Discovery's Mediterranean Odyssey and Black Sea cruise. Over the years we've done two long cruises on Discovery and so have an experience of expectation when we resumed our sailing holidays with the partially refurbished ship.
A lot of things went wrong some quite needlessly. We requested seating for 8 under your fixed seating policy for dinner on board; in the event we were allocated a table for 4. We were given no explanation for this compulsory change and re-arranging caused quite an upheaval and some embarrassment. Why the company still insists on fixed seating is not explained. The previous argument that the dining room staff get to hereknow people better is undermined by the new policy of compulsory tipping. We informed Head Office that visas are required for landing in Turkey, but were advised to the contrary - with, in the event, visa charges being added to our shipboard account. We inquired about guest lecturers and were advised these would be notified on arrival on board! Assumedly this would have been well known to Head Office who must have booked them in advance. The current policy seems to dispense with appropriate lecturers in favour of port briefings by the excursion team reading out the standard notes - on this cruise there was there was a wonderful opportunity for a qualified communicative speaker to talk about Nelson who,at times, was involved in most of the ports we visited. The talk on the Crimean War was abysmal - the speaker muddled the facts,omitted others and clearly lacked the background and knowledge to present such a complex subject with authority and conviction. He informed us about the Cruise Lecturers Association he'd created. Perhaps this will be the means of raising the standard and relevance of Discovery's guest lecturers in the future.
A final disappointment was to be told two days before disembarkation that the timing of our return flight from Istanbul had been changed to a later time. Our dismay turned to anger when passengewrs joining the ship at Piraeus had already been notified of the change by letter before departure. But Reception on board insisted that Head Office had not notified them! What incompetence! How can one have confidence in the Company's professionalism after experiencing that?
The character of the ship has greatly changed, The wonderfully polite and efficient Philipino staff have been swept away to be replaced by a lot of Eastern Europeans who clearly were not properly trained, with some downright rude to passengers at times., The new policy of compulsory tipping can be baffling - who actually receives the large amounts of money which the policy creates?
Prior to joining the ship we were encouraged to book excursions in advance. But we didn't know at which ports we'd be going ashore by tender - those with mobility problems were actively discouraged from using the tenders- creating more needless disappointment.
It was soon apparent that in the refurbishment programme all the wooden sun beds haved been removed, not replaced, resulting in a general shortage.
The former Discovery was a truly popular cruise ship; but many experienced cruisers such as ourselves found so many aspects of life on board have been changed - for the worse - that we have to recall the ship we knew to remember the good times.