20 December 2011

Astor in Helsinki, 4 September 2011


IMO 8506373
Former names: Astor, Feodor Dostoevskiy
Built 1987, HDW Kiel, West Germany
Tonnage 21 000 GT
Length 176,50 m
Width 22,61 m
Draugth 5,80 m
578 passengers (650 passengers maximum)
4 Sulzer-Wärtsilä diesels, combined 15 400 kW
2 propellers
1 bow thrusters
Speed 16,5 knots (18 knots maximum)

The Astor is currently the only ship belonging to Transocean Cruises (previously Transocean Tours), after the company was reorganized in 2009 following insolvency. The ship in itself is utterly fascinating: built in 1987 at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, she was the last purpose-built ocean liner to be completed before the Queen Mary 2, although she never sailed as such.

The Astor had been ordered by Safmarine in 1985 to replace an earlier ship (also named Astor, at the time of writing sailing as Saga Cruises' Saga Pearl II. For more details see the 1st entry on the Saga Pearl II). The second Astor was to be essentially identical to the first, but slightly larger and with more powerful engines to make her better suited for the Southampton-Cape Town -route. However, before the second Astor could ever be completed, in 1986 Safmarine decided to abandon the liner service and the under-construction Astor was sold to the Marlan Corporation.

The Astor was completed in early 1987 and placed on cruises around the Caribbean. In late 1988 she was sold to the Soviet Union's Black Sea Shipping Company and renamed Feodor Dostoevskiy. For a little over a year she was chartered to Transocean Tours, before being chartered for five years to Neckermann Seereisen. At the end of that charter in 1995 the ship reverted to her original name Astor as was chartered to Aquamarin. The next year she was (again) chartered to Transocean Tours. In 2002-2008 she was joined in the Transocean fleet by her elder semi-sister, which was now named Astoria.

Today the Astor remains in service with Transocean Cruises, making cruises aimed at the German market.

The photographs below show the Astor at Helsinki South Harbour and passing though the Kustaanmiekka strait departing Helsinki on 4 September 2011. Click on the images to see them in larger size.

Transocean Tours used a lighter, turquise shade on the hull and funnel markings, but after the company became Transocean Cruises in 2009, these were changed to a darker, more nautical shade of blue seen here.
In 2010 the Astor has been given additional structures on the forwards superstructure (below the bridge), which make her less good-looking, but at least make it easier to tell her apart from her near-sister Saga Pearl II.
And then the usual set of photos showing the ship passing through the Kustaanmiekka strait.
They don't make ships as sleek as this anymore, do they? Now with funnels quite to big and phallic.
The ramparts and sunset reflections.
Does it really matter what I'm writing here? Does anyone read these captions anyway?
On a practical note, I seem to be getting royally busy around and after Christmas and hence it is possible that this will be the last update to this blog for this year. So if there are no further updates I'm not dead, just enjoying the company of relatives and friends.


  1. Excellent post with amazing photos

    All the best

  2. I'm very glad you approve. The photos turned out surprisingly well, especially considering the fact that these were taking at the time when my camera was already breaking down.

    As a more general note, to those interested in further details about Safmarine's 1980s liner service and the two Astorias, I recommend getting your hands on William H. Miller's book The Last Blue Water Liners.

  3. Thanks Kalle
    If these pics are from a nearly broken camera I honestly don't know what to expect from a 100 percent working one. Have a Great Christmas and Happy 2012

    All the best

  4. Well, to be fair the camera was (and is) still mostly working, except for many of the automatic features that work only occasionally. ;)

    A merry Christmas and a wonderful 2012 to you too!

  5. Tero Söderholm03 January, 2012 11:52

    Hi Kalle and Happy New Year 2012.
    Good shots again ( althoug Your camera did not work properly ).
    But I think that even it had been working properly, you should have done lots of manual work: the subject of the photos is difficult: white ship, clear blue sky, sun beeing very low ! Very difficult for You to decide the right values for shutter speed and apperture.

  6. Hello Tero

    I admit I usually let the camera automate the shutter speed, pic the aperture myself and do the final fixing on the image afterwards on the computer. Which sometimes works well and sometimes doesn't.