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Article from TNU MAY 2024

CRUISING May 2024

Queen Anne joins the fleet plus Ambassador Ambition review

Queen Anne has joined the Cunard fleet and will make her maiden voyage Friday 3 May to Lisbon.

The 113,000-tonne ship joins Cunard's fleet of queens - Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.

Following a 14-day cruise to the Canary Islands, she is due to embark on a cruise around the British Isles with stops including Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, Belfast and Cobh.

The voyage also includes a naming ceremony at Cunard's "spiritual home" of Liverpool on 3 June.


Ambassador Cruise Line made its debut in April 2022 with Ambience, 70,000 tonnes and a maximum of 1,400 guests.  It offered value for money with a very experienced team, mainly drawn from Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), which failed in July 2020 due to the pandemic.  

Nevertheless it is the new kid on the block determined to develop a product that will entice newcomers, welcome returnees and send guests home having felt that they have had value for many.

TNU’s Editor-in-Chief (and wife) joined Ambience in September 2022 for an around-the-UK trip including a visit to Belfast where we learnt that Queen Elizabeth had passed away on 8 September.  Ambassador dealt with the unexpected news in a very professional manner.

For his review of this cruise see www.btnews.co.uk/article/19639

This was backed by reader Glenn Vald's very positive response, he a north London resident.
www.travelnewsupdate.co.uk/article/373


With a second ship, Ambition, in service for a year, April 2024 seemed a good time to join her on “A Spring Getaway Cruise” for six nights.  Our routing was to give us a sea day, a somewhat bumpy docking at Honfleur (France); Guernsey with very uncomfortable tenders because of the weather; Plymouth moored comfortably in The Sound; a final sunny sea day; and a mid-morning arrival at bleak Royal Portbury, Bristol. 

Neither ship is new but has been completely and tastefully refurbished in all the public areas and complies with all the international regulations concerning safety and environmental issues. The whole ship looks smart and is generally very good.

Ambassador needs to look at the way it organises the compulsory boat safety drill.  It has a digital cabin tv screen system and a filmed demonstration should be added. Getting passengers to stand for some time on the promenade deck on a very cold day is not the answer.

Ambition is smaller than Ambience and comes in at 41,000 tonnes. It originally entered service in 1991 and now is good for 1,200 passengers although for this six-night positioning cruise just 1,100 joined.  The reduction from the original 1,400 makes for plenty of deck space and a relaxed atmosphere on board.

The departure port of Tilbury is extremely easy to use and we were in our cabin within 30 minutes of parking our car. For the record, the holiday fare included a return coach trip back to Tilbury from Bristol, via the M4 and M25.

Both ships had major overhauls before entering service, the public areas very much refreshed and bright, offering a very congenial atmosphere.

Ambassador is an adults-only cruise line but during August the line offers a series of cruises with children which are proving very popular.  

Ambassador styles itself as “Premium value no-fly cruises and the warmest welcome at sea”.  You cannot argue with that.


First impressions count and our arrival on board justified the hype generated by Mobility at Sea, Ambassador’s “well-being” partner, a company established in 2008 with a specific aim of making cruising accessible for all.  Our Premium Balcony provided for a shower within the bath, and whilst a step was quicky delivered this still proved a problem.  A change of cabin to a bathroom with a walk-in shower was quickly provided.  Scooters and other mobility devices are welcome and adjustable profiling beds, airflow mattresses, pillow raisers and toilet accessories are provided.

Let us take a look at Ambition.  

The layout has 19 top grade cabins on Deck 12, all with large balconies, Deck 10 with 80 cabins, each offering the same.  Spread over three decks are 681 more or less identical 190sq ft cabins, some with picture windows, with adequate storage, a dressing table, plus a perfectly acceptable washroom, the shower with a proper door rather than a curtain. Not the largest cabin but more than adequate, with pleasant furnishings perfectly acceptable, the idea being to get out and enjoy the ship.  

No long walks to the three sets of lifts but some lifts do not serve every deck.  Check out where your cabin is when making your booking.

For many guests the dining is the most important part of the cruise and here Ambassador dining is open from 07:00 until late night snacks around midnight.  These days you cannot just offer vegetarian as a meal alternative. A dietary meeting was held on the first morning where the Head Chef explained the offerings and how to order the day before.  All specific queries were satisfactorily answered.  A 24-hour chargeable room service is offered and a basic breakfast can be delivered to your room, part of the holiday package.


Borough Market on Deck 11 is self-service but with plenty of staff around to help the less mobile and offers an extensive open deck area at the stern of the ship.  Here afternoon tea is served as well.

Ambassador has gone for a two-sitting service in either the Buckingham (lunch as well on Deck 5) or more intimate Holyrood, ideal if you are just a couple (Deck 6).  Dinner starts at 17:45 but if you wander in around 18:30 they do not rush you.  The quality is very good. There are four courses if you want, with a good choice, but no universal daily meat, fish and vegetarian option if you do not like what is on offer.

The catering was imaginative with typically one day for vegetarians, ravioli stuffed with cheese with cheddar and stilton cream.  The Sunday roast beef was most generous.  Open certain evenings were the Saffron Indian restaurant (+supplement £16.95) facing Holyrood, and Lupino’s (£14.99), a glassed over open area amidships on Deck 11 portside, complete with heaters.   A fine Italian meal.  Opposite, starboard, Alfresco supplied burgers, pizza and associated canapés.  This would have been perfect had the weather been better, but for the most part it was a cold trip.  

The two small pools are not heated, but the hot tubs certainly are, and busy.  There is a large gym and nearby a thermal suite.  The handcrafting sessions seemed to be popular and guest lecturer John Walker provided a hilarious talk “epic personal failures – proof that man’s stupidity knows no bounds”.

The tours desk provided a speaker on the first sea day, repeating what was in the brochures.  Several fellow guests expressed an opinion that a more detailed expert was required for those who were getting off the ship with little knowledge of the port. No daily newspaper.

When it comes to entertainment ours was first class with Liverpudlian Pauline Daniels providing both comedy and singing.  Since 1986 Pauline has been hailed as one of Merseyside’s favourite theatrical daughters and one of the country’s finest actresses.  Lesley Garrett performs on another cruise, Nicky Clarke, the renowned hairdresser, is celebrated globally for revitalizing hair fashion and will be joining the ship on future cruises.  

In December Ambition will need to stock up the cellars for what might be called a ‘cricket tour’.  Joining the ship will be Graham Gooch, Jonathan Agnew, Henry Blofeld and Garry Richardson, the BBC team from ‘Test Match Special’.

For our trip the Palladium theatre was very busy twice nightly, a young British ensemble singing and dancing to recorded music with a series of fine shows performed in front of a simple flat electronic background.  No huge and expensive stage drops needed these days.  We rather liked Dogger Banks and his Motley Crew. The shows included music from Les Misérables, but for us the best was ABBA in the Cavern bar and nightclub, packed out.

There was a wide variety of live music played in different venues over the ship during the evening.

When it comes to tipping, £7 per person per night is added, but if you take the popular drinks package it is included www.ambassadorcruiseline.com/on-board-experience/ambassador-drinks-packages/2024-25-drinks-packages  If yours is a long trip, or you do not want to do any laundry when you get home Ambassador has a laundry service available at £8 per bag load. If you must stay in contact the basic wi-fi comes at £8 per day and works fine anywhere on the ship.  Most  of this report was produced on board.

All the ports we have visited before but here is a brief resume.

Honfleur is a very pretty village clustered around a fishing port but the big attraction is the remarkable Bayeux tapestry in the historical city of that name just over one hour away by road.  If you have not been do not miss it.  Honfleur is the sea outlet of the River Seine and canal cruise ships moor very close to the centre.  Ambassador guests can walk to the village or take the courtesy bus provided which is what we did, staying on board as a storm developed, enough to even rock Ambition. www.ville-honfleur.com

 

 

 

 

Guernsey is a tender port and bad weather can curtail the programme.  Our visit was marginal, but we made it to the island before jumping on the Trident Ferry for a quick look at Herm, the tiny island less than one mile square, 60 inhabitants and during a busy summer season up to 100,000 tourists.  On a less wet and windy day it is possible to take an island perimeter walk in two hours finishing up at the Mermaid Travern and Restaurant or White House Hotel.  No cars, or even bicycles within its confines. www.visitguernsey.com

 

 

 

Plymouth is fast developing as a cruise port, the massive breakwater allowing ships to moor regardless of the weather and offering a short tender ride to the famous Pilgrim Steps and The Barbican.  Close by is the Mayflower Museum, National Marine Aquarium, and the Plymouth Gin Distillery.  It is a short walk to the Royal Citadel and to Plymouth Hoe where Sir Francis Drake allegedly played bowls whilst waiting to take on the Spanish Armada. Being developed is the Royal William Yard, once the home of the Royal Navy but now very trendy.  www.visitplymouth.co.uk

 

 

 

In summary Ambassador is excellent as an introduction to a sea-going holiday.  If you are single there are plenty of individual cabins available and a programme to meet others.  Couples can take it or leave it when it comes to making friends, and this trip saw a number of quiet large groups, happy to spend just under a week together.

For the balance of this year there are numerous cruises available from seven regional UK ports: Belfast, Bristol, Dundee, Falmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tilbury (London).  Themed cruises too.  There ae some real bargains available including Ambience from Tilbury and 14 nights (£999) "Norway's Land of the Northern Lights". For something warmer she sets sail 5 January " Gems of the Caribbean Sea" 39 nights priced at from £2,599.  With Ambition 9 January on offer is a 45 nights day visit to "Cuba and Treasures of the West Indies" starting at £3,079 or £68 per night.  And at the other end of the scale three nights away on 24 October to Amsterdam starts at only £299 this time on Ambience. Prices shown here are correct at the time of publishing.

www.ambassadorcruiseline.com

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