We joined the Discovery for the White Sea and Archangel Cruise at the Port of Harwich. Hats off to the Port Authorities for the smooth, hassle free arrangements for those who travel to Harwich by car, with baggage collection and bus transfer to the ship a slick operation.
We had read reviews about Discovery now being a tired old lady and as we have been on her twice before, steeled ourselves for the experience. Yes, she is a little dog-eared with the trumpeted refurbishments being modest in the extreme but she remains a comfortable ship to return to, time and again.
We were upgraded to a comfortable M cabin which though inside and at the sharp end was much larger than usual and prevented us bumping in to each other in front of the wardrobes. There was however space for another chest of drawers which would have been most welcome. The shower room had received a new floor, a new shower head and the wash basin had been repainted which gave the area a fresher look. The new carpet in the public walkways looks good but the glass partitions that have been erected in the Seven Continents Restaurant are totally ineffectual. We sat at Table 20 with a quietly spoken couple and found conversation impossible because of the sound levels.
We booked and enjoyed two evenings in the Yacht Club where the food was of an excellent standard. Overall the food was pretty good, though we will never understand why fresh sandwiches and hot sweets are on offer in the Lido at 4.00 pm Tea and not at lunch where cold sweets prevail daily.
The lecture programme was as extensive as normal, though guest speaker Mark Baldwin who according to the Voyages of Discovery brochure would be 'bringing an original 1944 Enigma machine onboard' failed to do so which some felt was a great disappointment.
The destination ports were great, particularly in Russia. Murmansk was grey and cool, giving great atmosphere to a place rich in wartime history. Among the sites here was the tribute the 118 Russian sailors who lost their lives when the submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in 2000.
We then moved on to the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea (where, frustratingly, we had a very poor guide) and then to the city of Archangel, a maiden call for Discovery. Here the weather was in the upper twenties.
Our other ports of call were Bergen (it rained heavily), Kristiansund (sunny day with bands playing in a competion), Honningsvag (for a cold visit to the North Cape), Tromso (beautiful botanical gardens), Trondheim (very warm) and Alesund. We returned to Harwich where the disembarkation was as stress free as embarkation. All in all an excellent cruise made all the better by smooth seas throughout.
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"