The Thomson Spirit was built in the northern French shipyard at St Nazaire in the 1980s and does not have the romance of the classic interiors of the 1960s British built Island Breeze. However, the new Thomson's ships offer excellent comfort, functionality and facilities with excellent public spaces which, it has to be admitted, surpass those of the old ship. An unexpected bonus of the new Thomsons cruises aboard the Thomson Spirit is the quality of entertainment. In January 2006 the entertainment team put on nightly shows, superbly sung, costumed and choreographed including Egyptian dancing, an Africa evening, an Elvis evening and a Moulin Rouge. During the day they were to be found giving impeccable performances of "The Importance of Being Earnest".
The Turbo Steam Ship TSS IslandBreeze run by Premiere Cruises and Thomsons Holidays represents the best bargain on the Mediterranean. With an excellent itinerary it is the webmaster's recommendation of the year, (1998) even for experienced cruisers. Sadly Thomsons stopped running the Island Breeze but the comments which follow - scroll down this page for details of other ships - will be of interest if you are planning a Mediterranean Cruise.
In general the webmaster doesn't like the current giant ships - there are too many tourists crowding out your destinations - and he likes Steam Turbine ships which are smoother. Sadly the Island Breeze was been rebranded as the Big Red Boat III and painted a hideous red. That company went bust and the Island Breeze re-appeared in the Thomsons Autumn 2001 brochure for 2002, but sadly they withdrew it. The webmaster loved the Island Breeze, has no knowledge of the Thomson's Topaz and feels that the diesel powered Emerald looks too top heavy.
People on their n'teenth cruise who have "done" all the cruise ships they can will tell you that this is a brilliant ship. "We went on the QE2 - but it was too big - we're really enjoying this ship". "We enjoyed the SS France and we're enjoying this too". "This ship compares with the Oriana" they say. And others will simply tell you they've been on this ship year after year. The SS IslandBreeze is really in a class of its own and it is gathering an enthusiastic following. For those worried about travelling by ship, The Island Breeze is one of the most stable around having been built to sojourn the Atlantic route from Britain down to South Africa for the Union Castle Line. She was built in London as the SS TransVaal Castle in January 1961. She weighs 32,000 tons, is 760 ft long with a draft of 32 ft and a cruising speed of 22 knots. The draft is the depth of the ship below the water: the greater the draft the more stable the ship if the sea is choppy.
A typical email we receive : "Do,you know if the Islandbreeze will be in the Mediterranean in summer 1999? I know she is off Africa in the Canaries at the moment and will be working out of Fort lauderdale in the New Year and back to Africa next Fall but I can't find out where she will be over the summer. We travelled on her in the Caribbean last March and really enjoyed it and would like to try the Mediterranean on her if she is going to be there."
This cruise ship features top satisfaction ratings in Thomson's customer surveys. If you have children or grandchildren, take them. It's the most wonderful way to introduce them to so much of our cultural heritage, visiting Etna, Pompeii, Rome and prehistoric remains on Sardinia. You can avoid "culture overload" by taking them off to the beaches at Palma Nova in Majorca, Menton or Nice near Villefranche, Ajaccio on Corsica and Son Bou or Punta Prima in Minorca. There's Kids Club away from the adults in the evenings so you'll be able to have a couple of hours away from the young ones. Not many children are normally to be seen and the Thomsons "Young People Representative" treats them all as special people in a very loving and caring way.
For adults too the quality of the holiday is supreme as are also the itinerary and organised tours (of Rome, Florence, Pisa, Livorno, Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, Villefranche, Nice, Malta, Valetta, Sardinia, Corsica, Mahon, Menorca and Barcelona). The cruise starts from Palma in Mallorca and flights are organised from airports throughout the UK. If you are flying from Gatwick, here's somewhere to stay the night before.
You can fax the SS Island Breeze to communicate with passengers on board + 871 81 110 3150 (00 871 81 110 3150 from within Europe). If you want to contact the ship by telephone the number is +871 110 3150.
If you have already booked to go on the ship you've made a wise choice. When you look at other ships on the Mediterranean itinerary you'll be in love with the T SS Island Breeze without a doubt. Another ship that you would do well to book on through Thomson Cruises is the SS Rembrandt. This ship was formerly the pride and joy of the Holland America Line and is well revered alongside the IslandBreeze. The crew of both ships say that they would much rather cross the Atlantic in them than any others in terms of stability and of seeing the thickness of the metal construction below decks. These ships were built to cross the Atlantic and were not just built for show and glittery splendour.
Mediterranean cruise tip: try to find a photograph of the rear of any cruise ship you book on . . . Some ships which are built for just packing on the cruise passengers to have a good time, plenty of drink and exciting night life do not give you the best touring performance if you are going to interesting places. . . There is nothing more exciting if you love ships than being able to stand on deck outside, fore and aft wherever you want and watching the ship manoeuvre into a tight space in the sort of historic harbour which abounds in the Mediterranean: coming through the narrow entrance to Valletta and Messina are good examples whilst the Mahon, the port of Menorca, requires the utmost skill of the Master of the ship. The IslandBreeze is the largest ship that can safely navigate Mahon.
Another joy, if you want to experience Italy, is being able to go up to breakfast and have it outside on deck overlooking the Port of Livorno before departing for Pisa, Lucca and Florence. The port is traditional and exhudes the spirit of Italy and the experience of entering it in the traditional way on a boat and visually savouring it with breakfast is supreme. The back end of many modern superliners is occupied by private rooms rather than space that everyone can enjoy. The IslandBreeze was built for the complete experience of comfortable travelling and this ship is really ideal for the Mediterranean heritage: other ships prioritise mere onboard pleasure seeking.
Here's another email we received:
I saw your page on the TSS Festivale now Island breeze, it felt like you
manage to get some of the warmth and magical air that fills that
I boarded back in 1989 as a purser stayed for 12 months, back then the master was an italian , Captain Castagnino was a true sailor, started at sea at 17 and never managed to leave it, white hair and a very prominent nose. A special relationship developed between the ship and him as he served most of his years with CCL on it. She is what a ship should be like he used to say while having a cup of coffee at 5:00am as the sun began to come out.
I met my wife on that ship and we both remember very dearly, we had to deal with Hurricane Hugo back then, we disembarked our passengers in San Juan at 6:30 am and managed to get out of San Juan Bay as the storm was moving in Captain Castagnino took the wheel himself that day and what a display it was no vissibility, horrible waves and a very narrow port entrance but she responded to every command and sailed out in style.
Dipping the bow gracefuly in the gray and white water only to rise as the most graceful sea creature. We will never forget that ship. The last of the true vessels.
Dr & Mrs Eduardo H. Loyola, MD.
Here's Thomsons Emerald:
People who go on her report that her character is different but they've enjoyed her. Many prefer the sleeker lines, superior stability and smooth Steam Turbines of the Island Breeze.
Here's the Italian Costa Romantica in Palma harbour:
She's a bit slab sided and high with a layout maximising port hole cabins but many say that the service you get on Italian owned boats is second to none.
She weighs 54,000 tons and is 718 feet long with a 25 ft draft and a cruising speed of 20 knots.
Here's the MV Costa Marina in Messina Harbour:
The Costa boats all have this distinctive funnel set and the MV Costa Marina has a lot of glass obervation areas. The CostaMarina is smaller than the Costa Romantica weighing in at just over 25,000 tons and 572 ft long.
Thomsons competitors in the budget cruise range are Airtours who run "Going Places". They run the MV Sundream on similar itineraries. In the light of the departure of the Island Breeze from the Med and from Thomson's holidays, this ship is worth a try. The MV Sundream is nearly 640 ft long and weighs just over 23,000 tons. She was formerly the MV Song of Norway run by Royal Carribbean Cruises. If you've already booked to go on the ship you'll have a good time: people on the IslandBreeze said the MV Sundream was a good ship . . . but many still prefer the sleek lines and clean smooth steam turbines of the Premiere Cruises ship. Before you go with Airtours, however, early in 1999, a search for MV Sundream on AltaVista gave reason to suggest that you should investigate and put the company to strict enquiries. Ever wondered why the MV (Motor Vessel) or MS (Motor Ship) boats have a fin protruding behind the funnel? The fin is not just fashion . . . Here's the Sundeam entering and leaving Naples Harbour:
Also in Naples on the same day was a new monster ship, the MS Splendour of the Seas:
Whilst from this angle she looks quite romantic, she tips an obscene number of people into the Mediterranean ports, tourist and heritage attractions, overrunning Pompeii like swarms of ants devouring the atmosphere and wearing away the heritage as they go. From the side she looks like a multi-storey tower block of flats on water with a flying saucer on top and a stern best compared to the back end of a bus. (Wicked . . . :-) - Forgiveness please)
She entered service in March 1996 at 70,000 tons, has a cruising speed of 24 knots, is 867 feet long and a draft of 24 feet, 6 inches supporting a twelve or so storey building above the waves. The draft is important: note how this ship is taller and has a shallower draft than other cruise ships on this page. Coming out of Naples harbour in a choppy sea the Splendour of the Seas (not to be confused with the Grand Princess) the crew of the IslandBreeze on an Autumn evening in 1998 saw the Splendour rocking and rolling, dancing on the sea so much that the theatre stage allegedly broke. Reputedly she had to go into dock for emergency repairs the next day.