Travel writer Jo Kessel filmed on board Ambience, the first cruise ship for new British company Ambassador Cruise Line. The footage shows off the liner’s Britishness, from its SW19 bar to its Wimbledon Tennis Championship’s purple and green branding. Plus the inside scoop on the liner’s affordable drinks and its top-notch speciality restaurant, which serves seven mouth-watering courses.
The joy of cruising has always been about its ease – it’s the captain (and ship) who take the strain as you’re whisked from one destination to the next.
And if the port where you board happens to be in the UK near to where you live, the holidaying starts even sooner. Enter Ambassador Cruise Line, a brand new British liner whose voyages sail exclusively from the UK.
Jo Kessel films her journey on board Ambience, the first cruise ship in the fleet of the new British cruise line Ambassador
Ambassador is the first British cruise line to launch in a decade and the 1,400-passenger Ambience is the first ship in its fleet, with a second called Ambition due to start sailing in May 2023.
Ambience is new to Ambassador, but it isn’t a new ship. It was built for the American liner Princess in 1991 and christened by Margaret Thatcher in the same year! A decade or so later it became part of P&O Australia’s fleet before Ambassador bought it in 2020.
If you’re looking for a gleaming new vessel with fancy amenities and high-tech entertainment, this is not it. If you’re after a ship that harks back to the classic age of cruising, this is your vessel.
The ship isn’t brand-new – it was built for the American liner Princess in 1991 and christened by Margaret Thatcher in the same year
The video starts on top deck, next to the ship’s two central swimming pools (one of which is pictured)
Jo says that this swimming pool ‘is more of a fountain splash pool’
The beauty of Ambience is both its age and size – I hoped to capture both on camera during a seven-day sailing to Norway from Tilbury Docks, Essex.
This ship’s big enough to feel spacious, but not so big that it’s a marathon to walk from one end to the other. It’s a pleasure to navigate, with nothing too far or too difficult to find.
Mine was one of the two-a-year multi-generational sailings, but the majority of Ambassador’s voyages are adult-only, aimed at the over 50s.
The video starts on top deck, next to the ship’s two central swimming pools, one of which is more of a fountain splash pool.
Sun beds are plush and deep with the most scenic seating areas to be found on the four top decks at the stern, where there are also a couple of hot tubs. It’s a lovely spot to chill and watch the ship’s wake.
Jo says that this hot tub is a lovely spot to ‘chill and watch the ship’s wake’
Jo unwinds on one of the ship’s ‘plush and deep’ sunbeds
The ship is decorated in a Wimbledon-inspired colour palette with an atrium (above) called ‘Centre Court’
Pictured above is the ship’s bar – SW19. The ship could almost be confused for the All England Lawn Tennis Club at times, says Jo
Ambience’s ‘Wimbledon’ purple-and-green colour scheme (from its funnel to its panelling to its logo) gives the ship a genteel feel and, when you head indoors and find an atrium called ‘Centre Court’, it could almost be confused for the All England Lawn Tennis Club. There’s even a bar called SW19!
Talking of bars, Ambience possibly serves the cheapest beverages at sea.
I kept thinking there was an error at the till: 50p for a sparkling water; £3.20 for a glass of Prosecco; £5 for a large cocktail.
It costs just £3.20 for a glass of Prosecco on the ship. ‘Ambience possibly serves the cheapest beverages at sea,’ she says
But no, these were the real prices. With fares starting at £500pppw for full board and drinks this reasonable, no wonder fellow passengers are smiling.
Next, the video moves to accommodation and my entry-level sea view cabin.
It wasn’t posh, but the beds had excellent firm mattresses (I slept very well) and even if I’d had a balcony I’m not sure it would have been used.
Jo’s entry-level sea view cabin. ‘It wasn’t posh, but the beds had excellent firm mattresses,’ she says
Most of the time was spent either off the ship exploring or outdoors lazing on the sun decks.
Norway and its fjords are spectacular. The footage shows hikes to waterfalls and highpoints, but you can equally soak up the panorama from the ship, including the hot tub!
Unlike most cruise ships, Ambience’s thermal suite’s sauna, steam room and heated ceramic loungers are free to use.
But for a real treat, it’s definitely worth booking a Balinese massage. Masseuse Vi was so exceptional I didn’t want it to end.
‘Norway and its fjords are spectacular,’ Jo writes. Above is the town of Flam
Jo says that passengers can easily admire Norway’s scenery from the comfort of the ship
Wake to go: Ambassador’s second ship, Ambition, will start sailing in May 2023
‘For a real treat, it’s definitely worth booking a Balinese massage (above),’ says Jo
Cuisine’s up next in the film, with quality just as impressive as quantity.
The four-course dinners in the main ‘Buckingham’ dining room were superb and for the voyage’s two formal gala nights – this is a ship where passengers like dressing up – there were five courses.
But for seven courses don’t miss Ambience’s speciality restaurant, Sea and Grass.
According to Jo, every dish at Ambience’s speciality restaurant, Sea and Grass, is ‘mouth-wateringly delicious’
A staff member carves a face into a watermelon during a fruit-carving demonstration
Above is the ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ show featuring Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke on an LED screen behind the ship’s troupe
A seven-night cruise on Ambience to the Norwegian fjords from Tilbury Docks costs from £609pp, full board, departing June 13, 2023.
For more information, visit www.ambassadorcruiseline.com or call 0808 1028030.
Every single dish – each captured on camera – was mouth-wateringly delicious, from scallops with salmon caviar to goats’ cheese mousse to duck breast with caramelised apple. The £25pp surcharge is a steal.
Ambience offers classic cruising at its finest, no gimmicks.
This is a ship where guests make their own entertainment in the card room (called Aces & Eights) as well as enjoying organised activities such as quizzes, fruit-carving demonstrations and tap-dancing lessons.
There are also shows in its Palladium Theatre, the most popular of which is ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ featuring Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke.
Well, ok, it’s a virtual Anton (he’s on an LED screen behind the ship’s troupe) but it’s still a lot of fun. Bottom line, this is a great-value cruise ship with a touch of classic magic.
Before the voyage ends there’s time for one last Pina Colada. When they only cost a fiver, it would be silly not to!
For more from Jo visit her YouTube channel.
‘This is a great value cruise ship with a touch of classic magic,’ says Jo
Ambience has 11 decks and can accommodate 1,400 guests
AMBIENCE BY THE NUMBERS
- Ambience is Ambassador’s first ship.
- It measures 32m (105ft) wide and 247m (811ft) long – and weighs 70,285 gross tonnes.
- It has 11 decks and can accommodate 1,400 guests in its 798 cabins.
- There are 215 international crew members on board.
- Ambassador’s second ship, Ambition, will start sailing in May 2023 from regional UK ports including Newcastle, Dundee, Bristol, Liverpool and Falmouth.