Astoria Cruise: Boarding the ship, finding my cabin

Some passengers don’t like taking a “tender” to go from ship to shore or vice versa on a cruise. It does take longer to board and ride in that small boat than it takes to just walk off a cruise ship.

But many of the ports on our Sea of Cortez cruise don’t have docking facilities. When docking is not an option, ships will anchor in deeper water offshore and use smaller boats called tenders to transport passengers and supplies back and forth.

I like using a tender because it gives me a chance to see our ship as it is anchored at sea and to take photos of the vessel. The photo of the Astoria that I am attaching was taken from my tender ride. Many times, port photos of a ship are too cluttered or difficult to show the whole vessel.

View of Astoria from tender boat ride, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

So I wasn’t at all dismayed when I arrived in Cabo San Lucas to board the Astoria to discover that I was going to have to climb onto a tender to embark on my six-night cruise on the Sea of Cortez. Crew members took my luggage and safely stowed it on the tender. Once we reached the Astoria, a crew member would take my luggage to my cabin. All I had to take care of was me and my backpack.

Of course, most of the passengers on this Astoria cruise had boarded the ship five days earlier in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. When my plane landed in Cabo San Lucas, I moved easily through customs and past the many marketers wanting to sell me an excursion or a ride or a room in a local resort. After finding my transport driver, we were off for a quick drive to the drop-off spot to board the Astoria tender.

The Cabo San Lucas shore area was teeming with souvenir shops, tour guides and other hustlers. But the tender was waiting so I quickly boarded and began photographing the beautiful Astoria in the distance. Passengers already on the cruise were either relaxing on the ship or taking the shore excursions that included snorkeling, whale watching, a semi sub explorer, zodiac trip and more.

My comfy cabin fits me fine

Boarding the ship and checking in was simple and fast. My photo was taken for identification purposes, my passport was photocopied and I was given a cruise card on a commemorative Sea of Cortez lanyard for all shipboard purchases and to use when leaving or boarding the ship. I also was given a larger plastic key card. Sometimes the cruise card also functions as my room key but the Astoria uses a two-card system – one for ID and one for a room key.

A crewmember led me to my cabin 322. Astoria has 250 cabins and our cruise has about 450 passengers, several of them solo travelers like me. Entering my ship cabin for the first time is always fun. It’s a joy to see the place I will be calling home during my cruise. Completed in 1948 with the original name of the Stockholm, the Astoria had a major makeover in 1994 and is still quite lovely.

My Astoria cabin is quite comfy, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

My cabin has two twin beds with a white duvet and blue fabric spread to match the window curtains. The décor is mostly blue and white with a large ocean side painting on one wall. Between the beds is a two-drawer table. A lamp is over the bedside table but the room also has plenty of overhead lights and desk lights.

To make it all easier to manage, one switch by my bed turns lights on or off. Another switch by the cabin door turns lights on or off. Very thoughtful.

Sunset outside my cabin porthole on Astoria, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

Two portholes over my beds let in plenty of light. I always choose a balcony cabin if I can but the Astoria has only nine balcony suites. When I told a fellow passenger that I had two portholes she seemed incredulous. In fact, she asked to see how my cabin looked in comparison to hers. Not all the cabins are identical. Hers has one porthole and no desk. Another passenger has her twin beds arranged sideways in front of the outer porthole wall in her cabin.

My cabin has individually controlled air conditioning and 220-volt European style outlets. Remember to bring an adapter for American electronics. Cruise ships seldom have alarm clocks so bring that also if you want one. A black tote bag with a silver graphic of our Sea of Cortez port stops is a lovely welcome-on-board gift.

The room has plenty of storage space with a closet, a three-drawer desk and room under the bed for my suitcase. The cabin has a safe, fridge and a small screen TV but reception is so poor that there is no sense in turning on the TV. Likewise, WiFi is very limited and is not available at all in my cabin. In fact, I haven’t found an area on the ship where WiFi does work well.

My bathroom is quite large for a cruise ship. It has a shower and bathtub with grab bars on both, which I think should be required on every ship but is seldom installed. An old-fashioned hair dryer, sink, wall cabinet, toilet and bidet complete the bathroom. Four small bottles of toiletries on a shelf over the sink are deceptive. Two are shower/shampoo and two are hand lotion.

Putting my glasses on, I picked up one of the white lotion bottles, read that it is hand lotion and put it on my nightstand. When I later took a shower and washed my hair, I didn’t have on my glasses so thought the other white lotion bottle on the bathroom counter must be hair conditioner. It wasn’t. It was hand lotion.

The ship doesn’t have hair conditioner so bring your own if you want it. First time I’ve ever added hand lotion to my wet hair but it washed right out and I later learned from two other passengers that they had made the same mistake.

Astoria-handy tote bag has our cruise itinerary, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

My cabin steward Sudiana dropped by to introduce himself and to ask if I need anything. Every night, Sudiana said, he would turn down my bed, freshen the room and leave The Explorer ship newsletter on my bed. I love those ship newsletters because they are filled with an interesting schedule of activities, local weather, when the ship will dock and depart, emergency numbers and times for when the last tender will head back to the ship.

The Explorer also has a brief description of where we will be going the next day, shore excursion information and dress code. The dress code every day of our cruise, except one, is informal. One night will be formal dress but even that is not too dressy. A nice dress or jacket and slacks for women is fine for formal night. A suit coat and tie works for men. Far different from when I began cruising in 1976 and women would come onboard with several suitcases filled with sparkly outfits and men would wear tuxedos.

Now I am off to wander the ship before cocktail hour at 7 and dinner at 8. Will let you know in my next post what I discover.

Cover photo: Sunset outside my cabin porthole on Astoria, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch

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