I’d never been on a cruise. And to be honest, I’d never had the slightest interest in cruising. In fact, in my younger (and full time independent traveller years), I was almost bordering on anti-cruise. So it was kind of strange that I found myself not only on a cruise, but a cruise to absolutely nowhere.
In the past, I’d had visions of being trapped on a boat for days on end in a cabin with no natural light, venturing out only to be faced with people over-eating at the buffet, fighting over sunlounges and tanning themselves to a crisp during the day, followed by enduring endless cheesy show tunes night after night after night.
But, the Cruise to Nowhere was billed as a short, boutique introduction to cruising. Almost a kind of try-before-you-buy deal. The cruise left from WA’s Fremantle passenger terminal on a Friday night, sailed south to Geographe Bay, hung out for a day and then sailed back into Fremantle on the Monday morning. Three nights, I thought, I could handle. And I’m very pleased to report that I actually enjoyed my three nights so much, I didn’t want to get off the boat when it docked. So, let’s go cruising!
The Astor is a baby among cruise ships. It’s only 176 metres long and carries just 620 passengers. It has 7 decks and one (very small) outdoor pool. It’s boutique by cruise ship standards. And since I’m not a fan of pretty much anything en-masse, that was definitely part of the appeal for me. And because I'd never been on a cruise ship before, everything was new and exciting and very impressive!
There are 16 different types of cabin aboard the Astor, and we were lucky enough to get a Premium suite. Instead of the tiny porthole I had imagined, the suite’s entire external wall was floor to ceiling glass. Looking out over the ocean from those windows became one of our favourite parts of being on the ship. The cabin was nicely decked out and bigger than your average hotel room, with a small lounge area furnished with chairs, table and a couch. It had a really nice little bathroom, and the pressure in the shower was better than I have at home! The hum of the ship's engines was very soothing, and I slept like a baby for the whole cruise.
The Astor has two restaurants: the buffet Ubersee restaurant and the slightly more upmarket Waldorf. We chose the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the Waldorf in the evenings. The buffet was just fine, and we could order omelettes made on the spot, as well as all the normal fare of fresh fruit, yoghurt, cereals and pastries. At night, I was pleased to find that the Waldorf menu had a whole section for vegetarians, so both myself and my partner (who isn’t vegetarian) were happy.
The Astor also has a couple of different bars, and there are always staff walking around, ready to take your drink order. One of the bars, Lido, is next to the pool, which is part of a sunny back deck, the perfect place to sit with a book (and a frozen margarita). The back deck is the party area of the boat, and has a really fun atmosphere. And the bar staff certainly don’t hold back when it comes to pouring the wine!
The Astor also has a great sports deck, with a walking (and running) track, as well as a contained space for a variety of sports, including basketball, table tennis (which I narrowly lost), soccer (which I lost by a bit), boxing and volleyball (which I claimed I won).
There is also an over-sized outdoor chess set, where I learned (and lost) chess, and the obligatory shuffle board.
The boat also has a number of other facilities, including the Captain’s Club, the Astor Lounge, shops, a perfumery and a games room fully stocked with just about every board game you can think of.
The Astor, like I imagine is the case on most cruise ships, has an endless activity program to keep guests entertained. The boat has its own showteam, who put on a variety of shows, from Abba to Queen to Blankety Blanks. If you’re into cheesy show tunes with lots of ‘jazz hands’, then these will be right up your alley!
There was also a full program throughout the day, including line dancing, ballroom dancing, bingo, a quiz (which was so popular we couldn’t even get a seat), and a gameshow. The program also included every sport from chairobics (if you can call that a sport?) to ‘killer’ darts to golf chipping.
But to be honest, our favourite activity on board the boat was to find a quiet place and read. And given the amount of sunlounges, this wasn’t difficult. One of the things I really appreciated about being on a boutique cruise was that we could always find some space. From sitting on a sunlounge during the day to strolling around the top deck at night, the Astor really gave us the chance to truly unwind and ‘do nothing’. It was just easy. Everything was taken care of. We could do as much or as little as we wanted, and it was all in the same place. And that is what really sold me on cruising.
Notes: The Astor runs several short cruises from Fremantle, WA, from December until March. See www.cmvaustralia.com
Be warned: you can't go on a cruise without having travel insurance. For this trip, we used Australian based insurer FastCover, and you can get a quote for a policy here: https://fastcover.com.au/ref?id=Wafaraway