We were starting to be a bit dubious about this cruise before we even left Belfast as our flight was changed twice,including airline change, eventually to an arrival time 10 hours later than our original booking. What has annoyed us even more is that we were notified of the first flight change in December, but we later found out that Thomson were still selling holidays in January with the original flight, even though they knew that flight never existed. This information, along with other issues to do with our booking, has seriously damaged our trust with this company. However, as this was a joint holiday with friends of ours who moved to England a few years ago, we were determined to not let it spoil our holiday.
Our flight arrived slightly early, we got our luggage pretty quick & headed off to the ship by coach. We arrived at 20.30 & breezed through to check-in. We were told we'd missed the muster drill but one for late arrivals would take place in the disco at 21.00. We were to meet up with our friends who had flown in from Exeter, but texted them to say to go ahead & eat without us & we'd meet them later at Reception. We were pretty hungry by now, but went to the drill anyway. The muster was a joke. A bit of info that our lifeboat number was listed on our lifejacket then a demonstration on how to put it on - we'd just had one of those on the flight over!
Went to the Ocean restaurant & our friends spotted us- so they joined us for a second dessert.
I was looking forward to a night of being rocked to sleep by the ship's movement but I slept very little. The beds are very uncomfortable, seemed to be put-u-up beds with cheap mattresses- let's hope replacing them is one of the intended upgrades later this year. I am just catching up on resultant lack of sleep now I'm home. Cabin not large but was fine for 2 people. Plenty of hanging space but not enough hangers- luckily we had taken some of our own & left them behind for the next occupants. Bathroom was fine, small but enough room for 1 person to dry off after a shower. My partner is 6'4" & he coped ok in the shower.
Food was much better than expected but not as good as experienced on other cruise lines. Best food was in the Grill, which has a supplement of 'Â£20 each ('Â£16 on Saturdays). Wine in the Grill was not part of the AI, so we had to put that on our bill. Not sure if you could get any AI drinks here as we only had wine. The Lido & Sirens got very crowded at lunchtimes & we couldn't be bothered with fighting for a seat whilst holding a plastic tray, so ended up going to the Ocean restaurant most days- much more relaxing. We did try the stir-fry on the Lido on a couple of occasions- very tasty but some noodles or rice with it would have been nice.
We were disappointed with the entertainment at night. Not that it was bad just very samey every night, but they did the best they could with limited resources. Theatre entertainment team just ok- boys better singers than the girls but believe the team is changing soon. Guest comedians were very good. It was difficult to find anywhere to sit that didn't have a game show/quiz taking place or had music blasting out. The pianist in the Delo bar needs his mike throwing overboard! It's a small bar which does not require a mike, let alone someone, who is an adequate "pub singer" at best, belting it out. We would have loved a quiet bar where we could have had a conversation with our friends, not a shouting match. I suppose we could have sat up on the Lido deck in the evening, but unfortunately, the weather was not good & it was cold up there.
The AI package was definitely worth having at the price we paid for it. You could even get cocktails not listed on the bar menu as long as the ingredients were listed. It was nice getting teas & coffees from the bars on the AI, saving having to go up the Lido for a free cuppa. Bottled water was offered gratis in the Ocean restaurant which was a nice touch. When you have the AL you still sign for all drinks, but your receipt has zero value. Our first weeks' bill came to 'Â£1.75 (water not on the AI), the second was higher due to 2 visits to the Grill & a few drink supplements.
The ship has 2 pools which contain seawater which is sucked up every morning & released in the evening, so was a little cold. The Lido deck also had a very small children's pool. The pool area on Sirens deck was the noisy one during the day, especially at lunchtime, when the resident band played for about an hour. The rest of the time there was background music playing. This is where the daytime activities took place (quiz, ice sculpting etc). There are 2 jacuzzis & table tennis also in this area.
The best time to bag a sunlounger was in the morning when most of the passengers went ashore. Though they were all in full sun most of the day- not a good thing- there were a lot of "lobsters" after a couple of days! If you left it until after midday, you didn't stand a chance of getting one, though there were sometimes loungers available on deck 9 on the smoking side of the ship- yuck! We discovered that there are some loungers at the back of the ship on deck 7, which you could move into shade, though there was no bar service- you have to go up to deck 9 to get a drink.
We did a few shore excursions via the ship. We had booked them online a couple of weeks before cruise date. There was a major problem with all of the online bookings made, as Head-office only sent details for one person per trip booked. So there was only one ticket issued per trip. There was a very long queue at the excursions desk for several hours the next day to try sort it out. Luckily, our first trip wasn't for a few days so we left it another day, before going to the desk & there was no queue. The extra tickets were delivered later that day. The wine tasting in Tuscany (Livorno) was very enjoyable. The wine was so-so but the unexpected food was lovely.
Disembarkation was very smooth. Hold luggage had to be left outside the cabin before 3am & the cabin vacated by 8am. Even though we didn't arrive until late evening our flight home was an early one (one of the issues we have with the company) so we were amongst the first wave off the ship.
Would we go on this ship again? Don't think so. For various reasons, we had to book several months in advance & so paid a premium price, which did not give us value for money. Thomson Cruises are overpriced for what they deliver. If you want to cruise with them, never book in advance- just bag a last- minute cruise at a much more reasonable price.