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  1. 18 months since we have been on board Azamara and two years since we have been on board the Quest, but within minutes of embarking on the Quest for an 8-night Croatia intensive cruise, we were greeted by several officers and welcomed back as a family. You can’t put a price on that. One of the major benefits of small-ship cruising. It was a smooth and speedy embarkation - we were on the ship within minutes of arriving at the terminal in Chioggia. It really felt like coming home. We had a veranda cabin on deck 6, which was perfectly fine with plenty of storage space, a decent sized balcony and an adequate bathroom. We were also blessed with one of the best stateroom attendants we have ever had in the lovely Edgar. All four Azamara ships are pretty much the same, with guest services and concierge on deck 4. The main Discoveries restaurant is on deck 5, together with Atlas Bar, future cruise sales, shore excursions, the shops, Mosaic Cafe, and the Cabaret Lounge. Decks 6, 7, and 8 are all staterooms. Deck 9 is where you will find the Windows Cafe (buffet), The Sunset Bar, The Patio, the pool and hot tubs, the Pool Bar, Gym and the spa. Deck 10 is the walking/jogging track, the Drawing Room, The Living Room, and the two specialty restaurants - Aqualina and Prime C. There is also a table tennis table and dart board on this deck. Finally, on deck 11 is a sun deck. Despite this ship being at full capacity, it never felt crowded and it was never a problem getting a seat wherever we wanted one. We shared our dining options between Discoveries Restaurant and Windows Cafe Buffet. We never had a problem getting a seat in either venue, but we do like to dine early. We had a brilliant waiter in Discoveries Jhun - the food was always hot, the service was great and they were flexible with regard to our dietary requirements. Another option for lunch is The Patio, where we ate on a couple of days. They serve a selection of burgers, salads, onion rings, nachos, etc. Food was lovely, but service was always slow. The two specialty restaurants - Prime C and Aqualina were available at $35 dollars per head and proved popular with many of our fellow guests. One of the things we loved about this trip was the free room service breakfast - there was a big variety of cooked and cold items to choose from and service was always cheerful and prompt. With regard to the Spa, as regular readers of our reviews will know, we feel the spas on American ships are horrendously overpriced, so we don’t use them. We didn’t book any shore excursions for the same reason. As for the entertainment, the ship has a band, a piano player, a disco, the usual shows, guest speakers and quizzes. We particularly loved the crew karaoke. The things that Azamara is outstanding at are their Azamazing events - on this cruise, they arranged a fabulous choir to perform in the local town square in Koper, Slovenia, and they also have their white night (we dress in black as we are rebels 😉😉) with entertainment, the officers cooking and a parade of all the crew. If you are lucky enough to be on a cruise with Ryszard Gusmann as Hotel Director, don’t miss his crepes Suzette - they are legendary!! Two other special things happened on this cruise one was the meeting of the four Azamara sisters who came together in Koper. This has only ever happened once before. Also, on the cruise into Kotor, Montenegro, there was an informative commentary and local food served, as well as coffee with rum liqueur. If we were going to be critical of Azamara at all, it would be with regard to their internet, which is better than some but not as good as others. However, if you are coming on holiday to switch off, that would not be an issue for you. In summary, we enjoyed our Azamara Quest cruise so much we decided to stay on. The reason for this is that all the staff on board have been welcoming, friendly and efficient. The officers are highly visible, including the Captain and are always up for a chat. We think that Ryszard, the Hotel Director, is the best on the seven seas. We have never seen an HD who is so hands-on and engaged with his passengers. The same can also be said for David, his Guest Relations Manager, and Tulita and Romz, their team. Regular readers will know we often criticize guest relations, but this cruise has proved that Azamara still has the best! We have cruised many times over the last year, but this cruise on the Azamara Quest has definitely been the best. It certainly will not be 18 months before we sail with Azamara again !! Azamara makes you feel valued and part of the family - something we really appreciate.
  2. It’s been a year since we cruised with Celebrity, and two years since we sailed on the Silhouette. So we were looking forward to this 8-night northern Spain and France cruise. The embarkation process was smooth, speedy and hassle-free - we were on board within minutes of arriving at the terminal. However, being reunited with our luggage wasn’t without problem. Having waited several hours for our bags, they then arrived two hours apart from each other. For this cruise, we had a sunset veranda cabin as we really like the views from the back. It seemed smaller than we had remembered, but it was perfectly serviceable - with a comfortable bed. There was just about enough storage space and a small bathroom with a shower. There was a large TV with limited channels, but it did have Sky Sports News and Sport 24 for the football, so all was good. There were many bars and lounges. We found the Ensemble Lounge to be very dark, the Martini Bar to be always crowded, so we spent a lot of time in the Sky Lounge, which was bright and spacious - located on deck 14 forward. There is also the Passport Bar on Deck 3, the World Class Bar (which often appeared to be empty) on Deck 5, the Pool Bar on Deck 12, the Mast Bar on Deck 14 and the Sunset Bar on Deck 15. We only spent a little time in Cafe Al Bacio on deck 5 due to its close proximity to the atrium; both the noise levels from the entertainment in the foyer on deck 3 and the low lighting were off-putting. There is the usual expensive Spa, a well-equipped and modern gym, and a solarium with an indoor pool and hot tubs. On Deck 15/16 forward is The Retreat, an outdoor area for suite guests. There is also a private Lounge for suite guests on deck 5. We are Elite Plus on the Celebrity Loyalty programme and attended the majority of the events that were laid on. Our favourite, which was new to us, was a Music and Mixology event, which was great fun. There was also a Senior Officers Cocktail Party, a welcome event, wine tasting and a Backstage Tour. Other benefits of being Elite Plus include some free laundry, and discounts off Internet, drinks packages and specialty dining. With regard to food, there is a main dining room, the Grand Cuvee, on two levels and you can either opt for anytime dining or early or late sitting. There is also the Oceanview Cafe, the buffet on Deck 14 where some choice of food is available from 6 am till 1 am. There are numerous specialty restaurants available for an extra charge - Tuscan Grille, Murano, Le Petit Chef, Sushi on Five, The Porch and The Lawn Club - and for what it’s worth, we find them expensive compared to other cruise lines we cruise with. We didn’t eat in the main restaurant very often as although it was easy to get a table, service was slow between courses, and the food wasn’t always hot by the time it reached you. Quality was fine; there just wasn’t enough variety generally in the MDR or the buffet. There was a varied choice of lounge entertainment - acoustic, jazz, party, classical. Celebrity seem to have moved away from entertainment in the Sky Lounge with the exception of quizzes - great to be entertained at a number of these by the charismatic former Captain’s Club Host David Perrien. There were a number of guest entertainers during the week, including the talented Jo Little and The Barricade Boys as well as the usual production shows. We didn’t book any shore excursions as we found them to be very expensive compared to other lines we cruise with. In summary, it’s fair to say we fell a little bit back in love with Celebrity. We had an enjoyable cruise and actually booked two more cruises whilst on board. This was partly due to being made to feel more valued, something we hadn’t felt in recent times with Celebrity. Max - the Guest Relations Manager and Tania - the Captain’s Club Host were absolutely brilliant. We are very well aware that Silhouette in the scheme of things isn’t a large ship these days, but it is to us, and it’s certainly the largest ship we would be happy to travel on moving forward - we are definitely small ship cruisers at heart. If you are new to Celebrity, we believe you will absolutely love them, but if you have travelled with them more frequently you will certainly notice a decline in standards and a rise in prices. That said we will continue to travel with them just not exclusively as in the past.
  3. The vast majority of the cruises we take are on what we would consider to be traditional smaller cruise ships. Every now and then we like to step out of our comfort zone and join what we would describe as a floating hotel resort ….. So we embarked on the Sky Princess with some trepidation for a 7-night Scandinavia cruise. We were amazed by the ship's efficient hassle free embarkation process, which was one of the fastest we have ever experienced. We were initially struck by how busy and crowded the ship was as we made our way to our mini-suite on deck 8. We were very disappointed on entering our mini-suite - think we should have paid more attention to the word mini on the description, rather than the word suite. Our cabin was somewhat shabby to be honest, with the smallest balcony we have ever had, and a general feeling of being cramped. The balcony door was extremely difficult to open, and when we raised it with our steward. We were told they knew about it and nothing could be done, frailer customers would not have managed it. The floor lighting strip on the bedside cabinet was hanging off, as was one of the rubber seals on the balcony door. The sound of the wind whistling was irritating where it wasn’t airtight. Whilst the bed was reasonably comfortable, there was a lack of pillow options. There were two large TV screens with the usual limited live channels, but an impressive variety of videos - both film and tv series. Trying to regulate the air con to the right temperature wasn’t easy either - with an unresponsive thermostat. Our mini suite was situated towards the back of the ship which was fine when accessing the higher decks but somewhat frustrating if you wanted to go to decks 5 and 6 where you were met with dead ends. We found this ship difficult to navigate, there was no lounge at the front and the promenade deck 7 was in sections. There wasn’t anywhere on the ship where you could walk around the entire ship on the same level, even on deck 17- where the jogging/ walking track was located. We have completed 80 cruises on 50-plus ships but this was without a doubt the most crowded we have ever travelled on. On many occasions, we gave up trying to find seats in a number of the lounges. And on the outer decks while there were an abundance of sun loungers - there was a shortage of chairs, particularly on the aft. There didn’t appear to be enough restrooms/toilets, and those that there were were cramped and crowded. On the plus side, there were three speciality restaurants - a steakhouse, a fish/seafood one and an Italian - Sabatinis which we tried twice and really enjoyed - great value for money ($35 for 6 courses) and excellent service, as well as a nice atmosphere. Generally, we thought the standard of food on the Sky Princess was very good, even in the Buffett where there was also a wide choice of vegan and vegetarian food. I had the best lamb rogan josh, and the best Caesar salad I had ever eaten on a ship. We also liked the fact that there was a 24-hour international cafe (deck5), which we used once or twice for a late-night sandwich. During the day on the pool/lido deck there is a small ice cream kiosk, pizza and burgers available - all included with no extra charge. Princess have their groundbreaking medallion app - which was really useful for booking meals in their main dining rooms. There were no long waits, efficient and friendly service, and great food. You can also see the daily programme on the app and indicate your interest in attending events, and if you are travelling with family/friends you can use it to locate where the others are on the ship. The medallion, worn around your neck on a lanyard or on your wrist, also gives you access to your room - the door automatically unlocks as you approach. You also use it for any purchases on board as you would a keycard on other lines. In our experience the medallion was much more reliable than keycards tend to be. The internet onboard was excellent, we need to work whilst away and it never let us down. We purchased the princess premier package - which included internet for up to 4 devices, all drinks up to the value of $20, two speciality meals each, free fitness classes, free speciality desserts, gratuities and free juice bar. This worked really well for us. Regular readers of my reviews will know I’m not a big fan of Spas on ships as they tend to be overpriced, the spa on this ship was located on deck 5. There was also a well equipped gym and yoga studio on deck 17, a jogging track, a basketball /football/tennis area and mini golf on deck 18. There were also table tennis tables and a number of swimming pools and hot tubs, as well as a large outdoor screen where movies, sporting events and concerts were shown. There was a multitude of bars and lounges around the ship. We particularly liked take five - the jazz lounge (deck 6) and Bellinis on deck 5 by the Piazza (Atrium). We would have liked to have spent time in the wine bar - Vines also on deck 5 but could never get a seat. Much of the entertainment on the ship centered around the Piazza (Atrium). A variety of the live music acts performed there, game shows and dance classes happened too. The Princess Live lounge on deck 7 was also a focus for quizzes and game shows, and the art auctions. The Vista Lounge was the home of bingo and karaoke, amongst other things. Summary As we always say there are two types of ships, the smaller more traditional ones, and the large ships that we term as floating hotel resorts. It’s not about good or bad - it’s just different. We found this ship to be a bit daunting, and as we previously said this ship felt over crowded and led us to wonder what it would be like on a sea day if there was bad weather and everyone was indoors. Having said that if you like hustle and bustle and a wide variety of things going on on, and don’t mind what can seem like an endless search for seats, then this could be the ship for you. It would be a great ship for families with things happening all the time aimed at appealing to a wide age range. We were impressed by both the embarkation and disembarkation processes, which were smooth and efficient If we compare our experience on the Sky Princess with our time on the larger but more populated Iona last year, the Iona felt less crowded and much easier to navigate with fewer dead ends and a promenade deck which stretched round the ship. If you are considering booking a cruise on Sky Princess we would advise against booking a mini suite (if we had researched properly we probably wouldn’t have done) and we would say book Princess Premier which we considered to be great value for money. Also, we had expected there to be a maximum of 3600 people on board from advertising and it ended up being 4200. In closing, for us the ship was too crowded, but the food is great, staff were friendly and the medallion was good to use, it’s a great innovation. Would you like to use it?
  4. Itinerary - Port of Tyne Newcastle - Dundee - Sea - Sea - Cherbourg - Brest - St Nazaire(Nantes) - Le Verdon (Bordeaux) - Gexto (Spain) - Gijon (Spain) - La Coruña (Spain) - Sea - Le Havre - Port of Tyne Newcastle Having been on the maiden voyage of Ambience we were excited to be able to embark Ambition for her maiden voyage to Scotland, France, and Spain. Embarkation As we live in the north-east now it was a pleasure to join a cruise ship no more than 40 minutes from home, instead of having to drive to the other end of the country. The Port of Tyne staff were friendly and welcoming and after some confusion about car parking, the embarkation process was smooth and efficient. We were both impressed and amused by the heavy Ambassador branding in the cruise terminal which is shared with Fred Olsen. The Ship We were fortunate enough to be able to join the Ambition, formerly the Aida Mira, and before that the Mistral, for the Gala pre launch Night/ Naming Ceremony, so we were able to have an early close look around the ship. Although the Ambition is twenty years old, you wouldn't think it. Ambassador have done a great job with her refurbishment - there are 714 cabins, 125 of which have balconies, and 113 of which are suites. They are all tastefully decorated and there is something for everyone, although the bathrooms are a tad small. We particularly love the suites at the back of the ship. The Cabins The cabins are well appointed, clean, airy and spacious. Of course we all have different tastes, but we think they are brightly decorated, the beds are comfortable and there is a choice of pillows. We worry that some of the cabins do not have enough drawer or wardrobe space, there certainly wasn't enough in the superior junior suite cabin we started with on the side of deck 12, though we were able to move to a Premium Suite on the aft on deck 12, and we have to say it's the best suite we have had since our one on the back of P&O Iona. Regular readers of my reviews will know I have a thing about in-room entertainment, and I'm sorry to say that the tv system in our suite more often than not didn't work, and when it did there were limited channels and still no bridge cam. There are no music or video channels, not even a basic route/ship progress map. Although it's apparently a smart tv it takes literally minutes from the moment you turn it on until a picture appears on the screen - smart tv ??! Very slow tv more like. There is more drawer space but it is still a bit tight on hanging space. There is a fridge, safe, hairdryer, coffee machine and kettle, and best of all for me, there was a pair of full size binoculars. Our suite was situated on the corner so we had a large wrap around balcony with plenty of room, a table, chairs and two sun loungers - we loved it! Amenities There are plenty of activities and bar/lounge areas on Ambition, with a very different layout to Ambassador's other ship Ambience. Deck 12 has a jogging/walking track, a splash pool, a giant chess set and more sunbathing areas. There is a well appointed gym, active studio and one of the best spas we have ever seen (with many treatment and relaxation rooms overlooking the sea) at the front of deck 11. Also on the pool deck (deck11) are two hot tubs, a swimming pool and a thallasotherapy pool, two bars - the pool bar and the consulate bar. Deck 11 also houses Borough Market buffet, Lupinos Speciality Restaurant (more about that later) and the Alfresco Grill which is buffet style rather than food being cooked on request as on the Ambience - with burgers, fries and hot dogs only available on some days. Finally there is also a table tennis table, football game and dartboard. Decks 8,9 and 10 consist mainly of cabins although there is a self service launderette on deck 9. Deck 7 consists of more cabins and The Cavern (forward)- a venue which is used for game shows, quizzes, dancing, bingo and some cabarets. Deck 6 the Promenade Deck is another busy one - with Holyrood restaurant one of two main dining rooms, Saffron the other speciality restaurant, Aces and Eights card/games room, The Library and Grafton Street arts and crafts area. The outside promenade deck has no chairs or sunloungers. Also on deck 6 is the Clifton Bar/lounge which has live entertainment, the Angel Bar , and The Palladium Theatre. Going down to deck 5 there is the beautiful Purple turtle 🐢 wine bar, Guest services/reception, Future Cruise Sales, Destination Experiences, and the shopping area. Pendennis Bar - another live music venue and the other main dining room - Buckingham Restaurant are also found here. Entertainment In our view, Ambassador have some of the best entertainment we have ever seen st sea. Their production shows in our opinion are of west end standard. There are a number of musicians who perform nightly in the lounges too - including a classical duo, a party trio and a singer/piano player - our favourite - Jamie Lees was not on this cruise as he is currently on the Ambience - Jamie is such a favourite of ours that we have even booked cruises specifically to hear him - serious talent, a great personality and great engagement with the audience. Cruise Experience We love the Speciality Restaurants on Ambassador and as usual had a couple of meals in Saffron - eating some of the finest Indian cuisine we have ever eaten at sea. Good value too at £16.90 for three courses. Now on Ambience they have Sea&Grass, but on Ambition there is Lupinos - a Mediterranean Speciality restaurant named in honour of Michelle Lupino - a dearly departed Ambassador employee. Again a beautiful meal - with out of this world desserts. Priced at 14.95 again great value in our view. Quirks In over 80 cruises on 50 +different ships we have never known there not to be a lounge at the bow of the ship as is the case on ambition - a disadvantage we feel. Also, it is the first ship we have been on where the main dining room is not situated right at the back of the ship, so dependent on where you access the deck from you may find yourself having to walk through the restaurant. Furthermore, not all lifts go to all decks which can lead to confusion Another oddity of this ship is the layout of the guest relations area - making queuing a challenge, which has led to some disagreements between guests. What we really don't like So everyone has their own preferences, and some may not agree with what we are about to say but it's a dealbreaker for us. You cannot get a sit down breakfast or lunch in the main dining room - it's all served buffet style - this has led to us switching three out of four planned Ambition cruises to Ambience which doesn't have this problem. Many people have also expressed concern that bottled water has been removed from the drinks package, meaning the purchase of a refillable water bottle which bar staff then have to refill. They tell us this is frustrating for them as bottles do not fit in their machine properly, and that it also slows down general bar service. Unusually there are no seats of any kind or sun loungers on the promenade deck. There is a lack of storage space in many of the cabins The tv system is still intermittent with no programming details and there is still no bridgecam. Internet has also been less consistent than Ambience. What We Love About Ambassador No fly cruising on two smaller ships The food is good and we believe their entertainment is amongst the best in the industry. The production shows are of west end standard in our opinion. Most importantly of all - the officers and crew make you feel like family - they are welcoming, helpful and friendly. Officers are visible around the ship and are approachable. The friendliness continues with the staff in head office when it is necessary to contact them Ambassador offer a good value quality cruise - and for that reason we will definitely continue to sail with them. Undoubtedly the crew and officers made this cruise for us......
  5. Itinerary – London Tilbury - At Sea – Kirkwall, Orkney Islands – Invergordon – Portree, Isle of Skye – Tobermory, Isle of Mull (cancelled) scenic cruising instead – Belfast – Cobh for Cork – St. Mary´s, Isles of Scilly (cancelled) At Sea instead – St Peter Port, Guernsey (cancelled) Cherbourg instead – Le Havre (cancelled) / Honfleur (cancelled) At Sea istead – London Tilbury When we disembarked Ambassador Ambience last month - we were next due to fly to the States, for a transatlantic Celebrity cruise to Barcelona. However, we loved our cruise on the ambience so much we decided to change our plans and booked a last minute 11 night British Isles cruise back on the Ambience. We wouldn’t normally review a ship again so soon but there were some aspects of this cruise that were very different and worth talking about, though we will include the basics from our last review for anyone who did not see it. It was a smooth embarkation process landside, but we were surprised to see only one member of staff behind the Guest Services desk on board, needless to say there were very long queues. Returning to the Ambience, and to be greeted by name by so many friendly and familiar faces always makes us realise what a special ship this is. Because we have so much respect for the owner and Board, and indeed, the officers and crew, skippered on this occasion by the wonderful Captain Egil, it´s fair to say we put up with a number of things on Ambience that we would not tolerate on the larger established cruise-lines. The ship has now been sailing for a year under the Ambassador ownership and yet still, the air-conditioning is inconsistent, with passengers complaining about being either too hot or too cold, and to be unable to control the temperature in your own cabin really isn´t helpful. The in-room entertainment system on this particular cruise was virtually non-existent for over 90% of the time, with no tv channels and still not anything as basic as a working bridgecam, so that guests in inside cabins can at least have an idea of the weather outside. We also wonder why there isn´t any pre-recorded entertainment that people can access? Although to be fair this seems to bother us more than a number of the other guest we spoke to. With five cruises booked on Ambassador´s new ship Ambition which is ten years younger, we are really hoping not to encounter these problems again. But having said all of that, the positives Ambassador provide far exceed these negatives. Having completed over 70 cruises with various cruise-lines, we can honestly say that the staff on Ambience are amongst the friendliest and most welcoming we have ever experienced. You are really made to feel like part of the Ambassador family. Likewise, the food on Ambassador is as good, if not better than anything we have sampled on even the more premium cruise-lines. Entertainment One of the attractions that sets Ambassador apart as a traditional cruise-line is their plays and acting vignettes led by the wonderful Candi and her team. There is a brilliant production of the classic Abigail´s Party and four more very entertaining acting vignettes which are always very well attended. The entertainment on Ambassador is of an extremely high standard. The pianist and singer Jamie Lees is one of the best artists that we have ever seen, with many of us wondering why this man isn´t a famous successful recording star. With over 1000 songs in his repertoire, he is always willing to take requests, and the relationship he forms with his audience speaks volumes about both his talent and personality. It is also not uncommon for him to continue entertaining through his break. On our previous cruise on Ambience a few weeks ago, Jamie was on leave, so we did not visit the Raffles Lounge, which is smaller than its next-door neighbour, the very popular Botanical Lounge where the classical duo play. On this cruise however we spent many evenings in Raffles, which gave us plenty of time to conclude that this lounge, although beautifully decorated, is cluttered with bulky furniture, with a poorly thought-out layout. If management saw how many people looked in, but left because the only seats available are surrounded by other furniture and stuck in the corners, where the view of the stage is obscured by two massive urns/pots, they might agree that there needs to be a rethink. Daily classes of Pilates take place on deck 14 in the active studio, as do meditation and yoga sessions which are run by the wonderful Candi. There is also a table tennis table next door. And for those who like to dance there are a number of opportunities in the observatory. The observatory is not one of our favourites places as we find it too dark, even accepting it´s a night venue mainly. There are always a full range of activities during the day including lectures, a choir, quizzes George Cross, the Cruise Director is by far one of the best we have ever seen in 70 cruises. Not only is he funny and entertaining, but he also makes a great effort to be out and about around the ship talking to passengers. It would be fair to say his presence on board is a contributory factor to when we sail on this ship. George truly enhances our cruise experience. The Ship The public areas are generally well appointed and spacious. When not in Raffles, we could usually be found in Dickens on deck 5 in the atrium/centre court area, which is a great place to relax and chat with fellow guests. There is also an Observatory Lounge on deck 14 on the bow, which is the venue for many events including cabarets and the late-night disco. The Purple Turtle on Deck 8 is quiz heaven. There is also a Consulate Bar on the outside stern area of deck 10 which is open in the afternoon when weather permits. Other bars include SW19 on deck 7 - the pool bar, and the small bar in the Borough Market buffet. There is also a small coffee house on deck 12 forward with indoor and outside seating. The Palladium Theatre is on Deck 7 and 8, with two performances an evening by either the excellent show company, (west end standard in our view) or a range of guest entertainers. The ship also has a small casino, a cards/board games room, a small library and a craft room. But perhaps one of the things we love most about this ship is the amount of outdoor space on the stern, including two partially covered areas on decks 8 and 9. There is also a viewing area on the bow of deck 10. The hot tubs are situated on the rear of deck 11. There is also a main pool and splash pool area on deck 12. Gym and Spa There is a small but well-equipped gym located on deck 2. Again, regular readers of my reviews will know we are not normally great fans of onboard spas as they are normally so overpriced, particularly on American ships, but the wide range of spa and beauty treatments available on Ambience represent far better value for money, and there were always special deals to be had. There is also a sauna and a steam room. Cleanliness is paramount on Ambience with the handrails on the stairs being wiped down frequently, and the toilets are the cleanest we have seen on any ship. Dining on Ambience Borough Market is the buffet on deck 12, it’s not a favourite of ours, there is a wide range of good quality food available, and lots of seating. Whilst we didn’t experience it on this cruise, fellow passengers told us how much they enjoyed afternoon tea there too, with a range of scones and sandwiches. At the back of Borough Market is one of the Speciality restaurants - Saffron which serves some of the best Indian cuisine we have ever eaten at sea and is great value for money at 14.95 for three courses - a big favourite of ours. Between Borough Market and the pool is the Al Fresco Grill which offers freshly cooked burgers, hot dogs and chips, together with a rotating menu of different pizzas. Sea & Grass, the other speciality restaurant is located on deck 12 forward. Again, we would consider the dining experience offered here to be one of the best available at sea 24.95 for 7 courses and an extra 5.00 to include wine pairing. It truly is an experience rather than just a meal with the meals being cooked from fresh in the restaurant itself - do allow at least two hours to enjoy. The Buckingham is the main restaurant situated on deck 7 aft. There are two sittings 5.45 and 8.15, and the team is led by the wonderful Kiran and Lester who are friendly, welcoming, and efficient. The chefs are great too and nothing is ever too much trouble. And if you are a vegetarian or have any allergies/intolerances the chefs will go that extra mile to ensure you are well catered for. Limited room service is available 24 hours a day. Destination Experiences There is a wide range of tours available on Ambassador, and one of the nice things is you can book before you board, and then pay for those tours on your on-board account, rather than months in advance as with some other cruise lines. Also, most of the tours are reasonably priced. We had one of our best yet when we docked in Cobh – with a wonderful guide called Olivia – touring Cork and Kinsale. Officers and Crew The officers on board Ambience were led by the wonderful Captain Egil who we mentioned earlier. He was friendly and approachable, and spent a lot of time talking to passengers around the ship – one of the most visible Captains we have ever known. Joao - the Hotel Director is a lovely man who always has time for a chat, and thanks also to Dexter the Bar Manager and Kiran, the restaurant manager who both played their part in making our cruise a lovely experience. We would also like to mention the guest services team, and applaud their good humour in dealing with some difficult situations on this trip Technology Like most cruise lines these days Ambassador have their own onboard App, but unlike some other cruise lines this one is easy to navigate and has lots of useful information on it. For those not wanting to use their own technology there are large screen versions of the app around the ship that can be utilised. With regard to internet charges, no cruise line who charge are cheap. Ambassador charge £10 per day if you buy a package to last the duration of your cruise, and again, as previously, on this trip it has been very reliable. Disembarkation This was a smooth and efficient process. Summary Obviously leaving aside the change of itinerary for a moment it’s amazing how a cruise on the same ship barely four weeks apart can be so different. All it takes is a few changes in key personnel and apparent company policies. Let us start with company policies - for the first time ever on ambassador, we have been awoken by announcements from the guest services manager upon arrival in port. This is the first time this has ever happened to us. On other cruise-lines you have the option of receiving announcements in your cabin or not - unless they are obvious safety announcements. We have done our own social media survey on this, and the majority think it is unreasonable like us and would prefer the choice. As regarding changing key personnel, we mean absolutely no disrespect to the other piano player who appears in raffles, one of our main reasons for coming on this cruise was to see the piano player/vocalist - Jamie lees, who as we described elsewhere in this review is one of the most talented, personable entertainers we have ever seen, who has an amazing rapport with his audience. Indeed we will be booking another cruise on Ambience, before we had planned to solely as we know Jamie will be on board, before he goes on leave. We would like to congratulate Peel entertainment for the fabulous Candi Bryant and her team of actors, It Takes Two, and one of the best cruise directors we have ever met - George Cross, not forgetting of course Jamie - all of these people are of the highest standard. So, going back to the change of itinerary. On this cruise, due to extremely poor weather conditions, sadly we missed four ports of call, and at one point had to take shelter in Cherbourg where severe gusts of wind, ripped out an anchoring bollard, causing the gangway to fall into the sea, which fortunately nobody was on at the time, and there were no injuries. However, it did mean that approximately three hundred of us, including some crew were stranded in the port terminal building for three hours whilst the ship was made safe with the help of three local tugs holding Ambience in place and lots of ropes. At this point it is worth mentioning a quote from one of the French officials, who said they were pleased it was Brits who were affected by this who dealt with the situation with a lot of humour and patience. He went on to say if it had been a certain other nationality which we won’t name, they would have been much more difficult and grumpier. It is also worth saying that none of this was Ambassador’s fault, and it was dealt with as efficiently as possible in the driving wind and rain, thanks to the wonderful efforts of the French port workers. It is certainly the first time we have walked into dinner on a formal night with coats, jeans and trainers on, but it was nice to be greeted with a round of applause from our fellow diners. As we mentioned earlier, we missed four ports of call, but it speaks volumes for the level of care that Ambassador have for their guests, that we all received letters from them offering very generous discounts should we wish to book a future cruise, the majority of cruise lines would be telling you just to claim on your insurance. Finally, Ambassador is a small cruise line with an accessible owner, a great board, and wonderful officers and crew. For us, Ambassador Cruise Line provide that traditional essence of cruising that few other cruise lines can emulate. It offers a wide range of no-fly cruises from the UK and engenders a special kind of loyalty from its’ passengers – we look forward to embarking on the maiden cruise of the Ambition next month, so look out for our review.
  6. Hi everyone, here is my review on my eagerly awaited return to Ambience, operated by Ambassador Cruise Line. Feel free to post your replies below to tell me about the review , or your views on the ship. Itinerary Tilbury - at sea x3 - Lisbon - at sea - Madeira - Tenerife - at sea x2 - Cape Verde - Cape Verde Praia - Gran Canaria - at sea - Casablanca - at sea - Leixoes - at sea x2 - Tilbury Embarkation Process Fortunately we had a business meeting which meant we avoided the usual chaotic embarkation process at tilbury, which was made even worse by Border force’s insistence of checking every incoming passenger’s bag with one sniffer dog. Apparently this was due to the ship’s previous itinerary - Cuba and the Caribbean. Returning to the Ambience, and to be greeted by name by so many friendly and familiar faces made us realise that we had missed ambience even more than we had thought. This ship may be old but she has plenty of character. Regular readers of my reviews know that I like to get the negative stuff out of the way first. As I said, this is an old ship and there are still some ongoing problems with the air-conditioning which you couldn’t describe as consistent and reliable, though in fairness to the team on Ambience, they do strive to resolve issues as quickly as possible. Our other irritation is the poor in room entertainment system. Not only is there a lack of channels, they also do not relay onboard shows and lectures on the cabin tv, and perhaps most baffling of all, there is no bridge cam or weather information, which we imagine can’t be good for anyone with an inside cabin, though we have been assured this is being addressed. Ambassador have a strange policy re bringing alcohol on board, even if you have a full drinks package, and you would be saving the cruiseline money by drinking your own alcohol in your stateroom it is strictly forbidden. Also, if you have a drinks package you are not allowed to have cans of soft drinks - there is an insistence on pouring the whole can into a glass ?? In our opinion the drinks package is good value. The final oddity is that the cruise line talk about being eco friendly and sustainable but ask for receipts to be signed every time you have a ‘free’ drink on your package. Despite the above, and we do consider ourselves to be discerning passengers, we keep returning as there is something very special about this ship and company that makes you feel part of the family with a warmth missing on many other lines these days. Ship Appearance/Public Areas What we are greatly encouraged by is the improvements that have been made to the ship in the last six months. We are also immensely reassured by the constant cleaning process that takes place, for example the handrails on the stairs are wiped down frequently, and the toilets are the cleanest we have have seen on any ship. The public areas are well appointed and spacious, and both Raffles and The Botanical Lounge on deck 7 are full of character. On this particular cruise we spent a lot of time at Dickens on deck 5 in the atrium/centre court area, which is a great place to relax and chat with fellow guests. There is also an Observatory Lounge on deck 14 on the bow, which is the venue for many events including cabarets and the late night disco. The Purple Turtle on Deck 8 is quiz heaven. The Consulate Bar on the outside stern area of deck 10 is a source of some frustration to us and others as it is only open from 12-5 - even when the weather is lovely and there are people around. Other bars include SW19 on deck 7 - the pool bar, and the small bar in the Borough Market buffet. There is also a coffee house on deck 12 forward with indoor and outside seating. Dining on Ambience Borough Market is the buffet on deck 12, it’s not a favourite of ours, there is a wide range of good quality food available, and lots of seating. Whilst we didn’t experience it on this cruise, fellow passengers told us how much they enjoyed afternoon tea there too, with a range of scones and sandwiches. At the back of Borough Market is one of the Speciality restaurants - Saffron which serves some of the best Indian cuisine we have ever eaten at sea and is great value for money at 14.95 for three courses - a big favourite of ours. Between Borough Market and the pool is the Al Fresco Grill which is not always punctual with their opening times. It offers freshly cooked burgers, hot dogs and chips, together with a rotating menu of different pizzas. Sea & Grass, the other speciality restaurant is located on deck 12 forward. Again, we would consider the dining experience offered here to be one of the best available at sea 24.95 for 7 courses and an extra 5.00 to include wine pairing. It truly is an experience rather than just a meal with the meals being cooked from fresh in the restaurant itself - do allow at least two hours to enjoy. The Buckingham is the main restaurant situated on deck 7 aft. There are two sittings 5.45 and 8.15, and the team led by the wonderful Kiran and Lestor are friendly, welcoming and efficient. The chefs are great too and nothing is ever too much trouble. And if you are a vegetarian or have any allergies the chefs will go that extra mile to ensure you are well catered for. Room service is available 24 hours a day. Gym and Spa There is a small but well equipped gym located on deck 2. Again, regular readers of my reviews will know we are not normally great fans of onboard spas as they are normally so over priced, particularly on American ships, but the wide range of spa and beauty treatments available on Ambience represent far better value for money, and there were always special deals to be had. There is also a sauna and a steam room. Daily classes of Pilates take place on deck 14 in the active studio. There is also a table tennis table next door. And for those who like to dance there are a number of sessions in the observatory. There are always a full range of activities during the day including lectures, a choir, quizzes. One of the things we have not seen on any other cruise line is the performance of plays and acting vignettes - unique we think. George Cross, the Cruise Director is by far one of the best we have ever seen in 70 cruises. Not only is he funny and entertaining, but he also makes a great effort to be out and about around the ship talking to passengers. It would be fair to say his presence on board would be a contributory factor to when we sail on this ship again. George truly enhances our cruise experience. Entertainment is another strong point for Ambassador, the production shows are high quality, and we have seen some brilliant guest entertainers on board such as Lloyd Hollett and Benjamin Moss. There is a singer/piano player in Raffles, a classical duo in the Botanical Lounge, a trio in Purple Turtle and It Takes Two in the Observatory. Personally we find the guest lecturers a little niche, but many people have enjoyed. We would prefer more naturalists talking about sea life,a representative from Orca or someone to talk about astronomy - which has always been popular on other ships. There are regular self- hosted meetings for the usual community groups and for single travellers. The ship also has a small casino, a cards/board games room, a small library and a craft room. But perhaps one of the things we love most about this ship is the amount of outdoor space on the stern, including two partially covered areas on decks 8 and 9. There is also a viewing area on the bow of deck 10. The hot tubs are situated on the rear of deck 11. Officers The officers on board Ambience led by Captain Hugh Maynard are visible, friendly and approachable - we would particularly like to mention Joao - the Hotel Director who is a lovely man who always has time for a chat, as does the Bar Manager - Carlito. We would also like to give a mention to the security staff on Ambience - one of the smiliest security teams we have ever encountered. The thing we love about shore excursions on ambience or destination experiences as they call them, is that most of the time they treat you like adults and allow you to find your own way off the ship to the tour buses. Also, most of the tours are reasonably priced. There are the usual shops selling expensive jewellery, a duty free shop, and a shop selling snacks, toiletries, clothing and ambience souvenirs. Technology Like most cruiselines these days Ambassador have their own onboard App, but unlike some other cruiselines this one is easy to navigate and has lots of useful information on it. For those not wanting to use their own technology there are large screen versions of the app around the ship that can be utilised. With regard to internet charges, no cruise line who charge are cheap. Ambassador charge £10 per day if you buy a package to last the duration of your cruise, and on this trip it has been very reliable. There are a wide range of cabins on Ambassador to suit everybody’s budget, we always book a junior suite which is situated on deck 11. You should be aware that you may be occasionally disturbed by noise from furniture being moved on the sun deck above. Our cabin is well appointed, spacious with plenty of storage space, a large comfortable bed and a sofa. A little bit more about the food. Unlike some cruise lines we have travelled with, the food is not repetitive on Ambience - there is a wide variety and it’s good quality. Senior management tell us they are always interested in hearing feedback, and if there is a food you would particularly like to see you should tell them as they are very accommodating. Disembarkation It was excellent and had no problems at all. Summary So here’s the thing. We still occasionally cruise with Viking, celebrity and azamara but as we said earlier, being back on board Ambience made us realise how much we have missed her, and despite the unreliable air- conditioning, and the poor in room entertainment system, during this 21 night cruise we have grown to love Ambassador even more. We really can’t wait to be onboard the Ambassador Ambition for her maiden voyage in May. The itinerary was great with a good balance between sea and port days. We particularly liked Cascais (from our Lisbon stop), Gran Canaria and Porto. Talking to fellow passengers they also enjoyed their time in Cape Verde, particularly Praia. The officers are great and we particularly love Joao the hotel director, Carlito the bar manager and Ronald, the guest services manager. The crew are for the most part, friendly, welcoming and efficient, particularly the team in Dickens where we spent a lot of our time. The Ambience with her outdoor space on the bow and plenty of space on the bow, exudes the essence of cruising, and we hope she is sailing the seas for many years to come.
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