Getting to the Ship
We flew from Nottingham East Midlands, our favourite airport, to Palma, departing exactly when we were due and landing a few minutes early. We had purchased the Boot's Meal Deal at the airport, rather than having an in-flight meal, but I would not recommend this to anyone as the sandwiches were dry and rather tasteless. Our baggage took an unexplained 40 minutes to start to appear on the carousel, but once they started to arrive, we were lucky to get ours quickly and were directed onto the coach which delivered us to the quayside where the Dream was docked.
Check in was reasonably quick, considering a number of flights had arrived at about the same time, and we were greeted with a cool drink while we waited. Unbelievably, we had a case go missing between the coach and the quayside, which caused us some concern. It took us a little assertion to get one of the crew to agree to track the case down for us and we embarked and were taken directly to our cabin.
Starting the cruise
The cabin was more spacious than I had expected and there was plenty of storage space: a double wardrobe and another space for hanging clothes which was behind a curtain. There were 3 reasonably wide drawers below this space and four drawers in the dressing table. There was a shelf in the wardrobe and a shelf over the safe. There was a bath which had two showers over it, one for using while you were in the bath and the other a proper shower. [We did find that we bathed and showered before 5.00 pm each day, as the water tended to be only tepid once everyone started to get ready towards 5.30-6.00 pm.]
We quickly sorted out our hand-luggage and decided to go for a drink while we waited for our safe to be activated (a request you can make as you check in, as long as you pay the £15 for the week. Fortunately, we were aware of this charge as it had been mentioned in the Forums which I had been reading prior to our cruise).
A quick snack and a number of drinks later (we were lucky enough to have purchased the All Inclusive for £49.00), we returned to the cabin to find both our cases waiting for us. No mention of how they had found the missing one, but this was not important to us as we now had all of our luggage - top marks for a very swift response to our problem.
After a short snooze (we had been up since 5.30 am), we showered and dressed for dinner, which was served as open dining. We usually prefer first sitting, but this gave us the extra flexibility to be just a bit later if we needed to be.
Meals on Board
We had read some fairly awful reviews of the food so we did not know what to expect. I have to say that every bowl of soup we had, no matter what flavour, was really tasty and with the exception of the two we had in Sirens, were piping hot! There was a six-course menu each day, but we usually found that the soup, main and sweet offerings were enough. It was true that there were quite small vegetable servings with the main meal, but I still found that I was quite full after the three elements I selected. Breakfasts were very good in the Orion, the omelettes especially. At lunch time, there were a number of choices available, from snacks like beefburgers, hotdogs, pizza etc, to pasta, to Chinese to English, with potatoes, rice and pasta available with meat and fish. I have to say that I loved every piece of fish I had, as it was always cooked really nicely.
All this said, this was the only part of the cruise that I did not rate as excellent, more from the point of view of choice than quality or quantity, so it would be nice to hear that improvements and/or some changes were being made.
[I did miss my night-time room service supper I used to have when were were on the QM2 earlier this year, but hey, I put less weight on during this cruise, and I never went hungry!]
We started our cruise in glorious sunshine, which carried on through the week except for our first day which was at sea and we made our way onto Deck 7 aft (recommended through the Forums), which was virtually empty. It was still warm but overcast, the sun appearing briefly in the afternoon to give us a taste of what was to come. We spent the day relaxing, reading, eating - all those things that we go on cruises for.
Day 2 was spent in Trapani, Sicily and we went ashore and boarded the Trapini Toy Train, which toured the old part of the town, about 35-40 minutes, with an English-speaking guide. The town was typically Mediterranean, with rows of houses built close together to minimize the effect of the sun, as it was definitely cooler when we walked between the buildings after we got off the train. Information given in the Port guides issued by the Excursions Team included the fact that free Internet access was to be found 600 metres from where we docked, so we wandered down to the Internet Cafe for a fabulous coffee and 'catch-up' with home. The centre of Trapini was approximately 10 minutes walk from the ship, but there is a small tourist train available just outside the Port gates. There is a timetable available and you can buy your tickets at the kiosk. It is great to do the train tour, which lasts about 35-40 minutes depending on the traffic, and then wander around the town, buy a coffee and watch the world go by.
Free internet access is available about 600 metres from the ship just along the promenade along Garibaldi pier.
Local buses run from outside the port area and information on these is available from the tourist desk inside the Port terminal.
Day 3 saw us up early to catch our excursion from Naples to Pompeii. A short journey of about 25 minutes saw us arrive at the town and after a little delay getting our earphones sorted, we were off on our tour. We had been to the site a number of years earlier but it was clear that there has been more excavation, as there was some new sights to see. We arrived early and we were very pleased that we did, because it became very hot while we were going around the sight.
It is an amazing experience to wander around the very streets on which the chariots drove, seeing the grooves made by the chariot wheels; or so see the shops that used to see hot and cold food, with the holes still existing where the pots used to sit; and to get a feel for how social the inhabitants used to be, taking their baths and having their meetings in central locations.
After about two and a half hours we re-grouped and were delivered back to the ship, ready to have lunch and return to our relaxation on the deck, this time moving up to deck 11 and eating in Sirens.
Day 4 we docked in Civitavecchia, Italy where most people take the opportunity to visit Rome. Much has been said in the Forums about the ways to get into Rome and we have, in the past, used ship's excursions and made our own way into the City. This time we decided to look around Civitavecchia itself, because we had been told that some work had been done to make this port more attractive in its own right. Once again, we sought out the Internet cafes, drinking coffee, watching the world go by and catching up with home - a truly relaxing way to spend the day. We returned for lunch and Deck 11 for the lunch-time quiz and reading time.
Day 5 was spent in Ajaccio, Corsica, the birthplace and childhood home of Napoleon. Once again, we joined a local 'petit' Train - after a wait of about 30 minutes - and we travelled around the main parts of the town, with a stop to see the Statue of Napoleon - a trip lasting about an hour and ten minutes. We then found ourselves on the main street, which we meandered around before finding ourselves in another Internet Cafe, drinking coffee - I think there was a pattern developing somewhere here!
Day 6 Palamos, Spain - this was our last call before returning to Palma. We caught the free shuttle bus to the centre of town where there was a fabulous vegetable market, obviously used by the local people. It was possible to walk into the town without using the shuttle bus, as it was an easy 15-20 minute walk, but as we are feeling our age a little we decided on the bus. After our, by now, habitual coffee and catch up, we returned for our lunchtime quiz and lunch in Sirens. A complimentary bus shuttle opperates into town, provided by the Port authorities, but it is an easy 15-20 minute walk from the Port area. We took to the bus, which ran at about 15 minute intervals. This was a typical market town, very mediterranean in atmosphere and again free internet access was available at one cafe that we found. It was noticeable that there were fewer cafes that had it in this town than we had found in our other towns.
Day 7 saw us back in Palma, having an early breakfast prior to being transferred to the airport. We went off the ship to collect our cases and, you wouldn't believe it, one of them had disappeared. Fortunately, after a few minutes and a major panic, my husband managed to find it in totally the wrong place, with all the grey labels as opposed to the pink!
I enjoy the Thomson evening shows very much because they are not just singing and dancing as in 'Broadway Blitz', but also told stories as in 'Skoolz Out' and 'Dancehall Daze', which included great acting as well. There was an evening with a comedy Magician, who I had seen before, who was very interactive with the audience and quite good. I didn't actually go to his second show, shown later in the week and as an addition to the main show, but that is a personal preference rather than a critical comment. I was surprised that he was the only visiting act, as I am sure there are usually more, but that may be a mistaken memory.
We loved the shows that were held in the Medusa Lounge each evening, run by the Thomson Entertainment Staff, which included Weak Link; Musical Mastermind; Alternative Question of Sport; Generation Game and Mr and Mrs. These all included participation by passengers and were fully supported every night, seats being at a premium if you were late back from the early Show in the Theatre.
There were quizzes, a classical duo, a fantastic group, a very easy-to-listen-to duo and other activities too many to mention - except for Bingo perhaps, which was slightly more expensive at £5 per book, which covered 3 games. This means that those people who usually play six books per game could be paying £30 a day, fine if you are aware of this and make that choice, but knowing about it first helps. The staff definitely explained this before they sell the tickets, but it appeared that some passengers were still not fully aware of it. The prizes, however, reflected the fact that Bingo was very popular throughout the week and not just on the last day when the big money is won!
Special mention must go to Ash, Mark, Strum Jam and Thomson Dream's very own Ann Robinson???
Overall, this cruise was fantastic, our waiters, Dennis, Zar and wine waiter, Lito, looked after us, making sure we had a table with them each night, and we returned home relaxed and very happy. Well done Thomson Dream