For all you first time Island Escape cruisers, Unless you fall asleep reading this I do hope the following will help put your mind at rest if you have booked a cruise on this ship and are now spending the remaining time logging onto Trip Adviser/Cruise Critic to read and worry about the negative reviews you have obviously been reading and probably thinking to yourselves "oh god, what have I done, booking this ship" ?!!!
Well, first of all let me explain, I am not a seasoned cruiser. This is only my second cruise, both booked through Thompson Holidays. The first was with a fabulous ship called the Emerald (sadly no more) and five years later now with Island Escape.So like the majority of you, I too was reading every new review posted as the time neared for our holiday and by the time we set off was actually believing I was off to Butlins on Sea !
We arrived in Palma on 28th June 2011 around 11.30 am to find the tour rep waiting in the arrivals lounge. She quickly directed us to the transer coach. The trip to the port only took about 20 minutes so pleasant drive. The nice thing was that once we were at the port we didn't need to worry about our cases as they would be taken on board for us and deposited outside our allocated cabin within the hour. Anyway, first call was into the Port quay
lounge where a glass of orange or iced water was freely available. Then we had to collect a envelope containing relevant information,on-board security card/cabin allocation/credit account form etc. You also have your security photo done as well. Don't worry, all this only takes about approx 10 minutes.
So to the ship itself. Well, I took my first real look at it just prior to embarking. First impression? not bad at all. We all know that she was originally a Ferry but I really didn't expect her to be so big !!
Once on board you need to go to the reception desk and either hand over your credit card for the details to be logged (no money is taken from your credit card at this time) or you may deposit £200 pounds sterling in cash. Most important,this is a british ship and everything is traded in pounds sterling only. Everything you purchase,except for the casino or bingo, is deducted from your credit card or cash deposited with reception. You sign for everything else with your signature plus cabin number and you are given a receipt every time and a bill is put under your cabin door at the end of the final night for you to check out and tally with your receipts. If you originally paid £200 cash and either have change to come or need to pay more, you need to go to reception. For those who handed over their credit card, if you are in agreement with all that you have bought during the trip (whichever, make sure you keep every receipt) there is no need to go to reception at all.
We also purchased a key to the safe in our cabin which cost us £15 (although in the brochure and our holiday contract it stated £14) hey ho, I wasn't going to complain about the extra £1 though for fear of being labelled mean !! and we actually shared the safe with my brother and sister-in-law in the next cabin so it wasn't that expensive and gave peace of mind.
Well onto our cabin, which was situated on Deck 9. We were shown to the cabin by our steward, Akash, a lovely young man who could not do enough for us. We had treated ourselves to a cabin with balcony for this our second cruise because on our first cruise we had an outside cabin where the window did not open and which I hated not having any fresh air so was really pleased that this time hubby and I could enjoy the doors being open at night (both of us being fresh air fiends)and especially because we wanted the pleasure of being able to sit down outside every morning and enjoy a coffee and a cigarette (yes, one of those dreadful smokers) but especially to be able to enjoy a glass of wine in our own private space and not have to fight for seats which I normally have to on every holiday I have been on !! The cabin itself was as one would expect, basic but absolutely spotless thanks to Akash, although the bathroom was a bit tired looking, it was again basic and small but perfectly adequete. it had a toilet, a sink and a shower with plenty of towels which were replaced every day or as required. The beds were nice and comfortable and there was plenty of wardroom and drawer space.There is also a fridge in the one wardrobe (safe is in the other wardrobe) cans of cold drinks and bottled water are there for you but you must tick the list to say what you have had and it will be deducted from your bill. Not much more I can say about the cabin, at least you now know that you wont enter and be disappointed. (all cabins have same facilities i.e. safe and fridge etc)
Well our cases arrived within 20 minutes so after freshening up, obviously the first thing was to explore the ship (look away now all non-smokers)and find out where the designated smoking areas were,for all you smokers out there this is where they are. Deck 8 port and starboard side, The Mirage Bar Deck 10 Portside and Sailaway Bar Deck 11 aft. (See, know seafaring slang already).
We were due to set sail at 11 pm that evening and on the hour everyone was excitedly waiting for the ropes to be let free and glasses clinked. Unfortunately because of a flight delayed from Edinburgh, this never happened and in the end everyone went to bed, we eventually sailed around 4.30 am in the morning so that was a bit of a damp squid. Never mind.
Day one .....Restaurants. We decided to try the Beachcomber Restaurant on Deck 10 for breakfast, (a) because it was conveniently only one deck above us and (b) because there are no set meal times there we could go anytime upto 10.30/11 am. It was very nice, the food excellent and absolutely ideal if you have children as relaxed, easygoing and no pressure at all. Plenty of staff for help and guidance but they do not bother you at all. Everything is self-service but the queue is very quick as there are different food stations for different things. you can either eat inside or outside on the terrace. This restaurant is open 24 hours so really handy if one is peckish after midnight. We then decided to try the 2nd restaurant for lunch, The Island Restaurant. Now this one I really enjoyed. With this restaurant you have to queue just outside the restaurant (two queues) to be allocated seating, once you are seated, a waiter will automatically fill your glass with iced water and ask if you want a drink? If, like us, you are on All-Inclusive, you can only order wine by the glass, have a beer (San Miguel or Boddingtons)or if ordering a short, make sure you ask for the short with a splash of whatever mixer you want (if you do not use that word "splash" you may be charged for the mixer ! If you want branded shorts it costs 10p more than their own european labels so very good. My tipple is Gin and Tonic so I ordered Gordons with Schweppes which cost me 10p and 70p respectively but the tin of Schweppes was enough for two drinks. Hubby was happy with his San Miguel.
Anyway I digress, back to the Island Restaurant..... again once you have ordered your drink, it is again self service and you go along and get your own lunch but the atmosphere, ambiance and quality of service is oh so nice in there. After that first day, we did breakfast in the Beachcomber (although I heard that breakfast in the Island was superb and superior) up to you of course) and Dinner in the Island Restaurant all week. We never once bothered with the Oasis Restaurant where one has to pay extra. Why would we ??
The bars...... Now, as I said,most important that if you are all-inclusive and ordering shorts you make sure when mentioning the mix to go with it that you ask for a "splash of....." to ensure you not charged for more. The drinks can work out very expensive off your account otherwise. Oh and the disappointing news is that unlike our first cruise when we also went all-inclusive, apart from when you use the Beachcomber and the Island restaurants to have coffee,(the coffee is ever so strong) you will have to pay for all other coffees in the bars and the Brazilia coffee shop. Hubby and I love Latte or Cappucinno and these were £2.80 or £2.90 respectively every time, charged to the account.
Telling you this as most people are on a budget and money counts.
The shows on board are brilliant and West End quality.
Well, apart from the ports of call which may be different from ours so won't bother you with them (fabulous), not much else to tell you except not to take any notice of the bad reviews. Hubby and I are at an age where we demand value and comfort for money paid for our holiday and if there was anything wrong I would be the first to tell you.
Enjoy your cruise. We had a great time. Don't expect P&O luxury but again, don't expect all the bad review scenario, these have obviously come from people who expect the same service but have only paid half the price. You have my word that you have nothing to worry about. Every member of staff is eager and willing to ensure you have the time of your life and the food is superb.
Enjoy your Cruise.
Ajuaccio - Fabulous, the beaches are out of this world.
Rome - Excursion. day trip too long. If they could have done a 1/2 day it would have been better.
Florence - didn't bother as another day long trip the day after being shattered from the Rome Trip. Went instead on a lovely 1/2 day Wine Tasting in Tuscany. Wonderful trip and back on board by 1.30 pm lunchtime.
Cannes - With trepidition because Tender had to be boarded to get ashore but not too bad at all. Cannes is absolutely beautiful.
Mahon - Old stomping ground and know it well. Only thing that got to me was with my crock knee and hubbys both knees, the 100 steps to the town was a flippin nightmare but oh so worth it once there.