Caroline Kay and her partner John cruise the Black Sea aboard Thomson's Platinum ship – Celebration
ANOTHER cruise? But you’ve only just come back from the last one!
This was the statement on more than one occasion when I announced that John – my other and better half many would say – and I were off on the high seas for our summer break.
To be fair we hadn’t just come back from a cruise at all – we last sailed in March and that was … well … months ago!
We decided to travel with Thomson Cruises for the third time for many reasons, not least they are excellent value-for-money and the staff are some of the friendliest you will ever meet.
Thomson has four ships within its fleet: Celebration, Spirit, Majesty and Dream, and this time we chose Black Sea Explorer cruise aboard the Platinum ship – Celebration.
The liner has recently been revamped and restyled and now includes brand-new balcony suites and a trendy coffee bar.
The itinerary whisked us off to visit four countries and two continents during our seven-day holiday, and featured plenty of interesting destinations including Turkey (Istanbul), Bulgaria (Burgas), Romania (Constanta) and Mykonos (Mykonos Town).
When booking any cruise with Thomson you can make it as frugal or as lavish as you wish.
The initial price advertised is per person and includes the lowest priced cabin, all the food you can eat and flights to and from the UK including transfers.
You can then upgrade your cabin, choose a specific seat on the plane (including extra leg room), treat yourself to an all-inclusive drinks package (which is one of the best value on the high seas and John and I took full benefit of this, trust me we did), or splash out on Champagne and flowers in your room. There’s an extra charge of course – you don’t get ‘owt for nowt’ these days – but the prices aren’t by any means extortionate. And if you book early enough, more often than not the all-inclusive drinks package will be thrown in.
Our flight from East Midlands Airport to Dalaman, Turkey, went without a hitch and so did the transfer to Marmaris where we joined the Celebration. Check-in was as efficient as ever and before we knew it we were being escorted to our room, an outside deluxe which was huge.
We cruised aboard Celebration’s twin sister Spirit in November, so we pretty much knew what to expect from the ship – and it was great to be so familiar with her.
However, this didn’t stop us exploring the decks once we had unpacked – and, of course, having a little something to eat and drink! Well it would be rude not to and there was an all-inclusive drinks package to take advantage of!
Celebration is a liner you can easily fall in love with – and we did. She may have been built when Wham! were riding high in the charts, and it was merely the rich and famous who cruised the oceans blue, but she still oozes warmth and charm.
Because the liner isn’t a style which is Plimsoll line to crow’s nest full of balconies there are great views from each of the public rooms – and many cruisers choose to stay in an inside cabin because of this. As one traveller announced: “I simply sleep, shower and change in my room.”
Celebration also has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to make it a different cruising experience from the rest of the fleet – most notably Steak Under The Stars – al fresco dining on the Lido Deck. In fact we were so impressed with this concept – and the waiting on staff, especially Ralph – we ate there twice.
Our first port of call was Istanbul. I was absolutely bowled over by this city and more than happy with our chose excursion: Easy Istanbul which included visits to the Dolmabahce Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Museum of St Sophia, along with a trip across the Bosphorus Bridge to the Asian side of the city.
We did get bothered a couple of times by zealous salesmen and I am sure if I had stayed in Instanbul any longer I would have been returning home with a carpet under each arm!
The next two days were a bit of a whirlwind, calling at Bulgaria and Romania and for both destinations we joined organised tours again.
We were a little bit surprised more travellers didn’t take advantage of getting off the ship and exploring in these two ports. However, I do think people simply wanted stay on board to make the most of the sunshine and get a great tan!
John and I aren’t the sun-worshipping type and we didn’t want to call at these two developing countries without at least learning something about them.
Different strokes for different folks.
Romania and Bulgaria may not be the prettiest countries in the world, but without a doubt are certainly interesting and it was thought-provoking to hear and see that Bulgarians remember the Communist rule with fondness, while the Romania’s feel nothing but disdain. In fact, our tour in Romania was ‘On the Path of the Communist Era’ which included a visit to Nicolae Ceauescu’s summer office, in the seaside resort of Neptun. Now the Ambassadors Restaurant, it’s amazing to think that I have walked in the footsteps of so many heads of state including Ronald Reagan and Fidel Castro.
It may not have been the most cheerful of the tours available but it was definitely the most interesting – giving both of us food for thought of how lucky we are to be living in a democracy.
After a second day at sea (time to recharge the old batteries and give our all-inclusive ship’s card another pasting) our final port of call was Mykonos Town – the pretty capital of the gorgeous Greek island Mykonos, which is a real favourite, especially with film buffs as Shirley Valentine was filmed there.
Whereas in Bulgaria and Romania it really was rather difficult to spend our money as a little goes a long, long way - in Mykonos Town a lot doesn’t go very far at all and the bars and cafés certainly know how to charge. John did get a taste for Greek beer announcing: “I could get used to this!” I bet he could! Thank goodness we were only there for a day!
There are many things which encourage us to cruise with Thomson: the price is great value-for-money; the cabin service is five star; there’s brilliant entertainment throughout the day, evening and into the early hours – and there’s definitely no shortage of food and drink.
However, it is the Thomson staff which makes cruising with them special. Nothing is too much trouble, there is always service with a smile.
Probably the main downside to any cruise – and this goes for whichever company you choose to sail with – is the lack of internet access. That is unless you want to pay an arm and a leg to log on. Complimentary Wi-Fi – just while the ship is in port – would make a real difference and John and I could brag on social media about how fantastic our holiday is to our heart’s content.
I’d also like to see Thomson reward its frequent cruisers as they have an army of loyal followers – us included.
These are just a couple of niggles which don’t detract from the fact we had, yet again, another wonderful holiday with our favourite cruise company.
If you want to call at pretty ports full of cafés, shops and beaches then the Canary or the Greek Islands would be ideal.
If you want to immerse yourself in developing countries and learn how the rest of the world live, then the Black Sea Explorer will be enlightening to say the least.
Now where did I put that brochure?
THOMSON Cruises offer a selection of cruises including: fly cruise, cruises from the UK, cruise and stay and cruise only – no flights. Flights are available from airports around the UK including East Midlands and Birmingham airports.
For more information pick up a brochure from a Thomson travel agency, or log on to www.thomson.co.uk