We have been on about a dozen cruises, including several on Thompson, but have to say this was the least enjoyable ship and I would not recommend it to anyone.
Our cabin was very noisy – firstly, looking for a scraping rattle in the ceiling showed that this was an ongoing problem as wedges of cardboard had previously been inserted. We reported this to our cabin steward, and an attempt was made to alleviate the problem. However it became so irritating by the second night that at 4 a.m. we complained and were moved for the rest of that night to another cabin. Work on the ceiling the following day lessened the problem, but did not completely stop it.
The engine vibration was always unpleasant, but the noisy docking at Toulon was unbelievable. Apart from the side thrusters, there was what can be best described as having a jumbo jet running its engines on the floor above, together with the sound of water – they were either pumping something off or onto the ship. Went on for about twenty minutes.
Generally the ship needed looking at by an interior designer, particularly the cabin corridors and lift landings, which (as reported in the feedback form we did) had all the personality of Soviet-era public housing.
The lifts were totally inadequate and erratic and not necessarily serving the floors you wanted (when they worked), but did at least provide a conversation starter with others queuing, abandoning queuing, or being taken in the wrong direction. Incidentally, the sign in the lift car said they were suitable for ten people – it should have added ‘provided you are good friends perhaps, but when over seven got in, the ‘overloaded’ sign came on. (There was a story that a lady last on set off the ‘overloaded’ sign but refused to get off again! Interesting contretemps.)
Meals – the buffets were quite good, and available seating areas were spacious, unlike some ships we have been on. The main restaurant provided good meals, albeit with some lack of imagination (a separate à la carte restaurant was more adventurous, but you had to pay extra for it). The restaurant was let down by bad service – on a couple of occasions we waited thirty minutes for our first course to arrive.
The evening theatre entertainment started with a very good show of singing and dancing (Latin American Copacabana style), but went downhill after that. This is not a criticism of the singers and dancers themselves who always did their best, but of the material they were given. The comedian on one night was OK but uninspiring. Did like the theatre itself, especially the ‘double seats’ (instead of the normal single seats) used for much of the seating.
Usual muzak everywhere, although surprisingly (certainly around the pool area where we spent most late afternoons) the shrieking pop music was interspersed with stuff more acceptable to us of the older generations. You would think, though, that they would switch it off when the captain was giving his little talks – he did so one afternoon competing with an exuberant ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ blasting out.
Excursions – only did a couple, plus hubby did a cycle trip. The “Pisa and Wine Tasting” is recommended, the ‘wine tasting’ being under-hyped because it consisted of a small lunch of cheese, paté and salami, with bread and olive oil; plus four half-glasses of different wines, all available to purchase (we bought a lovely sweet desert wine). It was a cheerful drive back to the ship.
The Genoa trip came up to expectations although it was on an old and battered coach (broken seat back and hand rails held together with duct tape).
Hubby’s cycle trip to Portofino and back (about 14 miles) was not for the faint-hearted – think long hills, Italian drivers – but was very enjoyable.
• no weather forecast was available until an hour or so after everyone had left on the organised trips;
• no chart pinned up in reception showing our course round the Mediterranean;
• no women appeared in the on-stage senior staff presentation on Captain’s Night;
• nobody told us that it was the equivalent of a Bank Holiday when we arrived at Toulon, meaning most of the shops were shut, but especially that the reduced bus times meant that getting to and from the cable car could not be fitted in to the time we had available;
• at every opportunity someone with a microphone in his hand (always men) up to and including the Captain would plug what a great set of staff they had and how they deserved our thanks – clearly the PR people at work;
• sign-posting was poor – for example, imagine coming in from an outside visit, wife takes the lift to our cabin, hubby aims for the sitting out area on deck 11, using the stairs; having reached deck 10 the stairs go no further, and there is no indication of how to get up the extra floor (similar problem finding the gym). When you come out of a lift, there is not a layout plan in sight for the simple reason they are all tucked away down the side corridors. And having designated the staircases A, B, C and D, was it impossible to show these letters on the deck plan we were given?