After enjoying a great cruise on Thomson Spirit last year to the Baltic, my wife and I were attracted to this cruise to Norway primarily because it sails from Newcastle so there would be no flying, and it was a new country for us to visit.
The main attraction though was that this cruise was to go up into the Arctic circle and visit North Cape and see the Midnight Sun.
We arrived in Newcastle by car and headed to the International terminal there we found everything signposted for Thomson Cruise and we were shown where to drop off our luggage and then directed to the car park. There was a shuttle bus from the car park to the terminal and the check in desks.
Check in this year was very quick. At the ship's check in we registered our credit card. Remember though that there is a 2.5% surcharge. We were little early checking in so after we were given a number and, had to sit in the waiting area until our number was called and we could board the ship. Only took about 10 minutes though and we were on the ship.
We were shown to our cabin (which we had last year) which was on deck 4 and was an outside cabin. The cabin had two single beds arranged in an "L" formation and a large porthole/window. The room was quite spacious,surprisingly bigger than our previous cruise ships. The wardrobe space was very good, two quite large wardrobes with plenty of coat hangers. Shelves above for small luggage and room for some luggage in the bottom. There is also a safe which has to be rented if required. There is also lots of room under the beds for suitcases etc.
There is a dressing table with three drawers each side and in one of the drawers there is a hair dryer. There is a 220V and a 110V socket above the dressing table. Remembering last year, we took one of those square sockets, that takes a couple of appliances, to plug into the ships mains socket, as some phone chargers will not fit due to the shape of the charger plug. On the other side of the cabin were three large drawers and a container for wine or other bottles.
The cabin had a TV with Sky News, BBC World News, Sky Sports News, two movie channels, ship channels and some other channels.
The bathroom was very good with plenty of room and an easy to operate shower.
Still no tea/coffee making facilities though in this cabin.
The cabin was kept very clean by our cabin staff Ana and Nouby. There was either an elephant or some other sort of animal made out of your towel on your bed when you retired for the night along with a chocolate.
Now to the dining rooms. There is the waiter service Compass Rose, Sirocco,s restaurant where you pay a supplement and the Lido which is self service buffet.
As last year we ate only in the Lido as we prefer to eat when we want and to sit where we want. We found the meals to be of good quality and there was a good variety of food with evening themed nights. Similarly breakfasts had a good variety from cereals up to full breakfasts. The only problems occur when on days at sea the Lido tends to get very full but it is a matter of choosing your time. There was also a shortage of cups on sea days which annoyed people.
There were two formal Gala nights during the cruise but for those who prefer to be casual there is the Lido restaurant so no problems there.
Now to the entertainment.
We thought that the entertainment for the whole cruise was great. The stage shows were really fantastic with professionally choreographed themed shows. The dance team were different this year and we thought that they were even better than the previous cruise. All the team members worked very hard and were very talented either singing or dancing. Many of the team members did individual singing performances some evenings. The Cruise Director Richard Grey worked extremely hard and was also very good and not only compared but also acted, he also entertained us with some of his comic antics.
In all the bars there was again entertainment from Piano and Violin duet to guitar singers trio, cabarets by the individual Thomson Spirit show team members, quizzes, competitions etc. There is also a casino. There are even a couple of stage plays in the afternoon which are entertaining.
In the High Spirits bar, a group called Sound Room were very good and there was Karaoke for those who like this and of course a late night disco.
One evening starting at 23.30 we had a Midnight Sun party out on the Lido deck. All the singers took part and Richard Grey was up to his comic antics dancing out on the decks. A memorable evening in the Midnight Sun. This was followed a few days later by a “I'm in the Arctic get me out of here” show in the afternoon in which some of the show team participated. It culminated in Richard Grey being thrown in the pool!
We had a guest speaker called Tore Fauske on board for the whole cruise and he did three lectures, growing up during World war 2 in Norway under the German occupation, the Vikings and finally a talk on being a Norwegian translator. Very good talks with lots of humour. We also had Ron “Chopper” Harris former Chelsea football captain being interviewed one evening by Richard Grey.
The entertainment was rounded off by two UK guest comedians Stan Johns and Rudi West. Both very funny in their own style.
On the last night some of the catering and bar staff put on a little show which was good. Thank you to all the bar staff and waiters in the restaurants who work very long hours.
We went on three trips, North Cape, Tromso Wilderness Centre and Flam Railway and hiking trip. The trips were quite expensive but enabled us to see the things we wanted to see. We went out on our own at all other stops. Bergen was very good and we went on our own up on the Floibanen and walked back down which was fairly easy. The Fjords were spectacular especially Geiranger Fjord. We did try a bicycle trip at Sortland that was great and thanks to the leader Bjorn, who was very patient with two inexperienced riders. There was a shuttle bus in Tromso which was £6 return into town or you could catch the local bus.
We must say a big thank you to the weather, which apart from one rough night leaving Bergen, was sunny, warm and at times cloudless. To walk around in shirtsleeves in the Arctic was amazing. The Midnight Sun was magical and on all nights in the Arctic it was visible. North Cape was amazing with sunny, cloudless weather and calm seas. We sailed around the Cape coming into Honningsvag and then went to the Cape by bus.
Disembarking was very easy. All luggage is left outside your cabin the evening before with a coloured label attached according to your cabin number and mode of travel, i.e. own car, coach etc. The luggage is collected and off loaded at Newcastle and you disembark at set times on arrival. Our time was 08.30 and we were taken by bus to the car park and the luggage was in a room adjacent to the car park. We were on the road in minutes.
The ship was very comfortable, even in a force 6 weather on leaving Bergen. The safety procedures were very good with an excellent evacuation drill. The Captain gave us lots of navigational and weather information each day.
Thank you Thomson for a great cruise, thank you to all the staff seen and unseen we will be back next year on the Spitzbergen cruise.