On lst of February we sailed from London Tilbury - an unusual departure port but beneficial for many travellers. An efficient embarcation was made pleasant by a generous supply of free expensive magazines covering cruises, holidays generally, classic cars, golf etc.
The ship, though elderly, had undergone an expensive refit in 2002 with public rooms and cabins now well furnished. The ship's captain, a Russian, was something of a martinet and ruled the Russian\Ukranian crew with an iron hand. He ensured that safety was paramount and this was reassuring.
The stage shows for this modest-size ship exceeded by far those experienced on both similar and larger ships. The Russian\Ukranian dancers were classically trained in ballet from six years of age. Their choreographer was a hard task master who produced superb routines. The lead singers, too, were above the norm. Individual performers, a female pianist and a female violinist and two male instrumentalists excelled, as did the six piece band. A high light of the cruise was the presence of the Cruise Director, Richard Sykes - a more than competent pianist and vocalist. He was tireless - being involved in many of the activities on board.
The multi national crew coped well with the English language with very few exceptions.
The food from a mixed continental background was somewhat adventurous but generally the standard was satisfactory.
The one thousand mile journey up the Amazon and Orinoco was fascinating but was something of a learning experience for the ship's management who hopefully will benefit from the experience gained on this first cruise for them on these two rivers.
The majority of the passengers,including the Dutch contingent, were of mature age, but to many of us this 42 day voyage was something of a delightful "Boys' Own Adventure.