I am writing this review a month after getting home because we both really enjoyed the cruise although there are some points you should know! First of all, if you haven't sailed from the London Cruise Terminal then you won't know that you need to get there at least 45 minutes before your embarkation time. All the paperwork tells you not to arrive to early but a phone call to CMV revealled that you ned to be there 45 minutes early to allow time to get your car parked and you bussed back to the terminal. In our case we arrived much eralier than that because I was worried about traffic delays - and there were none! The silver lining there was that I got to park my car right next to the Terminal!
The cruise itself was great with the exception of the visit to Invergordon. We were supposed to be going to Stornoway but the weather was too bad, Invergordon is a real one horse town with not much to recommend it so an excursion is vital. We didn't and were glad to get back on board!!
All of the other destinations were excellent but again we didn't use any of the excursions. You can get a 'maxi' bus ticket from the Tourist information centre in Kirkwall (Orkneys) which costs £27.50 each (compared to around £45 for the 'official' excursion) and the driver was both knowledgeable and entertaining. For £1 you can also do an Island tour of Guernsey - okay a bit rapid but you do get to see quite a lot. The tender transfers were excellent to - I was a bit concerned beforehand but nothing to worry about.
The onboard entertainment was not as good as that found on some cruise ships but the day time lectures were extremely good.
Catering is not quite what you get with some other Lines either . Breakfast was fine. So was lunch, tea and dinner but their idea of a 'midnight feast' was a selection of cold nibbles handed out by the catering staff at around 10.30 - but we didn't starve!
Something else I can recommend - for the able bodied - is express disembarkation upon return to Tilbury. As we had a 'rowing class' cabin we were scheduled off at around 11.30am. Because we chose Express then we were off at 8.30 and actually arrived home after a long drive about 15 minutes after we would have disembarked!
Inside cabin. As advertised. Everything worked. Excellent cabin boy, looked after us really well. Very adequate shower. Never enough wardrobe space - take your own hangers, nowhere near enough! No tea/coffee facilities but not necessary - tea and coffee is free anyway! Make sure you read the information about suitcase size. If you have a deep case it may not fit under your bunk! All in the brochure though. The cabin door is held open by a very strong magnet - make sure you have a good grip when closing it!
Boarding and disembarking only. A bit basic and elderly but the porters are incredible and the guys really are extremely organised - no fuss!! The facilities are probably in need of updating but the loos work. One slight dissapointment was the need to pay for tea/coffee when it was free on board. Othr cruise lines give you acomplimentary glass of fizz or fruit juice!
I recommend that you don't bother with the official excursions and buy a Maxi Tour ticket from the Tourist Information Centre. Much cheaper and just as good in fact we came across 'official' excursion busses at various points and wegot back in time to have a walk around Kirkwall before getting onto the shuttle bus - a very windy place - driver told us that all of the chickens blew away in the storm of '53 !!
You have no choice but to use a shuttle bus into the centre of the city because it is an industrial port. The traffic in town was appaling and the ship was delayed in sailing because the last bus was stuck in traffic. I had been to Dublin yeras ago so we went on a walking tour of the places I thought would be interesting. Be warned, the National Gallery is basically closed for redevelopment with one gallery open. If you want to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College then be prepared to queue! There is an excellent pub called The Bank (previously a bank strangely enough) and the vaults are available to view we found out later. A nice 'glass' of Guiness could be had there!
One downer. The ships crew used the same bus. Whilst they were perfectly polite and correct on board, on the bus to and from the ship it was a bit of a free for all and we thought the crew were not that well behaved and certainly didn't give the paying passengers preference.