This was our 13th cruise and was booked within the last 3 months. We normally travel with Princess and had never even considered Thomson, I suppose if honest, had made the assumption that it would be comparable to Butlins-on-Sea. How wrong we were!
We had returned from a Princess Med cruise in September and subsequently booked this to fit in with the New Year break. Having already cruised this area before we thought we would just remain on the ship, read, take in the sunshine and chill out. Since we normally choose a balcony and there being non on the Celebration, we managed to secure the last remaining suite.
Check in at the airport was smooth and very efficient, the Thomson staff being so helpful this started the trip off well. Great flight only marred by the awful food which you were able to purchase, drinks seemed to be dearer than usual on flights as well.
Good transfer to the ship and something we have never come across before, on boarding the ship you are personally escorted to your cabin. This is so appreciated because it takes a bit of time to work out where your cabin is in relation to where you board even if you've been on the ship previously. The suite was much larger than we imagined, very clean and tidy. Supposedly if you are in Premier Class (confirmed on your luggage labels) your luggage gets delivered first. Don't think I agree with this, it was about 2 hours which is quicker than Princess but hey its a relatively small ship in contrast.
Our room steward made an appearance after about an hour and a half, pointed out the obvious things, where the air-con was, safe, tv etc. then left. Didn't really see much of him after that for the whole cruise, apart from him entering the room without so much as a knock when hubbie was on the loo, and no "Please make up the room" sign on the door.
Very disappointed to find a towel sculpture secreted in the cupboard all ready for display, unfortunately this poor dog must have been created many months ago because it was filthy. We also found an abandoned sock down the settee, and a consistently empty ice bucket, but that is all we could find to fault as regards the room. As room stewards go we'd give ours 6 out of 10, normally we leave a thank you card containing Â£50, we didn't feel ours warranted this gift, first time ever we've done so.
Food experience, well you won't go hungry but it is not the 5* dining experience that we have come to expect, however the friendliness of all staff and fellow passengers by far makes up for it.
The shows laid on by the entertainment singers and dancers have to be the best we have ever seen, we normally give them a miss, especially on Princess as the shows leave a lot to be desired. Young team, great voices, enthusiasm and well choreographed. We paid for the drinks package but to be honest I don't think we even managed to drink our money's worth and we can certainly put a few away. Drinks are well priced with spirits 60% larger measure than normal, Gin and tonic Â£3.70, only Heineken and John Smiths but Â£3.50 so not bad for a cruise.
The ports of Safaga and Port Sokhna are just that, ports and industrial at that. No shuttles to anywhere so if you want to get off, you need to do an organised tour, not a problem for us but be warned. Shuttle (free) available at Aqaba but it doesn't drop you off in the best place, quite a walk back to shopping area.
Weather was a bit hit and miss, 3 and half days of sunshine, strong breeze, 3 and half days of overcast cold weather. Very poor tv reception throughout the trip, shops only open on about 2 occasions, take some books or entertainment for the daytime if not touring.
Now for the absolutely best bit, departing. Yes you do have to leave your room at 9am but you can extend till 3ish for Â£30, we didn't bother. However your cruise card still works up until an hour before you get off the ship,the entertainment, food and drink still carries on, Thomson do remember you are still on holiday - take note Princess! Princess chuck you out of your room at 8, you gather in the dining room complete with chipboard tables after all cloths have been removed, and there you sit in silence and wait. As far as they are concerned you now don't exist and you've nothing to do, or eat/drink, until your coach comes to dump you at the airport with up to 8 hours (yes) before your flight, you can't even check in.
Would we go with Thomson again, yes, we booked the Baltic Capitals whilst on board, saved Â£500. No tipping or 15% added to drinks prices either. Would we go back on Princess, probably not, even though we are Platinum members and have a future cruise deposit lodged with them. We were really pleasantly surprised and met some lovely people, great camaraderie all round and a wonderful start to the New Year.