At 72 years old, she is still an elegant beauty. Long after many cruise ships have ceased sailing the world’s oceans, the Astoria continues to entertain guests in comfortable fashion.
As the world’s oldest cruise ship still sailing, the Astoria has cruised under many different names. Her original name, of course, was the Stockholm. Launched in 1948, the Stockholm has gone down in history as the ship that accidentally collided with the Andrea Doria on July 25, 1956. Five Stockholm crewmembers were killed by the impact and 46 passengers on the Andrea Doria died when the cruise ship sank in the Atlantic.
The Astoria joined the Cruise & Maritime Voyages fleet in 2015. However, CMV announced in January that 2020 will be the ship’s farewell season.
Astoria’s final CMV journey includes cruises from England in March, April, September and October. “Limited space is available for the last chance to sail with CMV onboard this truly classic liner,” the CMV website notes.
On my Sea of Cortez cruise, today is a sea day. That means we don’t have any port stops or shore excursions. That is fine with me because it gives me a chance to explore the Astoria and sit on the deck watching the ocean roll.
We’ve been so busy that I haven’t seen all the nooks and crannies on the Astoria. Will be fun to do that today. I’m going to start at the bottom deck and work my way up each deck, taking photos as I go.
Astoria decks have cruise-related names
The 550-passenger ship has eight passenger decks and two elevators. Each deck has a cruise-related name. Decks 1 (Aegean) and 2 (Pacific) are mainly guest accommodations. Deck 3 (Atlantic) has cabins (including my cabin 322) and the Olissipo Restaurant. What I like most about the Olissipo – besides the food – are the porthole-style windows which are original to the Stockholm era. Off to the side of the Olissipo is a small gallery known as the Steak House which costs extra. I didn’t eat there but other passengers said they do recommend the steak.
Deck 4 (Mediterranean) has many cabins, plus the reception lobby and a small chapel. The reception lobby is where we usually embark and disembark from the ship. It is also where those beautiful twin staircases provide a lovely entrance.
Deck 4A (Calypso) is filled with public spaces, including the 432-seat Calypso Show Lounge and the casino. The Astoria show team is small but puts on some top-notch entertainment. One evening it was Bohemian Rhapsody, a tribute to the icon band Queen and the unforgettable vocals of pop icon Freddie Mercury. Another night was Around the World with hit songs from different countries.
Also on the Calypso deck is a nice library with books to share, several card-meeting rooms which do seem to get quite a bit of use, a small smoking lounge, a photo desk where passengers can see photos displayed to buy and a well-stocked shopping area.
Also on Deck 4A is the Lotus Buffet Grill with 200 indoor seats and additional ones outside. The Elpinor Bar is handy for pool users. The pool itself is a treasure with a marble pool basin and a wealth of fine teak decking.
My favorite spot on the Calypso deck is the Sirenes Bar. I’m not a coffee drinker but the bar does have a genuine Italian espresso machine which is quite popular with coffee lovers. My caffeine of choice is Coke and the young servers in the Sirenes picked up on that immediately. Depending on the time of day, the servers knew I either would be ready for a cold Coke and glass of ice or a cosmopolitan at cocktail hour.
Every crew member I have encountered on the Astoria is gracious, hard working, polite and eager to please. The Astoria carries a crew of 255 with most of the crew from India with 62, Indonesia with 60 and the Ukraine with 75. In total, the nationalities of crewmembers encompass 23 countries. None from America.
Deck 5 (Promenade) is exactly what it says – a lovely place to walk. The deck has a teak-lined observation platform, some cabins and the 233-seat Cyclops Auditorium where movies are shown. I haven’t had time to go to any of the movies but I have seen passengers heading in there with pillows and blankets for some good movie choices – “The Irishman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Lion King” and “Rocketman.”
On Deck 5, the Muses Disco night club is where late-night entertainment is offered. In the Muses, passengers are invited to dance around the world on a dance floor inset with a glass map of the world.
Deck 6 (Navigators) has the bridge for the navigator, plus some officer and guest accommodations. It also has a terrace with the al fresco Aelos Bar.
Deck 7 (Observation) has large open spaces to observe where the ship has been and where it is going. Also on Deck 7 are a small gym, beauty salon and spa with a steam room and sauna.
For such a small ship, the Astoria does have many areas where passengers can gather to socialize or can find spaces for alone time. I also like that the ship is so walkable. I haven’t used the two elevators because it is so easy to walk up or down to wherever I am going. And if I am supposed to meet friends in the Sirenes Bar, I know it is a short walk from my cabin to the meeting spot.
Someone said that the adults-only Astoria has the facilities of a ship twice its size. I agree. In the ship’s shops, for example, I expected that a tiny gift shop might be tucked away somewhere with a few items as is often the case on other small ships. But the Astoria’s shop is large and well stocked with toiletries, olive oil, snacks, souvenirs, clothing, duty-free alcohol and cigarettes, perfume, designer handbags and many other items.
This floating piece of cruise history may be nearing her final voyage but I, along with many others, hope the old Stockholm can survive for years to come. This classic ship offers an intimate cruise experience not available on larger vessels today and is a welcome option for its devotees.
Cover photo: Astoria entryway boasts twin staircases, credit Jackie Sheckler Finch
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