The Thomson Dream is the largest of the Thomson cruise ships. She was built in 1986 and has served Holland America and Costa Cruises before being sold to Thomson in 2010. The ship is nearly 30 years old and lacks the stability of newer ships. It rocked most of the time during our 2 week cruise and in high winds the ship had difficulty putting into port. Passengers had to be tendered to shore in Honduras and we were unable to dock at San Blas and missed that stop altogether.
Having read reviews on the ship before our holiday we were expecting it to look much worse than it did. Our cabin was clean and the beds were very comfortable. The cabin had tea and coffee making facilities, a television, a hair dryer, double wardrobe and bathroom with shower. The room was cleaned on a daily basis and our beds were turned down in the evening. My only small gripe concerning the cabin was the fact that there were only about 15 hangers in the wardrobe which is not really enough for two people.
There are a total of 12 decks on the ship and 4 stairwells with two lifts. The lift system takes a bit of getting used to because not all lifts go to all decks. Additionally we found that if one set of lift doors are open the other lift stops or slows down. We viewed this as quirky and found it rather amusing although some passengers were annoyed by the lifts.
There are a variety of eating areas on the ship. The main restaurant is the Orion restaurant on deck 4 which offers a waiter service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We only used this restaurant once for breakfast and on this day the service was rather slow. The waiter did not understand what we were asking and the tea was lukewarm. We did not use this restaurant for lunch but we did eat dinner here several times a week. The restaurant does not have fixed sittings so this meant that by 8pm people had to queue for a table. Because the restaurant was so busy the staff were rushing around trying to serve too many people, the kitchen were unable to cope. The food was delicious but a typical 4 course meal often took 1.5 – 2 hours.
The Lido is a self-service restaurant on deck 9 offering a range of food options for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper. This was our least preferred restaurant largely because it felt very much like a cafe and lacked atmosphere. This restaurant was also very busy at peak times and lacked capacity for passengers using it. The Sirens restaurant on deck 11 is another self service restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. We much preferred the atmosphere in this restaurant and used it most days for breakfast, lunch and/or afternoon tea. There are also 3 additional restaurants which incur a charge of around ₤17 but we did not use these. Overall, there was a good choice of foods that were well cooked and tasted good.
Having been on other cruises we expected hand-washing and use of the sanitisers to be strictly enforced. Sadly, this was not the case and many people ignored the sanitisers. Needless to say after three days the ship had an outbreak of Norovirus. From that point the Jacuzzis were closed and passengers were not allowed to serve themselves. Waiters were gloved and served food in both self service bars, this meant that queue times increased. It was also evident that the staff in these restaurants had not been shown how to serve food as it was often slopped onto plates with no concern for appearance.
There are a number of bars and drinking areas around the ship including the pool areas. There are also plenty of waiters offering to serve you drinks if you don’t have one. Thomson offer a drinks inclusive package at ₤230 per person per week. We did not use this service and although we had a cocktail each most days and soft drinks by the pool our combined drinks bill for 2 people for 2 weeks was less than ₤230.
Thomson offer a great range of excursions at every port and we opted to go on arranged excursions at all of the ports we visited. They were all excellent with brilliant, informative tour guides and wonderful locations. The destination services manager was very good and ensured that everything went smoothly. For those wishing to leave the ship on their own Thomson offered a fact sheet giving information on where to go and how to get there. Thomson also produce a ‘Cruise News’ flyer each day which gives information on that days port of call as well as details on other events happening around the ship.
There are 2 pools and 3 sun decks on the ship. On the first day at sea we chose to sit by the pool on deck 9 but soon found that we were covered in black particles which we realised were coming from the funnel of the ship. After this we chose to use the sun deck and pool on deck 11. This deck has a nice atmosphere and entertainment throughout the day. It also has a closing roof which can be used if it rains. The only downside was the piped music which was very dated – largely 60s, 70s and 80s music. By the end of the fortnight we were desperate to hear some modern music.
There is no shortage of entertainment on board and during the day there is a selection of organised entertainment including musicians, singers, dance classes, fitness classes, wii games, demonstrations and quizzes. In the evening there were game shows, musicians, singers and a show to choose from. The entertainment team were very hard working and friendly and made us laugh a lot especially Cheryl and Adam. The show team of ten singers and dancers were talented and put on a musical show each night in the Broadway Show Lounge which we found very enjoyable. Our favourite shows were The Moulin Rouge show, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Michael Jackson Tribute show. We particularly enjoyed a concert by show team members Brandi and Max, known collectively as Braximusic, who gave a concert of classical and modern music which received a standing ovation.
Overall, we enjoyed our Caribbean cruise largely due to the itinerary, the port excursions and the entertainment (with the exception of the piped music). However, the food was not as good as on previous Thomson cruises nor was the service provided by the waiters. The outbreak of norovirus which meant longer queue times in the self service restaurants may have been prevented by stricter enforcement of sanitising at the beginning of our cruise.