Having read the early reviews it was with some trepidation that my wife and I boarded the Dream for the Med Explorer cruise. This was our first cruise and has been rebooked as we had cancelled the Island escape because of the volcano.
First impressions were generally good. We quickly went through the large boarding area on the dock and left our bags which were to be taken to the cabin.
We had an inside cabin on deck 6. This was roomier than we expected with enough room to hang and store clothing and shoes. The bathroom had a shower with a plastic curtain and large sink. We noticed the cabin was very hot and the thermostat read 84 degrees. I turned it down to 70 (there was no way to turn the AC off) and we went to explore.
It was then we first noticed the strong sewerage smell. This went up the stair wells and was noticeable on all decks.
We went up to the Andromeda on deck nine for a drink, we were AI and we were already aware from this board of the restrictions. One cocktail of the day and Long Island Ice tea. We walked through the buffet area which has three seating areas and a long food service area
There is a smallish pool and sun beds around and seating areas on two decks.
We got a drink and went to deck 8 where most of the entertainment took place. The theatre was large and had plenty of seating and had an upper balcony.
The main lounge, the Medusa, again was large with a stage and dance floor this was where the game show and house band played. There was smallish bar in the far corner The Argo lounge held a classical duo, but no bar, The Ocean bar usually was home to a trio playing easy listening tunes. Then there was a smaller bar next to the casino. There is a piano in this room but I never it heard it played.
There are a few expensive shops and the photo area near the casino.
The casino has two roulette wheels, two black jack tables a stud poker table and various bandits.
Deck four had the waiter service restaurant the Orion and on deck 11 was the Sirens buffet and in the evening the a la carte Grill this is on the same deck as the covered pool area.
First impressions were good It appeared large and in a reasonably good state of repair
We returned to our cabin and the bags had arrived. By now the heat had risen to 89 degrees. It was so hot I wafted the door to try and cool it. We went to customer services on deck 8 to explain the problem but had to queue behind others who had the same problem. I was told it was ship wide and engineers were trying to sort it. In total I spoke to them on five occasions and it was only on the third day did someone come to our room. In the meantime I turned the AI to its highest level and this produced cool air so we were able to sleep that night.
Every time I went to reception there were usually two or three guests complaining about something. One elderly lady was demanding to see the captain about her cabin she was so angry she was asking for a full refund then and there!
Then came the noises in our cabin. We had a constant sound of gurgling water running through pipes and the loud sound of the engines throbbing away. We knew we could do nothing about this. Fortunately my wife had brought earplugs for my snoring so we both used these to muffle the sound
The sewerage smell remained and did so for the whole week.
We ate at all the restaurants and booked the Grill twice.
The Andromeda always had long queues. This is because it is badly set up. The hot food is in the same line as the cold food. So even if you only wanted bacon and eggs in the morning you still have to wait behind everyone else.
The food was generally lukewarm once we sat down. That is if you could find a seat. More often than not groups of hungry plate laden cruisers were seen looking desperately for somewhere to sit.
Sirens only open in the morning and afternoon, it also supplied tea. This was the more pleasant of the two buffets but still had the problem of queues, and nowhere to sit. The sandwiches in the afternoon were lovely though.
Plastic plates were in abundance and plastic mugs for tea, thought we were in Benidorm.
We ate four times in the Orion. Service was mainly good though the wine waiters seemed to ignore us when we told them we wanted house wine. After the first glass we didn't see them again and had to flag them down if we wanted another drink. The food here was a little better though it was bland and poorly seasoned. It was also cold! We were told the food had to be transported a long way from the kitchen. On one occasion I had finished my first course and the second was put on my plate before my wife had finished hers. We then had to wait 25 minutes for our dessert.
The late night buffet was chips pizza, curry and rice. Sort of thing you would expect after a few pints in town
We had originally only planed to use the Grill once because of the extra cost. The food here is far superior to the rest of the ship. Given that this cruise is advertised as 5* I had expected this quality and level as service as a given for the whole ship. Even the house red was a much better quality. If we could have afforded it we would have eaten here every night but stretched to twice because we could not put up with the queues. Another guest commented (he did not know we had dined there) that he had been to the Grill and this was what he had expected every night as part of a 5* experience.
I have been five star and 4* AI in the past with Thomsons and would rate the food overall as 3* at best.
The shows in the theatre are very slick and professional. The downside of this is there is no warmth to the shows. There was little interaction between audience and performers giving a feeling of sterility.
The shows included Abba and Boy bands which I don't think catered for the majority of their guests who probably hadn't heared of either. The best of the performances was the show themed on Paris and Venice. This was because the audience was more engaged
The comedian on for two nights was excellent.
Medusa held the game shows at night, bingo and dance classes in the afternoon. (I took part on stage in one game show and tried the dancing).
The staff doing this are distracted don't seem to want to be there, I got the feeling that the guests are a distraction and detract from their own importance and talents. It appears they view the Dream as a stepping stone onto better things. Two members, Brett and Naomi, told other cruisers that she was going to be the next Davina and he would have his own show on TV in a year or two. Sorry both but you both have the personalities of dead fish and Brett if you read this please could you learn to say "you" it is not "ya" or "yer" it is you. Whenever he took a show or quiz we had to leave the room.
The musicians are very good, particularly the classical duo. However we could listen to all their sets once or twice but not the same songs and tunes every night. The only escape was good conversation with acquaintances.
The casino has a double zero on the roulette table increasing the house edge so beware
On deck 3. We found they were helpful and sympathetic. On the Wednesday we had a rough ride and there were many sea sick travelers. My wife had to have treatment and they were great.
We went to Monaco, Florence Rome and walked around Corsica and Palomas.
Monaco is simple to do alone (as is Nice) the train station is about 200 yards along the seafront and travel cost only 5 euro return. In Monte Carlo we found a great back street restaurant and then enjoyed watching the crowds from the Cafe de Paris with a 6 euro cup of coffee. It costs ten euro to go into the casino.
We decided to go alone, taking the Thomsons bus at a cost of £64. Beautiful city. Lots to see. Try and eat in the market if you can all the locals were in here for lunch.
The highlight. We went on the bike tour with Dominic. He is on deck 6. (We would not have known he was there if we had been on any other deck as Thomsons do not promote him in the newspaper). We cycled to the train station which was about a mile. Dom sorted out the tickets.
The cycling in Rome was mostly flat with two small climbs. Car drivers were courteous and allowed us right of way We saw all of the sights and travelled mainly through the back streets including Piazza Navona and other smaller piazzas. We had time to stop and eat. Great views from the Palatine Hill and Borghese Park.
We spoke to people who had taken the bus tour and they only saw three sights, St Peters, the Coliseum and the Pantheon.
Thanks Dom for making our holiday worthwhile. He runs bike tours for all destinations.
Looks like a lovely place to stay. Just a walk around the Ajaccio was enough to tell us this was a possible future holiday destination.
Non descript town. A few nice shops. Cannot understand why the ship did not dock in Barcelona. This was two hours by bus away and meant another huge cost to travel with Thomsons. As we had been there before we gave it a miss. (Disappointing to note the ship docks there in next weeks cruise).
The trips have to be booked 24 hours in advance. There is little info for those who want to travel independently egg the only notes on free transport from docks were included in the newsletter the night before docking. There was no info on trains, buses etc. The cost of trips were astronomical but as most cruisers were what I would describe as a captive audience as many would not try and go it alone, no doubt this is a money spinner for Thomsons
All the other cruisers we met were lovely. My wife is 45 and I am 51. This made us in the youngest 5% of those on board. I mean this as no disrespect to those we met but it felt like we were in a floating nursing home. One guest commented that she had seen more specialist medical equipment on board that she sees in a week at work as a medical professional!
We did not hear a positive comment from any other cruiser. During any conversation we struck up the other person would always observe how mediocre everything was without any prompting.
Many on board had been on several trips and said this was the worst they had been on and that we should discount this as cruising was usually a special experience. Other Thomson ships were said to be far superior.
Smoking outside takes place anywhere. There is nothing worse than sitting and relaxing during the brief periods of sun on deck to find someone lighting up next to you. We had to move seats on more than one occasion because of this.
Every guest we spoke to did not receive the £100 on board credit as advertised in the brochure
The waiters and bar staff were friendly and helpful and were the best part of the ship.
So given the poor food, the queuing, the cost of trips the noise, the smell the entertainment 50% of the holiday was poor. The destinations saved it from being a total disaster
We would not cruise again given this experience