God Save the Queen!
Firstly to all in the U.K. and of course to her royal highness, congratulations on your Jubilee celebration and milestone. Sixty years is quite an achievement and in today's world almost an eternity.
I have posted many times before on CC and try to keep my reviews concise, direct and to the point.
My wife and I just returned from a week on the Thomson Dream departing from Palma Majorca with port stops in Corsica, Florence/Pisa, Cannes, Toulon (near Marseille) and Barcelona. A "dream" (excuse the pun) itinerary plus wonderful weather. Nothing at all to dislike here.
We are from the U.S.A. and booked this particular cruise based on three criteria:
1) The appeal of the itinerary itself (which did not disappoint in any way)
2) Dream's rating as Cruise Critic's "Best Mid Size Ship" and
3) The generally positive reviews by recent past cruisers of the Dream
I must say immediately that I do not think that Dream is deserving of the website's designation as best mid size ship.
This is of course my opinion and is based on the following:
-the product delivered by the Dream does not compare favorably with the high quality and diversity I've directly experienced from other cruise lines like Celebrity, Holland America and Royal Caribbean.
- the Dream is targeted and focused on the U.K. market so what it provides is crafted and tailored to that constituency. Providing what your niche customers want is good marketing and I can't argue with Thomson's motivation.
However, to others outside of that sphere, what's provided is not diverse, is only of an OK but not great quality and I believe not what cruisers outside of Thomson's limited market are typically looking for.
Designation as best mid size ship among all boats world-wide suggests that an exceptional experience will be provided that differentiates Dream from all the others ranked below it. This was not the case. It was a good experience but not great and certainly not one that would make it stand above others.
As a result, if you're considering a cruise on the Dream and are not from Thomson's narrow market, I would suggest that you pause and do your 'due diligence" beforehand. If your expectations are in line with what you've experienced from global premium even mass market cruise lines, there's a very good chance you'll be grossly disappointed.
I also suspect that the glowing reviews of past travelers are of course due to the source of these opinions.
If a boat's clientele is 99%+ from a discrete population, then these critiques will of course reflect only the views of this small user group.
I am bold enough to say that if a broader and more diverse group of experienced cruisers were to take a cruise on Dream and then post their reviews, it would be very different from what's currently out there.
So enough of my pontificating a few specific reactions of my voyage (if still of interest):
-the service provided by the entire staff was very good. From our room attendant Don Don, to our waiter in the dining room Roberto, to our wine steward William, they aimed to please and delivered.
I cannot say enough of their professionalism, hard work and willingness to do that little something extra that makes all the difference. Kudos to them all.
-We saw all of the on-board musical shows and were impressed with what was provided. There were eight singer/dancers who performed all of the musical performances during the week and they were all good. In this instance Thomson has made a smart trade-off by zeroing in on have capable performers and foregoing the live band for canned music. The formula works.
- The food on the buffet was just awful unless you were British and used to those selections. From the "scrambled eggs" (if that's what they were supposed to be) to the baked beans/blood pudding/kippers for breakfast, borderline inedible.
If a savvy traveler were presented with "Salisbury Steak" as a primary choice for lunch, no doubt they might feed it to their dog .
On top of that the buffet menu never changed, what was presented that first Saturday on arrival till you departed a week later was always what was presented. No variety and no change from day to day.
-The food in the main dining room was comparable to what you might find in a Morrison's cafeteria,Denny's etc. in the states. Edible but certainly not of the caliber you'd expect.
The choices each night for dinner were typically limited to 3 or 4 entrees and no standard entrees (read always available as an option on other boats) like a Caesar salad or salmon as a selection. .
-We could almost forgive the food if at least the coffee was drinkable in the morning. By day two on awakening my wife exclaimed "let's go get some dishwater", and that says it all. I guess we were supposed to drink tea.
-Aside from the entertainment in the theater, the lounge music was of fair quality. Certainly not dancing music, marginally listenable. My take was that the musicians knew maybe 20 songs and repetitiveness was their trademark.
-The lounges then alternated the mediocre music with trivia quiz shows and contests. Cheap to provide and not very entertaining. More importantly for a boat with 1300 passengers there were only two small lounges and so they were almost always cramped for space and overcrowded.
- Information was apparently a valued commodity to Thomson and so was rarely dispensed to the passengers. We simply wanted to know things like what the weather might be at the next port stop or what the process and timing was for securing a tender ticket ( for Cannes). Not generally communicated and if requested at the Reception desk, not provided in a direct manner.
-My hypothesis is that the staff ( 100% Philipino) were actually in charge of the ship. Maybe in this case not such a bad thing.
If you've ever been in the Navy, there's a saying that the non-commissioned officers (petty officers in the U.S. Navy) run the boat. That was my impression here and then some.
The Captain (the self designated "voice from above"--give me a break) and his staff all looked smart & proper in the few instances that you saw them and they "acted" like they were in command of the ship but I never had the impression that this was actually the case.
On other boats I've been on I've seen, then met and interacted with the department heads, they were visible and had a recognizable presence on board and commanded the respect of the staff. In the case of Dream they were pretty but I suspect functionally invisible.
-the elevators (lifts) were a disgrace. There were many physically limited passengers on board with mobility issues and the use of the lifts was a "crapshoot". Waited and waited, never came, if so, would not take you to the floor you wanted, limited in size & speed.
-A plus for the Dream- the passengers were very pleasant and enjoyable company for 2 Yankees .
In closing again the Dream experience is good but not a superior one and when measured against what you've experienced from others, it is likely to fall short.