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DaveCM

Caribbean Christmas On Thomson Dream: A Perfect Cruise!

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I'm not suggesting for one moment that everyone would have thought this cruise perfect, but we did. We thought it was perfect because it ticked all the boxes we think are worth ticking.

We tried Thomson for the first time last New Year when we did their Red Sea Magic cruise on Celebration (reviewed elsewhere on this forum). The only real niggle was with the cabin, but there was no reason to suppose that Thomson Dream's cabins would disappoint and, since everything else was hunky-dory, we were very happy to go with Thomson again this year.

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We wanted a week of pure relaxation - sunbathing and snorkelling on hot sandy beaches with golden sand and swaying palm trees. We wanted great entertainment in the evenings. We wanted complete freedom to eat what we wanted and when, and we wanted tasty vegetarian options. These were the big boxes and each got a big tick!

Less important, but not unimportant, were things like quality flights, a decent cabin, friendly staff, reasonably-priced wi-fi, good organisation, and a pleasant feel to the ship. These smaller boxes also got big ticks.

Was nothing less than perfect? Well, if I have to find fault with something it'd have to be Dream's outside areas. The stern decks were great - very spacious on four levels with plenty of tables and loungers, and I liked being able to get passable wi-fi reception most of the time while relaxing outside (although I discovered that much better reception was available in the lounges). The problem for me was that there was very little 'up top' and no outside route from the stern to the sun decks. I enjoy strolling around the decks and up and down outside stairways, but on Thomson Dream the only way to get to the top of the ship was to climb a forward inside staircase - and return the same way. I can't say it really mattered that much, but I have to have at least one negative to report!

But back to the good stuff...

The flights to and from Barbados were on Thomson's 787 Dreamliners. I can't get excited about planes but I have to admit these were very impressive. They have far more leg-room than we're used to, and the facilities are hi-tech - such as windows that darken at the press of a button, and excellent entertainment units with films, music, games and information. The 787s are also noticeably quieter than your average plane and fly higher and faster than most. Thomson's airport operation did involve a 30 minute queue to check in at Gatwick but the rest was entirely painless. I chose not to pay to choose our seats but we still sat together both times - and I had a window seat both ways!

Thomson got the itinerary spot-on. Christmas Day was a sea-day and on the other days we visited Tobago, Mayreau (a tiny member of the Grenadines), St Maarten, St Kitts, St Lucia and Barbados. The ports of call ranged from really good to absolutely brilliant so I'll just say something about the real highlights...

At Tobago we did a ship's beach excursion to a fabulous private beach called Pigeon Point. It was quiet, drinks and vegeburgers were available and reasonably priced, and the water was a shallow lagoon with good snorkelling. And a little way off a band was playing calypso music. Perfect!

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We thought that Pigeon Point was the best Caribbean beach we'd seen yet, but the next one was even better. At the tiny island of Mayreau,Thomson had acquired a whole beach and provided a free barbecue. Here, the snorkelling was fantastic with the highlight for me snorkelling amongst shoals of amazing cuttlefish. One of these days I'll remember to get myself an underwater camera but for now here's another photo of my wife!

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And it wasn't hard to find a quiet spot!..

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The beaches on St Maarten and St Kitts were excellent too, but the final highlight was Pigeon Island on St Lucia. Although there was only a fairly narrow strip of sand, there was plenty of space and the setting was fantastic and the sea warm and gentle. It's called an island but it's reached by a causeway - and the deserted Atlantic beach is only 80m away.

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The man in the little boat selling rum punch in coconuts did a roaring trade for hours!  :D

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I've concentrated on our beach days because they were the main reason for this cruise. My wife works hard and wanted to spend Christmas sunbathing. I love cruising, so I was more than happy to spend a week in the Caribbean - and we both got exactly what we wanted.

I've already mentioned that Thomson Dream has her pluses and minuses. We like to have a balcony, but on Dream only the six grandly named Grand Suites have them, and a beach-day cruise didn't really warrant the significantly greater cost. So we chose a largish outside cabin on deck 9 (the promenade deck) which suited us perfectly. I'm afraid that I only took a few very poor photos of the cabin - and while it was messy at that! - but at least you'll get some idea of what it was like...

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As outside cabins go, we quite liked it. It had everything we needed and was spacious and fairly comfortable. It was also centrally-placed  - turn left for the show lounge, and right for the buffet. Smoking is permitted in several outside areas including the starboard promenade deck and a very spacious area at the stern overlooking the pool.

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The stern area proved to be our favourite part of the ship because it had everything we needed. There are bars and coffee stations, and the buffet was directly below where we tended to sit or sunbathe. As on Thomson Celebration last year, we ate exclusively in the buffet. Food is available at any time of day (and much of the night) and there were always lots of tasty vegetarian options. We've really taken to 'freedom dining' - that is, having what we want when we want it! We honestly believe that we've eaten better with Thomson than with any other cruise line we've tried. In fact, we were so disappointed with Viking's lack of consideration for vegetarians earlier in the year that we're not planning on cruising with them again.

As a ship, Thomson Dream is unremarkable. She has the usual shops, restaurants and bars, casino, library, internet room and so on, and it's all quite pleasant. The exception is the show lounge because it is definitely the best we've experienced so far - especially when the quality of the shows is taken into account. Not only is it comfortable and spacious, but we could always find a two-seater sofa on the upper level. I apologise again for the poor photo; I'm reluctant to use a flash - even in low light!

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With one notable exception being what we considered a dire act by a 'comedian', we thought the shows were brilliant. The resident show company were the best we've ever seen on a cruise and they ended the final show with an absolutely fantastic performance of songs from Les Misérables. Of course, as with food, entertainment is subjective but for us it was the icing on our sunny vegetarian cake!

I'll finish with my views on the Thomson experience. It's easy to look at their ageing ships and write Thomson off as a 'budget' cruise line, but I feel they know exactly how to do cruising and they do it extremely well. Thomson does everything that really matters with care, friendliness and efficiency.

 

I can't think of a single thing (except perhaps for a balcony) that would have made this a better cruise for us.  :D

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Thanks for the review, I really enjoyed reading about it (especially with the addition of photos).

 

I'm open to trying any line once, but have always been put of Thomson because of my general (perhaps unfair) perception of the line and the fact that every time I've priced a cruise with them it's not been significantly cheaper than something with a line that in my view has a better reputation.

 

That said, the cabin looks like a reasonable size and perfectly sufficient.  I'm also interested to experience the Thomson service which is a factor that many Thomson fans seen to rave about.  When the deal comes up I'll give them a shot :)

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Guest Solent Richard

Good to see you back on board Dave.

 

I thought we had lost you following the introduction of the new log in system.

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Guest Solent Richard

Thanks for the review, I really enjoyed reading about it (especially with the addition of photos).

 

I'm open to trying any line once, but have always been put of Thomson because of my general (perhaps unfair) perception of the line and the fact that every time I've priced a cruise with them it's not been significantly cheaper than something with a line that in my view has a better reputation.

 

That said, the cabin looks like a reasonable size and perfectly sufficient.  I'm also interested to experience the Thomson service which is a factor that many Thomson fans seen to rave about.  When the deal comes up I'll give them a shot :)

 

I agree Duncan. It is always good to see pictures accompanying a review, indeed any comment where they will enhance the information.

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Thanks for the review, I really enjoyed reading about it (especially with the addition of photos).

 

I'm open to trying any line once, but have always been put of Thomson because of my general (perhaps unfair) perception of the line and the fact that every time I've priced a cruise with them it's not been significantly cheaper than something with a line that in my view has a better reputation.

 

That said, the cabin looks like a reasonable size and perfectly sufficient.  I'm also interested to experience the Thomson service which is a factor that many Thomson fans seen to rave about.  When the deal comes up I'll give them a shot :)

 

Hi dst87(!)

 

First, allow me to apologise for the size of the photos. I usually post on a forum which automatically resizes photos down to 800px width (and click to enlarge) and I was too lazy to resize them for this review.

 

I'm interested that you say Thomson's reputation has put you off trying them. Like you, I'm a member of various cruising forums and I'm well aware that there are those who can be highly negative about Thomson.

 

As I tried to highlight in my review, I believe that Thomson do everything that really matters just right. Our previous cruise was in a panorama suite on Costa Deliziosa (reviewed on this forum) and we used the Samsara 'speciality' restaurant for every meal - it was a brilliant cruise. But although the accommodation was better, I can honestly say that in every other important respect the Thomson experience matched or exceeded it.

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Good to see you back on board Dave.

 

I thought we had lost you following the introduction of the new log in system.

 

I think I'm correct in saying that my last activity before today was in November - several weeks before the forum became 'protected'.

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Guest Solent Richard

Fellow member Semper was in St LUcia today on board Ventura. He sent me a message to say Thomson was also in Castries.

 

I remember seeing Thomson Destiny in Castries when we were there on an Arcadia Christmas Cruise. 

 

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We sailed to and from the UK, 23 nights. Really enjoyed it.

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Guest Solent Richard

I think I'm correct in saying that my last activity before today was in November - several weeks before the forum became 'protected'.

 

Doesn't time fly when your'e having fun.

 

I could have sworn I read somewhere that you were not enamoured with the system.

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Guest Solent Richard

Hi dst87(!)

 

First, allow me to apologise for the size of the photos. I usually post on a forum which automatically resizes photos down to 800px width (and click to enlarge) and I was too lazy to resize them for this review.

 

I'm interested that you say Thomson's reputation has put you off trying them. Like you, I'm a member of various cruising forums and I'm well aware that there are those who can be highly negative about Thomson.

 

As I tried to highlight in my review, I believe that Thomson do everything that really matters just right. Our previous cruise was in a panorama suite on Costa Deliziosa (reviewed on this forum) and we used the Samsara 'speciality' restaurant for every meal - it was a brilliant cruise. But although the accommodation was better, I can honestly say that in every other important respect the Thomson experience matched or exceeded it.

 

I suppose I was the opposite to you Dave.

 

I too tried Thomson, in fact the Destiny on one of Thomson's 'Colourful Coasts' cruises.

 

Of course we made the most of it but there was little in the way of quality to write home about.

 

My biggest gripe was the food. How any cruise company can sail around the Canaries with so much fresh vegetable produce on the doorstep and still have the audacity to turn out frozen ratatouille beggars belief.

 

Fortunately there was a port call every day and we made up for the lack of quality with shore-side seafood wherever possible.

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Fellow member Semper was in St LUcia today on board Ventura. He sent me a message to say Thomson was also in Castries.

 

I remember seeing Thomson Destiny in Castries when we were there on an Arcadia Christmas Cruise. 

 

12325976933_2166b6c4d2_z.jpg

 

We sailed to and from the UK, 23 nights. Really enjoyed it.

 

Our only other time in the Caribbean (apart from passing though on a world cruise) was on Ventura. The P&O experience put me off ever booking with them again.

 

I also saw Thomson Destiny and I think I described her at the time as 'an old rust bucket'. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceptive!

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Guest Solent Richard

Our only other time in the Caribbean (apart from passing though on a world cruise) was on Ventura. The P&O experience put me off ever booking with them again.

 

I also saw Thomson Destiny and I think I described her at the time as 'an old rust bucket'. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceptive!

 

Of course Ventura is billed as a family ship and my wife and I would naturally steer clear so I can offer no comment on that particular ship.

 

Her sister ship, Azura, however, has served us well...

 

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I understand it will be more expensive but at least the cabin safe is complimentary. ;)  ;)

 

PS. They even make the beds. ;)

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I suppose I was the opposite to you Dave.

 

I too tried Thomson, in fact the Destiny on one of Thomson's 'Colourful Coasts' cruises.

 

Of course we made the most of it but there was little in the way of quality to write home about.

 

My biggest gripe was the food. How any cruise company can sail around the Canaries with so much fresh vegetable produce on the doorstep and still have the audacity to turn out frozen ratatouille beggars belief.

 

Fortunately there was a port call every day and we made up for the lack of quality with shore-side seafood wherever possible.

 

Then I guess we're the lucky ones. We returned from an absolutely wonderful week saying, "That was £3104 well spent!" :D

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Of course Ventura is billed as a family ship and my wife and I would naturally steer clear so I can offer no comment on that particular ship.

 

Her sister ship, Azura, however, has served us well...

 

I understand it will be more expensive but at least the cabin safe is complimentary. ;)  ;)

 

PS. They even make the beds. ;)

 

I had nothing at all against Ventura; indeed, I quite liked the ship. As I said, it was the P&O experience that put me off ever booking with them again. I found the staff indifferent and at the time I described the experience as "conveyor belt cruising". By contrast, I found Thomson (the subject of this review) to be friendly, attentive and highly professional.

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Guest Solent Richard

I had nothing at all against Ventura; indeed, I quite liked the ship. As I said, it was the P&O experience that put me off ever booking with them again. I found the staff indifferent and at the time I described the experience as "conveyor belt cruising". By contrast, I found Thomson (the subject of this review) to be friendly, attentive and highly professional.

 

Surely the  'conveyor belt' analogy is more suited to Thomson Dave?

 

After all, the backbone of their cruises is the 'one week' changeover. Now that is some conveyor speed.

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Guest Solent Richard

Then I guess we're the lucky ones. We returned from an absolutely wonderful week saying, "That was £3104 well spent!" :D

 

You paid how much?

 

No balcony and extra to use the safe.

 

I'm not surprised that Peter Long's remuneration topped £10 Million last year...

 

http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2014/01/10/46584/incentive+pay-outs+boost+tui+chiefs+pay+by+50.html

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what a lovely review, a very pleasent and informative read and amazing pictures :D

 

Thanks Furby.

 

I forgot to mention that we'll almost certainly book another Caribbean Christmas on Thomson Dream again this year. The itinerary looks great!

 

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Guest Solent Richard

Well isn't it a funny old world Dave.

 

I have my eye on a similar itinerary...

 

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...returning to a line I enjoyed sailing for 21 nights with just 13 months ago...

 

https://solentrichardscruiseblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/oceania-nautica-dawn-of-civilisation-cruise/

 

marina.png

 

...only this time a different ship, the Riviera. 

 

Not too much difference in the price either.  ;)  ;)

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You paid how much?

 

No balcony and extra to use the safe.

 

I'm not surprised that Peter Long's remuneration topped £10 Million last year...

 

http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2014/01/10/46584/incentive+pay-outs+boost+tui+chiefs+pay+by+50.html

 

We paid £3104 for the week (not including excursions). Interestingly, that's almost exactly twice as much per night as we spent on our two-week Caribbean cruise with P&O.

 

It's true that on Ventura we had a cabin on C deck with a large balcony, but although the safe was free to use there was no bath, and gratuities weren't included - as they are with Thomson.

 

In my review, I highlighted Thomson's excellent show lounge and the quality of the shows. On Ventura we only managed to get a seat for one show in two weeks, and the one we did see wasn't very good! I mentioned the excellent buffet on Dream, with a wide variety of tasty vegetarian options. On Ventura, the buffet was a nightmare; it was disorderly, messy and lacking in choice and we always had to search for somewhere to sit and eat. We also used P&O's 'Freedom Dining', but it often involved being given a pager which bleeped when there was a table free! I could go on...

 

Of course, any cruise which includes Christmas Day will be more expensive but we thought this one was worth every penny. Why spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar?

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We paid £3104 for the week (not including excursions). Interestingly, that's almost exactly twice as much per night as we spent on our two-week Caribbean cruise with P&O.

 

This is my problem with trying Thomson.  It's not cheap enough for me to risk it based on the criticism it very commonly receives.

 

Alex and I paid only £3,200 for 14 nights on Celebrity Eclipse in a Concierge Class cabin with an oversized balcony.  Admittedly it doesn't involve flying to the Caribbean, but the price difference is still quite significant.

 

Every time I read a positive review of Thomson (like yours, which got me thinking) I end up reading a handful of negative ones.  Ultimately the answer is to try them for myself, but when there are other highly regarded options that I'd also like to try (e.g. Royal Caribbean, Azamara and P&O) I find that Thomson are never high on my list :(

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This is my problem with trying Thomson.  It's not cheap enough for me to risk it based on the criticism it very commonly receives.

 

Alex and I paid only £3,200 for 14 nights on Celebrity Eclipse in a Concierge Class cabin with an oversized balcony.  Admittedly it doesn't involve flying to the Caribbean, but the price difference is still quite significant.

 

Every time I read a positive review of Thomson (like yours, which got me thinking) I end up reading a handful of negative ones.  Ultimately the answer is to try them for myself, but when there are other highly regarded options that I'd also like to try (e.g. Royal Caribbean, Azamara and P&O) I find that Thomson are never high on my list :(

 

Hi dst87

 

I think it's important to note that ours was a fly-cruise and it included Christmas Day. It was also booked nearly a year in advance.

 

I was intrigued enough by your post to check Bolsover's price for a 7-night Caribbean Christmas fly-cruise with Celebrity. They advertise one on Celebrity Silhouette departing on 21st December 2014. The itinerary is: Fort Lauderdale; San Juan; St Maarten; St Kitts; Fort Lauderdale, which in my view is a far less desirable itinerary than any of Thomson's. The price for a balcony cabin is from £2204pp - a total of £4408.

 

Of course we all want different things from our holidays. We'll probably book the Thomson Dream cruise I mentioned above, and we'd still choose it in preference to the Celebrity cruise - even if Celebrity was £1400 cheaper!

 

By the way, we had a fantastic cruise on Costa Deliziosa last summer and we're booked on her again for this summer. So we considered doing our next Caribbean Christmas with Costa (in a balcony cabin!) but we've decided we prefer Thomson's itinerary.

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Hi dst87

 

I think it's important to note that ours was a fly-cruise and it included Christmas Day. It was also booked nearly a year in advance.

 

I was intrigued enough by your post to check Bolsover's price for a 7-night Caribbean Christmas fly-cruise with Celebrity. They advertise one on Celebrity Silhouette departing on 21st December 2014. The itinerary is: Fort Lauderdale; San Juan; St Maarten; St Kitts; Fort Lauderdale, which in my view is a far less desirable itinerary than any of Thomson's. The price for a balcony cabin is from £2204pp - a total of £4408.

 

Of course we all want different things from our holidays. We'll probably book the Thomson Dream cruise I mentioned above, and we'd still choose it in preference to the Celebrity cruise - even if Celebrity was £1400 cheaper!

 

By the way, we had a fantastic cruise on Costa Deliziosa last summer and we're booked on her again for this summer. So we considered doing our next Caribbean Christmas with Costa (in a balcony cabin!) but we decided we preferred Thomson's itinerary.

 

I very much stand corrected on cost.  I've never priced Caribbean itineraries because they tend to be 7-night cruises and I don't fancy the flight for such a short holiday.  I expect I'll do a Caribbean cruise during a land-based holiday in the US to reduce the overall cost of the trip.

 

As you say, our Eclipse cruise is very much off-peak (and ex-UK) so it makes sense that the cost per night would be lower.

 

As I say, I'm sure one day the right deal will come along and I'll be tempted :)

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Hi Dave, completely agree with what dst87 said at the beginning of the thread, a good review, made better by photos.  It's always nice to see images used to highlight favourite bits of a holiday.  Glad you had a good time.  I've never done a Caribbean cruise before but that's simply down to my wife being a teacher and suffering with school holiday restrictions.  Sadly, the only time it really leaves us to do a Caribbean cruise is over Christmas, which always sounds great but I don't think I could ever convince my wife to leave the family at that time of year sadly.

 

I'll have to wait a bit longer I think.  

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