The Eastern Encounters Cruise was attractive due to the interesting itinerary, Turkey, Beirut, Cyprus, Israel.
Transfers from airport to ship relatively straight forward after hunting down the coach driver at Dalaman airport.
CABIN. DECK A
On arrival at our cabin the door opened to what I can only describe as a time warp...all the way back to 1970s. Everything brown & orange. In desperate need of a deep clean.
There is one EU electrical Socket and one US electrical socket in the room. Both adjacent to a table top, so if you need to charge a mobile phone or other device needing a standard size USB it is not going to happen - it just won’t fit. The ships answer to this is to take your device to reception every time you need it charging. Not practical at all.
The hairdryer in the cabin is one of those small plastic ones you find in motorway hotels - I think ours was a 1983 original with tape around the wiring. On day 3 of our cruise, we found the last occupants dirty underwear down the side of the mattress - nice. The toilets in the cabin and around the ship are temperamental to say the least, and lots of passengers were complaining. There were a few nasty surprises in public toilets. The TV hardly ever works – again lots of other passengers talked of this problem.
There is no air conditioning, and obviously no windows to open, so prepare for uncomfortable sleeping.
This is a tired ship. The ships carpets need replacing, everywhere you look (except at reception) they are stained and worn.
Non- paying eating choices are limited to The Lido – self-service café bearing a remarkable resemblance to a Road Chef (you can eat indoors or outdoors here) and the The Compass Rose (waiter service but the same food options as The Lido). Food is poor quality which I would compare to a 3* Greek A/I hotel.
You may have paid for the drinks package, note this does not include bottled water. Thomson take every opportunity to sell you bottled water at an eye watering mark up. Even if on the drinks package - every drink you order you have to present your boarding card – you then get your drink along with a receipt showing £0.00 charge. For a ship that wants to be eco-friendly how much paper is wasted with this ridiculous process?
The ships staff in bars, housekeeping, restaurants etc are really hard working and friendly. I can’t say the same of the Thomson staff who I found quite rude and full of themselves – just my opinion.
Excursions were well organised apart from the Jerusalem one, which fell on a Friday during Ramadan, this meant it was difficult getting into Jerusalem, and some passengers didn't get there at all.
The Dead Sea excursion – they have gone for the cheapest option which is a resort with no access to the sea except for climbing down a clay ridden bank. Its down right dangerous, there were many on our tour in a terrible state after attempting it, grazes and exhaustion. Thomson really need to sort this out before someone really gets hurt.
Lebanon is fabulous.
Despite the website and the cruise literature saying ‘no worries’ on getting your currency for the ports they call at you CANNOT get anything other than Euros, which sadly Lebanon and Israel don’t use. You need US Dollars, Lebanese Pounds & Israeli Shekels. This resulted in us going on a tour in Lebanon with absolutely no cash – no fun at all especially as part of the tour was a visit to a local market. Disgraceful from Thomson – and they couldn't have been less bothered at reception.
WI-FI & PHONE SIGNAL
Is a complete joke. I paid £24 for 3.5 hours Wi-Fi access. I actually got internet access for 40 minutes of that. Constant ‘slow network’ messages and ‘connecting’ messages (whilst eating up your minutes). Again at reception the attitude is *shrugs shoulders* ‘it’s a satellite it’s slow’. A complete rip-off and a prime example of Thomson selling you something that is not fit for purpose. The same goes for the mobile phone signal on board, its hit and miss (mainly miss). Expect to be out of contact for the majority of your time on board.
All a bit Blackpool.
Loved the feeling of being on a ship, we will certainly cruise again but never again with Thomson whose offering on the Spirit is poor, with a hint of boot-camp about it.