THOMSON ‘SPIRIT’ RED SEA CRUISE. 26TH MARCH 2009 FOR 7 NIGHTS
I have posted in May 2009. All Excursion prices quoted correct March 2009 under ‘Ports of Call’ below.
THE SHIP VERSUS PRICE
I give Thomson ‘Spirit’ 5 Stars purely because of the excellent price of £435pp for Cabin 403 - quite a discount on brochure price (incl flights from Luton). Booked one week before departure direct with Thomson. If we had made a decision to book a couple of days earlier there was availability on a lower deck at a cheaper price - less than £300 pp (incl flights).
Any price approaching brochure price (and we met people who had) I would give it 3 Star because it is a 3 Star ship. Nothing wrong in that at all - it’s a great little ship (but it does come under Budget Cruise Category). I am not saying Budget Cruising to be derogatory - just telling you what to expect - it is not RCI / Princess etc. This was our second time on ‘Spirit’, so we knew what to expect. Yes, we would sail on her again if the price was right. Don’t expect any ‘glitz’.
Many people say on Forums they have had a 5 Star cruise on ‘Spirit’. Don’t let this confuse you. They are saying they have had excellent value for money. In the nicest possible way, here is an explanation:- you can have a 5 Star shopping experience at Lidl or Netto because the price is excellent for what you are buying but the store aesthetics are basic, so you know you are not shopping in Harrods Food Hall. Compare prices before you book Thomson or any other cruise line on internet, teletext, weekend newspapers. Sometimes there is very little price difference between Thomson and the real 4 Star ships.
Really lovely passengers on ‘Spirit’ (another Thomson cruises we have been on), that is without doubt.
‘Spirit’ is 26 years old (1983) – very old by cruise ship standards. A ‘higgledy-piggledy’ looking little ship from the outside. Small, 33,930 tonnes. 1254 passengers. ‘Spirit’ is well known for its vibration problems. Sometimes when watching a show, passengers visibly ‘wobbled’ in their seats.
‘Spirit’ is kept immaculate.
Thomson charge £12 PER WEEK for use of safe in your cabin. Greedy I think.
This particular cruise probably not suite to young children. The ship is small, so not a huge amount in the fun department for them, plus the long coach journeys to places of interest.
We did see ‘Costa Europa’ following us. Tonnage 54,763. 1,488 passengers. Complete refurbishment 2002 (built 1986). Looked very nice, and very sleek compared to ‘Spirit’, even though there is only three years age difference. Remember though, ‘Costa’ are an Italian cruise line, so English passengers will definitely be in the minority after Italian, Spanish, German.
I will make an attempt to add some photographs under ‘Photo Galleries’ over the next few days (after 8.5.09). Never done this before, so can’t promise. Hopefully, if it works, there will be lots of the ‘Spirit’, plus ports of call to show ‘what you see is what you get’.
Once again, based on the price we paid, the entertainment (shows) were good. I am going to be very honest and say they are NOT London ‘West End’ standard (although they may well perform excerpts from West End Shows) and with the greatest respect, anybody who says they are West End standard has not been to a London West End show. Your excellent local amateur dramatics probably performs West End Shows too!! SOME of the boys’ costumes were definitely ‘one-size-fits-all’, you could see where they had been taken in / let out, taken up / let down several times, because the young team come and go throughout the season, chasing the next best assignment. Some of the boys’ costumes also lacked style.
The song/dance team certainly worked very hard every night, and seemed to get very little free time with all their other duties and rehearsals. They also put on two lunch time plays, which were very good.
The big glitzy modern-day 4 Star / 5 Star cruise ships do have shows on par with London West End shows, but ‘Spirit’ is 3 Star - not 4 Star.
The guest comedian Taffy Spencer was very funny (March 2009).
There are also quiz nights, karaoke etc.
CAPTAINS FORMAL NIGHT
Why did they do this on an excursion day instead of a sea day? Do passengers not complain or are Thomson too arrogant to listen to passengers? We were assigned first sitting in Compass Rose Restaurant (this is the only night there is first & second sitting, the rest of the time its open sitting). We arrived back from our Wadi Rum excursion at 5.40pm (our ETA). Unfortunately, Captains Drinks Reception for first sitting started at 5.00p.m - 40 minutes BEFORE we arrived back on the ship. First sitting dinner was 6.00p.m, giving us 20 minutes to RUN back to cabin, two people to shower and dress in formal wear. Nothing short of contempt for passengers by Thomson. The Maitre’D said he would allow us entry to the dining room up to 6.05 p.m. before closing the doors. I can’t say he was being rude because he was polite, just stating the fact!! We did ask in advance to swap to second sitting because we were on an excursion, but we were told over 100 people were ahead of us wanting to swap to second sitting. Captains Formal Night is a very special night for a lot of people, especially if it’s your first cruise, and it was absolutely ruined. Missing the Captains Drinks Reception did not really bother us because we have been on many, but that’s not the point, it was spoilt for many passengers.
Our cabin was 403 (standard inside). Perfectly adequate (small) and we never felt the need to pay more for a bigger cabin. Our cabin had no vibration problems. My only criticism, the air conditioning was not very efficient. There are no balcony cabins on ‘Spirit’.
There are no tea / coffee making facilities in cabins, but you can make yourself tea / coffee 24-hours in the self-service ‘Lido’ restaurant.
FOOD – VERY GOOD, ONCE AGAIN BASED ON PRICE WE PAID
‘Compass Rose’ restaurant is Waiter service (smart casual dress minimum requirement). Evening dinner available 18.30hrs – 22.00hrs. Just turn up when you want and you will be seated at available table.
‘Lido’ restaurant is self-service (casual dress at all times is OK, but you would be expected to cover over swim wear).
‘Snack Bar & Pizza Oven’.
‘Sirocco’s’. Located at the back of ‘Compass Rose Restaurant’. There is a cover charge of £17pp.
A good size cinema. Films shown on this 7-day cruise were ‘Mamma Mia’ ‘ Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ ‘Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ ‘Burn After Reading’ ‘Hamlet 2’ ‘Tropic Thunder’. Each film is shown four times a day.
Two pools and one Jacuzzi. Not really big enough to call swimming pool, more plunge pools, although one is quite deep.
Is high fenced off for kids to kick a ball around, but there is no official supervision.
PORTS OF CALL – THIS WILL CERTAINLY ADD TO THE COST OF YOUR HOLIDAY
Be aware, there is very little actual cruising on this itinerary (take a look at the itinerary on a map) and the ports you dock at are working industrial ports, NOT beach tourist ports. Don’t expect Caribbean type ports where the beautiful beaches are right where you dock. On the only sea day the ship sails very slowly because it has such a short distance to travel. If you are looking for a quick ‘cheapie’ holiday and say to yourself “I will just stay on board and enjoy the scenery from the deck”, this is NOT the cruise you for you.
There is lot of coach travel time to the places of interest. The excursions are not cheap (see below), but they are value for money.
PORT NO. 1
AQABA, JORDAN – DAY 1 (this is an overnight port).
We did ‘Wadi Rum – 4x4 Desert Adventure’. Great fun.
Largest and most magnificent of Jordan’s dessert landscapes. Excursion ends with refreshments in Bedouin tent.
Cost £32 adult. Child £20. Excursion duration 5 hours. Journey time from ship to Wadi Rum probably 45 minutes. Excellent value for money.
OTHER EXCURSION OPTIONS AQABA DAY 1
Movenpick Hotel Beach Transfer - Cost £18.00 adult. Child £9. Excursion duration 4½ hours.
FREE Shuttle Bus into Aqaba town (not very far away, could probably walk). Shuttle bus also runs on day 2.
AQABA, JORDAN – DAY 2
We went to Petra – the Rose Red City. UNESCO world heritage site. Temples, tombs, theatres and stairways carved out of red sandstone. Amazing place, don’t miss it. You have six hours to tour Petra and lunch at the 5 Star Petra Movenpick hotel.
Petra NOT SUITABLE at all for anyone with walking difficulties / disabilities. There is approx 6 miles of walking if you stay with the Guide – more if you break away and go off on your own, up to 16 miles according to the Guide. NOT SUITABLE for flip-flop type footwear, sturdy trainers minimum.
TAKE A JACKET, no matter how warm it is when you jump on the coach in the morning. The LONG walk from Petra entrance down the ‘Siq’ to ‘The Treasury’ was cold and windy, even at the end of March 2009. NOTE: the walk back is slightly UPHILL.
TOILETS in Petra. There are a few portacabin type toilets dotted around. Not very hygienic, but if you are desperate!!! You will be lucky if there is any loo paper / running water, so make sure you have tissues, and wet wipes.
First class buffet lunch at Petra Movenpick 5 Star hotel after Petra visit. Less than five minutes walk from Petra entrance. The Guide said if you found Petra tiring or felt unwell you were welcome to leave Petra at any time and go to the hotel to rest in the foyer or swimming pool area. Alcohol at the hotel will cost you a fortune, ask the price before you order.
Cost £79.00 adult. Child £39.50, including entrance to Petra and lunch at Petra Movenpick hotel (5 Star). Hotel is less than five minutes walk from Petra entrance. Although £79 is expensive, it is excellent value for money.
Excursion Duration 10 hours. Journey time to Petra 2 hours each way.
If you are a party of four you can save money DIY, getting a taxi both ways, and pay your own entrance fee into Petra. I believe taxi charges approx £80.00 return – so that’s only £20 per person. I believe entrance fee to Petra is equivalent £23 (£1 equals 1 Jordanian Dinar in March 2009), but of course, there is no meal included in this price.
OTHER EXCURSION OPTIONS AQABA DAY 2.
Cost £51.00 adult. Child £25.00. Excursion duration 12 hour. Journey time 3½ each way.
PORT NO. 2
PORT SOKHNA FOR CAIRO
We did we did Pyramids, Mohammed Ali Mosque & Nile Cruise with lunch
Pyramids & Sphinx amazing. Just about enough time for your photographs, ‘crouch’ into the middle of a pyramid, and a quick camel ride of you want. The Guide will try to put you off the camel ride, but the choice is yours, and the Guide on the coach will advise you what to pay IF YOU ASK THEM. There are police on camels patrolling so you won’t come to any bother. I guess there is never enough time when you consider what you are seeing, the history, and the fact you may never return.
Entry into Pyramid costs additional £7.50 adult. This price goes up and down depending on exchange rate. Making your way to the centre of the pyramid is VERY claustrophobic and you have to crouch down until you reach the centre where it becomes airless (my husband had to puff on his rarely used inhaler). Then, you have to crouch back out the same way you came in, which means you have two-way people traffic, everybody crouched down. I am only 5ft tall, fit & healthy, but found it a little difficult. The Guide on the bus selling tickets probably won’t tell you this. Some people only made it a few feet and had to turn back, no refund of course. Certainly not suitable for elderly / disabled / claustrophobics.
Nice buffet lunch on purpose-built Nile boat restaurant and short Nile cruise lasting approx 1½ hours. Belly dancer and Whirling Dervish entertainment, although most people went on deck after the lunch.
Even on the Nile boat restaurant they wanted money for using the loo. I felt sorry for an elderly lady who obviously had no change and did not have the guts to say ‘No’. I was shocked to see her handing over a £5 note (yes, 5 UK pounds) and guess what, got no change. The young girl very quickly put the money into her pocket; she must have thought she had won the lottery. Unfortunately I was just passing at the time, so had no small change on me to give the elderly lady, and the handover of cash was taking place as I saw it.
Mohammed Ali Mosque was a bit on the ‘grotty’ side - eg quite a few broken light shades, broken light bulbs in the huge circular chandelier, simple things that could easily be put right. Personally I think the mosque could be deleted from the itinerary, although it was very popular with school children.
I wish they would STOP obligatory visit to papyrus and jewellery outlet (next door to each other). This wasted almost 1½ hours and everybody moaned. Most people came outside after a few minutes and stood around in the street waiting for the buses to leave. Some people passed the time feeding starving dogs their uneaten packed lunches!!! This time would be better spent split between longer Nile river cruise and Pyramids / Sphinx stops, but the travel company will never do this as they must all get some £sd from it.
Cost £72 adult. Child £26. Excursion duration 11 hours. Journey time 2½ hours each way.
OTHER EXCURSION OPTIONS PORT SOKHNA FOR CAIRO
Classic Egypt – Pyramids & Cairo Museum.
Adult £72. Child £36.00. Excursion duration 11 hours. Journey time 2½ hours each way.
PYRAMIDS, MEMPHIS, TOMBS OF CAIRO
Adult £72. Child £36.00. Excursion duration 11 hours. Journey time 2½ hour each way.
PYRAMIDS & CITY SHOPPING
Adult £45.00 Child £22.50. Excursion duration 11 hours. Journey time 2½ hours each way.
SUNSET CRUISE, PYRAMIDS SOUND & LIGHT SHOW
Adult £45.00. Child£22.50. Excursion duration 8½hours. Journey time 2½ hours each way.
STELLA DI MARI BEACH TRANSFER
Adult £22. Child £11.00. Excursion duration 4 hours. Not far from the ship.
PORT NO. 3
SAFAGA PORT FOR LUXOR & HURGHADA – ANOTHER OVERNIGHT PORT
Because we have done Luxor on 7-night Nile cruise we opted for Paradise Island – Sun & Snorkel. A great day beach day.
Approx 1 hour drive from Safaga port to Hurghada – its 60 kilometres.
Then, 45 minute boat ride to Paradise (Giftun) Island.
As you approach Paradise (Giftun) Island your boat anchors offshore (along with dozens of others, it’s amazing how many tourist boats make this daily sail over to Paradise). Then you are picked up by a little boat that takes you the last leg to the shoreline, all very tropical.
Lovely beach, plenty of shelter from the sun if you want it, good buffet lunch, good public conveniences. Cute beach ‘bar’. Soft drinks only.
You arrive at the beach and have about an hour. Then you get back on the little boat back to the big boat that brought you over from Hurghada. You sail round the bay (takes 15 minutes) and snorkel for approx 1 hour. Snorkel gear included in price. Then it’s back to the beach for lunch and more time on the beach.
Cost Adult £49.00. Child £25.00. Excursion duration 9 hour. Journey by coach Safaga/Hurghada 1 hour each way.
LUXOR OVERNIGHT WITH SOUND & LIGHT SHOW LUXOR TEMPLE
This also includes Valley of the Kings, Temple of Queen Hatchepsut.
Adult £130. Child £80.00. Overnight hotel. Buffet dinner. Breakfast. Excursion duration is OVERNIGHT. Journey time to Luxor 3½ hours each way.
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE – 40 MINUTES DURATION
This can only be booked as an ‘Extra’ added to the Luxor Overnight Excursion (see above).
Cost £160 per couple. £110 single.
LUXOR, KARNAK, VALLEY OF THE KINGS
Adult £78. Child £39. Excursion duration 14 hours. Journey time to Luxor 3½ hours each way.
HURGHADA DESERT QUAD BIKING
Cost Adult £37.00. Child N/A. Excursion duration 5 hours, inc travelling time to quad bikes (don’t know how long this takes).
SEASCOPE & HURGHADA CITY – travel time to Hurghada approx 1 hour – it’s 60 kilometres.
Glass-bottom boat that takes you three metres under water.
Hurghada City shopping time.
Cost Adult £35.00. Child £17.50. Excursion duration 6 hours, inc journey to glass bottom boat.
HURGHADA SHOPPING & SHOW
Two hour shopping. One hour Bedouin show.
Cost Adult £26.00. Child £13.00. Excursion duration 6 hours, inc coach journey 1 hour each way.
HURGHADA CITY TRANSFER
Cost Adult £14.00. Child £13.00. Excursion duration 5 hours, inc coach journey 1 hour each way.
SNORKELLING BY BOAT
Cost Adult £21.00. Child £10.50. Excursion duration 5 hours.
SOL Y MAR HOTEL BEACH TRANSFER – short drive from ship
Cost Adult £16. Chile £8.00. Excursion duration 5 hours.
PORT NO. 4
SHARM EL SHEIKH
Cost Adult £29.00. Child N/A. Excursion duration 3½ hours.
RAS MOHAMMED BY BOAT
Cost Adult £32. Child £16. Excursion duration 4½ hours.
GLASS BOTTOM BOAT
Cost Adult £22. Child £11. Excursion duration 2 hours.