This was the second cruise we had been on (hence the title !) and was a world apart from the luxury of the first, Royal Caribbean. We were well aware that there would be a significant difference, but didn't appreciate just how much of a culture shock awaited....
Embarkation was well organized and bags arrived quickly at our cabin. We were a little disappointed that our cabin had single beds and not a double, but not the end of the world. All was clean and tidy and we remained well looked after throughout.
The facilities onboard are basic but adequate, the days at sea can be long - there is only so many quizzes that any one person can cope with !
The crew were excellent and carry out there duties professionally. As other reviewers have already stated, the crew are very friendly indeed and I wouldn't make any comment against them. It's a tough job they have chosen to do ! It can't be easy entertaining and pleasing so many utterly demanding individuals (you know who you are !)
I would however point the finger at "the management", with respect to a couple of matters.
i. Our late arrival in Stockholm meant that, having organized tickets for the Absolut Ice Bar independently, as Thomsons didn't offer this trip, we forfeited them as we were 30 mins too late for our allocated time. This, despite our initial ETA only being delayed by 45mins which turned in 90mins which ended up 180mins. Strange as weather conditions were favorable the whole time. My guess is that, like flight arrivals, if you miss "your slot" the the ship incurs extra fees, so they take what is available to keep costs down (Thomsons, feel free to correct me on this point). So EUR60 down, we walked rather quickly around Stockholm before it was time to leave.
ii. Helsinki. As a result of our delayed passage, our arrival at Helsinki was late also and taking a "cheap berth" miles from the town, meant an impromptu shuttle bus was required to transport almost the entire passenger list 800yards outside the dock area as we were not considered responsible or "grown up" enough to walk through a "dangerous" industrial area at a weekend when there was no traffic at all !!!
The rest of the trip in the main was fine, ignoring the entertainment of an evening - I'm a grown adult for goodness sake, I DO NOT NEED Patronized in the name of having a good time.
Leaving the ship was met with a certain element of disappointment - it had been a good trip all in all, but the sheer rage when Thomsons caused when we got ashore soon killed off any feeling of melancholy. During the process of being herded off the the ship and our baggage being removed, the rain started. Heavily. When we arrive at the car park we were to find our cases, bags, suits, dresses, lying on the ground, in the rain being stood on and run over be trolleys as people scrambled to recover there elegant and expensive belongings.
This was the final straw. It seemed like a case of.....you've had your adequate holiday, we've had your money, see you later. Some small gazebo type structure would have avoided this completely, but that would have cost money. All in all, there seems to be considerable cost savings, or penny pinching as we would call it going on during the cruise and I will not be seeing Thomsons later, at all.
That said, I should also add, that it is very family oriented, so if its your first cruise, and you have kids and no expectations, them go for Thomson. I'm sure you'll love it.