Cruise and Maritime. This refers to the 45day Amazon cruise. Shorter cruises will be different.
There are two types of passenger on this ship, regular customers who express absolute loyalty and repeat-book this wonderful experience, and others who promise themselves 'never-again'.
Deckspace: This is limited. They would be well advised to limit the monopolizing of deckchairs with some system. Sheltered outside space is confined to the rear deck. The pool has room for about six and is overlooked by about 300 so testosterone is well evident. If you do not like ugly bare flesh do not go on warm-water cruises on this ship.
Cabin: In some cabins bedside light is at wrong end of bed. A small torch is a good idea. Power is 110v from an American socket and 230v from a European socket. Do not be confused by the brochure, British appliances will need an adapter, Europeans are OK. Space is at a premium. Underbed storage may not be deep enough for suitcases (squashable bags would be good) particularly where a second bunk is provided. Our cabin has less than a metre of wardrobe rail for potentially three people. The bedside table is cluttered by a large telephone and a tray with two bottles of water (not complementary). You will probably find space elsewhere for these.
Food: Surprising at the price but restaurant portions can be boring over many days. The buffet is at fixed and limited periods and will be crowded and hot. On hot days the outside sheltered parts of the deck are crowded and smokers will seem to dominate. Smoking is allowed sitting at the outside bar which seems odd when hygiene is dominant. We took our meals in the restaurant and conversation will depend on the company you are allocated. Our evening companions were great (table for four) but at lunch you are sat in order of entry. We were on a long trip so a typical passenger was retired on private means and a not surprising number were residents of IOM or Jersey. On a long trip, constant conversation with Mail and Telegraph readers can wear you down. In between listing all the places they have seen you will get titbits about how the dictators make the best governments. On shorter cruises a more normal sample of passengers will be better company.
Drinks: The official coffee is foul as usual. Double espresso is Â£3.20 and very good. Other drinks are comparable to land prices. The ice-buckets can get watery so you might want to avoid too much dilution by, for example, ordering a neat gin and a separate can of tonic. To get a drink without ice needs perseverance. You get chased out of the main lounge at closing time when they spray mysterious chemicals on all unoccupied tables.
Entertainment: The small team do a grand job of raising the standard a bit above a holiday camp level. On a long cruise they rose to the challenge. In fact I believe it gave them the chance to do stuff in different ways and to personally get to know passengers. The dancers from the old Eastern Bloc really fancied themselves and the sound of a good singer rendering 'La Mer' as well as Aznarvor with a pair of dancers tangoing in front of him was, unintentionally, as funny as the Two Ronnies. Generally speaking the British based contingent did an amazing job (45 days and nights).
Being a small ship there are no discrete routes for staff to move around without being seen. So if you were observant you could monitor the private relationships among the Ukrainian Showteam! The classical music duo were very serene and decorous playing their own stuff in the lounges but cheered and clapped dementedly when their friends were performing in the theatre. Offputting!
Serving and cabin staff: absolute praise here. There were problems with the ship and every effort made to overcome them. During a complete power failure our attendant had to flush our toilets with a bucket. Going around the cabins asking people if they had kaka or only pee-pee was priceless! Waiters were attentive but seem to be in fear of the officer grades that wandered around during the sessions and appeared in greater numbers at closing times. The waiting staff followed the management rules strictly, which could be annoying, for example removing plates the moment you put the last fork down, or whipping away a glass as soon as it is empty. In a cafe on land this behaviour would seem bizarre but on this ship tables will be cleared and wiped, even if it annoyed guests. When they walk in front of spectators collecting glasses in the theatre it's downright annoying. We saw a purser tell one server to go and change her shoes to regulation style -- not good in front of customers. On another occasion we had just stopped at reception as the attendant was having a word with a colleague in the back office. An officer appeared around the corner at that moment and with a flick of the fingers pointed at us as 'unattended'. Totally unnecessary, embarrassing and indicative of bad staff relations. When you are on holiday you do not want to witness quasi-military discipline. This company takes full advantage of staff insecurity.
Ports-of-call: They have a tendency to cut costs by calling at major ports at weekends when local businesses are closed. We spent lots of money on the ship while at sea. There is a deliberate withholding of information about shore costs. For example the frequent bus from Icoaraci to Belem costs 2 real but the transfer bus was Â£29! The guide was inaudible at the back. They warn you about unscrupulous taxi tours at ports but it is the official tours which are a rip-off. All companies are the same.
Laundry examples: Men's shirt Â£1.85, Trousers Â£3.75, this will not break the bank. If you are flying to the ship do not overload with baggage.
Wifi: Activation fee Â£3.95. Pay as you go 60p/min. 100mins Â£42.50. 250mins Â£75. No guarantee of speed so not worth considering unless you are desperate or flush. There is a daily international news leaflet which is adequate. Mobile phone by BT Onwave.
Cabin: If you are on deck 5 port side the proximity of the engine room may prevent the a/c achieving less than 25degs. In the tropics this is not acceptable and we had to change our cabin on doctors orders.
I would not do a long cruise on this ship again. But once, especially the Amazon, is not to be missed. Don't forget to take your sense of humour.