This was our second cruise on Discovery: the first, 2 years ago, was to Norway, the Faroes, Iceland and the Orkneys and was one of the best holidays we've ever had. This time we went to the Baltic (Copenhagen, Helsinki, St. Petesburg, Tallin and Warnemunde) and again had some truly wonderful experiences. Every port was a treat, and the weather was great too.
As for the ship: well, it very much depends on what you're wanting. It's small, intimate, spotlessly clean but not 5 star, with staff who are unremittingly cheerful and helpful. One big plus is that because of its size, it can get into ports that the bigger ships wouldn't even attempt. It has a very faithful following, with a high percentage of repeat cruisers (mostly over 50, though - not a ship suitable for youngsters).
Although Discovery is expensive, first-timers may be initially disappointed by what is on offer. There are two tiny pools (more plunge-pools than anything, to be honest) and two jacuzzis on the outside upper deck. Evening entertainment is not great - daily films are screened, and the Discovery troupe does a so-so cabaret twice an evening (songs from the shows, that sort of thing). There's a choice of lounges and plenty of deck space to wander around, plus a dedicated Bridge Room, a nice spa (but pricey treatments) and a gym. There are 2 restaurant sittings each night, and the Yacht Club on the upper deck for a la carte dining. Food's okay, plentiful and good quality but no Hestor Blumenthal here. The Phillipino waiters and cabin staff are wonderful and work terribly hard.
Daily lectures are superb, second to none with a choice of 3 or 4 excellent speakers per cruise on a whole host of relevant topics, plus Port lectures. If you hit it right, there may also be extra activities like an art class or choir. That's pretty much it though: this is no floating gin-palace with bells and whistles. So what's the charm? Well, if you want a peaceful, quiet holiday with wonderful ports of call, and staff who know your name - Disovery ticks the boxes. We fell in love with it on our first cruise, and before we disembarked this last time we had already booked yet again for Spitsbergen in 2012! Discovery is like a comfy slipper - a home from home, always nice to come back to after a hard day pounding the streets of St. Petersburg or wherever!
The excursions are expensive but excellent and very well organised, with a wide range of well-worth options (note: if you go to Helsinki and like music - don't miss the Sibelius trip. It's truly wonderful!).
Just a tip here: on our first cruise we booked a cabin on Pacific deck, round about 5131. This time, to save money, we went down into the dungeons on C deck, cabin 3100. Imagine our astonishment when we found ourselves in a cabin markedly bigger (although cheaper) than the one upstairs. Two portholes (which got closed in rough seas overnight, not a problem) rather than the windows upstairs, but with a nice wide window ledge that you can climb onto and just lay there, watching the waves! Much more spacious. We've booked this one for next year!
Before Discovery I hadn't cruised for 37 years (!) when I went on the QE2 with mum and dad. I'm not qualified therefore to compare with the big modern cruise ships. All I can say is that given a bottle of wine, a couple of Kindles apiece to keep us occupied, and an adventurous spirit - we had a whale of a time! Two photographs of mine from both trips which to me sum up the experience of Discovery - across the deck rails to the snow-covered mountains of northern Iceland, and the stunning midnight sun not-quite-setting across the Baltic sea. You can keep the Med! My husband is already dreaming about unpacking next year in our cabin!
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"