My wife and I usually go away for Christmas and New Year, but this time decided to take my recently widowed mother-in-law with us so as not to leave her alone over Christmas and cut our normal 2 week break down to 1 week. Previously we have sailed with P &O, NCL, Cunard, MSC, Fred Olsen and Costa so it was with that background this review is being made.
The flight out from Gatwick was good and the embarkation process extremely smooth as we were the last flight in. Luggage to cabin in good time and the cabin was of a decent size. We were on the 5th floor, although mother was on the floor below, in the very front single cabin. Don't book the front cabins on lower decks. The noise in cabin 4003 when docking or departing is horrendous and she had to use ear plugs to try (unsuccessfully) to blockout the sound.
Wishing to avoid the buffet scrum, we decided to eat in the Orion for breakfast. I ordered a cooked breakfast and when it arrived and I saw the bacon, I wasn't sure if I was on a Thomson cruise or a Timpson cruise. Cold, hard and almost inedible. We them made a decision to eat breakfast upstairs from then on. Luckily some fellow passengers tipped us off that the small self-service on the 11th floor was a better venue than the 9th floor free-for-all, so we ate our breakfasts there from then on.
Dinner in the Orion was very hit and miss. The Christmas dinner had processed turkey and mother got thick slices of dark brown meat that resembled pork - no breast meat at all. We fared better than those opting for beef who complained about it being this and stringy. The irony was that in the 9th floor buffet, the turkey on offer from the carvery was excellent.
The next night, she ordered the roast ham which was thick chunks of processed meat that would disgrace Wackford Squeers' establishment, whereas I had the most delicious fish in pastry. Her ham was quickly returned and sh had the fish too.
The Dream is the first ship I have been on where the dining room food is the same as in the buffet, so we decided to eat in the buffet from then on where we could see what we were going to eat in advance. In fairness, we had some reasonable meals up there from then on and had an excellent meal in the Asian restaurant one evening.
On Friday 29 th December, (day 6 of our cruise) the main change over day in Tenerife.
We had spent the morning out. We returned at 1pm and mum took to her room as she was feeling tired and wanted to have a rest. My wifeand I went up to the buffet to have a coffee and noticed that suddenly there was a heightened level of sanitation with staff making sure that hands were sanitised and they had taken control of serving. Plastic gloves on, salt and pepper removed, guests not allowed to touch anything. Washee washee staff now present with sanitisers for the first time ensuring guests sprayed before entering the food areas.
Seasoned cruisers will know the signs. This is a sure sign that there is a raised level of concern by the cruise company regarding sickness. When questioned why the level had been raised, the staff were stating that is was a precautionary measure due to customer change over. We had heard during the week that there had been cases of sickness on board which did not surprise us, as already stated we did not believe the level of preventative sanitation was very good.
Unsurprisingly, an hour later, mother had gone down with sickness and diarrhoea. The written on board guidance issued advised that passengers with these symptoms should stay in their rooms so my wife and I went to the surgery, The nurse said to bring her down as the doctor had so many cases that he couldn't leave the medical centre. I won't go into all of the what happened next, but despite being advised that she should stay in her room for 24 hours and the medical centre and reception would be in contact with her during the quarantine period, the first call she got from anyone was the next morning from the cabin boy asking her to clear the cabin as we were due to disembark later that day. We went to see the doctor and the nurse said they had had so many cases that he hadn't slept properly for 3 days
Reception then did a superb impression of Comical Ali, Sadam Hussein's spokesman during the Iraqui war deniying that there was a norovirus on board- just gastroenteritis. ( I invite any reader of this to look up the NHS web site under gastroenteritis and the two most common causes in adults is norovirus or food poisoning. So - take your pick, Thomson.)
Just to cap this bit off, the return flight was an hour and a half late not getting into Gatwick till after 2.30 a.m. and during the wait at Las Palmas airport, I keeled over with a bout of food poisoning which thankfully cleared up sufficiently to let me fly home.
Moving away from the medical issues, there were some positives. The bar staff and waiters were the best I have come across on any cruise line and the trips seemed very reasonable in comparison to other lines. The cabin steward we had on deck 10 (Iwan) was excellent. The all inclusive drinks, however, as has been said before in other reviews, does not include many premium brands. Don't for instance, order a Gin and Tonic. Order a Gordons Gin or you will get some inferior brand.
The shows were all good but the volume of the singers in the shows, the Asian resident band in Medusa and sometimes the guys playing at the rear were all excessive. The two places where music was acceptable - the Explorer lounge and Tides meant that seats there were at a premium.
The other "entertainment" consisted almost entirely of trivia quizzes, daily bingo and other It's a Knockout style competitions run by the animation team.
Talking to other cruisers, many of them were regular Thomson cruisers. Universally they said standards had slipped over the years - 5 course dinners were now 3 course etc. General grumbles about entertainment and food, yet without exception, all regular Thomson cruisers we talked to who agreed the standards were slipping said they would sail with Thomson again and not consider another cruise line !! I can't grasp that thought process at all.
To summarise, therefore, it wasn't the best of cruises to say the least and we won't be cruising Thomson or Marella again. There were some good things but, regrettably, the bad things we encountered overwhelmed these.
Cabin surprisingly spacious and very comfortable bed.
Actually very good value. Transfer, camel ride and entry to Timanfaya volcano plus winery all for 38 euros. Tip - make sure you choose a coach trip either from the ship or independently in advance as the queue for hire cars to get to the car park is horrendous and the tour coaches jump the queue.View All 40 Mountain of Fire Reviews