Ambassador Ambiance Cruise Review
I have recently returned from a thirty-two-day Mediterranean cruise on board the Ambassador Ambiance. In this post, I will to give you some idea of my experiences with the ship and my overall impression of the cruise line and what you may want to consider before booking if you are considering cruising with them.
So, let's begin ...
Should You Book a Cruise with Ambassador?
Let me deal with the headline question right up front. Yes - I would cruise with the Ambassador cruise line again and when planning my next cruise, I will be looking to see what Ambassador has to offer. Overall, the cruise line offers excellent value for money and if like me you are looking to visit as many places as possible and explore the world, price is a crucial factor.
Ambiance Public Areas
Ambience is a small ship in comparison with many of the giant vessels that can hold up to three times more passengers. I wondered if being on board a small ship for 32 days I might find the facilities a bit limiting and get bored of the whole thing, and given Ambassador are a value line, I thought that some of the public areas might be a little jaded and in need of a revamp.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find how lovely the ship was. Some areas felt plush, glamorous, and overall, there was little to pick fault with. My favorite bar was the Botanical Lounge which had an upmarket feel and a great setting for a pre-dinner cocktail. The Purple Turtle Pub felt, well, more like a pub! The entertainment team hosted several quizzes here and to be honest, that's not really my thing - but it was always busy so hey-ho. Raffles is the ship's piano bar and each evening the resident pianist did an excellent job in entertaining guests, including taking requests.
On the upper deck is the Observatory which provides panoramic views and seating around the front of the ship with a dance/event area in the middle which was used as a disco in the late evening. I found this a pleasant place to spend an hour reading my book on sea days.
The Palladium Theatre was lovely and one of the nicest I've seen on a cruise so far. The stage comes out a long way into the auditorium and is surrounded by seating. There are loads of space between each row and waiters can serve drinks to passengers which can be placed on a small table available for each seat.
Entertainment on the Ambiance
Overall, the entertainment on board was exceptionally good and this is something Ambassador really focused on. The palladium shows centred around themed shows with the ship's entertainment team singing/dancing to backing tracks. Compared with other cruises there was no live music in the shows. However, the in-house entertainment team worked hard and produced some great shows and events around the ship.
Aside from the in-house entertainment team, there were several nights when specialist acts joined the ship which included comedians and magicians etc. These acts were good and popular with the passengers. Shows were twice nightly to coincide with the restaurant sittings.
In the daytime, the Palladium hosted various speakers who gave talks on the upcoming destinations as well as some specialist guests who gave talks on such topics as crime and forensic investigations. Again, interesting, and popular with passengers.
Shows and talks aside there were various participation opportunities which covered such things as crafting, learning to play the Ukulele and the choir, both of which put on a show in the Palladium on the last day of the cruise.
Or standard twin cabin was adequate and comfortable. It's fair to say the furniture was a little dated, scuffed and worn in places and the one area where the ship's age really showed. On the plus side, there was plenty of storage which on a thirty-two-day cruise is a real bonus.
Our cabin had an oldish fridge which we didn't use and had both UK and USA power points. I took along USB extension leads so that we could charge multiple items at once. The cabin also had a Tv which we did not use.
Before getting on board, I had come across numerous complaints about the air conditioning in the cabins (not working at all/too hot/too cold). I find the air con in most hotels to be a little unresponsive and the Ambiance was no different, but I think this has become a focus and concern for passengers who expect the cabin temperature to be Sahara hot or Arctic cold at the turn of a dial.
We did have two problems with the cabin. Firstly, the door would not open with the key card and secondly, the cabin safe refused to open. Both issues were sorted out by the maintenance team within twenty minutes.
We were allocated a late dining slot for dinner, which given a choice we would not have chosen. However, it's worth giving things a go and after a few days, we found it suited us perfectly well. Our allocated table in the Buckingham Restaurant was for six people who we dined with each evening and got to know well. Again, I would have preferred and chosen a table just for my wife and me had I been given the option, but our dinner friends had some delightful stories and interesting lives which added to the enjoyment. The food in Buckingham was of a good standard, and I could always find something tempting. Our waiters were very friendly and helpful and kept the drinks flowing, which always helps!
Borough Market is a casual "self-service" restaurant. It was always busy and not really a place I wanted to spend any time. Most guests referred to it as the canteen and this is one area which I think should be looked at by Ambassador.
Minor Irritations & improvements!
Signing for Drinks - Although I had purchased drinks package the process in place on the Ambiance required the waiter to take my order and card and input my order into a terminal before ordering my drinks at the bar and then returning to me with a "zero" bill for me to sign. Other ships I have cruise lines have a slicker and more efficient process which reduces delays and wait times.
Borough Market - Whilst there is nothing wrong with the food in Borough Market the process for obtaining food and drinks is time-consuming. Although the layout is in a self-service style, the staff serve everything. This causes long queues and congestion and makes the restaurant feel busy. For example, obtaining a piece of toast requires two members of staff - one to put your toast "order" into the machine and one to add your chosen spread. This is replicated at every station for cereals, fruit yoghurt etc. Hopefully, Ambassador will look at their design and processes in the future and make some improvements.
Demographics - Based on my cruise I would say that Ambassador passenger age profile is one of the highest of any cruise I have been on. Many passengers are infirm and have walking difficulties and many require electric scooters to move about the ship etc. This places a high demand for the ship's lifts. If you're looking for a more active cruise with a younger set, you might find more suitable options elsewhere.
Should you book a cruise with Ambassador cruise line, shortlist them or dismiss them completely? Well, I think you should just book. If you're based in the UK and looking for an affordable and convenient cruising option, then Ambassador may just fit the bill.