Thomson Dream Cruise Review by tunisianbeachbum: Christmas Caribbean Getaway
Christmas Caribbean Getaway
NB although the holiday was last Christmas and I wrote this on my return I lost my computer data and have only just maanged to retrive this but still wanted to post this as had such a good time
After reading other reviews on here and other sites, and seeing a mixture of views I decided to submit a review of our 'Dream' holiday. I am a realist and understand that some passengers on this cruise and others cruises on this ship have had experiences that greatly differ from mine so this is just my personal review and opinion and will benefit from it and I sincerely hope that some of my fellow guests had a similar time to me or will do in the future.
For those looking for a bad review or comments then don't read any further as from the minute we left home until the minute we got home (to the cold and bills) we (me and my mum) have had the most amazing time. Even those other guests who spent what seemed like the entire cruise complaining -- can I just point out that if you are More not happy about your holiday or something please note that those who have no complaint don't really want to here about it unless they ask, thanks - or the short 4 hour delay on our return flight could dampen our spirits
Yes of course there are things that could be improved or added but then could we afford 2 weeks in the Caribbean at Christmas maybe not.
18th December 2012 Flight Manchester TOM176 -- Comfortable seating, plenty of legroom even for those of excess height. In-flight entertainment good, even better for an extra Ã£5 -- I enjoyed 2 films and a few games and a TV show during the flight. The food was better than expected, initial disappointment at them having run out of Steak pie was more than made up for the by the stewardess recommending the vegetarian option of chilli, my mum had the chicken which was good but wished she'd had mine. Choice of drinks/snacks and duty free very reasonable. The crew were polite, helpful and happy.
Straight off the plane onto minibuses to the port -- loved the fact of not having to queue in arrivals and get the bags and find the coach.
We went straight onto the ship and queued for about 10 minutes in total before taking a seat in the Broadway Show Lounge, waiting for our number to be called, waited about 10 minutes. We'd already been given a drink which was nice and refreshing -- my mum had two. There were staff and Thomson reps at every point helping out and explaining and assisting those less able. Anyone who thinks the arrival of 300 plus guests is going to be quick and stress free may need to think again, but if you go with the flow and relax it'll be fine.
A lovely waiter took us to our room, and insisted on carrying our bags even though he looked as though he needed carrying. When I asked him, he quietly told me he had been on the go since early morning and still had his shift in the restaurant to do until 10ish (we arrived just after 4pm) no one can say that the staff don't work hard and are remarkably cheerful.
5112 -- We had this room on our first cruise on the Dream in 2010 and had pre-booked it as it is in the centre and low down, helps when the boat is rocking a bit. Also it's near to the lifts for my Mum who has difficulty walking and convenient for the Orion restaurant and gangway. The room is an Outside Plus so you get a picture window, settee and a bath/shower. We had it set as twin beds and it was very spacious. It isn't one of the cabins that has been 'done up' but was spotless and we were more than happy. Plenty of wardrobe space and hangers even for two very fashion conscious ladies who had different outfits for every day and night.
Our room was cleaned twice a day by 'Handoto' who was lovely, polite, well spoken, always happy and very hard working. I loved the fact he hung my clothes up (I didn't leave them on the chair on purpose) and lined my shoes up. We had even taken some Christmas cards from the family and he made sure they were all standing up and hung up my pictures of my nieces they had sent. Best of all was 'monkey' who appeared one night (made of towels) and stayed the rest of the cruise.
We had a couple of issues, the washing line in the bathroom wouldn't wind back in and the bathroom light started flickering-these were fixed within a couple of hours, the air-conditioning went off during the night and was rectified by the time we returned from breakfast. Each time we received a call from reception to check everything was sorted and was it done ok and if there was anything else. I've worked in the travel industry and in several hotels and that service was impressive in comparison to some very good hotels.
Yes in some areas it is 'shabby'/'dated' but only if you are looking for it. It is spotlessly clean and once you get your bearings then it is easy to find your way around. We always found plenty of seating and sun beds, although I can imagine late comers during days at sea may have struggled with a sun bed, but that's not a unique problem it's encountered on many ships and hotels.
The library was well stocked even found a book that Smiths had sold out of. We used the Sirens pool area and Deck 12 for sunbathing as we like a bit of something going on but did go down to the Lido deck one afternoon and it was lovely and quiet. Used the pool and Jacuzzis and they are fine. There was only me and another couple of people when I used it and we used the Jacuzzi last thing in an evening when it was quiet.
The shops had a decent selection of perfume/aftershave, jewellery and confectionery items, maybe others wanted more but you can go shopping any day of the week I much prefer to spend my time on holiday doing other things and if I am going to shop it would be in the destinations. Loved having our photos taken and no obligation to buy, we waited until the last day and then chose our favourites to keep the cost down -- they are quite pricey but it is a nice souvenir and we will get them copied once home so will have one each.
Lifts seemed to have a life of their own sometimes but we just got on with it, you got there eventually. I tended to use the stairs so that less able guests could use the lifts -- it kept me fit and allowed me to eat more cakes!!!!
Public toilets were spotlessly clean and plentiful, although with the risk of the Norovirus etc why do people still not wash their hands?????
We used all of these as some point and had no problems...well other guests but what can you do......
We used the Lido for late night munchies -- Sirens for breakfast we are quite early risers and never really had to queue and if on board lunch or the terrace grill for a burger and the occasional afternoon tea. Food in both these was always piping hot and plenty of choice, in fact had to have seconds on may occasions as could never decide what to have, I have a degree in Hotel Management and Catering and have been lucky enough to eat and work is some very good restaurants and found the standard of food for that level of restaurant/ship very good. Plus if you wanted something and it wasn't there or had special requirements the staff would get it for you. In fact we saw them on many occasions doing just that and running around after people who were quite either quite demanding and seemed unable to do anything for themselves or wanted anything but what was being served.
We totally understood why we were being served food rather than helping ourselves for the first few days of the holiday along with the paper napkins etc, personally anything that helps to reduce or eliminate the threat of illness is welcome.
The Orion restaurant was our favourite and we ate in there every night and on the days at sea for breakfast. We found the choice of food very good for the main courses and found it difficult to choose some nights. The portions were fine especially as you could ask for seconds or go and have more food later on elsewhere. We always on all our trips on the Dream laugh about the salad course -- which is basically some type of lettuce with a 'few' extras - in fact it has become a joke with us whenever salad is mentioned.
The service we received was always exceptional, even when for the first two nights where we sat in two different areas (the waiter we had on our last cruise was on holiday). On the 3rd night we were seated with Noel and Irfan and can only say that they treated us like friends and royalty. We really enjoyed every meal time with them. On our first night Archie was our wine waiter and apart from the 2nd night served us the rest of our holiday. He was also outstanding and very attentive -- how I shall ever get used to pouring my own glass again I'll never know.
We had three gala dinners during the cruise -- the first on our 2nd night was pretty quiet due to the flight from Birmingham being delayed and those on it not arriving onboard until the following day.
The next was Christmas Day and was fantastic although the day at sea had been particularly rough and quite a few guests were affected I was determined (even with sea sickness) to enjoy the day and night. The staff were all decked out with Santa hats and the menu offered all delights including a full Christmas dinner (the Xmas pud was almost as good as my mums) and there were crackers and balloons and carol singing from the staff.
New Years Eve Gala dinner and our last night was wonderful too with silly hats and party blowers. Again the food was amazing and we treated ourselves to a bottle of Champagne which finished the holiday off nicely.
On both these occasions we went to the late sitting (we asked to swap on Christmas day as had been allocated the early sitting) our waiters made sure we got our regular table. Service was a bit slower but we always took the view we were on holiday and there was no rush.
The best entertainment all week (barring the other guests) was the crew show, they are amazing, Thomson should use them rather than some of there own UK staff. The Thomson reps were on the whole ok, a couple of them thought they were so much more 'fun' than they actually were. Considering this is there 'flagship' I would have thought they would have had a higher quality entertainment team. Maybe we were spoilt last time (May '11) when the reps were brilliant both on the 'stage' and off. We watched quite a few of the shows (when we weren't) too tired and enjoyed them, although there wasn't really anything new on last time. We preferred to enjoy our time watching the sunset, catch the end of the film, have a late meal and watch the late show so didn't really get to see the other entertainment on offer, but enjoyed a pre dinner drink in the Oceans Bar with the band in there who were very good. The destination services team (the same as last time) were great, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful and didn't try to sell, sell, sell (I am an ex Rep and had that mantra hammered into me) which was refreshing.
Although the plan was only to do a couple of the organised excursions we ended up deciding to go mad and do as much as we could in case we didn't come back to this holiday. I am very independent and would normally do this on my own, but as it was my first time to the area and my mum worries about not getting back in time etc we booked on a tour each day except for Curacao, St Lucia and Barbados.
We found all the excursions we did to be excellent and good value for money and the guides were great and very knowledgeable and good fun.
Short 5 minute walk to the town from the boat, nice market stalls with local crafts. We waited for the floating bridge to re-open but ferries were easy to take to the other side of the estuary. We had a quick look around Rif Fort an upmarket shopping centre but decided to cross over into the old town had a wander round to the 'floating' market to see them selling all sorts of fruit and veg. We then booked a trip with a local company who approached us on the street for $10 dollars each to go and try the local liqueur, a short tour of the area to see the 'Wedding cake house' and then to Mambo beach.
We had a great guide and enjoyed several shots of each flavour of liqueur, it was nice to see some of the island and then dip our toes in the sea at the beach (short walk through the building site) but worth it as it was gorgeous. Dropped off back at the boat but could have taken the option to go back to town.
Santa Marta, Colombia
Stunning views of the town and National Park Mountains on arrival. We had booked on the beach trip and I think, expected along with most people to go for a drive in the national park before heading to a beach pretty much like the one we had seen yesterday. However, this was not the case but for us it was so much better. We travelled in one of the local open buses through the town and out into the National Park -- at one point we did hilariously think we had been kidnapped as we headed deeper into the rainforest. The road surface was at this point bumpy, we were stopped at a check point entering the park and told to get off and put a wrist band on and we watched a film on the ecology and how they are working to protect this environment, it was really interesting and we got to see the wonderful areas surrounding us. We then headed further into the rainforest and the road at points was almost impassable, there were more pot holes and landslides than actual road, but this just added to the fun. After heading up we started to head down and turned off onto a dirt road, we saw beautiful flowers and butterflies and then a man with a machete!!!, we had arrived at the beach. A large coved area of about 1/2mile stretch of sand in the middle of nowhere. Apart from us and a couple of others there was no one. We had been given vouchers for drinks -- beer and soft drinks we could get at the bar -- a covered area with a table, there was a toilet area and an area cordoned off to swim (a lifeguard with life jackets was provided -- not sure if this was a necessity or a precaution as there was a steep drop about 2 metres out so you needed to be able to swim). Another shack about 3/4s of the way down the beach were lunch was served. It was one of the best meals of the holiday -- fresh swordfish, coconut rice and fried plantain, salad and fresh fruit. Surroundings were basic and the masks/gloves and hairnets worn by the waitress were maybe a tad over the top but this was the beach getting back to nature. We had a great time swimming (in the rain) and enjoying the surroundings before heading back through the local town (slums) to the ship -- seeing the children playing in the streets so happy yet with nothing really hit home especially with the Christmas lights/trees. We had a great time and realised how lucky we are.
We had booked the horse and carriage ride, my Mums choice (I wanted to do this area on our own) and it was again really great. We had a good guide and we learnt loads about the city, stopped for photos at the fort and then joined our carriages for a ride around the old town, which was beautiful and very medieval Spanish style. We then had free time to shop, we met some lovely shopkeepers who went out of their way to find me a 'Panama Hat' that I actually liked and looked good in...On the way back to the ship we decided to back to the town under our own steam, but once my mum stepped out of the air conditioned bus changed here mind -- it was to hot for her.
I had been looking forward to this and our trip on the canal, as we were 'walking' in my granddads footsteps. We weren't disappointed even though it was 'a bit' longer than anticipated. We had a fantastic guide -- some people complained he talked too much -- but we found him to be really interesting and to be honest if you didn't want to listen then he could have been background noise. We learnt loads about Panama and the canal, and I have some amazing pictures and memories. Going under the bridge of the Americas at twilight and seeing Panama City lit up was fantastic. The endless ice cold soft drinks were a real blessing as it was extremely hot and humid out on deck (air con inside) the lunch was tasty and filling and all the staff very pleasant. Even the hair raising 'race' ride back to the ship was fun.
Possibly my favourite destination and what a Christmas Eve, don't think I'll ever forget. I chose to do the Zip line and Tortogola canal. I was very nervous as I have vertigo but love a challenge and was determined to do the zip line in the rain forest. There was a great group of guests on this and thanks go to Kay, Janet and for their support and pushing to get me on it. Wow, wow, wow is all I can say it was literally breathtaking and I would recommend this to anyone, just a shame my mum wasn't with me (she went on the Rain Forest Experience -- had a brilliant and wet time). We had lunch in an open air bar area over looking the rain forest with the zip lines whizzing overhead. Lunch was scrummy and plentiful, after time for photos and a quick shop; we headed back down to sea level to the canal...more a swollen river and we were in an open sided low boat. We saw the locals living on the side of the river and wildlife -- iguanas, all sorts of birds and my favourite Sloths, we saw a baby one and one that was actually awake and swinging in the tree. Back in port I met up with my mum and walked into the local market area and shopped til we dropped. We had a lovely time -- no hassle, lovely very happy people, wished we could have spent more time there. The day finished watching the sunset and fireworks going off over Port Limon as we sailed out.
PS Loved the mince pies and mulled wine with the carols in the Broadway Show lounge. Merry Christmas
This was one place I wasn't sure I would enjoy, but my Mum had booked us on the Rafting on the Martha Brae river an again this was a great choice. Our guide was lovely and we learnt loads about the island and the area and she pointed out plenty of interesting places. She even sang to us. Once at the start of the rafting we enjoyed a drink and look round the beautifully maintained gardens. The rafting was beautiful and our guide/rafter was very knowledgeable and kept us entertained for the 3 miles of peace and tranquillity, I haven't been so relaxed in a long time. Again we had time for some shopping before heading back to the ship. Montego Bay town was pretty quiet and we had a little wander round. Plenty of shops in the port area for gifts and one of the cheapest Duty free shops ever.
Dominican Republic, La Romana
Originally meant to stop at Catalina island but we were ok with the change as if we wanted to we could still go to the island. I would have liked to have gone to Soana Island but my Mum was keen so we had booked the Alton Chavron and Mississippi Boat Ride. Once again a great guide and very interesting, nice drive through a very expensive area before alighting onboard the boat for a journey down river. Free flowing drinks including rum and coke -- nice for breakfast -- and stunning scenery and wildlife, before a lovely walk and free time round the town overlooking the river.
Antigua, St Johns
We'd already decided before we left the UK to do the Catamaran with Lobster and Champagne. Reading the small print we would get to stop at a local beach and swim, lunch would be lobster and a glass of champagne, with an open bar on the way back. Whilst waiting on the quayside we had slight concerns when we realised that this wasn't an exclusive Thomson excursion but we were to be joined by those off a Fred Olsen and a Celebrity cruise ship, however it was fine and everyone got on fine (well except for a French women who wouldn't share her 'bottle' of champagne and the American family with the overly loud kids and fussy mother....) The staff on the boat were wonderfully friendly, efficient and good fun. The catamaran itself was clean and spacious. The bar was open before we even set off -- the rum punch (Captains special if you were even luckier) was super strong and got the party started. We saw the beauty of Antigua and visited two picture perfect beaches were we had time to sunbathe and swim. Lunch was served onboard moored just off the second beach and even the ever-present lunchtime rain couldn't spoil the fun. The lunch was superb, tasty salads and grilled lobster (the trip cost Ã£68 each and I must have had lobster worth about Ã£40), the champagne started out as one bottle between four, it was the best stuff but when the suns shining and the surroundings are great it doesn't really matter. Whilst some enjoyed relaxing on board the rest of us jumped in the lovely clear warm sea and had an after lunch swim. Then the crew got all sorts up dancing and the drink started flowing on the way back. We made some great friends and managed to get through 6 bottles, needless to say don't remember getting back onto the Dream, but had a 'dream' day and would recommend it to anyone.
British Virgin Islands, Tortola
Our last booked excursion was to swim with the Dolphins; I had looked into this on the web before we left and contemplated doing this independently but various factors we decided to do it with Thomson's. It was a great place the staff very helpful and friendly and we got to do a belly to belly swim, handshake and kisses, all of which was photographed and we purchased at the end. Yes it was expensive but it was worth it and one of many highlights of the holiday. Note, I took my own disposable waterproof camera and got some great shots of my own. We could leave when we wanted to after and got the shuttle back to the boat, we spent some time having a drink and taking photos. After a quick change back on ship we had a walk round the market right by the port area and a wander round the town, ending up on the sea front by some quaint shops where I met a lady selling homemade fruit drinks, we had a lovely chat and she let me try all the flavours before we settle on iced lemon grass juice and a Guava berry cocktail, both delicious, she also gave me the most amazing huge chunk of almonds in a spicy ginger fudge as a gift.
St Lucia, Castries
We had decided to do our own thing here and as we got off the ship met others who we shared a taxi with to Rodney Bay Beach. It was a good service and we were given our drivers number and van registration, we paid on return to the ship $5 each.
We walked through some hotel grounds and cam out on a lovely beach, with a drinks stand and water sports. We opted to hire sun beds and an umbrella for the 4 hours we were there I think it cost Ã£10, but the guy was great and made sure our things were ok when we were in the sea.
Enjoyed a fresh coconut drink straight out the shell and had a lovely relaxing New Years Eve.
Came back to the port area and did some shopping. Got to see the Pitons as we sailed passed as the sunset, will be visiting them on my next visit.
New Years Day so feeling a little delicate, got a taxi into a deserted town, to be fair the driver and the guys at the port told us everywhere would be closed but it was nice to have a walk around and take some pictures. We got a taxi back via a beach resort about 20 minutes away so got to see some of the surrounding area.
As I have previously stated all the crew we came in contact with were incredibly helpful and friendly and happy, nothing was too much trouble which is amazing considering how hard and long they work, Thomson should be very proud of their staff on the Dream.
Love the fact on the last day check in was done onboard and we had no trouble with that all very organised, left our hand luggage in the disco area and got a voucher for it for when we wanted to pick it up. Our suitcases had gone during the night and you just have to be organised as to what you will need for the day and journey home. We kept a change of warm clothing in a separate bag to change into at the airport/on the plane.
We were aware before leaving the ship that there was a delay on our flight but not sure how ling as this was word of mouth. We got straight of the ship onto a minibus and off to the airport, staff were waiting to show us were to go and all we need to do was go through security which took about 20 minutes in total so not too bad. We spent sometime having a drink and wander round the duty free -- quite expensive but managed to use up our dollars and Eastern Caribbean dollars....
In total we were delayed just under four hours -- so not entitled to anything but the way some guests were carrying on you would think it was four days -- the slow hand clapping and continuous questioning of ground staff bordering on harassment was an embarrassment. Some people obviously think that holiday companies delay people on purpose and that a technical issue on a plane can be resolved in minutes. All I can say is that the small of group of people of complainers gave the rest of us a right laugh at their expense and helped pass the time nicely. The fact that the Captain on the flight had to ask people not to take it out on his staff (some people did) was humiliating for those of us who were not involved.
Anyway we had a good fight home with good entertainment and food again and quickly through passport control and collecting our luggage, finished of one of the best holidays I have ever been on (and I have had a hell of a lot of them)
Cannot wait to get back onboard as soon as possible and enjoy it all again. Less
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