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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Thomson Destiny

MS Thomson Destiny

Rating:Four Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Thomson Cruises
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1982 / 2004
Length / Tonnage: 705 / 37,584
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 707 / 1,600
Officers / Crew: European / International
Operating Area: Year round Europe
Telephone / Fax: Tel 131 3507 / Fax 131 3507

Review by Malcolm Oliver, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor - Europe

Thomson Holidays, a division of TUI UK Ltd, are the largest tourism and services group in the world. Thomson Holidays is the market leader in the UK inclusive holiday market, a position it has held since 1974. The company has about one third of the UK market and operates to a wide range of resorts offering a variety of holiday types to suit all ages and tastes, including cruises.

The UK retail distribution businesses and channels include Lunn Poly the UK's leading leisure travel retailer with over 750 retail stores including the Lunn Poly Direct call centre, and Lunn Poly.com where you can book and pay for holidays online. Lunn Poly sells around 2.7m holidays and flights a year accounts for over 20% of the total market.

You cannot compare chalk and cheese, but the critics often try. Thomson offers a budget cruise line, not a premium one. If you pay $1,000 for a Thompson cruise, it is unfair to draw direct comparisons with the standards of a cruise line charging $2,000!

The Thomson brochure is very family friendly, with some good child discounts and deals for singles. There are lots of 'cruise and stay' options to bolt on to the many cruise itineraries

Thomson's operation is a little reminiscent of Carnival Cruise Line, in the early years. Their small fleet of vessels are no spring chickens. They are all small to medium sized, by modern standards, with a high passenger density. In other words they pack the passengers in - that's how they keep the fares low. Don't expect an intimate atmosphere, because you will experience a party one.

The cabins of the Thomson fleet in general are a little small, and the choice of public rooms and facilities can be more limited than on newer vessels. Their ships can feel a little crowded at peak times. It is probably fair to say that the food, service and entertainment reflect the low fare that is paid. However, despite these negative observations, Thomson has many very satisfied customers.

'Thomson Destiny' entered service in 1982 as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's 'Song of America'. At that time she was considered a big state-of-the art ship. Airtours (now MyTravel) began operating her in May 1999. Surprisingly Airtours were permitted to retain the distinctive Royal Caribbean trademark; the 'Viking Crown' observation lounge, which surrounds the funnel. It is now renamed the chart Room Lounge. Although 'Sunbird' was a success, MyTravel were faced with substantial losses in 2004 and made the decision to sell off their small fleet of cruise ships, or at least not renew the charters. In the spring of 2005, 'Sunbird' joins the Thomson fleet as 'Thomson Destiny'. Destiny at 37,584 gross tons, is a little bigger than her fleet mates 'Spirit' and 'Celebration', and almost 11,000 tons bigger than 'Emerald'. However by modern standards she is only medium sized. Destiny has a passenger capacity of 1450, divided between the 725 cabins. There are eleven passenger decks, but no single cabins, wheelchair accessible cabins or balcony cabins. There are seven elevators.

She is clean and well maintained, with bright décor. Her public rooms have musical themes. There is one main dinning room, six lounges, one casino, two outdoor pools, a sauna/massage, conference room, photo gallery, fitness room and a library. There are no whirlpools, indoor pools, or a Cinema. Destiny is a very attractive ship. Her white hull and distinctive funnel/lounge creates a distinctive profile. In fact I think she will one day be regarded as a classic, if ship is not already. She has a reasonable amount of polished wood deck space for sun bathing. However, the deck can still get busy in fine weather.

Thomson has a no tipping policy, although many passengers still give a little extra to those staff who provide exceptional service. Full travel insurance is also included in the fare. The onboard currency is sterling.

Public Areas
Destiny has six public lounges, providing more choice than aboard her older fleet mates. The public rooms are mainly located on two decks.

The 'Oklahoma Lounge' is located aft on the Cabaret Deck. It is best described as a large ballroom and overlooks the ships stern. Amidships on this deck is the 'Can Can Lounge', which is used primarily as a show lounge, as is the most spacious with large stage and dance floor. Located in between both Lounges is a conference room, the photo gallery and the Casino Royale. There are also some cabins towards the stern of this deck. The 'Neptunes' Disco/Bar lounge is located on the Promenade deck, along with some more cabins. The Casino is of a reasonably size, reasonably priced, and stays open until late. There is also some more intimate spaces such as the Clipper Bar onboard, featuring solo musical entertainment, such as a piano player.

The 'Chart Room' is suspended high up the funnel and is the perfect place to watch the world pass by. It has an attractive circular bar to help the hours pass. The Library was been described by a passenger as 'cute', which can be translated as 'small', but at least she has one.

The Entertainment offered on budget lines is often one of the most subjective aspects. Many passengers regard it as excellent, while others regard it as amateurish and 'holiday camp' style. Never the less, the entertainment staff are well meaning and certainly do work very hard.

The Destiny pre-dates freestyle dining. The main dining room is located on the main deck, along with the gift shops and some cabins. It is called the 'Seven Seas', which is an elegant room with an in an art deco style with attractive wood panelling and lighting. It can accommodate some 700 passengers at each of its two sittings. It comprises of one large room with a long narrow wings called the 'Ambassador Room' and the 'Oriental terrace', respectively. There are large ocean view windows and a low ceiling which can increase the noise levels.

There are many large tables, but none for two. Seating is allocated by the cruise line, so you have little real choice. The food is very good and plentiful, although the menus are not particularly challenging. There is a good choice of wines at a range of prices. The dining room waiters try hard to please.

The lido dining area provides informal alternative dining for all meal times. The service is quick and efficient with minimal lines which plague some other vessels.

The cabins are divided into five grades: L-Shape Twin, Parallel Twin Double, Deluxe, Penthouse Suite and Grand Penthouse Suite. There is a choice of inside and outside, for the first two grades. Most of the basic cabins are of a similar size which can best be described as compact. The storage space and sound insulation is poor and the bathrooms are 'tight'. However, on a positive note these cabins can be best described as adequate.

If you are claustrophobic, there are seven Penthouse Suites and two grand Penthouse Suites with balcony were added above the bridge, providing the highest grade of accommodation. A butler service is provided. There is a seating area in these cabins, and you can be served the full dining-room menu in-cabin. However, a Suite will cost you almost three times as much as a basic inside cabin. There are twenty one deluxe cabins on the promenade deck, if you cannot run to a suite.

The Thomson brochure offers some tempting half price cabin upgrades. If you want to book a specific cabin number in advance, not just the grade,Thomson make a £30 charge for the privilege.

The voltage is 110v so the Brits may need adaptors to power their shavers etc. Destiny's cabins do have TV's, but they are only the 13 inch variety. Twenty four hour room service is available in all cabins.

Who Goes
Thomson are well placed to continue to operate 'Destiny' in exactly the same market niche as MyTravel did. Destiny cruises will be extremely popular with first-time cruisers. They will appeal to a wide age range of budget conscious travellers, including families with children. The majority of passengers will be British and Canadian, although other nationalities will be represented. The average passenger age range is expected to be around 45 years, which is considerably younger than some other British based cruise lines.

Destiny will offer four 7 night fly-cruise itineraries from UK airports, between May and October 2005. The itineraries all start from Palma, Majorca. They are - Idyllic Iberia: Majorca, Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, Granada. Mediterranean Renaissance: Majorca, French Riviera, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Corsica, Minorca. Jewels of the Med: Majorca, Sicily, Neapolitan Riviera, Sardinia, France, Barcelona. Romance, Romans & Riviera: Majorca, Rome, Italy, France, Spain

A wide variety of cruise and stay options are available for many of Destiny's cruises. At the time of writing itineraries for late 2005 were not available, although they are expected to be the Caribbean variety.

Thomson do not have the biggest or newest ships and they do not offer the highest quality food, service or entertainment. Therefore it is very easy to criticise them. However, they do not charge the highest fares either - in fact they offer some of the cheapest deals available in the United Kingdom.

Thousands of first time UK cruisers choose to cut their maritime teeth with Thomson. They usually return home completely satisfied with the experience, invariably feeling that they have had very good value for money. Passengers have often raved about the food, service and entertainment. In fact many of them return home to immediately book another cruise on her. Destiny's alter-ego 'Sunbird' always received some of the best reviews of the MyTravel fleet. We expect that trend to continue under the Thomson umbrella. For these reasons we have rated Destiny as four stars.

So is a Thomson cruise for you? If you are an experience cruiser or expect the highest standards of pampering and luxury, you should definitely choose another cruise line. They will only be too happy to charge you accordingly. If you are British, a first-timer and/or your main criterion is value for money, you are unlikely to be disappointed with Thomson Destiny.

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