Island Escape Cruise Review by Trevor Solley: Recommend introduction to cruising
Overall Member Rating
Recommend introduction to cruising
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
We stayed on the Island Escape from 15-22 July 2010 with our two teenage children.
Flight We flew from Stansted as it was an early Morning flight and late evening flight home, thus enabling us to squeeze the full 14 days out of our holiday. Check-in was smooth, with no queue and straight through customs/security. Ate breakfast airside which was a little rushed. The flight was full, but we had pre-booked our seats, so had all slick. Upon reaching Palma, we were one of the first off the plane, but had to wait 40 minutes before our luggage turned up. Then it's a long walk across the airport to meet the Thomson rep who directed us outside to where the coaches are. We were told it was about an hour to the port, but in reality with Palama traffic it was closer to 1 1/2 hours.
Pretty smooth and well organised. Whilst on the coach you are asked to fill out some paperwork around health, etc. From the coach you are directed into the port terminal where More orange juice is offered, then check in for your photo ID, passports, credit card, etc. There is a photographer there who takes your picture. We didn't buy it, as like most people after an early flight, trek across the airport and coach drive, we didn't look or feel our best. You then clear Spanish customs (again) before waiting like bees around a honey pot to claim your cases for identifying against our allocated cabin. These arrive is batches as porters ferry them over from the coach. Other coaches, etc are doing the same so it can be a little confusing. Finally we embarked the ship and were given directions to our cabin. Our cases turned up about 30 minutes later one by one.
We stayed on deck 6 which was fairly easy to find. This came with a glass picture window which was dirty on the inside (so couldn't be cleaned without being taken apart). The room was nice with four single beds, of which two folded down from the wall. There was ample wardrobe space and we bought cases that could fit under the lower beds. Reading lights are provided for the two lower beds and switches to all lighting and the TV can be accessed from there. There was a radio switch as well, but this. A safe was provided built into the wardrobe and can be hired via reception, so we done this as soon as we boarded. The air conditioning was working whilst we were there although it didn't seem to be that affective.
The bathroom had a shower a sink and a toilet and electronic points for a hair dryer and shaver. Sachets of shampoo and bath oils, etc were provided upon arrival and were replenished daily. Fresh towels are provided per person with a large and small.
A TV was in the room which showed various English and foreign channels and the TV remote was already in the room and was supplied free of charge.
Above the TV was drinks and snacks that could be purchased as a sort of "mini-bar".
No Tea or coffee making facilities are provided in the room, but can be purchased from the 24 hour cafe on deck 10. To combat this we took a walk into Palma after looking around the ship and stocked up on drinks and water in the local supermarket centre. There is an ice bucket provided in the room which was filled up daily to put cans, etc.
Three single room key was allocated. The keys are of a small grey credit type card with punched holes, which you slot into the entrance door to gain access.
Food & Drink
We had the full-board option. There was a restaurant on our deck where you are seated by the waiting staff and have drinks served at the table. This is good if you are feeling sociable as dependent on the size of your party, like us you could land up with other Families/Couples. On the first day we were seated then left to our own devices and everyone on the table was looking at everyone else for what to do next. Eventually the waiter came over and asked us if we wanted drinks, etc? After tipping a few Euros at each sitting within a few days we found that we got very good service and had our own table reserved for us. The waiters even carried our plates back to the table for us!
The entertainment crew under Hayley-Jane make this ship what it is. Yes, the entertainment is basic and "Butlins" but they put everything into it. On our Week we participated in a couple of shows and saw a comedian, etc. Cash bingo is on every night, leading up to the jackpot on the last night where a Lady won £1,000. You pay for bingo cards and pens, etc on your own personal white photo ID card. The IE is a cashless ship. There was other bars and even a casino.
The main pool is quite small and it's hard not to bump into kids jumping in, etc. It's non-heated and filled up daily with sea water (so was colder some days than others) surrounded by plenty of sun loungers that quickly filled up, especially on the day at seas. Some people place towels on sunbeds then disappeared for ages, so on busy days, crew were going around and physically removing towels and personal items and placing them in lost property. This resulted in some friction when guest finally returned to find their beds occupied by someone else and no sight of their personal belongings. On one occasion I intervened and told them to speak to a member of the crew. Waiting staff constantly hover around offering to get you drinks, although to be fair they weren't annoying.
We saw a small arcade, although we didn't use it.
The Island Escape is a lovely ship, but clearly in need of the refit it's due to get later on in the Year. I believe the ship was originally launched in the 80's and it's been left behind in the market by newer ships. Having said that it is what it says it is, which is an entry-level family themed ship without the formality. The staff are all wonderful and couldn't do enough for you. Attention to service is second to none.
Happy to take questions Less
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Cabin review: OT
Port and Shore Excursions
After a long long day in Rome we decided to have a quite day, just visiting the white sandy beach, literally a few minutes walk from the ship. The beach is in a small alcove and quite secluded. There are a handful of shops in the port, but nothing spectacular.
We only wanted to seeing the leaning tower of Pisa, so done it on our own. Taxis were waiting outside the ship which took us to the station for 7 euros.
Another train trip, then a 15 minute walk North from the station towards the top of town. Once we reached Pisa we booked to go inside and to the top of the tower which wasn't cheap (60 euros for our family of Four for a 30 minute guided tour). This is not suitable for disabled people as it's 400 + worn away spiral steps with no lift. We are glad we done it as the views from the very top of the tower is a sight to behold. Visit slots book up quickly and by Noon they had all gone, so book early.
Then we went back to the ship and chilled out. The Thomson excursion does not take you up the tower.
We docked into Palma on our last day before catching the coach to the Hotel Talayot.
Our busiest and expensive day. The ship was stuck in port for 40 minutes before we were allowed off. I knew it was going to be a busy day so were first in the queue to get off. I had thoroughly planned the day to do it by ourselves. It is quite a hike from the ship to the port entry, but a free bus service operated.
Once we were dropped off it's a ten minute walk to the train station. We got the travel card that covered return tickets and the metro.
Firstly we got off at the Vatican stop and walked 5 minutes to the Vatican square. There were massive lines for the Vatican museum so gave it a miss.
We then caught the Metro to the Colosseum, which exits right opposite. Again massive queues, so we paid once inside an extra 6 euros per person for the guided tour, wandering off and doing it at our own pace.
Then a 7 euro taxi ride to the Spanish steps before sampling the local cuisine on the way to the Trevi Fountain.
By then everyone was tired so we got the Metro back to the train station and the train back to the ship.
After a day at sea, our first port of call was Villefranche
The only port where we had to use a tender boat to get ashore. Upon arrival we done our own trip to Monaco by train. The four of us on the train was cheaper than what one of us was going to be charged by Thomsons.
The train station is literally a 15 minute walk from the port.
In Villefrance itself there are some bars, shops and restaurants to see, although it would be criminal to not go to Cannes, Nice or Monaco if you haven't been there before.
Once at Monaco we walked up the hill to the Palace and paid to see inside. We did this with no queue, even seeing the changing of the guard before the excursions turned up in droves.
We then went down the hill to see the harbour and where Princess Grace is buried before taking the train back to the ship.
Ruined our holiday and joint 2...
ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, FABULOUS, ...