One of the most reputable names in the tour operating industry, Thomson has more than 40 years of experience in providing unforgettable holidays to its customers.
The operator recently consolidated its position by merging with TUI as it seeks to build on its rich history. A big part in the Thomson story has been played by its cruise division - an arm of its business that looks well-equipped to retain its strong position as the cruise industry continues to develop, inspiring new generations of travellers as it evolves.
Blast from the past
While Thomson has been operating for more than four decades, the arrival of the company in the cruise market came a little later. A new budget cruise business was devised by the firm in the 1970s, bringing luxury cruises to a new customer base.
The first liners to be chartered by Thomson set sail in 1973, though the waters were anything but calm - within three years, Thomson had withdrawn from what had become a struggling sector of the market.
It was not until 1995 that the Thomson Cruises which we know today emerged. Witnessing a growing mainstream market, Thomson returned into the cruise fray with its first ship, bringing a recognisable face to customers who may not have considered heading to sea for their holidays.
Since then, the cruise brand has grown to offer a genuinely diverse and accessible experience to its passengers. Thomson Cruise itineraries include voyages on the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, Morocco and the Canary Islands, Scandinavia and the Baltic, and the Caribbean. Ships have come and gone - such as the Topaz, Island Breeze and Sapphire - but the fleet remains strong at five vessels.
The largest vessel to be added to the fleet is Thomson Destiny, weighing in at a gross registered tonnage of more than 37,500. With entertainment options and Kidzone activities, the ship has helped Thomson become synonymous with the increasingly popular family cruising sector.
Thomson Spirit offers a touch more glitz, while Thomson Celebration is ideal for those looking to do as little as possible while away, with a range of spa and beauty facilities waiting to be enjoyed by pampered passengers.
More recently, the operator has added the Calypso, tapping into the more exclusive 'adults only' market. The move represented a new venture for the family-orientated line, welcoming only those who are aged over 16 on board. Guests can expect a more intimate experience aboard the Calypso, which at 135.4m long is Thomson's smallest ship.
The growth of Thomson Cruises as a brand has allowed the line to attract not only continued custom but also some big names to its operation. Acclaimed chef Aldo Zilli lent his inimitable touch to Thomson Celebration by opening his own restaurant in 2006 - an eatery which has proved so popular that on a recent itinerary that it scored a 99 per cent satisfaction rating.
It has also tapped into the UK's bug for the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing by securing the services of winners Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylovka as judges on its dancing tours aboard Destiny and, latterly, Celebration. Apparently going from strength to strength, Travel Weekly reported that Thomson Cruises welcomed its one millionth passenger in July last year.
If all that had not yet brought Thomson Cruises to the attention of the public, then one event in 2008 certainly did. Two sailors found themselves stranded off the coast of Portugal issued a mayday call to passing ships - a call that was heeded by Thomson Destiny. Having spent a week in treacherous conditions and with the prospect of further deterioration, the rescued pair were invited on board to enjoy the typical Thomson luxury as the ship made her way to Barbados.
Cruising into the future
Looking ahead, Thomson is set to continue to offer a high level of comfort and a range of dining and entertainment options to guests. This year sees the launch of a number of cruise tours including the one-off Tropical Transatlantic itinerary, which takes Thomson Destiny's passengers to ports of call in Antigua, Dominica, Tortola, Barbados and Funchal.
The launch of Island Escape on Mediterranean itineraries will add yet another facet to Thomson's increasingly diverse offering, promising to be the "most laidback ship in the fleet" yet.