My wife and I were attracted to this Baltic cruise primarily because it sails from Newcastle so there would be no flying and hopefully no delays. We only have a one and a half hour drive from Wakefield to Newcastle so it is ideal.
The second reason was that the cruise itinerary was great, we were to visit 6 destinations in the Baltic including two days in St.Petersburg, Russia.
Thomson cruises we were not too sure about. We have been on two cruises in the past with Ocean Village and found the casual type of cruises to our liking.
We arrived in Newcastle by car and headed to the International terminal there we found everything signposted for Thomson Cruise and after minimal queuing we were shown where to drop off our luggage and then directed to the car park. From the car park to the check in desks was about a five minute walk. Check in was a fairly lengthy process bit we were soon processed and allowed onto the ship. At the ship's check in we registered our credit card. Remember though that there is a 2.5% surcharge.
My first sight of Thomson Spirit was that it was quite a small ship but on boarding the ship I was pleasantly surprised how large it actually was.
We were shown to our cabin which was on deck 4 and was an outside cabin. The cabin had two single beds arranged in an "L" formation and a large porthole/window. The room was quite spacious,surprisingly bigger than our previous cruise ships. The wardrobe space was very good, two quite large wardrobes with plenty of coat hangers. Shelves above for small luggage and room for some luggage in the bottom. There is also a safe which has to be rented if required. There is also lots of room under the beds for suitcases etc.
There is a dressing table with three drawers each side and in one of the drawers there is a hairdryer. There is a 220V and a 110V socket above the dressing table. On the other side of the cabin were three large drawers and a container for wine or other bottles.
The cabin had a TV with Sky News, sports, two movie channels and some other channels.
The bathroom was very good with plenty of room and an easy to operate shower.
The only enhancement to the cabin would have been tea/coffee making facilities.
The cabin was kept very clean by our cabin staff Ana and Nouby. There was either an elephant or some other sort of animal made out of your towel on your bed when you retired for the night along with a chocolate.
Now to the dining rooms. There is the waiter service Compass Rose, Sirocco,s restaurant where you pay a supplement and the Lido which is self service buffet.
We ate only in the Lido as we prefer to eat when we want and to sit where we want. We found the meals to be of good quality and there was a good variety of food with evening themed nights. Similarly breakfasts had a good variety from cereals up to full breakfasts. The only problems occur when on days at sea the Lido tends to get very full but it is a matter of choosing your time. Of course there is always food around the clock so you will undoubtedly put on weight.
There were two formal Gala nights during the cruise but for those who prefer to be casual there is the Lido restaurant so no problems there.
Now to the entertainment. Remembering the entertainment from our previous cruises we thought the Thomson would have a lot to live up to. How wrong we were.
The entertainment for the whole cruise was great. The stage shows were really fantastic with themed shows. Even though the stage in the theatre was quite small the shows are spectacular. We thought the singers and dancers were very good with professionally choreographed shows. The Cruise Director Richard Grey was also very good and not only compared but also acted.
The actor Ian Lavender of Dads Army fame was on board for the whole cruise and on one evening we had "An Audience with Ian Lavender" which was very entertaining. I understand that there are to be a series of "Audiences with" during this season. We also had a UK comedian on a couple of nights and a very good guest lecturer Gordon Parr who kept us entertained with his lectures varying from Winston Churchill to Royal Scandals.
In all the bars there was some entertainment from Piano and Violin duet to guitar singers trio, caberets by the individual Thomson Spirit show team members, quizes, competitions etc. There is also a casino. There are even a couple of stage plays in the afternoon which are entertaining.
In the High Spirits bar, a group called the Beat entertained us and there was Karaoke for those who like this and of course a late night disco.
We found the staff to be very friendly and on our very first night in the High Spirits bar four members of the entertainment team just wandered up and introduced themselves and sat with us for a while to chat.
On the last night some of the catering and bar staff put on a little show which was great.
The trips that you can purchase are very good but beware some of the trips can be very tiring especially the full day trips to St Petersburg for example. Some shuttle buses were provided free of charge which is quite good as some cruise ships charge quite a lot.
The ship is very clean, all the staff work very hard to keep it this way and are very attentive to all your needs.
Disembarking was very easy. All luggage is left outside your cabin the evening before with a coloured label attached according to your cabin number and mode of travel, i.e. own car, coach etc. The luggage is collected and off loaded at Newcastle and you disembark at set times on arrival. Our time was 08.30 and we were taken by bus to the car park and the luggage was in a room adjacent to the car par. We were on the road in minutes.
The ship was very comfortable, even in a force 6 weather on leaving Newcastle. The safety procedures were very good with an excellent evacuation drill. The Captain was very approachable and chatted with us on the stairs one afternoon and told us about our course etc.
Thank you Thomson for a great cruise, thank you to all the staff seen and unseen we will certainly be back.