In early December we had our first transatlantic cruise on the Thomson Dream (02-12-11 to 18-12-11) to the Caribbean. We had a fantastic time, although we are aware that there were others on the ship who would not agree with us. There did seem to be some serial moaners on the ship who were looking for issues to rival the problems the ship had on the 2010 transatlantic crossing.
We had an outside plus cabin on deck 9 which was very good, plenty of room and a nice sized bathroom and clean. It also gave us good access to the ships amenities on all decks.
As we are not ones for sunbathing much so we decided to have a pretty full itinerary of excursions when we reaches the Caribbean. These included swimming with dolphins, swimming with turtles, horse riding and snuba diving. The Excursions Team on board the Dream were excellent particularly Ruth and Adrian. We also found that getting a local taxi (not those at the port) was a great way to see the islands. These tend to be at a fraction of the price of the tours and you get out what you put in.
Transatlantic sunsets and Caribbean sun rises are quite magnificent; this coupled with flying fish almost all crossing certainly and making new friends made it a most memorable holiday.
The islands visited were all gems in themselves and each had unique character. The locals are exceptionally friendly (again some people will differ with this view) and will accept a polite no thank you if you don't want bothered. Just remember they rely on tourism. Our highlights are as follows (could go on and on for hours):-
St. John's, Antigua (great if you want diamonds or sample the local brews. Horse riding through the surf!)
Philipsburg, St. Maarten (two flags Dutch and French island tour very good)
Road Town, Tortola, British virgin islands (Dolphin swim.........just excellent)
Basseterre, St. Kitts (scenic railway was a great way to see a lot of the island, despite what the locals said)
Portsmouth, Dominica (great rainforest, watch out for the snakes)
Castries, St. Lucia (snuba madness and the views on Pigeon Island are just stunning)
Kingstown, St. Vincent (dolphin and whale watch. A pod of 40 dolphins swimming beside us for 30mins)
St. Georges, Grenada (taxi island tour with monkey encounter, cliff divers and local artist)
Scarborough, Tobago (the glass bottom boat, Buccoo reef snorkelling and swimming in the Caribbean)
Bridgetown, Barbados (swim with turtles, sail on a catamaran and rum, what a way to finish)
The food on board was OK, I would not say spectacular and not as good as the Thomson Celebration food. We ate at the Orion Restaurant most nights as my wife has a gluten and diary free diet. The Celebration had a specific gluten free menu but the Dream does not. Once we explained this to the Restaurant staff everything was cooked specifically for her (a special thanks to Elmer, Hotif, Rey, Archie and Dion as without their help the holiday would not have been the same). The staff in general were excellent and very friendly, especially Monika and Fairy who worked extremely hard all hours of the day and night to make our experience all the better.
The entertainment on board improved as the trip went along. This was the first time many of the artists had performed in front of the public as a group. The piano bar was great and there were a number of other activities from the gym to quizzes, lectures, guest speakers and demonstrations to keep one occupied. The Cruise Director Stephen Guy was excellent and had a presence on stage with a fantastic voice. The majority of the entertainment was based within the Medusa Lounge which did not have enough seating for the demand.
There was a distinct feeling that the transatlantic cruise was being used to gear the ship up for the winter season in the Caribbean. Apart from the main entertainment show being disjointed there was far too much maintenance going on. Doors were being varnished, areas being painted, rust was being scrapped of deck 10 which meant that areas of deck 9, the main promenade deck were isolated and the hand rail along most of the port side of deck 9 was had a barrier preventing access for four days. The funnel spewed soot at regular intervals and this ended up on out clothes when we were at the stern; one gentleman had his breakfast spilt over him due to a large piece of soot debris hitting his tray. There was constant disinfecting of the ship due to the presence of norovirus (some people were quarantined after succumbing, however others failed to follow the ship's strict hygiene policy - deliberately). Our disappointment regarding this matter relates to the lack of information and honesty over the extent and whether the ship should have sailed or not from Tenerife. Our air conditioning and hot water failed for three days and the head of the customer services was rude and abrupt to both my wife and I regarding this. No hot water = poor hygiene on a contaminated ship. The only other gripe is that on two occasions our towels were not laundered and put back on the racks. There were not enough sun beds which resulted in the fanatics out at 05:30 each morning to claim their spot. When we did manage to get sun beds together we had to go for meals separately to avoid the circling vultures claiming the spoils.
The last paragraph were the things that took the shine off the holiday a wee bit. We will go back to the Caribbean and will do a transatlantic cruise again but I think not on the Thomson Dream.