Island Escape Cruise Review by IAIN McNAIR: WHERE DO I BEGIN
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WHERE DO I BEGIN
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Wll, Where do I begin. Having had a week's stay in a Hotel, our first contact about the Island Escape was from people disembarking and "Staying" their second week. This was to inform us that we should "Not eat the Curry as everybody got food poisoning". Good start---NOT. On the night before joining the ship, the Company left a letter stating that boarding the next day would not be available until after 4pm as the whole ship was to have "a full sterilisation" as there had been an outbreak of "Gastroenteritis" to a few passengers (we later found out 250 people infected). Another not so good start.
However, we reached Port and were very quickly processed and allowed to board. This was almost the pinnacle of the Cruise.
Normally on other Cruises we have been escorted to our cabin and our luggage delivered within an hour. Not this time! We were left to find our own way to the cabin via a very small lift (the larger one was "Out of order" and stayed this way till we More disembarked). This problem of lifts meant long waits, jammed packed lifts and dotty people trying to go the wrong way on the lift.
We reached our Cabin on Deck 9 at rear of Ship with Balcony. This was indeed the highlight as the cabin was indeed quite deluxe. Plenty of room, double bed, enough wardrope space for hanging clothes, a recess with two seater couch and coffee table with complimentary basket of fruit and adequate Balcony with table and two chairs. This pleasure was as long as the ship remained docked (more of this later).We met our Cabin staff at this point, who explained as they had only been allowed back on ship, he had not been able to completely arrange the cabin. He suggested we go for a drink till he finished and our luggage arrived.
it was at this point we started to encounter what service we would receive for the rest of the cruise. We made our way to the "Sailaway Bar" and being All-Inclusive tried to order our drinks. Firstly, the Bar Staff pointedly ignored us and when we did succeed in ordering drinks, was met a sullen and rude reply from the Staff demanding "One Card for each drink" (On other ships only one was needed to order). On taking the order the Barman!!! quite sharply stated that the drink we had ordered was "Not Inclusive" This was a Lager and a whiskey(not premium). So our "All-Inclusive" Package was hardly worth the additional costs as any known brand of spirits was at extra cost. Therefore, unless you can get the early Free Upgrade, the All Inclusive is worthless.
And so we returned to our Cabin about an hor or so later. Still no Luggage had been delivered. We asked our Cabin Staff about it, only to be told that they were busy. After three hours and more enquiries one Case arrived and then again after more "demands" did our second case arrive four and a half hours after boarding. We heard later that other passengers who arrived after 6pm received theirs within an hour. Not a relaxing start before sailing.
So still in travelling clothes we turned thoughts to dinner. Not wanting to go to the more formal restaurant, we visited the "Beachcomber", an informal eating place. What a shambles. There seemed to be no organisation and people were wandering around all over the place carrying plates of food. The Buffet area had a long queue waiting for plates and cutlery. At the Buffet hatched Staff were arranged to serve from individual food trays. I believe this was a hygiene procedure and knowing some other passengers' habits. I could not be critical of this practice.It did cause problems however in that the order the food was presented seemed to be back to front, meaning people were going to the end of the Buffet line and doubling back. Chaos!!!!. One other problem we discovered at this point was on being served you only received what the Serving Staff wanted to give. If you preferred more of one food than another and requested some more, it seemed you were "Oliver" and was greeted with frowns and looks of incredulity. Once you had received your "Meal" you then had to find a table and this became a "Zoo" as people jostled and snarled if you came near their table. Thus by the time you reached a table the food, tepid at best on serving, was COLD. We only visited the "Cafe" when necessary.
We joined in with the party mood before departure and again seemed to turn invisible to Bar Staff. On other Thomson Cruises we were "befriended" by a Waiter/tress, who within one meeting knew our names and favourite tipple. Not this time!!! The Waters and Waitresses, what few there were, were more interested in "Selling Cigarettes" and talking to others. The entertainment at this point was the normal "Sailing Party Band" and suited at this time. Having had a long day we went to bed around midnight expecting to have a good night sleep in preparation for the week's Cruise. Again how wrong we were. As our Cabin was at the rear of the ship it was directly over the propellors. The Ship having been a Car Ferry, it had no curved stern only straight drop. This meant that the full vibration when sailing went up through the rear cabins and shook the whole place.
Bleary eyed we rose in the morning and following our experience, decided to breakfast in the main restaurant. Here you were shown to a table, along with 6 other people whether you liked it or not. Coffee/Tea was served by a Waiter but the Self Service Buffet was set out in the same strange order as the "Cafe" and you received the same questioning on asking for more of something. However, the food here was hot and enjoyable. Dinner in this restaurant had the same procedures.
Breakfast over, the fist day being one "at Sea" we made our way to the Pool area only to find the the "Selfish British" were here too. Towels were draped over sun-beds with no one near and would not be used, others seemed to be for storing bags, clothes and other items. Making the best of it we played them at their own game and made space for ourselves and basked in the sunshine.
The Entertainment was what we expected on this cruise both day and night, though the band "Rock The Boat" (was that the groups real name) was more suited to "Club" music and their music/songs suited only a minority of passengers. Perhaps we didn't enhance ourselves to others as we a "Quiz Buffs" and won most of the quizzes and the "Millionaire" Game. The visiting British "Comedian" was nothing more than poor and thinking his late night show might be better, were completely disappointed in that it was worse.
For the other days of the cruise we visited Ajaccio in Corsica, La Spezia in Italy, Villefranche and Toulon in France and Barcelona in Spain before returning to Palma. We did not take any of the Tours (too expensive and already been to places visited) but did our own thing by going ashore and touring the towns on our own. This was much more profitable in that we visited places we wanted to see and in our own time and speed.
Back to the boat. On retiring for the second night we thought that either we had become accustomed to the vibration or the boat was sailing better. Oh Dear, wrong again. Around 6am we were awoken by an awful noise and shaking of the cabin as if an earthquake had happened. the whole cabin was shaking and things threatened to fall from their places, what was happening, had there been some accident. NO, THE SHIP WAS JUST DOCKING. The noise and vibration continued for about an hour and a half before the ship was tied up and the for another half hour till the engines powered down. Then sublime peace and quiet, but by this time sleep had passed. This happened every morning thereafter, so early morning rises watching the sun come up from the balcony was the order for the week. Luckily it did.
By making our own way during the day, we were on board more than we have done in the past. As previously mentioned, staff on other cruises knew you addressed you as politely with your first name and had your drink almost waiting for you. Not on this Cruise. Not once was I recognised though your name is on the Ship's Card and perhaps because I Didn't "Tip", I seemed to become invisible and trying to order a drink became almost impossible. At times it took 15 to 20 minutes to get attention. Even then the order was seldom correct, having to be sent back many times. The Bar staff and Waiting staff looked as if they couldn't care.
All in All the cruise was not a good experience and not one we have come across in other Thomson Ships and have certainly have made our feelings known to Thomson. However, If you don't mind the rudeness of Staff, the hastle of being served, the blandness and tepid food, the selfishness of other cruisers, the noise throughout the boat whilst at sea combined with sleeplessness, the people who believe that the "Booze" is the cruise and are most unhygienic probably causing the illness of others. then don't hesitate to book an "Island Escape" Cruise. I CERTAINLY WILL NOT. Less
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