Ocean Gala

Former names: MS Island Escape (Thomson Cruises), Viking Serenade (Royal Caribbean ), MS Stardancer (Royal Admiral Cruises), MS Scandinavia (DFDS Seaways)

Specifications of Ocean Gala

Year built1982  /  Age: 36
BuilderDubigeon-Normandie SA (Nantes, France)
Classhotel ship
Building costUSD 25 million
Speed18 kn / 33 kph / 21 mph
Length (LOA)190 m / 623 ft
Beam (width)26 m / 85 ft
Gross Tonnage40171 gt
Passengers1544 - 1760
Passengers-to-space ratio23
Decks with cabins7
Last Refurbishment2016, Alang-scrapped in 2018
Former namesMS Island Escape (Thomson Cruises), Viking Serenade (Royal Caribbean ), MS Stardancer (Royal Admiral Cruises), MS Scandinavia (DFDS Seaways)
OwnerCruise Holdings Inc
OperatorUS Shipmanagers

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Ocean Gala cruise ship (formerly MS Island Escape) was built in 1981 by Dubigeon Normandie SA (Nantes France) as world's biggest cruiseferry at the time. After several drydock conversions, the vessel was last rebuilt to passenger capacity 1760 (plus 540 crew). The vessel was scrapped in April 2018 in Alang (India), after being laid up for several months in Port Khalifa (Abu Dhabi UAE).

The ship's identification numbers were 8002597 (IMO) and 311368000 (last MMSI, Bahamas-flagged, registered in Nassau).

History - construction and ownership

The 40,171-ton, 1,760-passenger cruise ship Island Escape (now Ocean Gala) was sold by Thomson Cruises to Cruise Holdings Inc (a consortium of South Florida-based investors) in December 2015. Columbia Cruise Services (CCS) was awarded the vessel's Full Management. Island Escape was in Brest (France) shipyard where was renamed "Ocean Gala". US Shipbrokers managed the vessel's sale in 2015 and became its commercial management firm.

Ocean Gala cruise ship (Island Escape)

The vessel is owned by the Miami-based company Cruise Holdings Inc. and is managed by Columbia Cruise Services (CCS) in Hamburg and Limassol.

In February 2016, the Migration Agency of Sweden announced it was close to signing a deal with US Shipmanagers charter company to bring the 1,790-passenger mv Ocean Gala to Sweden, revealing plans to berth it in the small port of Harnosand, 270 miles north of Stockholm. The agency was in a race to find new beds before spring when winter contracts signed with hundreds of hotels and campsites to house asylum seekers expire. The agency feared that the influx of asylum seekers would pick up again in the coming months due to warm weather.

The applications of the charter agency to berth the ship at Harnosand’s harbor met resistance from local politicians. Willis Åberg, accommodation chief at the Migration Agency, said it was up to the charter company to discover a willing municipality.

Ocean Gala cruise ship (Island Escape)

In August 2016, mv Ocean Gala was put up for sale for ~USD 20 million. Floating Accommodations claimed that a sale might be necessary to cover losses they would incur if Migrationsverket (Swedish migration agency) failed to pay a 54M kronor (USD 6.44 million) bill the company had sent to the agency for the costs of running the vessel. Migrationsverket insisted that the agreement to house asylum seekers on Ocean Gala had been null and void since July.

Decks and Cabins

Island Escape staterooms (768 total) as accommodation options ranged from standard inside/outside twins and bunk-bedded cabins to outside Premier cabins (bigger than standard, with table, chair, and an extra sofa bed), outside Deluxe cabins (larger than Premiers), outside balcony cabins (with a fridge), Club or Island Suites, that have a separate bar and lounge area.

The boat had 11 decks, of which 9 were passenger-accessible and 7 with cabins.

Shipboard dining options - Food and Drinks

There were three restaurants to choose from onboard the Island Escape, two of them offered bumper buffet spreads. Ocean Gala (mv Island Escape) dining options include:

  • The Oasis (a stylish eatery with waiter service and à la carte specials. Cover charge applied, reservations required);
  • The Island Restaurant (with spacious surroundings; serves British and international buffets; open for breakfast, lunch and dinner);
  • 24 hours self-service buffets provided by the Beachcomber Restaurant, perfect for light lunches and late-night snacks (a regular host for international theme nights);
  • For an extra charge, guests can use the room service, available 24 hours a day.

Shipboard entertainment options - Fun and Sport

MS Island Escape ship was operated and owned by Thomson UK under the “Island Cruises” brand until December 2015. The vessel joined Thomson’s fleet in April 2009. She retained the name and went on with the informal style of restaurants and also a relaxed dress code. When Island Cruises was sold to TUI Travel in 2009, another cruise ship joined the fleet.

Being the first ship of Island Cruises, mv Island Escape was a whole resort of attractions afloat. The ambience on Island Escape was friendly and informal, so there was no need for the passengers to pack their tux for such a laid back cruise holiday. Ladies might bring a little cocktail dress and gents, and gentlemen did not have to forget a jacket if they‘d like to dress up for some of their fine dining experiences. Otherwise, life was quite casual on Island Escape. The ship was attractive for families who look for out of Palma de Mallorca fly-cruises from the UK.

  • The most popular among bars onboard - the Pub, just like your local.
  • Café Brasil (for a cappuccino or afternoon tea, with an interesting book from the library or just browse the Internet)
  • The Mirage Bar (poolside; pampers with al fresco drinks)
  • The Sailaway Bar (to watch the world go by)
  • The Sundowner (the perfect place for live music and pre-dinner drinks)
  • Ocean Theatre (entertainment hub for cabarets, UK comedy acts and West End-style shows)
  • Bounty Lounge (all about game shows and live music)
  • The Lookout Bar (with panoramic view; also offers a late-night disco)
  • The Casino (provides a roulette, Blackjack and poker; also a range of gaming machines)
  • Enjoy all the activities - from sports and spa treatments to fruit carving and salsa classes. The fully equipped Hair and Beauty Salon offers all of hair, body and beauty treatments. It also features separate female and male saunas. The onboard Gym is excellent for resistance and cardio training.
  • Palmy’s kids’ club is entertaining and imaginative, offering the best childcare and daily activities.
  • Other onboard amenities include gift shops, video arcade, internet café, swimming pool, sports deck, medical centre.


When Ocean Gala was first launched in 1982 as ms Scandinavia, it was one of the largest cruise ships in the world, cruising between New York and the Bahamas. Since 2002, the renamed Island Escape ship has spent summers in the Mediterranean and winters cruising around South America.

The ship was dry-docked at Damen in Brest France. Following the 2015-2016 refit, Ocean Gala headed to Scandinavia to serve as a floating hotel for workers involved in the refugee crisis.

In late 2016, Ocean Gala is expected to visit Latin and South America. An experienced group will operate voyages sourcing travelers from countries in Latin America.

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Ocean Gala Wiki

MV Island Escape ship

Cabin grades number: 13. A total number of cabins: 768 (of which 3 Suites, 472 Oceanview, 284 Inside, 28 Single, 4 Wheelchair accessible).

Dining Rooms: Oasis (waiter service, a la carte, a cover charge applied, reservations required).

Restaurants and food bars: Island Restaurant (British and international buffets), Beachcomber Restaurant (24 hours a day self-service buffets, international theme nights).

Lounges & Bars: Bounty Lounge (game shows, comedy, live music), The Lookout Bar (late-night disco), The Pub, Champions (themed bar), Cafe Brasil, Mirage (al fresco poolside bar), Sailaway Bar, Sundowner (live music), Cyber Cafe.

Hair and Beauty Salon, Gym, pool, Sports deck, 24-hour Room service (extra charge), casino, Ocean Theatre, Palmy's Kids' Club, Teens' club, Video Arcade, gift shops, photoshop.

MV Ocean Gala cruise ship was built for Scandinavian World Cruises (DFDS) as "ms Scandinavia". At the time of construction, it was the world's largest cruise ferry. In April 2009, the ship joined Thomson UK (now Marella Cruises) as "Island Escape".

Fun fact is, that in 2002, Island Escape was featured in a UK TV mini-series documentary. In 10 episodes, it showed the working lives of some of the crew, giving an insight into what it is like working on a cruise ship.

The cruise ship was the last drydock refurbished at the Damen shipyard (Brest France) in December 2015. Then was immediately chartered and deployed in Scandinavia (Kristiansand, Norway) to serve as a floating hotel for social workers involved in the Syrian refugee crisis.

MV Ocean Gala itineraries 2016

The ship operated on round-trips leaving from Palma de Mallorca (Spain).

7-day round-trip from Palma de Mallorca - Tue Oct 13 (Palma de Mallorca, departing), Thu Oct 15 08:00am to 04:00pm (Olbia), Fri Oct 16 08:00am to 06:00pm (Naples), Sat Oct 17 07:00am to 07:00pm (Civitavecchia (Rome)), Sun Oct 18 08:00am to 05:00pm (Calvi), Mon Oct 19 12:00pm to 07:00pm (Port Mahon), Tue Oct 20 (Palma de Mallorca, arrive)

7-day round-trip from Palma de Mallorca - Tue Oct 20 (Palma de Mallorca, departing), Thu Oct 22 09:00am to 06:00pm (Bastia), Fri Oct 23 07:00am to 07:00pm (La Spezia), Sat Oct 24 07:00am to 05:00pm (Villefranche (Nice)), Sun Oct 25 08:00am to 05:00pm (Toulon), Mon Oct 26 09:00am to 06:00pm (Barcelona), Tue Oct 27 (Palma de Mallorca, arrive).

At the end of December 2015, Sweden's migration agency signed a hotel ship deal to house 1260 refugees on the chartered cruise ship Ocean Gala.

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