Thomson Cruises, habitually misspelled “Thompson Cruises,” is a unique enterprise. It is technically a cruise line, but it only owns one of the five ships it sails, and moreover it is owned by a travel agency, Thomson Holidays, which is, incidentally, the largest travel agency in the UK. In contrast, most cruise lines are standalone businesses, or else are owned by a larger conglomerate that operates several cruise lines, like Carnival Corporation or Royal Caribbean Cruises. (In other words, it is unusual for a travel agency to own a cruise line, as these agencies are normally in the business of arranging vacations, not operating them.) Additionally, cruise lines generally own all of the ships they operate. As we said, Thomson Cruises is a unique enterprise. Because it is a somewhat unorthodox operation, we have explained the cruise line, such as it is, in greater detail below, giving you a better idea of what Thomson Cruises is.
We should first mention that Thomson Cruises is a fairly small operation. It controls 1.4 percent of the cruise market, which is actually somewhat substantial compared to some of the truly small cruise lines (e.g., luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas), but it only offers cruises in Europe. When searching for cruises using the Thomson website, there are only two regions you can select: “Western Mediterranean” and “Eastern Mediterranean & Black Sea.” To be sure, this still leaves plenty of options from which to choose. Their cruises stop by lots of the classic ports associated with Mediterranean cruises (in Spain, Italy, and Greece, primarily), but they also hit ports in Croatia and Montenegro, and they even go further east places like Ashdod, Israel. Still, in limiting themselves to Europe/Mediterranean region, Thomson Cruises lacks the diversity of vacation possibilities offered by other cruise lines.
The cruise line is also almost exclusively focused on British vacationers, which can be clearly seen in the fact that Thomson offers various cruise packages – such as “Fly Cruise” deals – but all of the flights are from UK airports. Basically, Thomson Cruises has a more narrow focus than the larger, more well-known cruise lines out there. Thomson Cruises almost seems to exist in its own sphere, set apart from the broader cruise industry. Their voyages aren’t even listed on many of the cruise deal sites, such as CruiseDeals and Travelocity.
As for their ships, we mentioned that only one of them is owned by Thomson, and this is the Island Escape, which operates in the Canary Islands and the Western Mediterranean. The rest of the ships in the fleet are owned by other cruise lines or companies and are chartered to Thomson. The Thomson Spirit and the Thomson Celebration, which are roughly the same size, are both owned by Holland America Line. The Thomson Majesty is owned by Louis Cruises, which is a Cyprus-based cruise line. The situation with the biggest ship in the fleet, the Thomson Dream, is interesting. It is owned by TUI UK, which is an international travel group that ultimately owns Thomson Holidays, so in a sense Thomson owns the Thomson Dream, even though the Dream is technically “chartered” by Thompson. The details are not particularly important – what’s unusual is simply that Thompson doesn’t completely own all the ships it operates.
We have emphasized that Thomson Cruises is unique, but of course this doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the cruises themselves. The ownership arrangement of the cruise line – in terms of both who owns Thomson Cruises and what Thomson Cruises owns – is a little strange, but this doesn’t have any discernible influence on the experience of taking a cruise with Thomson. It is a fine company with many fans, fans who presumably don’t care much about who owns what.