We booked this through a Thomson travel agency and never having cruised before decided to try a few upgrades. We upgraded to a suite, bought the drinks package (more later) and selected our seats on the flight.
On arrival at the airport we were faced with a dilemma, hand luggage which was overweight! Allowed only 5kg but the paperwork states 7kg. After switching stuff around into main cases we proceeded. No in flight entertainment or meals as standard, this is not good enough for a 5 + hour flight.
Arrived at Sharm el Sheik airport, no problems here other than chaotic with several flights arriving around the same time. Took a coach to the dock, could not call it a port. We had to queue for registration in a small hut, felt a bit like a refugee at this point. Eventually got on board and the suite we had (056 on deck 8) was fine, the bathroom had clearly been refurbished recently, although the description of the view was "partially obstructed", there was ample room to see past the lift boat arm and winch. The cabin steward could not have been better.
Sailed to Aqaba (Jordan) where there were several excursion options. We went to Wadi Rum & Petra. Both were over priced although Petra is spectacular.
The welcome back on board as we arrived from Petra was unexpected, the crew, mainly waiters formed a guard of honour, whilst others sang.
Second port visited was Sokhna, very industrial area. We didn't do any trips from here, having visited the pyramids etc previously.
Third stop was at Safaga, again very industrial port probably the worst surroundings as we docked right next to what looked like a cement works! From here we took a trip to Hurgarda and went on a snorkelling which was very good.
Last night on board spent sailing back to Sharm El Sheik.
Overall experience was fine, but the wobble on board ship which is ever present whether static or moving is annoying.
The entertainment team were very good, stage show twice every evening, other groups entertaining around the ship at various times.
The food was very good, although we did not spend much time in the Lido area, which was very basic and over crowded, we took all our meals in the Meridian Restaurant & did not try the al a carte Mistrals, but heard good reports. The waiters worked their socks off to make the experience a good one, they even turned their hand to entertainment, celebrating anniversaries, birthdays etc in song at table side. They even put on their own stage show at the end of the week.
Hygiene was a major issue, with staff stationed at every entrance to all food outlets armed with hand cleansing spray, the cabins were cleaned twice daily and the public areas especially hand rails were constantly cleaned. There were no reports of any illness during the week.
As mentioned at the start, we purchased a drinks package when booking, this was expensive and we were annoyed to find that the same package was on offer on board at a dramatically lower price, needless to say we have written to Thomson complaining. Other passengers had booked more excursions than us and they were just as annoyed when the found a special offer on board if three trips were purchased on additional was thrown in free. I think Thomson will be getting a few letters!
As a first cruise experience we enjoyed the Celebration, it is a small ship & although some areas have been refurbished others are in need of some TLC. I'm sure if we had shopped around we might have saved on the overall cost, but we went for convenience via Thomson.
Will we cruise again, probably, will it be with Thomson, not sure.