MS Astor Facts & Figures
Length: 176,25m Beam: 22,60m Draft: 6,10m Capacity: 578 passengers Crew: 278 Operator: CMV Cruise & Maritime Voyages / TransOcean Kreuzfahrten Flag: Bahamas Language: German/English Currency: EUR/Australian Dollars
The first time I met MS Astor was during the birthday celebrations of the Port of Hamburg back in 2011 . I had two ship visits that day and was running late, but apart from only catching a few glimpses of the Grand Dame of cruise ships (as TransOcean Kreuzfahrten refers to her), I have made only positive memories during my very short stay onboard. At that time, MS Astor was fully sailing for the German cruise market under the TransOcean brand and had just emerged from a multi-million dry-dock refurbishment.
But times for classic cruise liners have gotten quite tough these days, at least in markets where cruising has become more and more popular with the younger crowds. Cruise operators like the Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean International deliver almost annually brand new resort vessels for their different cruise brands, offering more nonstop entertainment options, more unlimited choices in dining and more extraordinary onboard equipment like IMAX movie theatres, duplex suites, elevated viewing platforms or outdoor dining promenades (just to name a few!).
I am not saying that I do not appreciate the change in the style of cruising, but I do have to admit (after being on over 60 ships personally) that all these amazing features can sometimes be a little strenuous. Not mentioning the change of crowd that has taken place on a lot of these ultra-modern mega ships.
MS Astor is completely different! Built in 1987 (I was 8 years old at that time!) by the HDW shipyard in Germany, she was originally intended as a combined ocean liner/cruise ship for the South African Safmarine on the Southampton – Cape Town service. Yet she began her inauguration year with the Mauritius-based Marlan Corporation, offering cruises in South America and the Caribbean. Just a year later, the ship was sold off to Soviet Union-based Black Sea Shipping Company and was renamed Fedor Dostoyevsky. While sailing under the Soviet Union-flag, she was chartered to various German cruise operators of which the former TransOcean Tours was one of them.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and several changes in operations, the ship retrieved its original name Astor back, changed ownership and began service for TransOcean Tours from 1995 until 2008.
By that time, the German cruise market had already changed so much with the introduction of larger brands such as AIDA Cruises or TUI Cruises – Mein Schiff, that TransOcean was not able to continue services with MS Astor all by themselves. And what began with winter charters to the British cruise operator Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) ended in 2013 with the annexation as TransOcean Kreuzfahrten into CMV´s parent company Global Maritime Group.
So while other classics simply disappeared completely from the German-speaking cruise market (MS Deutschland, MS Delphin), MS Astor managed not only to keep her German core audience but apparently was able to make many new English-speaking fans around the globe, as I have recently learned on my mini cruise in September 2015.
But what can you expect onboard? What is cruising on MS Astor like? Is this ship suitable for the modern state-of-the-art cruiser?
Find out in my next blog post! Register now and don´t miss out 🙂