After months of waiting, planning, doubts (mainly about the credit card bill that had suddenly got very big) and growing excitement, the morning of my cruise finally I arrived. I’d set my alarm as the last thing I wanted was to oversleep and be in a last minute panic, but I was awake way before it went off, so I crept downstairs, popped the kettle on and checked my paperwork for the upteenth time. I had an hour to myself before taking Mr R a cup of tea and getting ready for my latest solo adventure. I really couldn’t wait for it to start!

The pick up point for the coach was only a ten minute drive from home. Waiting at the stop was Bev and her two friends. Iwas expecting them to be there as Bev is on the same Cruising With Ambassador Facebook group as me and through that we both discovered that we were catching the same coach. That’s the great thing about belonging to such groups, you can make connections before you set foot on a ship. The coach arrived bang on time, a quick goodbye hug from Mr R and we were on our way.

At Tilbury, a port on the Thames estuary, I didn’t have to worry about my suitcase and overnight bag. I wouldn’t see them until they arrived at my cabin a couple of hours later. This meant no lugging or pulling heavy luggage along corridors or ramps. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the embarkation process as it was all new to me, but I needn’t have worried. Someone glimpsed briefly at my negative covid test certificate and I was directed to the boarding queue. A quick check there and I was issued a boarding pass, quickly through security, pause to have my boarding photo taken (you get your photo taken at every oppurtunity by the cruise photographer. Just keep smiling!) and I picked up my cruise card. That was it, all formalities done in fifteen minutes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! With Ambassador (and probably, but I don’t know for certain, other cruise lines ) you are given an embarkation time and they don’t expect you to arrive beforehand in hope that you will get on earlier.It doesn’t work that way. The earliest to embark was the passengers staying in cabins on the top accomodation deck. Each deck is given a time slot. The lowest accomodation deck boards last. If you arrive early you will just have to wait, and Tilbury cruise terminal isn’t like an airport. There are no cafes, bars,restaurants or shops. Just toilets and a water dispenser. As I arrived on the coach after my official check in time I was directed to the boarding line. Others on my coach would have to wait until called.

Image Port of London authority

From arriving at the port to stepping on ship took no time at all. Beats being at an airport hands down.

All aboard!

To be honest, I was hardly aware that I’d walked onto my ship. One minute I was on a gangway, the next I was in a beautiful three storey high central atrium called Centre Court. The colour scheme of greens and hints of purple does remind me of Wimbledon’s famous tennis tournement. Infact London landmarks and postcodes feature often on the ship. Centre Court is the hub of the ship. It’s where the customer service, expedition and future cruises desks are. There’s a few shops, a coffee shop called Dickens, a bar called SW19 ( told you there was a London vibe) photograph gallery and on the first day at sea, where the ship’s departments advertise what’s available. There is I’m pleased to say, no hard sell, unlike from what I gather on other cruise lines.

Time to go and find my cabin. The ship has nine lifts in total, three aft, three midships and three forward. Of course there are stairs too. My cabin was on the 11th deck so I took the stairs from deck five where I’d come aboard to my deck above. That was six decks worth of stairs to climb. With a heavy backpack, I soon wished that I’d taken the lifts! It can take a while to get your barings on the cabin decks and it’s easy to get a bit disorientated. The passageways are long and all look the same. Even after a week I confused my port and starboard side and tried to get in a cabin that wasn’t mine. There are plenty of direction signs though. One thing that did make me smile was that the design on the orange carpets reminded me of the Corona virus!

My cabin was number 11221 and was at the aft of deck 11. It is classed as a premium oceanview solo cabin. It is premium only because of it being on deck 11 which embarks and disembarks early. There are twin beds but you can ask for them to be pushed together to make a double. I was happy for it to remain as two singles. My first impressions of my cabin was that it was a decent size and that it was dated, but I had been prepared for this so wasn’t surprised. There are non descript prints on the beige walls, brown striped carpet and heavy cream curtains. Apart from my bed there was a bedside table and desk cum dressing table unit in dark wood, a bucket type arm chair with a small round table. My cabin had what was classed a restricted view but this was just the edge of some metal work that obscured the view slightly to one side. My neighbouring cabin’s view would have been alot more obstructed by the metalwork than mine. I would suggest that if you do get an obstructed view cabin, check how obstructed it it. The window in my cabin could have been cleaner on the outside but I imagine that its a real task cleaning ships windows! The television mounted on the wall was no bigger than Mr R’s computer monitor and the channels available were few. This was not a problem for me as I had no intention to watch TV on my cruise but could be if you were on a long cruise and wanted a quiet evening in your cabin, was feeling under the weather or unfortunately were confined to your cabin for testing positive to Covid during your cruise. The room was chilly from the air conditioning when I arrived but it did warm up. The air conditioning is not the best. The dial control doesn’t work and it is noisy but personally I was happy with the cabin temperature and the noise didn’t bother me. If you are sensitive to noise then I would suggest taking ear plugs. There are two lamps. Not particularly bright for reading at bedtime but they made the cabin cosy. The hairdryer is one of those on the wall types. I took my own hairdryer, and there is a kettle, mugs and tea and coffee. No biccies though! A bottle of water is provided but you are charged £1.50 and it’s not included on a drinks package. I took an adaptor with USB charging points as there is only one socket and charging hub in the cabin. I almost forgot to mention that there is a fridge (not minibar) and a safe.

One thing that the cabin has is masses of storage. I counted 17 drawers and there is a big hanging space with 30 wooden proper coathangers, not the kind that come in two parts and you have to hook one part onto the other. Do you know what I mean? Unless your suitcase is massive you can pop empty luggage under the bed.

I was more than happy with my cabin. To be honest the fact that it was old fashioned didn’t really bother me. The bed was really comfortable and I slept so, so well. The bathroom was compact and yes there was a shower curtain but it never stuck to me once. The water was hot and the shower was good. The toilet is one of those sucky flush types. Just remember not to flush whilst sitting on it. My lovely and very friendly cabin attendent kept it spotlessly clean and tidy and the bed linen was changed regularly. I accidently got some mascara on the duvet cover. It was just a spot, but the cover was changed. Every evening there was a turn down service. My lamps were turned on, the next day’s programme was placed on my bed and one of my towels magically turned into a dog or a rabbit.All that was missing was a chocolate on the pillow!

As my lugage hadn’t arrived, I dumped my backpack and pocketed my cruise and credit card and made my way back to the reception desk where I had to register my credit card. It’s a cashless ship and everything is put on account. You can however choose to pay your account with cash at the end of the cruise. I don’t know how it happened but I had left my own credit card at home and had my joint card for Mr R’s credit card account!!

Whenever you take a cruise you have to legally attend a muster drill. Your safety is the number one resposibility of the ships crew and it is definitely in your interest that you attend. Many ships now do the drill virtually. You watch the drill on your cabin TV and then go to your muster station so you can be scanned in to prove that you know where it is. On Ambience you physically have to attend the drill. Thankfully not in your life jacket as you had to in times gone by. I had to be in The Botanical Lounge, which was my muster station at a certain time. I had time to spare so found my way there and because I was celebrating my first cruise I ordered a sparkling wine. It felt a bit decedant ordering a drink in the afternoon on my own, but what the heck, I was on holiday! I did feel a bit self conscious sat on my own drinking but not uncomfortably so. It was just good to people watch. The lounge is beautifully decorated with lots of squishy sofas and decor of a botanical theme. It became one of my favourite afternoon places.

Chin chin !

The muster drill over I made my way to the sun deck for the Sail Away. Sadly the sun wasn’t shining and there was a hint of drizzle in the air so the traditional Sail Away experience was a bit low key. There couldn’t be any live music or dancing as the deck was a bit slippy and the possibility of rain would have meant that it wasn’t safe to use electrical equipment. I’m sure that on a lovely summer’s day the Sail Away celebrations are much more upbeat and fun. There was a parade of crew nationality flags and there was cocktails. I had a really strong Long Island Tea and on an empty stomach alongside with my glass of fizz earlier, I really should have been swaying a bit and the ship wasn’t even sailing yet !

With a long and very loud blast from the ship’s horn we were at last on our way slowly down the Thames Eastuary. My cruise had now properly began!

And off we sail!

I was going to make my cruise posts just the two parts but I haven’t even left British waters yet and I’ve written masses so there’s going to have to be a part three so please bare with me.

Meanwhile here are three more cruise and travel vlogs that I recommend you have a look at.

Sabrina at Sea

Cruising Tips Pete

One Couple’s Adventures

Ambassador Cruise line