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Ambience, North America

4

As we have sailed with 6 very different cruise lines, varying from the high class to the expedition type, well known family ships as well as a couple of cruise lines aimed at the over 50s and mainly adult only, I felt we were well appointed to form an opinion of the new Ambassador Cruise Line and their first ship, Ambience. We have never chosen to cruise on a ship much over 3000 passenger size as the behemoths do not interest us at all (the smallest we have sailed on was just 528 passengers) so with the Ambience being around the 1400 passenger mark, I thought it would suit us very well.
BOOKING PROCESS: We booked directly with Ambassador in 2021, around 15 months ahead of the cruise date which was September 2022. The booking process was easy and the call handlers were very friendly, polite and efficient. I had to call a couple of times in the intervening months and we always received a high level of service from the call staff. The “My Ambassador Sailing” app was easy to use and allows you to view any bookings, make payments, fill in your personal details (passport information etc.) and in the weeks approaching your sailing, you can view and book excursions, all reasonably priced in my opinion.
I had always wanted to cross the Atlantic so the Grand Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Faroes was the ideal itinerary. The price was very reasonable too and we chose to have the expedition drinks package which included all drinks, cocktails, specialist coffees and bottles of water as well as all soft drinks and fruit juices. Their drinks packages also include gratuities, so we were now virtually all-inclusive. As with most cruise lines, you can spend money on board even if you are all-inclusive as there are shops, an ice cream parlour, some craft activities, specialist restaurants and excursions, not forgetting the launderette if you are onboard for any length of time to spend some money on but you could at least forget the bar bill!
EMBARKATION: We were allocated a boarding time of 3pm and as we had to arrive 2 hours early, we dropped our suitcases off at the cruise terminal and headed to the nearby pub to wait for our check-in time. This sailing had an unusual requirement, the ArriveCAN app to allow entry to Canadian ports. It caused chaos for embarkation. We joined the queue at 2.45 and did not enter the building until 4pm so we had an extremely long wait, and everyone’s tempers were frayed. I understand this was a one-off issue and sailings since have had much more efficient embarkations.
CABIN: Cabin (5103) was clean and well laid out, with a huge amount of storage space. The bed was positioned on the side wall, not under the window and there were no extra berths in the cabin. It was on deck 5 and the furthest point at the front of the ship. Great position, near reception and Dickens coffee shop and near to 3 lifts. Our suitcases were in our rooms by the time we went back to our room after lifeboat drill.
DINING: On the first night we went to the Buckingham Restaurant on Deck 7. I was a bit miffed as we had booked 1st sitting (6.15pm) 15 months ago and yet found we had been allocated 2nd sitting (8.15). The Restaurant Manager could only offer us the option to arrive at 6.30pm every evening and ask if they had any spare seats which was not acceptable.
Next time we sail with Ambassador, I will make sure near to the sail date to contact Ambassador to confirm our allocated dining time as we don’t like eating late. We got around this by eating at the Borough Market buffet every other evening. The menu was very similar there.
The Buckingham offer 5 courses every evening, with a good variety of options (bearing in mind we were on board for 34 nights so I was pleasantly surprised that the meals did not repeat). The Buckingham is also open for breakfast and lunch with waiter service.
The Borough Market is the buffet style eatery on Deck 12. Everything is served to you which I prefer to self-service. Nothing worse than seeing people pick food up with their hands and then replace the food and pick up something else! One benefit resulting from Covid I suppose. The buffet had lots of variety, with stations for soups, fruit, a variety of main courses, desserts and vegan options too. Breakfast at the Buckingham has offerings of bread, toast, rolls, pastries, cheese, ham, fruit and freshly cooked eggs and omelettes plus bacon, sausages etc. and a vegan option. Lunch was equally varied and there was an afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes, cream tea scones and jam etc.
By the pool deck, Alfresco Grill is open at various times service burgers, chips and hot dogs.
There are speciality restaurants which you pay an extra fee for. These are Saffron, Sea and Grass and the Chefs Table. There are 2 coffee shops where you can also purchase cakes and pastries as well as a variety of coffees at very reasonable prices. The Coffee House is situated on the pool deck 12 and another is opposite reception on deck 5 and is called Dickens.
DRINK: There are a variety of places to sit and enjoy and drink and chat. SW19 is on Deck 7 above the reception area. Also on deck 7 is Raffles Bar is the place to sit and listen to the pianist and next door is the delightful Botanical Lounge where you will often have a violinist and pianist to entertain you. There is a Pool bar on Deck 12 during the day and the ever-popular Purple Turtle Pub on Deck 8, the one place that it can be hard to find a seat at popular times when there are quizzes or competitions taking place. The Observatory is not only a bar, but an area where ukulele classes may be held during the day as well as ballroom dancing sessions and an evening disco. It has great sea view looking out at the front of the ship and is on Deck 14.
THINGS TO DO: If you like playing cards or doing craft things, Aces and Eights and Kapoors are the places to go. Crafts are often led by hosts who make a small charge to cover materials. Brontes Library is not manned and can be rather higgledy-piggledy at the best of times. You may choose to watch a Vignette with 2 or 3 of the resident actors performing, (these are so popular it can be difficult to find a seat). Other activities are listed on the printed sheet which is left in your cabin each evening with the following days activities shown. These activities include deck quoits, quizzes, and many other things to do.
FITNESS AND LEISURE: A popular activity is walking around deck 14 for exercise. Just over 6 circuits is one mile. There is a pool but I have to add that it is both deep (6ft I am led to believe) and unheated. The hot tubs are at the back of the ship and there is a Spa and Salon on board too. The gym is surprisingly well equipped with quality machines. On deck 14 you will find the Active Studio where fitness classes take place.
OTHER: You can talk to staff about excursions and future cruises on Deck 5. There is a self-service laundry on Deck 10 with washers, dryers and ironing areas. There is a casino if you are feeling lucky and a Big Screen on Deck 12/14.
ENTERTAINMENT: If there was one outstanding thing about our cruise, it was the show team entertainment. It was astonishing! If you are used to the usual set up of 2 male and 2 female singers backed up by muted dancing colleagues, forget it. This group of talented youngsters were all competent singers, dancers and actors, putting on wonderful shows, West End style. One memorable show included a piece from Les Misérables and The Lion King with fantastic costumes and incredible singing and dancing. Some of the costumes worn by the performers were made of 100% recycled plastic drawn from the sea. We even had an opportunity to go back stage to see where the magic begins. It was the best entertainment I have ever seen at sea, and that includes the 5-star lines! There was a great cruise director too who also acted in some of the plays and shows. On other evenings in the Palladium Theatre, there would be singers or comedians. The Palladium has a huge stage which juts out quite far giving good views for most seating.
SERVICE: The crew were friendly and went out of their way to please. There was always someone cleaning the handrails inside and outside on the decks. The customer facing crew were wonderful. Look out for Lovely Jubbly. He is an icon amongst the Borough Market staff and he will cook you the best omelette you have ever had. Some of the friendliest staff at sea.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We took 6 excursions in the 10 ports we visited. We hit hurricane Fiona so sadly missed 3 of our Canadian ports and one Greenland port due to fog. The excursions were fairly priced I felt and we mostly enjoyed them. On occasions, with the age and mobility of some of our fellow cruisers, it took a while to get on and off the coaches, but that is the demographic of the ship. There were mainly retirees on our cruise.
CAPTAIN AND SAFETY: If one thing will remain with me, it was the extraordinary Captain Egil Aune. We have met some rather aloof Captains on our travels but he is definitely the exception to the rule. We met him on a few occasions whilst walking around the ship and found him to be very friendly to passengers and crew alike. We were unable to visit our 2nd port of call in Greenland due to fog, and we also missed 3 Canadian ports of call due to Hurricane Fiona. Captain Aune did not hide away but chose to do a question-and-answer session in the Palladium, giving us information on our trip and why he had taken the decision to stay in the shelter of St John’s harbour whilst the storm wreaked havoc on the ports we had to miss. He is a very experienced Captain and I and everyone I spoke to felt we were in very capable and safe hands with him in charge. We even hit a couple of Icebergs coming into the Greenland port (we heard the crunch and scrape in our cabin at the front of the ship) but it was all done in a safe and planned way as there was a lot of ice in our path. He did say it was a tale we could go home and tell, as not everyone has hit an iceberg and survived! We were fortunate to be invited to the Captains Table during our cruise, a first for us. As I was sitting next to Captain Aune, I reminded him of Mrs Bucket and the wonderful scene when her scruffy brother-in-law, Onslow, had the honour of sitting at the Captain’s table and then complained that “they expect you to eat with the crew!”. Well, Onslow, we loved it!
DISEMBARKATION: Sorry to end on a bad note but the scenes in the luggage hall were ones I hope never to see repeated. Lack of trolleys and lack of control by the staff was awful. I am not sure how much I should blame Ambassador as I think a lot of it is controlled by Tilbury Cruise Centre. I have been assured that it has improved since.
SUMMARY: We are booked on another cruise in 2023 so that speaks volumes. We will not, however, be purchasing a drinks package as my liver could not stand another assault on it so soon after the Canada trip! If you are a heavy drinker, I am sure it is good value but for us it was not worthwhile. The drinks are very reasonably priced with coffee at £2.20, Irish coffee £4.50, beers £3.50-£4.50 and cocktails around £5.50. We will pay the gratuities which are £5 day for longer trips as the staff do receive it and many of them are not customer facing so never have the opportunity to get individual tips. Crew do seem to love sweets and chocolates, so if you can pop some in your suitcase before you board ship, they will be very pleased to receive them as an extra thank you for their excellent service. Ambience may be an older ship, but it is spacious, well run and friendly and I think you will enjoy being onboard.

Gill
Post Date: 03/11/2022
Score
Cruise Overall
4
Ship Overall
4
Dining
4
Service Onboard
5
Accommodation
4
Public Rooms
4
Boarding & Disembarking
2
Excursions
4
Value for Money
5
Review Images
Customer Reviews
Ivan wrote a review in May, 2022
It was the Maiden voyage, so its the shake down cruise. Yes it did need a shake, but all in all it was a very pleasant 4 night journey to Hamburg and back. Entertainment was fantastic, food was up...
Susan wrote a review in May, 2022
Wonderful 5 star food staff couldn’t have been better
GRAEME wrote a review in May, 2022
The ship really needed one or two more weeks preparation to get it ready to take paying passengers. Some areas had not been completed and were not available. There were technical problems, such as plu...
trevor wrote a review in May, 2022

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