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The Love Boat was an American television series in the 70’s and 80’s
set on board cruise liners. One of these ships was the Island
Princess now named Discovery and I was about to cruise on her.
Arrival at the Avonmouth Cruise Terminal quickly saw me through
check in and security. Within minutes I was on board and in the
lift heading for Promenade Deck, deck 7, where my cabin was situated.
This turned out to be a Suite named after the famous explorer
‘Shackleton’. This consisted of a lounge area, sleeping area and
bathroom. The bathroom was lovely with its panels of inlaid marble.
As you would expect with a suite there were those nice little extras.
A bowel of fresh fruit with Apples, Oranges, Grapes and Strawberries
accompanied by a bottle of Champagne on ice. In the wardrobe
were dressing gowns, slippers, shoe cleaning pads, Tote Bag and
enough hangers and hanging space to accommodate my complete
wardrobe let alone the small amount I had for the cruise. The
bathroom had a large bath as well as a shower and the toiletries were
all of good quality. Unpacked it was time to join a tour of the ship.
Built in Germany, Discovery entered service for Flagship Cruises in
1972 before being sold to Princess Cruises in 1974. Since then
she has had several owners and name changes before joining the
Cruise and Maritime family in 2013 after a multi million pound refit at
the end of 2012. At a little over 21,000 GRT. 550 ft. in length and
80 ft. in width with 354 cabins and carrying 700 passengers she is now a small ship compared with the monsters that now cruise our oceans. Discovery has a fairly deep draught which means she will maintain a fairly smooth passage in rough seas. This was shown on day 2 as we ploughed through a fairly ‘Bouncy’ Irish Sea at 19 knots with very little rocking.
The ship has various cabin grades from Standard Twin Inside to Twin Superior Ocean View all of which average 135 sq. ft. Cabin sizes then start to increase up to 430 sq. ft for the De Luxe Suite Ocean View and Owners Suite. Irrespective of which cabin grade you choose they all come well equipped with the necessities plus television, safe and that most important item for the ladies, a hairdryer.
There really are some lovely areas to the ship where passengers can sneak off to for a read of their favourite novel or for that afternoon snooze that is synonymous with cruising. The library is situated on the port side of deck 6 and quickly became one of my favourite areas with veneered wooden book cases filled with all types of books to keep the most earnest of reader’s happy lining one wall. The opposite wall is large picture windows. The Hideaway Bar is aptly named as you could be forgiven for walking past the entrance without seeing it. This is a delightfully furnished bar with comfortable seating and happy smiling waiters where you can drink until ‘late’.
Although the ship has two swimming pools neither is big enough to actually swim in so should be regarded as large plunge pools. One is situated on Sun Deck, deck 9 and has a retractable roof that can be opened when sailing in warm climates. There is also a bar close by as well as the buffet area. The other is at the rear of the ship on Riviera Deck, deck 6 along with Waves Bar.
Discovery boasts three separate entertainment lounges which for a small ship is excellent and to make life easy they are all on Riviera Deck, deck 6. They are under the personal direction of Richard Sykes a very capable Cruise Director. I had the pleasure of meeting Richard and he is a true professional. The largest of these venues is the Carousel Show Lounge at the front of the ship and this hosts the main entertainment events. With comfortable tiered seating and glass drink tables I spent a most enjoyable evening here watching the very talented on board show team perform a ‘Tribute to Abba’. At the end they received rapturous applause and rightly so. Discovery Theatre is situated in the middle of the ship and is used to host classical events and lectures. It is also used as a cinema as is the Carousel Show Lounge. Discovery Lounge is situated at the rear of the ship and has a backdrop of windows 2 decks high making this a very light and airy area. During the evening it hosts cabaret acts and dancing whilst during the day it is the home of various activities such as quizzes, bingo, line dancing and other group activities. The Discovery Bar is just around the corner with a very pleasant seating area by large windows giving glorious sea views.
Ask any regular cruiser what they consider to be the most important element of a cruise and they will in all probability tell you it is the food. So what is the food like on Discovery?
There are two main dining areas and these are the buffet on Sun Deck and the Seven Continents Restaurant on Coral Deck, deck 3. The buffet offers a good selection which can be enjoyed at tables and chairs which are a mix of teak and wicker. It is also nice to see real wooden decking. The Seven Continents Restaurants is the main dining room that keeps to the traditional 2 seating’s for dinner, providing waiter service for lunch, and is a particularly pleasant dining room. Tables for 2, 4, 6 and 8 are adorned with white table cloths and topped with a pink square. The seats although armless are very comfortable and with their light wood frames and grey seats/backs contrast nicely with the duel striped carpet. My first meal here was lunch. My starter was Chicken ‘Tikka Massala’, followed by Split Green Pea Soup, Grilled Fillet Mignon, Cabernet Mushroom Sauce, Fondant Potatoes and Bouquet of Garden Vegetables and all washed down with a very acceptable white wine. To finish I chose the Ice Cream and a Coffee to follow. Dinner that night was another 4 course meal with plenty of choices.
Breakfast was again taken in the Seven Continents Restaurant where I was a little surprised that it was a buffet and not waiter service. The waiters bring the various juices on offer as well as Coffee and Tea but the rest you get yourself. There are three food islands. One island deals with scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, beans etc. whilst another has plates of meat, cheese and the added delight of ‘Rollmops’. However if you want fried eggs then you join the queue that is waiting for omelettes. This means that whichever way you queue some items will get cold while waiting for the other. One person suggested to me ‘Why not put the fried eggs with the scrambled eggs thus saving having to queue twice?’ Excellent question and one perhaps the company should take notice of. They have the same system on their other ship the Marco Polo. On the up side the food was hot, was well cooked and offered a good variety. The omelette that I had was excellent.
Now comes the big question. What did I think of the ship?
Discovery does not have the glitz and glamour of the large modern cruise ships that you see or the different amenities, venues and speciality dining. Yes, breakfast arrangements in the Seven Continents Restaurant could be improved on but that is a minor point in the bigger picture of things. What Discovery does have is its own charm where people feel comfortable on a ship of this size and age. Most travellers are 50+ and want somewhere they feel at home with. It is a ship where tradition, good food and good service still matter. Lounges that are comfortable bright and airy. Smaller bars and lounges you can escape to like the library if you want to read.
It has real teak decks that are in good condition with a nicely tiered stern. Speaking with people who had stayed in the lower grade cabins I heard no complaints. A greeter to guide you to your cabin on boarding is shades from the past but a welcomed one. Drinks at reasonable prices. And once again the shows. Fabulous. I spoke with one gentleman at breakfast who told me it was his first ever cruise. I asked him what he thought of it. ‘Wonderful’ was his reply.
A couple I spoke with had travelled from their home in America to do this round British Isles cruise. They told me they loved the ship as it was a real ship and not ‘A block of condominiums’ that you see in so many American and Caribbean ports. Everyone on board seemed to be enjoying themselves. The staff smile and have that ‘Can do’ attitude that is so lacking now days.
Would I cruise on Discovery again? Yes I would. It offers a good cruise experience at reasonable cost.
Alan's on board Discovery
Alan Fairfax - is a professional cruise writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent and