Ambassador Cruise Line christened its new ship Ambition at Newcastle's Port of Tyne on Thursday.
Cruise Critic was on board for two nights after Britain's double Olympic gold medal sailor Shirley Robertson OBE renamed the 1999-built ship before its maiden voyage to northern France and Spain.
Watched by 500 invited guests, godmother Shirley Robertson, pressed a big red button on stage in the Palladium Theatre to release a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne which successfully smashed over the ship's bow.
She's a great choice as godmother -- gritty and determined, Robertson was spurred on to win Gold at Sydney then Athens after the misery of coming fourth in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; a story she told to the audience.
Celebrations started with an excerpt from "Night In Nashville" -- a lively country and western-themed song and dance show -- and finished in the small hours dancing in The Cavern to an ABBA tribute band.
Ambassador CEO Christian Verhounig is particularly attached to 1,200-passenger Ambition because he worked for Festival Cruises when it launched the ship, then called Mistral, in 1999. It's been through several cruise lines since then, ending up with AIDA Cruises as AIDAmira until Ambassador bought it in 2022. Now its all-white exterior has Ambassador and Ambition emblazoned on the bow in the line's distinctive purple lettering, while the public spaces inside have been reconfigured and refitted in warm and welcoming colours with plenty of natural light. Our favourite bar was Purple Turtle Wine Bar, with deep purple walls and cleverly lit cabinets displaying some of the huge number of wines available on the ship. Most of the other bars and restaurants are named after significant British landmarks and buildings. Among them is terracotta-coloured Angel Bar, a nod to the ship's homeport as it is named after Antony Gormley's Angel of The North sculpture at Gateshead, and bathed in light as it overlooks the atrium. The Cavern on deck 7 has a Liverpool vibe, with giant pictures of the city's famous buildings near the entrance to what is undoubtedly the ship's liveliest venue, with a stage for bands and circular dance floor.
The main restaurants are also impressive. The light-filled Buckingham, has a discreet Chef’s Table for special occasions, while smaller Holyrood is quiet and more intimate. Deck 11’s Borough Market buffet gets very busy, although its decor -- strange but realistic-looking trees dotted around among the tables -- is fun and quite theatrical. The food is well presented and tasty, but nobody’s claiming it’s gourmet level -- not at these prices. However, the gorgeously atmospheric Saffron, an Indian restaurant with a £20 cover charge, promises to be superb. Unfortunately this and the other speciality restaurant Lupino’s, a jolly semi-alfresco Mediterranean eating place, were both closed during our brief two-nighter before the ship’s dual embarkation from Newcastle and Dundee.
As for the cabins, there’s an impressive choice of suites, balcony, ocean view and inner cabins ranging from 452 square feet to 140 square feet. There are also five categories of single cabins from 237 to 75 square feet. Our junior suite was a spacious 237 square feet compared with the average 140, and had blond wood vinyl walls, a walk-in wardrobe and two newly fitted UK plug sockets as well as two USB slots and two 220V sockets. The bathroom was the only hint of the ship’s longevity. There was no sign of the marble floors and surfaces of new-build luxury ships but there was plenty of space for a tub and overhead shower. After all this is "premium value", which translates as affordable, and after the success of Ambassador’s first ship, Ambiance, it’s clear that the UK market loves it.