The organisation by Shearings was so efficient and friendly so from 5.30 am on 20th August until disembarkation and journey home on 3rd September 2011, I was completely relaxed and very happy. This was a totally stress-free holiday, thanks to Shearings and the staff and crew of MV Discovery.
Embarkation and disembarkation were so easy and I was in my allocated cabin as soon as I was on-board. The luggage arrived within a few minutes and there was time for a lovely snack at the Lido deck before the Safety drill. That was completed swiftly and there was time to unpack and relax further before dinner at 6.30 pm.
My cabin had two portholes and was very comfortable, apart from the beds. I tried both and as well as being a snug fit, each bed felt as if it were on a slight tilt and it seemed to me that I could easily be dumped onto the floor. That did not happen and the ship is very steady. There was one bad night when it was necessary for my wonderful cabin steward to batten down the hatches, but even during that stormy night the ship felt safe and there was comparatively little discernible extra movement.
There is plenty of storage space in this cabin and the shower room is small, but adequate, with a very efficient shower, a seemingly endless supply of hot water and even storage space in cupboards above the fair sized sink. There is a line in the shower to hang swimsuits or lingerie to dry. Toiletries are supplied and stocks replenished.
Towels and bed linen are of nice quality and seemed to be changed very regularly.
This cabin is number 3131 on Coral deck, a very short walk from the lifts, to comply with my request and the main dining room is situated just opposite the lifts.
Two sittings for dinner, one at 6.30 pm and one at 8.30 pm. No choice for evening dining except the Yacht Club is available to book once per week and my fellow diners said that it was a lovely experience with even nicer food served than in the MDR.
A dining table is assigned and my companions were also solo and very good company. We kept in touch throughout our stay on-board, meeting up at various locations during the two weeks. The food was good although the Room Service menu was a bit boring. Due to ill health, I used Room Service on a few occasions. There was no lengthy wait time and the food was good, always brought by exceptionally nice stewards.
The public rooms are very nice, the library is small but pleasant with a good variety of books and this is a nice place to sit, for a while, overlooking the sea. There are lots of places to sit quietly and I must mention the bars. They serve all sorts of cocktails with or without alcohol from a very well stocked bar, as well as pots of coffee or tea. There is a charge here but all prices are, in my opinion, very reasonable.
The Captain's cocktail party was fun and it was a nice opportunity to meet the entertainment staff that was, without exception, friendly and genuinely seemed to enjoy talking to the passengers. A Gala dinner followed and it was very good.
The Lido Bar is at the top deck and is not a luxurious room, like the others. It has a practical wooden floor, which is always clean and there is a very wide variety of food served at buffets here for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. I believe that these meals are also served in the main dining room. Not 24 hour food although there is 24 tea and coffee or hot chocolate.
At about 11.00 there is usually supper served close to the bars (buffet) and when we returned one evening from an excursion to see the ballet at St. Petersburg, we returned to a wonderful buffet at the Lido but this time the tables were set with white linen and candles. Very nice.
Lots to do on-board such as hosted quizzes; crosswords are supplied daily, floor draughts, deck quoits, cards, bridge, sunbathing if weather permits. There is a gym and there are talks on Ports of Call, also on history and wildlife (these vary on different cruises) The evening entertainment was nice and there were the latest films on at the cinema.
I didn't see any children on-board so I assume that the cruise is for adults only.
Should mention that swimming pools were very small, suited for cooling off but not actually swimming much at all.
The excursions were well organised by superb staff and sea days were also amazingly good.
There is so much more that I could write but you may be bored by now, so I shall simply say that I will recommend, both Shearings Holidays and the beautiful MV Discovery to everyone.
Shearings staff and the Captain, crew and staff of the MV Discovery made this an unforgettable cruise; they are amongst the nicest people that I have met.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"
We visited the old town wall which dates to medieval times and also the university. We also saw the Stasi building which fascinated all of my fellow passengers, but there were too many steps withing the building for me to actually view the rooms in which the Stasi went about their business. The building is now a museum. Again there was a little time for shopping in this wonderful town that is such an interesting mix of old and new. On our way back to the coach, we visited an amazing church which house a working medieval astronomical clock. One of only two in the world, I believe, that is still working. This church is very fine and it's building and upkeep have been financed by sailors. It is truly astounding.
Next day went on an afternoon excursion to the Yusopov Palace, followed by another boat trip which was great fun. There was time to visit a souvenir shop near the Yusopov Palace and I was served with complementary tea and Russian bread.
Really enjoyable and saw so much of St. Petersburg and avoided the seriously bad traffic.