Fab first time cruise but would choose cabin next time
We did the Latin Gems cruise for a week from 4 March, from Barbados. We too were worried after bad reviews but food fantastic (although wouldn't pay the extra Â£20 each to dine in The Grill again as food not much different to the Orion restaurant), but in buffet and Orion restaurants always something to choose from and always hot; staff amazing, always helpful, with a smile and genuinely friendly. The ship has a really friendly feel, everyone always saying hello. Overall, we had a really great time, and the ports of call - Aruba, Curacao, Margarita Island, Grenada and St Lucia, were really good, especially as we only went for a week. I won't repeat what everyone else has said recently but would just add the following:
Cabins - we were in an inside cabin, number 6187 and didn't sleep a wink as could feel every wave and the walls vibrated so much that the bed shook at times. It was like someone shaking you to wake you up! We thought this was just because we were cruise More
first-timers and not used to the vibrations and movement but found out towards the end of the week that the vibration was due to being over the propeller and other cabins in different areas and other floors didn't vibrate or feel the waves as much. Although on at least one day, you could feel the waves over all areas of the ship so I'm sure you could still feel them in any cabin. Needless to say, if I ever went on the Dream again, I would have to investigate the cabin situation and pay the extra to book a specific cabin. Also,from speaking with others, it seems that larger ships don't seem to have this problem, so we may have to consider a larger ship next time instead.
Last year's sewage/air con problems seem to be fixed, although there was a slight whiff when passing some areas - it was like a drain smell but not sewage, but this was only every now and then.
Shore excursions - For info on the trips we did - see my port reviews. I was disappointed about the knowledge of the Thomson staff at the excursions desk though, when I asked about the beaches in Aruba, they didn't even know the names of them or where they were(I knew more than they did) and when we asked for more information about a trip on another island, they didn't know.
Cases being picked up by 3am on day of departure - just to give you a heads up in case you didn't know - it is worth packing small bottles (less than 100ml) of anything you need on your day of departure (e.g. shampoo, shower gel)as all larger bottles will have to be packed in your case, which you won't have on your day of departure. They do provide shampoo/shower gel, but if you are like me, you use your own particular brands.
Overall, a great experience despite not much sleep, as everything else made up for it Less
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Cabin review: Thomson Dream 6187
Cabin 6187 - location fine to get to, clean, enough space, good lighting and aircon fine but unfortunately, walls vibrated, causing bed to vibrate (think we were above propeller), so sleep disturbed all night. Could also feel swell of waves all night in bed.
Port and Shore Excursions
The ship docked at Oranjestad port. Oranjestad itself is lovely, with pastel coloured fronted buildings - well worth a walk through, and it has funky looking restaurants/bars and nice marina areas. Also saw iguanas on the rocks by the Radisson on the right, opposite the red english telephone box.
Went to Palm Beach - absolutely beautiful, $16 dollars for a taxi outside the port terminal but you can also get the bus from the road behind the beach that drops you off right by the ship, which we got back, for $2! Chairs/parasols near the Riu hotel on Palm Beach are more expensive than further down the beach, so do look around.
Next to Palm Beach is Eagle Beach, which looked even more beautiful but not as many watersports/bar areas, the bus also stops here.
Went with Thomson, was £44 each. Took a 5 min bus trip to small marina, then boarded catamaran, then by catamaran to an area out to sea. Soft drinks provided on way, crew very friendly. All snorkelling gear for swimming with turtles provided, although you can stay onboard if you like. A member of crew went into the sea and threw fish to bring in the turtles, then we all got in and he gave a few simple instructions/points. The turtles are huge and swim underneath you, you have to be careful not to kick them! You can also see them popping up for air. It was a bit of a scrum though as there were about 30/40 of us in one small area and some people seemed to forget there were others around them and kept banging into you with their face in the water and didn't even bother about it, it got annoying after a while so we kept to the edges where the turtles swam past anyway. Was great seeing the turtles and on the way back, there was unlimited rum punches/beer etc and the regaae music was cranked up. Also sailed past exclusive beaches and posh hotels. A great way to spend 2/3 hours. Would recommend!
Booked kayaking and snorkel tour with Thomson for £40ish (but when we got there, saw that it was a lot cheaper directly). 15 min trip from ship in bus, then we, with instructor, kayaked over to a beach, had a drink, then swam/snorkelled to sunken tug boat. Plenty of brightly coloured fish. Then swam back and kayaked back to base. Was good but kayaking was a bit tiring Lasted about 3 hours. Also walked around Willemstad port itself, quite pretty, plenty of shops, interesting swing bridge, had a drink on waterfront.
Came out of port and plenty of taxis offering trips. Went on 3 hour island tour with 2 other couples, $20 each, a lot cheaper than Thomson tour. Was good, explained all about the island, took us to small spice place where they explained about all the spices and you could buy some; then up to the Annandale Falls; then to Grand Etang Lake viewing point where you learn about the island and see monkeys, there are a couple of cafe bars there too. Also went up to old English Fort Frederick then down to Grand Anse beach, which looked gorgeous and would have been even more so if it was sunny. Was good value for money. Shame it was raining but that's what makes this beautiful island green I guess!
At port there are places you can take trips to the Pitons and around island etc that were cheaper than Thomson, but as there were only two of us, it would still have been expensive and as it was raining a little we decided to just take the water taxi over to the town, which was $4 each I think. Quite busy in town, bustling with locals, there's a market but it was a little overwhelming. We decided to go to Reduit Beach at Rodney Bay (even though cloudy/raining a little) so accepted an offer of a taxi for $30 return. Reduit Beach is lovely, overlooked by green hill, would be stunning in the sun. Also nice bars and restaurants on beach and behind beach so looks like it would be a good place to stay for longer. Taxi was great, explained a bit about island on way and picked us up at whatever time we wanted, we didn't pay until the return.