Visiting Van Gogh
with the Ocean Liner Society, May 2005.
Photos by Malcolm Oliver
Previous ship visits
Today she sails as the Van Gogh for Travelscope, operating relatively low cost cruises from Tilbury and Falmouth. Trekking down to the Tilbury London International Cruise Terminal, I couldn't help but think what dreadful first impression this place must give arriving passengers through a litter strewn wasteland with disembarkation onto a rickety pier.
Stepping aboard Van Gogh the immediate first impression is Baltic Ferry
Flashback. All around this main lobby are smoked balck mirrors and lights. We
are immediately welcomed by smiling, enthusiastic crew members and shown to the
Nautilus bar aft. This space (along with most of the ship) has a rather spartan
feel. Here red formica tables are dotted around the bar together with some blue
bench seating. The space has large picture windows aft, making this a nice spot
for wake watching. This looks out onto a sunlounger space which has astroturf
underfoot. The rest of the decks are proper teak, including a wraparound
promenade deck - 100 laps for a mile!
We continue the tour forward into the Nautilus restaurant which is a bright,
pleasant space with a la carte and buffet dining. Moving forward we pass through
some of the many very very heavy fire doors which bely a troopship/ military
heritage which was a not so secret purpose of the ships (troops in the passenger
spaces, tanks on the vehicle decks). Our first stop is the library and library
lounge. A slightly uninspired space marred by being in the casino corridor (the
casino being one-armed bandits). The chairs look to have excaped from a 70s
airport. The library is relatively well stocked with Catherine Cookson being
particularly well worn.
Further forward still to the Captains Club bar. This space reminds me more of a Sealink ferry with brown wooden chairs reminiscent of a school hall and dark wooden panelling. What surprised me was that this was the most popular space with passengers. It is opposite a small but well stocked duty free shop.
Overall if you want to step back in ferry time then I suggest a cruise in this ship. She is well maintained and her interesting pedigree makes her kind of quirky in a good way!. I should add that in all the ship visits I have done, I've rarely encountered more enthusiastic crew members than we did today on Van Gogh - well done to the all for making this ship so welcoming.