This was our seventh Transatlantic crossing, the fourth with Thomson, sorry, TUI! and about our 25th cruise in total.
Previously we've crossed on Celebration, lovely little ship! I shall be sorry to see it go, Azura (P&O) and Adventure of the Seas (RCL).
Flight was great. Travelled Dreamliner Premium Club which is worth every penny of the additional charge. Transfer was OK by Barbados standards but they don't have big comfy buses and its only 30/40 minutes so no big deal. Embarkation was swift and possibly helped by the fact we were in a Junior Suite with priority boarding.
First impressions of the ship were good. Thomson, sorry TUI, at last has a ship in style and facilities to rival the big lines. It IS quite impressive! Very spacious and loads and loads of interior light in the public areas.
I did note like another reviewer the crew demographic had changed with many Eastern European crew members, but who cares where they're from provided they do a good job and they largely did.
We ate mostly in the main restaurant served by two great guys, Julio and Appollon. Ive cruised with many different cruise lines and on all Thomson ships except Dream and without a doubt, the food was every bit as good as any other four star cruise line and better than some Ive travelled on . I often read and have posted reviews myself complaining about cold food but not the case on this ship in the main restaurant where the food was always interesting, varied, well presented and hot. Only ate once in the self service restaurant and my choice was very nice but luke warm.
The only minor hiccup came early in the cruise when a waiter who shall remain nameless served us at lunch. Three out of four starters came out all of which were hot so three of us began to eat. We then saw the main courses delivered to the waiter station at the same time as the missing starter. Three of us had finished our starters whilst the fourth was still eating theirs when the waiter came to the table and said he was going to serve the main courses because they'd been there a while. He didn't ask.... he just told us!
We declined his kind offer and asked that the main courses when served be replaced having been standing about ten minutes and fish cools quickly. At this point it seemed that we'd asked for the impossible and were visited by Head Waiters, Restaurant Managers and other waiters one of which took responsibility and resolved the problem. Thank you to Anthony!
The first waiter never served us again even though he was always close by. Not sure if that was by design or luck but a restaurant needs in my view to conform to common dining etiquette and on this occasion, it didn't. This incident apart, the main restaurant was excellent! Thank you.
We like to eat in the specialist restaurants and the Italian was really good and does not incur a surcharge. I cant t say the same for my experience of Surf and Turf for which there IS a surcharge of £25 per head. Previously we've eaten in Mistral and Kora La on Celebration and the al a carte on Majesty. All three are excellent restaurants with a great food in a convivial atmosphere for an additional £20 a head. In the case of Mistral, that's for a six or seven course quality meal served by experienced and knowledgeable waiters. In Kora La on Celebration, you enter an oriental environment with suitably dressed waiters and the food is great. This is not the case on Discovery. The atmosphere and environment is no different to any other restaurant and depending on the time you eat, you have the vast pool deck screen glaring through the windows into your face. Not very oriental! I'm sorry to make the comparison but I'm afraid to do so is inevitable. We cancelled our reservation in Kora La as we found the screen intrusive and would have detracted from the dining experience.
For your £25 in S and T, there are four courses and my personal view is that the food was little different to that served in the main restaurant. I chose seared scallops as a starter. It consisted of three small queen scallops which were not seared. Nice but........For my main I chose Sole which was to be served at the table. No fault of the waitress but I'm sure she hadn't deboned many sole. It took an age for her to do so whilst the fish was cooling all the time. Why not ask the customer whether or not they would like the fish to be deboned at the table or would they prefer to do it themselves. I wanted to scream out "Please give it me to do" but I resisted not wanting to cause any embarrassment. In short, S and T was not a good experience, not good value in my view and one I would not repeat in the current circumstances.
We did speak to the head of F and B, raised our concerns and made the comparison with Mistral but his response was "Its the new concept" It certainly was different to Mistral and a "difference" I didn't care for! For me, a backward step.
It's sad that there are no longer any wine waiters on board. Wine is now very ably and frequently provided by your table waiters but it was a little hint of extra class to have a wine waiter?waitress.
I'm sure someone from TUI will read this review and I would point out that my comments are intended for their benefit also and to ultimately improve MY experience. I'm not a serial moaner and have cruised many times and to make comparisons although subjective, is inevitable.
I have noted one comment on a review which I also totally agree with and is something we commented on when speaking to those in authority. In S and T restaurant, it was as if I was being served by someone speaking from a prepared script. Each waiter who approached the table started with the same pre prepared script and conversations with them were very stilted.. Ive never experienced this before on a Tui ship. It is unnatural, unwanted by me at least and makes normal conversations difficult. Please let the waiting staff be themselves. They can still say what they need to say. It was so obviously scripted, it became farcical.
Lets be honest, Discovery is a nice ship. I didn't see a speck of dirt anywhere, 99.9% of the crew are fantastic. There is plenty of deck space and the sun beds are comfy. Although the bed grabbers were there at the crack of dawn as always, we never struggled to find availability..
I did read another review which commented that two of the six days were rather rough (my description, not theirs) My response would be to say that it was nothing more than gentle pitching and not nearly approaching rough. Have a ride through the Bay of Biscay on a bad day when all the doors are secured and you are not allowed outside at all. That's rough!!! Yes I agree the upper decks were closed for sunbeds on a couple of days but that was for safety reasons to prevent anyone being injured by airborne sunbeds. Yes it was windy, but if you ride a motor bike at 20mph into a 20mph headwind, it WILL be windy!! The ship was travelling at 18 knots (20mph ish) into a 20 mph headwind. Not much that can be done about that.
Ive had worse transatlantic crossings but none I would describe as being uncomfortably rough and certainly none where abandoning ship became a consideration!!!. Its a great way to get home without jet lag whilst just relaxing or doing whatever takes your fancy on the ship.
We don't do the shows so I cant comment on entertainment.
Overall, we really enjoyed our cruise. So much so, we've already booked again for next year on Discovery and I look forward to once again meeting some great people providing a great experience.
Nice spacious cabin in a good central location. Some of the furniture displayed evidence of the age of the ship. The TV cabinet didn't close properly and was misaligned. All it needed was a technician with a screwdriver but it was never repaired. Bedside furniture was quite badly marked but over all, cabin was clean and comfortable. Nice balcony with comfy chairs and a sun bed. No major issues.