by Kevin Griffin for cybercruises.com
Last Wednesday, Premicon AG, owners of the 600-berth 20,606-ton Astor, announced that she would be chartered to UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages for three winter seasons, starting in 2013-14.
She will continue to operate for Bremen-based TransOcean Cruises in the summer time. Astor will become Cruise & Maritime’s third ship, being added to the 848-berth Marco Polo and 650-berth Discovery, which has only just joined the fleet from Voyages of Discovery.
Cruise & Maritime plan to operate Astor in the Australian summer market, filling the void left by the demise of Classic International Cruises at the end of 2012.
It will offer a series of Australian cruises, including cruises from Fremantle, a Round Australia cruise and some Asian cruises in the winter of 2014.
Marco Polo in Rio de Janeiro
Over the past several years, Classic International had been offering southbound passages from Europe to Australia in late autumn and northbound passages back from Australia to the UK each spring, first in the 430-berth Funchal, and more recently in the 556-berth Athena.
The 1987-built Astor will make an ideal modern replacement for those ships. She will depart from Europe on November 5 via South Africa, to arrive in Fremantle on December 11, while the northbound voyage to Europe will depart on April 1, also by way of South Africa. As well as adding a needed service to the South African market, this will avoid any possible contact with pirates off Somalia.
Astor was built for the South Africa run in 1987 but when she was delivered went into destination and adventure cruising.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages have some experience of the Australian trade as its two main directors, Richard Bastow and Chris Coates, spent a good part of their early careers with CTC Cruises, who used to operate ex-UK by summer and from Australia in the winter. Cruise & Maritime had also tried to arrange a last-minute charter of Delphin from Passat Kreutzfahrten to Classic International’s Australian arm to replace Athena, but by then, Passat was unwilling to give up its own winter programme so the charter did not go ahead. Cruise & Maritime has opened a new branch office in Sydney. It also opened a North America office in Fort Lauderdale in 2011.