This was our first experience of Thomson (TUI) cruises, but we have cruised with other lines for many years, especially Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and NCL. The reason for choosing this cruise was that the itinerary looked more ... Read More
This was our first experience of Thomson (TUI) cruises, but we have cruised with other lines for many years, especially Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and NCL. The reason for choosing this cruise was that the itinerary looked more interesting than the other lines at the moment, and our family has sailed on Splendour of the Seas several times, so we knew what to expect as far as the layout of the ship goes. She is small, airy and bright, and although she is an old ship, (about 20 years old I think) she is wearing well.
So, we knew the ship, but not what to expect in terms of the overall experience of the Thomson product.
What we found was.....
Travel between home and ship/ embarkation -
Really couldn't fault it. Everything went smoothly, was well organised, and we had our luggage within half an hour of arrival. Very impressed!
Our cabin -
We booked a junior suite on deck 8. We had stayed in one before on this ship, and on our last 2 sailings with Royal we had stayed in a grand suite. The first thing we noticed with Thomson was that they don't offer good perks with the grand suite and there was nothing there to tempt us to spend an extra £1000, so we opted for the junior instead. Nice and spacious. We didn't pay extra to choose a room because we knew there wouldn't be a bad one, and we think that charging to choose a specific room is a rip off. Our room was fine. Nice large balcony and the usual things you would expect. Claris travel size toiletries, slippers (but no bathrobes this time), fold down sofa, stools chair and table. The shower pressure was excellent and we like to have a bath too, which you only get in a suite. The cabin servicing was adequate, but fell short of what we have come to expect. We had to ask several times for the ice bucket to be kept topped up, and this is a standard thing with Royal that it is topped up twice a day. The bed linen wasn't changed as it should be, and there were dirty dishes left in our room for 2 days. Not sure why they thought we wanted to hold onto them!
I understand that Thomson are trying out a new model of dining operation whereby there are no set dining times, and the only bookable tables are in the premium restaurants which cost extra. In principle, at least. We found this not to work. We tried on 4 occasions to book Kora La or Surf &Turf, and were unsuccessful. The Glass House wasn't fully operational while we were there, so we didn't get to experience that either. We ate in Islands buffet several times. At busy times it was a bit of a zoo. The food variety was poor. The quality was variable. It wouldn't have been our first choice, but given the chaos elsewhere, we just settled for it. The Snack Shack was great for quick snacks. The Asian beef box was fab, and the fish and chips were popular. It's a shame the staff were so glum.
We went to most of the Broadway Theatre shows. The Summer themed one was a bit too Am Dram and boring for our liking, but we really enjoyed the others. The Medieval themed one was funny and clever, the Music Legends one was very good, and the Animated Musical one was very well done. The singers and dancers were superb, and they work very hard. This was the aspect of the cruise that impressed us the most. The entertainment team were great in the shows, but around the ship generally at the pool party etc, they didn't do much to get people involved. They just danced together. There was no big party atmosphere.
The resident band, Protege, were very good indeed. We saw them in various venues throughout the ship and enjoyed it. The singer/pianists (I think there were 2 of them) were just OK. The waitress, Sari, in the theatre was very pleasant. There weren't enough waiting staff there however, and they were having to ignore a lot of cards being waved in the air. Customers were getting frustrated because they couldn't get a drink, and I really felt sorry for the staff. Thomson need to get the staff to customer ratio up. I've never seen such poor service on a cruise before. The cruise director (Paul?) wasn't very engaging, but it's not something that makes or breaks our holiday so it didn't influence us one way or another.
Customer Services desk -
We had a couple of questions and an issue that needed to be resolved. Each time we were treated efficiently and in a nice friendly manner. We were impressed with the customer services desk.
A pretty poor selection. Nowhere near as good as when Royal had the ship. They didn't have any of the items we wanted.
Pool area and activities -
The usual selfish sun lounger hogging took place, but what surprised me was that the Thomson staff would not take any action when people had put their stuff on a bed and then left it for hours while people were trying to find a bed. They just weren't interested. I was told to take the things off my self if I wanted the bed. It's not my job. I'm not going to get into an unpleasant exchange over a sun bed. If there is a rule, and I was advised that there was, it's up to Thomson to enforce it. Another issue was that people were putting their sun beds on the running track, which again wasn't supposed to be allowed, but nobody would take responsibility for dealing with it. There wasn't the usual daytime activity that we have come to expect. On the face of it, the Cruise News looked like there were lots of activities, but three quarters of them were touting for business for the spa or excursion services, or special offers in the shop. These are NOT activities!! They really weren't organised activities at all. There was a quiz at 2pm. We were very bored on this trip. We were never bored on NCL or Royal.
The crew just seem to Walk around ignoring the guests. Very few smiley faces (there are exceptions, of course), no big welcomes, nobody whistling or singing. Maybe we've just become used to the upbeat, sometimes in your face, joy de vivre of other crews. Generally, On Discovery the crew seemed functional, tired, and not really that happy to be serving you, I'm afraid (again, there were obvious exceptions). I think they must be exhausted because they are so short staffed?
The best things were the itinerary and the entertainment in the theatre without a doubt. The worst things were the disinterested staff and the lack of a buzz around the place. There is no happy atmosphere. It was like the customers were a bit of an inconvenience. At almost £3,000 for the week this wasn't a budget holiday, but it felt like it was. I would say it's 3 star. We're used to between 4 and 5 star.
We won't be back. We know what we like, and this didn't match up. Read Less