We have been looking at doing a cruise for a while now and went with the Thomson Dream as it had the best itinerary and the fewest sea days of all the cruises we looked at.
We have stayed in a number of Thomson Platinum hotels worldwide and as a result thought we knew what to expect, suffice to say we were massively underwhelmed by the Dream. I think Thomson are potentially damaging their ‘Platinum’ brand by describing this as such, the ship and its facilities were basically a floating 3* hotel.
The cabin we stayed in was fine as it was as I had anticipated, small but comfortable and thanks to our room steward Yudi, spotless at all times! The major problem with the cabin was the cardboard thin walls, we could literally hear everything from our neighbours; TV on, drawers opening and closing, conversations etc. etc., not so much a problem during the day as we tended to stay out the room but when your neighbours get up at 6am, put the TV on and then proceed to open every drawer in the room to get ready it means you have an unwelcome wakeup call every day!
The sea days were horrific for us, there is simply not enough outside space for everyone and sun lounger stress is not my idea of a holiday, I appreciate space is limited but Thomson need to fix the beds they have to ensure they are useable, and they need to convert some of the unused space (perhaps the sports court?) into a sunlounging area. The pools were smaller than we had anticipated and we did not use them. There is also the fact that there is just not a lot to do, having spoken to relatives who have cruised with P&O, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity X, Carnival they seemed to be able to fill a day at sea quite easily with activities (or lounging as the bigger ships clearly have more space for that) but we were bored out of our minds!
The quality of the limited food selection was fair however the variety was poor. The range of meats was particularly limited (I have never paid a supplement for steak at any all-inclusive hotel I have stayed in previously – it was £9.95 on the Dream) and the lunches were inappropriate for the setting (who wants a roast dinner for lunch in the Caribbean?!) The setup of the buffet restaurant was a massive problem for me, it felt very canteen ‘school lunch’ style, we have eaten in numerous buffet restaurants and have never seen one set up like this, very old fashioned (and resulting in one very long queue at all meals!) The afternoon tea was far more appropriate so we tended to miss lunch and go for that instead.
Breakfast had the best variety but even then cereals would run out and not be replenished, I don’t think it’s because the staff hadn’t noticed they had run out, I think it was more a cost saving exercise. The staff at all restaurants were excellent however Fernando was a stand out for us, really looked after us and was always welcoming.
We didn’t find the bar staff as friendly as the waiters however there were a few chatty ones the Medusa Lounge, I wouldn’t pay for the all-inclusive as in my opinion it’s not AI (seems like you have to pay a supplement for more than you actually get included in the package), the drinks prices were fine but check your bill often as we did get a few rogue entries added onto ours.
The entertainment staff worked hard and were pleasant, again a bit dated for our taste. I think Thomson have firmly targeted themselves at the over 60s market (generally) as there seemed to be nowhere for a young couple to go and listen to a bit of background music (current) whilst having a chat – maybe the Lido bar or Sirens bar could start playing anything from the last 20 years in the background of an evening to afford people like us somewhere to go (although of a high standard not everyone likes to listen to the constant quizzes, piano player, violinist, guitar trio every evening). We did not watch any shows but we saw the comedian who was excellent.
The trips (booked via Thomson before we arrived) were good but extremely overpriced, my advice would be to see if you could book anything similar independently and do that instead. We also had a problem with a couple of our tickets and didn’t find the staff particularly helpful – perhaps if I had been buying them off the staff concerned they would have been more interested? I also think Thomson should display a map of the island you are due to visit the next day onboard to allow you to get your bearings prior to arrival (this could have been done online however see next point!)
DO NOT pay for the Wi-fi, it simply does not work so is money for nothing. By the time you have worked this out you will have ‘used’ all the minutes you have paid for – very frustrating looking at a blank screen refreshing whilst the clock ticks by! The wifi in most of the ports we stopped at is fine (usually in the terminal building).
The duty free shop onboard was very cheap however the clothing shop was not good, expensive and again, aimed at the older market. I found the prices for the photographs ridiculous! £20 a picture, the laughable thing being they are all already printed out (which I assume is the majority of the cost), if you don’t buy them they simply get binned! Lower the prices and more people will buy them – less waste and probably higher revenues!
The shining light of the holiday were the islands themselves, which ultimately is why we booked the cruise. The only problem I had with them is the fact the Thomson ship (as a small cruise liner) seems to have to dock in the small (and often working) ports – not exactly paradise! As a result you get no terminal building, the walk into town is either longer than it should be or you have to get some sort of shuttle / taxi to the town. I would also suggest you add 10 mins onto whatever the walking time Thomson describe on their fact sheets, we are young fit people and struggled to achieve the pace they seemed to suggest was normal!
Ultimately in the 2 weeks we achieved our goal of visiting all the islands we wanted to but we have learned a valuable lesson in the process – cruising is not for us!