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Visiting Van Gogh

with the Ocean Liner Society, May 2005.

Photos by Malcolm Oliver




Previous ship visits

Van Gogh


Ocean Majesty


Hebridean Princess

Black Watch

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.

Through more heavy fire doors and we step into Club Live - the show lounge. This is at the very forward end of the ship and for those who recently travelled on DFDS' Duke of Scandinavia is a very similar space in layout and style. I should say at this point that despite the fitting being relatively spartan and dowdy they were all (except those Nautilus seats) spotless and clearly recently reupholstered. This ship is well cared for in the most part.  We climb right up to the top deck and the Sky bar - again retro fittings and a very low ceiling, but with 270 degrees of windows, a nevertheless pleasant space.

We get to visit each grade of cabin and they are mainly very pleasant. Starting with the most basic - which is like a well kept 70s ferry, we also see suites. In a wonderfully soviet adaptation to current trends, the top 2 classes of suit have 'balconies'. Except that they are not balconies. You must leave the cabin and go outside to a reserved area of deck space in front of your window. The really amusing quirk here is that in the middle of the suites are some cabins which are merely 'superior' They look onto the same deck but
are NOT allowed to use the 'balcony'!.

We head aft to the lido area which is nicely curved and attractive and has an adjoining small but very very hot sauna. In addition there is the 'teen room' which seems chosen by virtue of being isolated from the pax accommodation and easily hoseable. Descending into the hull we pass the excursion desk and photo shop (remember the passport counters on ferries - well its now a photo window). We descend further to the Disco - retro red and balck and a space which apparently gets little use. Aft into the Cinema which is clearly constructed in the former car deck area. One of the better shipboard cinemas with excellent sightlines. Again all looking recently refitted and upholstered.

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.