Having cruised with Thomson and NCL in the past three years (all of which have been great) my wife and I decided to give the Island Escape a try; based mainly on the ports of call and that it was a "Thomson" cruise and that it was the ships first cruise of the season. This is no Thomson cruise....please believe me. Yes we had read the reviews (which were mixed) before we booked. Moral of the story is you get what you pay for...yes this cruise was slightly (and I mean slightly) cheaper than others - but it's no bargain..
So here goes with an honest assessment...
Boarding - painless and well organised.
Cabin - we were on deck 9 at the front of the boat. As with al cruises the cabin was small and that is where the comparison with the other cruises ends. The room obviously hadn't seen a refurbishment in years, unfilled holes in the walls from where previous pictures had been hung, wall paper peeling of the walls, furniture had obviously seen better days - couple of drawers were broken. The bathroom was a through back to the early 80's. Toilet seat was broken, tap dripped, fittings generally suffering from the signs of many years use without any TLC.
Given that this was the first cruise of the season imagine our surprise when on the last night we were greeted by brand new pillows and duvets in our room - all ready for the next cruise.......so much for it been the first cruise of the season.
Boat in general - clean, but again showing throughout the wear and tear of age. One of the lifts was out of order for the whole trip.
Food - quality was ok, variety etc. was very poor. We ate in mainly in the Ocean Restaurant - buffet service. Basically the choice was very limited. Evening meals were meat and veg (Sunday Dinner), salad and a themed meal - Chinese, Indian etc..... Service was very much get you and out as fast as they can. There was also a school canteen style restaurant with the same choice as the Ocean Restaurant. There were several other places to eat - which we didn't use so it would be unfair to pass comment. All I would say is from examining the menu's the choice was very limited for what was £17/head.
Entertainment - oh boy....the ships on board troupe were at best awful. We saw all 7 evening performances of which only 4 were by the ships troupe which says it all. The other 3 nights were UK based acts which were all very good. Given the age of the audience 5-95yrs I have to say that we found some of the main show entertainment very close to the mark. We are both open minded individuals with no qualms over sexuality however it there were a number of songs where the female members of the troupe were dressed in a fashion more suitable to a Ann Summers party than a family cruise!!!!. However the final straw had to be when the male cruise director, who seemed to take an un-naturally major role in all productions, took the stage dressed as a transvestite for a rock horror show number - now I've seen the RHS and dressed up for it but really on a family cruise!!!! - however given the cruise directors openness as to the fact he was gay - he just seemed to enjoy this escapade a little to much. In fact at least half the cruise directors jokes were based around his sexuality. The ships band were good as was some of the other entertainment.
Ports visited - no complaints and the excursions that we did (Pisa and Rome) were well organised if not slightly over priced. The other ports we visited were easily accessible from the boat without the need for an organised excursion.
Other things to do on board --- heavily promoted casino, really small pool and that's about it.
Disembarkation - once you left the boat you were very much left to your own devices.
So..did we report the state of our cabin - yes we did. Did they do anything about it..no they didn't. as the ship was full......
My advice is - if you not fussy about your cabin quality, quality of food, quality of entertainment and general appearance of the boat then you'll enjoy the cruise as the ports of call are excellent. If you are looking for a degree of class then there are plenty of other cruise lines that visit these destinations; granted they may cost slightly more.....but spend the money it'll be worth it.