TUI Discovery: Behind the scenes on Thomson Cruises cruise ship

Thomson Cruises launched TUI Discovery in Palma, Majorca. Here's what's on offer.

It's not often you get to rub shoulders with a Grammy Award-winning artist, or watch a glittering show dreamt up by the team behind the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, but at the launch of Thomson's newest cruise ship, I was treated to both, and in significant style.

And it's style that Thomson, generally known for its cheap and cheerful family-fun holidays, is keen to inject into its cruise ships, as the company rebrands as TUI over the next 18 months.

TUI Discovery used to be Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas but a substantial refit has definitely added a touch of class.
After Jess Glynne belted out her number one hits at the launch party on the pool deck, David Burling from TUI spoke of Thomson Cruises' position in the market place.

"We are not No.1 [size-wise]," he said, "but we still want to be big, bold and ambitious with our brand. Value for money is our key USP and we're proud to offer small, friendly cruising."

Helen Caron, MD of Thomson Cruises, went one step further. "We've taken away the walls," she said, referring to the refit, "...and we've taken away the traditional ideas behind cruising. We're creating new dream cruises... with something for everyone."

The ship is, as you'd expect, very family-friendly. Facilities include a rock climbing wall, mini golf, a movie screen and a Break Out & Escape room, targeting the latest games trend in which players try to solve puzzles to break out of a "locked" room. But the refit has also catered for couples, with adult-focussed bars and small, tucked-away dining areas.

One of the biggest changes is the new Live Room which used to be a casino. It's now a bar with bright furniture and soundproofed floors so those in surrounding cabins can still get a good night's sleep!

If you prefer to relax, there are two pools and a spa. I particularly liked the "30 second attendance button" on the spa verandah - press it, and in less than a minute, a waiter appears, ready to serve you a drink.

There's more technology in the lounges (where you can order your drink on an iPad) and at Destination Services, where I tested an interactive screen that enables guests to make dinner reservations and book shore excursions at the press of a button. You can even touch up your cruise photos!

Of the ship's seven restaurants, five are inclusive, with one, Gallery 47-degrees, introduced solely in response to passengers' requests for Italian food.

There's also Kora La (non-inclusive), with a Pan-Asian menu designed by the former chef at Harrods, Ian Pengelly. Dishes include duck and watermelon salad and Thai green salmon curry, as spicy as you like.

"I want my food to be fresh and sexy!" Pengelly said, explaining the importance of good ingredients.

I asked him if he'd cooked when sailing before. "A little bit - but with a few vodkas it'll be easy," he joked.

TUI Discovery becomes Thomson's largest cruise ship, with 1,830 passengers, but it could be a taste of what's to come. Three more ships are joining the fleet over the next few years and all are of comparable size. Maybe for Thomson/TUI, slightly bigger is soon to mean better.

"The most important thing is for our ships to work for everyone," Christian Lacey from Thomson Cruises said. With TUI Discovery, Thomson seems to have got it right.

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