I'll get straight to the point - the MV Ocean Countess is past her best and should either undergo an major refit or should be scrapped. A ship of such poor quality has no place in the world of 21st century cruising where comfort and elegance have become the norm. Our cruise took in Iceland (4 ports), the Faroe Islands, and Shetland. On the first night at sea, the ship rocked and rolled to such an extent that most of the 800 passengers on board went down with sea-sickness - and that was in a sea that was only moderate to rough. Had the sea conditions been any worse, the ship would have resembled a casualty-clearing station. MV Ocean Countess purports to be fully-stabilised - which makes it difficult to understand why the vessel rolls so markedly even in slight sea conditions. Either the stabilisers do no work very well or the crew do not deploy then properly. Stabilisers increase drag, which means that more fuel must be used - many CMV is reluctant to use the stabilisers cos ito do so would cost a few bucks.
The cabin. we had was noisy and prone to vibration - both caused by the ship's engines. Vibration is noticable on many parts of the vessel. Many of the public areas are beset by unpleasant smells, mostly of diesel fuel and what to my mind was acridly redolent of vomit. While the Kensington Restaurant is very pleasant, the dining facilities at the Boathouse are poor. In the Boathouse, you can either eat in the crowded open area aft (not the best option on a cruise that crossed the Arctic Circle) or alternatively, you can take one of the tables sited in a starboard passageway. Yes, people are expected to take their meals in a narrow passageway! The quality of the food served on this cruise was adequate at best but that is not good enough when other cruise lines pride temsenves of the standard of their cuisine. I lost count of the number of times that pork and apricots appeared on the menu! I skipped quite a few meals on this voyage because of the poor quality of fare on offer - but good for the waistline I suppose.
The facilities on board are nothing like the descriptions in the CMV brochure. The Majestic Cinema is a tatty room with an overhead projector. The swimming pool was rarely filled, but when it was, the water was cold and on one memorable occasion, it was beset with a brown scum. The jacuzzis were useless as they were filled with water that was mildly tepid at best. A person should be able to while away the time in a jacuzzi, luxuriating in warm water. Bearing in mind that this cruise was to the islands in the north Atlantic Ocean, to have spent anything more than few minutes in the cold jacuzzis would have risked hypothermia. But what really annoyed me was the fact there were no self-service laundry facilities onboard and CMV charged ridiculously high fees for their laundering. For the formal occasions, it is necessary to at least iron a dress shirt - so there goes Â£1.70 into CMV's coffers. As the informal occasions also require a man to wear a shirt and tie, the ironing bills soon mount up. My other great bugbear was the compulsory charging of gratuities - which CMV openly states in its brochure are used to supplement the wages of the crew. In my naivety, I always imagined that tips were a personal way of saying thank you to crew members who had provided good service to directly to you and as such, tips are an incentive. Tips should be a bonus recived by the good staff members in addition to their wages.
So enough of the negativity, it's always good to end on a positive. The check-in at Greenock was smooth and fast - we barely had to wait even though we had arrived at Greenock about an hour earlier than we had been scheduled to do. The entertainment on board MV Ocean Countess was excellent - rounds of applause to the performers in the Holrood Suite, the classical duo in the Tower Piano Bar, and Richard (the Cruise Director) for his Victoria Wood turn. But most of the enjoyment on this cruise was derived from the ports of call - my highlights the fantastic landscape of Iceland, Jarlshof on Shetland, and playing football with my family in the national stadium on the Faroe Islands. We played football cos some bright spark scheduled the ship to call at Thorshavn on a Sunday when everywhere is closed!!