We booked this cruise as my mother had always wanted to visit the pyramids and being very relgious also the Holy land,being 75 this year we thought it a good present. My wife and mother in law and two other relatives made it a party of six.
The flight from Edinburgh to Dalaman was uneventful, the food onboard at £15 each is not really worth it, especially on the return flight. The focus is on selling drink & perfume. Thought the aircrew to be fairly poor, people left standing in aisle for 15-20min when going to/returning from toilets as the trolleys slowly progressed through the plane.Not really customer focused.The baggage allowance was 23KG which is very good - especially for 1 week. We are normally over the normal 15-20kg with our purchases, but this allowance was excellent.
On reaching Dalaman you basically head outside where there are desks for the different tour companies, There is one specifically for Thompson Cruises. They will tell you which bus to go on which is fairly close by.
The bus transfer to Marmaris - leaving and return port - takes about an hour and a half.When you get there you take your cases through a check-in terminal. Staff give you an envelope with your door key, ship id card, stickers to put on your case(s) and you give your credit card details so you can get billed for all the additional purchases you make that are not included in your package. We went fully inclusive with the drinks package.(£200 each). So it was really just the excursions and duty free on top of the cruise cost.You get itemised bills at stages of the cruise to keep you informed of your purchases. You get this even if you are fully inclusive, they just don't charge the included items on your credit card.
Now.... this was the first really annoying thing to happen & a bad start to the cruise- You label your cases outside the check-in terminal with the stickers you were provided with.Then you leave them to be transported the 3 minute walk to the ship for you. BE PREPARED FOR A LONG WAIT TO SEE THEM. I phoned up reception after ONE and A HALF HOURS to find out where our cases were- it seems they try to get your case to you within TWO HOURS. So take the opportunity to remove items from your case, toiletries, change of clothes etc. We had travelled since early in the morning and really needed to shower and change.
My own personal opinion on this is that they sort the cases out relevant to the room you are in, those that pay more get their case first. The whole onboard service works that way.Get an expensive room and you will be lorded over - literally, buy one in steerage and you go down like the titanic- service wise!After two and a half hours I found them in the common stairway and took them to the room myself! Not a good start. My mother was over three hours waiting for hers - in her cabin - upsetting her quite a bit as she needed items from the case. She was on the floor below me. Point proved.
The rooms are floor 1 & 2 very basic, try and get a room with a porthole, it does make it a bit better to see the sun rise /set. Our room was 80's style. i worked offshore for 12 years and the rooms were similar although the toilets smaller. We had a double bed and the room was spacious enough. In cabin entertainment is very poor, but then it shouldn't matter.The rooms were very well maintained with nice touches - beds turned down, chocolates on the pillow etc. Plenty storage space for clothes.
The ship itself has several lifts allowing easy access between floors.
The food is excellent, we only ate in the Lido self service restaurant. We had intended to use the other two, but were happy with the convenience and food so didn't bother. The other restaurants are more formal with waiter service in one and a charge of £19 each for a seven course meal in the other.The table waiters in the Lido were excellent. We only had to get water for ourselves once. The Bar Waiters though are absolutely hopeless, run by an extremely poor Bar Manager. After four days of really poor service I went to reception to ask why. The Bar Manager was called and I explained the problem, he gave the impression he wasn't bothered.This could just be that he thought we were looking to claim against thompsons so I made it clear that that wasn't going to happen, I would just let others know how bad the bar waiting service was and let others decide if paying £200 each a week for horrendous service was ok.
Well it worked in the bars - for the half hour he was present in the bar that evening - once he left it was dead slow and stop again. I could name the worst (rude, arrogant,ignorant, - thats not their names:)) , and believe me they deserve it, but that's not what these reports are about. Noticed other bad reports on the same thing on here so I think the poor bar service is a commercial deliberate choice. The less drinks you get the more Thompsons make -simples. If everyone got the same service then it wouldn't be so annoying - Money talks and your card - which you need to obtain all purchases- has your room number on, so the waiting staff know who to focus on.
We were asked in the restaurant from then on if we wanted a drink from the bar with our meal, so something came out of the complaint I think.
Remember to bring along your best suit - you will need it to be thought of as worthy to meet the Captain at the Captains Ball! What century is this? !! Personally I don't agree with this sort of snobbery and didn't bother. Surpising how many court affection though. Its a cruise ship thing I think!
The Entertainment team are exceptionally good,good variety of shows to a very high standard, something for everyone.They are a massive plus onboard the ship.
The Excursions - We went on the Alexandria museum trip, Cairo museum and the Giza pyramids, Bethelehem and Jerusalem trips.
The Alexandria Museum trip wasn't all that good, the tour party was too large, you couldn't hear what the guide was saying as the museum was too small for the busload to circle around the various items of note. If you are next to the guide- then great, if your older and struggle with stairs etc you'll be on the outskirts and missing out.You don't really get time to explore yourself its a school type expedition - as they all are really.
The Cairo Museum is a must, there is so much to see that you could spend two days in there. you get a couple of hours in a packed inferno of commotion. You are supplied with 'whispers' radio headphones and the guide therefore has your ear at least. Far too rushed and chaotic, you are told when you can pee and when you cannot - I'm not joking! You get 10 min to do your own thing- that includes the toilet and the optional mummy tours that cost an extra £16. These exhibitions are at opposite sides of the museum ( 2 displays). Well worth seeing- even if you are 5 min late to get back! Astonishing to see these preserved icons of Egyptian history.
Giza pyramids follow on from the Cairo tour. Well worth a visit, I went inside one to have a look and feel of the internal atmosphere, cost an extra £7 but worth it to me. You need to be able to negotiate a steep ramp stairway while bent over, only takes 10min but you see internal chambers, and a segregated tomb section.surprisingly cool inside.
Jerusalem - our tour guide Adrian would have put Bethany Hughes to shame! We got a non stop class in the origins of religion -as the world knows it, very convincing, bit much for me to listen to so much as I tend to want to spend my time exploring than in the sun being tought, but he knew his stuff and it was very interesting.Lots to see here but not enough time in this tour to see it. I will definately go back. Good tour good guide, just not my cup of tea.
Bethlehem - guide was a character - Ramsey. will sell you candles in the nativity church and sand to the arabs! Make sure you go downstairs to the birthplace within the church, I didn't know it was there as ramsey was selling candles, found out afterwards what we missed. I'll go back when there is more time to appreciate it.
My mother did very well, Jerusalem is a stairway nightmare and she struggles with her knees ( ops) but still managed.This tour was different, the tickets prior to it had our bus number on it and we had travelled together. On this trip you get on the bus first come first served. They got on a bus as we were changing money and we only caught a fleeting glance of them on another bus all day. Stick together on this one.
That is the whole tour experience - rushed, crushed and flushed. It lets you know where to go back to and where not to.
I won't do a cruise again, not for me, seen enough to return to some places - Alanya is a future holiday destination now as well, so learnt plenty.
The only BIG BIG downside is the bar/waiter service, they really are very poor, dont expect it to get better, not if thompsons are gaining finincially from it. :)