IMG_2581.jpgIMG_2571.jpgThe arrival of the 1,500-passenger Thomson Dream in the Thomson Cruises fleet this week will help to boost the company’s total capacity to 254,000 passengers a year.
Dream joins Celebration, Destiny, Spirit and Island Escape in providing home-from-home cruises for the British market, packaged with flights from regional airports around the country.
The ship, formerly the Costa Europa, came straight from dry-dock in Sicily to rescue 2,800 holidaymakers stranded in Majorca before embarking on its first proper cruise – with some crew members left behind because they were stranded by the ash cloud chaos.
But operations swung into top gear this week as the ship left Palma with a full complement of crew and passengers.
Fares for seven-night voyages, to destinations such as Tunis, Naples and Barcelona, or Villefranche, Rome and Ajaccio, start from £530 for departures in May. There are plenty of children’s facilities on board, but cruises in June and September will be adults-only – and during the World Cup all England’s matches and most of the other big games will be shown on board.
Throughout the summer, Thomson will be looking closely at how the ship operates in her new colours, and at the end of the Mediterranean season, it will be dry-docked in Hamburg for a £5 million refit. Some of that money will be spent on fitting stern thrusters to improve manoeuvrability (and save on the cost of tugs when berthing). The rest will be spent on upgrading cabins and public rooms.
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Managing director David Selby told me: “Our first thought was that the casino is bigger than we need, and we were considering changing some of that space. But apparently this week it has been very busy in there, so we’ll wait to see how that works out.”
He may want to look at extending the servery areas in the Andromeda buffet restaurant. Some passengers have complained of long queues at breakfast and lunch.
For more details of Dream’s itineraries and to book online, go to www.thomson.co.uk/cruise, call 0871 231 4691, or visit any Thomson or First Choice travel agent.
Dream will be up against some formidable competition as rival cruise lines slash their fares .
Disney Magic arrives in the UK in June, and a seven-night cruise from Barcelona to Dover, calling at Gibraltar, Cadiz and Lisbon, is on offer for £699, including one-way flights. Departs June 5. Go to www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk or call 0871 781 9893.
For the same price, you could sail on P&O’s Ventura on a seven-night round-trip from Southampton to Vigo, Lisbon, La Rochelle and Brest. The fare includes £100 on-board spending money, and balcony cabins are available from £899. Departs July 24. Go to www.iglucruise.com or call 020 8544 6447.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the grandest ocean liner afloat, and it’s not often you get an opportunity to spend four nights on board for £399. The ship departs Southampton on May 28 and visits Bruges, Rotterdam and Cherbourg. Balcony cabins are available for an extra £100. Go to www.iglucruise.com or call 020 8544 6447.
But the deal of the week has to be a seven-night cruise on the inappropriately-named Costa Fortuna. This one definitely won’t cost a fortune – it’s just £199 per person. Sailing from Venice on May 17, the ship visits Bari, Olympia, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes, before returning via Dubrovnik. Flights are not included in the fare, but if you’re prepared to travel light and risk flying with Ryanair, I found round trip flights from Stansted for less than £70 per person. go to www.costacruises.co.uk or call 0845 351 0552.