Thomson Spirit:- Pearls Of The Aegean:- 19th - 26th August 2011
We sailed from Corfu and for some reason it is not in the choice for "Port of Embarkation" when compiling this review.
Having been on the Spirit 20 months ago we booked again with our 2 adult children and persuaded 4 others to join us.
FLIGHTS:- Good early flight out from Birmingham. Thomson plane; pleasant, friendly crew.
Corfu airport is small, and crowded, but there were plenty of Thomson reps around to make sure you got to your coach outside the terminal building. You pick up an envelope which has the cabin labels for your cases and your on-board card.
PORT CHECK IN:- After a 20 min drive through Corfu Town the coach dropped us at the Port Terminal building where you join a fast moving queue to register your preferred payment card and have your photo taken for your boarding card. Then the first of many, no obligation, photos you have taken throughout the week. An optional shuttle bus ferried you to the ship or you can walk the 300yds to the ship. Your cases stayed on the coach and the next time we saw them was about 30 minutes after we boarded. We were on the ship just after 12.00 noon.
CABIN:- We booked the same double cabin we had on our previous cruise which was on deck 2, Port side. Plenty of room. Ample hanging space in 2 double wardrobes with hangers. Lots of drawer space for clothes . Soft top cases can be stored under the bed. Toilet big enough with small shower and cabinet that was large enough for all our toiletries. The WC is on a vacuum drainage system which is sometimes slow to kick in but it always drained for us. Small TV, limited channels, but who wants to waste their time watching TV on a cruise.
Lido Self Service Buffet:- Excellent choice and good quality. Something for everyone. Afternoon tea, if your waist line can stand it is well worth a try. There were themed nights (oriental, Greek and Tex Mex) for a change from the main restaurant. There is always something to eat here, it never closes. A tip worth mentioning is on the day at sea it can be difficult to find a table. No problem, just take your tray back along to the Broadway Theatre and sit in there. The waiters will still serve you for drinks.
Pool Deck Terrace grill:- fast foodies catered for here; pizzas, burgers, hotdogs, CHIPS, chilli and much more.
Compass Rose restaurant:- Waiter service, decent Table D'Hote menus each night. Food always hot enough for us. Other reviews have complained about "slow service". Not in our opinion. A 5- course meal with coffee in an hour and a half is fine by us. If you want "fast food" go to the Lido Buffet and help yourself in your "own time". The Chef's Parade and the "Baked Alaska" parade we had seen before but still enjoyed them again. The "singing waiters" spot each night was a bit cheesy but enjoyable nevertheless.
Breakfast can be taken in here as well. Contrary to a lot of reviews there is a "waiter only" service on the far right section as you enter if you want it. Otherwise it is still a buffet but with "posher" surroundings where you will be served your juice and tea/coffee.
Siroccos:- (The A La Carte additional supplement restaurant). The menu is much the same as it was 2 years ago but it didn't bother us. It was, after all, 2 years since I last had lobster. Thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the meal. (Book it when you board as it is very small).
Lido late night snack service:- Limited choice of food. We had chips and even a curry after our late night exertions in the disco a few nights.
The hand clean stations are still a welcome activity before entry to the eating establishments. It isn't to protect the food it's to protect the tongs that are used by thousands of hands each day.
DRINK:- Being on the "All Inclusive" package there was enough choice of drinks and a wide variety of cocktails to satisfy our thirsts. Quality good as well. Note that the lager tastes like a local brew and the Boddingtons, in my opinion, doesn't taste the same. Didn't bother me though.
GALA NIGHT:- Same as the last time. Dress up, cocktail and canapEs. Lots of photos. Captain introduces the main members of the crew. Meal in the Compass Rose although we were slightly disappointed with the content of the menu. We didn't think it was "special" enough compared to our last time. (Minor criticism). It is worth doing anyway if it's your first time as the atmosphere is great. Spent a lot on photos. Couldn't help it as they were so good.
STAFF/CREW:- What can I say except I've only met a "friendly, can't do enough for you", bunch of service workers once before and that was on the Spirit on our last trip.
Nothing is too much trouble for them. Everybody says hello to you when you pass them in the corridors. You are welcomed every morning for breakfast like a friend.
A special mention goes to our Compass Rose service staff:- Bert and Jose our waiters and Jay our wine waiter. On our first night there were 8 of us going to dinner. We ended up on their station with a large circular table. Every night after that we were on the same table. The guys were brilliant. So attentive, with a sprinkling of humour. They made everyone on the table feel special. They knew us all by our first names on the 2nd night and Jay knew what we all were drinking without asking us. Bert even did some really good magic tricks at the end of one evening and he was very good. Bert also serenaded my cousin at the end of the last night with his rendition of Elvis songs.
TIPPING:- Although tips are included we tipped or cabin stewards and of course Bert, Jose and Jay, who were handsomely reward by a table of 8 for their exceptional service throughout the week.
ENTERTAINMENT:- Started seriously with the leaving deck party at 11.00pm. (The ship sailed at 11.30pm). Go and join in. It gets you in the mood for what will be a great cruise.
There is something for everybody on board.
2 shows a night in the Broadway Theatre (Get there early as it fills up quickly). The shows got better, in my opinion, as the week went on with Africa being the best. The entertainment team work extremely hard. 20 mins after the late show they are at other venues on board still entertaining as they are throughout the days all over the ship.
The crew talent show is a "must see". These men and women work damn hard during the day making our cruise a great experience then they give up their own time late in the evening to entertain us. Thanks guys.
Raffles Bar - small Casino with resident piano player.
Horizons bar with a 3 piece easy listening trio in the evenings.
High Spirits Lounge with game shows, quizzes, bingo, dance classes. Late night disco here.
Explorers Lounge with a classical trio in the evenings.
Pool deck with various demonstrations and live music during the day.
There was lots of other activities going on, too numerous to mention so you need to check your "Cruise News" and plan your day or you'll miss something you wanted to do.
Aghios Nikolaos:- Pleasant town. Lots of shops selling a variety of goods - plenty of gift buying opportunities. The lake is nearer than the maps would suggest. There are 2 beaches, within walking distance of the ship. You can catch a small train which offers 2 lengths of journeys allowing you to see a bit more of the town if you don't want to walk.
Kusadasi:- Did the Ephesus excursion (see below). Had a walk around in the afternoon. Good range of duty free and gift shops in the terminal part of the port. If you go to the "Bazaar" be warned! It can be an annoying, hard sell, experience. Don't make eye contact or look at anything you're not interested in.
Mykanos:- Due to the sea conditions the captain deemed it unsafe to tender ashore. However instead of saying we had an extra day at sea he set sail for the small island of Patmos. There was extra time allowed for breakfast and additional entertainment hastily arranged to help pass the time until 2 pm when we got to Patmos. There were even 2 short excursions arranged for anyone who wanted them. Patmos was tendered ashore and the organization involved in getting over 1000 passengers off the ship, quickly, using 4 tenders was impressive. Patmos was a typical small Greek island town. Plenty of shops, and restaurants. Decent beach a few minutes walk along the front, so it had something for everyone. We sailed away at 8pm. Well done Thomson.
Pireaus:- Never went into Pireaus as the ship left at 4pm. Only did the Acropolis excursion to Athens (see below).
Katakolon:- Surprisingly, shop filled little port where we did Olympia on our own. Caught the train, which leaves about 300 yds to the right of the quay. 10 Euros each return. 45 mins each way quite clean and fairly cool as air conditioned. Then 6 Euros each admission to the ruins (not including the museum which is additional). You would need a good 1-2 hours to look around the ruins so allow time and more if you want to see the museum. Easily done on your own. Note:- last train back leaves at 3pm.
EXCURSIONS:- We only did 2 of the Thomson excursions, which although a bit expensive, you have the security of knowing that if anything should happen to you then the ship will wait as opposed if you go on your own where it wouldn't.
Ephesus (Kusadasi):- Very interesting; the guide was knowledgeable although hard to hear sometimes when in Ephesus itself due to how busy it was. It was extremely HOT. The House of Mary was rushed through, and anyway it isn't the original house. Could have done without it and had more time at Ephesus.
Acropolis/ Parthenon (Pireaus):- Coach into Athens. Stopped at a few sites on the way to the Acropolis. Again our guide was very knowledgeable with the same problem of hearing her as it was busy. Again very HOT and also very busy as there was at least 3 other cruise ships docked which meant potentially 8000-9000 passengers disembarking.
Both trips needed you to take plenty of fluids as shade is limited.
We felt the use of radio microphones by guides would have helped justify the prices and mean you didn't miss anything if you lagged a bit behind in the searing heat.
SEA CONDITIONS:- The evening of the day at sea proved challenging to a lot of the passengers as it was "a bit rough". All of our party were unaffected. The ship had the prerequisite bags stationed in every toilet and all over the Communal Areas for those that needed them. The rest of the time was pretty calm sailing though and most nights were smooth enough to not notice the motion of the sea.
SHIP GENERALLY:- Although getting old now it was scrupulously clean everywhere. The carpets in all areas were different to when we were on 2 years ago. Yes some of the staircases were starting to wear at the edge of the treads but I wouldn't expect a major re-carpeting halfway through the season and they do get some serious footfall.
In the ports there was always some area getting a quick "touch up". It didn't bother us at all. It proved that there was an on-going maintenance regime in place.
Yes the Spirit's "vibration" was still there in certain locations but again it didn't bother us. It proved once again that we were actually on a ship.
It's a lot smaller than the other ships that were berthed next to us in the ports but in my opinion size isn't everything. "Massive" doesn't "float our boat" I'm afraid.
GOING HOME:- Leaving the ship was well organized with the Thomson flight back to Birmingham up to their usual high standards.
CONCLUSION:- A great time was had by everyone in our group. My wife and I loved it every bit as much as the first time. The Thomson way is what we like. They know how to give you a good time, if that's what you like. We like the informality and of course the friendliness of the staff and crew. You get a chance on the last night to fill in a slip to vote for the service crew "Oscars". You vote for your favourite 3 members. In our opinion they all deserved an Oscar.
Both our grown up children, 18 and 21, enjoyed their first cruise and said they would like to do it again............when they can afford it.
Thomson continues to get a lot of, in my opinion, undeserving criticism. If you've been unfortunate enough to have had problems on a Thomson cruise then no doubt you join the others on all the other lines that have had problems. It happens.
Value for money?...........yes, in our opinion.
Would we cruise again on The Spirit.......................yes most definitely.
Would we cruise with Thomson on another ship..........yes..........might try the Dream next time.