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 of build1982  /  Age: 36
BuilderDubigeon-Normandie SA (Nantes, France)
Classhotel ship
Building costUSD 25 million
Speed18 kn / 33 km/h / 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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Review of Ocean Gala

The 1982-built MS Ocean Gala cruise ship (best known as "MS Island Escape") was constructed by Dubigeon Normandie SA (Nantes France) as the world's biggest cruiseferry at the time. After several drydock conversions, the vessel was last rebuilt to passenger capacity 1760 (plus 540 crew). Ocean Gala was scrapped in April 2018 in Alang (India), after being laid up for several months in Port Khalifa (Abu Dhabi UAE).

The vessel (IMO number 8002597) was last Bahamas-flagged (MMSI 311368000) and registered in Nassau.

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. Thomson sold Island Cruises to TUI Travel in 2009.

Note: In 2021 was launched the 30-passenger superyacht Island Escape, owned by the New Zealand-based company and travel brand Island Escape Cruises Ltd.

History - construction and ownership

The 1800-passenger ship Island Escape 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 drydock-refurbished at Damen Shiprepair Brest (France)/shipyard then 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 was last owned by the Miami-based Cruise Holdings Inc and managed by Columbia Cruise Services (CCS) in Hamburg and Limassol.

In February 2016, Migrationsverket (the Swedish Migration Agency) announced it was close to signing a deal with US Shipmanagers charter company to bring Ocean Gala to Sweden. The plans were to berth Ocean gala in Port Harnosand, approx 430 km / 270 mi north of Stockholm. The government 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. However, the applications of the charter agency for berthing the ship at Harnosand met resistance from local politicians.

In August 2016, Ocean Gala was put up for sale for EUR 17,8 million (~USD 20M). Floating Accommodations claimed that a sale might be necessary to cover losses they would incur if Migrationsverket failed to pay a SEK 54M kronor (USD 6,44M) 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.

Ocean Gala cruise ship (Island Escape)

Decks and Cabins

Island Escape staterooms (768 total) ranged from Standard Inside and Outside triple and quad cabins (fitted with twin single beds and bunks) to Outside Premier (bigger than standard, with table, chair, sofabed), Outside Deluxe (larger than the Premiers), Balcony (with a mini-fridge).

The largest accommodations were the Club and Island Suites, having a separate bar and lounge area.

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

Shipboard facilities and amenities

MS Island Escape had 3x restaurants, two of them buffet-style. The ship's main dining options included The Oasis Restaurant (waiter service, a-la-carte priced menu, cover charge applied, reservations required) and The Island Restaurant (serving British and International buffets, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner).

The Beachcomber Restaurant provided 24-hour self-service buffets. The venue was perfect for light lunches and late-night snacks, and regularly hosted international theme food nights.

The 24-hour room service was at extra charge.

Thomson's Island Cruises brand (presented by the cruise liner Island Escape) was providing an affordable resort-style vacation package with numerous onboard attractions for UK travelers as well as friendly ambience and informal dress code.

The ship was also 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.
  • Cafe 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 (roulette, Blackjack, poker; a range of slot 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, Infirmary/medical center.


When MS Scandinavia was launched in 1982, she was one of the world's largest passenger ships, and cruising out of homeport NYC New York to The Bahamas. Since 2002, the renamed ship (MS Island Escape) was deployed in the Mediterranean (during summers) and in South America (in the winters).

The summer homeporting in Palma de Mallorca (Balearic Spain) offering fly-cruises from the UK made the ship also attractive for families.

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

In late 2016, Ocean Gala was planned for deployment in Central/Latin America and South America.

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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.