I read a review before I went which made me think "Oh no, this is going to be Benidorm at Sea" which is very unlike what I would have expected from a cruise, but then again, it was about half the price that I paid for the last cruise I went on. I am a down to earth person that expects to get what I pay for. I can tell you that this is exactly the case when it comes to the Island Star. Talking to other passengers, comments were all pretty similar. One family told me that the Ocean Village was far superior in entertainment and facilities and this is the same price range as far as I know. Hygiene was very good, with staff waiting at the entrance for you to sanitize your hands but there were other food areas where people walked in without sanitizing which was not good. I have been on another ship where the waiter/waitress will only give you your plate when they have seen you use the hand sanitizer.
I would say that the best meal of the day was breakfast. The other meals were very good and it seemed that everybody on the ship enjoyed the choice. There was an allowance for special dietary meals if requested.
The ship was far too overcrowded with no sunbeds being available when the ship was at sea and the swimming pools were so small, we didn't bother! Some children were boisterous and running around, throwing each other into the pool but it was the parents that kept them in check, with no staff intervening.
The worst thing was that there was no draught beer. Everything they sell you is in cans. My husband asked for a pint of Boddington's and got a pint glass with an inch missing off the top so he asked them to fill it up and they said that they couldn't because it was a can. His receipt showed a 'pint' for £2.80 so he insisted on having his 'pint' and they just opened another can and topped it up. They then confessed that there were no hand pumps or draught beers anywhere on the ship. They did not serve Stella either so it was Corona by bottle, Boddington's by the can, Fosters by the can, Strongbow Cider, Bulmer's cider and cocktails or shorts. On the day we were disembarking, they received a large delivery of Stella by cans.
If you are a smoker, you will love it. Smoking is allowed all down one side of the ship and on the balconies if you have a balcony room. They do not recommend smoking in the rooms. HOWEVER.............
We arrived very exhausted and glad to get to our room, to find a dirty false finger nail next to one bed and the room stunk of stale fags. The toilet seat was lose and the bedding smelt musty. My little boy and my husband were exhausted so went to sleep while I went to reception to try to sort something out. I appreciated that the staff were stressed by people complaining so I was very polite and asked if it was possible that we could leave the ship and be put up on the island instead, as I thought the room was disgusting and I then began to get a lot tearful because it was very important to me to get away for xmas and having left my mum, dad and all my sisters and brother, I wished I hadn't. The reason I wanted to leave the ship is because there were no other rooms for us to move to. They said that I should try to sleep and see how I felt in the morning because the weather was bad and we were tired. They said that we would see it differently in the morning.
We woke up mid-morning and the weather was bad and the room still smelt awful but we decided that we had no choice but to enjoy what we had. Meanwhile, I was offered another room that smelt clean and fresh but was for 2 adults and no children, even though we had a child. I had to turn it down for obvious reasons.
The manager had a look at my comments and sent us a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of red wine along with a bowl of fruit. As a nice person, I wrote him a letter thanking him for cleaning the room and sending us those gifts.
This ship is being sold in March 2009 and having a complete restoration and name change as far as I know. For the man who made a comment about the ship apparently being renovated in 2006, I would have to agree with him and say that it hasn't seen better days in years.
Oh, and the bar staff are forced to ask you if you want a drink all the time. In five minutes, you will get up to 5 staff asking you if you want a drink from the bar. They make commission on what they sell and I can tell you that a bottle of Bulmer's cider was charged to me at £3.95 and no, that wasn't a 2 liter bottle!
The rooms are cleaned regularly and tidied every single day. The bedding was changed regularly and very fresh after my initial complaint.
I need to finish here otherwise it might become a book LOL.