Island Cruises was the brand name of a cruise line operated by Sunshine Cruises Limited, founded as a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and First Choice Travel PLC. First Choice were later acquired by TUI Travel PLC. In 2008, Royal Caribbean sold its stake in the company to TUI, and the cruise line’s only fully owned ship, the Island Escape, was transferred to TUI’s Thomson Cruises but retained its Island Cruises branding.
The company operates in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, aiming its products primarily at markets in the United Kingdom, Brazil and Argentina.
In Europe and the Caribbean, Island Cruises targeted the British family market, offering casual “totally relaxed” cruising. In South America, the company targeted a younger audience. Now, as sailing for Thomson Cruises, the Island Escape sails in Europe exclusively for the British market.
Island Cruises was founded in 2001 by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and First Choice Holidays PLC, and began operations in 2002 with one ship, the Island Escape. Initially, Island Cruises had planned to operate in Europe during the summer season (Northern Hemisphere), and out of California during the winter. Before the first winter season began however, the decision was made to change the winter schedule to 3- and 4-night cruises out of Brazil. During 2002, the Island Escape was featured in the reality television series Cruise Ship, commissioned by ITV.
In 2005 a second ship joined the Island fleet, when the Island Star was chartered from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
On 6 October 2008 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. sold their share in Island Cruises to TUI Travel PLC, who had acquired First Choice Holidays PLC. At the same time the Royal Caribbean announced they would be ending the charter of Island Star to Island Cruises in April 2009.
Sailings on the Island Star after April 2009 have been cancelled, and the ship will be re-deployed to Pullmantur Cruises, another subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd as the MV Pacific Dream. Sailings on the Island Escape are unaffected, but are now being sold under TUI’s existing Thomson Cruises brand.
‘Island Star’ cruise ship