Our second Thomson cruise this year, (we were on the Celebration in May), and 7th in total. We chose this cruise purely for the itinerary and not the ship, as we had been on the Dream before, and much prefer the Spirit or Celebration. This was our 7th Thomson Cruise, as my wife prefers a weeks cruise, which are difficult to find among the other cruise lines as they are generally 10 to 14 days long. We are in our early 60's, so are in the predominant group that you normally find on these cruises, though I have noticed more and more 40 and 50 somethings cruising now then a few years ago. The Dream is smaller than the Spirit and celebration, does not have a cinema and the entertainment is generally confined to one deck, though there is sometimes something going on outside on another of the decks. The Dream like the Celebration has had the much publicised upgrade to platinum status, though just exactly what this entailed, apart from a few cosmetic changes (flat screen TV's in cabins, Tea and coffee making facilities, and new tiling around the shower) I have no idea, as the ship looks exactly like it did the last time we sailed in her. We flew into Palma from Newcastle without any hassle, and fairly quickly collected our luggage and boarded the transfer coach. It was a mid afternoon flight so by the time we got to the ship it was gone 6 in the evening. We got a quick bite to eat in the self service restaurant, before having to take part in the new arrivals lifeboat drill. One thing that did strike us was how the food seems to have declined in quality, things that used to be out on previous cruises we rarely saw. Fruit juice machines are only dispensing fruit juice during meal times (breakfast only I think,) then the rest of the day its only water, I could be wrong but I thought you could get fruit juice all day before. The entertainment has become a bit stale as well, we have been to every single West End type show on our previous cruises and all were very good. But when my wife (an avid lover of these shows) starts telling me how rubbish one of the shows in particular was, then you know things have gone down hill.
It wasn't all doom and gloom though, the itinerary was one of the best we have been on, Gibraltar the first port of call was an eye opener, I didn't expect there to be a Morrisons supermarket or Marks and Spencers there, but there was! We booked an excursion from the ship to go up the rock plus a few other places of interest, Europa point being one of them. I thought you would be taken right to the top of the rock, but you are not, you go I'd say, to just over half way up. There is a surprise in store though! Part of the tour up the rock takes you into a large cave system which was pretty amazing when you see the stalactites etc. You do of course see the Barbary apes, though there didn't seem to be many about when we saw them (probably heard I was coming). Unfortunately the day we were there it was pretty hazy so we couldn't see across to North Africa which you normally can.
Second Port we visited was Cadiz (it should have been Portimao, but we knew about the change when we received our booking tickets). Cadiz was we thought quite a nice place and instead of going on an excursion, opted instead to catch the open topped hop on hop off tourist bus that does the rounds. There was a very large cruise liner in Cadiz at the same time as us, but luckily berthed down from us. I say luckily because we were near the first stop and managed to get seats on the top deck of the tour bus, whereas the other liner was next to the second stop and by the time we reached it the bus was full. There was a very long queue waiting, and it was a very hot day to boot, so I didn't envy them! Cadiz was a fairly nice looking and clean place, it has what looks to (the tourist bus passes it) be a fantastic beach as well. We got off near the towns other side on our second circuit (waited until we knew what's what), there were still massive queue's back at the second stop when we went around that second time. We liked Cadiz (I'm sure the fine weather helped a lot as well), and had a nice stroll back to the ship from the other side of town (it wasn't all that far).
Port 3 was Tangier, again the sun was shining so it looked nice. We booked an excursion to see Tangier by coach and then go to a show. It was okay but nothing special, the coach trip was probably the more interesting of the two, as the show was disappointing, especially the so called horsemanship display, which lasted all of 4 or 5 minutes and consisted of four riders galloping along a narrow strip in front of you and hollering while waving ancient rifles, they repeated this three times and it was over, in fact some people were still trying to find seats when it had already finished! Back on the bus and it took us near to the port (you could see the ship), and stopped along the promenade while you stretched your legs for ten minutes before returning you to the ship. So pretty expensive for what it was.
Port 4 was Motril, we decided on a quiet day so just caught the free shuttle into town. It was pleasant enough I suppose, but there wasn't really much there. To be fair to Thomson's, we were warned by destination services that its really just a feeder port for the excursions inland.
Port 5 was Cartagena, the g is not used in its pronunciation, so its said as Carta ena, the ships berth is quite literally (like in Cadiz) next to the town, so you can just walk off the ship and browse amongst the shops if you wish. There is also an open topped tourist bus, but its not hop on hop off, you get to do a circuit of the town area, it costs 7 euro's a head, so is a lot cheaper than the one in Cadiz which was 17 euro's a head. There is also a small catamaran type tourist boat that does trips around the area, for a similar price as the tourist bus.
Port 6 was back to Palma, every time in the past when we have sailed from Palma, we have arrived and departed fairly early, so didn't get to see anything other than the marina next to the ships berth of Palma town itself. This time our flight wasn't until the evening, so we had time to explore a little bit of Palma. We caught the open topped tourist bus from the port entrance (were told by destination services it starts at approx 9am), well at 10:20 it finally arrived, we boarded feeling rather tired, hot and bothered after standing out in the hot sun for all that time (well done destination services for getting it so wrong!). The fare was 15 euro's a head, but it was a hop on hop off type, so wasn't unreasonable. We elected to just stay on the bus and enjoy the scenery, the bus takes you past the big Cathedral, all around the main shopping areas, and also up to the castle overlooking the harbour, so plenty of opportunities for photo shoots. Back to the ship on completion of our little foray, to sit about for a few hours awaiting our departure time (the worst part of the cruise if you ask me, because you just want to get on with it and go!). In summary one of the best cruises we have been on with Thomsons with regards to the itinerary, weather was near perfect for the whole cruise, and the serving/waiting/cleaning staff were their usual brilliant selves. We had a fantastic cabin steward (but then again we always have had), and it is these people who make the cruise what it is. The downers! we didn't think much of the upgrade to platinum status, the stage shows weren't as good as past cruises (but maybe we are getting picky), the food didn't seem as good as it has been (but again maybe we are starting to get picky), and there was the usual shortage of sun lounger's during the day at sea. People still reserve sun loungers with towels, and unlike the Celebration, nobody seemed to go around checking that they hadn't been left unoccupied for too long. Oh! one other thing, the in cabin safes on the Dream (unlike the celebration) are keyless, they are the enter a code type, so no hassles about getting the key back to reception the night before you leave.
When all is said and done, would we go on another Thomson cruise? The answer is a resounding yes, but dependent on the itinerary, as we have been to most of the ports in the med, and its getting harder and harder to find Thomson cruises that don't have two or three ports in their itinerary that we have already been to.