This was my first cruise and with joyful anticipation I stepped on board the ship MV Discovery at Harwich. My other half, a bridge player, was there not just for the The Fjords and Fairytale Cruise, but for bridge. A courtesy coach collected us from the airport and after several telephone calls our luggage labels did arrive.
Embarkation was smooth. We were photographed on coming on board and a card given to each of us which was scanned by a crew member via the computer every time we left/returned. The card also had to be presented to an official on entry to the quay. Luggage was in our cabin shortly after we checked in but apparently one lady's was put on the wrong ship and we only found this out later in the cruise. No cash money was used for any purchase on board. A credit card was passed over at reception and anything bought from drinks, and trinkets to Internet use was signed for and put on your bill.
The crew were always cheerful and helpful and hygiene was excellent. Guest lecturers were good and to be able to listen to lectures through the TV in our cabin was very useful. We had chosen an outside cabin on the Promenade deck and I was extremely thankful to have done so as anything less would have been claustrophobic. We had booked for 7 out of a possible 18 days to leave the ship at Copenhagen. There was an abundance of food but speaking personally I didn't think the quality was that good and there did seem to be a lot of repetition even on the Yacht Club menu. As for "snacks" at 4pm vegetarian sandwiches seemed to consist mostly of somewhat dry bread with lettuce and mayonnaise, though to be fair there was tuna available and brown bread, puds, and scones with jam and cream for those who could eat them. The menu for the Italian Night at the Yacht Club was not inspiring and was repeated later in the week. There were I think 4 or 5 courses, each was really a taster but no plain fish on it. As a booking for 6 of us had been made a few days in advance I asked if it would be possible to have plain grilled fish as I did not eat red meat or chicken. Although they looked surprised they came up trumps and provided some salmon.
However, for me the real downside of the cruise was the pitching and rolling of the ship both on the North Sea and later in the week - the night we ate in the Yacht Club restaurant. A few days prior to leaving home we had received a letter to the effect that one of the four engines was out of commission but we were assured three would be adequate. Obviously cruise liners have to keep to tight schedules and ours was just one cruise of many for Discovery. On Friday we were in the North Sea, My husband was fine but I felt extremely ill and spent 10 hours in bed as a result of the ship's pitching and rolling and but for homeopathic sea sickness tablets and wrist bands would have been extremely ill. I've never had problems before. Later on talking to several people who had been due to go on a cruise to the Northern Hemisphere I gathered their voyage had been canceled at short notice due to "problems". I understand they were offered our cruise as an alternative. I'm no expert when it comes to engines, however, talking to several men on board with an engineering background they reckoned that to keep to schedule and maintain speed the ship's stabilizers may well not have been in use.
Again there were rough seas on another day when the ship pitched and rolled so much several people in the Yacht Club dining room were unable to eat more than a mouthful of food before having to leave. I was one of those. That was the night I had asked for salmon and when it came could not eat it.
Some of the short trips were excellent, and the guides were extremely good. We had booked most trips in advance on the original form, something I would not do again. At Bergen the tall ships were there and we would have preferred a leisurely walk round the harbour and perhaps being able to go on board for a look. However, the Grieg recital was good. In Oslo the statues by Vigeland in the park were well worth seeing, and after listening to the talk on Copenhagen we managed to book to see round the Christiansburg palace. That was a delight. Discovery's on board library is small and I was glad I'd brought a few paperbacks with me.
Disembarkation was stress free. Luggage had to be left outside cabins by midnight on the last night, with a certain coloured luggage label attached. The system worked well as everyone going to say Manchester airport all had labels of the same colour, and were called at a specific time to go to the coach. Flying back a cold meal was included in the price of the cruise. However we received nothing. Although I gather Discovery had a major refit in 2003 she is still an old ship and the pool was tiny. Two or three strokes and you would have crossed it. It appeared far bigger in the photograph in the brochure. It was situated on the Lido deck surrounded by tables and chairs and was not inviting. As for another cruise I might consider something at some stage but it certainly won't be on Discovery. Stefanja Gardener. 22/08/08
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"