Thomson Dream will enter dry dock at the end of the summer, emerging with a new look for its winter Caribbean season, while Celebration will have its makeover next spring, ready for a summer 2013 season cruising out of the Turkish port of Marmaris.
Exactly what's being spent hasn't been revealed (Thomson Cruises' managing director Fraser Ellacott would only say at the media launch that the figure was ‘multi-millions'), but all cabins on both ships will have a complete refit, with more contemporary furnishings and mood lighting, as well as flatscreen TVs and tea and coffee making facilities. iPod docking stations will be fitted in the suites. The spa areas will be re-done, as well as most of the bars and lounges. In addition to the main dining room, each ship will have an alternative restaurant, with French and Asian fusion themed a la carte menus.
Thomson already brands a large collection of hotels in its mainstream holiday programme as Platinum, which it defines as meeting a certain level of luxury (Thomson measures stars as 'T's, so Platinum hotels are all 4T and 5T) and scoring above 90% in customer satisfaction surveys. Some of these hotels will be matched with the two revamped cruise ships, both of which will be rated 4T, to offer Platinum cruise-and-stay holidays.
The onboard experience won't change, Ellacott said. Tips will still be included, and passengers can expect the same level of service and entertainment as they currently enjoy. Early bookers will qualify for free all-inclusive upgrades on certain itineraries.
Despite the planned platinum upgrades, Thomson Cruises remains uniquely situated in the cruise market, a reality which Ellacott acknowledged when asked how he would attempt to position Thomson Platinum Cruises.
"My strategy is not to look at the competition," Ellacott said.
Both Dream and Celebration are older ships, making it difficult to compare the Thomson Platinum Cruises product with lines that offer newer ships. And the Thomson portfolio of holiday properties -- from hotels to planes to cruise ships -- allows Thomson to package cruises with an array of regional flight departures and a wide selection of hotels in a way that other lines cannot.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor