Friday, 17 July 2015

Cruises, Ships And Fridge Magnets Over The Years

In an attempt to answer the most common questions asked about our holidays here are the top three answered in one blog entry.

The Questions:

  1. How many/What cruises have you done?
  2. What ships have you been on?
  3. Can we see some of Fran's fridge magnets?

The Answers

All of our cruises have been described on here so the easiest answer would be to direct you at the left hand column where they are all linked. However, let's try to sort this in a more entertaining way...

The first time we did a cruise was on a tiny ship taking less than a thousand passengers. The Carousel was being operated by Sun Cruises and we joined her in 2004 in Tenerife for a cruise around the Canary Islands. The cruise was called the Atlantic Islands cruise. We enjoyed it so much we did it again the following year and I've just realised that the link heads off to a single entry and I have yet to write about that second cruise! A joy to come perhaps!

Carousel had been built in 1971 for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as MV (Motor Vessel) Nordic Prince. She was bought by Sun Cruises in 1995 and left them just two months after our second and final cruise on her at which point Sun Cruises themselves became no more... Carousel was sold on and renamed several times and was finally scrapped in early 2015.

Note that as all the links are to tags, the actual pages will come up in reverse order as a blog will always display pages from latest down to earliest.

Atlantic Islands 2004

The Island Star seemed enormous to us after the Carousel. We were to do a number of trips on her, all of them around the western Mediterranean and got to know some of the crew quite well. Built as MV Horizon in 1990 for Celebrity Cruises, she was bought by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 2005 and renamed Island Star operating under a sub-company name Island Cruises from 2005 to 2009.

We did four cruises on her from 2006 to 2008 and enjoyed them immensely. She teemed with bar staff and if you wanted a drink it could be ordered and served very quickly.

She was the first ship to provide Miss Franny with a fridge magnet dedicated to the ship! Oh and you may have wondered why we sometimes do the same cruise over again? Well, in just about every port you can think of there are different excursions to do as well as just getting off to wander about the port area or nearest town.

There seems to be a lot of entries for some of these - my blogging technique has changed over the years and here one incident or aspect of a day's excursion are covered in an entry rather than a full day. The cruise from 2007 is worth reading if only for the hilarious exploits of Cissie and Ada (not their real names) - two old ladies we made friends with.

Mediterranean Explorer, 2006
Mediterranean Explorer, 2007

Mediterranean Spirit, July 2008
Mediterranean Essence, August 2008

Ocean Village Two was the second ship owned by the short-lived Ocean Village Cruises. We'll see the original one later. This ship was built in 1989 as Crown Princess for Princess Cruises. Ocean Village operated her from 2007-2009 so this was yet another ship that left her flag more or less as soon as we had been on her! She is currently in service for P&O Cruises Australia sailing as the Pacific Jewel.

We joined her in Heraklion on Crete and sailed up the Adriatic Sea to Croatia and then into Venice before coming back down to Greece. A lovely holiday.

Gateways and Gondolas, May 2009

Our first cruise with Thomson was on the Thomson Celebration - the first of our ships still to be sailing under the same name and with the same company! We have done several cruises on this ship which was built in 1984 as MS Noordam for the Holland America Line. Thomson leased her in 2005 and still operates her. She started life with a one million dollar art collection some of which can still be seen onboard her.

Pearls of the Aegean, 2009

We'll come back to Thomson Celebration after another dalliance with Ocean Village Cruises!

This time the ship is also called Ocean Village - the firm's first ship. Built in 1988 she was first operated by Princess Cruises and then in 2003 joined P&O as Arcadia. Ocean Village was an offshoot company of P&O, marketed as a less formal way of cruising. Ocean Village sailed from 2003 to 2010 when the company ceased to trade as such and the ship now is operated by P&O Australia as the Pacific Pearl.

And there's a fridge magnet!!! We did just the one trip on her, to visit Egypt, Greece and Turkey. Had Ocean Village cruises remained in business, I am sure we would have travelled with them again.

Palaces and Pyramids, April 2010

In August 2010 we were back on Thomson Celebration once again sailing up the Aegean, this time as far as Istanbul. There was a slight delay to the sail-away as a ship's generator had to be repaired, but we were merely entertained by all the would-be lawyers onboard and it was still a fabulous holiday.

It was also our first meeting with Tomas and Maris who have become such lovely friends and who we try to see at least once every year!

Ottoman Treasures, August 2010

Our next cruise took us onto our second Thomson ship - Thomson Destiny. She was built in 1982 as MV Song of America for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and had spent time as Sunbird for our first cruise line Sun Cruises. She sailed with Thomson from 2005 to 2012 and is currently sailing for Louis Cruise Lines as the Celestyal Olympia.

We were back in familiar territory here on the Western Mediterranean, visiting Sicily, Italy, Corsica, the French Riviera and Spain. The first of three ships in which we met waiter, Pipit.

Jewels of the Mediterranean, May 2011

By now dedicated fans of Thomson Cruises, we join the Thomson Spirit in Corfu for our second cruise up the Adriatic. Once again there is a spectacular visit to Venice and Croatia but also this time Montenegro and Slovenia. We also got to see a few places after dark which is unusual for a cruise and it made for a most memorable holiday.

The Spirit is the sister ship to Celebration. They are identical in length and structure and layout. We felt immediately at home in our favourite Horizons Bar!

Adriatic Explorer, August 2011

And so back to the Celebration again for a trip to Istanbul, Lesbos, where pink lightning entertained us, different excursions from Kusadasi, and our first visit to Mykonos.

Ancient Wonders, May 2012

In May 2013 we took our first cruise with David and Jeannie and our first cruise on Thomson Dream. This had been built in 1986 as MS Homeric for Home Lines and also spent some time as Costa Europa. With Costa she survived crashing into the dock at Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt which killed three crew members and injured others including passengers. Passengers had also mutinied in 2009 after engine trouble led to them missing scheduled stops in the Indian Ocean.

Even Thomson had teething troubles with her with air-con and plumbing problems and she made an appearance on BBC's Watchdog. We have been on her twice and had nothing but good times onboard.

Highlights of the Mediterranean, May 2013

In August 2013 we had two more "firsts": sailing from England and visiting Norway. This was our second trip on Thomson Spirit and our second trip where we bumped unexpectedly into John and Sue from the next town to Blackpool, Poulton-le-Fylde. We had first met them in Turkey in 2009 and now here they were again, adding to the fun in Norway, where we had two days of rain and two days of sunshine for our scheduled stops. Another familiar face is Pipit, our waiter from the Destiny and whose table we frequent every night.

Fjordland Wonders, August 2013

We were able to have three weeks away altogether in 2013 and our final cruise for the year was changed at the last minute as it had originally included two days in Egypt at the time when things were kicking off a bit there. Instead of these two days an overnight stop was arranged for Thomson Celebration in Ashdod, Isreal to give two days in the Holy Land and a day in Rhodes was added. Our waiter from Thomson Dream the previous year, Manny, had transferred to the Celebration and we made a point of going back to his table every night.

Aegean and the Holy Land, October 2013

Our next cruise saw us back on the Thomson Celebration and on a nostalgic itinerary around the Canary Islands. The highlight of this cruise (apart from our fourth meeting with Tomas and Maris) was the sight of a huge whale emerging from underneath the ship directly below us as we sat on one of the refurbished Celebration's brand new balconies. Manny was the crew member in position to greet us on first boarding and he showed us up to the cabin.

Colourful Coasts, April 2014

Thomson Majesty was now the only ship currently in Thomson colours that we hadn't been on. We rectified that in August 2014 when we flew out to join her in Corfu, but on a cruise around western Italy, Malta and Sicily. It was our first meeting with Paula, the Head of Destinations Services, who like John and Sue comes originally from Poulton-le-Fylde near Blackpool. I swear she now watches out for our names and sneaks onto whichever ship just to surprise us!

The Majesty was built in the late 1980s for the Birka Line for work on the Baltic but the shipyard went bankrupt and after another contractor took over prices increased causing Birka to refuse delivery. Instead she started life in 1992 with Majesty Cruise Line, Thomson leasing her from Louis Cruise Lines in 2012. Her unusual early history means that she was built with high class ice-breaking capability.

She was involved in an incident in 2010 when, operating for Louis as Louis Majesty, she was hit by three waves in the Mediterranean, each being reportedly over 26 feet (8m) which broke windows in the main saloon killing two passengers and injuring others. In 2012 five crewmen died during a routine crew lifeboat drill when a cable snapped causing the lifeboat they were in to hang vertically until the remaining cable snapped under the increased strain, plunging the boat into the sea from several decks up. The inner wires of the cable, which was not due for replacement for another two and a half years, were found to have corroded.

Italian Flavours, August/September 2014

In February of this year (2015), we took our second trip on Thomson Dream in a new location for us as we visited Mexico, Honduras and Jamaica. A definite bonus was having the company of Thomas and Maris, who we surprised - we hadn't told them to expect us! I definitely enjoyed myself on this one! Surprising us was Paula who was now heading Destinations Services on the Dream!

Mexican Medley, February 2015

Which brings us up to date with our recent cruise with David and Miss Jeannie back on the Thomson Majesty. We had been joking that Paula would be there waiting to book us onboard but of course she wasn't. She was on the next desk along...! And then halfway through the week Pipit turned up in the restaurant having flown out from home the day before!

Hellenic Classics, June 2015

That exhausts Miss Franny's ship topic fridge magnets but we'll see more as I attempt to think of our favourite places and views from our 20 cruises done so far. We don't currently have another one booked - we'll see where Tomas and Maris end up next year before choosing. But I'll leave you with our motto...

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