I have just returned after being on board from Hong Kong to Bangkok. I will do a full review once I have recovered from the jet lag and have the time. The ship looked very old, sad and worn (I have sailed on a lot of old ships). The funnel belches out lumps of soot, the 'black bottom' being the symbol of a V2A passenger, especially after eating on the Terrace! They have to clean the decks and funnel regularly. Exposed furniture is permanently soot stained. I think that this ship's carbon footprint must resemble the Sasquatch. The decor is either old and dull or industrial looking.
We sailed between two typhoons, without any warning from the Captain. This ship is not good in high seas. People who never get seasick were feeling ill as she bobbed about like a cork on the swell. Then the AC broke. Again the Captain ignored it, then started lying to us in spite of knowing full well they they needed a replacement part. They kept telling us that it was being fixed and yes, couldn't you feel it getting better!!? The ship was full of University alumni and VERY experienced travellers, but they treated us like children. Even the free drinks were kept a secret. Offer the passengers free drinks to keep them happy, but do not tell them in case they actually take advantage of the offer. People only heard by word of mouth!
On a three week cruise across the equator in very hot and humid conditions, we have no AC for a week and only partial and intermittent AC for another week. It was fully functional by Singapore. Our inside cabin was like an oven. Someone registered 100 degrees F in their cabin. Sleep was fitful and uncomfortable. After waking up, feeling like I was suffocating, I resorted to sleeping on the deck for two nights till they moved us to a slightly larger cabin.
These things happen, especially in an old ship, but as a previous poster said, it is how the company handles the situation that either saves or aggravates the situation. V2A failed miserably. Their communication was very poor. They were not honest with us and did not keep us informed.
The crew were wonderful in terrible conditions. They must have been finding sleep impossible but still had to work very hard, sweat pouring off them. They even had to continue wearing their double layered formal attire in the evenings. We would have been happy with salads and sandwiches but no, the full menu was produced. The management seemed very hard on the crew, showing little understanding and respect. Working in the kitchens must have been hell! The food was good though. We almost always ate outside, aft of the Terrace. The dining room was too hot and often closed.
General organisation was poor, with a lot of miss information and conflicting information. One of the major disappointments was the quality of the tours. I decided on this cruise because I read that the tours were so good, We usually dislike ships' tours and these were no exception. They were often rushed, very repetitive, the guides often had such poor English that they could barely be understood and there were the usual quota of aggravating passengers (loud, late, lost, unable for the activity level, rude, selfish etc).
Sometimes there were just too many people in one place.
The cherry on the cake came on the last night and was almost laughable. We were invited to dine with the Hotel manager. We replied as requested but still received an afternoon phone call asking if we would be attending. In the evening, we excavated our unused semi formal attire and dressed up for our third venture down to the dining room. We arrived at the specified time and announced our presence, to be met by a blank stare from the Maitre'D, who led us to the empty table (no Hotel manager there to greet his guests). As we stood in the middle of the dining room, feeling quite conspicuous (everyone else was casually dressed), the name tags were examined at both hosted tables, but our names were nowhere to be seen! The Maitre'D then fled to the telephone, leaving us standing there like a couple of spare (well you get the idea!). After a while we slinked off to a corner, but still the M'D was anxiously talking on the phone. Feeling quite uncomfortable, I eventually said that if this was some sort of mix up, I would rather retire gracefully from the situation. We returned to our cabin, changed into casuals and went to the Terrace for our dinner, feeling less than pleased. The Maitre'D did attempt a weak apology and feeble explanation later. We passed the Hotel manager on the way off the ship next day but he said nothing. It was funny in a way, because it was so typical of their lack of organisation.
It wasn't all bad though. We saw a lot of places, enjoyed the crew and service in the Terrace. Eating outside as the world passes by, is nice. The food was good. The cabin stewards were good too. I also enjoyed some of the lectures. The pre- and post-cruise arrangements were good and embarkation was smooth.
Would we go with them again? NO WAY! Not because of the AC, but because of the way they handled the situation and because of the poor shore excursions, shabby ship, uncomfortable beds, thin walls (noisy neighbours), unpleasant management etc.
We were berthed next to the Swan Hellenic, Minerva in Saigon. She is beautiful, like a little Prinsendam. I would certainly like to sail on her. The Aegean Odyssey looked like an old rust bucket in comparison. If you have already booked with V2A, do not worry, the AC is working now (or was) and many people seem to have enjoyed the experience. Do not let me rain on your parade.
Oh, I forgot to mention the lifeboats. Ours was a small open, old fashioned type. Judging by the 'bum' marks on the seats, we would have been sitting on top of each other, so I am glad that we were not cast adrift on the South China Sea in that. The tenders did have covers, but on the two occasions that we needed to tender ashore, they had great difficulty in launching them (they gave up on the second occasion and used a shore tender instead).