By Kelly Ranson, Cruise Critic contributor; updated by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
Thomson Celebration Overview
Thomson Celebration joined the U.K. holiday giant's cruise division in 2004, after sailing for Holland America Line as Noordam.
Originally launched in 1984, Thomson Celebration is now an old dame of a ship. The upside of sailing on an older vessel is that it looks like a proper ship, with elegant lines and a wide, wraparound teak promenade deck; features difficult to find on newer vessels and a traditional look the passengers enjoy. It's not uncommon to hear people commenting in port how pretty their ship is compared with others with a chunkier design. On the downside, the ship is showing its age; some cruisers report that cabins suffer from vibration and somewhat aged plumbing.
A big refit in May 2013 saw Thomson Celebration upgraded to Platinum status, alongside its fleetmate Thomson Dream. Essentially, this means it counts as a fancier, more contemporary ship in the Thomson collection and is priced and marketed as such. The transformation is largely cosmetic. All the cabins have new soft furnishings, as well as flat-screen TVs and tea and coffee making facilities. Suites have iPod docks. The bars and lounges have been refurbished with a more modern look and a new a la carte restaurant, Mistral's, has taken over the space that once housed an Italian-themed restaurant.
A cruise with Thomson, particularly at this Platinum level, isn't necessarily a cheap option; better deals can be found on more contemporary ships in today's heavily discounted marketplace. But the company does have a loyal following of cruisers who enjoy the informality, friendly atmosphere, mid-sized ship and the Britishness of the whole setup -- familiar features like the right kind of bacon on the buffet and British beers behind the bar. The mainly Filipino and Indonesian crew are also loyal, many having worked for Thomson for years, and it shows. Their rapport with passengers was fantastic, with plenty of crewmembers greeting embarking guests like old friends.
Celebration, like the other Thomson ships, is a great prospect for first-time cruisers. Travel is seamless, with direct flights from 19 UK regional airports. Tips are included, which takes away a lot of stress for Brits. Information, such as the daily programme, is presented in a clear and logical format, taking some of the mystery out of cruising. Finally, Thomson offers a cruise-and-stay programme that again creates a stress-free holiday, combining a week's cruise with some of its many beach hotels in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Thomson Celebration Fellow Passengers
The majority of passengers are made up of Thomson's bread-and-butter clients -- British couples, aged 55 to 75. But the ship also attracts groups of friends, families and an increasingly younger crowd, many of whom are trying cruising for the first time and have perhaps crossed over from a Thomson beach resort.
Thomson Celebration Dress Code
A dress code, albeit a relaxed one, does apply onboard, with six days out of seven designated 'smart casual'. There's no requirement for men to wear a jacket or tie on these nights, although shorts and sports gear are banned in the dining room. There was one formal night on our week-long cruise and quite a few ladies dressed up in cocktail dresses. Men are required to wear a shirt and tie -- and a jacket, if possible -- in the dining room on these gala nights, which include a captain's cocktail party.
Thomson Celebration Gratuity
Tips are included in the cruise fare, which seems to make a tremendous difference to the atmosphere on board. The service was superb, the crew always happy and smiling and their rapport with the passengers genuine. There was no fishing for tips by the crew on the penultimate night and no niggle of a service charge being added on to a drinks bill. The onboard currency is UK sterling.
The Black Sea Explorer cruise out of Marmaris Turkey was good value. When I say that I mean you get what you pay for. It is a basic cruise with basic facilities and food for a basic price. The exception was the brilliant entertainment, which was ...continue
This is our third stay on the Celebration in the last four years, we feel the standards have definitely deteriorated, we stayed in cabin 321 and had no air conditioning in the cabin all week, there was no air con in Hemmingways or some times in ...continue
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After cruising on larger ships with prestigious companies we were a little concerned before we travelled . . . . How wrong can someone be! This cruse was fantastic in every way - The food, Service & friendliness was OUTSTANDING! Yes - the ...continue