I have travelled in all areas of the world independently so when my husband and I said we were going on a cruise our friends were quite surprised! However for us the arrangement of hopping between the islands sounded good and we would make the most of the time we had on each one. We knew we liked ships (we always like the overnight Harwich to Hook of Holland) so we thought "Why Not!!".
We flew from Birmingham - and unluckily had a 4 hour or so delay. Thomson staff at the airport were not in the least bit helpful but it wasn't too bad as we passed the time sunbathing by the lake at the nearby NEC! The flight itself was fine - legroom good for a charter flight.
Because we arrived late we seemed to have had an extremely fast transfer to the ship which was a very smooth operation. Our bags arrived at the cabin a couple of hours after us I think.
Well the Dream was a nice older style ship - bit tatty round the edges - More
but we quite liked her! At least she looks like a ship - we would refuse to go on a an enormous slab of floating lego! We liked the wraparound outside deck (Deck 9 I think) which we liked a stroll around when dark.
Our cabin was an inside on deck 5 near the back. We didn't pay extra to choose a cabin but to be honest this one was fine for us - yes it was noisy when the ship was going into ports in the morning and you could get woken up by this. It didn't really bother us as it made sure we were awake in time! We did like the fact you could be outside on deck quickly by just popping out of the back door close to our cabin. The beds were hard but we found them extremely comfy. No probs with the bathroom and we thought the shower was excellent. Being inside without a window was no bother either - we watched the view coming into port on the tv some mornings!
We are not interested in eating more than you need but if you wanted to "pig out" you will have no problem! Food available all the time - a choice of all sorts. We had a smallish breakfast each morning - I liked the fresh pineapple and a pastry. We didn't have lunch as we were never on the ship at this time. Dinner in the evening we liked in the Orion restaurant - mainly so you don't have to try to choose from the enormous choice in the self service Lido restaurant! Quality of food was fine although nothing special.
As we were off the ship all day we only had the "Day at Sea" to attend any activities. We went to Zumba and Yoga/Pilates on this day as well as using the gym which we enjoyed.
The shows were very well presented and the venue (Broadway show lounge) was very nice. Shows are not really our thing but we went to a couple and were impressed. The best entertainment was the daily stories told by the captain over the tannoy! The captain is a German man with a lifetime of shipping experience - so has many really interesting tales to tell! The comedian - Peter Piper - was good too.
I must say there seems to be a bit of an issue with people putting towels etc on beds to "reserve" them! How unbelievably out of order! To people who do this: Please do not - stop being so selfish! We did have a job finding a bed on the day at sea and noticed towels everywhere but no-one on the beds. We decided to remove a couple of towels and were nearly applauded by other people who said the beds had been empty (apart from the towel) since 0900 - and it was about 1400 then! The captain did request people do not do this over the tannoy but I don't know if this made any difference as we were off the ship every day from then on.
The staff everywhere apart from the Shore excursion desk were brilliant - very friendly and very efficient.
Port and Shore Excursions
We were not interested in any organised tours but went to the shore excursion desk one day to ask a simple question about the local bus station - the girl had no idea at all and recommended taking a taxi. The staff here should have a bit more general knowledge about the ports - we knew more about it than she did - and we had never been there! We did one of the bike rides with Markus which was excellent though some steep hard hills - on St Maarten.
No problem at all - we went off the ship in the morning and returned 30 mins before the coach departed to go to the airport. We had a quick shower in the public shower on Lido deck as all the complementary cabins were occupied. We had put our bags outside the cabin the night before and met it back on the conveyor belt in Birmingham!
We really enjoyed our trip - plenty of time at each port - 0800 to 1730 usually which gave us enough time to do whatever we wanted on each island getting around on public buses.
I think Thomson Cruises is excellent as long as you are not after an upmarket/luxury experience. If you are after a more informal cruise this works - you don't really have to dress up and the atmosphere is relaxed. Less
Docked at St Johns - an authentic and fairly ramshackle town with a lively atmosphere. We walked through the market area and there were enormous speakers out in the street pumping music out! We got the bus to Valley Church Beach - what a lovely beach - white sand and turquoise postcard type beach - with no-one much about unless you went to the end where there were some sunbeds and a little bar. A bit wavy when we were there so no good for snorkelling - but we had a lovely time bobbing about in the waves and even stayed in there when a heavy downpour arrived. We walked to Darkwood Beach from here along the road - nowhere near as nice and we were glad we didn't go there first!
We only had a half day here so walked to Carlisle Bay - easy 30 mins walk. Swam out to the area just off shore where the catamarans were anchored and people were snorkelling. We snorkelled around and saw some interesting fish and turtles. Lovely beach considering is a town beach - nice atmosphere with locals.
What a lovely place to arrive! We docked in Portsmouth - nothing at the port at all except for the wooden pier! The island is lush and wild and we had a great time - we went horse riding with Valerie of Rainforest Riding - she is based the otherside of Portsmouth town - you can easily walk to her place from the dock - about 45 mins walk. After this we hiked along a section of the Waitukubuli National Trail and came to a lovely little beach where we went snorkelling. We had the tiny beach to ourselves and I would guess there lots more like this. Yes the sand is grey but so what - the setting was amazing and the snorkelling was good too.
Docked at Basseterre - a proper town where you will find a cricket stadium (no match there at the time unfortunately), a museum (we didn't go in) and a prison! Nice enough but not a lot of interest here. We got a local bus to Brimstone Fort - we got out at the bottom of the road that leads up to the fort and it is a pleasant 20-30mins walk up a quiet lane uphill from there. The fort itself is well preserved with lots of information available on various displays. On the day we were there a re-enactment day was on - the TV cameras and the Director General (with his daughter and wife) arrived. There were various speeches going on which we found all an interesting experience!
Docked at Philipsburg. Port area a noisy mix of luxury shops and thousands of people. Easy to walk to town where there is a nice beach (not sure about quality of sea water due to amount of cruise ships they get there). Town is full of bars/shops but there is a more authentic area behind all this. We went on the bike ride excursion which took us across the island to Galion Beach - which was a lovely quiet beach with a nice laid back atmosphere. Well worth the hills to get there!
We walked around the corner to the ferry terminal - got the ferry to Virgin Gorda with Speedys and went down to the Baths. Spent the day snorkelling and exploring the caves and rocks. A great place, great snorkelliing - well worth going. Devils Bay was the best area for snorkelling and is also very picturesque.