The worst possible cruising experience in thirty years of cruising!
A Butlin’s holiday on the high seas!
As seasoned cruisers with thirty years’ experience of cruising with a variety of companies on several ships this has to be our worst possible experience to date and are not surprised that only 50% or thereabouts of clients are satisfied, according to the Cruise Critic review website. After foolishly booking this holiday at a Thomson’s Travel shop and realising we paid £350 more than the internet price, only to be told by the travel advisor ‘bad luck’ stating the website price is always cheaper. So basically hard luck! Not the best of starts to the holiday. However in search of some winter sunshine and hopefully a culinary experience we reserved a Balcony Premier Suite on Deck nine at an inclusive cost of £2750.00 for the week, regrettably a five star price for a one star service. We did incidentally have the sunshine but not the culinary experience or the quality we had been anticipating.
The food presented was continually bland, boring, repetitive and basic, totally lacking in the usual flair and creativity that we have previously experienced on other cruise ships. We had chicken and salmon presented on the lunch and dinner menu each day which appeared in a different guise on each occasion with not much variation unless you were prepared to pay a supplement. You could select fillet, ribeye or T Bone steak each day at a supplement of £12.95 and always available as an alternative was, Hot dog with sautéed onions, chicken breast, salmon grilled or boiled, spicy Moi Bo Tofu and steamed rice or cheese burger with fries. Not exactly a gourmet experience after investing £2750! You could choose to eat in their up-market bistro at a cost of £19.95 pp but as this food was prepared by the same chefs in the same kitchen we never chanced it. The reports from fellow cruisers were not complimentary.
Our cabin was a suite with balcony on the top deck which was tired, with furnishings showing signs of age and wear and the bathroom was an experience to behold. The bathroom was grubby, tiling and pointing was botched and discoloured and crying out for refurbishment and considering this was a Premium grade cabin the mind boggles as to the quality of accommodation in other parts of the ship. At a breakfast conversation with other fellow guests a lady remarked that if you sit quietly in your bathroom you could hear the fungus breeding! As we had no alternative but to accept this we could at least have a laugh about it.
The ship itself was very shabby in places, dated, grubby, oppressive décor everywhere in colours of orange and brown, cheap plastic furnishings showing signs of excessive wear in most of the public areas. The sunbeds on the decks were of the white plastic type with a blue very discoloured fabric topping that looked totally grubby, sticky and uninviting. On the occasions we would to have liked the opportunity of relaxing on a sunbed alas they were all reserved, Germanic style. The seasoned Thomson customers come prepared with two coloured plastic clips to clip their towel onto the sunbed and fold it down thus reserving their spot for the day. This is done every morning prior to breakfast despite the warning in the ships newsletter that reserved sunbeds are not permitted and items left on them will be removed. I did mention this to one of the white suited officers who shrugged his shoulders and walked on! We didn’t wish to enter the daily sun bed competition so used our balcony as an alternative.
The entertainment on board was very limited to mainly song and dance routine every evening with a different theme each evening but a total lack of variety. On one occasion we were subjected to a very third rate comedian (at least that’s what he called himself) who virtually died a death on stage after his first appearance. He was supposed to give a second appearance during the cruise but fortunately for us he never appeared again. A very large part of the ship was devoted to a casino with banks of one arm bandits and gaming tables which posed a very depressing sight when occasioned to walk through this area. This facility incidentally had very little usage throughout the week during the times we had the misfortune of walking through this area.
The one saving feature of this cruise which has been repeatedly mentioned in other reviews was the very pleasant and efficient nature of the service staff, namely cabin stewards, waiters at table in restaurants, bars and all public areas as being helpful, polite, personable and extremely efficient but we learnt that these folks are not employees of Thomson’s but are agency employees. So Thomson’s can take no credit for this one great strength we evidenced during the week. We sincerely hope and trust these good folks are not being as exploited as we the paying guests have been.
Quite frankly we were relieved when this experience ended and were very pleased to see the back of this wreck of a vessel, which we believe will be scrapped in December this year. If this is Thomson’s best shot at Cruising they are welcome to it, we shall certainly not be retuning or recommending. This was a once in a lifetime experience never to be repeated. It is also questionable that Thomson’s are guilty of misrepresenting this cruise for inducing a contract because the delivery does not correspond to their seductive hype.
This was a totally appalling, exploitative and very poor cruising experience, and we have appropriate documentary evidence and photographs to support the claims we are making. We have sent a letter of complaint to Ms Helen Caron MD (Thomson Cruises) seeking a response.