This is a review of the Thomson fly/cruise, "Colourful Coasts" taken by my wife and I at the end of February 2014, on board the Thomson Celebration and including The Canaries, Madeira and Agadir, Morocco. It was not our first cruise, having previously enjoyed similar holidays in the Mediterranean and Bahamas. We booked on the internet rather than through a travel agent.
Firstly the booking experience. Thomson, it would be fair to say, occupies a position within the 'popular' sector of the market. The website is reasonably intuitive although when we tried to return to our booking later in order to make some adjustments, there was some difficulty in logging in as the referrence we had been given did not work. This was sorted out by the help desk and all was then well. It also proved necessary to phone the company to establish our need for a double cabin and although we could not be certain at the time that this would happen, it did in fact succeed.
We were able to view the flight booking and it appeared that we had been allocated seats at the very rear of the aircraft. We could have chosen our seats for an extra fee of £9 per person, per journey but decided that it was not worth it for this short-haul flight. Later, when we completed the online check-in, we found that we had seats further forward. I rather suspect that Thomson show everyone the worst seats on the aircraft initially in order to persuade us to pay to upgrade!
Similarly it was possible to view the layout of the ship and, again for a fee, this time £42, to state a choice of cabin. Having opted for a double and booked an outside cabin anyway and in the absence of any indicators as to which might be a good cabin we did not take the upgrade option.
First impressions. After a comfortable flight and a 50 minute transfer we arrived at the port in Teneriffe. The Thomson Celebration is one of the smaller cruise ships working in this area. We were pleased to find that our outside cabin was quite spacious, the en-suite facilities perfectly adequate and our double bed comfortable. Having the capacity to convert to a 4-berth cabin meant that there was also plenty of storage. It was not until later that we discovered a serious problem which was to significantly spoil our enjoyment of the whole holiday.
Like many cruises, much of the sea-time is at night, sailing between shore destinations during the hours of darkness. As soon as the ship moved into open water a loud whining noise started up and remained continuously throughout the night. Both my wife and I had hardly any sleep and in the morning felt decidedly rough. We went to the service reception intent on getting a change of cabin but were told that the ship was full and no alternative was available. The only chance would be if there were to be a cancellation at the next port of call. No attempt was made to investigate the noise and no-one even came to hear it. We were told that it was probably the stabilisers which run all the time the ship is sailing. No other cabin became available and we were informed of this by a note slipped under our door. No apology was offered. Because of this we suffered 7 nights of very broken sleep and became progressively more exhausted.
The problem with the cabin overshadowed the whole holiday which was a great pity because there was much to enjoy about the ship. The two main restaurants, one waiter service and the other a buffet, were very good. The standard of the food was high and the service, for the most part, attentive without being intrusive. We did not experience the third, a la carte restaurant since the first two were highly acceptable for us.
We were particularly impressed with the on-board entertainment team. The musical shows in the main theatre were very good and they even put on a comic-farce-drama during the one day we spent at sea. They were very professional and gave the impression that they too were enjoying their job. We noted that there were other musical items in the various bars around the ship and heard one or two of those.
Shore excursions were of very mixed quality. A couple of the ports were industrial container ports and it was necessary to go beyond the port area for an enjoyable shore experience. We felt that the optional shore excursions were of marginal value and in one case, the Agadir traditional entertainment, was really very poor. We were not alone in that opinion and many other guests complained about it. At the final destination, Lanzarotte, the tour guide was very informative and pleasant. It was our first visit to Lanzarotte and we found it interesting though not our ideal holiday destination.
After our return my wife tried to follow up our bad experience in correspondence with Thomson and had a telephone conversation with a customer service representative. She found them most unhelpful and not at all understanding of the extent of the effect that the noise problem had been to us. (My wife suffered a 3-day migraine on our return.) I have to say that we are not encouraged to take another cruise with Thomson if this is how they deal with dissatisfied customers.
My advice to anyone considering cruising aboard the Celebration is to avoid 'C-deck' at all costs. From what I heard from some other passengers, the highest decks are not entirely comfortable either in that the motion of this smaller vessel is more pronounced the higher one goes up the ship.