When we woke up this morning, it was with the happy knowledge that, once again, we would be setting off on a cruise! 😊 Yes! We were due to drive out to the Port of Tyne this afternoon to join M/S Ambition, one of the two ships of the Ambassador Cruise Line. We hadn’t tried Ambassador before so we were looking forward to seeing what they were like; they’d certainly attracted very mixed reviews.
The weather was warm, but cloudy when we left the house. It’s just our luck that, despite absolutely glorious summer weather for most of June, the heatwave seemed to have passed now and there was a threat of rain and thunderstorms.
We arrived at the Port of Tyne in good time where we soon spotted the distinctive purple and green funnel with a large stylised “A” on it. The Ambition was alongside the DFDS ferry, Princess Seaway, and we experienced that usual little frisson of excitement at the first glimpse of our home for the next eight nights.
There were plenty of people in high-vis jackets to direct us to the car park and, once we were parked, take our luggage to be delivered to our cabin on board. It was just before 2.00pm as we entered the cruise terminal, and it seemed most people were already on the ship as we were able to go straight to the check-in desk and receive our cruise cards. Then it was time to board the little shuttle bus which would take us to the ship. 😊
We happily made our way up the gangplank and into the comfortable interior of the Ambition. Although the ship was built in 1999, she had recently undergone a refit and refurbishment at Bremerhaven, so everything was fresh and new and looked clean and well-maintained.
We entered a large lift which took us up to Deck 9. Walking aft along a long corridor, we soon arrived at cabin 9187, a superior ocean view. We were happy with this cabin; when we first booked this cruise in April we were informed that all the balcony cabins and ocean views were sold out, and there were only inside cabins left. At the time we decided that a cruise in an inside cabin was better than no cruise at all, but now we found we’d been upgraded to an ocean view anyway! 😊
The cabin was small but adequate with twin beds underneath the window, a bedside cabinet with a shaded lamp each, a dressing table and stool, and a small TV mounted on the wall. The wardrobes were long enough to contain my evening dresses and had enough space for me to place all my shoes neatly in rows. 😊 There were also several drawers and cupboards. Certainly enough storage space for an 8-night cruise, although we might have struggled for a longer voyage.
The bathroom was tiny and contained a shower cubicle, WC and sink with a large mirror above; I was pleased to see that the mirror had lights all around it. Bottles of shower gel, shampoo and body wash were affixed to the wall in the shower cubicle, and a bottle of hand wash was similarly attached above the sink.
We were also surprised, but very pleased, to see a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket with a couple of flutes. Ambassador is a ‘value’ cruise line with no frills, so we weren’t expecting champers, but a note accompanying the fizz welcomed us on board and said we had booked when a special promotion was on, hence the complimentary champagne.
We were travelling all-inclusive in any case, so we decided we’d keep the champagne and take it home to enjoy; it’s not as if we had a balcony to sit out on and enjoy it. 😊
One we’d dumped our bags we decided to go and get something light to eat in the self-service buffet, charmingly called Borough Market on board Ambition. We didn’t want to have too much because early dinner sitting on this ship is early indeed – 5.45pm. I therefore just enjoyed a plate of salad greens and some ham, washed down with a glass of chilled rosé wine.
We then had a wander around the ship. The weather was warm, but still cloudy, and we were pleased that the forecast rain had so far kept off. The Ambition, at 48,000 tons, is a small ship (by today’s standards) and carries 1200 passengers. We walked around the deck from stern to bow along the sports deck, overlooking the pools and hot tubs. A bar featured at each end of the pool deck, with a stage in the middle for outdoor performances and deck parties. Some sunloungers were in use as well as tables and chairs and comfortable wicker sheltered sofas containing lots of cushions. It all looked lovely, and our first impressions of the ship were very favourable.
When we returned to our cabin we saw that our cases had arrived, so we spent some time hanging up all our clothes or folding them neatly into drawers. We then had time to go for a drink at the pool bar before life-boat drill at 4.15pm.
There was an amazing selection of drinks on board – premium spirits, beers, wines, aperitifs, and soft drinks and mixers, as well as an extensive cocktail list. The bar prices were very reasonable indeed if you chose to pay as you ordered, we, however, had been given the ultimate drinks package as part of the promotion when we booked. It covers all drinks – premium brands, cocktails and speciality coffees and teas. The Expedition Package (as it’s known) also entitles you to £40.00 per person off an organised excursion. So very good value for money. 😊
Presently, we heard the seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle, followed by one long blast – the emergency signal that told us to proceed to our muster station at Lifeboat 12. As we arrived we had our names ticked off the list and had to listen to the safety drill as well as watch how to put on a lifejacket. It didn’t take long, however, and then our time was our own.
Back in 9187, it was time to get washed and changed and make our way to our allocated table, number 2, in the Buckingham Restaurant. We always try to book a table for six as we enjoy the interaction with our fellow passengers and we have made some good friends over the years. The other two couples were already at the table when we arrived; Paul and Carol from Liverpool and David and Chris from Blackpool, the latter of whom were first-time cruisers.
Our table was quite near the window, so we were able to see when the Ambition cast off and set sail, gliding upriver towards the Tyne Basin, before she was able to turn around and head for the North Sea. Our cruise had begun! 😊
Our waiter introduced himself as he brought the menus, and took our drinks orders at the same time. We ordered a glass of house rosé each, then I made my selection from the menu; a seafood cocktail to start followed by a crisp garden salad, and roast lamb and mint with duchess potatoes and a selection of fresh vegetables. It was followed by the cheeseboard with coffee and a glass of Amaretto each.
For a budget cruise line, the meal surpassed our expectations; the service was a little slow but the food was worth waiting for when it came, and the waiting staff were cheerful and obliging. We enjoyed our meal very much indeed, as well as the company on our table, where we discussed cruises and ports visited in the past as well as those we have booked for the future.
We heard Paul mention that there was a trivia quiz at 7.30pm, so we asked if we could join their team and the four of us went down to the Cavern where the quiz was to be held.
The quiz consisted of 20 general knowledge questions and they were quite hard; we only scored 14 out of 20 but it was enough to put our team into the tie-breaker. One member of each team (I was elected from our team) had to go onto the stage where we were asked the tie-breaker question, “How many episodes of Thunderbirds were broadcast in the 1960s?” As it always seemed to be on TV when I was a kid, I guessed 180, and the other guy said 24 – a big difference. In fact, there were only 30 episodes broadcast which amazed me, so the other guy won a prize of an Ambassador Cruises bottle opener key ring! As he said he’d already won three of them, he donated it to me. 😊
After the quiz, Paul and Carol went their separate ways while Trevor and I decided to have another wander around the ship, getting the feel of the vessel and well as finding our way around. The ship was clean with bright carpets and walls and light-wood furniture. While some people might call it ‘sparse’ I would actually prefer to call it clean-cut or minimalist / understated. It didn’t have frills and flounces and chandeliers, velvet curtains or plush furniture, but the effect was very appealing all the same; lots of light and space.
A 9.30pm we returned to the Cavern where they were having a music quiz in which you had to name the song, the artiste and decade the song was released. The place was packed so there were only seats at the bar available. We arrived slightly late so we didn’t have a quiz paper; we decided just to play for fun. We wouldn’t have won in any case; the same guy (Ian from Falkirk) who had given me the key ring also won this quiz! 😊 We remained in the Cavern until it closed at midnight, enjoying some of their cocktails and chatting with people who came over to comment on my shoes (!!) Then we returned to cabin 9187 and settled down for our first night on board Ambition. The North Sea had barely a ripple on it, so it was lovely and calm, and we slept very well indeed.