Thursday, 2 July 2015

THOMPSON SPIRIT cruise ship review


We have recently done a 7 day Eastern Encounters cruise on the Thomson Spirit.  We booked about 5 weeks ahead of departure with Cruise UK and got a deck 1/2 outside cabin with flights from Norwich for £480pp. 

Thomson staff met us at Dalaman airport and directed us to the bus that took us to Marmaris Port.  As the first flight to arrive check in for the ship went very smoothly and but friends arriving on later flights were left waiting on their coach as the check in hall was so busy.

Unlike the newer ships with one card Thomsons give you a card for on board purchases and checking on and off the ship but a different one for accessing your cabin.  We were in 862 on Deck 1 an ample sized cabin initially set up with twin beds.  All the lower cabins just have one small port hole and on this deck you frequently got waves splashing on to the glass.  Our beds were turned into a queen but this caused problems as there was little room to get around on the one side and on both sides it was difficult to walk down the side of the bed due to bunk beds folded into the side walls.  It was nice to find a kettle in the room with a good choice of coffee and teas.  An additional charge was made if you wanted to use the safe.   By way of toiletries there were shower caps provided, hand cleanser at the sink and body wash and shampoo in the shower all in dispensers.  There were sockets for 2 round pin and 2 flat pin but due to the positioning of lights on the dressing table it was impossible to put an adaptor in then a plug.  Eventually I found a clear socket on the floor just before the bathroom and used that. 

We fund the ship seemed very basic compared to the newer liners and certainly in need of refurbishment.  Many seat cushions had been cleaned but were badly stained.  There were no wow factors at all and most areas felt quite cramped.  Due to bad design you had to walk through the show lounge then through the buffet in order to get to the swimming pool on the lido deck. 

We begin eating in the Compass restaurant but found the menu quite basic and an extra charge for steaks.  I needed a gluten free diet and they did a good job catering for me by modifying the starters and mains but most of the desserts were a block of bland jelly like stuff.  Up in the Lido buffet restaurant they produced an excellent gluten free fruit crumble on a couple of occasions.  Breakfast and lunch could also be taken in the Compass restaurant although they were self service.  It wasn’t until part way through the cruise that we found out you could order things like eggs Benedict and in fact quite a few other items at no extra charge.

Most of the entertainment was by the ships group and average to quite good.  A comedian Phil Melbourne performed on 2 occasions and was excellent in our opinion.  Other entertainment was quizzes and game shows in the High Spirits lounge.  All the crew were extremely friendly and approachable with the exception of the shore excursion staff.  At the ports of call meeting they gave our almost no info for travellers not wanting to do the ships tours.  Even when approached directly they were evasive and at one point gave totally misleading information saying first it was too far to walk into Beirut from the ship and then that it was very difficult to find your way out of the port.  In reality it was 700 metres to the city centre and a straightforward walk from the port.  They were trying to sell their £5 shuttle bus but could only tell us it went to the Virgin shopping centre but not where that was in relation to the historic centre.  On arrival there was a free duty free shopping bus and it turned out the Virgin shopping centre was the souk adjacent to the historic centre.  We did a couple of very expensive full day tours and reported some problems.  These were acknowledged but the attitude was pretty much tough luck. 

The only place to get free fresh drinking water was in the lido buffet or by the lido pool.  Waiters and bar staff refused to provide water unlike all other ships we have sailed on.  There was an extra charge for any food served to your cabin.

Unusually you are able to take alcohol on board with you at the start and from ports of call and also if you bought anything at the duty free shop you could have it to use on board.

Formal night was not formal at all.  Whilst a minority of guests dressed up with men in dinner suits and women in evening dresses the majority did not and even men without ties or in polo shirts were permitted in to the dining room.   

Organisation was generally poor.  On the last day on board we had letters giving our times for departing the ship and mentioning there would be no announcements.  We walked down early and as there was no queue we got off and walk to the port entrance.  There we found the luggage unattended.  After putting our bags on to the bus with our destination airport name we were surprised to find the coach departed at the time we were supposed to leave the ship.  There was no head count so most likely some people were still onboard. 

Generally speaking this felt more like a package holiday at sea than a cruise.  Many people were repeat customers and loved Thomsons but said the Spirit was the worst of the fleet.  Others cited the value for money as a reason for picking them.  We picked this cruise for the unusual ports of call as we have had better per person per day rates on 5 star liners in a balcony cabin. 

Would we sail with them again – only if they were going to ports of call we wanted to visit and we had no alternative.  

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