As our first cruise we weren't sure what to expect, so we chose this as it was reasonably priced and informal. Subsequently, we found Island Escape to be an ideal introduction to the world of cruising.
It has been a few years now since we sailed, and the boat has had a few alterations during this time- mostly the takeover of Island Cruises by Thomson. However, I will try and write a review as best I can based on my experience.
This is a relaxed and informal cruise, so no dress code or set dinning times to adhere to. Since there was no set tables at meal times, we found this to be one of the best boats we have been on for meeting other people.
The ship itself is rather old by today's standards. It is also quite small and lacks some of the extra amenities that larger, more modern ships have. However, it was well kept and maintained, and had the standard things- swimming pool, hot tubs, gym, casino etc.
The dinning options on board included a buffet More
style canteen, a buffet style main restaurant and a speciality restaurant. We never tried the speciality one so cant comment on this, but we were more than happy with both of the buffets. There was always a good choice of food available- both myself and my mum are veggie/picky, but always found plenty to eat. Whilst the restaurants were self service, we still found the waiters to be very friendly and attentive.
There was always plenty going on in terms of entertainment. There was a wide variety of British Game Shows, which were always good for a laugh. Also singers/dancers/karaoke/party nights etc. I cant really remember much about the main shows, however i'm sure these were also good (I certainly cant remember anything bad!)
The ports of call were generally good. I have noticed that the 2 ports which weren't that great have since been dropped from the itinerary.
Overall for us, this was a great introduction to cruising. It is quite reasonably priced, however doesn't necessarily come with quite the same standard/attention to detail as some of the larger lines (RCI, NCL etc). Perhaps if you have already been with some of these larger lines, you might find this cruise a bit of a step back. However for the cost, it provides a great little holiday with good food and entertainment. As previously mentioned, it has been a few years now since we sailed, and the company has since been acquired by Thomsons, so things may be a bit different now. Looking at pictures on the net, the cabins look like they could do with a bit of a refurb, and its certainly a different experience to some of the other ships we have since been on (Oasis/Allure etc). That said, I would give it another go, and recommend to others, especially first time cruisers or those who want a more relaxed/informal experience. Less
Walking tour around Florence with time to explore on own. Good way to get your bearings and see some of the highlights. Florence itself has plenty to see and can easily put a day in there (more if you like history). Only problem is the distance to port- we docked in La Spezia which was about 90mins-2hrs away. (La Spezia also worth a look). Most boats however dock in Livorno which is a bit closer
Rome on your own- a bit expensive since you were just getting transport, but the best way to do it if there are specific things you want to see. Overall as a port- great choice, cant really go wrong. Plenty to see/do. Only problem is port is at least an hours drive away so cuts into your sightseeing time quite a bit.