February 1, 2023

Cruising is fun (Cayman Islands stop)

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341E421000000578-3587385-image-a-17_1463132323825Thought cruising wasn’t for you? A first-timer is forced to think again after touring the Caribbean high seas in style


Sadie Whitelocks and mother Laura had never been cruising before embarking on 7-day trip aboard Thomson Dream
Investigating negative perceptions surrounding cruising, they toured Mexico, Cuba, Cayman Islands and Jamaica
Thomson recently launched the #notforme campaign to challenge peoples’ pre-conceived ideas of ‘tacky’ cruises
‘#Notforme’ would have been the exact hashtag I would have used to caption a photo of a cruise liner previously.
But after losing my cruising virginity and taking to the high seas, I can say with a great deal of surprise that I have been converted.
In seven days, thanks to a nimble ship that could sail around 13 knots / 24 km per hour, I’d hit Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba and the Cayman Islands and packed in so much stuff it had felt like a month’s long adventure. One minute I was tootling around Cuban tobacco fields and then another I was weaving in and out of Mayan ruins.

I’d heard on the grapevine chatting to friends that cruising is ‘back in vogue’ – especially with the social media conscious, who revel in posting photographs from new destinations everyday.
‘#jetsetterlife here we come!’ I decided to test the theory, hopping aboard the Thomson Dream ship with my mother, Laura, who was also a cruising virgin at 57.
The two of us were very unsure about what we were letting ourselves in for. Some people told us we would have the ‘time of our lives’ while others inferred that spending a week bobbing along with 1,500 other passengers would be ‘hellish’.
The verdict was out.
There were a plethora of different tours to choose from in the Thomson brochure – from Barbados to Belize to Bahrain – but we opted for the Cuban Fusion sail, as it incorporated a good mix of destinations.
Havana had been on my ‘to do’ list for years, while mum was keen to see the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico.
A ten-hour Thomson Airways flight from London, Gatwick, took us the lush green wilds of Montego Bay in Jamaica.
Once there, we were efficiently shuttled from the airport to the port to board our home for the next seven days.
With some Jamaican musicians playing steel drums and guitars in the background, we checked into the ship and found our room. The cabin was a great size for mum and I, with a shower and bath, wardrobe and dressing mirror.
The boat was smaller that we imagined but a good size to navigate. In total the Thomson Dream – built in 1984 – boasts two swimming pools, a spa, disco, casino, shops, six restaurants eight bars and 767 cabins.
It might sound intimidating but an American cruise liner we pulled up next to in Mexico was quadruple the size… with a staggering 28 restaurants and 5,000-plus passengers.
Among the six restaurants on our boat, there were two ever-flowing all-you-can-eat buffet stations. ‘That’s the trouble with cruising, non-stop eating!’ one man joked to us at lunchtime as he patted his tummy, while the catering manager jibed at an introductory gala dinner that it was his job to ‘shrink our clothes.’
However, battling against the artery-clogging stereotype of cruising, mum and I veered on the healthy side. We visited the salad station at lunch – which was full of fresh ingredients – and ditched dessert. We also made use of the onboard gym, running every morning before a tropical fruit plate for breakfast.
Surprisingly we weren’t the only ‘cruising virgins’ on board the Thomson Dream. One morning we met Joanna and Robert from Dorset. Joanna, who has 100k followers on Instagram using the handle @joanna, had been invited on the Thomson Dream to get some photos and give her take on things.
Thomson recently launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign encouraging guests to post photos to Instagram using the hashtag ‘#notforme’ while sailing in a bid to change the perception of ‘tacky’ cruises that only appeal to an older market and it appears the initiative has been working.
One of Sadie’s excursions was to Havana, Cuba
During their day at sea Sadie enjoyed a hot stone massage aboard the ship
‘I’m really surprised,’ Joanna, a mother-of-two said with a smile on her face, ‘we’re actually really enjoying the cruise and we’ve seen so much. We would never have dreamt of doing something like this before.’
Her husband Robert agreed that he’d also become a cruising convert and he now understood his sister’s love of sailing holidays.
Another man we spoke to, Phil – a retired insurance worker from Surrey who had ‘travelled the world’ during his career – said he was having fantastic time on his first cruise. He was travelling solo as his fiancé was unable to join him. He was spending two weeks on the ship, staying on after the Cuban Fusion tour to head to Belize and Panama.
The only downside to cruising Phil said was the ‘lack of variety’ when it came to the buffet food. However, mum and I recommended he try one of the a la carte restaurants on board which offered the options of BBQ surf and turf, Indian, Chinese and or a six-course tasting menu extravaganza.
After leaving Jamaica we spent a day at sea. Ready for some recuperation we booked a couple of spa treatments. I went for a hot stone massage while mum went for a lymphatic drainage treatment. Hands down it was the best massage I’d had in a while, the last being at a five-star hotel in New York.
The Filipino masseuse told me she’d been on the cruise liner for eight months and was ‘loving it’. That seemed to be a common theme among the 600 staff. From the drinks waiters, dressed in bold Hawaiian shirts to the cabin cleaners, everyone seemed to have permanent – and genuine – smile fixed on their faces.
First stop on the cruise was Cozumel, Mexico. At each place we docked there were an array of excursions to pick from for an added cost.
Mum and I picked a tour of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Ready for a 6:30am departure, we boarded a local boat and skimmed across the water to Playa del Carma as the blush-colored sun rose. From there we boarded a coach and headed into the heart of the island.
It was a long coach ride – 2.5 hours – but well worth the drive. Once stopped we found ourselves in a tropical oasis: birds flitting around, with palms blowing in the balmy breeze. Our guide Felipe showed us around the breathtaking Mayan ruins before we tucked into a traditional Mexican feast.
From that day onward, the cruise became an increasing blur as we moved on to new destinations almost everyday.
Havana, Cuba, was our next stop and the stories I’d heard about the ‘time-stopped beauty’ of the city were all I’d dreamed of. In just two days we managed to pack in an ample amount of fun.
On the first day we indulged in a cocktail of Hemmingway’s favourite drinking holes, including El Floradita – a bustling and lively bar nicknamed ‘the cradle of the daiquiri’.
At night we sampled some Latin flavour, thanks to a tour on offer by Thomson, taking a convertible vintage car to the world-famous Tropicana cabaret club. The open-air jungle-like venue, founded in 1939, was breathtaking and the dancers’ outrageous costumes were mind-blowing. At one point the women were wearing chandelier headdresses and the next they sashayed across the stage with meter-high fruit bowls as crowns.
The following day, not feeling too groggy from the run of rum mojitos, we headed to the Cuban countryside. From the list of Thomson excursions, mum and I opted for a tour of some limestone caves, tobacco fields and Mural de la Prehistoria one of the biggest – and most bizarre – rock murals in the world.
During the day we spoke to fellow passengers, who were for the most part cruising pros. ‘We’ve been all over the world, it’s a great way of seeing things,’ one man from Malta told us with his wife nodding along.
After a week of experiencing several destinations on one trip, Sadie and her mum are planning their next cruising holiday
After a week of experiencing several destinations on one trip, Sadie and her mum are planning their next cruising holiday
While there were lots of couples on the ship, there were also families, singletons and mother-daughter duos like us. Mum and I agreed that the cruise was a great way of spending time together because we could switch off and follow the itinerary booked in with Thomson.
After our Cuban adventure we set sail, with a glass of champagne in hand, and headed off towards the Cayman Islands. After spending five days on the water we were keen to get in the crystal-clear blue.
We picked a snorkelling tour with Thomson, visiting the famous Stingray City Sandbar on Grand Cayman. The morning excursion was magical. After arriving at port we were shuttled by bus to a boat. From there we travelled to the spread of shallow sandbars where dozens of stingrays gather. A guide helped us to pet and stroke the haunting creatures as they glided around us and through our legs.
After all of the excitement of the morning, mum and I took it easy on the beach and sampled some delicious cocktails, including a Cayman Colada – a pina colada with Chambord drizzled on top – and a long island iced tea. Sat looking at the ocean, mum and I agreed what an amazing week it had been.
Our pre-conceived ideas of cruising had been completely turned on their heads. I hadn’t told friends I was going on a cruise but I posted lots of photos to Instagram. The photos garnered hundreds of likes in total with many amazed at how many destinations I was hitting. ‘How are you doing this?’ one friend mused after I put up a picture of Cuba, following on from a shot in Mexico.
If I’m asked the secret to seeing lots of the world with a limited amount of time and budget, my answer would now be cruising.
Let go of those negative perceptions and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Mum’s already thinking about her next cruising holiday – something I never thought I’d hear her say in a million years!

Sadie spoke to two of the new wave of Instagram stars who are shifting attitudes towards cruising by showcasing a whole host of glamorous locations to their fans, while sailing across the high seas.
Young holidaymakers who have never cruised before seem shocked that it’s possible to effortlessly access exotic and diverse locations each day, all while kicking back in top accommodation.
Jiri Sifta who has 263,000 followers on Instagram commented:
‘The experience was so relaxed, and we had so much fun visiting different destinations.
‘I had tons of excited comments on my images with people messaging their friends saying they had to visit the places I’d been to.’
While popular Instagrammer, Matt Scutt who has 315,000 followers said that he was a cruising virgin but had enjoyed the experience.
‘The main highlights were swimming with sea turtles which is an amazing experience.’
He added: ‘I was very surprised at how well each of the excursions were managed and how much fun they were.’
In terms of the images he was able to take while on the cruise and the feedback he received from his photography fans, Scutt said:
‘I had nothing but positive feedback on my photos from the trip.
And he revealed the destinations he would be keen to try next on a cruise:
‘I would love to do Cuban trip or around the Mediterranean.’

Thomson Cruise’s Cuban Fusion trip costs from £1078pp, including flights and based on two adults sharing. The price includes full board with an optional drinks package available.
Daily excursions are available at each destination at an added cost.

Thomson Dream – built in 1984 – boasts two swimming pools, a spa, disco, casino, shops, six restaurants eight bars and 767 cabins
The centrally located cabins measure 15-16m² and feature two beds that convert to a queen-size bed, some of them have additional foldaway upper berths or a sofa-bed to accommodate an extra one or two people. The en suite bathrooms have a shower and a WC
Among the six restaurants on the boat, there were two ever-flowing all-you-can-eat buffet stations but Sadie and her mother Laura opted for healthy salads at meal times. Pictured is the Explorer’s Lounge
The Broadway Show Lounge puts on two performances each night offering musical entertainment and comedy from UK guest acts
During their day at sea (right) Sadie enjoyed a hot stone massage aboard the ship. One of Sadie’s excursions was to Havana, Cuba (left)
The pair picked a snorkelling tour and swam in the aqua waters of Grand Cayman and the famous Stingray City Sandbar
From the list of Thomson excursions, Sadie opted to tour the limestone caves, tobacco fields and the Cuban wilds near the small town of Viñales (pictured)
Sadie and her mother who was also a cruising virgin at 57 (right). The pair at Chichen Itza in Mexico on one of the ship’s excursions (left)
In seven days, Thomson Dream sailed around 13 knots / 24 km per hour visiting Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba and the Cayman Islands

For more on this story go to: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-3587385/Thought-cruising-wasn-t-timer-forced-think-touring-Caribbean-high-seas-style.html#ixzz49IcThfAo

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