Sally Dowling sails off to find out.
Ambassador Cruises launched in 2019, with their first ship ‘Ambience’ sailing in April 2022 with their second ship, ‘Ambition’ due to come into service in 2023. I was invited to join one their first cruises to Norway with my husband Clive.
The brand promises premium value with affordable prices, no fly cruises from several UK ports and smaller sustainable ships. Just what many of us have been waiting for.
Ambassador are aiming at the adult only market, with some multi-generational itineraries during school holidays. A selection of popular themed cruises is planned to include Cricket Legends to meet Mike Gatting and friends, whale watching with a team from ORCA and a ‘Supercraft ‘workshop with crafting guru, Julie Peasgood.
Our cruise was themed as ‘Voices of Radio’ and a group of famous DJs from the 60’s and 70’s joined on board. Familiar names such as Mike Read, Chris Baird and Tony Prince entertained us with amusing anecdotes as they reminisced about their years broadcasting on pirate radio.
While many people feel big is better when it comes to cruising, I prefer a smaller ship, so Ambience got a big tick from me. With a maximum of 1400 passengers the ship soon became familiar and best of all, I didn’t get lost!
When it comes to responsible tourism, Ambassador have heavily invested in upgrading the ships operating systems to ensure Ambience complies with highest emissions standards worldwide. The company are committed to keeping plastics and paper to a minimum, protecting our oceans and recycling wherever possible.
On Board Ambience
As you board Ambience the first impression is of space as you enter the stunning 3 story atrium reception on Deck 5 which is known as Centre Court. This is a great place to meet up with friends, enjoy a drink, book your shore excursions, known as ‘destination experiences’, or even your next cruise.
On the 2nd & 3rd floor of the atrium, is the shopping galleria tempting guests with gifts and essentials.
As well as upgrading the engine rooms, Ambassador have also tastefully renovated all the public areas to include the lounges, bars, restaurants, and outdoor spaces. Premium suites have been fully updated and the remaining cabins will also soon be given the Ambassador touch. Although a little dated, I found my cabin, an outside superior twin, spacious with ample storage, very comfortable, and spotlessly clean. The beds are all new and super comfy and the shower worked well. All cabins have tea and coffee making facilities so beloved by Silver Travellers!
The ship has two main dining areas; Buckingham is an elegant venue with full waiter service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Borough Market is a casual self-service option with an array of different cuisines. Whichever you choose the quality and variety of food is exceptional and probably the best I have ever enjoyed on a cruise. On the much loved ‘formal nights’ we were treated to delicious banquets in Buckingham’s with the obligatory baked Alaska parade to finish.
Afternoon tea and late-night canapes are included and always popular, and for those in-between times you will find cakes, pastries, and gelato ice cream on sale throughout the ship.
In addition, there are a choice of dining options that carry a small supplement; ‘Saffron’ offers an Indian gastronomic experience with an innovative 3 course menu for £14.95 per person. My personal favourite was ‘Sea & Grass’, so good we ate there twice. The supplement is £24.95 for an exceptional 7 course menu. An unusual initiative for cruising is ‘The Chef’s Table’. Make sure to put your name down early as there is a maximum of 15 places for this imaginative feast. Be prepared for an entire evening given over to glorious food and drink. The menu is 9 courses with wine pairing and costs £89 per person. You will also receive a signed menu, a visit to the incredibly well organised galley and a chance to meet the talented Executive Chef, Sidney Dias. It really is a memorable event.
Ambassador offer a selection of drinks packages depending on your preferences. I found prices on board reasonable with beer at £4 and cocktails £5. Regular tea and coffee from machines (very acceptable) are available 24 hours and at no extra cost. Certain venues serve speciality teas and coffee that are chargeable.
For the more energetic there is a well-equipped gym on deck 2 alongside the beautiful Green Sea Spa: I know which one I preferred! The spa has been tastefully designed to evoke an atmosphere of calm and relaxation and there are some well priced packages available. I enjoyed an hour ‘taster treatment’ comprising a selection of different massage treatments for £64. Top tip is to book a treatment as soon as you can after embarking as the slots soon fill up. Lido Deck has a swimming pool and splash pool surrounded by sun loungers and served by the Pool Bar. The Sun Deck is where you can take laps of the ship or join a yoga class in the Active Studio.
As with all cruises the days are action packed, if that is what you want. Craft sessions are always available in a purposefully designed craft studio and sea days are a great opportunity to learn something new.
The daily newsletter carries a long list of activities, games, quizzes, and lectures, or you can just choose to find a comfy seat and watch the ocean drift by. After dinner everyone flocks to the Palladium Theatre. The venue has waiter service so you can enjoy the performance with a drink or two. As with the food, I found the standard of entertainment very high. A talented troupe of young singers and dancers performed some memorable shows and Lloyd Hollett, the Comedy Wordsmith, had us in stitches on a couple of nights.
Ambassador don’t have shore excursions; they offer Destination Experiences and on our cruise to Norway there was a wide choice in each port. For guests who prefer to take things easy the ‘@ease’ options were just that, taken at a slower pace. We like a more active time so chose to take a cable car up to the snow-covered peaks above the town of Voss. In Bergen we boarded a smaller boat to explore deep into the narrow fjords for some fabulous views. The pretty port of Flam is famous for its mountain railway, and we took the train partially up the mountain and hiked back to the ship, with a herd of goats unexpectedly joining us!
In our last port, Hagerfjord, we joined a hike to the lighthouse at Ryvarden. Norwegians are generous hosts and a delicious waffle, jam and cream often appeared when we stopped along the way. In late April we were also blessed with incredible weather and the blue skies and even bluer sea made for some fantastic photos.
Sailing from Tilbury was a first for us and we found it easy to reach by car from our home in Sussex. For passengers coming from further afield Tilbury has a train station and there was also shuttle coach service from London Victoria or discounted regional coach pick-ups. Ambassador’s programme for 2023/24 is featuring departures from several UK ports including Bristol, Liverpool, and Newcastle.
We really enjoyed our first cruise with Ambassador, we loved the friendly atmosphere of Ambience and feel sure the brand will do well and soon have a loyal following.
Find out more about Ambassador Cruise Line by calling our Silver Travel Advisors to get all the details and book on 0800 412 5678.