This was a Christmas present to us both, with the interesting places being visited. We'd never been away for Christmas before. Tui Dreamliner flights are excellent and we treated ourselves to Premier class - very good. For us ... Read More
This was a Christmas present to us both, with the interesting places being visited. We'd never been away for Christmas before. Tui Dreamliner flights are excellent and we treated ourselves to Premier class - very good. For us embarkation was smooth, but Montego Bay airport was disorganised (not in Tui's control). Also embarkation/disembarkation at the Port was disorganised - again poor coordination by the Jamaican authorities .
Flew to Jamaica and did two 7-day back to back cruises, covering the Christmas period. Felt the ship could have been more festive - only the Atrium looked Christmassy. Many families on board, which gave the ship a better feel at Christmas time. Carols in the Atrium on Christmas Eve, with sparkling wine and mince pies. Christmas Day we had 3 sittings for the traditional meal - very good. AND most guests dressed to impress that day.
By Boxing Day we had reached a lovely beach in Honduras - warm and sunny and it felt like Christmas was over.
Meals in the main dining room were sometimes excellent, other times not so much. Serving staff under too much pressure - Tui don't have wine waiters now, so the waiter was doing everything - not fair on staff. However, they were always very pleasant.
Self-service cafeteria on deck 9 was a poor choice of food and the floor always had remains of food on the carpeting. Only ate 1 main meal there.
Ship's singers/dancers were excellent, but you get tired of seeing them every night. More variety please. Entertainers around the ship were good. Think most people are attracted by the free drinks (good choices) and no tipping.
We did several trips with Tui, as some of the destinations visited were not considered that safe - we would have normally done our own thing.
Panama Canal tour was excellent, seeing both ends of the Canal in Colon (v. poor area and not advised to wander on your own) ships going through the canal and then Panama City in the Pacific - prosperous City. Guide was excellent and informative.
Did our own thing in Santa Marta, Colombia. Another poor place, but trying to attract tourism. Had plenty of attention from street sellers, but just said "No, gracias" and they didn't pester us.
Did walking tour of Cartagena, Colombia. Beautiful City - not enough time there. Could have stayed all day. Didn't get any time to ourselves. Guide spent too much time giving a very detailed history of Cartagena - people glazing over.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Tortuguero Canals. Good canal trip on waterways in a rain forest area. Saw sloths in trees, monkeys, plenty of bird life, iguanas, but I think some children were hoping to see alligators. Another poor area.
Days sailing back to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Poured with rain o.night and into the morning, so not a beach day. Went to the Hard Rock Cafe (only ½mile away). Rain stopped, but still v warm with o.cast skies. Paid 8$ each to get in, which entitled us to a sunbed. Good area to be. Lovely small sandy beach, swimming pool, music, bar/restaurant and no-one pestering you to buy something. V Good value close to the Dock. Don't take a taxi - you can walk it.
Roatan, Honduras. Walked off the ship and spent the day in Mahogany Bay, owned by Carnival Group. Fortunately only 2 ships in. Plenty of sunbeds, shade under trees, changing area/toilets. Sea lovely. Bars/restaurants/shopping. Good place to relax.
Las Escobas Springs, Santo Tomas, Guatemala. Listed as a walk through the rainforest with glass-like rivers where waterfalls tumble into streams. Swim in the natural pools. (this is the drinking water for the people of the v. poor Santo Tomas). We were looking forward to seeing wildlife in this rainforest area. We saw NOTHING, apart from humming birds flying around a feeder. V disappointing. All the guide seemed to want us to do was swim/paddle in the pools. Reason we didn't see any wildlife is that there are too many tourists going round a very small area of rainforest.
Belize City - Seas are v shallow and the ship had to dock 5 miles off the coastline. So we were taken in by 250 seater water taxis. Belize looks a prosperous place with many big yachts and is part of the Commonwealth, with English the main language. Went to a water park with huge water slide and man-made swimming area. (water a bit cool though) Plenty of sunbeds, warm sunshine, drink/food/music. Couldn't swim in the sea because of stingrays.
Costa Maya, Mexico - Yucatan Peninsula. Just went ashore on our own. Looked like the ship had docked in the middle of nowhere - palm trees/mangrove as far as the eye could see. Only ship in that morning. Walked to end of jetty - very touristy area at end, full of shops selling the same stuff we had seen everywhere else + bars & eating places. Many people had gone on an 8hr coach trip to Mayan temples, but we didn't. Decided to walk outside of the tourist area to see what else there was on offer. Plenty of taxi drivers willing to show you the village where 700 people live, plus a trip further down the coastline, which we did. The village had no water (only collecting rain in water butts), or electricity. People cooking outside on fires. Stray dogs everywhere. V. poor and we don't think many of these people worked inside the tourist compound. Taxi driver said there was much corruption and wages were around $6 a day. When there's no ships in, there's no work. Went further down the coast, where they obviously had electricity as there were several small hotels etc - usual tourism and good beaches.
Sailed back to Montego Bay and decided to have a coach trip on our final day to the Good Hope Great Plantation House, Trelawney County, plus lunch, then onward to the airport. The previous week we had seen those leaving the ship sitting around waiting until their flights were called in the afternoon. You had to vacate your cabin at 9am. Also, those who had just arrived wanting to board the ship, but couldn't because everyone was still waiting to leave. It was chaos on the quayside.
Disembarked the ship at 9am in plenty of time for the 9.30 trip. However, we hadn't reckoned on Jamaican immigration wanting you to stand in a long queue whilst they looked at your immigration departure form, then stamped your passport. We still don't understand the purpose of this exercise, as no-one at the airport wanted the immigration form - just bureaucracy. Staff gazing into space. Tui staff unable to assist the situation. Note to Tui - consider not using Jamaica as a starting/departure point. Their organisation is dreadful and it causes many people so much frustration. This is our holiday.
Went on the coach with Chukka tours, which departed at 9.30, but we had to stop and return to the departure point, as there were still several people held up in the immigration queue in the terminal. Eventually we left at 10am. The drive to the Good Hope house was good and we saw plenty of lovely scenery in the drive towards Falmouth on the north coast. Then turned off the Martha Brae road into the countryside - bumpy roads. The house stood in breathtaking surroundings with lovely gardens. It was v warm and sunny. However, there were 10 other groups touring around the house that day, so we felt a bit rushed, as some people on our coach said they had return flights at 4.15pm - ours was 5.50pm. We were then given lunch outside, which was a selection of typical Jamaican food, very tasty, followed by melon, cake and the famous Blue Mountain coffee. Or rather it would have been, had we not been rushed to move on to a rum tasting, so didn't get any coffee. The rum tasting was also rushed as we were moving on to another part of the Estate to look at the swimming pool/activity area, before heading to the airport. Such a shame, as this COULD have been a good trip instead of a rushed exercise.
Returning to Montego Bay airport - chaos ensued, but we had Premier class tickets, and the queue was v small. However, going through security was chaotic - everyone being made to take off their shoes, find their own trays, load them with their belongings and push them down the conveyor belt.
Went to gate 18 and waited, then an announcement that the Gatwick flight was from gate 15. People all over the place. Flight called. Everyone surged forward. Jamaican staff just stood around gazing (again). Flight waited another hour before being able to leave, as ground staff had not loaded 3 containers of luggage, plus all the pushchairs and wheelchairs. The Captain even left the flight deck to find out what was happening, but has no control over what happens in the airport. Night flight back. By the time we left, we realised that it was almost midnight, New Year's Eve, in the UK, so raised our glasses to 2020. Read Less