BBC Watchdog gets its teeth into Thomson Dream cruise ship…again

//BBC Watchdog gets its teeth into Thomson Dream cruise ship…again

Watchdog returns to our TV screens tonight after a four-month break, but some things just don’t change – the first show of the new series has another bash at cruise ship Thomson Dream, which they last had a go at in September.
The build-up to the return of consumer champions Anne Robinson, Matt Allwright and Chris Hollins refers only to “passengers’ horror stories from a luxury cruise ship” – and it’s naive of the BBC to perpetuate the myth that every cruise ship deserves the “luxury” tag. Thomson’s own description of the Dream on their website doesn’t use the word once.
But let’s not quibble. What are the horror stories? Over to the BBC Press Office:
Last series Watchdog featured the Thomson Dream cruise ship after passengers told us about flooded cabins, broken air conditioning and some very nasty sewage smells. All this was on a ship that Thomson claimed was new and luxurious. But which – we revealed – was actually 24 years old, and simply sailing under a new name. After our report, Thomson changed the wording on their ad, and told us they were putting the ship into dry dock for repairs. They said they were confident that future passengers would enjoy a “quality experience in line with their expectations”. But it looks like not all of them have enjoyed a quality experience. The ship is about to sail around the Med, but we’ve heard from passengers who went on earlier cruises in the Caribbean and it seems that whatever repairs were carried out during its six weeks in dry dock, the same old problems came back afterwards.
Sandra Seward and her husband Brian sailed on the Dream at the start of December. Sandra told Watchdog: “The first evening on the boat we got ready for dinner and just as we were going to go out Brian popped back in to the bathroom had flooded. In the morning I put my feet to the ground and realised that there was water squelching through my toes”. The Thomson Dream cruise caused even worse problems for fellow passenger Catherine Shand. She told us: “Within minutes of leaving Southampton we discovered water pouring up from the drain on the floor and also the bath. This was brown dirty water. Well this flooding continued for three days and the final straw was on the third day when I opened the toilet door I was met with this rush of water which was going at such a rate that I had to run and grab the cases from underneath the bed. Eventually they moved us to a new cabin”. Catherine also told us about engine problems: “On one occasion when they tried to start up the engine there was a plume of black smoke and this really caused a lot of distress to passengers as they thought the ship was on fire”.
None of these passengers had seen our previous report about the ship. Lots of other passengers had, but unfortunately, that was AFTER they had booked. Watchdog spoke to Bill Griffiths who paid over £4,000 for a holiday on the Dream with his wife and two boys. Bill told us: “Having seen the Watchdog programme we telephoned Thomson for reassurances and they assured us that all the problems had been fixed”. This was true, if you weren’t worried by things like this: “We had massive problems with the toilets from day one. It was constantly filling up to the brim. Every day we had to call a plumber out. With two teenage boys and my wife all sharing the same cabin it was pretty appalling really. And we were always finding queues of people at reception who were complaining. They had been told, as we had, that things had been fixed and they certainly had not been”.
Kevin and Judy Goggins were among the unhappy cruisers. Which wasn’t surprising, as they had paid over nine thousand pounds for their two week family cruise. Kevin told Watchdog: “On Boxing Day I was in the bathroom of our cabin and I had a shave and I was cleaning my teeth and I looked down and there was something in the sink which I ran my hand through and I realised then that it was lumps of sewage coming out of the bottom of the sink and an absolutely horrendous smell. After a week, Joe and I, my youngest son, we left the ship, to come home and Judy and Dean stayed on in the hope that things would get better”.
Unfortunately they didn’t. There were further engine problems and a fire on board. In all, Watchdog has received complaints from more than 40 other passengers who holidayed on the Dream between December and March. A return trip for them seems doubtful.

Problems with the Dream’s air-conditioning following the November re-fit have already been reported and are explained on Thomson Cruises’ detailed response to Watchdog. Strangely, the statement makes no reference to the complaints about the bathroom complaints:
Thomson Cruises sincerely apologises to those customers whose holidays were disrupted onboard the Thomson Dream in December. The ship has proved to be a very popular addition to the fleet and enjoys exceptionally high customer feedback scores of 92%, but we recognise that on this occasion the quality of these customers’ holiday experience fell short of expectations. These issues resulted from a series of unfortunate events that followed the ship coming out of dry dock. All were rectified swiftly and there have been no significant issues reported since this time.
In November, Thomson Dream went into dry dock in Germany for six weeks to undergo major upgrade and repair work. This programme included an upgrade to the electricity generating plant and system, an overhaul of the sewage and fresh water systems, the installation of new toilets in public areas and general maintenance work.
The problems experienced by customers last summer were fully rectified during this time, but despite our best efforts, the ship’s extended time in dry dock created some new issues. These only became apparent when the ship departed Germany, when it came to light that some individual air handling units were damaged during the exceptional freezing conditions in Hamburg.
We would like to clarify that this issue with the air conditioning system was unrelated to the problems experienced during summer 2010, which were rectified whilst in dry dock. As soon as our team became aware, an engineer was immediately dispatched to the ship and replacement air handling units were ordered straight away from a UK supplier.
Unfortunately, whilst in the Caribbean the ship also experienced technical issues with its new electricity system which were quickly rectified. In addition, a small fire was also detected in the engine area of Thomson Dream in the early hours of 31 December 2010. The fire was swiftly brought under control. The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority and at no point was it compromised by this incident.
Customer satisfaction is of paramount importance, and at this time we contacted a number of customers due to join the ship, who we believed might be impacted by the issues and offered a cancellation with full refund.
Once again, we would like to apologise to these holidaymakers for the disruption they experienced and would like to reassure customers that all issues have now been resolved. Despite these challenges, the winter season’s customer satisfaction scores onboard the ship have been exceptionally high, with 92 per cent rating the cruise overall as either excellent or good for food, quality, entertainment and service, making it one of Thomson’s most popular holiday experiences. We are confident that those due to travel on Thomson Dream will enjoy a quality holiday experience in line with their expectations.

Ms Robinson and her team have already proved themselves to be purveyors of lazy journalism by trotting out the “luxury” label. Unless they push for a response to the actual complaints raised in their own programme, then they really are the weakest link. Goodbye!
Watchdog is on BBC1 at 8.00pm tonight (April 7).

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:08+00:00 7 April 2011|Cruise News|29 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. bobigb 7 April 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Soneone should give allwright a good pasting

  2. steve 11 April 2011 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    i will be going on the dream 21 May,what should i expect or maybe someone would be interested if i keep a diary /

  3. Anita 13 April 2011 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    We are going on the Dream Ship in August and am now really concerned as to what to expect. Steve please let me know how you get on. Any other people sailing on the dream b4 August 2011. please let me no.Thank you.

  4. Anita 13 April 2011 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    We are sailing in Aug 2011 and would like to hear from anyone on the Dream ship who have sailed b4 this date.

  5. graham ball 23 April 2011 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    just come back from a one week cruise on the Dream April 23rd, it was brill food was 1st class entertainment was top dollar and service was great, the best hols ever for me so come on watchdog get the current story on your screen and stop trying to spoil people holidays as your progamme nearly ment that we cancelled and we would have missed a great holiday

  6. marilyn cadwallader 9 May 2011 at 10:16 am - Reply

    I have just returned on the 30th May from a holiday on the Thompson Dream. I didn’t know anything about the reports before going so had no worries about it. but i have to say it was one of the best holidays i have had and if someone had said i could go back next week, i would be there like a shot. I have cruised with Royal Caribbean, but this was still the best, it was so relaxing, the staff were great and the entertainment was wonderful. Well done to Thompson Cruises

  7. GillyB 3 June 2011 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    We had a week on the Dream in April – wonderful holiday. Minor problems with our cabin like it being a bit too cold were fixed in no time. The crew are excellent, the food was good and we enjoyed the trips that we joined. This isn’t a luxury ship, you’re not paying luxury cruise prices, but our cabin was comfortable, we enjoyed ourselves and would certainly book again.

  8. Lynda Gallier 5 June 2011 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    We have just got back from a week on The Dream and what a dream it was. From the comfortable cabins,to the food,the entertainment and their fabulous,wonderful crew everything is tailored to your comfort and enjoyment. Anyone booking this cruise-ship will not regret their decision.Thank you Thomson for very enjoyable week on the Med

  9. Lynette 3 July 2011 at 10:34 am - Reply

    I have just returned yesterday (2/7/11) after a week staying on the Dream and I cannot think of a single fault. The cabin was absolutely suberb, the entertainment could not have been better and I have never met such a friendly bunch of staff members. I was extremely sad to leave everyone and cannot wait to book again!!

  10. Barry 17 July 2011 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Just returned from the Dream YESTERDAY 16/07/11 WHAT A FANTSTIC HOILDAY you could not fault anything, you always will get some one not happy but that is expected from moaners, will book again for the Carabian cruise in december.
    Thomsons should be proud of there ship and its faultless staff, well done

  11. ken stannard 18 July 2011 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    june 11 to25 one of the best holidays ever cant wait till next year

  12. Alastair 25 September 2011 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Just back yesterday (24th September 2011) after 14 days of cruising the western med. Absolutely no problems with the Dream – cabin 5172 was comfortable, food good with plenty of it, entertainment excellent.
    Minor issues – shore excursions were pricey and not always value for money. But apart from that, no gripes at all.

  13. Barbara Critchley 10 October 2011 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    I have just returned from a Fantastic trip cruising the West Med on Thomson Dream. What a lovely ship, Captain and crew wonderful, entertainment top class as was the food. Everyone working on this ship are to be congratulated on a job well done, have never seen so many smiles. I stayed in cabin 5135 with absolutely no complaints at all. Can’t wait to go back. Well done everyone.

  14. Barbara Critchley 10 October 2011 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    I have just returned from a Fantastic trip cruising the West Med on Thomson Dream. What a lovely ship, Captain and crew wonderful, entertainment top class as was the food. Everyone working on this ship are to be congratulated on a job well done, have never seen so many smiles. I stayed in cabin 5135 with absolutely no complaints at all. Can’t wait to go back. Well done everyone.

  15. Donna Crowther 6 January 2012 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    I have just booked a cruis on the Thomas Dream for 2 weeks.
    Alot of the reviews for 2010 are awful, I have just found some for 2011 and they seem to be getting better, can anyone email with a up to date review on the dream.
    Also is the drink package worth the money?
    Thank you

  16. Mary Shew 8 January 2012 at 11:55 am - Reply

    We were on the Thomson Dream (Nightmare) Christmas Getaway 18th Dec 2011 to !st Jan 2012. There are still problems with air-conditioning, sewage and water cascading through the ceiling in one corridor. We didn’t take up the drinks package, which definitely isn’t worth it. The tours from the ship are very expensive, you can get a better deal from the local taxi drivers. One night a couple had a fight in one of the bars and had to be separated, one couple had Norovirus and had to be quarantined for two days, they were offerred £100 compensation, the ship had the virus before we got on board. The entertainment was worse than amateurish one night we were entertained by the crew and they were 100 times better than the so called “professionals”. All in all a DISASTER darling. Look up the ship on Wikipedia and it will tell you all you need to know.

  17. George Watson 9 January 2012 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    I have booked a thomson dream holiday carribean cruise for April 2011. We are all looking forward to it very much. I have read the all about the “BAD” points of this ship, and the great reviews of other passengers. I tend to look on the side of “glass being half full” life. So Ill go with an open mind, iam sure there will be problems somewhere, like most places ,but hey, who cares what about all the other nice bits visiting the various islands etc etc. The ship will be fine, its only the moaners that put there miserys here, there thousands of people on these ships over the year. Go and enjoy!! its what you make it. Better than sitting in gloomy uk in April. Its peoples miserable attutude that spreads gloom & doom. Excursions maybe be costly but hey, if you dont want to pay “DONT GO” Simple eh, cost nothing then. Iam sure if Ive paid £thousands to have a cruise, why moan on a few more quid, and spoil the holiday. lets face it, how often are you going to be swimming with dolfins/trecking to bleached white beaches, etc etc. Not even the crew want problems but hey, iam sure they will sort the odd one out if it happens. Ill post my comments here end of April 2011. watch this space!!

  18. Linda Thomas 18 January 2012 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Can you please send us the latest up date on the Thomson dream as we have booked up for aug

  19. Phill Robinson 26 April 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

    We have been on the dream twice and had a great holiday both times. Yes she is getting on a bit but she’s a proper ship , not one of the big monster ships that look like a floating block of flats.
    Any gripes they put right pronto the staff and captain are wonderful and they all work jolly hard to make your cruise a happy one.

  20. helen bayliss 24 August 2012 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    can anyone tell me if cabin 5050 and 5052 have portholes or picture windows, and if portholes what size. Thanks

  21. Melina 17 November 2012 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    We went on the dream /niigthmare. I just went to bed When I heard a loud spulting noise that wen on all night long. When I went for dinner I was informed the ship had borken down and it has stop. then we went into a storm with no engine working which lasted to whole days and nights there was glass and bottles flying of the dressing tables all over the room. There was dishes flying around. You could,nt walk down the stairs due to rolling of the ship which resulted in one passenger breaking her ankle.The lifts did,nt work and there you had climb 8 flights of stairs to get a cup of tea.It rocked about all the time.Everyone walked s if they where drunk. I would,nt leave my room wihout my safty jacket.Then there was a rumpous over the safty of the ship like a football match result in 400 people get of half way though the cruise. Wise Decision!The rest o the way was like been on a big dipper at balck pool everyones face said it all everyone looked like deathwarmed up with fear. I was constantly trying to reasure old people who where terrorified I as expecting it to tip over at anytime. The swimming pools where filled with sea water which stung your eyes all the time.Then it was not safe to swim due to the ship rollong 97% of the time. There was rust right outside the window. The bath was to was only suitable for a 3 foot tall webble. You need plenty of mediachines to keep you calm which is what passagers did do.We where 800 miles away from land when the ship packed in. I could,nt dance as did,nt want to be in plaster of pairs.When I disembarked I made the sign of the cross for hose getting on. Everyone called it the rust bucket. It puffed out loads of thick black smoke twice.Then it started leaking out water.Someone offer me £4000 to go on the thomson Dream I would not go on.You had to trail around for ages to find a toilet that would work.Then there was a large punch up in the theatre and it rcked my Saturday nightI was to upset to go out. The couple was shouting “you
    bitch” “you cow” and theatre product was delayed for three quaters of an hour.It took age for the security guard to come and sort it out. I took my young son on the ship as a birthday present and I was appauled. Then I discovered the ship killed someone by crashing into a pier.Straight up I had nightmares for mounths following this hoilday.

  22. Dave L 15 May 2013 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    I’ve never heard such utter exagerrated twaddle Melina. I’m not taking a review seriously from someone who hasnt grasped the basics of grammar. I’m sure i’ll enjoy my holiday on the dream in July.

  23. Mrs b glennon 17 June 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Just been on dream cruise and stay holiday from hell ship had Noro virus over 250 people poorly I caught Noro virus was poorly

  24. laura bannon 19 June 2013 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    I have just come back from the Dream on saturday 15/06 d had a wonderful time. I saw no -one ill although I heard about one couple who spent 24 hours in bed with vomiting. the cleanliness was amazing. Entertainment brilliant. food in the restaurant and self service was lovely. enjoyed our stop at each port. the ship waited for us when the tour operator brought us back very late! some people perhaps have quite isolated issues which is not surprising on a ship with over 1600 passngers and 600 crew. you cant please them all!

  25. J Thompson 26 October 2013 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    26/10/2013. My wife and I have just returned from a cruise on the thomson dream and can say first hand what a fab time we had.The first thing I will say is yes the ship is looking tired after all it is 26 years old,that said it is very clean and very tidy.The cabin was well appointed with tea and coffee making facility’s .The on suite was just fine very good shower small bath (this is a ship) the towels replaced daily if needed.Now the crew,I can’t praise highly enough,I’ve stayed in hotels all over Europe and the USA but never have I met such a helpfull and polite bunch of people with such a can do attitude (well done Thomsons) if you are a foody you won’t be disappointed,the entertainment was fab good fun,this was a total adventure and I fully recommend will be going again with out hesitation . Jt

  26. Mrs b glennon 10 April 2014 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    If people read tnights m e news see the couple that went on dream ship just got £11.000 each compensation bad holiday on dream ship

  27. Anonymous 14 April 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    awaiting reply ref cost of cabin safe and why we have to pay for it

  28. mrs b glennon 20 May 2014 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Hi t everyonecmyself and niece are going on med cruide on 14th june hopefully it will be ok went lsdt year but the noro virus wad on board the ship I was realyvpoirly but hopefull will be ok this time

  29. birchall 10 December 2015 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Just returned from two weeks on Thomson Dream. Worst holiday we have ever had. Water cascading through the ceiling in area next to our cabin. This was on arrival on Saturday 10 October2015. Complained straight away. Told the problem would be resolved straight away . Complained morning noon and night. finally fixed Wednesday. Thursday a ceiling panel came loose and we had to endure loud banging noises until it was fixed the next day. We had two nights uninterrupted sleep on the first week. Asked to leave the ship for our second week. Were informed we would have to arrange our own transfers and accomodation and that it would be at our own expense non refundable in U K as we would be breaking our contract with Thomson. Even though we had water pouring though the ceiling and one evening we rang reception at 3.00am and 6.00am we were made to feel that we were complaining unnecessarily. We were offered a 10% deduction on our next holiday. We refused this offer and we are now in the process of contacting ABTA

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