Thomson Dream Entertainment
Dream's proficient and professional singers and dancers are kept busy with a succession of shows throughout the week in the double-height Broadway Theatre on Decks 8 and 9 --everything from an Abba tribute to Britpop, collections of songs from West End musicals, and a pastiche of Las Vegas' Rat Pack. Seating is a combination of red plush theatre-style chairs and banquettes, with tables for drinks.
There's a once-weekly show of crew talent, at the disappointingly late hour of 11:45 p.m.
A visiting entertainer, usually a comedian, is airlifted in for a couple of shows each week; standards can be variable, and it's pot luck whether you hit a rising star, a fading has-been or a never-was-and-never-will-be.
The large, airy Medusa Lounge on Deck 8 was recarpeted and refurnished during the 2012 overhaul. Top Men, a five-piece outfit that performs in the lounge and out on deck by the Siren's Pool are a note-perfect covers band. The lounge is also used for daily bingo sessions, quizzes and occasional auctions of sporting memorabilia. Also on the Medusa Lounge stage and out on the pool deck when weather permits, the ship's entertainments team involves passengers in popular performances on panel game favourites, such as "Mr and Mrs", "Family Feud" ("Family Fortunes") and "Wipeout".
The Elegant Touch duo performs standards in the Ocean Bar, and the Ge'za violin and piano duo provides classical recitals in the Argo Lounge and as an accompaniment to the captain's cocktails.
Moving further aft, we come to the Ocean Bar, which manages to create intimate spaces and secretive nooks and crannies. Next up is the casino, with about 30 fruit machines and tables for roulette, blackjack and stud poker. Alongside is the dark, panelled Delo bar, where a resident pianist and singer entertains throughout the evening.
The Waterfront night club comes alive in the late evening, by which time karaoke and dancing can become a bit raucous.
There are bars outside by the aft Lido Pool (Deck 9) and by the main Sirens Pool on Deck 11. Bar prices are extremely reasonable, especially considering spirits are sold in 40ml measures (60 percent larger than British pub measures). For example, spirits are £3.30, cocktails start at £3.75, and beer starts at £2 for a half pint.
Less welcome are the charges levied for use of the in-cabin safes and even £6 to have an announcement ("Happy Birthday"!) published in the daily Cruise News.
The ship's daily enrichment is limited to port talks and seminars.
There is a big choice of shore excursions. Some examples from our weeklong sailing include a three-hour trip on St Kitts Scenic Railway, a visit to a butterfly farm on St Maarten and a swim with dolphins. The ship also carries a small number of mountain bikes, and escorted rides are offered in most ports. Given the steepness of some of the roads we encountered on a mini-bus tour of Tortola, we would suggest checking with the organisers on the fitness levels required before booking.
As Thomson can pick from its portfolio of land-based packages, it can offer a huge choice of pre- and post-cruise stays in resorts, hotels and apartments.
Thomson Dream Public Rooms
These are mostly arranged along Hercules Deck (Deck 8).
On the port side is the surprisingly extensive (although chaotically maintained) library and Internet centre, which also has a collection of jigsaw puzzles.
Additional Wi-Fi is available in the adjoining Argo Lounge, which can be a peaceful retreat when it's not hosting afternoon tea or classical recitals. A card room is located on the opposite side of the ship.
Unlike most modern ships, which have their reception desks low down and often in their central atria, Dream's facility is up on Deck 8, adjacent to the shops, photo gallery and beauty salon.
Much of the ship's eclectic art collection dates from the Holland America period of ownership. Scattered around the public rooms and corridors are some remarkable paintings, sculptures and artefacts that date back to the 16th century, recalling the days of a far-reaching Dutch empire and its trading links with the Far East. Prints decorating the corridors on accommodation decks are an interesting and occasionally racy collection, which would surely not be on the walls if the ship had been decorated while under Thomson management.
Thomson Dream Spa & Fitness
One of the major changes made during the 2012 refurbishment was the total rebuild of the beauty salon and the relocation of spa treatment rooms from their former position adjacent to the gym on Deck 10. In the past, they were not only distant from the salon, but they were also somewhat dreary, with views obscured by lifeboats. The new rooms, occupying space which used to be a teen club, are spacious, light and airy. The operation is a Steiner franchise and offers a selection of massage treatments, seaweed wraps and beauty therapies that include teeth-whitening, and hair and manicure services.
The fitness centre is limited in size and scope, but it has cross-trainers, exercise bikes and rowing machines, together with multi-gym weight training. Yoga classes (£7) are offered, and there are free seminars on aromatherapy, detox, reflexology, etc.
There are two pools, one with a sliding-glass roof and a dedicated kids area. The Deck 12 sports court is used for paddle tennis, five-a-side football and basketball.