Just returned 18/02/11 from the Thomson Dream and have had the most fantastic holiday. Being new to cruising we had no idea what to expect and after reading all the reviews since the day we booked in September 2010 we were travelling with a little trepidation but being in the holiday accommodation business and subject to Tripadvisor reviews ourselves we are well aware of how diverse guest expectations can be.
Our arrival in Barbados went smoothly and we were soon aboard the Dream and settled into our cabin (without our luggage but this didn't stop us heading out to explore).
First impressions, ship immaculate, no strange smells, (ever)!, no fraying or thin/worn carpets, some were brand new. Cabin 9024 Outside Plus Deluxe, ideal position on ship, large picture window with unrestricted view, privacy film so other guests could not see in, spacious, plenty of storage, bathroom with bath, power shower and large vanity unit with shelf to keep toiletries tidy. Washing line (handy for drying hand washed clothes). Large mirrors and comfortable seating areas. The king sized bed with crisp clean cotton bedding and 6 large pillows turned out to be one of the best we have ever slept in. Storage for suitcases and long evening dresses. Plenty of good quality towels . Air con worked perfectly and was not as noisy as some we have come across.
Due to the travelling we were tired so retired for an early night, our luggage arrived at our cabin at 9pm - 7 hrs after us, this didn't cause much of an issue except you may want to pack some light clothing in your hand luggage. Needless to say the next day we were up bright and early giving us time to explore the ship.
Grenada - Arrived 1 hour later than planned because of the late arrival of luggage, Barbados authorities fault not Thomson. We had booked a tour independently with Grenada Seasafaries after informing them we would be late they said they would ask the other customers booked on the trip if they would mind waiting for us (guests from American Cruise Liner) but due to time restraints they couldn't. However Suzanne one half of the husband and wife team hung on to meet us and offer her advise for alternative things to do. They do run 2 trips a day but as there were only 2 of us the afternoon trip wasn't feasible. She approached a local taxi driver to book us on a short tour of the island then a trip to the beach, however the amount he wanted to charge was she exclaimed, too excessive, although you can haggle the cost down, but she kindly offered to drive us to the beach via the scenic route. Further into our conversation we
found out that her husband was from a town 4 miles away from our home town prior to them emigrating to Grenada 5 years earlier.
After a fascinating short tour she dropped us at a wonderful scenic beach with sun loungers and umbrellas to hire at $5 each for the day. She recommended sitting on the beach opposite a restaurant called 'Umbrella' (that she said served fantastic food).
It was our intention to have lunch here until we received a text message saying that they would run the tour at 1pm for us that day. And pick us up from the jetty off the beach. And WOW! what a start to our holiday if you enjoy a thrilling speed boat ride coupled with information about the islands history, vegetation, wildlife etc and snorkelling around the underground sculpture gardens (fascinating, think Anthony Gormley sculptures but underwater and more) we also had the added bonus of the artist of a couple of the sculptures giving us a personal tour. Just by chance he had asked to go out to inspect his sculptures that day. A perfect tour with such friendly people strongly recommended. www.grenadaseasafaris.com
Back on board that evening we decided to dine in Orion. Throughout our cruise we sampled all the dining options (oops back to the gym tomorrow)
* Breakfast Sirens or Lido loads of choice of everything from teas and juices, fresh fruits, cereals, continental and cooked breakfasts - no complaints
* Also great for lunch (Freshly cooked pasta station, sauces cooked to your liking) a particular favourite with fresh salads and tasty baked potatoes.
* Orion - Evening dinner choice of 5 courses small portions so you can manage all 5 with great service and plenty of choice. You can build up a great rapport with the staff here and they will reserve a table for 2 if you prefer to eat alone. Thanks to Hermie food waiter and Jess wine waiter,
* Grill - Ate here twice I would say it was worth the extra, only if celebrating or if you prefer a smaller more intimate dining experience. The food was delicious but not a massive difference to Orion.
Entertainment - As said many times before just amazing, talented team, don't miss the Dreams got talent nights - Wonderful!
All inclusive - In our opinion well worth the extra, branded sprits 40ml measures, house wines, cocktails and attentive, constant service with a smile at all times.
Gym - Oh yes we did!! Great selection of CV and weight res equipment. Classes and lectures on health and fitness available, sauna good.
Internet - Used the computers in the Library £4 - 15 mins £13 - 60 mins need not be used in one session.
Back to our itinerary we just loved waking up somewhere different and exploring the Caribbean.
Curacao - First port that is geared around shopping - explored the main street and back streets which showed a truer picture of how the locals lived. Not particularly impressed and took just a couple of hours at the most to see everything.
Aruba - Dutch roots as above but much prettier and somewhere we could have spent more time. Same shops but with more variety and better quality. We spent the morning shopping and the afternoon on the beach. Walk to the right when you get to the high street and along to the Marina then to the waters edge here you will find the iguanas basking on the rocks and a hotel owned beach with swimming pool and sun loungers that you are free to use. Nice swim up bar in the pool but don't swim in the man made lagoon it is dirty and slimy thanks to the non flowing sea water. If you walk further along the shore there is a lovely beach with loungers to rent but we stayed and used the hotel's facilities.
Columbia - Missed out - reason given, past customer preference and feedback that Columbia was disappointing whether or not this was correct we were unsure, lots of differing reasons given by other guests. However in our and many other guests we spoke to there was nothing at all to do at Margarita Island which is where we stopped instead and their preference would have been Columbia.
Jamaica - Did the hot spots bus tour where you can jump off and on the bus at 4 stops. Did the first 3 and ventured into town alone but did feel a little inconspicuous and nervous and we were pestered quite a bit putting us off looking at the shops and stalls.
If only they realised that if they were less demanding we would most likely buy instead of walking away. There is a lot of poverty and we were offered marijuana more than once (we declined!) the air is thick of the smell of it in places even on the popular tourist beach where we spent the afternoon. The bus ride back to the boat was fun with raucous singing along to the loud reggae music with the driver and our fellow American passengers.
Grand Cayman - Loved it and the second place we had booked a tour, this time independently with Fat Fish Adventures. Jet skiing out to Stingray City where we swam and fed the Rays this was a fabulous experience, then off to a snorkelling site full or colourful tropical fish, more rays, lobsters etc. Finally a good blast through the ocean and then a quiet amble through mangroves. This was well worth the money $165 for the 2 of us and was professionally run by experienced guide Ryan.
Back into town in the afternoon stopped of at KFC these are a prominent feature on all the islands so we had to try one! Delicious and whilst eating in the shop front seating area we were accompanied by a mother hen and her chicks!!! They were tapping
on the door with their beaks! then a local TV news crew turned up and filmed us all. Can't get much fresher than that! Shopping here best so far and Margarita Bar well worth a visit, great atmosphere and even a swimming pool and slide to cool off in. Will be
returning as the beaches are picture perfect and the diving is supposed to be the best in the Caribbean.
Honduras - Our final pre booked day out at the wonderful, heavenly Sante Wellness Spa, a private house on Parrot Cay Island in the most beautiful setting where we received a fabulous massage, facial, hand and foot treatment, delicious lunch and the chance
to spend a few hours relaxing on their private garden paradise overlooking the sea. Bliss!! and we had the place to ourselves!
Costa Maya - Great Port with shops, bars and swimming pool, lively friendly atmosphere. We booked onto a tour to the Mayan Ruins in the morning with a tour operator in the port for $30 per couple well worth the money, (smother yourself in mosquito repellent)
In the afternoon we enjoyed a few hours at the fun packed Senior Frogs, the staff were crazy and very friendly and we had a hilarious time however I recommend you just order the nachos as the portion is massive and enough for two. We ordered a chicken platter and the food was deep fried and not up to much plus we were ripped off when paying by dollars as they convert it into their currency and the rate was extortionate!! Shame.
Cozumel - This port was excellent and again we will return, it was more authentic and gave a good insight into Mexican life. Shopping tourist driven again but some good quality shops. We also found a family run Mexican restaurant, Casa Denis, the food here
traditional and delicious. It is to the rear or the main square where there is a stage in the middle for evening entertainment. Apparently there are some gorgeous beaches and fantastic snorkelling opportunities here also.
And Finally Havana - Funny one this, fascinating, eye opening, but strange, modern expensive cars alongside the old Cuban ones, desperately rundown areas, and on the outskirts larger luxury properties, not quite what you expect. We met some friendly people but some scary con artists that wouldn't leave you alone until you bluntly told them to. The black market is rife and we got the feeling of imminent change and rebellion against the communist regime. There is the feeling of anger and resentment of the freedom of tourists from some locals we met.
At night Havana felt very safe and we found a great little traditional bar and restaurant La Bodeguita Del Medio a short walk from the port.
Days at Sea - Yes its true you have to get up fairly early for a sun bed but your OK till about 10am there are still beds to be found and the staff will try hard to get you a sun bed. Guests are told not to reserve beds then not use them. There are plenty of activities
and no reason to be ever bored.
We can honestly say that we did not come across one of the complaints raised by past guests and realised that some comments are unjustified and simply ridiculous. Whilst at the same time we appreciate that past reviewers may have contributed to the present conditions on the Dream as staff members did admit to certain problems in the past, but we can assure you that they have worked hard to overcome these with success.
We would not hesitate to recommend The Thomson Dream.
Oh and many thanks to Kruzseeka we printed off your recommendations (forum) and they were very useful.
Any questions we will be happy to answer.