For a long time now I’ve wondered what the inside of a cruise ship looked like and often wished that it was possible to just pop onboard and have a wander, like having an open day for would be cruisers, or like me, just being inquisitive.Then I discovered Youtube channels of cruise vloggers where I could view ship tours without stepping foot in one. I have to admit that I got quite addicted to these channels and this fuelled a yearning to not just see what was on board but to actually go on a cruise.
Cruise ships have changed over the years both inside and out. Images Cunard, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity
I suggested this to Mr R but he wasn’t at all keen. The thought of being ‘cooped up’ with thousands of people was defininitely not his idea of a dream holiday. Mr R’s idea of a holiday is to be far from people and probably on a remote island The only way that I was going to go on a cruise was to go alone, so that’s what I decided to do.
So, now that the decision had been made I needed to find a cruise that a) I could afford b) that fitted in with the school holidays and c) a ship that suited me.
Easier said than done! Trying to find a cruise that slotted into the school holidays wasn’t easy. There were mini cruises available but I wanted one fthat went or a week so that I had enough days to really get into the whole cruising way of life. A three or four day cruise just wasn’t going to be long enough. It would be great if cruise line companies took into consideration those people who work in education and have fixed holiday dates. We want to cruise too! diffewrent I quickly discovered that my choices were very limited. I could have chosen an all singing all dancing mega ship that was sailing to northern Spain and Portugal or a much smaller ship sailing to the Norwegian Fjords. I discounted the mega ship. Did I need dodgems, water slides and announcements in five different languages? No, not my thing at all, so I took a closer look at cruise possibility number two. The ship was called Ambience and the cruise line Ambassador Cruise Line a company that I’d never heard of before which wasn’t surprising as it is new and Ambience isthat sailing in her maiden year. A sister ship, Ambition is due to join next year but is currently in Scotland accomodating Ukranian refugees. Ambience isn’t a new ship by any means, built in 1991 she was previously The Regal Princess and then Pacific Dawn with P&O Australia. Ambassador bought her and refurbished all of her communal areas and added the company’s striking green and purple branding. She can carry 1400 passengers which is a lot less than the mega ships that can sometimes have around 6000 passengers! What appealed to me instantly was that she was predominantly an adults only ship ( there are a few multi-generational cruises during the summer ), that there is a traditional vibe including a two sittings dinner arrangement and that solo cruisers are well looked after. I also liked that they put on regional coaches to take passengers to Tilbury. Getting to the port loaded with baggage on my own did concern me. I had images of me trying to get across London and having to negotiate escalators and busy underground trains. Knowing that I could get to the port without all of that stress was a big plus in making my decision.
Another big factor in making my final decision was the cruise destination. It was going to the Norwegian fjords, somewhere that I have always wanted to visit.
The lovely Ambience, flag ship of Ambassador Cruise Line
Taking everything into consideration I knew that I had found my cruise. Now could I be brave enough to do it by myself? I hovered over the ” book now” button on the online booking form but only because to me it was a lot of money to part with and not the idea of going alone. That didn’t faze me one iota. I love adventures and if it means going it alone then so be it.
I knew that if I didn’t click that button I would regret it big time. Life is too short to have regrets and “what ifs” so I took a deep breath and clicked that button!
So, how much was my cruise costing me? I paid £1569 for my premium single outside view cabin. My Expedition drinks package which included gratuities cost £266 and my return coach fare to Tilbury was £45 making a total of £1614. It seems a lot but compared to other ships its not. You would pay alot more for an all inclusive Saga cruise. I could have paid less for an inside cabin lower down in the ship if I had wanted to. Being a solo you do end up paying a hefty solo supplement. I was after all one person in a cabin that could sleep two. There are very few ships that have true solo cabins. Norwegian Cruise Line have ships with single cabins that have a single bed and obviously are much smaller. Fine if you like a snug cabin. These cabins do work out slightly cheaper than paying the solo supplement on a cabin inteded for two but you have to book early to be sure of getting one of the solo sized cabins as there are less of them and it could be that you would pay less to book an inside standard cabin. On my cruise there were over 100 solo passengers so the demand for solo cabins is there.
On most cruises you pay for all of your drinks including water. Unless you are on a very short mini cruise, you havethe option of buying a drinks package. There are often different grades of packages available. The cheapest being one for just soft drinks. I chose the most expensive with pretty much unlimited drinks per day. I say unlimited but there is a limit to how much you can order including speciality tea and coffees but to reach that limit you’d be pretty much drinking non stop all day. I’m not saying that it’s impossible and maybe there were passengers that maxed their daily quota but I never saw anyone looking worse for wear! Maybe they just drank cappucinos all day! Gratuities were included in my package. Unless you opt out you will get charged a daily rate which on my cruise was £6 per person per day. The gratuities are divided and given to all members of the incredibly hard working crew including those that work behind the scenes. When you book a cruise you need to take into consideration the additional costs. If you don’t drink much than it’s probably cheaper to pay as you go, but every cruise line charges different rates. The drinks on my ship were very reasonable. A glass of sparkling wine was £3.50, a cocktail around the £5.50 mark. Another big consideration is if you need WIFI which can be very expensive and not always very fast. Unless you really need it, it’s best to wait until you find free WIFI in ports. A good point to remember too is to switch your phone to Airplane Mode whilst at sea to save yourself a huge roaming bill.
Once the cruise booked I could start making lists and plan what to take. I’m used to self catering holidays where I wear the same casual clothes all day. I definitely have no need for anything glitzy or glamerous. Investigating my cruise I discovered that there would be two formal nights and lots of smart nights. Wearing jeans in the restaurant isn’t banned but definitely not encouraged. You can however wear them in the buffet. I needed to go shopping as my posh frocks in my wardrobe hadn’t been worn for about nine years and were two sizes too small. I hate clothes shopping as trying to find something for short, dumpy women is an absolute nightmare. I did buy a dress, but it turned out to be a disaster and never got worn. More about that in part two!
I do love my social media so joined several Ambassador passenger and friends Facebook groups. A great way to connect with fellow cruisers and ask questions regarding cruises with the company. I found this really beneficial although I was, maybe somewhat naively, surprised by how many people used the groups to moan about everything and anything. There were ocassions reading negative comments when I wondered if I was doing the right thing.
Weeks before the cruise I bought my travel insurance. To go on a cruise you must have cruise cover. Airlifting someone off ship who needs hospital treatment is a very expensive business. The additional cover wasn’t an expensive add on though and only cost me an extra £8 but obviously this will depend on who you buy your insurance with, your age and any medical conditions you may have. I bought my insurance through Holiday Extras and cost me £34.
The last thing that I had to do besides pack my case was to take a Covid test. Different cruise lines have their own policies on testing. I believe some have done away with it. For my cruise I had to do a test and have a negative result in order to travel. I was sent a test in the week before travelling free of charge. I needed to register it and send the result in orde to get my negative certification. Doing the test was the most nerve wracking part of the cruise. I had sinusitis running up to my embarkation day and felt heady. A positive test would have meant that my cruise was over before it had begun. Fortunately it was negative. So with my bags packed, my paperwork, including my covid negative test and covid passport, I was ready to go. I was excited about finally walking up that gang plank, seeing the inside of the ship for the first time and getting settled into my cabin. Wondering would I feel confident enough to talk to people? Would I feel lonely at anytime? Would I suffer from sea sickness?
But I won’t tell you about my time at sea right now, You have done well to get this far. I’ll be posting about the actual cruise in the next day or two. Hope that you decide to wait until then.
Meanwhile here are some of the Youtubers who I found really helpful when planning my cruise.