We sailed from Tilbury which was great, no flying, we drove from Yorkshire and stayed the night in a hotel so we were relaxed for boarding the ship the next day. Once on board the ship we were shown to our cabin, our cases were already outside out cabin. We were supposed to be on Baltic deck but were upgraded to pacific deck (level 7), also our room was the bigger, inner twin which slept 3 people instead of the smaller room we had originally booked. The room was very clean and comfortable. stocked with the general, tissues, shampoo etc; bottled water was in the room, cost over £2. The only thing missing was a tea/coffee maker. We had taken our own travel kettle but were not supposed to use it. Hot drinks were available free of charge in Marco's buffet room from 7am - 10pm, hot drinks could be purchased in bars around the ship. There is 2 duty free shops selling alcohol, cigarettes, perfuum, gifts and another one selling sweets, toiletries, clothes etc; shave gel cost over £4!
The Cruise Director, Richard has got a great entertainment team, he also joins in the shows which is a plus. The evening entertainment is excellent, better than i have seen on other cruise ships. the shows in the Marco lounge (theatre) are different every night, 2 shows per night, eg; Joseph and his Technicoloured Dreamcoat, Eurovision, Queen and many more. The singers and dancers put on professional, entertaining shows. There was also a comedian and magician, both very good. If you go to the 10pm show which finishes approx 10.45-11pm and you want to go on to the Scotts bar is more singers performing followed by a disco, you will find it hard to get a seat as it is always packed. There was always a seat in the captain's club where a violinist and pianist play each evening.
The daytime entertainment is rather poor, the odd quiz, bingo and something like shove halfpenny.
We would rate the Waldorf Restaurant 2* only. I am vegetarian and there was one choice only. On the menu they put out samples of the evening meals on a table outside the restaurant, often the meals we ordered were not as plentiful or finished off the same as the samples, quite honestly I stopped looking at them because they didn't look very appetising. The waiter was Bulgarian (which is not an issue) but he was not very talkative, when he did speak he muttered and was talking as he walked away, not very professional. The napkins were never ironed and often very damp, apparently they get washed in between sittings.
The buffet bar, well what can we say, there was always a varied choice of food for breakfast, dinner, afternoon tea and evening meal. It would have been good had the food been hot, there was only a small flame under each of the food containers, but saying that, if you managed to get the food when it was just put out it still wasn't hot. We were eating continental breakfast because the bacon etc; was always cold. I commented to the supervisor about the cold food on more than once occasion, eventually, she had one of boys warm my plated food in the oven, the plate came back hot the food still wasn't warm, when I told her she just walked away. When I complained to the staff on reception, hoping they would pass the message upwards, they just seemed perplexed and said nothing. I said I would put the complaint in writing and the receptionist said he would do it for me!!! needless to say I did it myself but never received a reply. The cakes left a lot to be desired, they were generally mousse and tasted the same whether lemon or chocolate.
The outside bar opened 2 days then we hit bad weather and it never opened again!!!!! They did nice burgers, spare ribs and fish, really tasty and hot!!! (the fish was yummy)
Apart from the food and attitude of some of the staff on board we had a fantastic holiday, the days we were off the ship were so good they outweighed the negatives.
We had booked our trips independently, on the internet, prior to sailing. Although we didn't get to dock at 3 ports we did do all the trips we had booked and they were much better value for money than the ship tours offered. When we went to the talks about the tours from the ship there was no one advising about 'do it yourself', which usually on cruises they do have separate talks for those wanting to do it yourself.
A few hints for those wanting to do it themselves.
Amsterdam - just outside the terminal you can get a tram into the town, it's a couple of stops only. The drivers are very helpful, we were advised to buy a tram ticket for 1 hour, this cost about £10. We got on a tram around the city and back, we then strolled down the main shopping street. The red light district is off this street, take the street down the side of the church, you can't miss it and it is obviously what visitors to Amsterdam want to see. We wanted to go on a canal cruise but didn't get time. We got the tram back to the terminal and the driver didn't even charge us.
Molde - the Atlantic road tour cost £49 pp on ship tour. it is easy to do yourself - leave the ship, out of the port turn right to the bus station and tourist information, 5 mins walk, take bus no.7 and to the Atlantic road. He drops you off and then picks you up 10-15 minutes later and takes you back to Molde. The whole trip takes about 3 hrs and you get to see plenty of scenery and little places. The cost if you are a pensioner (they say senior) is approx £14 per couple, if you are under pension age it costs £28 per couple.
Svartisen Glacier - passing through Arctic Circle and viewing glacier- we kept being told there would be warm wine, we never saw any!!! great experience though, very cold.
Narvik - the Ofoten Railway - cost from ship £60 pp
We got on the 9am shuttle to the station (the town is about 50 min walk) we were told we could pay on the train so we got on. a nice train ride to Riksgransen, takes about 40 min. spent some time at the ski resort and got the train back. The cost should have been £12 pp return but we never saw the ticket man. The people on the trip were supposed to return by coach but it broke down so they got on the train.
Back in Narvik we walked to Fagernes mountain Cablecar, it is signposted and takes about 20 mins from the station. there is a cafe at the top and some fantastic views. cost £10 pp.
Tromso - dog sledding - cost from ship £135 - I enquired and was told the actual dog sledding was for 30 mins only. Our trip cost about the same but we were dog sledding for about 2 hrs. We got a taxi to the hotel we were being picked up from, takes about 10 mins to the town from the ship. The travel into the wilderness took about 1hr 15 mins, 'lyngsfjord.com adventure'. They kitted us out with clothes, we were partnered up and one stood on the sledge driving and one sat, sitting is a bit bumpy. We had 6 dogs pulling us and it was so much fun, actually sledding on rivers covered in ice and snow, going through woodland. When we had finished we went into a tent (hotel) for very hot fish/vegetable soup with bread, drinks and cake. Then it was the journey back to town and the end of a great fun day, we got back to town by 4.45 pm excellent value. We got the shuttle bus back to the ship, the last one was 5.15.
We got our first sighting of the lights later that night, everything on the ship stops for people (staff and holiday makers alike) to go outside and see. Again the following evening the lights appeared on numerous occasions. Richard, the cruise director announces it over the loud speaker for everyone to hear, even if you are in bed you won't miss it. My only wish is that we had paid to go on the evening out to the wilderness trip in search of the lights. The people who did go said they had never experienced anything like it and even if the lights hadn't appeared it was a great experience. Of course they got a better sighting of the lights than we did from the ship. The cost was £99.
Due to severe weather conditions we missed out on 3 ports, Bergen, Allesund and Svolvaer. This couldn't be helped and rather safe than sorry. We could have been kept more up to date with information during our time on the ship regarding not visiting certain ports and updates on where we were and the weather conditions etc; but all in all, fantastic holiday with great, never done before, experiences, shame about the food and some of the staff. This is not a budget holiday but you would think it was as far as the food was concerned. It's a smaller ship than we have been used to but try not to compare with the bigger ships and make the most of what there is to do in the places you visit.