Dr. Sujit Vasanth and Mrs. Katie Vasanth
Occupation:Physician and Nurse
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Island Cruises
Ship: Island Escape
Sailing Date: June 13th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Mediterranean
1.Cabin – We lucked out and were assigned to cabin 7057 on the Emerald Deck. This was a small inside cabin, but quite cozy and more than adequate. Facilities were tidy and in good order. Storage space was enough to accommodate two large suitcases quite comfortably. Minimal noise, despite the cabin being quite near the Sundowner Lounge and Pub. Very good housekeeping staff, friendly and quite willing to help. We really liked our cabin.
a. Beachcomber – This was the 24 hour buffet, and as some reviewers mentioned, it's not posh. If that doesn't bother you, it's really quite nice and has a wonderful view from the stern of the ship. The food was always hot and of good quality, and as was the pervasive theme we saw, the staff are always friendly and willing to get you whatever you would like. Everything was always clean and in good order, and there was a good variety of food per meal.
b. Island – This was also buffet, but in a bit posh setting (example – tablecloths, glassware, china plates). There is a wait staff who offer beverages, but apart from what has been mentioned, there was no difference in the food between the Beachcomber and The Island. They both served very similar, if not exactly the same food per meal. My husband preferred the Island, but I preferred the Beachcomber – you can eat the same quality of food (and it was always good quality) while sitting on the deck watching the ocean.
Oasis – This is supposed to be the 5 star dining experience on the ship. Everything is a la carte, and is the only place where you are charged for food. They had a special deal going throughout our cruise, which was 4 courses for 7.50 pounds – not bad at all. It would have been a lot more expensive had we paid the full menu price for each item. To be honest, I was really under whelmed at the quality of the food. It was on par, if a bit lower, than the food offered in the buffets mentioned. My first meal there, I had lobster thermidor, which was touted as the chef's special dish. What I got was half of a lobster shell filled with a tasteless white sauce that contained only two small pieces of lobster. The mashed potatoes were so hard that I had to cut them with a knife (I have absolutely no idea how they managed that), and they included a side of overcooked microwave veggies. My husband insisted that this must have been a fluke, so we went back for our last meal. I ordered pumpkin soup (which is a personal favorite), and was served a rather light green soup. I questioned the waiter on this (as pumpkin soup should be at least some shade of orange), and he insisted quite emphatically that it was pumpkin soup. It tasted nothing like pumpkin soup, and when I found the remnants of asparagus in what now was quite obviously cream of asparagus, I was a bit miffed. Anyway, that was my experience at Oasis, and I really very much preferred the Beachcomber and The Island.
a. Ocean theater – The 'West-End' style shows reminded me quite strongly of my high-school show choir, with lots and lots of extremely broad singing and enough glitter to blind you. The dancers were excellent, mostly Brazilians, and there were so many times that we wished they could break away from dancing in something like the disco version of the 'Star Wars' theme (which honestly took place, and was done with all seriousness), and go into a samba. It really strongly reminded me of the movie “Dirty Dancing”, where all the dancers are actually really good, but are forced to do syrupy shows for the guests. As for the singers, every single number was belted out (many times bordering on being shouted), and was sung in unison. Being a singer myself, this was cringe-worthy and not at all to my taste, but my husband enjoyed it, so I went along. Broadway is not my thing, but lots of people seemed to enjoy it. I will say that despite all that has been mentioned, it is really apparent that all of the entertainers put 100% into their performance. There is no holding back, and you can really see that they are trying their best to entertain you. For me personally, the style just wasn't to my taste, but it was good for a lot of people.
b. Bounty Lounge- This was ok, with a lot of variety in the acts. Bingo, quiz shows, sets from the resident band, etc.
c. Casino/pub – Casino was alright, lots of machines and table games. My husband and I only gambled once, not big fans.
d. Sundowner lounge – Go and see Hugh Mett, who deserves to be in the Bounty Lounge playing to a bigger audience. He was the best singer on the ship, and my husband absolutely loved him. He always packed the small sundowner lounge, many times with standing room only.
4. Rest of the ship
We were really impressed with the ship, the cleanliness and everything that was offered. There are lots of opportunities to sunbathe or to watch the horizon, and there's no shortage of things to do (as outlined in the Island Chat, the itinerary for the day). Every floor looked well appointed and looked after except for one- the Aqua floor. Stay away from this floor- it's hot, dirty, smelly, and we were lucky enough to only have to go to it to reach the gangway. If you can at all avoid it, do not stay on this floor. We were initially offered it when booking, but thankfully we decided against it (it only had bunk beds).
Ports of Call
1.Palma, Mallorca – Basically, don't bother. Boring, expensive, nothing interesting to see. We made the mistake of trying to see it. Use your time to get unpacked and explore the ship.
2.Messina, Sicily – We didn't book our excursion early enough to see Taormina and Old Sicily, so we had to make our own way in Messina. It's quite beautiful in some places, and you should definitely check out Il Duomo and the cathedral at the top of the mountain for some spectacular views of the city. Beware the taxi drivers who stake out the port, looking to ensnare unwitting cruise-goers. They are incredibly expensive, very aggressive, will follow you if you give them any glimmer of hope, and get angry when you refuse what they offer. If you want to take a taxi to Taormina or Savoca, go to the train station (which is half a mile from the docking site) and the taxis there are half the price and less aggressive. Stop and get a gelato, sit in a cafe, and take in Sicily.
3.Naples – We managed to book an excursion to the Island of Capri, which my husband and I agree is probably the most beautiful place that either of us has ever seen (and we've traveled quite a lot). It does get a bit crowded and touristy, but we would go back in a heartbeat. Watch yourself in Naples, a dangerous city that I would like to sooner forget.
4.Livorno – We didn't book an excursion, and decided to make our own way to see the leaning tower of Pisa. We're very glad we did, as we were able to take the bus from the Piazza Grande to Pisa for only 5 euros each (which is a lot better than the excursion price of 36 pounds each). The tower is smaller than one would think, and once you've seen it you're left with deciding what do do with the rest of the time. There are tons of tourist-geared stalls, but outside that, not much else to see or do. Again, very glad we didn't waste our money on an excursion to Pisa.
5.Toulon – We booked an excursion to St. Tropez and the French Riviera, which was wonderful. It's all very jet-set and posh, and it was interesting to see. Also stopped at Port Grimaud, a town created recently to resemble Venice with its canals. Nice, but for me, it was hard to get past the artificiality of it all.
6.Barcelona – Neither of us were particularly interested in Barcelona, but we decided to buy passes to the open-top bus tour of the city. This was quite nice, but we failed to see the appeal of Barcelona. We walked from the top of Las Ramblas back to the ship, and that was the highlight, but we were overall not impressed with Barcelona.
1.DO NOT DRINK THE WATER ON THE SHIP – They said explicitly that it was safe to drink, but don't believe them. We drank it for the first two days, and we both were incredibly nauseated. When we got to Messina, we bought a huge pack of bottled water, and from then on we were fine.
2.If cigarette smoke bothers you, you might have trouble on this ship. I'm American, and this cruise catered nearly exclusively to the British, who all seemed to smoke excessively. Also, smoking is allowed everywhere but for your cabins and the restaurants, which made some indoor activities quite uncomfortable.
3.The food is geared for the British palate. Being American (and my husband being Indian), we were sometimes left scratching our heads at what was offered. Believe it or not, most Americans have never heard of 'Toad in the Hole' or 'Cottage Pie', and the whole idea of a pie with meat in it is quite strange to us. Also, breakfast was the same food every day. So, if you're British and like familiarity, the food will be perfect.
4.Choose your excursions carefully – It's quite possible to spend a large amount of money on excursions- they're not cheap.
5.You don't actually have a great deal of time in port – Usually the ship docked at around 0900 or 1000, and we had to be aboard by 1630 most days.
6.Have fun, relax, and enjoy- we had a great time, despite all the warnings above.