My husband and I have just returned from a Baltic cruise on Discovery. Because we were driving from Manchester (about 4.1/2 hours) we decided to travel down the day before. On arrival at Harwich we were directed to the car park and our luggage was offloaded then we were directed to a car parking space. A shuttle bus took us to the departure lounge. As we have travelled on Discovery before we were entitled to quick check in. This was not the case. There was a separate queue for people in the "Discovery Club" but didn't move any quicker than the other queue. Before boarding we had to use the hand sanitizers. They were obviously worried about swine flu and other bugs! Once on board a steward showed us to our cabin and our cases were delivered while we were having afternoon tea. The whole process was stress free and efficient. I know that Discovery had engine problems in 2008 so when we were an hour late leaving port because of an engine problem I was a bit worried. Fortunately there didn't seem to be any more problems throughout the cruise apart from having no water for an hour or so one morning. The captain told us that the ship would probably be in service for about another six years. Discovery is not a grand ship.
The cabins are servicable and clean, the public rooms are comfortable.
The restaurant has two sittings. We chose the main sitting at 8.30pm. There were hand sanitizers at the entrance to the restaurant which everyone seemed to use. The four course meals were good. There was always a choice of fish, meat or poultry and a vegetarian dish. They also had glutin free and diabetic options. We found the waiters, busboys and wine waiters to be very efficient, hard working and cheerful, but we felt that staffing levels were down in comparison to our last cruise, which was 2005. Sometimes service was a little slow, however we opted for a table of six and were happy to chat. Invariably we didn't leave the restaurant until 10.30/10.45pm.The Yacht Club, which you had to book for provided a different menu and was extremely good. Breakfast and lunch could be taken on the Lido deck buffet style.Â
We didn't see any of the theatre shows, apart from The Cafe Concerto Strings, a trio from Romania who played light classical and popular music. We thought they were excellent. The guest lecturers were very good. Lectures were on ports we were visiting as well as subjects such as "The Berlin Wall" and "The Vikings."Â There were plenty of activities on board, from quoits to line dancing and art classes to quizzes. The onboard library was very good.
Other passengers told us they thought the ship tours were very expensive. The only tour we did was to Gdansk in Poland. The ship docked at Gdynia, about 10/15 miles from Gdansk. We were told that there wasn't much to see in Gdynia and a return taxi fare to Gdansk would have been between 80 and 100 euros. We were only in port for 5 hours so a ship tour it had toÂ be. It was efficient and the guide was professional and knowledgeable. In St. Petersburg we organised a private tour and managed to get two other couples to share with us. We had a driver and a guide and we saw a lot more in 2.1/2 days than if we had done ship tours and for around the same price. This had to be organised in advance of the cruise. We did this over the internet and advertised on Cruise Critic for other people to join us. We only received two replies!Â Â
Overall I would describe Discovery as clean and comfortable with friendly, hard working staff. Disembarking at ports of call was quick and efficient. For those days at sea there is plenty to do and at night time there is entertainment if you want it. We spoke to a lot of people who had cruised on Discovery before and will be sad when her seafaring days are finally over.
Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner"