Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Sunday 11th June
Another weekend, another little trip with CMV, and this time on their ship COLUMBUS. I made my way to London and Fenchurch Street station via Tower Hill, (lovely view of the previous Port of London Authority building)
and took the local train east to Tilbury. I am booked on a three-night trip to Amsterdam and Antwerp yet again, but this is a new ship for CMV, and a group of us are looking forward to sailing on her.
Once in the London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury we were informed that there were computer problems, and that boarding had been delayed. Glasses of Sparkling Wine were then handed round to everyone and eventually we were able to board. I made my way to my twin inside cabin 10209, starboard midships, which looked spacious and comfortable.
This ship has had many names and owners since she was built in 1989, including SITMAR FAIRMAJESTY, STAR PRINCESS, ARCADIA, OCEAN VILLAGE, PACIFIC PEARL, PACIFIC P and now COLUMBUS. Now with Cruise & Maritime Voyages as their flagship, she is 63,786 gross tons.
Our large group met up for lunch and then dispersed around the ship to take photographs or simply enjoy the summer sunshine on deck.
Lifeboat Drill was scheduled for 3.15 and I made my way to one of only two muster stations on the ship. COLUMBUS has 775 cabins, allowing for 1,400 passengers, and this includes 150 cabins for solo passenger use. Bearing this in mind, I thought the Lifeboat Drill was absolute chaos, with far too many people crammed into far too little space. Many of us had to stand close together in the public rooms used for the two muster stations, holding our lifejackets, and still move to allow other passengers to get through the crush to the other muster station. I was standing near a couple of people in wheel chairs, although I was too tightly packed in to see anyone else. I shudder to think what it might be like in a real emergency!
The end of the passenger Lifeboat Drill was a great relief and I was pleased to be able to get back on deck for our departure from the London Cruise Terminal here at Tilbury. On the quayside there were plumes of coloured smoke to celebrate our sailing, as we headed off into the English summer sunshine and the sea.
Later on I unpacked my possessions and realised that my passport would be put into a cabin safe with the name label on it of OCEAN VILLAGE.
Walking around the decks I was glad to see a Coffee Shop with sea views, swimming pools, outdoor bars, the Plantation Bistro with the Fusion area, the Dome Observatory/nightclub with its panoramic view out to sea, and the Waterfront Restaurant with wonderful views at the stern. The atrium was spacious and the carpeting in there was what I shall call eye-catching.
Pre-dinner drinks were enjoyed in the Connexions Bar, before dinner at our allocated tables in the Waterfront Restaurant. Clocks go forward one hour tonight as we sail towards arrival tomorrow morning in Amsterdam.
Ships seen: Columbus, Silver Wind sailing past us in Tilbury, Morning Champion, and something of Finnlines berthed in Tilbury.
To be continued...
Thursday, 3 August 2017
Saturday 11th March 2017
Today we are due in Antwerp, Belgium, and of course we have to leave the North Sea, enter the Westerschelde Estuary and then sail along the River Scheldt to reach this huge city. We are due in at 9 a.m. and once again there were problems with the gangway so our disembarkation was later than planned.
Today many of us will visit the Red Star Line Museum, which is located along the riverside and well worth a visit. The exhibition, on several floors, is based on the almost 3 million people who emigrated to America (New York and Philadelphia) using this historic shipping line from Antwerp. Many of the passengers were fleeing from Eastern Europe, sailing from Antwerp, Southampton and Liverpool, to what they hoped would be a new life. The exhibits that we saw were often heart-breaking, especially to those of us who appreciate our freedom nowadays. The Line was started in 1873 and was in service until 1935. There was an interesting cutaway model of one ship, the BELGENLAND, but many of the exhibits were very personal to the passengers and had been donated to this museum, which opened in 2013.
Back in the medieval city outside the Museum it was time to find somewhere for lunch and recover the emotional balance of the day.
I walked back to the ship and then stood on the terrace of the viewing platform nearby to take stern photos of ASTORIA. I wanted a bow picture as well so chose to walk along the cobbled quayside for that, before getting back on board.
There was time for more photos before afternoon tea, and the chance to discuss what we had all done today. We are due to sail at 6 p.m. but some passengers were still missing so we were late leaving, and I had time to pack my few belongings and prepare for drinks and dinner on our last evening on board ASTORIA. We are a group of friends with a love of ships in common, and it was fascinating to hear what other interests we all had.
Ships seen: Astoria, riverboat Verdi, tug Fairplay III, West-Hinder with a red hull, Belgenland the cutaway model in the Red Star Museum
Sunday 12th March 2017
Overnight we sailed back to Tilbury and this morning after breakfast we had to disembark from ASTORIA and get home.
Public transport was reliable until of course Southern Rail had to be used. Ah yes, it's a Sunday so this meant replacement buses for part of my journey.
I had really enjoyed my little trip on ASTORIA, with a delightful group of people, and would recommend trying this ship with Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Friday 10th March 2017
I was a little reluctant to leave my comfy bed after losing an hour's sleep last night because of the clock change to get us onto European time but I arrived at breakfast as planned after a quick walk on deck to watch us arriving in today's port of Amsterdam. This is the capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands although the seat of the Dutch Government is in The Hague.
Several of us met at the gangway for our planned day trip but "technical problems" at one end or other of the gangway meant we had to wait for 45 minutes until they were resolved. Once ashore we could head to the car hire offices and pick up the vehicle for the day. Five of us were going north to the port of Den Helder, to travel as foot passengers on the new ferry sailing across the water to the island of Texel. I live in sheep country so I knew the word referred to a particular variety of sheep, but I never expected to set foot on its island of origin.
It was a straightforward run up to the port, where we parked for free in the ferry car park, then watched the older ferry SCHULPENGAT depart for Texel just across the water.
As she left Den Helder the new ferry TEXELSTROOM left Texel and headed our way so we were able to see the shape of her as she approached.
She unloaded and loaded quickly on her two vehicle decks and six minutes later were walking into the lounge.
The internal design was fresh and new and I loved seeing the 'sky' on the ceiling mural. Midships was the food serving area plus souvenirs on shelves opposite, with ample room for passengers. There were seating areas at both ends of the deck and they proved very comfortable, with good views.
The ferry takes 20 minutes to cross the 4.2 kms distance to the island, so we were able to enjoy a meal and stay on board for the return journey back to Den Helder. That was a good 2.50 euros well-spent for a return ticket!
Then it was time to collect the car and head back to Amsterdam and return the car to the hire office. Afternoon tea was available on board ASTORIA after we walked back to the cruise terminal, ready for departure at 5 p.m.
After that there was time to meet in one of the bars before dinner. Service was much faster this evening, which we appreciated, and then we went to see the ABBA Dancing Queen show for this evening's entertainment.
Ships seen: Astoria, Schulpengat, Texelstroom
To be concluded...
Thursday 9th March 2017
I set out for Tilbury Cruise Terminal and, despite the ongoing difficulties with using Southern Rail for part of my journey, I managed to reach my destination. I am booked with friends to go on the good ship ASTORIA, newly acquired by Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) and we are to sail for three nights and visit Amsterdam and Antwerp before returning to the London Cruise Terminal here at Tilbury.
Once at Tilbury railway station I met friends and we took the local bus to the cruise terminal, which saved quite a difficult walk or taxi ride. In the Terminal building I met even more of our group and realised we had come from various parts of the UK, the USA, Denmark and Germany. The internet makes so many friendships possible and we all seem happy to be able to arrange to travel together occasionally on a particular ship and trip (including cruise ships and ferries).
This ship was launched in 1946 at 12,165 gross tons for the Swedish America Line, with the name STOCKHOLM. I think many of us know of her disastrous collision with the ANDREA DORIA in July 1956; she subsequently changed ownership and names over the years. Now at 16,144 gross tons, her past names include ITALIA PRIMA, CARIBE, ATHENA and AZORES amongst others.
I have cabin 415, which is an inside double cabin for single use on Deck 4 Mediterranean Deck. My cruise card shows my name and nationality, plus my Muster station and lifeboat number. I noticed that it also has my date of birth on it, which is something I have not encountered on any other ship's cruise card! I wonder if that will be considered a controversial matter for CMV and their passengers...
Many of us met for lunch in the Buffet Restaurant and afterwards we attended Boat Drill before we left Tilbury at 3 p.m. Up on deck I met someone else who was enjoying photographing ASTORIA and ships generally - more congenial company. He was a retired eye-surgeon from Switzerland who had worked in Syria 'before the war'.
I walked around the ship and up on the Observation Deck at first sight I thought that the deck was wooden but closer inspection revealed that it was very dense carpeting, with almost unnaturally straight lines of caulking. That was a surprise but, after being amused, I realised that although unconventional, it might prove hard wearing.
We left Tilbury and as we sailed along the River Thames out to the sea we could see many of the old Thames Forts (the Maunsell forts), built in the second World War to help defend the United Kingdom. They are built of concrete and metal, and are still an amazing sight.
Later that afternoon one of my friends mentioned that he had seen two Americans taking photos around the ship. He pointed them out to me as they were standing not too far away, and I realised that I knew them! They were friends I had last met in New York several years ago but I recognised them straightaway. Isn't life extraordinary? I went over to say hello and they recognised me too and so, after catching up on news, I introduced them to other 'shippy' friends nearby and they became part of the group for the rest of our time on board. They had travelled over for this ship trip and were then planning more touring in Europe, so it was an amazing coincidence that we should all meet up on board ASTORIA.
I went to unpack in my cabin and later met friends for drinks and dinner. Service was very slow at our allocated dinner tables but we suspect this is because the ship is new in service but we enjoyed the food. After dinner there was a choice of seeing the Welcome Show, dancing or film shows.
Ships seen: Astoria, Duchess M the local cross river ferry, Grande Amburgo of Grimaldi Lines, tug Svitzer Laceby, tug Svitzer Bootle, Princess Pocahontas
To be continued...