I visited the MV Discovery sailing from Harwich to Barcelona on 17/09/12, an 8 day trip.
Firstly, about 85% of the guests were over 60 years old. I am a 42 year old male and have cruised 3 times in total, all at this time of year. However this was the only cruise I have been on where there was not one child on board (until the last day when new arrivals came on board, there was an 8 year olds girl (approx)). I think there were 2 people under the age of 25. No problem really, but be prepared to wait behind queues at the buffets, queues on stairs, queues getting off the boat, principally because of the lack of agility of the guests. Enough said on this point.
Then we come to the cabin. I sailed with my brother in a twin cabin. We also travelled with a single guest who had his own cabin at the same class/rate but obviously had to pay a premium. The cabins were both on the Pacific deck adjacent to each other. The 'single' cabin was nearly twice the size of the 'twin' cabin. My brother and I had a cabin at the end of the corridor as if they didn't want us to mix with the older guests. Fair enough, we can get around with less difficulty than the older gusts so we are put further from the stairs to the rest of the ship. But we also drew the short straw with the cabin - sardines for the whole trip!! And engine noise....when the ship docked we were awoken at 5.30am! The ship is so old, things reverberate in the cabin making it very difficult for light sleepers...a curtain rail (which served no purpose and was a remnant of a previous design) by the wall which we had to put bits of folded up paper in to stop it vibrating. And finding existing bits of paper which previous guests had already inserted! A door knob which rattled with the ship movement and was only stopped by jamming the door open. The cabin showed it's age, the shower was grimy and temporary work seemed to 'paint over any cracks'. Thankfully the ship is being refurbished soon.
The crew are principally from the Philippines, No problem from me, however it is obvious they are well trained in charming the older person. I won't go on but they are obviously hired on this talent or receive extensive training. The old folks loved them but I don't think a younger audience would receive the intended effect as well. But they do provide a very good service, especially at meal times. Our cabin attendant shook our hands on arrival and provided a good service but was very limited on communication when passing in the corridor.
Food, this was great, a wide variety of choice and was good quality. However, a big point, you are forced to visit the restaurant in the evening if you want to eat (well you can get room service). So bring smart clothes. And the documentation suggests two evenings are formal so a tuxedo/dark suit is required. Well we rebelled and wore casual/smart without a problem. But there is no buffet style restaurant in the evenings so the more casual cruiser should be warned.
Shore tours - overpriced and not worth it. Luckily we booked only one and could have gone ashore much cheaper ourselves. 1/2 day visits for 'Â£50? No thanks. Guests we spoke to were of a similar attitude.
Variety of city visits - For an 8 day cruise, Porto (full day), Gibraltar (0.5 day), Cartagena (0.5 day), Barcelona (last day , out of cabins for 8.30 and those who only didn't have early flights could appreciate Barcelona), it doesn't really cut it. Every cruise I have been on previously had full day visits. 3 whole days at sea too....thank god it was sunny and there was a theatre showing fairly recent films.
Summarising, they really do turn on the charm for the older guests and they have a high return rate from these people. But for younger people, choose a different cruise line.
Also, I hope the cruise ship try to accomodate younger guests in the same fashion as the older guests. I could not help the feeling we were put to the back. How can single cabin guests have bigger cabins than twin cabin guests! Sack the logitstics manager!
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner"