The atmosphere on board was very calm and pleasant; the staff were wonderful – smiles everywhere; and because she is not huge, I could find my way around on board, most of the time. At each lift (no, I didn’t use them once) there is a diagram to show where you are, plus all main venues for each floor are listed, for easy access. Absolutely no excuse for getting lost – facing the wrong direction, on the other hand, was quite easy for some reason in my case, and I invariably had to turn around and retrace my steps to find my cabin!
Cabins are very spacious and well appointed, and mine had both shower and bath which meant that I could have a soak when I didn’t have to rush from one appointment to another – well, from one meal to another! Apart from a lack of coffee/tea-making facilities in the cabin – we decided this was probably due to health and safety reasons – there was nothing missing. For those who couldn’t face a walk to either the Drawing Room or the Verandah to get a drink, there was an extremely efficient 24-hour room service option which meant that anything could be requested at any time of day. This was a definite bonus for the younger element of our party who felt they couldn’t manage to get through the night without a burger! However, the walk meant, for me, that I earned an extra scone at Afternoon Tea time – the best I have ever tasted.
Public areas on board include the very lovely Drawing Room, which is their equivalent of an observation-cum-cabaret lounge; the Library with a good selection of books plus a couple of computer terminals (free wi-fi) for passenger use; card room; chess/backgammon tables; jigsaws constantly on the go; the Britannia Lounge (theatre) where they also hold the afternoon teas; the main dining room Pole to Pole, plus the Asian restaurant East to West (where I had one of the best and most beautifully presented vegetable curries I think I’ve ever had); the Beach Club (fish and chips daily); the Verandah Club (buffet dining); Spa/Hair Salon (sauna, steam room, pool, gym). I couldn’t believe the range of shops on board, where one could buy a postcard, a Radley handbag, or £2000+ worth of pearl necklace (should have tried harder on the lottery!).
I think in the seven days I was on board I tried everything there was on offer: al fresco and restaurant dining (the food was amazing); drink (this was an all-inclusive sailing); Spa facilities; quiz night; dancing; galley and bridge tours; Captain’s Cocktail party and formal dinners (two); sweets and ice creams from the kiosks at the Beach Club on Pool Deck; cake decorating competition (for us agents – my team came 3rd); sunbathing; deck walking (six laps, one mile); shore excursions; oh, and a personal visit to the Medical Facility, which cost me a bit, but at least gave me an insight into what one can expect if that unfortunate! I was very well looked after, thank you.
We did have a very sad experience one day, in that one of our fellow passengers had to be airlifted to hospital, just off the coast of Lisbon. He had fallen downstairs and smashed his shoulder which could not be dealt with entirely by the medical team on board. Having never experienced this close-up before now, I was very impressed by the skill of the staff in quickly clearing the decks of passengers and equipment (chairs, tables etc.), being only given 20 minutes’ notice. The pilot had to hover above the ship whilst the casualty was put on a stretcher which was then winched up to the ‘copter, closely followed by his wife and a member of the crew. Overall, the manoeuvre must have taken a good 30 minutes. Very well done to all involved.
A few things REALLY worth remembering are:
FREE* door-to-door transfers, whether you are sailing out of Southampton or flying from a UK airport.
*First 75 miles are private, up to 250 miles are shared, over 250 miles are charged at £1.40 per extra mile.
The inclusion of travel insurance (with very few clauses, I believe). If insurance is not required there will be a reduction in the cruise cost, dependent on cruise duration.
Included gratuities – tips are not expected whilst on board, although exceptional service can always be rewarded at passengers’ discretion.
Wine with lunch and dinner, unless the sailing is all-inclusive (there are 42 over the coming year) when drinks are included all day.
No cover charge for dining in the speciality restaurant, East to West, but bookings do need to be made. If a sailing is not full it may be possible to book a second (or third) visit.