Our second cruise with Thomson, having first enjoyed our first cruise aboard The Spirit back in 2008 was eagerly awaited by the family. Ten of us had booked some 4 months earlier via our local travel agent. Our party consisted of four well-behaved children between 8 and 13 and six adults.
Handling and departure at our local airport (Exeter) was seamless, we arrived in plenty of time to sit around and sample the nice (but expensive!) eateries. Anyway, we were soon aboard the 737-200 and on our way. A super-smooth flight and excellent cabin service.
Landing and disembarkation at Corfu was straightforward, no repeat of any horror stories (rude & rushed staff etc) here and quick handling by the embarkation crew. A slight hiccup in the allocation of a boarding card for a young family member resulted my party of four being put into an air conditioned port security car and driven personally to the Majesty for the issue of a new card -- all seamless and no trouble -- so our experience of Corfu airport was definitely a good one.
Once on board, we were familiar with what to do -- head straight up to the Sun Deck (10) via the lift and sample a beer (or two!) and then familiarise ourselves with the ship. Anyone who has been on a Thomson ship will feel at home with the blue and white livery and the friendly staff. It was nice to see one or two familiar and friendly faces onboard -- one notable face was that of Sheila Riley, the Front Office Manager -- so we just knew that any problems would be efficiently and quickly dealt with if the need arose.
We were impressed with the layout of the decks, once having ascertained the best & quickest ways to our cabin from various areas, we found out luggage efficiently delivered to our cabins. Once inside a short time was spent organising the rather small wardrobe/hanging area. Plenty of drawer storage space too. Bathroom was adequate -- do check the temperature of the shower water before stepping in -- the water is scalding hot and powerful!! There are signs warning you of this.
Spent the rest of the evening on the sun deck/pool areas and ate from the Piazza San Marco buffet style. By this time, we were quite tired, taking into account the travelling and the +2hr time difference -- so a fairly early night to bed for us.
Beds were comfy and I was able to stretch out fully (1.8m) and the air conditioning in the rooms, I'm pleased to say, worked very well and ensured no-one got too hot. Noise and vibration in room 4145 was minimal -- but there was a clanking/stair type noise as if someone was working above us some nights, never really got to the bottom of it but once asleep, it was fine! As there is no daylight in the room, waking up (without an alarm clock) is a bit of a lottery -- as some mobile phones cannot be trusted to make the time- change automatically -- the addition of a centrally-adjusted clock be it digital or traditional -- in the cabins would have been handy. Nevertheless, someone in the party had the foresight to keep track of time and we soon got accustomed to it.
Day one at Sea was pretty much spent exploring the ship and using the facilities -- the spa baths and swimming pools were in use, with the ship carrying 169 children aboard, it certainly never felt crowded with children. I just wish they could heat the main pool with some waste heat from the engine or something -- blimey it was cold getting in at times!
At the end of Day one we dined in the Seven Seas Restaurant -- table 29 over in the far right corner -- being greeted by the familiar & very friendly face of Leroy Brown, the matre d'. As expected, the usual slick and very pleasant dinner and waiter service was enjoyed -- the food was absolutely spot-on both in terms of quantity, quality & presentation. Upon finishing, we were asked by the waiters if we would like this table reserved for us at 6.30-7.00pm every night for dinner -- which we took them up on. The dining experience part of this cruise was probably one of the most enjoyable parts -- as you just knew that you'd be treated well and have some excellent food.
The Captains Gala evening was great -- a chance to dress up in lounge suits and dresses for the ladies -- it was a shame not so many others didn't dress up (as happens on the Spirit) but it was a very enjoyable evening -- and again, all staff throughout the ship made such a fuss over our well-dressed children, it was a really special night for us all. If you get a choice, table 29 over in the left corner comes with some great service from Hady & our wine waiter William. We simply couldn't have asked for better service.
We retired up to the upper decks to relax and wine away the rest of the evening, finishing off with a glass of fine port or two.
Cruise News delivered to our cabin the night before gave us an insight into the next days port -- and other useful information such as miles travelled and at what speeds etc and as to what entertainment was available and whereabouts on the ship.
Koper in Solvenia was looked to be an industrious town, with a busy-looking port, full of container ships. This was the only day we had a bit of rain -- and I couldn't have wished for a better day really as it being a Sunday, the shopping opportunities were limited -- but nevertheless, it was nice to get off and explore.
Back on the ship by about 4pm for a bit of relaxation by the poolside with increasingly darkening skies -- we headed to get ready for dinner -- again first-class service & food in The Seven Seas, with an impressive backdrop of lightning and heavy rain!
Again, a super-smooth sailing overnight to Venice, one of the highlights of the cruise. I had been told by fellow members of the family who had been before that it was well worth getting up early and heading for the upper decks to view the sail-in to Venice -- and they weren't wrong -- it was simply stunning. Many others had taken the lead to get up early and enjoy the view. A twisty journey in, following the enormous "Carnival Breeze" through the busy port approaches, aided by tug boat at some points.
A breakfast at the Four Seasons with waiter service was enjoyed before heading off the ship at 8.45am -- in readiness for a busy day in what can only be described as one of the "Must See" cities of the world. The transfer from the port to Venice itself was a fairly painless procedure via Water Taxi -- I think it was E12 each, not cheap! We took a short Gondola trip (80Euro for each Gondola) -- expensive but such an unforgettable experience. Don't be put off by the slightly smelly water of Venice, just take in and enjoy the stunning scenery and culture.
Walking around St Mark's Square and making your way further into the City was quite easy, there are signs for major attraction on the corners of many buildings -- The Rialto Bridge was one I wanted to see -- we found it quite easily. Toilets were expensive in Venice, so be sure to carry some spare change (E1.50). The shopping (or browsing!!) experience here is second to none, it was a real eye opener! Do make sure to allow plenty of time to catch the water taxi back to the port as the queues at some times can be long, it would be nothing to be waiting an hour to board a water taxi at some points -- The Majesty was sailing at 17h00 so we had to be very aware of this!!
Port 3 was Split, in Croatia -- and what a beautiful place this was to be. A mix of modern and old, it was an easy walk from the port to the town centre, where, much to my daughters delight, free WIFI could be obtained in the street, so that sorted her Facebook addiction.
Split was clean and bright, with some lovely cafes -- we sat and had a couple of local beers -- remember to take Kunas here. Beer and food not expensive, English widely understood.
Dubrovnik on Day 5 was hotly anticipated by all, this destination was stunning. The smooth cobbled streets were beautiful to walk upon and the range of shops and general day-to-day life you could observe was wonderful. Again, some great service in the many restaurants/cafes/bars! A "must do" is to walk the walls of Dubrovnik, some stunning views from up there. Paying by Kunas or credit card was the only option here, no Euros were accepted. Allow 1 to 1 /12 hours to walk and fully appreciate the walls and the stunning views from there. Plenty of gift shopping was available for the girls! Us men went off independently and upon returning from walking the walls, sitting in a bar with a local beer, watching the stunning young ladies selling excursions for the glass-bottomed boats saw off a couple of hours quite nicely!
Back on the Majesty, it was a lovely evening spent dining and enjoying the atmosphere aboard.
Last stop was Kotor, in Montenegro -- this was a tendered destination but was handled excellently by the crew. A short tender journey to shore and it was an easy walk to the main attractions -- you can see why this is a UNESCO listed site. We decided to make the ascent up to the Fort -- some 1400 steps -- this is not for the faint-hearted I can warn you! It will take you between 45-60 minutes to climb to the top. This is definitely an early-morning excursion as the sun will make the sweat pour off you if you do this during the midday sun. Make sure you wear suitable footwear, flip-flops aren't really suitable -- but that's what my companion wore. There was a small fee to pay but it wasn't expensive. Take water with you or be prepared to pay E1.50 to the path-side sellers for a cool bottle -- this maybe the easier option!! Coming down the pathway was easier but BE CAREFUL, you don't want any trips, slips or falls!
The scenery was amazing from the top of the Fort, it was a shame it was rather hazy the day we were there, but nevertheless, it didn't detract from the whole experience.
Back to the boat via the tender was well rehearsed and slick -- the Majesty's Second Officer piloted our tender back to the ship -- and could he handle a boat!! It was rather impressive to watch.
The evening dining at the Severn Seas never became dull, with a changing menu each day -- no-one in our party had a single complaint about the food -- and even a children's menu was available, so even the children were happy! The rest of the evening was spent on the upper decks, finishing off with a port or two in the Royal Observatory for the adults. Loved the Pianist and Violinist playing, it was a real treat. It was important this evening before retiring to leave your packed cases outside your cabins with the correct labels etc. for collection by porters for delivery to the quayside ready for your disembarkation the following day. I'm glad my wife is an organised suitcase-packer!
Leaving Kotor for Corfu on the last day was sad, our last sail-away! But 189 nautical miles at 18 knots was a smooth affair, arriving in Corfu into brilliant sunshine at 0700hrs. As we were late onto the ship, we enjoyed the rest of the day onboard, soaking up the sunshine and making use of our AI cards right up until an hour or embarkation.
Bus transfer to the airport from the port was a rather hot affair -- the air conditioning aboard the bus wasn't the strongest system -- but the 30 minute journey went smoothly enough. Boarding etc at the small Corfu airport was uneventful if not a little stressful what with a slightly heavy suitcase, but that was soon sorted.
A pleasant 3hr journey back in the "Blue Bird" 737-200 saw us back home safely on UK soil by 2015hrs, soon shivering in the cold conditions!
Overall, a very pleasant time away with Thomson aboard The Majesty -- one which we hope to repeat next year -- not pinning any hopes on any decent summer weather next year in the UK. We all would be happy to do this particular route again, perhaps taking part in the bike tours and some more adventurous excursions.