Mayan Treasures Cruise on Thomson Dream or maybe Thomson Nightmare?

I freely admit that I’m not a cruise fan. I’m a senior traveller who enjoys planning my own holiday itineraries. I don’t like being organised and I don’t like holidaying with large groups. So a cruise didn’t strike me as a dream holiday, more like a nightmare!

Thomson Dream berthed in Costa Maya
Thomson Dream berthed in Costa Maya

However, when browsing through the Thomson (now TUI) Cruises website on a cold wintry day in January, their Mayan Treasures cruise around the sunny Caribbean on the Thomson Dream seemed like a good idea. I booked it for the following month and approached it with an open mind.

Well reasonably open. I still had ideas of being confined to a dark, dingy cabin emerging occasionally to queue for second-rate meals, followed in the evening by third-rate entertainment.

I also had concerns about the Thomson/Tui organisation based on my experience when booking the cruise, as discussed in a previous article: Thomson Cruises: Pros and Cons. So the signs were not good.

‘Paradise’ island of Roatan

However, having just completed the cruise, I’ve got to admit it proved to be a very enjoyable experience, with the Pros very much outnumbering the Cons. Not quite a dream holiday, but most certainly not a nightmare!

Mayan Treasures Cruise Itinerary

I travelled out to Montego Bay by Thomson Airways and spent a week at Clubhotel Riu Negril, before boarding the Thomson Dream back in Montego Bay. I’ll be reporting on the flight and holiday hotel in future articles.

The seven night cruise involved a day at sea before spending a day on the ‘paradise’ island of Roatan in Honduras. The following day was spent at Trujillo on the Honduran mainland. When I booked the cruise, it had appeared we would be stopping at Belize City rather than Trujillo, but never mind, Trujillo was a fascinating un-touristy town. If it was good enough for Columbus to visit in 1502, then it was good enough for me!

At the El Castillo pyramid in Chichén Itzá
At the El Castillo pyramid in Chichén Itzá

The final two stops were in Mexico at Costa Maya and on the island of Cozumel. This permitted excursions to the Mayan sites at Dzibanche, Kohunlich and Chichén Itzá. These were definitely the highlights of the week, with the Dzibanche and Kohunlich sites being particularly impressive, as the ruins were almost immersed in the dense jungle.

After a final day at sea, we were back to Montego Bay and the flight home.

Pros for the Mayan Treasures Cruise

• The cabin – an Outside Plus grade – was light and airy with a sofa, chair and table. There was a small fridge, tea/coffee making facilities and a bath and shower. Much better than I had expected.

Bright and airy cabin
Light and airy cabin

• The food was of a surprisingly high standard. We ate most nights in the Orion waiter service restaurant with many choices on a four course menu.

• We didn’t have to queue for the restaurant on any occasion and were always asked whether we wished to sit alone or with other passengers.

• Drinks on board were a reasonable price e.g. £3.80 for a Newcastle Brown and £1.80 for a tonic water. The duty free shop on board sold one litre bottles of Gordon’s gin for just £9.

• Hygiene on board was high priority with many hand sanitisation stations. No food or drinks were served on a self-service basis.

• The entertainment was of a high standard with one hour shows every night. We even found the comedian amusing and, unusual nowadays, not crude.

Waiter service restaurant
Orion waiter service restaurant

• This is very much a British boat. All transactions on board are in pounds sterling, so no problems with exorbitant exchange rates. But, if you go on holiday to escape Brits, then this cruise would not be for you.

• There were relatively few children on board. Maybe it’s the ‘Grumpy Old Man’ syndrome, but that’s a definite plus for this senior traveller.

• There was very little queuing to get on and off the boat, even when tenders were used to get ashore at Trujillo.

• There was plenty of choice for on-shore excursions. Most were suitable for senior travellers, although on the island of Roatan the Carambola Botanical Gardens trail proved too much for some less nimble seniors. In general the excursions were well organized with good quality transport and knowledgeable guides.

Kohunlich ruins almost immersed by dense jungle
Kohunlich site almost immersed in the dense jungle

• Thomson/TUI Cruises have a no-tipping policy. Many cruise lines, particularly American ones, add on large amounts to your prepaid fare in compulsory tips. The only tipping was for the on-shore excursions and we felt the drivers and guides deserved them.

• Suitcases were collected the final night of the cruise to be picked up at our arrival airport back home. Apparently it works the same way if going directly from a flight to a cruise. Very convenient.

Cons for the Mayan Treasures Cruise – Relatively Small Things

• Lack of loungers on board. It could be difficult to get a lounger on the ‘at sea’ days, although to be fair to the crew, they did try to stop passengers ‘reserving’ them with towels.

Historic Trade House in Trujillo
Historic Trade House in central Trujillo

• A safe is a necessity when taking a cruise, particularly when making on-shore excursions. So for Thomson to charge £15 a week to use the in-cabin safe is penny-pinching.

• As also is charging to use Wi-Fi internet access on board. It costs virtually nothing to provide Wi-Fi, so why try to obtain £8 per hour from passengers? Most hotel chains have now stopped charging.

So am I keen to book another cruise? Well, yes and no. The Thomson Pride of Panama cruise does appeal as a convenient way to visit Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. But, overall, I must admit I do prefer the freedom of independent travel!

See also a previous report on a Thomson Holiday: Thomson’s Yucatan Explorer Tour of Mayan Sites in Mexico