Ambassador Cruise Line has launched the second vessel in its fleet, Ambition. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

Ambition cruise ship review: Guaranteed best value at sea

Author: Calum Brown

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Everything you need to know about Ambition, the second cruise ship to join Ambassador’s growing fleet

Ok. It’s time for some honesty.

On paper, Ambition – the new flagship for Ambassador Cruise Line – shouldn’t work. The ship has been passed between cruise providers following a difficult birth some quarter of a century ago, with varying degrees of success under a plethora of different names.

Renovation of an older vessel is also, arguably, more difficult than crafting a new ship from the keel up. There’s an age-old powerplant to modernise for emissions and efficiency, an older structure to restore and the remodelling of vast communal spaces and cabins to undertake.

Furthermore, basing cruise inventories out of Britain’s lesser-celebrated ports remains chancy. If you follow cultured influencers and their quick-burning trends, popular departure destinations usually rest under the warmth of far-flung destinations or British metropolitan juggernauts – including Southampton or Dover.

And yet, staring right into the face of Brexit-sponsored supply chain issues amid fuel shortages and a turbulent post-Covid landscape, Ambassador has trumped all the odds to produce a masterpiece of style and demographic appreciation.

Ambition may have originally set sail as Mistral before the turn of a new millennium, but she’d fool you. The 1200-passenger vessel – renamed during a tasteful ceremony at Newcastle’s Port of Tyne on May 11, 2023 – offers all the convenience of contemporary cruising, but with an intimately old-school charm largely ignored by time’s clinical march towards design banality.

The best bit? By modernising a mature ship over the pricey construction of a new vessel, Ambassador has hit the sweet spot; offering quality cruises at a less-exclusive price band. The company tagline is “Best value at sea”, and we are inclined to believe it.

Ambition's style and character make for the perfect blend of ship and hotel. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

Style and character
Ambition is the second liner to join Ambassador’s cruise fleet, and she follows the trail set by her sister ship – Ambience.

The ship’s style has been heavily influenced by British hotels; draped in an easy-going mantra that offers bright and airy communal spaces alongside a mixture of glass, brass and smart carpets.

The onboard visuals mix a perfect blend of intimate comfort with understated furnishings. The ship’s complexion doesn’t scream about overbearing efforts to assault your senses, which is a relief. This feels like a breath of fresh air compared with all-too-common 'try hard' voyages.

Instead, interiors remain homely with clean lines, muted regality and an abundance of nautical allure.

There’s a healthy dollop of artwork to complement proceedings, too. A particularly nice touch can be found in the ‘Angel Bar’, where funky installations showcasing Newcastle’s iconic Angel of the North are on display.

The ship’s character is very much that: a ship. With Ambassador’s plan to refurbish a 25-year-old cruise liner, efforts could have taken a recurrent route and gone for the clinical ‘hotel at sea’ approach.

Instead, we were hugely impressed by Ambition and delighted that her identity has been retained.

We felt so comfortable in our cabin that disembarking for home felt painful. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

You’ll find 713 cabins on board Ambassador’s new flagship, incorporating De-Luxe, Premium, Superior Junior, Junior, Premium Balcony and Standard Suites. Balconies are available with De-Luxe, Premium, Superior Junior and Premium Balcony cabins. Other cabin types – including Premium Twin and Single Inner – are also available.

Regardless of which cabin you choose, the high-quality fixtures and fittings push each room well beyond the expectation afforded by such an attractive price tag.

World of Cruising stayed in a Superior Junior Cabin. Want a shock? It offered everything a passenger could possibly need.

Wardrobe and cabinet storage was more than generous for two people’s worth of stuff, while the bed proved comfortable enough to defy the alarm clock.

Our cabin was such a home-from-home that locking the door for the final time prior to disembarking felt genuinely difficult. From the well-equipped in-room facilities to the cosy climate, Ambassador has successfully made each suite more than a simple cabin.

If you find fingernail marks in the doorframe, that'll be the cabin we had, such was the force required to turf us out.

Security is covered, too, from a lockable safe carefully hidden from view to a fridge that’s perfect for storing chilled items (such as insulin), while the couch (which folds out to make another sleeping option) is accompanied by a dual-purpose footstool/table. You’ll find chocolate-coated strawberries there upon arrival. Ours didn’t last long.

The bathroom supplies ample room for manoeuvre, and although a couple of tardy eyesores regarding the bathroom grouting made themselves apparent, everything was clean and fully functional where it counts.

Are you a Foodie? Ambition offers a huge array of dining options. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

Food and drink
You’ll want to board Ambition with an appetite. There’s a great range of restaurants and bars to enjoy (or, in our case, gorge upon). Ambassador’s top-deck Borough Market remains the perfect place to transform from passenger to freight tonnage.

Each serving offers a wealth of different options in a casual buffet format that ensures you won’t leave hungry. We can assure you that breakfast is not to be missed. Neither is lunch or dinner, for that matter.

Then there’s the Buckingham Restaurant, which normally functions in an identical manner to the Borough Market, but transforms into a Gala venue on certain sailings. If you seek up-market surroundings for your meal, then this is the place to go; especially if you fancy Buckingham's exclusive five-course à la carte experience.

When it comes to drinking establishments, Ambition has every taste catered for. The Purple Turtle is more than worthy of your time when hunting down a crisp glass of wine, whereas the Pendennis Bar provides all manner of fine beverages alongside classy live music.

The food and drink on board, regardless of venue, is more than the typical cruise fare. Ambassador has gone above and beyond to provide a dining experience more commonly found in swanky city establishments. Why not book a longer inventory, so you can try everything?

Here's the full list of bars and restaurants available:

  • The Cavern - live music venue with cabarets, gameshows and quizzes
  • Clifton Lounge – classical music
  • Consulate Bar – poolside outdoor bar
  • Angel Bar
  • Purple Turtle Wine Bar
  • Pendennis Bar – with pianist/vocalist entertainment
  • Buckingham Restaurant – breakfast is buffet-style with a daily special served to your table. Lunch is also buffet-style for salads, soups and desserts, with a served main course. Dinner is a five-course a la carte experience.
  • Holyrood Restaurant – serving dinner
  • Borough Market – serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner
  • Lupino’s – Mediterranean speciality restaurant serving dinner
  • Saffron – speciality Indian fine dining restaurant serving dinner
  • Chef’s Table – intimate, exclusive dinner experience
  • Alfresco Grill – serving casual eats

Dietary requirements including vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, low cholesterol, low fat, low salt, vegan, Kosher & Halal can be catered for. If you ask nicely, they may even allow you to carry a tray of hash browns to your cabin. Not that we know that from experience...*cough*.

The Green Sea spa on Ambition gets five stars from World of Cruising. Credit: James Gambling

Service and facilities
Although we were only aboard for one night, we took it upon ourselves to experience everything that Ambition had to offer. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. And Ambassador certainly made it tricky; courtesy of an irresistible array of services and facilities.

Besides the open-air swimming pool and accompanying bars (recommended), Ambition offers an extensive library (also recommended) alongside a well-equipped gym and spa (wildly recommended).

Although drawn in by the offer of herbal tea, we remained in the Green Sea Spa to sample the exquisite treatments for research purposes. Honest.

We’d encourage you to sample the sauna and make use of the onboard relaxation chambers. These warm, glass-fronted rooms provide unparalleled views of the outside world – making the perfect escape from dangerous thoughts around the next buffet serving.

Sessions in the spa area aren’t always complimentary with your ticket, so best check your package or enquire with Ambassador. You won’t regret it.

There’s plenty of chance for exercise within the confines of the ship, too. A walk-around promenade deck spans the length of Ambition for those looking to stretch their legs in the open air, with a splash pool to be found towards the front.

There’s also a great number of toilets throughout each public space, with disabled access facilities easy to find, when nature calls. Sounds strange to mention that, perhaps, but with so much fine food and drink - you are bound to get caught out! Take that advice for free.

Finally, a shopping galleria can be found on deck five for all your impulse purchases – including confectionary, soft drinks and souvenir trinkets.

Looking for Broadway, but not in Broadway, that isn't tacky? Ambassador has you covered. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

Cabaret? Musicals? Comedy? If you must. Enrichment, education and fulfilment? Oh, go on then.

It can never be claimed that Ambassador lacks diverse range when it boils down to entertainment. Firstly, there’s an army of onboard theatrical talent who appear to take great pride and joy in demonstrating their skills.

Then there are the Broadway-style shows that have been choreographed to avoid the stereotypical tackiness commonly associated with such acts. Further to that, the onboard Cabaret venue – named The Cavern – provides enough scandalous humour, glamour and elaborate staging to set the senses alight.

If you are seeking a quiet evening to appreciate a conversational nightcap, there are a number of quieter drinking areas peppered throughout the vessel. The auditorium is also the perfect place to enjoy stand-up comedy or a lecture, depending on the itinerary Ambassador provides for each voyage.

We could only sample a small portion throughout our visit, but we’ve been promised there’s lots more to be announced.

See that purple colour on the funnel? It symbolises the best value at sea. Credit: Ambassador Cruise Line

Value for money
Ambassador took a sizeable risk plunging £10 million into a refurbishment plan. Yet, the British start-up has succeeded with merit. The ship’s parentage was perhaps chaotic, but its new purpose and character feel wholly unadulterated.

While the price range for Ambassador’s cruise inventory may leave those with a double-barrelled surname assuming a subpar level of quality, it won’t leave more realistic individuals reaching for the smelling salts, either.

A typical 12-night voyage around the British Isles can be had for £599, whereas a 21-night trip to the Mediterranean retails for £1499. If you fancy splashing out, a 120-night world cruise costs £8579.

The entire mantra for Ambassador revolves around 'best value at sea', and we firmly believe they have cracked it. Ambition gives some dignity back to the 'value' term.

Ambition’s deep luxury stems from the ship’s space and capabilities, mated to a level of facility and care largely unseen in the “value” price bracket.

Not all drinks are part of the ticket price, but almost all of the food can be had without dipping into your bank account. And it’s good food, as attested to by our new-found relationship with the serving staff in Ambassador’s Brougham Market.

One great benefit also stems from UK-based destinations. You don’t have to hop aboard long flights to far-flung locations before the cruise starts, taking that stress off your shoulders.

Courtesy of self-service laundry and complimentary WiFi, not to mention excursion vouchers and gratuitous entry to certain sporting events along your journey, there’s literally no reason to stress.

One passenger summed it up perfectly. As we begrudgingly headed for the exit, he asked: “Is there any reason to leave?”

We couldn’t find one.

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About Calum Brown

Calum holds a deep interest in all things heritage and remains one of Britain’s most enthusiastic historians.

As a seasoned journalist, he has spent considerable time abroad and relishes all forms of transport. Shipping is in the blood, with a family connection to Stena Line embedded in his DNA. He also refuses to admit that 21st Century music exists.

Calum has developed a skill for bringing history alive, and always insists on making heritage accessible for everyone.