Great British fun in the sun!
Having sailed many times with P&O we were a little apprehensive about booking the Island Escape, especially after reading some of the many terrible reviews available elsewhere online. However, we were looking for a "quick fix" of sun and relaxation without having to worry about dinner jackets and posh frocks, so we took the plunge and booked. The first thing to say is that the cabins are a little tired and slightly smaller than a standard P&O cabin. We chose deck 4 and were allocated cabin 4572 towards the back of the ship. The cabin had 2 port holes not a single window, but we knew that before booking and lets face it you're only there to shower, change and go out again or to sleep, so this isn't the most important room on board. Our cabin steward kept the cabin spotless and was always around to help if we needed anything. One of the bad reviews I read before sailing said they had to wait to be served at the bars - even at busy times, I never had to wait more than a few seconds before my order was taken. Bar staff were extremely polite and helpful at all times. We ate in the Beachcomber almost all the time as the food up there was identical to that in the Island Restaurant, and we didn't have to wait to be seated. OK so the plates and cups are plastic, who cares - it's good quality plastic!! I also don't see the point of paying extra for a meal when I've already paid for all inclusive, so we didn't eat in the other restaurants (especially not the one where you cook your own food on a hot rock - each to their own I suppose, but it's not for me). There are 2 show lounges on board, each with their own programme of events. The Ocean Theatre on deck 7 has a stage, but as the seats are only slightly tiered, I wouldn't call it a theatre. Even though the stage area was limited, the stage shows were very good and on a par with what you'd see on P&O - in fact, I'd say some of the performers are better than those on some P&O ships we've sailed on. On deck 8 is the Bounty Lounge, which has a small stage and dance floor and is where the resident band encouraged people to take to the floor and where the nightly game shows took place. The resident band were actually very good (which is something P&O need to work on as some of their bar entertainers are dire!). The lookout bar on deck 12 also had a 2-piece resident band, but we didn't use that bar at night so cannot comment. The entertainment team kept us all amused with games and competitions and quizes - the cruise director had a fantastic singing voice which is something else you won't get on P&O. We had a big storm on the "sea day" of our second week - waves were 20-30 foot we were told (we knew they were big because it kept going dark in our cabin that morning as the waves occasionally went above our port holes!). For an old ferry boat it did pretty well and although there was quite a bit of pitch there was very little roll and as long as you kept midships it was OK. The problem is, the restaurants are all at the back, so meal times were quite "interesting". Staff were on hand to catch the odd flying guest and help people to their seats when required! We didn't go on any organised excursions - as with all cruise ships, these are expensive and we prefer to do it ourselves. However, the shore excursion desk always supplied a free map at every port and the staff were very helpful regarding where to find the train station, etc. The pool area was small but adequate. The loungers in this area were fairly new and comfortable - I'm guessing the new loungers will appear on all sun decks eventually, but at the time we cruised the ones on the upper decks were old and needs a mechanical engineering degree to get working! There were too many smoking areas for my liking, and there seemed to be no policing of the smokers to keep them confined to the designated areas. No smoking signs were not prominent enough in my opinion. Also, remember this is an "all inclusive" cruise and there will be one or two guests who will make full use of this, so be prepared for a few inconsiderate people making a lot of noise on their way back to their cabins late at night. So, would I cruise on Island Escape again? Most definitely, yes. We liked eating when we wanted with no set meal times, and not dressing up every night (other than into "smart casual", that is). We enjoyed the entertainment and live music and the quizes. We liked the positive attitude of all staff on board. We didn't like the unpoliced smoking areas, and we didn't like the (few) guests that abused the inclusive drinks and showed themselves up.
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