(4 a.m. EDT) -- Only weeks after its first sailing for Thomson Cruises, the company's new flagship, Thomson Dream, appears to be falling short of customer expectations.
The inaugural cruise was plagued with problems mainly caused by the ash cloud, as the ship was dozens of crewmembers short and not fully provisioned. Also, the plumbing was less than perfect, with leaky pipes in places and some cabins having no hot water, but by the second voyage, Thomson bosses and senior officers onboard told us that this was being resolved.
A month on, however, Cruise Critic members reviewing the ship are telling a different story, with sorry tales of blocked loos, burst pipes, dripping ceilings and a foul smell.
Cruise Critic Member Anne Smith, who sailed in May, said: "On the second day our toilet was blocked up which we reported and had to do this three times more during the week. Nor were the toilets on our deck working so we had to go looking; the smell on our deck was appalling."
Member Sold Down the Med Sue recounted a similar experience: "The water supply to our cabin was cut off several times, and the slight aroma that we had initially detected gradually worsened as our holiday progressed. The toilet facilities in both the cabins and the public areas were often out of order, and on one occasion as I entered the toilet block adjacent to the pool area I found the floor flooded, with one toilet overflowing."
And so it goes on. Member Dickson noted that: "The strong smell of sewage was disgusting. All through the cruise on various decks you would find buckets catching dirty water coming from ceilings and large heavy duty blowers attempting to dry carpets."
A statement issued by Thomson Cruises today in response said: “Thomson Cruises are genuinely concerned to hear any reports of customers who are unhappy when travelling on our ship, Thomson Dream.
"We can confirm that the ship is currently experiencing some challenges with its plumbing system and we apologise for any discomfort this may have caused. Understandably, this may be disagreeable, but this is an isolated issue and we are working on resolving the problem as quickly as possible. Over the course of the next two days, additional engineers will arrive on the ship in order to offer further assistance with the task of fixing the problem."
It's important to keep in mind that the ship, though new to Thomson, is actually 24 years old, having sailed for three other lines before being acquired by Thomson. But according to members like Old Cruiser2, some cruise travellers are under the impression they're getting a top-notch experience on a new vessel: "We were surprised at the number of passengers who had been informed that Dream was a brand-new ship. Understandably they were somewhat disillusioned."
Thomson's Web site doesn't claim that the ship is brand-new -- or that it offers a five-star experience -- although it does call Dream "Our biggest and most luxurious ship yet". The 2010 Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships gives Costa Europa three stars only (the book was produced in 2009 when the ship was still sailing for Costa). This is pretty basic; Thomson Spirit, Destiny and Celebration in the same book all received a three plus, while Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, which will compete with Dream out of Mallorca next summer, gets four.
So where are the misconceptions coming from? Are Thomson passengers being misled by their travel agents? More importantly, will the plumbing be fixed? If you're sailing on Thomson Dream in the next couple of weeks, do check in and let us know!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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