Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 270 out of 500
Accommodation: 108 out of 200
Food: 200 out of 400
Service: 235 out of 400
Entertainment: 56 out of 100
Cruise: 229 out of 400
Overall Score: 1098 out of 2000
Island Escape Statistics
Size: Mid-size Ship
Cruise Line: Island Cruises
Former Names: Viking Serenade, Stardancer, Scandinavia
IMO Number: 8002597
Builder: Dubigeon-Normandie (France)
Original Cost: $100 million
Entered Service: Oct 1982/Apr 2009
Length (ft/m): 623.0/189.8
Beam (ft/m): 88.6/27.0
Draft (ft/m): 23.6/7.2
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel (19,800kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 540
Passengers (lower beds): 1,504
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 26.6
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.7
Cabins (total): 757
Size Range (sq ft/m): 143.1-398.2/13.3-37.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 5
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 3
Wheelchair accessibility: None
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 1
Hot Tubs (on deck): 0
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: UK£
This is a family-friendly, low budget, no-frills cruise ship
Overview. This is ‘all-inclusive’ cruising in comfortable, unpretentious surroundings that are dated but comfortable, with a totally relaxed ambience that appeals to anyone looking for a casual first cruise with plenty of life and entertainment, food that is quantity rather than quality, and a modest price. In summer the ship operates one-week cruises specifically for the British family market.
The Ship. Island Escape, originally built for a cruise-ferry service between New York and Freeport, Bahamas, was extensively reconstructed in 1991 to become a full-fledged cruise ship. Today it is run by Island Cruises, which itself is owned and operated by Thomson Cruises, part of the TUI group. This is the company’s most laid-back ship.
It has only a token bow, a fairly decent amount of open deck and sunbathing space, and a pool (more a ‘dip’ pool) with a sliding glass dome that can be used in case of inclement weather. It suffers from having an extremely boxy, angular shape with a short, stubby funnel, and has a ‘sponson’ skirt that goes around the stern at the waterline - this is required for stability reasons.
Inside, the accommodation is mostly located forward, while the public rooms are mostly in the aft third of the ship. There is a decent number of public rooms and facilities, including six bars, and a lounge/discotheque is cantilevered around the funnel with good ocean views. The decor employs tasteful colors and furnishings of decent quality, though some have seen better days. Other facilities include an Internet-connection center, and a coffee/pastry shop with three Internet computer stations. The ceilings in many public areas and accommodation hallways are quite low - a legacy of the ship’s original role as a cruise-ferry.
Vacations can be extended with a ‘cruise-and-stay’ package, with special pricing to make an extended break more affordable. If you book two cruises back-to-back, some entertainment may be repeated for the second week. Children should enjoy themselves with Palmy, a character they can eat with, and there are well-supervised activities.
Background music is played almost everywhere inside the ship and on deck around the pool, making it difficult to find quiet spots to relax, chill out, or simply read a book. Passenger participation events tend to be quite amateurish. Standing in line for embarkation, disembarkation, shore tenders, and for self-serve buffet meals can be frustrating.
In March 2013, the ship became an ‘all-inclusive’ product, with drinks, gratuities and service charges included, which makes it easier for families with children - no worries. Cruise-and-stay vacations were introduced at the same time. In my professional view, this ship does what it says on the tin.
Niggles include the fact that excursions and bingo cards are expensive.
Accommodation. There are just six categories, so choosing the right one shouldn’t be difficult. The price will depend on grade, size, and location. The cabins, however, are quite small, with little closet space, so take as few changes of clothes as possible. They are moderately appointed with soft furnishings that are very cheerful, with upbeat colors.
Almost all cabins have twin beds that can be pushed together to form a queen-size bed; some cabins have an L-shaped arrangement, with immovable beds. All grades have a TV set, telephone, and three-channel radio, dressing table, and mirror. There are many interior cabins, and drawers and other storage space is extremely limited. If you’d like more space, it’s best to go for one of the suite categories. Room service is available 24 hours a day, at extra cost.
The cabin bathrooms are really small, so you can expect to dance with the shower curtain, particularly if you are bigger than average - only some of the accommodation designated as suites have a bathtub. Eleven outside-view cabins have even numbers, and all interior cabins have odd numbers. Also, if you are cruising with young children, there’s almost no space for baby strollers. If, after looking at the deck plans, you want to book a specific cabin number, it currently costs extra.
Some cabins have extra Pullman upper berths - good for families with young children. An in-cabin room service menu is available, but all items cost extra.
Island Suite. Towards the aft on the port side, this is the largest accommodation. Although it doesn’t have a balcony, it’s relatively spacious. There’s a walk-in closet, and minibar/refrigerator. The bathroom has a tub and shower.
Club Suites. Five other cabins with balconies at the stern are designated as suites. These have great views over the wash created by the ship’s propellers, although they may be subject to a little vibration now and then. A tub and shower are provided in the marble-clad bathroom, and there’s a walk-in closet in the sleeping area, and minibar/refrigerator and entertainment center in the living room. Additionally, another two suites (without balcony or bathtub) are located in the forward third of the ship one deck lower than the aft-facing suites, but with the same facilities.
Dining. The Island Restaurant, the main dining room, has ocean-view windows on two sides, and upbeat decor. There are tables for two, four, six, or eight. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; you can serve yourself from the buffets, or be served by a waiter. It’s a very casual open-seating arrangement, and so waiters do not get to know your preferences. Although there is much repetition of salad items for lunch, there are plenty of main dish and dessert choices. The menus contain a fair variety of British-style food.
Other dining options. Oasis is a smaller, more intimate, quieter restaurant, one deck below the Island Restaurant. This à-la-carte, extra-cost dining spot, with seats for two or four, is open only for dinner (reservations required), with full waiter service for all courses. The wine list is typical of a high-street eatery, with European prices that provide decent value for money.
The ceiling is low in both venues, which provides a sense of intimacy, but the noise level is intense.
For breakfast, lunch, and dinner - in fact, 24 hours a day - there is another place to go: the Beachcomber Café. This is really casual, and is ideal for grabbing a bite to eat while taking the sun on the open decks. Again, it’s a self-serve buffet, with food being constantly refreshed. Tea and coffee are provided at a beverage station, with plastic cups and mugs. Additionally, there’s the Café Brazil for pastries, extremely sinful cakes and pastries, and a range of espresso and cappuccino coffees, all at extra cost.
Entertainment. The Ocean Theater is a single-level showlounge, with banquette and individual seating surrounding a thrust stage. Although it is a comfortable room, several pillars obstruct sight lines from some seats.
A resident troupe of young, enthusiastic singer/dancers provide the low-budget revue-style ‘shows’ that are, at best, amateurish, with weak recorded tracks but lots of color. In addition, visiting cabaret acts - typically strong singers, magicians, and smutty comedians - are presented, both in their own shows and as the middle of a ‘pie’ that includes the ship’s resident troupe.
There is a ship’s band, and several small musical units and pianists provide live music for dancing and listening in the bars and lounges. There’s a throbbing discotheque.
Spa/Fitness. The Ship Shape Hair and Beauty Spa is surprisingly good for the size of the ship. There are treatment rooms for massage, separate saunas and changing rooms for men and women, and a large beauty salon. The gymnasium itself is quite large and contains lots of muscle-pumping, body toning equipment. It is located just aft of the main swimming pool on the port side of the ship.
The spa staff are supplied by concessionaire Harding Brothers, and treatments offered include massages, aromatherapy facials, manicures, pedicures, and hair beautifying treatments.