Half term holidays and the chance of my wife and I having some time together without the children who were on a school trip. A quick bit of winter sunshine around the Canaries on a relaxing cruise sounded a good idea.
We chose the Island Escape as we had already cruised around the Med on her back in April and although this old converted ferry has got many faults, on balance we enjoyed our last (and only previous cruise) on her.
We had mixed views this time and despite the fact that we enjoyed our break, certain things seemed to have been lost in the 10 months from our last cruise. The entertainment was almost identical, with certain themed shows reappearing with the same cast and the same now-not-so-funny punch lines. The waiting staff 10 months ago seemed to go the extra mile in the restaurant, yet this time there were no little magic tricks at the table, or impromptu serenading of diners by keen guitar-playing waiters.
The destinations were a bit of a mystery and caused many passengers to become irate. We found it quite comical and in no way blamed the captain or crew for the adverse weather that they were constantly up against. When bad weather strikes and ports of call become impossible to dock at, the Captain cannot suddenly magic-up a new destination, thereby forcing many extra hours at sea in "interesting" force 10/11 conditions!
As for the cabin, we were fairly pleased with what we were allocated - fairly central and fairly low down. This meant that we probably had a better sleep than most during the rough periods and meant that we didn't feel the effects like some passengers did. Yes, the room was small and tired and in bad need of bringing into the 21st century, but it was functional and adequate. We deliberately opted for an inside cabin, based on the fact that we hardly spent any time in the deluxe outside cabin on the first cruise, and decided to spend the money saved this time on more trips ashore. The hotel staff, as always, did an excellent job of ensuring that the room was always clean and tidy - normally sneaking in at least twice a day to make sure that everything looked fresh.
As part of the package deal that we booked, we paid £49 each for the all-inclusive drinks package. We're not big drinkers, but it was nice to be able to budget in advance and not worry about the cost of drinks on board. All house spirits, draught Boddingtons, Stella and Strongbow, house wines, soft drinks and cocktails of the day were included. It's surprising that when we totted up all the soft drinks, mineral waters and social drinks, our bill would have come to £220 for the week, making it worth the initial £98 outlay.
Would we cruise on the Island Escape again? Probably we will, but we'll wait until after her £4m (?) refit at the end of 2010 and we'll wait until the entertainments team have thought up some new shows so that repeat cruisers have some new experiences to look forward to.