Both myself, 44 and my partner of the same age travelled on this cruise as part of a "Cruise and Stay" package deal with Thomson. I carried out quite a bit of research beforehand with this being our first cruise as quite a few of our friends have travelled on various ships and cruise every year. We decided on the Thomson brand as a friend said this one was the best for entertainment for British people - I personally don't fancy being on a ship which is fully of Americans but that's my personal opinion and our friends have had experiences of ships with various nationalities on board.
I have to say that the whole experience was truly fabulous. From the moment we entered the ship to when we left, we really enjoyed it. It took us a few days to know our way around the ship but this is all part of the fun. Our outside cabin was better than I expected (a little bigger) and has everything you need. It really is remarkable the amount of storage in those cabins for the size of them! The only gripe was that the shower was quite compact, and with me not being so big, I can imagine some bigger people may struggle. The shower curtain also always sticks to your wet skin lol !
We very rarely used the Islands restaurant as any time we went, it was so full that it was a bit of a free for all and we actually couldn't find a spare seat any time we went! We ate breakfast mostly in the restaurants as this was so much more peaceful and a much better experience. I can't understand why they are never very busy in the mornings? We never used The Islands for dinner either, we always used both a la cartes and the menu was changed regularly. We preferred the a la cartes as the portion sizes were just perfect and meant you didn't over indulge in the buffet restaurant! We also sat with some other couples for dinner as we opted to share - this is interesting and is good to get to know other people on board.
The choice of alcohol is very good on board and although being all inclusive, you do pay for the premium brands but the charge is normally an extra £1.50 per drink. Our bill at the end of our stay was very minimal, which when we told our friends who cruise with Royal Caribbean, were very surprised.
I have to say that the staff on board the ship are a real credit to TUI. We never experienced one member of staff who looked unhappy or uninterested. They were all very polite, welcoming and very helpful and the service on board, from everyone, was truly exceptional. They really do make an effort and it shows. Cruise director, Adam, was the spitting image of Rylan (?) from X-Factor and he was a real credit to the ship also. The entertainment on board was fabulous and there is always entertainment going on throughout the day. We never missed a show in the evening! The Comedian, sorry can't remember his name, was excellent and although some children/teenagers were there, he handled it very well and we went to see him twice.
With it being all inclusive, we were surprised at the charge for water, however, we learned the reason for this and understand why. We also never saw anyone very drunk on board either.
We enjoyed the daily Sail Away from the Ports and we also loved waking up each day and looking out our cabin window so see where we were that day!
We had 2 excursions - Rome in a Day and the Florence/Pisa trip. Although we enjoyed them, we felt that the cost was extremely high. There is also quite a bit of travelling by bus in these tours to get to your destination but that can't be helped. It does give you a taster of what the cities are like. The tour guides were helpful and always made sure you were all together. These tours are also a whole day so be prepared to walk quite a bit, we enjoyed this - and beware of the pick pockets in Pisa! A few people were targeted by them but never got anything thankfully!
Our cabin was cleaned very regularly and to a very high standard.
We were very impressed by the way in which the luggage etc is handled the night before you leave, so that everyone isn't going to reception to check out the next day. You have to leave your luggage outside your cabin no later than 3am and it's taken away so make sure you have everything you need. You then just leave the ship the next day and go to the area you have been advised to go to for your luggage. As we were going onwards to a hotel, we went to the Magenta area, got our luggage and straight on the bus to our hotel. The whole experience was just so well organised and streamlined.
One piece of advice that I never saw anywhere is be up early on the Day at Sea for a bed as everyone on board is in the same boat - pardon the pun! We were later in getting up on this day as had a late night the night before and most beds were full, however, we managed to get one later in afternoon when people were leaving and too hot.
Also, look out for your daily Cruise News which is put in your room every night to give you information on what's on the following day and about the port you will be arriving in. This really is so helpful :-)
I hope my review helps those of you, like us, who are new to cruising. We loved it that much that we are going on an Eastern Med Cruise in June 2018 with Tui on the Discovery 2 and we can't wait!
Outside cabin was perfect for us as we were hardly in it and always out and about. The amount of storage for the size of room is fantastic and it has everything you need. The daily cleaning service is exceptional.