Taking to the seas

The Thomson Dream cruise ship at sea

The Thomson Dream cruise ship at sea

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The white sign outside the enormous Colosseum made me chuckle.

Here, where 50,000 locals once cheered as Christians were chucked to the lions, today there is a list of ‘behaviour rules’.

‘Bicycles, skateboards or other motorised objects’ are forbidden, as is engaging in ‘any form of business’, and eating ‘in large groups’!

Wonder what Emperor Vespasian would have thought of that, when he began building the famous landmark in AD70?

We couldn’t stop and ponder for too long, though. With less than a day to take in the sights of the historical city of Rome, time was of the essence.

My family and I were cruising the western Mediterranean, aboard the 12-deck, 753-cabin Thomson Dream – the 53,000-tonne flagship of the Thomson Cruises fleet.

And, though Rome wasn’t built in a day, we were determined to prove that, with a bit of planning and decent walking legs, we could at least see most of its famous sights in our allotted seven hours.

We could easily have spent many more hours, days even, exploring Rome.

But this is the nature of cruises – though your time in each place is limited, there are other benefits.

Firstly, after our hectic and hot day, we were looking forward to a relaxing dip in one of the ship’s two pools.

And, as so many families discover when they take to the high seas, cruising is a highly effective way of exploring Europe while keeping a pretty tight grip on your spending.

All tips for the crew are included in the original price, so the only extras are on-board drinks and excursions.

Thomson Dream, a ship which originally entered service in 1986, is by no means the biggest cruise ship afloat (she carries up to 1,500 passengers and 600 staff). But even at full capacity she has the happy knack of feeling spacious.

Four restaurants offer everything from six-course dinners to burgers, pasta and pizza, and a varied 24-hour buffet.

And if you really want to push the boat out, there’s The Grill, the ship’s intimate premier restaurant (cover charge required).

There’s plenty of deck space for sun-worshippers, and lots to do inside, too, including concerts, games and quizzes, plays, a library with internet access, health club, sports deck, kids’ club, and even a beauty salon.

When the sun goes down, there are five bars, three lounges, lots of shops, including a well-stocked duty free, and a casino.

The impressive, two-storey Broadway Show Lounge (where highlights on stage include comedy and a line-up of singers) was packed every night.

Thomson Dream is a cashless ship – to pay for things you just show your room key, which you are given after registering a credit card before you board.

The ship’s currency is sterling, and bar prices are similar to those you’d expect to pay at home.

Our seven-night Treasures of the Mediterranean cruise took us from Palma, Majorca; to Trapani, Sicily; Naples; Civitavecchia (for Rome); Ajaccio, Corsica; Palamos, Spain, and back to Palma (itineraries change slightly throughout the summer).

The range of excursions on offer leaves you spoilt for choice; three or four trips are available at each resort.

By the time you are deposited in Majorca to catch the flight home, you will be amazed by the sights, sounds and memories that you’ve packed into seven days.

ESSENTIALS

Stephen White was a guest of Thomson Cruises which offers seven-night Treasures of the Mediterranean cruises on Thomson Dream from £947 (saving £200 per person), ex-Palma to Olbia, Naples, Rome, Villefranche, and Palamos. Price is based on two adults sharing cabin, ex-Gatwick/ Manchester in mid-August.

Price includes return flights, cabin/fuel supps, transfers, service charges and tips. Upgrade to an All Inclusive basis (covering all drinks onboard) from £199 per person.

Reservations: Thomson travel shop on 0871 231 3243 or at thomson.co.uk/cruise

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