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Ship Visit to DISCOVERY (Voyages of Discovery)
Harwich - 3rd July 2010

Report by MARK CORNFORD

All Images ©2010 Mark Cornford unless otherwise noted

DISCOVERY arriving at Harwich - Photo: ©2009 Ian Boyle
Discovery arriving at Harwich - Photo ©2009 Ian Boyle

     

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Carousel Lounge -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Carousel Lounge


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Carousel Lounge -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Carousel Lounge


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Discovery Theatre -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Discovery Theatre


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Palm Court -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Photo Gallery


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Palm Court -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Palm Court


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Hideaway Bar -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Hideaway Bar


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Discovery Lounge -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Discovery Lounge


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Discovery Lounge -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Discovery Lounge


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Explorers Bar -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Explorers Bar


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Bridge Deck -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Bridge Deck


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Yacht Club -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Yacht Club


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Reception -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Reception & Shop


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Reception -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Reception

 

The one time “Island Princess” (19,907 grt) of 1972 occupies a significant place in the history of modern cruising. Her almost identical sister, “Pacific Princess”, became well-known as “The Love Boat” in the 1970’s TV series of that name and “Island Princess” was often used as an alternative filming location. These two ships were responsible for changing the public face of cruising in the 1970’s and bringing it to the attention of countless masses of ordinary people. Until then, cruising had been the pursuit of the wealthy or privileged classes; from the 1970’s, everything began to change.

Since 2003, as “mv Discovery” (20,186 grt; 700 passengers) for Voyages of Discovery, she has been based in Harwich, Essex where she embarks her mostly British guests on a wide range of imaginative itineraries throughout the World, usually of at least 18 days duration. And it was in Harwich that a group of OLS members congregated on a warm summer’s day at the town’s curiously “Dinky-Toy” Cruise Terminal which is accessible only by walking along the platform of the railway station.

Armed with a visitor-pack comprising two brochures, an advertising DVD and a ship’s plan, and having surrendered our passports, presumably to make sure none of us stowed-away on the next cruise, we were then scanned for drugs and explosives before being allowed on board.

Free to wander the ship unescorted, we then enjoyed a pleasant hour or so making our own “discoveries” aboard “mv Discovery” and although I didn’t partake, I noticed that one or two visitors took advantage of the free tea and coffee or of relaxing by buying a beer in one of the bars, thoughtfully kept open for cash sales.

Her main public rooms are situated on “Riviera Deck”, just below the Promenade and her layout is fairly standard for ships of her period. Forward is the “Carousel Lounge”, the main entertainment lounge; this room is almost square but with its modest round dance-floor, it is designed with slightly raised “amphitheatre” seating to make the room appear circular. I wonder if the blinds covering those lovely forward-facing windows are always drawn during the day.

Located amidships is the “Discovery Theatre”; this used to be a “proper cinema” with a projection booth but today it probably serves well in its role as a lecture-room. On the port side of it is the ubiquitous “Photo-Gallery”, with comfy sofas and chairs looking out to sea, but on the starboard side of the ship was my favourite space, the “Palm Court”; decorated in pale blues and greens, with potted palms and nautical-stripe upholstery, the added wall mirrors and reflective ceiling give this lounge a bright and spacious feel and I decided instantly that it would be my “lounge of choice” for my evening pre-dinner cocktail.

The aptly-named “Hideaway Bar” is hidden behind the Discovery Theatre and is accessed from the Photo Gallery; decorated in mustard, blue and orange and with imitation wood panelling, mirrored walls and a tiny dance-floor, this room has the feel of an intimate, 70’s-style night-club.

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Discovery Lounge -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Discovery Lounge

Further aft, on the port side is the “Bridge Club” or card room, an uninspiring room which looks as if it has been forgotten about. However, this leads through to the aft-facing “Discovery Lounge”, a splendid room that looks like its original designer had one eye on the “Ritz-Carlton Lounge” aboard “SS Rotterdam”. Two decks high, it has a spiral staircase in one corner, leading to a small upper gallery, and there is a splendid glazed wall overlooking the aft sun deck and main pool. Tastefully decorated in cream, coffee and browns, this is a delightful room, with yet another dance-floor and a small band-stage behind which is an original 1970’s mural in peacock and gold. This leads perfectly into the “Explorers Bar” on the starboard side, decorated in blue faux-leather. Also on this side is the ship’s small but smartly furnished “Library”, a popular quiet retreat no doubt, from the busy hubbub of the lounge and main deck areas nearby.

Above Riviera deck is “Promenade Deck” and it is a shame that the ship does not have a wrap-around promenade. Also, I couldn’t help noticing the poor condition of the ship’s teak decking in many areas, giving away her nearly 40 years of age. However, this lady still acknowledges the modern world with a small passageway set aside as an “Internet Centre”.

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Lido -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Lido

On “Bridge Deck” aft, the ship has a small Gym and Health Centre, while on “Sun Deck”, there is the Beauty Salon, so necessary for all those rinses and waves before the Captain’s cocktail party. This deck also holds the ship’s central protected sun-space or Lido, with a sliding glass “Magrodome” roof. I am uncertain whether or not the pool is the original but it is very small and barely a “plunge pool”. Rather than having sun-loungers here though, the deck is made over to chairs and tables because a large part of it is now the Buffet Servery. It is clear though that there still aren’t enough tables to meet demand, since the adjacent forward-facing Observation Lounge, the “Yacht Club”, has cruet sets on the tables. I am guessing that many people bring their food in here during the day. Normally, the location of this lounge on most ships these days is one of my favourites as an evening bar-lounge but here, the room has been designated as an alternative dining venue in the evenings. As such, I am sure it is no less popular and highly sought-after but it does mean that there are fewer lounges and bars to choose from elsewhere.

Up top on “Sky Deck”, it’s all of 18 laps of the little running track around the Magrodome to make your mile – as compared with just 3 times around the Promenade on Queen Mary 2 for example – such is the difference in scale between these two ships.

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Sky Deck -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Sky Deck

The cabin accommodation throughout mv Discovery is on the small side but nicely decorated and furnished and they are all reasonably comfortable. However, it is in the bathrooms that you realise the ship’s age; many still have their original fittings and exposed plumbing, and I suspect the wardrobe doors and drawers in the cabins may provide a good deal of the creaking and squeaking when the ship is at sea.

While the majority of the cabins are fairly standard in layout and decorative style, the higher grade cabins and suites are even more pleasant and comfortable, offering a wide range of differing shapes, styles and layouts and I am sure many repeat passengers have their personal favourites. However, even the best suites still have “old-fashioned” TV sets and I had to raise an eye-brow at the leopard-skin design on the shower curtain of the “Livingston Suite”.

Unlike modern cruise ships these days however, none of Discovery’s cabins or suites has a balcony and this is surely a draw-back. Indeed, it is surprising that that neither “Island Princess” nor “Pacific Princess” were ever “stretched” in the late 70’s, like many of their contemporaries. Would that have improved her? I wonder.

In the centre of the ship on “Bali Deck” & “Pacific Deck” is the main 2 deck-high Reception area, with the business desks downstairs and a good-sized shop on the upper level, connected by a generous sweeping staircase beside a rather nice 1970’s 2 deck-high wall relief sculpture.

One major feature of modern cruising is the ubiquitous Casino but I would hazard a guess that none of Discovery’s passengers ever complain about the absence of one here - I certainly wouldn’t.

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Seven Continents Restaurant  -  Photo: © William Mayes, 3rd July 2010
Seven Continents Restaurant - ©2010 William Mayes

Our final hour or so aboard was spent over lunch in the ship’s “Seven Continents Restaurant”, situated in traditional style, low down on “Coral Deck” amidships, the most stable part of the ship. With port-holes rather than windows, sadly this room was never particularly exciting to look at and today is no different. The tables are rather close together, often causing the waiters to have to squeeze past your chair and the tables on the sides of the room have “banquette” seats, so serving must involve a lot of leaning across tables. However, I might venture to suggest that they could brighten this room up a bit – and the use of grey table cloths does not help matters.

Service was adequate, if a little cursory, although that’s to be expected on a “turn-around day”. The wine flowed reasonably generously too, albeit Discovery’s own label red or white. As to the food, it was wholesome and satisfactory but not exciting or imaginative.

Do not fool yourself that mv Discovery is “luxury cruising”; it isn’t. It offers what I would describe as comfortable, “traditional-style” cruising on a “proper ship”, with no children and low-key entertainment. Its itineraries are longer and a bit more adventurous than average and so it appeals to the still active, older or retired passengers who don’t want too much glitz and glamour. And mv Discovery does seem to have her share of loyal passengers who speak highly of the ship’s relaxed, friendly atmosphere and crew.

All in all, it was an interesting introduction to a ship that I might not otherwise have considered for myself – until now…..

Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Darwin Suite -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - Junior Suite -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
Darwin Suite                                                                               Junior Suite


Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - N-grade Interior -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - I-grade exterior -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010Ocean Liner Society - DISCOVERY VISIT - G-grade exterior -  Photo: © Mark Cornfeld, 3rd July 2010
N-Grade Interior Cabin                         I-Grade Outside Cabin                         G-Grade Outside Cabin





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