A reviewer of the subsequent leg seemed rather distressed that the bathroom decor and toilet seat were not colour-coordinated. Outre though it may seem, this reviewer focuses on lesser matters such as ports visited, entertainment and the quality of the afternoon tea.
The Discovery is a pretty, elegant ship; small in comparison to today's behemoths and all the better for it. It has one serious failing in its design - the lack of a true promenade deck. There is a deck so named, but conducting a post-prandial circuit of the ship entails taking in four decks at least! A lesser failing is the lack of a self-service launderette. The ship has artwork aplenty, and is easily navigated - for example it is only a minute or two from the Carousel Lounge at the front of the ship to the Discovery Lounge astern.
Announcements were in English-only and the on-board currency was the pound sterling. The passengers were mainly English-speaking but there were many Americans also on board. Fellow travellers with whom I came into contact were almost uniformly splendid company. There were two formal nights (jacket and tie required, shirt and trousers advised) - all the others were informal. A jacket and tie should also be worn when dining in the Yacht Club which probably will be removed within the first five minutes as the splendid bistro is rather warm.
Arrival and Departure:
These were well organised and efficient in both Hurghada and Mumbai. Two drills were conducted - a passenger safety drill and a pirate drill. Sadly no pirates turned up for the latter. There were however, extensive security measures in place in case they did decide to show up.
I had an outside cabin (although it was still inside the ship) which was well-furnished with a comfortable en-suite shower and toilet. The cabin steward (Efren) was superb. I asked him not to turn down the beds at night - these guys have quite enough to do.
Not every dinner was an unmatched gastronomic experience that had me reaching for the dictionary from the well-stocked library for appropriate superlatives - but it was damn good! The vegetarian options were varied and generally good and tasty, and the menu comprised some standbys (e.g. steak, chicken, salmon, and pasta) that were always available. Samples of the night's beautifully presented desserts were always displayed by Jobert, our excellent waiter, after the main course. We were a table of six solo travellers, three men and three women. The company was excellent (Table 19 - you know who you are). Friends were also made at the table for the first night's unassigned dining and we met up subsequently for dinner in the Yacht Club on more than one occasion. Lunchtimes in the same restaurant were always an enjoyable experience, with some lunches (as well as other events) for solo travellers also organised. There were also excellent barbecues on some of the days at sea plus tasty buffet breakfasts and lunches as well as delicious afternoon teas, in the Lido. A light late-night buffet was served in the Palm Court as was a more basic afternoon tea. Hot drinks were also available 24 hours a day. Perverse though it may seem, a supply of biscuits at the hot drinks station after midnight would have been welcome - not necessarily the chef's fine creations but at least basics such Rich Tea or Digestives. To coin a phrase - A drink's too wet without one.
A major success (after years of cruise travel) was being shown by one of the restaurant managers how to ensure your plate is not taken away by enthusiastic waiters ready to clear away your table the moment you blink.
The lecture programme was a highlight. The lectures on history and culture were very-well presented and extremely enjoyable. I have less interest in antiques and genealogy but those I attended were no less enjoyable. The port talks seemed more hectoring than lecturing although there was information for the independent traveller.
The shore excursions, when they took place, were of good quality at exorbitant prices.
The crew talent show was the best I have seen during 15 years of travelling on cruise ships. Admittedly most of these have been dire but the singing and dancing in this ranged from the quite good to the quite wonderful.
The live music by the show band and particularly the classical trio was excellent. The song and dance cabaret acts provided pleasant entertainment also. The public persona of the cruise director was of a capable person reading from a prepared script ("Thank you for coming tonight," said she. "Well, I was on the ship anyway," thought I), but perhaps there is much behind-the-scenes work that she does which I didn't see or appreciate. The Reception was staffed by generally competent people - except the girl who tried to convince me the murder mystery had already taken place a day earlier! It was so convoluted that I ended up wishing it had.
There is a library, internet room, games room, bridge club (with duplicate bridge courses for beginners and more advanced players, plus daily competitions), lounges, bars and plenty of deck space. Thankfully, there is no casino.
This is small but quite adequate with uninterrupted views astern - a compensation for the self-flagellation undertaken in a vain attempt to recover lost youth and looks.
Ports of Call:
These were a bit of a disaster - but it didn't detract too much from the enjoyment of the cruise:
- Safaga - a full day
- Massawa - cancelled
- Salalah - several hours late and only three hours ashore
- Muscat - a full day
- Fujairah - a half day (probably enough)
- Porbandar - several hours late (but an overnight stay did allow exploration of a city off the tourist trail)
- Mumbai - a full day before flying back
The seawater was too warm, apparently. If so, then the imminent refit can't come soon enough.
This was a damn fine cruise - unexpectedly so for the solo traveller.
(I hope to post a diary of this rather eventful cruise in the near future).
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"