The cruise, which departed on July 25, took place on Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambience cruise ship from Tilbury in the UK, including visits to Copenhagen, Ronne, Tallin, Helsinki, an overnight in Stockholm, Visby, and Skagen, before returning back to Tilbury.
Having been on the first two Ambience cruises, where it would have been fair to say, you certainly needed a sense of humor, we were really interested to see how the Ambience had progressed when we booked this last-minute cruise.
In fact, despite all the initial problems, we have grown to become big fans of this small but friendly cruise line, and we are probably more forgiving than we would be of a larger established company.
From an Ambassador’s perspective, the embarkation process was a lot smoother. This time though, we did note there was no priority boarding for their suite guests. Despite it being listed as a benefit, the cruise line really needs to sort this out.
Unfortunately, not for the first time, our experience of the Tilbury Cruise Terminal was not a positive one. We can’t understand why they would want to make passengers, many of whom are elderly, stand out on the street when there is a hall full of empty chairs when you check-in.
It’s bad enough in the spring and summer, we can only imagine what it’s like in the winter months. We feel really strongly about this, so we will be expressing our views to the port management and local health and safety authority.
Anyway, back to the ship. We were greeted by name by four different members of staff within twenty minutes of boarding, who remembered us from the maiden cruise in April 2022. This is part of what we describe as the essence of cruising, something you mainly only experience on smaller ships like the Ambience.
We look upon the Ambience as a grand old lady, she’s been around a long time, and externally it shows, but for us, it just adds character.
This was one of a couple of multi-generational cruises the line was undertaking this year – and from our perspective, it went well, even though we weren’t traveling with children ourselves.
Internally, the lounges and public areas are all tastefully designed, the Botanical lounge is a particular favorite of ours. One of the many things we love about Ambience is the number of outdoor areas, particularly on the aft, that are available to experience the true essence of cruising.
We always have a junior suite, which is spacious internally, though the balcony is a tad too narrow. Internally, there is plenty of storage space, the beds are really comfortable, and there is a bath and a shower.
Personally, we don’t think that Ambassador provided enough information on the room’s tv system, for example, unusually, there is no view from the bridge, nor is there any weather information provided, which we could imagine could be frustrating if you had an inside cabin, but maybe it’s just us.
Bars and Outside Spaces
There are plenty of bars around the ship and we think the drinks are reasonably priced, as are the drinks packages, some of which include gratuities. Oddly, the two outside bars, Poolside on Deck 12 and Consulate on deck 10 aft closes way too early, in our opinion, around 6 pm and 5 pm, regardless of good weather and having a lot of passengers around the area.
We believe the shops and spa are reasonably priced in the context of cruise ship pricing, and the gym though small, is well equipped. There is also a sauna, library, games/card room, arts and crafts area, laundry and small casino on board, and a table tennis table at the back of the ship on deck 14, together with a yoga studio and running/walking track.
There is always a full program of events on Ambience, including some of the traditional activities. Passengers are invited to join the choir, there are varied arts and crafts sessions, a book club, and you can even watch the occasional short play, professionally staged by the ship’s excellent entertainment team.
There are also the usual game shows and quizzes and some great fun parties on the pool deck which are really enjoyable. The show company productions in the Palladium are first class too.
Now for the destinations. Obviously, this is our opinion and many of us look for different things in the places we visit. We had come to the Baltics many years previously on a larger ship and had endured poor weather. This time the gods smiled on us with a decent amount of sunshine and not much rain.
In Copenhagen we took a ships tour – land and water that was excellent and pretty good value for money – we saw all the main sights from both, and got to visit the square where the Royal Palace is.
In Tallin, Stockholm and Visby we decided instead to do our own thing, which included touring on the Hop on Hop Bus. We loved Tallinn and Stockholm – we should also mention that the sail into Stockholm is beautiful – don’t miss it!
Our favorite stop of all was Helsinki – again, we did a ship sightseeing tour – a fascinating city for us that we look forward to returning to.
Due to bad weather in Ronne, we anchored on the opposite side of the island, and in Skagen, the most northerly point of Denmark, we stayed aboard.
In our view, there are traditional cruise ships, and there are the larger ships that we would describe as floating hotel resorts. We have been on both twice in recent months, this Ambassador Ambience and the P&O Iona. They could not be more different, but it’s not about good or bad, it’s just different experiences.
We prefer this small ship experience. As we said earlier, the Ambience is old but she has character. There are plenty of outdoor areas, mainly on the stern, but unusually these days, also on the bow where there is a viewing area. This, together with all of the activities, really exudes what we describe as the essence of cruising.
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We wish the in room entertainment system was better, that the outside bars were open for longer, and temperature is a personal thing, but we would have preferred the great venues inside the ship to be warmer.
That said, we love the atmosphere where you are made to feel part of the family. Being a small ship, it’s much easier to get to know the staff a little better.
We also really love the fact that the main Buckingham restaurant is even open on port days. Of course, it’s subjective, but we think the food is good and varied. The two specialty restaurants, Sea&Grass (24.95) and Saffron (14.95), are fantastic value with quality food and service too.
The ship’s entertainment company is amongst the best we have seen in over 60 cruises and the cruise director George Cross is top-notch. The officers are both visible and approachable.
The spa represents reasonable value for money and the drinks are less expensive than many cruise lines. Ambassador also has a number of cruises with a smaller supplement for single travelers.
We will definitely be sailing more often with Ambassador on both the Ambience and the Ambition, which launches next year, and will be sailing from Newcastle, Dundee, Liverpool, Belfast and Bristol as well as Tilbury.
Oh, and finally, Thank you, Ambassador Cruise Line, for showing the lionesses on the big outdoor screen, demonstrating your responsiveness to your customer’s requests.