We have just returned from our first ever cruise, a two week tour of the Caribbean aboard the Thomson Dream. The ship is one of the old school and looking her age in places. As we have never been in anything bigger than a cross channel ferry we have nothing to compare it with so can only write as we saw it.
I had a call shortly before we booked the cruise from Thompson regarding an e-mail I sent asking about drinks packages and visas and it was a nice surprise to get a phone call to answer my questions. I thought that was a good start. However, that was the end of that phase of good fortune. I sent an e-mail to them asking about a double bed in cabin 6102, which I paid Â£39 to reserve, but they never replied. I had to call them after five days for an acknowledgment of my payment of the balance. They called me while we were on holiday in the Algarve about upgrading our cabin and I asked them to call back the Tuesday after we got back but they never did. I sent more e-mails but still no reply. I had a call from their customer service asking if I had received the e- ticket. The young man apologised for the no reply to my e-mails and told me we would have to collect our own bags from Bridgetown airport. This was contrary to what I had read on Cruise Critic and told him so.
We flew from Gatwick on Sunday January 13th and as per the Cruise Critic forum our bags were security sealed and were not seen by us again until we got to our cabin on the Dream. That was nice. We opted for Premium Economy with the promise of more room and a better service. I chose seats in Row 9 not realising that those seats have no windows. The seats in front of us had two windows. Good design! Had the designer ever been in a plane?
We got a drink as soon as we sat down on each flight and soon after take off another drink with those dreaded Pretzels, which I hate. On asking for something else I was told the rest were chargeable. I declined. The food wasn't too bad and there was plenty of drink if you so wished. All the seats had the table built into the armrest and had not been cleaned for a long time. The cabin stewards were very good humoured and did a good job.
We got off the plane at Barbados and straight on to a bus and in forty minutes we were at the ship. Getting through the system was pretty quick and we were soon on our way to cabin 6102, an inside cabin. I had chosen this as I wanted to see what it was like without any view of the outside world. As it turned out we spent very little time in there apart from sleeping very well every night.
The use of hand sanitisers was very welcome all over the ship as some people still manage to use the toilets without washing their hands and it pays to be careful.
Our cabin was the width of two single beds pushed together with a bedside table on each side. There was a small two seater settee and a table, a dressing table with stool, a double wardrobe with space at the side behind the door and a bathroom with a small shower, washbasin and toilet. Overall it was comfortable but in spite of the Premium refit the bathroom hadn't been touched. It had been well used. There was always lots of hot water but the shower had individual controls so had to be set each time you turned it on. There was a kettle and two cups with various sachets of tea and Nescafe coffee. We had to pay Â£25 for the safe for two weeks.
On our first night we opted to dine in the Orion restaurant and were in there at 1830. There wasn't that much of a choice on the menu but we managed. The service was very slow, even though the restaurant wasn't full, and we managed three courses by 1950. We were not impressed with the food quality. Not a good start. We were due to have our evacuation drill at 2000 so off to our cabin. That went without a hitch.
We eat in the Lido buffet for the remainder of the cruise with the odd meal in the Sirens. We did have one breakfast in the Orion but again the service was very slow and getting more coffee, tea and toast proved futile so we went to the Lido for drinks and toast. The waiters in the Orion seemed to be very different to those in the Lido, always without a smile. We did check the menu in the Orion on a regular basis but there never seemed to be anything that appealed to us. The Grill had the same problem..
The fish that they served seemed to be all the same just having a different name. They have a habit of putting a particular dish on the menu, such as Cajun Blackened fish, but there was not a hint of Cajun to be seen or tasted and it wasn't blackened. We were once given Squash and told it was Sweet Potato. The salads sometimes left much to be desired and Tuna only appeared twice and in very small quantities. The desserts were also very limited with practically the same one every day. In the Lido the hot dessert was always the same sponge but with a different filling. There was also a distinct lack of tropical fruit. I expected to see at least papaya on the menu and bananas appeared only twice and they were not very good quality.
Contrary to what I read online the coffee was drinkable. As a coffee drinker I always bring my own but didn't use it at all.
There was an abundance of free water available in both the Lido and Sirens and on occasions the staff would help you to fill bottles and other containers when needed.
We were asked for Â£219 per week each for a drinks package but would have trouble drinking that much. There was no cider for our first week and the extras you had to pay for certain drinks on the AI seemed silly.
There was a limited amount of alcohol in each of their cocktails and this was made worse by piling on the ice. I asked for a can of coke and was given a freezing cold can and a pint glass full to the top with ice. Talking about watering down drinks.
The entertainment was very good, especially in the Broadway Show Lounge. However, the same people have to do everything, including all their own costume changes as there are no backstage crew to help, so apart from a comedian once a week there is the same cast doing a wonderful job to keep the customers happy. And they work around the ship during the day as well. Well done!
There was a group called Top Men who played in various areas and were very good at reproducing various styles of music. There were several other artists but they didn't appeal to us.
Each evening there was a quiz show in the Medusa Lounge and they were usually entertaining.
We chose to take six Thomson excursions during our fourteen day cruise and found them to be a mixed bag. They are well overpriced, using local travel firms or taxis is much cheaper, and unfortunately they often take you to places that are of little interest and spend a very short time somewhere you would rather spend more time.
The lounges are very comfortable and range from busy with music to very quiet for reading. The windows in the Medusa and Argo lounges were filthy, so much so that I couldn't take a photograph through them. There was the usual problems in finding somewhere to relax on deck made more difficult by smoking being allowed on the Starboard (right) side of the ship outside. Some people still broke the rules and smoked wherever they wanted to.
Cruise Critic provided most of the answers I needed for this trip so thanks to all those people who replied to my messages.
It was an expensive holiday, on par with many land based tours we have done, but the food wasn't as good as a four star hotel and sometimes the service was lacking.
On speaking to other passengers who are regular cruisers they were not impressed with the food or entertainment and I have come to the conclusion that it is an individual thing as to whether you like the Dream or not. We were happy with it but would like to try another cruise line to compare it with. Overall it was a pleasant experience and one I would gladly go through again.