Thomson Cruises Ships
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OnboardThomson's onboard experience sits somewhere between traditional (British cruise lines like P&O and Fred. Olsen) and ultra-casual (now-defunct Ocean Village was something of a competitor). For the most part, Thomson follows a traditional cruise format. All five ships feature open-seating dining. On all ships, there's also a casual buffet restaurant open for all meals, and Thomson Dream, Thomson Spirit and Thomson Celebration also have an a la carte dinner option. The dress code is casual except for the one formal night, when the buffet restaurant stays casual for those who don't want to dress up. Traditional cruise activities such as production shows and a casino are featured.
About Thomson Cruises
As the cruise division of Britain's largest travel agency and tour operator, Thomson Cruises occupies a unique place in the British cruise market. Founded in 1965, Thomson soon established a dominant position in the vast British inclusive-tour market, with its own travel agencies, airlines and more. In the company's first foray into the cruise market in 1973, Thomson chartered two former ocean liners from Greek owners but by 1976 had failed to capture an audience, like so many other budget cruise lines of the 1970s era. But in 1995, it restarted cruise operations by chartering a small ship, The Sapphire, from Cypris-based Louis Cruise Lines. Thomson Cruises soon chartered a variety of other ships, including Island Breeze from the now-defunct Premier Cruises, The Topaz from former Premier executive Paris Katsoufis, and another Louis ship, The Emerald.
Thomson aimed to have an effect on the British market much like Carnival did in the U.S. -- that is, to move cruising from a niche market to the very mainstream of British tourism. Thomson had already made the package holiday hugely popular in the U.K., and wanted to do the same for cruising. Despite its aging ships, Thomson had several elements that lured an ever-increasing number of Britons to cruise for the first time -- name recognition, a large presence of its travel agencies across Britain and attractive fares.
In 2008, Royal Caribbean sold its stake in another U.K. line, Island Cruises, to Thomson Cruises' parent company, TUI Travel. This meant that Island Star left the fleet in March 2009 to join Royal Caribbean's Spanish brand, Pullmantur, while Island Escape joined the Thomson fleet in spring 2009 to continue offering informal cruises to the U.K. market.
Thomson Dream, a transfer from Costa Cruises, joined the rotation in spring 2010. Thomson Majesty joined Thomson in May 2012 as part of a ship swap that sent Thomson Destiny to the Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises (formerly Louis Cruises). Thomson Spirit, meanwhile, is also owned by Celestyal Cruises and chartered to Thomson.
From its reemergence as a budget cruise operator in the 1990's, Thomson has progressively improved its product and become more mainstream in the cruise industry by improving its ships, amenities and service while also branching out to a wider range of itineraries. Most recently, the line has undertaken a fleet-wide renovation project called Thomson Platinum Cruises that aims to align the cruise experience with that of its better package holidays.
Thomson Cruises Fleet
Thomson Cruises currently operates a fleet of five vessels, four of which have undergone refurbishments since 2012. Ships given makeovers have an updated look and feel that includes flat screen TVs in cabins, iPod docking stations in suites, tea and coffee making facilities in every cabin and a themed a la carte restaurant. Thomson Dream was the first ship to be refurbished in December 2012, closely followed by Thomson Celebration in May 2013. Refurbishment for Thomson Spirit and Majesty was completed between March – August 2014.
Dream and Celebration have both added the Kora La Asian restaurant to their list of onboard culinary offerings from 2015. And in addition to the interior updates, sea view balconies have been added to three of the line's ships in recent years -- Thomson Celebration in November 2013, and Thomson Majesty and Thomson Spirit in March 2014.
The 1,254-passenger, 33,930-ton Thomson Spirit (built in 1983 as Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam) is owned by Celestyal Cruises (formerly Louis Cruises) and has been on charter to Thomson since 2003. The nearly identical Thomson Celebration (built in 1984 as Holland America's Noordam) joined the 2004.
In April 2010, the 54,000-ton, 1,506-passenger Thomson Dream joined Thomson, having previously sailed as Costa Europa. It is the line's largest ship.
The 40,876-ton, 1,462-passenger Thomson Majesty was added in May 2012 as part of a ship swap that sent Thomson Destiny to Celestyal Cruises.
In 2009, when Island Cruises was sold to Thomson's parent comany, TUI Travel, another ship joined the fleet. The 1,504-passenger, 40,132-ton Island Escape (which was once Royal Caribbean's former Viking Serenade) attracts families and couples looking for Mediterranean and Canary Island fly-cruises.
Fellow PassengersThomson attracts a broad cross-section of the British middle class along with people of all ages. The company has always attracted many first-timers but has also begun to see an increasing number of repeat passengers who do not wish to "move up" to fancier lines. On all the ships except The Calypso (where no passengers under 16 are allowed), there will probably be a number of families, especially during British school holidays, but couples and singles are certainly well-represented.