We were on the Island Escape for two weeks, sailing on the 1st January 2010. The first week was enjoyable, OK the ship has seen better days, the cabins certainly need a refurb but the public rooms weren't so bad. There was staff around all day cleaning surfaces and polishing, painting and varnishing so maintenance was in hand. The Beachcomber functioned well, tables were cleared relatively quickly and queues were quick to clear. The food was well presented and plentiful, and of a good standard. The staff were a happy bunch, particularly Jammy and Irene in the Beachcomber, and Lawry our talented towel folding steward who looked after our cabin perfectly. There was a good choice of entertainment ranging from the Elvis tribute act to the wonderful Steve Simone, who told the story of Motown with songs. The entertainment team produced vibrant, colourful shows proving they have some talented singers and dancers. Although on some nights I thought the content wasn't really for children but that's just my personal opinion. The two classical singers from the team were excellent, they could go far. The Captain was no stranger to his passengers either, always to be seen walking about the ship chatting with everyone, though during the second week he was strangely missing, I wonder why ?!?! The ports of call were good, we like to explore independently so it was disappointing to find out that doing this was not advisable in Agidir. Consequently we found out too late but we had a second bite of the cherry, and the following week we booked a coach trip to the walled city of Taroudant. It was little pricey but it would have been a shame to miss this country, seeing I doubt very much we will ever return! Whilst in the company of our guide we were completely safe from the locals but as soon as we were told we had thirty minutes to explore on our own they all swooped on us. Beware of being separated from the group, you will probably be safe enough with the local but he will expect money for his "tour". All the locals want from you is your money, so if you are of a nervous disposition, then don't even think about visiting! Arricife in Lanzarote was the other port where to get to the resort you were advised to use their shuttle bus, tickets were £4 and purchased on board. Eventually, visitors will be able to walk into resort as they appear to be building a road/pathway but it could be a while before it's finished. Other ports of call were very pretty, especially visiting them just after Christmas, their street and church decorations were lovely to see. The night sailing from Funchal, in particular was beautiful, all the lights made such a pretty spectacle.
On the middle Friday, the changeover day, we were able to go into Santa Cruz and explore before returning to the ship for a quiet relax with use of all the facilities. As the people left for their flights the ship became quieter, it was very pleasant. Eventually, the new cruisers started to arrive, we heard later that two flights were delayed so our sailing at 11pm was delayed until around about 3am. This meant that the passage to Gran Canaria had to be made more quickly than planned to ensure our morning arrival. This made the voyage a little rougher than the previous week, which was a shame for the new cruisers, as it made a lot of people poorly. Our cabin was amidships on deck 6, so we were lucky that we hardly felt the movement that others have complained about.
The one thing I did notice on that Friday was a large number of new cruisers (especially men) pretending to sanitize their hands on entering the Beachcomber Restaurant. What is wrong with these people? Such procedures are in place for a reason, why do they think they can avoid them? Consequently, after a day or two Norovirus raised its ugly head, and spoilt the cruise for everyone. I might add that during the first week there was no hint of the virus, and everything remained normal until we entered into the second week. Staff and crew clamped down on everything, all tablecloths, drinks menus, material napkins disappeared. The self service facility was stopped so that even pats of butter, pots of jam and yoghurts had to be handed over by staff. Once tablecloths were removed it rather showed up the poor state of the tables, something we wouldn't have normally seen.
On the last day of the cruise we were all taken off the ship, put on coaches and taken to hotels to relax until our flights were due. This was to allow the crew time to fully sanitize the ship before the next lot of holidaymakers. I must admit this whole procedure went like clockwork; it was as if perhaps they weren't strangers to this predicament! The only downside to this way we no longer had the all inclusive drinks package, so we had to shell out for any drinks at the hotel, although we did get a lovely lunch before a spot of sunbathing!!
All in all we had an enjoyable cruise, though I doubt we would sail on the Island Escape again, Thomson has far better ships in its fleet. And I'm not that keen on this totally informal cruising, I think certain rules should apply.