Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Joining our Dream Ship at Montego Bay

Tuesday 10 February 2015 was a long day. Twenty nine hours to be precise... We left home to travel to Manchester Airport in a taxi with one of those drivers who seem to steer in sudden panic swerves and were relieved to get there and join the queue to check in baggage. The online checking-in procedure made this very easy the first time we did it. Now that everyone does it, it somehow takes just as long as it used to anyway...

But the good news was that our bags would be picked up automatically and taken to the ship and our cabins so no mooching around the baggage conveyors when we got there.

We were flying on one of the Thomson Dreamliner Boeing 787s. They are carbon fibre not metal so much reduced weight means they fly a lot faster. I've read some stupid reviews of these aircraft that make me think some people would still manage to be unhappy if they were flown to the opposite side of the world in ten minutes on an alcohol drip, with semi-naked demigods/goddesses pandering to their every whim. The reality is there are two aisles, seats with a 3-3-3 configuration and the seats have more leg room than you would normally find. Not so much though that some prat playing yo-yos in front, reclining and straightening their seat every ten minutes isn't very annoying. Want to improve passenger experience? Easy - take that annoying button away from temptation, or make it operate the seat in front so they have to ask if you are eating or have the table in a position where it might jab you rudely in the solar plexus before they can lean back...

The seats have individual 9" VDU screens too for films/TV and games with plug and play facilities to listen to your own music or charge your bits. One of the best features of this is a repeating stream of information on the aircraft's speed, height and position along the flight path. When I say "repeating" though, it does have to repeat an awful lot of times on a 10-hour flight across the Atlantic! But watching the plane fly over various seamounts, fracture zones and abyssal plains that you've never heard of on the ocean floor is mildly diverting and watching the wind speed rise and fall as you enter and leave the jet stream is quite entertaining too.

There are two best things about this aeroplane. First is that the windows are massive compared to older airliners. Instead of a shutter they have a button which darkens the window progressively, using some sort of gel. Clever stuff. All we could see on the way over though was clouds. For ten hours...! The second is that the pressurisation is such that you get more oxygen into the blood and that, we were told and so indeed we found, drastically reduces the effects of jet-lag. I remember crossing the Atlantic in 1993 and being whacked out for a day and a half after both journeys. No such effect even when coping with the 5-hour difference in time.

And so we reached Jamaica and Montego Bay - "Whoa-oh-oh-oh....." On the transfer bus you are taught the correct pronunciation of the island's most popular saying "No problem, man..." with a refreshing lack of the stifling politically correct nonsense that means the rest of the world can call us "Brits" but if we dare to utter something similar someone (meaning "some Brit") will deem us being racist and slap us down.

We were proficient by the time we were dropped off at the cruise terminal and we trooped in with our little signed papers saying we were all healthy and hadn't coughed or sneezed for - ooh... weeks!

Once we had been checked by immigration and customs and checked in by the Thomson staff, we were able to join our home for the week - Thomson Dream. This photo was taken later in the week at Roatan, Honduras.

We were shown to our cabin, 6003, on Deck 6 and up near the pointy end. We found a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine waiting for us in a cooler, thanking us for being long-standing repeat cruisers. Honestly, it's a pleasure! And so was the wine!

We were excited about meeting up with our friends from the Philippines, Tomas and Maris, who sing as duo 2 Intense and were on the ship. We hadn't told them we were coming and were hoping to surprise them. Then during the compulsory safety drill that evening we spent most of it trying to be inconspicuous and turning away from the next lifeboat station where Tomas was helping out! I was sure he'd seen us but as he said later "You only see what you expect to see..." and we got away with it.

So we parked ourselves in front of the stage in the Tides Bar and waited. Maris walked past in the distance and we waved. She glanced round, walked on, stopped, came back, did a double take and rushed over. Result! So begins the week. Tomorrow will be a day at sea and I'll skip over that so the next entry will see us having crossed the Caribbean to Mexico where we will wake to watch us dock at Cozumel.

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