This was our second cruise, both with Thomson, the first being on the Thomson Dream last February.
I'll break my review down into the following sections so you don't have to read it all if you don't want to (it's ... Read More
This was our second cruise, both with Thomson, the first being on the Thomson Dream last February.
I'll break my review down into the following sections so you don't have to read it all if you don't want to (it's long but hopefully informative and funny in places):
1) Overall comment
2) Travel to and from the ship
3) The ship in general and its crew
5) Dining and drinks incl packages
7) Port and shore excursions
9) Pre-travel Services from Thomson
10) Individual excursions
1) Overall Comment (4 stars)
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The Celebration is 31 years old but it has character and is well looked after. The Dream probably gets the edge as it is slightly larger which makes some of the public areas better.
If you want a cross between battery hen living and a shopping trolley on water, then go for one of the huge liners. They're not for us.
Going as a couple and not a group, you do people-watch more and it's quite fun! You could divide the cruisers into many groups but I think five groups covered most people - a) the friendly, polite, nice people who either want to keep to themselves or chat every so often. b) the professional cruisers / Thomson regulars who tend towards being boring know-it-alls. c) the groupie - kling-ons who have to hang around Thomson employees, particularly the entertainment team. d) the loud-mouths, some with added alcohol, some without e) the downright obnoxious, arrogant, self important types who deserve a spell on a life-boat being dragged behind the ship. Fortunately, the majority were in Group A, we were amused by and learned to avoid those in Groups B,C and D and only came across three in Group E - two incredibly rude, pompous mature ladies and one teenage brat who has got a lot of growing up to do.
All in all, the Celebration came through for us and provided a great holiday. If you want to see the Eastern Caribbean Lesser Antilles Islands, this is a recommended way to do it.
2)Travel to and from the ship (5 stars)
We flew from Birmingham. Got there early, baggage taken from us. Next time we saw it was outside our cabin. Embarkation on the ship took about 30 mins from arrival at the port. All in all - excellent
Homeward bound - cases had to be left outside your cabin by 2am on day of leaving. Next time we saw them was on the carousel at Birmingham airport. You had to be out of your cabin by 9am but a few rooms were made available for changing in. Coach pick ups suit your flight time or there is an option to go on the "Farewell Barbados Tour" which lasts about 4 hours, costs £45 and drops you off at the airport. We went on the tour which took us around the centre of the island, included 3 overly long cultural stops and lunch - personally we would rather have seen more of the island. All in all - apart from the turbulence on the plane flight home, excellent organisation by Thomson.
3) The ship in general and its crew (4 stars)
For us, the ship was well looked after and the crew / waiters / cabin team were polite at all times. Some of the Entertainment, Destination Services and Photographic staff could learn from the crew etc although I can understand why the Entertainment Team do shy away from talking to the Cruisers some of the time. If they didn't, they'd get no peace. The Captain had a great sense of humour and did two Q/A sessions while we were there. Mark, the "stand-in" Cruise Director took a bit of getting used to but when you got the hang of him, he was a credit to Thomson and hopefully will get a permanent senior position in due course.
Due to the size of the ship, we felt certain public areas were limited. For us, the Broadway Show Lounge was very small, there was no large open room (with windows) to sit in and the Meridian Restaurant just didn't work for us. The Dream was better for all of these.
4) Cabin (4 stars)
We were on Deck 3 with a porthole. There were two wall-hung beds in our cabin which suggests it could be used for a family. We had a double bed and plenty of storage. Our Cabin Steward was excellent and kept the room spotless - cleaned twice per day. Only negatives were that the toilet and shower curtain were incredibly close which sometimes proved challenging for the fuller figure and the "cistern" on our toilet was forever failing but was always fixed quickly by the maintenance dept.
5) Dining and Drinks incl packages (4 stars)
Essentially, if you couldn't find food you enjoyed somewhere on the boat everyday, you need to get a life!! Food was available for the best part of 20 hours per day with different options and different restaurants (some at extra cost). We did not like the Meridian, many did though. We stuck to the Lido restaurant most of the time, only venturing into the Meridian for the Captain's Dinner. We never had a bad meal anywhere.
We had the wine package at £99 for 7 bottles which appeared reasonable value for money. We did not take up the Drinks package as it was so expensive for limited drinkers. However, there were those on board who got it free in their overall package, others got it at less than a third of the price we were offered. One for Thomson to think about!
6) Entertainment (4 stars)
There was always something happening somewhere and the entertainment staff really worked hard to provide a great deal of fun and enjoyment. The evening shows in the Broadway were a bit of a mixed bag, some excellent, some average but never was there a lack of effort. Most of it was down to the choreography, not the dancers etc themselves. Of all the shows though, a comedian called Carl Schofield was in a league of his own. He did two timetabled shows and some "off the cuff" singing and jokes sessions in Hemingways. Absolutely brilliant. Watch out for Hazel in the Crew Show. What a voice!
70 Port and Shore Excursions (2 stars)
We had three excursions cancelled (the last three of our cruise). The one that we were most looking forward to was cancelled the night before.
You must, therefore, read this section appreciating that we are not best pleased with those involved in this aspect of the Cruise.
The Thomson excursions that we did will be rated individually in section 10.
Thomson Cruises are basically not cheap but suit those who have concerns about going it alone. If you're happy to go it alone, value for money is generally better but you may miss out on some of the highlights of an organised tour.
The Destination Services Team on the ship are very helpful if you are booking a tour, lack interest once you've booked it and have no real interest in your feelings when you've had a tour cancelled UNLESS, of course, you elect to book a replacement one.
Whether this department is self-managing or is controlled from the UK, it needs to get its act together.
PLEASE NOTE - if you do prefer to go it alone, be wary of the taxi drivers in Tobago. They are very "in your face" but we understand you can get good deals
8) Photographic (0 stars)
Overpriced. Package deals are confusing. Photographic staff should join the pompous mature ladies mentioned above on a day trip on a lifeboat - perhaps Destination Services could organise this and charge them an arm and a leg so they can appreciate what it's like to bankrupt yourself buying one photo!!
On a serious note, they need to stop taking photos of people who don't want them, stop printing off thousands of pictures and fridge magnets and concentrate on finding ways to reduce costs and therefore prices. Maybe showing photos to individuals on computer screens in lieu of printing them all off might help costs and prices. This system is used at other events I have been to.
My score of one star for "enrichment activities" below is for the Photographic department.
9) Pre-travel Services from Thomson (1 star)
I asked one question needing limited research by Thomson. After weeks of repeatedly asking, I was still being fobbed off except for one young member of staff in Thomson's Welsh Office who did his best to help me. I wrote to the Head Office and got a phone call back. I was given an answer which had no research behind it at all. This item was really concerning us but Thomson's Head Office made no effort to reduce this concern.
Worse was to come - the lady running customer care services on the ship was apparently also unaware of what I was talking about.
As soon as we went on tours, we were told what had been happening by the tour guides and locals. Fortunately the problem never affected our holiday. It just needed a bit of time and research by Thomson to allay our fears. Not too much to ask really.
10) Individual Excursions (our opinion)
Pigeon Point Beach Break, Tobago - a lovely beach but with limited swimming areas due to water sports. You would not want to be on this tour if there is a second cruise ship in. The beach is small and they were running out of umbrellas with just our ship in port. Cruisers who ran the gauntlet of the taxi drivers got good deals to this beach. (3 stars)
The Spice Island, Grenada - this is all about seeing the people, the island and some of its heritage and specialities - spices and rum. It's not about beaches and shopping at all. A meal in a wonderful location is included. Our tour guide was Rooster the Rasta - he was brilliant. Not a cheap tour but so enjoyable - maybe that was down to Rooster? (5 stars)
Bequia Coastal Cruise - the best snorkelling we did on this cruise as part of a tour. Princess Margaret Beach and the meal we had there were very enjoyable. Bequia is a lovely island with limited commercialism and no dock for the ship so they use the lifeboats as shuttles. The tour was not cheap but made for a good day out. (4 stars)
Dolphin & Whale Watch, Dominica - expensive for a 3 hour trip especially if you didn't see any wildlife. We were very fortunate to see about six whales, some breached and some dived showing their tails for the necessary photograph. The lads on the boat were very knowledgeable and made a lot of effort to find whales for us. No dolphins were seen. Recommend sea sick tablets for those who need them! NOTE - the International Jewellers shop in the port do some great deals - I bought a watch for a lot less than in England.(4 stars)
Time at the Beach, St Lucia - you are taken by coach to a very nice beach (Reduit) where you are left for about 2.5 - 3 hours. You are given sunbeds and one free drink each but the umbrella costs $10. There are quite a lot of beach sellers here that do become a pain so prepare yourself to deal with them. The swimming area is again limited by water sports etc. Our tour guide on the coach was permanently stressed but kept telling us to "chill". Her only aim was to get us back to the ship. Not much fun. Consider a taxi to this beach (or another one if you prefer) but remember that you will have to pay for sunbeds and umbrellas if you want them. (2 stars)
Carlisle Beach Break, Barbados - a 20 minute coach trip takes you to this beach where you get sunbeds, umbrellas and a drink for £20 per person. You're on the beach (with limited swimming areas) for about 2.5 hours. I went on a snorkelling trip organised at the beach. This was $25 for one hour. We swam around two ships wrecks where there were plenty of fish and then we swam with turtles. Best snorkelling I did. If you don't use sunbeds etc, probably best to consider a taxi.(3 stars)
Tortola by Land & Sea - this was a 4 hour trip - about 2 hours on a boat where we saw many of the British Virgin Islands (not Necker - Richard Branson's Island) followed by half hour shopping in Soper's Hole and then 1.5 hours on a coach seeing the sights of Tortola. I would recommend you ask the driver which side of the bus gets the best views of the Atlantic Ocean - they are stunning. Not bad value for money. We preferred the time on the boat. (3 stars)
Golden Eagle Catamaran Sail & Snorkel - about 4 hours including snorkelling, rum, swimming, rum, watching the planes pass low overhead into the airport, more rum etc. You get the gist. Although there was a sunken ship and helicopter where we snorkelled, it was such a limited area that it wasn't very enjoyable. The catamaran could not pull onto the beach where we swam so you had to be a reasonable swimmer to get there (or use buoyancy aids). The beach was very nice though. It was good to see the planes flying so low overhead but, in hindsight, I would either have taken a taxi to the airport beach or gone on a tour if it was available. That would have been excellent. (3 stars)
St Kitts Scenic Railway - booked after the beach trip was cancelled. You are taken on a 45 minute coach tour of part of the island upto the start of the train trip. Once on the train, get on the upper level and make sure at least one of you sits on the coastal side of the train. The rum flows!! Non-alcoholic drinks available. The train trip is about 1.5 hours and goes through lovely parts of the island with locals all waving at you and the train. Very enjoyable and welcoming. The coach picks you up at the train terminus for a 10 minute trip back to the ship. (4 stars)
Catamaran Cruise and lobster lunch, Antigua - booked when our tour to Crusoe Island was cancelled. If you like beaches, music, lobster, rum, dancing, laughing, go on this day out. It's not cheap but it's 6 hours of fun. The crew on the boat were excellent and we went to Deep Bay Beach which is the archetypal Caribbean beach. Best tour we went on by far. (6 stars)
Aqua Terra, St Vincent - booked when our tour to Mustique was cancelled very late in the day and for all the wrong reasons.
Quite honestly, this tour was a rush from beginning to end. The other half of our group were late back and delayed the ship from sailing. The trip involved a stomach churning 2.5 hour tour of the west coast of the Island on a coach, a very enjoyable drenching under a waterfall if you like that kind of thing which I do, lunch, a 2 hour trip back to the ship on a catamaran which included a quick visit to a black sand beach for a swim / snorkel. Not a great day. (2 stars)
Farewell Barbados - I've made most of my comments earlier in this review. It got you off the ship on the last day but the structure of the tour was poor (2 stars)
In summary, our holiday on the Thomson Celebration was really enjoyable. Yes there were moments, people and activities that could have been better but looking at the overall picture, we had a great time and we'd do it again happily. Read Less