This was our fourth Thomson cruise on our fourth Thomson ship, but our first trip to the Caribbean.
All was fine until arrival at Barbados airport where it was evident that numerous Thomson and First Choice flights had arrived very closely together which meant on arrival at the port (approximately 30 minutes from the airport) hundreds of passengers where still waiting to be ‘processed’!.
We queued for approximately 45 minutes before registering a credit card for on board expenses. It was only after it had been registered we were informed of a 2% surcharge!
Anyhow, on board we were quickly shown to our cabin (not pre-booked) and have to say we were very pleasantly surprised with the size of a standard outside (deck 4).
Each evening we ate in the waiter service Orion Restaurant and felt the service and food quality was good on each occasion. After a couple of nights we had the same table and waiters each evening which was lovely as you able to get to know them. By day we tended to eat in the quieter Lido pool area.
We attended the Showcase on the first morning to find out primarily a little more about the islands, however with the exception of Barbados we did our own thing in terms of exploring.
1st stop – Bonaire. Short walk from the dock to the little town. There are numerous taxis which you can hire for $25 per person for a trip round the island, but be aware that for this price they have to fill a minibus! We wanted a taxi for just the two of us and did struggle to find a taxi driver willing to take us. Eventually, a lovely lady driver did agree but for a fee of $70. We did the north of the island which was pretty, lots of iguanas and donkeys!
2nd stop – Aruba. On recommendation from family who have visited before, we visited Baby Beach at the south part of the island. It’s a good 30 minute drive from the dock but you do get to see some the island. Again, we took a taxi for the two of us and it was a standard $38 each way. The beach is lovely (although there is a disused oil refinery next door), a lot of locals and not many ‘cruisers’! A couple of beach bars serving food.
3rd stop – Curacao. Definitely worth getting up early to watch the ship sail up the estuary and do a turn. Lovely little town with a definite Dutch feel, but not a lot there. We took a local bus to a nearby beach ($3 each) and found ourselves with a lot of passengers from the ship that had paid a lot more as part of an organised trip.
4th stop – Grenada. Most definitely our favourite island. Just inside the terminal there is an information desk in which you can choose a route at a pre-determined fee. We had a great taxi driver who for small extra fee took us to the north of the island and down the west coast including the waterfalls and lake.
The last day was a HUGE disappointment! We decided to book the ‘Farewell Barbados’ trip from the ship. I can’t speak for the other trips but just found this one a total waste of time and money. The visit takes you to the Hill Fort for an approximate 20 minute stop, then 15 minutes later to a church, OK lovely views, but that’s it. Then for the finale, you are taken to Sunbury Plantation where we were then told we’d be there for TWO HOURS!! The property itself is quite interesting but it can be seen within 10 -15 minutes. It then became apparent that it really is just a cover for a huge buffet for hundreds of people!! Sorry Thomson but this was a total rip off!
Thomson’s are happy to take your booking and money and give you the impression that the tours are theirs, but what they don’t freely tell you is that they contract with local independent agents for all their tours (it’s in the small print in the terms and conditions) and have no jurisdiction on the content or quality. Thomson’s boast that their tours are ‘tried & tested’ and quality is guaranteed. I feel this was definitely not the case with this tour: We wrote a letter of complaint to Thompson on our return home, but did not get a written reply. Instead, we had a phone call from a customer services advisor who politely dismissed our complaint as ‘this was the first complaint they’d had about this trip’ but when pressed about the guarantee, could not say what it meant or covered!
All in all we really enjoyed the ship, the staff were marvellous and the entertainment first class and we would not hesitate to travel on The Dream, again, but we would not book another on land tour with Thomsons.