Island Escape Entertainment
Evening shows are held in the Ocean Theatre; a highlight on my cruise was a rather enjoyable -- if jingoistic -- tribute to World War II, which had the older passengers wiping their eyes and singing along to nostalgic classics like "We'll Meet Again" and the "White Cliffs of Dover."
Daytime activities include shuffleboard and table skittles tournaments, quizzes, line dancing lessons, and bingo sessions; there is a weekly Guest Talent Show.
Shore excursions on the ship's seven-night cruises roundtrip from Palma are affordably priced; £35 per adult, £28 per child buys a full-day tour of Corsica from Ajaccio, while a full day tour of Rome and the Vatican from Civitavecchia costs £60 per adult, £48 per child.
Island Escape Public Rooms
The Lookout Bar at the top of the ship on Compass Deck (11) was the old Viking Crown Lounge in the ship's Royal Caribbean days and is still very pretty, offering panoramic views, a central dance floor and fresh white and turquoise decor.
The teak-tabled Sailaway Bar to the rear is a good open-air vantage point and, as its name suggests, is particularly popular when the ship is leaving port. Another alfresco bar -- The Mirage -- overlooks the pool on Sun Deck. Drinks are also served in the large-windowed Bounty Lounge, a popular venue for dancing, and in the Ocean Theatre on Emerald Deck (7).
But for my money, the best watering hole is the cheerful Sundowner Bar on Deck 7, which lies opposite the ship's casino and just forward of the Ocean Theatre. Decorated in warm, welcoming shades of deep blue, brown and terracotta, equipped with a grand piano and embellished with eye-catching nautical memorabilia, this bar is divided into cozy areas (including a pub) and is the most popular place on the ship for pre-and post dinner drinks.
Island Escape is set to go all inclusive from March of 2013, which means that house wines, beers, liquors and some cocktails will be included with the price of the cruise. For the time being, though onboard drinks are affordable, but not cheap; a half-liter of mineral water costs £1.15, soft drinks £1.40 and a glass of wine anything from £2.50 to £4.75 depending on quality. There is an option to buy an all-you-can-drink package, and prices vary depending on length of cruise
The ship's shops (Serenade Boutiques) are located on Flamingo Deck (8) and feature a broad and reasonably priced range of goods, from essentials like toothpaste and toiletries to leisurewear, evening clothes and luxury items like fine china, perfume and jewelry.
High up on Sun Deck (10), just forward of the Beachcomber Cafe, you'll find a small but airy Internet Cafe, with a glass wall and six computers facing large windows. On-off Internet access costs 25 pence per minute, but you can buy a range of packages if you plan to make heavy use of the facility. Package A costs £2 for 15 minutes; Package B £ 3.50 for 30 minutes, Package C £6 for an hour online, and Package D costs £10 for two hours.
Island Escape Spa & Fitness
The Shipshape Spa on Deck 10 has a substantial gym and a roomy aerobics studio, both with large sea-view windows. The gym is fairly well equipped, with five steppers, four treadmills, five exercise bikes and weight lifting/body sculpting equipment. There are also male and female saunas, unlimited use of which costs £5 per head, per cruise.
Yoga and Pilates classes in the studio cost £5 per session, but some classes and health seminars are free.
Staffed by two hair stylists, one gym instructor and three therapists, the spa is run by Harding Brothers, so prices aren't as eye-watering as you'd find at a Steiner concession, but quite hefty enough, at £45 to £50 for a facial, £40 for a luxury pedicure and £60 for a 75-minute stone therapy session.
I tried a 30-minute, £30 back, neck and shoulder massage with a delightful Brazilian masseuse and found it worth the expense as she really was an expert.