The hand of history will be hovering over Tilbury when Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ newest ship, Astor, sets sail on an epic 38-night voyage to Australia in November.
This departure promises not only to relive the bygone era of long distance ocean voyages, but comes nearly 70 years after the first Britons sailed from the Essex port as part of the famous £10 Poms assisted migration programme.
This post-war initiative prompted the departure of more than a million emigrants as they sought a new life Down Under, and now CMV customers will be able to follow in their footsteps as Astor sails for Fremantle near Perth. With the sailing date set for 5th November, Bonfire Night, fireworks will light up the skies as Astor cruises down the Thames and into the Channel at the start of a 9,000-mile journey southwards.
The route will take this elegant ocean liner around the Iberian Peninsula to the Canary Islands and the remote British South Atlantic territories of Ascension Island and St Helena (where Napoleon was famously exiled) before reaching South Africa. Passengers can soak up this country’s natural beauty at Cape Town with tours of the pretty Winelands or climb Table Mountain to admire the stunning views from the top of this famous landmark. From Durban they can go wild, quite literally, by taking a safari to see the rich game-life before encountering the exotic charms of the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion and Mauritius and subsequently arriving at Fremantle on 13th December 2014.
But this isn’t Astor’s only voyage. The ship joined CMV’s fleet this autumn and has already left Europe for Australia to spend the winter offering various sailings including a 35-night circumnavigation of the country. The vessel returns to Europe next April, with a 40-night voyage departing Fremantle for Harwich on 1st April, though shorter segments are available for those who do not want to do the entire cruise. However, anyone tempted to jump aboard next November to escape the British winter and experience the bygone halcyon days of long distance sea travel, can enjoy relaxing in Astor’s comfortable surroundings.
With a capacity for just 600 guests, stylish Astor carries less passengers than Marco Polo and Discovery, and having been built in 1987 she is the youngest too. A £14 million refurbishment in 2010 has kept interiors shipshape while preserving the classic style enhanced by framed prints and lashing of dark wood panelling. The airy Waldorf Restaurant is the venue for formal meals, served in two sittings while the Übersee Club restaurant offers a stylish alternative for buffet fare, and the nautically-themed Captain’s Club and dark and cosy Hanse Bar are ideal for relaxing over a cocktail. On such long voyages, there will be plenty of activities and entertainment; opportunities for pampering time in the Wellness Centre with its indoor pool, sauna and beauty salon; and in the warm weather there is a pool, sun terrace, sports court and walking track. Passengers may be following in the footsteps of history, but at least they can enjoy premium comforts from a more modern era.
Tilbury’s links with the Antipodes date back to the turn of the century. Here are some key dates:
- 1886: The first to travel to Australia from the new docks were a group of four Brigidines (Missionary nuns) from Ireland. They boarded the Austral to attend a mission at the busy river port of Echuca on the Murray River in the state of Victoria.
- 1902: Kiwi soldiers arrive in Tilbury Docks on a special train from Aldershot at the start of their journey home to New Zealand.
- 1912: Immigration to Australia, emigrants wave their last goodbyes as the emigrant ship Monrovian leaves Tilbury in Essex, bound for Australia.
- 1912: Royal mail Ship Remuera leaves Tilbury Dock on 19 December, arriving in Wellington New Zealand on 3 February 1913.
- 1921: Early emigrants embark Moreton Bay, the first government liner, which inaugurates a new service from Tilbury to Australia.
- 1928: 150 Barnados Homes children, known as “Little Empire Builders”, depart Tilbury for Australia.
- 1932: The England Cricket team sail for Australia for the famous 1932-33 “Bodyline Tour”.
- 1947: In April, the first group of £10 Poms departs on the SS Mooltan for Australia.
- 1961: Strathnaver departs on her last voyage for Sydney – after which she was sold for scrap.
- 2014: The spirit of the £10 Poms is revived by Cruise & Maritime Voyages with the 5th November departure of Astor from Tilbury to Australia.