So here is my review of my first ever cruise on the Thomson Celebration (Mediterranean Sunrise). Obviously I have nothing to compare it with as I have never sailed before, but I have stayed in dozens of hotels worldwide so I will try to be ... Read More
So here is my review of my first ever cruise on the Thomson Celebration (Mediterranean Sunrise). Obviously I have nothing to compare it with as I have never sailed before, but I have stayed in dozens of hotels worldwide so I will try to be as honest as I can. Sorry it is so long, there’s so much to say, but I have subtitled each section for ease of reference.
* Outbound Flight – We flew early morning from Manchester to Aqaba, Jordan and the 5 ½ hour flight was hassle free. We were only 30 minutes late taking off and they gave us breakfast an hour in. Complimentary drinks were plentiful and they didn’t dawdle when serving them either. All flight staff demonstrated great customer service skills, politeness and efficiency. We collected our suitcases quickly and the bus ride to the ship was only 30 minutes. My only gripe here was we hadn’t been told we were getting the meal and spent £25 on breakfast at the airport. That said we also ate the inflight meal (“coz we’re on holiday”, lol).
* Embarkation - Our first ever experience of the embarkation/registration process was like being on the boat ride in ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’, but in a nice way. It was all so very quick and well organised like a conveyor belt moving us from photograph taking, form checking, medical declarations signed, debit card registration, optional dining extras and handing us our cabin keys with great efficiency. Everyone was very ‘happy clappy’, we loved the excitement of it all and we came out the other side like kids in a candy shop. We went straight to our room to change into clothes we’d packed in our hand luggage and our suitcases were outside our room when we left it 10 minutes later.
* Cabin - Deck 6 cabin 207 (Deluxe standard) – Reviewed below.
* Food – We ate in the Lido restaurant mostly and never had a single item that wasn’t delicious. Breakfast they have back bacon, eggs done to perfection, omelettes made to order and pancakes to die for. Lunch and Evening Meal were equally good. Food was mostly English fare. We tended to not have an evening meal though as we were too full to enjoy the evening festivities, so we took to eating at around midnight before bedtime when there were curries, pizza, burgers and chicken strips to devour from the Lido. We enjoyed a few meals in the Meridian where the meals were more set and this was a great way to meet other cruisers as we always shared a table (in the Lido you tend to just sit on your own). We paid £47 each to eat in the Hot Stone Terrace, Mistrals and Kora La. All 3 were fabulous, lovely food, great service and well worth the money we paid. But if you’re on a budget, you won’t feel like you missed out if you don’t do these.
* Bars/Entertainment – We tended to go to Liberties in the evening and joined in many of the quizzes, fun and games. The entertainment team really are 1st class in our view. Adam, Chris, Luke and Shaneece made a great holiday even better. We went to some of the Broadway shows and loved them all, even the 2 comedians and Braximusic (those guys were amazing). So we didn’t miss out we also did Hemmingway’s 2 evenings and Horizons 2 days, as well as the Coffee Port afternoon. There really is a bar to cater for ever preference on this ship. Drinks were always good, we stuck to the AI drinks and we had more than our money’s worth on this holiday (had we have paid for it of course).
* Staff – Amazing people! They work their socks off these guys. The Lido Deck and Liberties bar staff/waiters were super quick and attentive to when your glass was empty. The other bar areas were pretty efficient too, but just not a quick as Liberties, which made us feel as if we were not getting the best service from them. Every member of the service or cleaning staff said hello when you passed them and always had a smile. They are really a credit to Thomson. I’ve been told we had new starters learning the ropes as the experienced staff has moved to the newer ships, but you can’t tell. The crew and captain are also very friendly whether on or off the boat. The entertainment team tend to be less friendly when not on official duties, or rather less welcoming if you say hello. I couldn’t help but feel like I was intruding if we tried to talk to them when they were having a drink on the Lido deck after a show.
* Pools/sunbeds – They were cold and only a handful ventured in. I presume this will improve later in the summer season. We didn’t struggle for a sunbed, but usually went to the Lido sun deck rather than the cushioned ones on deck 9 (got these on last day and they are amazingly comfortable).
* Photographs - There was an offer on the 1st day on official photographs. £70 for every picture they take, so we couldn’t resist. Again we were like little kids queuing for the ice cream man whenever we got off the ship and went for our evening meal. We’ve got over 100 pictures and they’re brilliant. So that’s the parent’s Christmas presents sorted this year.
* Shops – Only a small number of shops, with a good variety of items from tobacco and jewellery, to clothes and souvenirs. We had no intention of buying anything but couldn’t resist it as the prices were very good. The cigarette offer we got were £25 per 200, the same in UK would have been £85 per 200. We only purchased 800 (I know the limit is 200 each) and we were lucky we didn’t have any taken from us in the UK as I know others did. We didn’t bother buying alcohol as they were all glass bottles that have to go into your hold luggage and the savings were only a couple of quid a bottle. Prices on some items did get reduced later in the cruise, so wait if you can till the last day but make sure it will opens as it only opens when ship is at sea.
* Wi-Fi – Costs a fortune! We just got free Wi-Fi in port in any coffee shop.
From official Thomson card = 1 hour (max 75mb) £8 – 1 day (max 300mb) £15 – 3 days (max 800mb) £25 – 1 week (max 1200mb) £49 – 2 weeks (max 2200mb) £90.
* Disembarkation/Malaga Airport – Every flight but 1 was early morning, however all passengers have to vacate their rooms at 7am. You can pay £25 to keep your room if you’re on a late flight. Our bus was 8.10am, so we ate breakfast at 6am when the Lido opened to beat the rush. We left the room at 7am and waited by the door on deck 4 to get off as soon as it opened. That meant we were on bus 1 leaving the port first. That also meant there were no queues at check in and as the Spanish don’t rush when checking you in, these can and did build up quickly. It also meant that we went through security without any delay either. The same cannot be said for anyone on buses 2 and above, they had a minor nightmare through check in and security, so I’m lead to believe. It wasn’t helped that we were all told to go to zone B for the gates, but the passport control box in zone B was unmanned for at the time we went through security, therefore it looked as though it was closed for the day. Luckily we knew this would open an hour before the first flight as we’d been through Malaga 6 months earlier, so we waited nearby and went through once it opened. Again we missed the major queues and our flight left on time from the gate announced. I appreciate others did not have the same experience, so can only attribute our luck to our early start before the masses and that our plane wasn’t delayed as others were.
* Would I go again? – In a heartbeat yes. In short though I loved cruising and this won’t be my last. I will choose Thomson again and the Celebration will be top of my list. Why? The staff and other customers completely made this holiday the best I’ve ever had. Because the ship is not enormous we were able to meet many people who were so friendly. Of all the passengers we spoke to during our 13 days on board, only 1 couple said they wouldn’t do Thomson’s again and their reasons were that the food and entertainment is better on P&O. I would rather pay Thomson’s prices as I was completely happy with just about everything.
* Excursions/ports of call
Petra, Jordan – We did the Thomson excursion and it was worth every penny of the £120pp we paid. The bus ride took 2 ½ hours with one 15 minute stop off and you get 3-4 hours to view the site which is amazing, but a very long walk down to the main areas. We made it to The Treasury, Hadrian Gate and the Theatre and we walked for nearly 2 hours! There was lots more to see, but it would take us 2 hours to get back up to the entrance/exit, so we had to turn around and go back. If you stay with the guide it takes longer as they stop often to talk about everything. We followed another couple who’d been there before. You can get a horse or a pony and trap, but we slugged it out. The horses are whipped to death both up and down the hill and I didn’t trust the pony/trap drivers as there was a collision on the day we were there between 2 of these. You get a meal on this trip at a local hotel before you return home. It’s AI and satisfactory (but not a patch on the ship’s food).
Chana, Crete – We did this ourselves using the map from Destination Services which is very useful. Short bus ride immediately off the ship’s gangway to the main street, then a leisurely walk around the harbour area and old town.
Valletta, Malta – We did the 3 Islands tour with Thomson’s here. First off a speedboat ride over to Gozo. This was a white knuckle ride as the sea was choppy and it was pretty breezy. We loved it, but we’re 50 years young and there were people in their 80’s who weren’t as excited bouncing around at break neck speed. On Gozo we took to the road in jeeps, which were a little cramped in the back (I had a front seat lol). We visited some lovely areas, but The Azure Window (as seen in Game of Thrones) is no more as the sea took it away in early March. I was a little disappointed, but you can’t blame Mother Nature. We stopped at a beach café then back over to Malta, visiting the caves on Comino on the way. The weather was not good on this day, so this trip was slightly marred by that. However it’s still worth the £70pp we paid.
Palma, Majorca – Again we did our own thing here. There is a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus immediately off the ship here, but it has a long queue when everyone gets off the ship first thing. It costs 18 Euros per person with headphones and we did a full round trip taking pictures of sites along the way. We got off at the shopping centre and had some lunch at a local bar then walked back to the ship.
Cartagena, Spain – This is a beautiful town and you can do it yourself here. The main places to see are within a 10 minute walk of the ship. We saw the Amphitheatre, the Castle of Conception and the Bullring. The buildings are all amazing here. It was Bank Holiday so we were also treated to a parade by the local children in band uniform. Delightful. I spent nothing here as I’d inadvertently left my purse of the ship, but only realised when we went to buy a coffee and get some free Wi-Fi, lol.
Gibraltar, UK – We did our own thing here. We walked into town rather than wait for the shuttle as the queue was very long. We wanted to do the cable car to the apes so we ignored all the tour guides in mini buses (Gibraltar Rock Tours or something) as they started off quoting 35 euros each to take the tour of the rock, apes, St Michael’s Cave etc. They also told us the cable car had 45 minutes wait and we would only save a few pounds, but it would take us 3 hours to walk through the reserve to get to the apes. We thought they were embellishing the truth a little to get our business, so we walked 30 minutes to the cable car only to find they were indeed telling us the truth. So we went outside to the nearest mini bus and paid £25 each for the tour. It was brilliant, he talked us through all the areas and gave us interesting facts along the way. We passed all the cable car walkers on the way up and back down and completed the tour in 90 minutes. He even dropped us in town so we could shop and buy some fish and chips for lunch, yummy. Most of the shops were offering discount for Celebration customers and I got a Pandora safety chain for £45 instead of £60.
TIP - Do your research and only do the Thomson excursions that you’ll find difficult doing yourself or where you are worried about getting back on time. Our friends did a few Thomson excursions where they paid £36 each and ended up doing what we did for next to nothing. Read Less