during peak periods, this lead to lengthy delays.
We booked this cruise only 8 weeks out, and as such did not get choice of cabins, but were still quite happy with what we ended up with. Located on Deck 5 (Atlantic), we were situated in cabin numbers 201, 204, 205 and 206. Of these, 206 was definitely smaller, with the angle of the ship culminating in less floor and storage space. All others were of a decent size and matched the pictures supplied on the CMV website.
Be aware… most of the cabins aboard feature fixed TWIN beds only. Quite frankly, I doubt you could get around with a single Queen sized bed in the room.
We were on the Christmas cruise… with children…. So had extra luggage for toys, decorations, and the usual. We ended up with three full sized suitcases in our cabin, none of which fit in the storage space under the single bed. We ended up pulling down the Pullman bed and using this as extra storage space. It worked well, but I do suggest that you measure the depth of your cases to ensure they will fit. The measurements are provided in the paperwork.
In our searches prior to the cruise, we found no descriptions or photo’s of the standard cabin bathrooms, which led me to think the worst. I was pleasantly surprised. While not large, they were comfortably apportioned, a good sized rectangular shower cubicle with brilliant shower head/wand, great water pressure, a well-lit vanity mirror and a number of open shelves for storing all your various toiletries. The toilet button is on the wall above the vanity… a number of our party were left searching for some time to find the ‘hiding in plain sight’ button.
Towels are white, and pretty standard. Not flash, but serviceable. Each room was supplied with white terry cloth robes for use by each guest. It was too warm for most, but my aunty did make use of hers on occasion and seemed quite happy with it.
The biggest comment to make is about how incredibly spotless the cabins (and the rest of the ship for that matter) were… absolutely top notch! When we boarded, a good portion of the almost entirely European crew were finishing up their term of service, and the ship reeked of German precision and attention to detail. Amazing to see and enjoy!
The ship dynamic did change somewhat after our sojourn in Bali, where I would estimate at least a quarter of the staff were replaced with their Asian and Indian counterparts, all staff continued to be friendly and accommodating, and if there were a few delays as new staff learnt the ropes, we weren’t in any rush, and happily excused the delays.
We did have the opportunity to spend some time in the Astor Suite, and found the amenities to be fantastic. Well worth the extra cost if you can afford it. The massive balcony area would easily fit 50 people, and a party for 15 were comfortable in the lounge area, though seating was limited. Once again, all is very much as displayed on the CMV website. Our family of 8 would have been quite happy in the one suite!
There are three entertainment teams onboard. The main show team featuring, singers and dancers, plus the fabulous ship band, who provide a different cabaret performance most evenings at around 21:15. And two duo’s who perform throughout the ship. A singer and pianist, and a pianist and violinist duo. The violinist is outstanding… definitely make a point to attend at least one of her performances.
In addition, the show team host various trivia, bingo, and game activities throughout the day. Not a massive schedule, and the second half of the cruise was quite limited, but if you bring a few books, head to the sports areas, or find yourself a comfy position on a deck chair, then you will be well situated.
Please be aware that both pools, the indoor and outdoor are both only accessed via ladder. This restricted access for most of the elderly passengers, leaving the pool for the use of the younger element onboard.
I suggest that anyone intending to cruise aboard the Astor should give serious thought to bringing a book or two to read, some cards, a board game, or some other form of entertainment suitable for your cruising group. This is a relaxing ship, and quiet entertainment prevails. That being said, it is also a very, very friendly ship, and you are sure to form a few friendships.
The onboard shopping is limited, and shops are only open for select hours.
Cabins are accessed via a normal key, rather than electronic card slot.
Your in room safe also requires an actual key… which you can get from Reception on Deck 5.
If you are a smoker, there is only one area designated for your use. A section on the rear pool deck, starboard side, with a few tables, and chairs. This area was always well populated, and the smoking crowd seemed to have a great time getting to know one another.
Children – there were less than a dozen children under 15yrs on our cruise, so there were no activities planned exclusively for them. However, as long as you came prepared with toys, games etc, (luckily Santa planned ahead for our two!), then they will be fine. There were always a few activities each day that were suitable for our pair to join in on (Quoits, Darts, Shuffleboard, craft sessions etc.) We noted two young (under 5yrs) children onboard… the parents were on-hand 24/7 with these two. Not a relaxed cruise for this family unfortunately.
Be prepared for the chance of a lot of ship movement, with the smaller ship bobbing a lot more than the larger heavier vessels. The front of the ship had a good amount of vertical movement, whereas the rear of the ship wallowed into the swells at times, with some of the elderly passengers requiring a goodly amount of assistance to get around.
This ship is NOT wheelchair friendly. You can get around if you are injured and have no choice.. but avoid this ship if you are in a chair permanently, it’s just not worth the struggle to get around. This should also be a consideration for people with heavy mobility issues. If you rely heavily on a cane or walker to get around, this ship with its heavy movement, and high door thresholds that need to be stepped over were quite dangerous for some less steady passengers.
In summary... Astor is a lovely lady of the seas. Maintained to impeccable standards of cleanliness and functionality. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the ship is elegant and refined, and anyone looking for a quiet, relaxing cruise should definitely consider booking a vacation aboard the Astor.
While we enjoyed our cruise with children, and our kids did have fun, I agree that the Astor does not cater for families, and is most definitely geared towards those aged between 60 and a healthy 90 years of age.
Overall a wonderful cruise, on a beautiful ship. Read Less