I was on the shakedown cruise on 3 May and thought it was a great ship. I think Thomson's have been unlucky. The shakedown cruise was precisely to sort out any problems before the paying public got on board, and was followed by a mini cruise for the paying public before the "maiden voyage" proper. I was on deck 1 and unaware of any problems with loos or aircon on the shakedown.
It was my first time on a cruise ship, and I had quite low expectations of a ship operated by a package holiday company - I am not a package holiday type of person (my brother works for the company). I was so impressed that on getting back I booked the North Cape Explorer from Harwich for 24 July.
The ship has had a complete re-fit, and appeared to me to be good as new. Certainly new carpets, furnishings etc. As the ship sailed out of S'oton, some of the entertainment team were out on deck doing a show, which started with "Celebration Time, Come On" and getting people to clap along - I inwardly groaned and thought I was at Butlins.
We were only on board 2 nights, but after the sailaway party the entertainment was much better. The main cast did two themed shows, and proved to be very talented and versatile.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that as you moved around the ship, the atmosphere changed dramatically. The bar above the bridge on deck 9 has the atmosphere of a luxury cocktail lounge, particularly so when the classical trio or singer and pianist were performing. I was also very impressed with the jazz band. You could always find a quiet space if you needed to, and I loved walking around the stylish wooden promenade deck.
The food exceeded all expectations - as good as a five star hotel. Five course lunches and dinners in the main restaurant had a choice of three items at each course. Food in the Lido buffet restaurant was equally good when I had breakfast and lunch there. Self service would be a bit of a misnomer, as attentive waiters pour iced water the minute you sit down, and clear promptly after each course. We went to the main restaurant on the formal night, but I noticed that the buffet had exactly the same food that night (Lobster Tail or Tornedos Rossini for the main course).
Service in the main restaurant was first class. We were addressed by name by excellent friendly waiters who place the napkin on your lap when you sit down and keep coming round with the pepper mill.
Drinks were good value; £2.90 for a cocktail, spirit measures of 40cl (60% more than a pub measure). Wine generally about £11 to £14 a bottle. Suggested wines with each meal were good, and a full wine list was also available.
On board facilities - I think generally the same as when she was the "Noordam" but with new names. Library, card room, kidzone, internet cafe, non smoking lounges, casino, 2 entertainment lounges and two bars with small stages for pianist/trio, 2 pools, health club, beauty salon, shops. See thomson-cruises.com for full details.
Captain - Norwegian, officers - British (I think), Maitre d' - italian, Hotel Staff - Fillipino.
We were in the cheapest cabin - inside on deck 1. Spacious, lots of hanging space, satellite TV, channel with a view from the bridge.
I was totally hooked by this ship. I think it offers tremendous value for money.
Cabins - as with any cruise ship, the best cabins are on the upper decks, which is precisely where you feel the most movement if you are at all prone to motion sickness. Down in the bowels of the ship on deck 1 (just above the waterline) you get a bit of vibration, but no feeling of motion - but only the cheapest cabins. Outside cabins on decks 1 to 4 are all the same size (144 to 177 sq ft), but on decks 1 to 3 only have portholes. Outside cabins on deck 4 have a reasonably sized window. Luxury cabins (208 sq ft) and suites (280 sq ft) on decks 6 to 9 have large windows, but deck 6 is the promenade deck so you have people walking outside your window, on deck 7 most cabins have views obstructed by lifeboats. Deck 8 is just above the lifeboats, deck 9 has the best views.
My cabin preference on this ship would be an outside cabin on deck 4 which I think optimises the view against my partners motion sickness, but I would be almost as happy back down on deck 1.
Hope they really have got the toilet problems sorted, looking forward to hearing more reviews - good or bad - from further cruises.