Onboard Posted April 24 Share Posted April 24 (edited) 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. Edited April 24 by Onboard 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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