After recently completing the maiden voyage onboard the first cruise ship from Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambience, sailed the second voyage, making it a back-to-back. Here’s our review on the following seven-day sailing out of Tilbury, UK, which included calls to Eidjfjord, Bergen, Sognefjord, and Haugesund.
In This Article…
Unfortunately, the second half of our back-to-back did not start well. The heating in our stateroom stopped working again making our junior suite very cold. also, we were woken up at 4 am by the sound of staff moving furniture on the deck above.
We were then awoken once again at 6 am by staff returning the furniture back to where it was at 4 am. To make matters worse, we phoned guest relations who did absolutely nothing. We then had a knock on the door at 7 am by room service delivering a breakfast that they insisted we had ordered, we certainly had not.
Our problems did not end there, at the changeover, they changed my wife’s date of birth on her key card, which gave us a lot of problems accessing the internet via the onboard system as part of the log-in procedure includes your date of birth.
So, one of the advantages of being on this particular back-to-back, is that we were able to witness the disembarkation process which we could only describe as shambolic. In 60 cruises, this is the first time we have been on a ship that wasn´t docked by 7 am on disembarkation day.
The issue was due to the crowds at guest services which didn’t clear in two hours. Apparently, the problem was two-fold, firstly a large number of passengers wanted to settle their accounts, many with queries.
Personally, we always settle our account the night before, but we guess they had their reasons, one of which was that everyone had been promised a final paper bill which did not materialize.
It was just before 9 am before the first guests disembarked and people were still leaving at 10.15 am, there are 500 more passengers due on this cruise so we shudder to think what it will be like when we disembark.
Our junior suite on deck 11 was spacious, bright, with plenty of storage space, as with many cruise ships, the bathroom was a tad small, but it did have a bath so I was happy. The TV channels were limited and there were no movie channels, no view from the bridge, or ship entertainment/information channels.
We absolutely loved the three main lounges – Raffles Bar, the Botanical Lounge, and the Observatory, though with five hundred extra passengers this week, on a sea day, without sunbathing weather, the ship seemed really crowded. It would be interesting to know the passenger/space per sq foot ratio.
There was a fairly wide variety of food (including a vegan counter) in Borough Market which is the buffet on Deck 12.
There was also 24-hour tea and coffee and water available there. The service in the main restaurant – the Buckingham was slow but friendly with good food and a varied menu, with some staple favorites available every day.
The entertainment is high quality with plenty of variety, people loved the theatre productions. Lounge entertainment included the amazing Jamie Lee and a classical music duo in the Botanical Lounge.
The shows were really good, and we love that they also had theater plays, but we spent our time listening to the most awesome piano-playing vocalist we have seen on a cruise ship in a very long time.
Jamie Lees has a huge repertoire and he encourages requests from his audience who he has a remarkable rapport with, as well as playing some of his own songs. As a bit of a singer myself, I can say that Jamie has a fantastic vocal range and a rich and smooth voice.
Whilst Allwyn the Hotel Director was always available and willing to try and solve any issues, we are sad to say the team on Guest Relations though perfectly polite were not good at solving problems.
There is a small but well-equipped gym on deck two next door to the Spa which has many reasonably priced offers. There is a self-service launderette on Deck 10 which costs £3 per wash, £3 per dry, and £2 per soap capsule (coins not tokens). Many of the guests we talked to considered this to be expensive.
I don’t think it is unreasonable for passengers to expect a full range of the ship´s facilities to be open. By the last day onboard there were still no working hot tubs, and people were unable to use the pool, the sauna wasn’t working, and the active studio although closer to being available, still wasn´t open.
Open Deck and Ports
The viewing area on the bow on Deck 10 was also still not open although there were visible signs of progress. You only have one chance to make a first impression which unfortunately for many, including a number of first-time cruisers wasn’t a good one.
Whether Ambassador Cruise Line can recover with those who were dissatisfied will depend we suspect on how they handle people´s feedback from the initial two cruises.
On the plus side, they did make progress with the heating, but quite a few people still had toilet problems.
Two minor irritations – when the ship docked at ports, there was only one narrow gangway resulting in delays for people trying to get off or back on the ship throughout the day, made worse when it was pretty cold at a couple of the Norwegian ports. Also, with so much else going on on the ship the windows remained uncleaned which was a shame.
This is a thirty-year-old ship so the cabins and balconies were smaller than we have become used to over the years.
Too Hot or Cold
When carrying out these reviews we always try to talk to as many people as possible to gain a wider view. Sadly, many complained of cabins being too hot or too cold, toilets not working and leaks in bathrooms.
People were also unhappy about being charged for bottled water even though they had drinks packages. The ship´s policy of pouring cans of soft drinks into a glass and not allowing people to take the can was not well received either, although in our case, common sense prevailed, and we never encountered that problem once we had raised the issue with the bar manager Carlito.
In my initial review, I complained about the lack of some basic condiments. We subsequently had a very long chat with the lovely man responsible for procurement for the company, who explained the horrendous problems, not only he, but other cruise lines are having securing supplies.
And as if to magnify his point, I then read about another cruise line having to delay their launch of a new ship because of supply issues which left me thinking rather than complaining, I´ll consider myself lucky that cruises are taking place as it´s not just supplies causing major problems but securing enough staff too.
Sea & Grass is a Must Visit
As always, I like to finish on a positive note. For all its’ initial problems, we grew to like the ship more and more as every day passed.
We think the drinks and beverages are reasonably priced by cruise ship standards, as are the shops and specialty restaurants, talking of which our favorite is Sea & Grass.
A visit to this great venue should be seen as a culinary experience, not to be rushed, there are seven courses, so you should expect to spend around 2 ½ hours experiencing the great food, hopefully in great company as we did. My wife had one of the best vegetarian meals she has ever experienced on a cruise ship, and I sampled things I thought I didn’t like and was pleasantly surprised.
Officers and Crew
The officers are friendly and approachable on the Ambience especially Mike the Guest Relations Manager, Allwyn the Hotel director, and Carlito the Bar Manager. The staff are reasonably friendly and always willing to help. All the decks on the stern were open by halfway through the cruise and provide an excellent space to experience what we describe as the essence of cruising.
The management on board is willing to listen and we saw several examples of changes being made due to passenger suggestions.
We also liked the fact that Shore Excursions (or Destination Experiences as they are called on Ambience) unlike some cruise lines, don´t treat you like children, there is no waiting in the theatre to be called off or to collect tickets, you just turn up at the bus or meeting point on the pier at the allotted time and have your room card scanned.
Would We Sail on Ambience Again?
Well, we are already committed to the 42 night Cuba and Caribbean cruise in January with Ambassador Cruise Line, but as I said in my review of the maiden voyage, we would need to see a reduction in the exorbitant internet costs (we believe this is already being worked on).
We need to see more benefits for suite guests, and then we have no doubt that we will be regulars on both the Ambience and the Ambition, which will be launched next Spring.