The adverts promise the “warmest welcome at sea” and that’s what I received when I cruised with Ambassador to Antwerp, my first time experiencing a cruise ship.
Here’s how I found cruising on Ambassador’s ship Ambition on a three-night cruise from London, Tilbury.
The welcome certainly is warm and everyone was very friendly onboard. Check-in was smooth and, even better, early meaning we had plenty of time to explore the ship and get our bearings before we sailed away from Tilbury. Getting onboard early also meant we had the chance to take advantage of the spa – a freebie – which was a very pleasant experience.
We were incredibly lucky to have such a lovely room for our voyage to Belgium: a category 11, Superior Plus Twin room which looked out over the bow of the ship. Maybe this meant that the it was a little rougher as we crossed the North Sea, but for sailing into and out of the ports, this was a wonderful view.
The room had ample storage space and comfy beds which were made up each day by attentive stewards. The bathroom was cosy but had everything you needed and more, with plenty of towels and space for toiletries and the bits ’n’ bobs you travel with. There was even a kettle and tea and coffee making facilities in the room, ideal for beating the early morning rush at the buffet.
I am reliably informed that food, and the availability of it, is one of the main draws of cruising! First off, we set about exploring the buffet. On the first day, this was offering a variety of foods – from fish and chips to curry – for lunch. Although this was good, finding a cold drink in the buffet proved to be somewhat challenging at lunchtimes.
There was also the rather underutilised alfresco grill, which served pizzas and kebabs. Maybe it was the time of year, or maybe it was just not known about, but there was never many people here and the pizzas were small and a little underwhelming. This would have been the ideal place to serve burgers and chips and fried chicken and other fast food that would have supplemented the buffet nicely.
Dinners are, of course, the main event. Every night, we dined in the restaurant during the first sitting. I did wonder if, being the first sitting, this was the reason that we felt rushed through the courses; the coffee arrived along with dessert.
Having said that, the food was good and there was always something to choose between. Each night, choosing a starter, main and pudding was a challenge!
Breakfasts were simple, although I would suggest going to Ambition’s buffet rather than a restaurant. Although the food is self-service wherever you are, at least getting a tea or coffee is easier at the completely self-service buffet; I did have a long wait for a cup on the morning we decided to visit the restaurant.
Another little gripe would be the afternoon tea. I was expecting a somewhat civilised affair with sandwiches, scones and tea. Instead, we had a free-for-all at a small buffet station as a lot of hungry people descended! Maybe a little more organisation or choice is required here!
When it comes to things to do, Ambition is somewhat lacking. Unlike the bigger cruise ships, it doesn’t have the facilities or the variety. However, there was still always something to do onboard.
The spa, which I mentioned before, is completely free to use and this is a great place to unwind and watch sea go by. I would certainly recommend this as a place to go, especially during time at sea, as it was always quiet and always relaxing. (I did pay for a lovely massage, too, and that was well worth the £44.)
Each night, the entertainment crew put on a show, which was usually followed by a quiz and gameshow and then late-night music. Because of the size of this ship, there were generally only two places to be entertained in: the theatre and the Cavern bar.
The shows were simple, music and dance shows. One night, we had Nashville-inspired songs (although this was stretched somewhat!), then we were treated to circus songs (think Greatest Showman) and on the final night, a medley of Broadway and West End shows.
The other entertainment was, likewise, simple. A quiz, a game show inspired by a TV hit and then music into the night. As this was a shorter trip and we were spending two days in port, we didn’t experience the daytime entertainment options.
Overall, this was a pleasant first-time cruise and it is certainly something I would like to try again. Ambition is not the all-singing and all-dancing cruise ship that I know other cruise lines own and operate but, for the three nights that we were onboard, it was a more-than-pleasant way to be transported to Antwerp.
Could I do more than about a week onboard Ambition? No, probably not. Would I love to do something similar, or even go to Antwerp again? Yes, quite probably! Was it the “warmest welcome at sea”? I have nothing to compare it with, yet, but it certainly felt that way!