This was my 22nd cruise but the first one on the Island Escape. We booked it for the choice of ports visited, the limited time at sea and the overall price. Having usually travelled with PO and Royal Carribean we were under no illusions of what to expect from this cruise ( my first cruise was on MV Bolero years ago! ). But we loved it!!!
So easy flying from. Bournemouth , no rushing around so relaxing start to our holiday . Palma airport and transfer to the ship was also easy and there was no time wasted getting us aboard the ship where we were greeted by friendly staff. Our cabin was on deck 4, lower down than we normally would choose but although a bit dated it was spotlessly clean. This continued throughout our 2 weeks onboard .....could not fault our cabin steward Elvin at all. And it was always a surprise opening our door as there would be a " friend" waiting for us ( my favourite was the monkey :)
She's not a large ship so we quickly found our bearings and had lunch in the Island Restuarant , buffet style as would be for the rest of the cruise, waiters work really hard and the choice of food was more than adequate for all types of diners. Drinks orders were obtained quickly and we found that our wine glasses were always topped up without having to ask. Only thing that I didn't like was the coffee except in Cafe Brasil but then you do pay extra for it.
Upstairs on deck 10 the Beachcomber was fine for a quick bite at lunchtime and again the staff work hard to keep tables clean and clear of plates etc. The swimming pool was very small and there didn't seem to be enough sun loungers throughout the top areas of the ship .... Unless you are up at 8am each day it is difficult to find one to relax on. However we spent most of our says exploring the various ports so for us it wasn't too bad.
Shore excursion prices are horrendously expensive and the Shore Excursion team do not like to give out information on exploring independently . Most of these ports can be explored very easily on your own, even the ones further away. For instance in Livorno you can get a train to Florence via Pisa at a fraction of the cost. Rome also, there are shuttle buses provided that take you straight to the town / train station from the ship, return to Rome costs 12€ each compared with £40 each for the coach! If you want to visit Pompeii it's cheaper to go in a taxi than go on the coach, you get there quicker and have more time to explore. Going to Nice or Monaco is a short bus ride or train ride away from Villefranche .....bus to Nice costs 1.50€ each from the square at the top of the town. The only one we did was Sorrento on your Own with the coach as Naples is a bit of a nightmare to negotiate and that was one of the cheapest they offered at £29 each. So be adventurous and explore on your own, you see so much more anyway.
Now the entertainment....the shows put on by the Entertainment Team are worth seeing, they are popular so if you want to get a seat you have to be there early as the Ocean Theatre is quite small. We only saw some of the daytime entertainment but have to say that the Cruise Director , Ross and the Assistant Cruise Director , Tony Mack, had us in stitches for the few that we saw. We also saw a great Uk guest singer, Steve Simone, on our first week but can honestly say that the rest of the guest performers were utter rubbish, especially the Abba tribute on week two.
The casual approach to dressing for dinner was strange for us at first, having been so used to over dressing for dinner and set meal times on previous cruises. And yes some people can dressed more for a day by the beach in the evening but we enjoyed meeting and chatting to different people each day and plus eating when we wanted to was a bonus. We kept to the same area covered by waiter Ronny and Nat ( also known as naughty boy) and found them to be exceptional, they always found us seats and looked after us well.
Overall cleanliness of the ship was exceptional , staff everywhere from the top decks to the stairwells and lift areas were always cleaning, wiping down and hoovering. The toilets were constantly cleaned also, in fact the most I've seen in all my years or cruise travel.
In our opinion it was a great little ship, she may be dated but the staff were friendly and helpful, always had a smile for us and time to talk. Cost wise it was great value for money also. Would we travel on her again? Yes we definitely would.