As a 'novice' cruiser, I had read the other reviews with some trepidation..but decided to go with an open mind, as we don't all have the same taste in holidays. My first impression was as previously noted by other holidaymakers, that the ship was tired and in dire need of a makeover...where is Gok when you need him?!
The cabin, although kept clean by Warren our happy cabin steward, was basic and in need of some TLC. The compact & bijou bathroom, needed to be ripped out and replaced, but I somehow doubt that is going to happen, even though the ship is currently on it's final cruise for the year before going in to get a refurb. The communal areas, bars, theatre, etc., are also sub-standard, so I hope that ripped chairs and stained carpets will be replaced, and not just tarted up. Admittedly the cruise is only 3*, so one should have lower expectations...The staff were generally friendly, with exceptions in Customer Relations and the Gift Shop, who I found quite surly...Funny that the two most interfacing departments were the most hostile to deal with.
We went on three escorted tours, so that we could get a better feel of the countries we were visiting. The tours were fairly expensive, given that two were almost written off due to the poor weather conditions. In Trapani, the fog immersed Erice, so we literally couldn't see in front of us, let alone enjoy the view down the mountain after getting off the cable car. The visit to Pompeii was most interesting, but the weather conditions again ruined the visit, and our guide, a charming Orlando Bloom lookalike, was dressed for winter!
Visiting St Tropez the home of Brigitte Bardot was an eye opener, as the actual resort is small, and not as you'd imagine. But very pretty and worth a visit, as it's not somewhere you would normally holiday at - far too expensive!!
The food on board although plentiful and well cooked, could have been slightly warmer, but that would be my only comment...No wonder they say that you gain a couple of pounds a day whilst cruising - I can understand why if you eat everything that's put in front of you. The Island Restaurant seemed to be the eatery of choice for the majority of the passengers, as it was more formal than the other option, the Beachcomber Restaurant, which used plastic picnic plates and cups. The Oasis Restaurant had an additional cover charge, but everyone who'd eaten there commented on the high standard of service and food, so it was money well spent!
The entertainment was varied...I enjoyed a couple of visiting acts, La Musica and Bobby Knutt...The service in the bars was generally good, and Nandy should be given a bonus by Thomson's for his 'service with a smile' - nothing was too much trouble for him.
My worst complain though is reserved for the Customer Relations dept, as I visited them on 3 occasions to see if I could change my room...I was always told that the ship was full! On the last but one day, after a really bad nights sleep due to the turbulent weather conditions at sea (my cabin lurched and rattled all night!), I went again, to be told that maybe they could move me somewhere else after all - I was on deck 9, forward, port side, which I have since been told is the worst place to be...especially for a non-sailor like me!! I declined the move as I would have been leaving the ship in less than 36 hrs, and this was met with disdain by the 'happy' Customer Relations dept.
This cruise ship is fine if you have low expectations, but it's not cheap, as some reviews have stated, as I paid over 1000 for a weeks holiday....I could have gone to a 5* hotel for that, and somehow wish I had!! If you like to cruise without formality then this could be for you...unfortunately not for me...I have one rule when going on holiday - the standard should be on a par or better than my own home...sadly Island Escape failed to achieve this.