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James Hall

Age: 40

Occupation:Independent Financial Adviser

Number of Cruises: One

Cruise Line: Island Cruises

Ship: Island Escape

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Mediterranean Essence

DEPARTURE PORT: Palma, Majorca
DURATION: 7 nights (stay & cruise) 1st week in Majorca
BOOKED WITH: Travel Choice
CABIN No: 6055 inside cabin

No queues at the check in, it took just a couple of minutes to take our credit card details and take the picture. We were transferring from a hotel and had already been issued with our swipe cards; which are used on the ship instead of cash and for ID. The ships porters deliver the baggage to your cabin direct from the coach.

CABIN: The cabin was a reasonable size. It had ample hanging and draw space. The on-suite was getting tired. There were 2 beds and 2 pull down beds available. The TV had some film channels, a view from the bridge, the navigation chart and a couple of TV channels. Although the cabins are small, they are comfortable enough for the limited amount of time which you spend in the cabin. Hair dryers are available at reception. There is a dual voltage shaving point in the on-suite.

PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas were clean and fresh. The ship is being refurbished in stages and the public areas have been completed. It must be like painting the Forth Road Bridge. The deck space is a problem on the first day at sea when everybody is aboard and trying to get a sun lounger. Once the port excursions start the problem eases. The swimming pool is very small. The description of a ‘Plunge Pool’ is accurate.

FOOD: The Beachcomber is a 24 hour restaurant which has a selection of hot and cold food from chips, pizza, stroganoff to prepared fruit to cakes and pastries. You should be able to find something you like. You can sit inside or out on the deck area with views from the rear of the ship.

The Island restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can opt for self-service or waiter service. Waiter service was the best option.

The Oasis restaurant is only open for evening dinner and is the a-la-carte option. You have to book your table in advance. If you book quickly you can secure a table for two. There are about 16 available. If not, or if you prefer, you can book a shared table. The tables sit 8. You usually sit with different people every night unless you wish to dine with friends. The food was of a good standard throughout the ship. In the Oasis restaurant the food and service was excellent. We dined here every night. You can dine here and take the inclusive options or you could opt to pay a surcharge e.g. Beef Wellington was £9 extra, Lobster Thermador was £11 extra…and well worth it. I was concerned before joining the ship about the quality of the food after reading previous reviews, however, the catering company was changed and I was very happy with the results.

BARS: Prices were good, £2.10 for a spirit, £13.50 for house Champagne and £24.95 for Moet. Wine ranged from less than £10 up to £20 per bottle in the restaurant. If you want a branded sprit, ask for it by name when ordering, Draft beer was Stella and I think Boddingtons. There are several bars to choose from.

SERVICE: The service was excellent. The staff were friendly, eager to please and appeared happy. Happy staff = happy customers. The cabin was serviced twice each day with everything tidied up and beds turned down. There is waiter service everywhere, including the outside deck areas. The level of service is one of the major plus points on the ship.

ITINERARY: Majorca – Day at sea - Tunis, Tunisia - Rome, Italy - Portofino, Italy - Monte Carlo, Monaco (France) -Barcelona, Spain - Majorca. If you want a sun lounger during the day at sea, be up early. We did not leave the boat at Tunis, as the locals can be a little aggressive by our standards. The staff chose not to go ashore here. Because Tunisia is an hour behind ship time, those that did venture ashore found the shops shut and where not very impressed with the experience.

Rome was excellent. We opted for the excursion, as they have to get you back on the ship. The more experienced made their own way by rail and saved a lot of money. We took the ‘Rome at your own pace’ which just provides the transport, however there was a guide on the coaches who gave excellent information, talking during the whole 1 hour transfer, which enabled us to plan our whole day. Rome is not to be missed.

Portofino is delightful. It is tiny and the biggest surprise is the shops. Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Channel etc. You are tendered ashore here and can come and go as you please.

Monte Carlo. Another must, to see the casino, parts of the Grand Prix circuit and the Ferraris. You can get the train but it seems a little unreliable. If you are not back on time the ship will leave without you. Barcelona is a big city. Don’t try and walk the sights. Get a taxi. You can walk to the shops though.

EXCURSIONS: They are expensive but are excellent. The guides are very knowledgeable. The organisation is very slick. There are several to choose from in each port. Doing it yourself can be far cheaper but if you get delayed, you will be left behind. Nobody was on our cruise though.

ENTERTAINMENT: The ships entertainment team were young, had good voices and put in some high-energy performances. We watched the tribute to Andrew Lloyd-Weber and the tribute to Bob Fosse. The 5 piece band was also good at the backing music. This was in the Ocean Theatre were you still enjoy waiter service for drinks. I believe that these shows are by no means as grand as on some cruises. The bounty lounge was also available and included the Costa Coffee lounge. There was a varied choice of entertainment during the day from cookery to bingo to table tennis. The ‘night club’ tended to play music from the 70’s and 80’s. The casino staff were helpful and novices were very welcome.

OVERALL RATING: This is billed as a budget cruise and it seems to attract a lot of first time cruise people like ourselves. It is far better than staying in a 4* hotel for many reasons. Those who have been on the larger vessels may be disappointed. Those cruising for the first time or cruised on smaller ships will have a great time, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. Everybody we spoke to said they would definitely cruise again. I rate this ship very highly. A lot of effort has been made to get things right after a shaky start, and it’s working. We are now prepared to spend more money, cruise for two weeks and go further afield. We rate this holiday experience as one of the best we have had and we are not easily pleased.

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