We have cruised with most cruise companies over the past ten years, taking an average of two or three cruises a year and this was our first time with Voyages of Discovery on their ship 'The Discovery'. From speaking to passengers who had previous sailed on the ship and had given it a good report, we decided to give it a try.
First impressions of the ship are of traditional lines and well maintained. The flying wing of the stack dates the vessel to the 1970's. We later found, that she rides the seas well with very little pitch and hardly any roll.
With Â£12 per person per day added to our final invoice as a fuel surcharge, I was not in the best of moods when I arrived at Harwich to find the ship had limped in on three engines from a cruise to the Baltic. Disembarkation was taking place at a time when we should have been boarding.
The parking arrangements were chaotic; don't expect the same service you get at Southampton, Dover and Tilbury. Make sure you have waterproof luggage, everything is done in a open car park some distance from the terminal. Travel to and from the car park is by shuttle bus. On disembarkation your luggage will be lined up at the mercy of the elements until you arrive at the car park.
The ship left late, and two days into the cruise to Norway and the Scottish Islands another engine failed. We were now running on the minimum of engine power. The Captain addressed us and stated he had his fingers crossed. Later he told me he was known as 'a bit of a Jonah!' One port of call was canceled and times ashore were reduced. The cruise that followed ours was canceled to allow repairs to the engines. The ship is some 30 years old and it shows.
Our cabin was on Pacific deck grade M. It was small and clean; the air conditioning worked and was adjustable. The beds are narrow with firm mattresses, clean sheets and pillow cases, but the brown blankets were old. The suite is small, the shower was powerful and the water always hot. The shower floor could have done with a deep clean, the 'porcelain' surface of the sink was peeling off. The towels were of good size but had seen better days. The toilet system is of the gravity type, thus being quieter than the vacuum system. Room Service is excellent and Continental breakfast was served on time, with warm toast and good tea.
The dining room 'The Seven Continents' was truly a miserable place, in fact by the end of the cruise, it was with some foreboding that I went to dinner. The seating we were assigned was a long low bench type seat accommodating some twenty diners, all sitting next to one another. The tables are so close together that the waiters have to lean over other diners to serve. The tables are bolted to the floor! The tablecloths and napkins are grey colour, the flowers on the tables are artificial. The windows in the dining room are portholes located so high that you cannot see out of them. The meals are minuscule and of poor quality, the bread rolls are the smallest I have ever seen. It is the first time I have returned from a cruise 2lb lighter. On three separate occasions I was served a meal on cracked plates. Although the food is abysmal the waiters are very helpful and efficient. There is a strange ritual in the dining room of the waiters bringing round to each diner a sample of the dessert to view before ordering. I spoke to a member of the staff who told me the restaurant is run by a concessionary.
The Lido Deck for casual breakfast and lunch has a sliding roof which was opened in good weather. There is a plunge pool amid the tables. The wooden deck has a greasy look and the wooden table tops had old dry food between the grooves.
The Yacht Club Restaurant is available to every passenger once per cruise (free of charge) and has an Oriental and Italian theme night. The food there is excellent and one wonders if one is still on the same ship?
The lounges are well furnished, roomy and comfortable and there is a well stocked library. The Carousel Show Lounge has good sight lines and accommodates the first and second seating passengers well for the two shows. The decor is of 'Artex' and magnolia emulsion paint. The dancers, singers and musicians are of reasonable talent and work hard. The 'on board' lecturersÂ were some of the best I have heard. We had three on this cruise and they were excellent. The excursions were well organized and passengers are escorted and looked after very well. The crew are efficient and helpful, but at times can be a little over familiar. I was referred to on two occasions by my Christian name.
Overall view... The ship seems to have a loyal following, I can only assume that these passengers have not traveled on other ships. The Discovery is certainly not the worst ship I have traveled on, but its not up to the standard of today's cruise ships and this unfortunately is not reflected in the 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"