We were excited by the launch of a new British cruise line sailing in and out of the UK. Ambassador Cruise Line was launched by some former Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) executives. We cruised on the maiden voyage, which departed Tilbury on April 20, 2022, and included a call to Hamburg in Germany, these are our thoughts.
We prefer smaller ships and despite being thirty years old, we were attracted to Ambience because of its smaller size. We hoped it would encapture the essence of cruising.
We were wholly unimpressed by the embarkation procedure and Tilbury Cruise Terminal. There had been plenty of time to prepare for this maiden voyage and yet we had to wait for the entertainment staff to finish their rehearsals before they could come and check us in. We were further delayed because the computer terminals crashed.
We understand it’s a thirty-year-old ship and that there are bound to be teething problems on a maiden cruise, but the cruise line should have remembered there is only one chance to make a first impression, and whilst we understand the need to generate revenue, arguably this ship was not quite ready for passengers to pay the full asking price.
Initial Impressions from Ambience
- At least three of the outer deck areas on the stern were not open
- The viewing area on the bow was nowhere near ready for opening
- The Consulate Bar was not open
- The Exercise Studio was not open
- Much of the gym equipment was not working
- The machines in the launderette were not working
- Sauna and steam rooms were not open
- A glitch in the payment system meant people with drinks packages were seeing charges on their bills that shouldn’t be there
- Listed tv channels not available
- Cabin cold because of ongoing problems with the air con/heating at one point affecting the whole ship
- The high cost of the internet is £45 for 10 hours. We calculate unlimited internet access on our planned 42 night Cuba cruise would cost over £4000
- Lack of benefits for suite customers
- Difficulty in getting a table for two in the restaurant.
- A British ship serving fish and chips but doesn’t stock malt vinegar. Serving pork with no apple sauce available. Steak with no English mustard.
- The light outside our stateroom door not working
- Sweetener not generally available – not good for people with diabetes
- Poor at giving information
- Safe not working
- Very narrow balcony
- Problems with stateroom door lock
- No view from the Bridge or weather information on tv
In our opinion, this ship, despite a two-week delay on the start of its maiden cruise, was arguably not ready for paying passengers. In the interest of balance, we spoke to some fellow passengers, former CMV customers who were reasonably happy with their experience of the ship, though it’s fair to say, we have spoken to many more who are not.
Ambassador Cruise Line needs to understand that there is a new generation of more discerning cruise enthusiasts who expect a high level of service, as offered by many of Ambassador’s competitors. And there is a younger generation who have grown up with unlimited internet access, and they are certainly not going to pay £90 per day.
The high cost of the internet, a cold cabin, and a lack of benefits for their suite guests are the three things that would deter us from cruising with Ambassador again.
Slight concerns too with regard to covid which we all know still exists even if statutory measures have been reduced, with regard to how passengers are crowded together so much in the restaurant and buffet and for the drill, as well as constantly having to handle staff pens to sign receipts, and the number of sanitary dispensers that are empty.
Things We Liked
I always like to finish on a positive note so here is what we liked about the Inaugural sailing onboard Ambience:
- We loved the internal lounges – especially the Observatory, Raffles Bar and The Botanical Lounge
- The outside decks on the bow and the stern will provide a great opportunity to experience what we describe as the essence of cruising providing great sea views and a place to soak up the sun when they are finished
- The senior officers were always around – friendly and accessible. We gave to give a special mention and praise for Mike, the Guest Relations Manager, who, given all of the problems with this maiden voyage was always readily available with a sympathetic ear and a willingness to solve any problems that were possible to solve in quick time
- We thought the drinks were reasonably priced
- And even the spa treatments, something we always highlight are reasonably priced on the Ambience.
- We were more than happy with the quality and variety of food and beverages. Also that the Indian specialty restaurant was only 14.95 for three courses
- A larger than normal range of vegetarian and vegan food
- Our junior suite was spacious and comfortable with plenty of storage space
- Ambassador acted quickly in resolving some of the issues highlighted by passengers – producing a paper daily program and bringing on sweeteners at the first port of call
Suggestions to Enhance the Guest Experience
- Don’t leave passengers standing by the road outside the terminal when they arrive to check-in – people always arrive early
- Have a member of staff to greet suite guests
- Provide a simple appointment book on the future cruise desk, so people can choose a time rather than be kept waiting indefinitely to see someone
- Provide a view from the Bridge and weather forecast on the stateroom TVs
- Publicize lounge entertainment
- Simplify the beverage payment system eg other cruise lines have drinks packages highlighted on keycards and there is a card swipe system with no paper receipts necessary
- Other cruise lives have dispensed with compulsory in-person attendance for the muster station drill and simply require guests to turn up during the embarkation process to be shown the life jacket procedure and are then required to watch the general drill information on their tv system which they must then click and confirm
- Improve the in-room entertainment system on the tv – only 4 channels is unacceptable and movies videos could be provided which would be useful when there was no signal
- Provide a wider range of internet packages at a much more reasonable cost
- Provide a greater range of benefits for your suite guests which should include a dedicated member of staff. Other lines give free internet, laundry, in-cabin alcohol in addition to a welcome bottle of champagne, onboard spend, refillable fruit bowls and canapés, free room service plus much more.
- Provide a larger range of condiments to suit the taste of your mainly British passengers such as malt vinegar, English mustard and apple sauce
We were able to have a chat with Christian, one of the owners of Ambassador. We sympathized with the major problems the company had launching a new cruise line during a global pandemic, so it was interesting to hear from Christian about some of the logistical problems he had faced. We really liked him and were impressed by how approachable he was.
It’s fair to say there has been a multitude of problems on this maiden cruise, but Ambassador has been quick to solve any issues within their control that they were able to. And whilst there is still much to be done on the outer decks, things are improving every day.
We love the internal public areas and bars, the shops provide a greater range of reasonably priced goods than you would normally see on a ship of this size. We do wonder if some of the carpets were chosen by Stevie Wonder and the lifts have an ‘Interesting decor’ all of their own. Also, the homage that has been paid to Covid with the ‘corona’ carpet.
We were disappointed not to be greeted by the customary glass of fizz upon boarding, which was even more surprising given this was the maiden cruise that surely deserved a celebratory drink.
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There were no guest entertainers on this short cruise, all of the entertainment was provided by the ship’s entertainment team and resident lounge entertainers. It was nice to see different things such as plays, dramas and a choir.
If you like traditional cruising providing what we describe as the essence of cruising this is a ship and a cruise line for you.
Would we sail with Ambassador again? Reduce internet costs and provide more benefits for suite guests and it’s a yes! We’re Tony and Angie, and these were our thoughts on the maiden voyage of Ambassador Cruise Line.