First timer's so should we stay close to home or go for it. We looked at booking the Hebridean Princess but for the same money we could visit places we had never seen; so we went for it.
North Wales to North Shields went better than we thought by car, well until we got to North Shields, then spent an hour or so going round in circles. Luckily we decided to stay the night so not a great problem and we were right beside the Port.
After a walk around North Shields in the morning we set off to the Port. Parking was easy as was dropping off the bags but the terminal ... what a dump and the sinks were not working in the gents. The wait wasn't to long and after the Gold Members boarded so did the rest of us.
Up the plank and aboard we were, we did have to ask where to go but we were told. Pleased to see that everything worked well and all the bags we in the cabin.
The cabin was a good size and we had a great view of the Life Boat although we were warned, but we had a balcony which was great. Not so great was finding the last guests half drunk fizz and nibbled snacks in the fridge, but it was cleared away. We had two large wardrobes lots of cupboards and mirrors and a bottle of fizz (unopened). The bathroom had a bath with shower cupboard space and all was nice and clean and a pair of bathrobes with slippers and toiletries.
We opted for 2nd seating for dining and we shared a table with some lovely people and the quality of food was always very good and more than enough although breakfast was a bit of a muddle which I put down to fitting 2 sittings into a single space. There was the option of eating at the Secret Garden Restaurant but it always looked mobbed to me but we tried it once and the quality was the same.
The entertainment covered a large range from deck games quiz's and bingo during the day to cabaret and dancing in the evenings. Dancing was everything from formal to disco. Personally I think they should keep this but also look to introduce say a bit of Tamla/Northern Soul or maybe Jazz to reflect that young folk like are getting older and starting to go on cruises.
TV Radio was rubbish.
Organised trips reflected was there was to see. St Petersburg was fantastic because it is. Turku had a fire way back and that is what you are going see and hear about. There are talks about where to visit on board but its a bit late if the tours are full.
Didn't get to Sweden as it was blowing a gale.
But all in all very good.
Dressing up for formal nights and the themed nights we great fun and kept my wife shopping for weeks before we went.
Staff are very good and very attentive.
Small point. They started referbing on the 9th floor above my head it sounded like. Called reception who said it would stop, it did not. Next day it started again, I went to see the Guest Relation person who genuinely appeared surprised and came to look, she was shocked and said that it would stop. It did and she called the next day to make sure. It started again after her call but softly.
Back to Blighty and we packed our bags the night before and they had been collected. We were asked to vacate our cabins and wait in the public rooms to disembark, which we did. It was a shame that a lot of the tables and chairs were stacked up as the carpet was being replaced. But we were called to disembark after a very short wait and coached to the terminal (what is the point of the coaches)where the bags were placed in rows between the seats making it very difficult to get to.
Out to the car and then home.
All in all CAN NOT WAIT TO GO AGAIN and yes with Fred Olsen