We booked the 8 day Olives and Ouzo Cruise aboard the Island Escape departing 30th October 2012 through Cruise Deals, and arranged Special Assistance at the airports by telephone with Thomson, although done individually it is all part of the TUI Group, and this being our 5th cruise with TUI and another one with P&O we had an idea of the standard to expect. Our outbound from Cardiff Airport was OK, but when we reached Palma Airport where the people responsible for Special Assistance refused all but one request for a wheelchair (although there were ample hidden behind a screen) and forced disabled passengers to hobble through the airport, with very few company representatives to direct or assist to waiting coaches. On arrival at the port terminal again help was sparse and passengers were unsure where to go to label their baggage, and then to board the ship. The cabins were somewhat a disappointment very small but very clean, with two under standard size beds against either wall (which were uncomfortable) and a small table between, plus hanging space and a dressing table with hairdryer, also a shower room with wc and hand-basin which was quite adequate. Our cabin had a small outside deck over part of it and we were woken daily by staff dragging sunbeds across it as they put them out for the day. This is the tiniest cabin I have encountered and I and others nicknamed them the shed, some passengers found even more derogatory names. The safe in the cabin cost an extra Â£15 to use where on when we went on P&O Ventura there was no charge.
The restaurants, The Beachcomber and Island Restaurant were both buffets which we thought would be ideal because and it made a change from having to dress up for formal nights as on other cruises. The Island restaurant although a buffet you had to wait to be seated, then queue for
the buffet, on one night we entered the restaurant at 6-15 and finally got to the buffet at 7'o'clock the ship seemed absolutely full. The Beachcomber buffet had its own problems and seating there at meal times was at a premium. Although there was plenty of food on offer there wasn't a lot of variation as everything seemed to be covered in some sauce or other, there was very little that wasn't covered in some sticky mess that tasted very bland. The food was generally luke warm and time you got to your table and ate half the other half was cold. Fortunately there was a very good selection of fresh fruit. Hygiene in the restaurants and the ship was good, everywhere was clean and staff made sure you used the antibacterial dispensers when entering the food areas.
The Ocean Theatre shows were not the best, thought we didn't see them all but what we saw didn't inspire us to queue again. Apart from two of the cast who could actually sing very well, and Ross Roberts the Cruise Director who put so much into everything he did, without them I would have left the theatre very early. The one show that was excellent was the guest comedienne Brenda Collins who was hilarious. The theatre suffered the same problems as the rest of the ship, the amount of passengers seemed too many as some people queued for both performances of evening shows and were unable to get in the theatre on either occasion because it was full. The stage in the theatre was a joke, just a step up from the floor level so if you weren't in the front few rows vision was very poor.
The bars and lounges were always full, and there was no other seating as on other ships where seating is available in places away from the bars. The ship was just too full! All outside areas seemed to be available to smokers and for a non-smoker it is nice to be able to sit in the
sun away from the stink now and again the opportunities for this were few and far between.
The ship couldn't dock in Kalamati and tenders had to be employed, three tenders were used to shuttle passengers back and forth and this was very well organised.
The crew apart from the odd exception which was usually the bar waiters, were very helpful and good natured and worked very hard to provide a good service.
The ship throughout was very clean and hygiene was a priority, the main problem we and others saw was the ship was far too full for the facilities. People we spoke to were divided, some said they were quite happy others, about 50%, were like us disappointed. If this had been our first cruise we might have enjoyed it more but having experienced far better we expected more.
Would we cruise again on the Island Escape definitely 100% NO.