I should start by saying that we actually embarked at Montego Bay, Jamaica but that wasn't an option so I went with Barbados since that is where we finally disembarked.
We have cruised with Thomson twice before. Our first was in Sept 2009 and second in Sept 2010; this cruise was booked prior to us travelling in September and also prior to the Dream's first journey and we were therefore concerned by the reviews and the infamous Watchdog episode.
Our flight to Jamaica was delayed by about an hour and a half which we later found out was due to a fuel shortage in Dominican Republic resulting in increased air traffic in the Caribbean. A gentle introduction to the Caribbean way of life where tours that are advertised as lasting 2hrs actually take 2 and a half hours - worth knowing if you have to get back to the ship!
Immigration was a breeze (we filled in the form on the plane and handed it in as we got on to the coach!) and the bus ride to the ship took about 15 minutes. Check-in was very efficient - we were in our cabin within 20minutes of arriving at the ship - but then we chose to walk up the 2 flights of stairs from embarkation point to check-in. The majority of guests decided to take the lift (2 flights!!) and then complained about the delay. We then completed our muster drill that evening which was great as in the past we have done this on our first day and it was nice to get it out of the way and be able to get on enjoying our holiday! I should add that we checked our luggage in at Birmingham airport and didn't see it again until we got to the ship so no messing about at baggage claim. A nice touch that we certainly appreciated!
We had an inside cabin on deck 5 (we always choose an inside cabin on a lower deck because a) they're cheaper allowing more money for excursions, etc b) we spend almost no time in the cabin anyway and c) these cabins feel the movement of the boat the least so if you do have any rough weather it is less likely to be felt! Our cabin was lovely - clean and bright (despite no window) and perfectly spacious for the 2 of us. We would have liked more storage (the Celebration has more drawers - hangers are not much use for underwear and beach wear!) and I would have preferred the hairdryer to be in the bedroom instead of the bathroom (so I can dry my hair whilst my fiance showers) but this is hardly a problem! We have booked the same cabin for our next cruise - Gavin (future cruise adviser onboard) offered us 2 seperate upgrades but we turned them both down as we are perfectly happy with the one we have!
The entertainment team put on a deck party/cabaret that evening but after 24hrs of travelling we were exhausted and in bed by this time. We were, as mentioned in other reviews, then woken up by the "Code Bravo" announcements that night (about 11pm). I'm not going to lie - I was terrified! And as such it felt like it went on for hours when in reality it was closer to 5 minutes. The captain informed us as soon as he was able about what had happened and what the crew were doing and also let us know when the issue was resolved. A small internal engine fire resulting in a slower than planned journey to Grand Cayman but nothing to worry about! The rest of the holiday continued with no drama!
We ate in the lido/sirens restaurants for every meal as we have done on all 3 of our cruises and found the food to be as fantastic as remembered - we particularly enjoyed Caribbean and Cuban themed nights as one of the limitations of cruising is not getting to eat the local food so this allowed us a small taste of the areas we visited! I continue to have a small issue with the lack of detailed labelling - I am coeliac and therefore have to be very careful about what I eat - but I choose to eat in these restaurants instead of The Orion (where I know they cater for all dietary requirements incredibly well!) so I can't complain. I still hope Thomson (and indeed all buffet restaurants around the world!) will listen and label foods with the ingredients...one day! We also ate at the sirens grill on a couple of days (after swimming when to wet to go into the restaurant) and again the food was fantastic.
We spent our evenings in the Medusa Lounge and enjoyed the music by "Strum Jam" and the quizzes and game shows put on by the entertainment teams. A small negative here - on previous cruises with Thomson there have been 2 quizzes and a game show each evening providing entertainment for the entire evening. The team on the Dream have decided to only have 1 quiz and 1 game show and have planned these around the shows in the theatre - this is ideal for those who want to do both but for those who don't want to go to the theatre, like us, it means there is very little evening entertainment. Not a big problem - we were forced to talk to each other! - but a shame nonetheless.
We went on 2 organised excursions - swimming with dolphins in Roatan,Honduras and Tropicana Cabaret in Havana, Cuba. Both were excellent in every way and genuine once-in-a-lifetime experiences! In the other ports we either just explored on our own or joined a tour in the port which proved to be excellent value and a real insight into the local area. I would recommend walking past a few tour guides to get a feel for them and to check out their prices and vehicles before choosing which one to go on - we personally preferred the open trucks to the cars as it meant we had a clear view (no tinted windows!) and were not shut inside and also wanted limited/no time on the beach as this allowed us to then go back in our own time without being restricted by others as to how much/little time we spent there. We also found that the tours (unsurprisingly!) got cheaper as we got further away from the ship - half price in Havana! - with no impact on quality. The Destination Services team did a great job of providing port information through maps and info sheets as well as in person and gave good advice about the excursions without it ever feeling like we were being sold something.
The crew were fabulous, as always, and it was nice to be recognised by those members who had worked on the Celebration and remembered us. Special mention must go to Carol in the bar team who not only remembered us from the Celebration but also remembered what we like to drink (not an easy task as neither of us choose things that are on the menu!) and Harry in the housekeepting team who kept our cabin spotless and seemed to be invisible - on one occasion we left the cabin only to realise we had forgotten something and when we went back he had already been in!
Our only negative was all the complaints from other passengers who seemed intent on ruining everyones holiday. On several occasions we were actually approached by other passengers who wanted to tell us what a rubbish holiday they were having! At times it almost felt competitive! It became a bit of a joke to us especially on changeover day when we were sat next to a table of guests who were clearly trying not to laugh at the entertainment or sing along to the songs in case anyone spotted they were enjoying themselves. The negative attitudes then spilled over into behaviour. On one of the days we were tendered to port and had to collect tickets in the lounge at 10am. We arrived at about 9.50am to find a lot of people loitering - we chose to sit down and wait and lucky we did. The second the 3 crew members arrived with the tickets the crowd descended on them and when 1 of the crew explained that passengers needed to form 2 queues one man(supported by others) started screaming at the crew members and saying it was "a shambles" which it was thanks to the behaviour of the passengers! I was horrified by this behaviour and suitably embarassed. No wonder us Brits have such a bad reputation abroad if this is how we behave! This gives you some idea as to the negativity we experienced from other passengers.
We had a perfect holiday and have already booked to go back on the Dream next Winter. I think it goes without saying that we would recommend it whole heartedly and, if you do come across negative passengers, I found that politely telling them what a fantastic time we were having shut them up pretty quickly!