Just come off Discovery after a 19 day cruise. We had previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean as well as Orient Lines and, from what we had read, Discovery should have compared to Marco Polo. It didn't. As a cruise experience the trip was abysmal. We chose the particular cruise because of the great itinerary and we just had to keep that in mind. That said, no itinerary would convince us to book Discovery again unless the cruise prices are adjusted to represent some sort of value for money.
The ship is extremely plain with unbroken cream walls and green carpet. When I say that the Lido buffet restaurant, where breakfast and lunch is served, has a glass roof which opens to the sky and has a swimming pool as a centerpiece, one conjures up visions of an appealing tropical atmosphere. Unfortunately, it's not. The pool is very small and deep with very high sides so that it looks like an out of ground tank. Some of the tables and chairs are timber but the majority are just white plastic. The buffet server area is small and totally unappealing. The main restaurant is quite attractive but, being on the bottom deck, the portholes are above sight when sitting. We were extremely thankful that we were sitting at a table with chairs and not on the fixed benches along the walls. On the positive side there are several comfortable, if uninspiring, lounges and the main public deck has large picture windows.
The promenade deck is not joined front or back. The main pool on a rear outide deck area is slightly wider than deep but again built up out of the deck. Presumably this is to prevent water splashing around - especially since the ship has a very noticeable list while sailing AND in port. Also prevented spilling when the poor old ship slowed down to enter port - nearly imploding each time with vibration. This did serve as a great wakeup call as reception was usually an hour late with theirs!
Our cabin was nothing but very basic and clean. Cream walls and green carpets and bedspreads. Very surprised to have to carry keys with large keyrings to access the cabin. We were very disappointed to find that our cabin does not match the deckplan and resulted in our losing one foot from the length of an already small cabin. Even more disappointing was to find that the rear deck near our cabin has been turned over to the crew. Don't mind them having it but how about changing the deckplans to match as we had seen it as an asset when booking that cabin.
The plainness of the ship matches the food well. Most guests arrived by charter flight from the UK and, because of late departure, we arrived at the ship 2 hours late. This was the reason given for our first evening meal on board - fish fingers and chili con carne! Food did improve on that - although it's the first time I've ever seen veal liver on a ship's menu - but the meals were extremely bland and nothing to look forward to. Dining times lock you into becoming a watch checker! There is only one alternative restaurant - with a set menu which alternates between Asian and Italian on a weekly basis - but it can only be booked once per cruise!
Entertainment is almost nonexistent. There were no guest performers - no comedians, no jugglers. The showroom was nearly empty for each show and it was not because of the demographics of the guests - Marco Polo caters predominantly for a similar group but does provide entertainment and, more often then not, there is standing room only. The eight young people who formed the dance company performed OK but the shows were repeated weekly. Even the cruise director told the same jokes each week! There is a room used for movies 3 times a day but they were all old reruns. The orchestra was good, as was the three piece band, but they were also backing the dancers so there was not much music going on in any of the lounges in the evenings - and none during the day. A balmy evening sailing through the Suez Canal couldn't be enjoyed from the deck as the deckchairs are locked up at about 4pm each day. Never a 'sail away' party nor a BBQ on the decks. There is a very large room set up for bridge, so if you're a player, you'll probably be OK.
Times in and out of port changed several times. We had booked our own two day tour to Luxor as the ship was in Safaga for two days, leaving at 7.00pm on the second day. The night before Safaga we attended the Captain's cocktail party where he mentioned that we were now departing at 2.00pm. We checked with reception and they said 7.00pm, we checked with the cruise director and he said 7.00pm, we checked with a deck officer and got the same answer. I asked him to confirm it with the bridge and he finally came back with 2pm. As we left the ship next morning we asked again at reception and they said 7pm! Not willing to risk it our 2 day tour to Luxor was cut back to one as we had to return to Safaga in the 8am convoy. Would the ship have waited for us if we had not returned until 6.00pm? If we had gone to the second cocktail party we would have done just that as the captain did not mention the early departure at that one!
Service on the ship is mixed. Our cabin steward was excellent and the wait staff pretty good although we had many meals whipped out from under us and swapped with other tables - a practice we weren't at all happy with when we were being reminded of the risks of norovirus constantly. The only staff who were always friendly were the eight dancers. Those in reception certainly left a lot to be desired and the cruise director and his staff were seldom seen.
Shore excursions were very well organized but also very pricey compared to other ships in the same ports of call. We had suspected as much as we couldn't find out the prices until 3 weeks before sailing. The internet site posts excursions about 4 weeks before a cruise but never give prices - they are always TBC!
Most of the passengers were British and were passively content with the food and general service until we all received our departure information and a letter of farewell from the captain on Thursday - the cruise was ending on Monday! They did not sit back and take that one! And I'm afraid that going into 10 days drydock after our cruise did not adequately explain running out of the most popular wine and draught beer and icecream, etc.
So...we had a great holiday because we saw some wondrous sights. And we caught up on sleep as we went to bed early each evening! But, as I said, we would not cruise on Discovery again unless it is priced as the 2 star ship it is. The itineraries alone do not allow for 4-5 star pricing.
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"