By many CC standards we are still novices when it comes to cruising, having just returned from our second one, but I don't feel we have low expectations on what to expect when travelling.
My wife and I returned from a 2 week cruise on the Thomson Dream, 27th January 2013, after what can only be described as a 'Dream Holiday', our best holiday ever. We'd read many reviews after booking the Dream and I must say many of them filled us with trepidation.
After a trouble free flight out from Birmingham to Barbados we were quickly registered at the port and on board. We had an inside cabin on Deck 7 (cabin 7007) and were met by a very welcoming cabin stewardess who was always most polite and efficient. The cabin was comfortable with flat screen TV and tea making facilities. The carpets appeared new but fittings had some signs of wear. The en-suite was more than adequate with a shower more powerful than I'm used to at home. Water was slow going down in the shower, so first morning I reported this and presumably it was dealt with. We experienced no more problems. My only gripe about the cabin was the charge of Â£25 for the 2 weeks for the safe. I paid this rather than worry about carrying passports, credit cards and spare cash around when on shore, especially on the beach.
The ship is knocking on in years and does look its age, very noticeably so when berthed alongside some of the larger modern vessels. There are signs of rusting around window frames and other areas. However there is ongoing maintenance which is nonintrusive. The ship has a friendly atmosphere which other ships in port never seem to quite match.
We ate in Lido, Sirens and Orion and were happy with all. We had lunch and dinner in Orion some days and always found the food and service of high quality. The waiters in Orion were always polite and most efficient and food was hot and tasty.
The food in Lido and Orion was always of a high standard, served by smiling, friendly staff. Breakfast in Lido had a large range of choices from fruit, bread, cheeses, Danish pastries to full English breakfast. I noticed one morning a woman passenger complaining that the bacon was not cooked to her liking. She preferred it overcooked. No problem for the staff, they promptly grilled it to her expectations. Similarly lunch and dinner had a good range of choices with a super salad if that was your preference.
Whether it be on Sirens Deck or Lido Deck or in the buffets, the waiter service was good. The staff were always friendly, smiling and eager to please. This was no mean task considering the hours that some of them seemed to work. There is no way I could keep smiling for the length of time they did and deal politely with some of our fellow passengers who seem to go out of their way to be rude with the crew.
Entertainment was of a high standard, especially the shows in the Broadway Show Lounge. The cast put their heart and soul into each performance. The entertainment in the lounges and elsewhere were of a similar high standard. My favourites though had to be Elegant Touch and Island Wonder, although Keith on the piano and Top Men did exceedingly well.
We did not go AI. Prior to booking the cruise we'd done some research on the package and realised for the type of drinks and amounts we liked it was not financially viable. I like my 'real ales' and would not normally drink the type of keg beer available on the ship. My wife tended to go for the cocktail of the day and I'd go for the bottled beers. The bottled beers e.g. Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Green Kings Speckled Hen at Â£3.90 are pricey compared to supermarkets at home and were served too cold for my liking, so killing the taste. The Guinness, though canned, did work out cheaper than drinking it in my local.
The excursions we made were all the Thomson ones. We did 6 excursions, a 7th one snorkelling was cancelled because the sea was rough. They were all good excursions, though a little more expensive than using a local taxi. The worry with booking a taxi was will the taxi driver return if he's dropped you off on a beach.
The only problem I can say I had with any of the services offered by Thomson's was the photographic one. How many times do you need to have your picture taken by them? Each time you get off the Dream at a port, sit down for dinner or move around ship is a little excessive. Perhaps if they did not take so many photographs and print them off to display and waste so many with unsold copies they could drop the price and perhaps then sell more. Just a thought.
I said at the beginning of this monologue of mine we were novice cruisers but perhaps when I've got more under my belt I will think differently about my Dream experience. Until then I will continue to look back at all the photographs I took on this holiday and dream of going again.
Oh did I say I've booked another Thomson cruise for this summer on the Spirit in the Baltic to celebrate our ruby wedding?