This cruise was 11 days with stops in St John, Antigua, St Lucia, Barbados,St Vincent,Bonaire and Aruba. The ship is well designed but showing it's age and is due for an upgrade end of next year. Getting on and off the ship was a snap and RCCL seems to have this part of it down pat.
The ship is small and you really feel the waves for the first 2 days and last 2 days we were in rough seas and it was bouncing all over and made it very difficult to walk on the upper decks and the Windjammer cafe. I am used to the larger RCCL ships and this was the first time on such a small ship. Was on the Oasis just 2 months ago and this ship was a shock to me.
Food and service was very good on this ship and because it is so small the service seems better than on the bigger ships. Entertainment was just ok for some of the acts were pretty good and some were like out of the past when I started cruising 25 years ago. Kind of cornyfor a cruise ship for 2012.
I am a Diamond member with Royal but this ship has no Diamond club so every night there is a function in one of the bars but you can only get wine, beer and champagne free but must buy drinks at 25% off. They seem to be on a very tight budget on this ship compared to the bigger ships. I believe this is because with a longer cruise you get more retired people on board who just do not drink or do many of the excursions that younger people do and this is where Royal makes there money. Bingo on Oasis gives away $5000 and a free cruise where the biggest prize here was $500. And at the on board contests they would give away keychains and items like that.
Another good thing about being on such a small ship is that in a couple of days you will know and see many people on board where if this was a larger ship you could meet someone the first day and never see them again the rest of the cruise.
So if you are looking for an intimate ship that is easy to get around and has a super itinerary then this is the ship for you. I am retired but give me the Freedom and Oasis class ships for there is so much more to do and see and the shows are superb.
If you're reading this then you may be debating whether or not to take this cruise. Sea Dawg says you should because of the Holy Land itinerary - not because of the ship. Or you may have already booked and now you might be wondering whether or not you messed up. Sea Dawg says you done alright. Or you might be hoping to learn a few things from a salty dawg. Sea Dawg will try to do just that. Is Sea Dawg critical? You betcha. I call it like I see it. Criticism should not be equated with dislike of cruises.
Arrival: We flew into Marco Polo Airport, Venice, Italy and rode the city bus (3 Euros) to Piazza Roma hub - about a ten minute walk to the port.
Embarkation: We arrived and witnessed the Royal Caribbean port terminal in chaos. Advanced printout of our SetSail Pass and completed information failed to speed up processing. Though advertisements trumpet express check-in, hospitality room and priority boarding for Platinum & Diamond members - we found we weren't the only Platinum dawgs denied this "perk". Human error? Maybe - but there are no consequencesto those that made the error. It was "hurry up and wait" - we sat on a bare concrete floor with luggage waiting for our group number to be called for processing aboard - the first group began at 1:00. We were finally allowed aboard at 2:15. Sea Dawg rates Royal Caribbean embarkation all growls. Those who waited until 3:30 "breezed" through check-in.
Photographs: Photographers will greet you throughout the cruise. You should know in advance that these photographs are not complimentary or cheap. But you are not obligated to buy. If interested, stop and pose. If not, say, "no thanks" and be on your way. Sea Dawg has experienced a few times when photos go on sale or can be bargained down in price near the end of the cruise.
Welcome Aboard: Vision of the Seas, (1998), older and next to smallest class (78,000 tons; 915' length) than others in the RCCL fleet, is scheduled for an overhaul - and it really shows. Some salty dawgs familiar with mega-ships found Vision disappointing, but others found her a good size. Sea Dawg's experience has been bigger is not always better. You may have learned that sodas, bottled water, fruit juices, beer and alcoholic drinks are available for a price. Unless you can be content with free coffee, tea, lemonade and tap water, you may want to purchase a soda package. If you are keeping track - shore excursion expenses and soda packages are adding to the cost of this cruise you thought you had already paid for - and Vision hasn't left the port yet! If you aren't careful, RCCL will nickel & dime dawgs at every turn.
Cabin: Ours was an inside stateroom on Deck 7, forward. We found it convenient to everything. We are not ones to spend much time in the stateroom anyway. Our stateroom was quite small but efficient. Carpet, furnishings and bathroom were showing their age and heavy use. Two people had to choreograph moves to navigate the tiny floor space. One person standing in front of the closet could be caged in if another opened the bathroom door. The bathroom was something like an airplane restroom with a tight don't-drop-the-soap shower. Sorry, no bathtub except in luxury suites. Sea Dawg says it is a good idea to pack your own won't-fall-through-cracks soap and specialty shampoo. Be forewarned - our hot water was either scalding or lukewarm. We find that we keep a small stateroom neater than a larger one - have to or else the accumulated clutter immobilizes us. I think we would have felt less ship motion in a cabin more in the center of Deck 7.
A Day 1 Cruise Compass listing all the ongoing activities, information and suggestions was on the bed. The lifeboat muster stations are on your SeaPass card. We did not have to wear life jackets to the mandatory muster drill. Muts be warned not to skip drill because staff is checking your name on their roll.
Around the Ship: We had time to explore the ship. If you have time try to locate places where events happen. My advice is start at the top and work down using the stairs. You should at least know where the medical facility is (Deck 1). You might want to inquire if your medical insurance covers you - in most cases it won't.
We encountered faint musty odors and sewery smells wafting down the hallways on Decks 2 & 3. To us this indicates chronic plumbing problems hard to fix. If this might be an issue with you, book staterooms on higher decks.
Aquarius, the main dining room, has two levels on Decks 4 & 5. We met the Maitre 'd and got information on our table seating, attire and meals. At this time of year, the sun goes down before early dinner begins so there's not much advantage to getting a window seat. Windjammers only sometimes offered the same entrée as the main dining rooms at dinnertime. Windjammers is the buffet restaurant where one can spot chow hounds loading plates like they're about to be stranded on a deserted island for a month - only to eat half of it. And few appreciate line crashing hyenas who snatch away all the remaining servings forcing those whose mothers taught them better to wait until another tray arrives from the kitchen. Deck 4 is also home to the Centrum floor.
Deck 5 is where Guest Relations, Casino and Masquerade Theatre are located. By far the largest cash intake comes from the gaming in the Casino. House odds are higher than at Las Vegas. In other words, there are greater odds you will lose. So consider money lost gambling the cost of entertainment. To that end there are free gaming lessons offered. Be careful, the ATM machine is here, too.
Deck 6 has the onboard shopping. Think of the pricey little shops at upscale hotels and you'll have the right idea. Resist the temptation and don't pay "retail" just yet. There will be "sales" throughout the cruise and a few good values might be found. Deck 6 also has the Schooner Bar and Some Enchanted Evening Lounge.
Decks 7 & 8 are cabin decks. Deck 9 is home to Windjammers, the Main Pool, the Solarium (sheltered adult pool) and the Spa. Deck 10 is home to the jogging track, Fitness Center, and Ocean Adventure. Deck 11 houses the Viking Lounge.
Our cruise was not fully booked, so we were pleased few experienced long waits for an elevator. Even so, we found the stairs quicker at peak times. There were quite a few organized Holy Land tour groups aboard, notably from South Korea. The majority of passengers were mature dawgs 50 years up. There weren't many pups aboard and no frisky college canines. Not to worry, we had our share of incredibly loud and rude, line crashing, seat saving, argumentative Russian hounds aboard.
Dinner: We met our fellow tablemates - all new to us, about the same age and cruise experience, and truly enjoyable company. Kudos to RCCL table assignments.
I've read some reviews from Pedigrees complaining about dinners and I have to reply that it is completely unrealistic to expect 5-star dinners at RCCL's moderate prices. Sea Dawg found the quality and quantity of the prepared food consistently very good. No, it's not the best culinary offerings the cruise industry has to offer. - and RCCL no longer serves lobster. Pedigrees who want 5-star cuisine should book luxury cruiselines and pay their premium prices. For the rest of us, this is a chance to sample cuisine we don't often enjoy. If it's not to your liking, your waiter will bring you something else. Big dawgs can order a second entrée if they like. No, we weren't offered filet mignon or whole boiled lobster. But duck, lamb, veal and tiger prawns were. And, yes, you could order steak every night. Vegetarian, "lite" and Asian offerings were usually available.
Dinners are an event that shouldn't be rushed. If you are in a hurry, do your tablemates and waiters a favor and eat at Windjammers. If you want to know the chef's secrets, you can purchase the recipes.
Waiters come from all over the world. Their English proficiency varies but is generally merely functional. Most try very hard to please you and really do earn their tips. Wit and humor were in ample supply at our table and any pretense of formality fortunately disappeared the first night. Dinnertime became an enjoyable highlight of this cruise.
Dancing Under the Stars: Romantic sounding isn't it? Fortunately, on this cruise there were many opportunities for romantic dancing. Never learned how to dance? There are free ballroom dance classes available.
Day 1 - Venice If you've never seen Venice don't miss this opportunity.
Days 2 - 3 - 4 At Sea Vision has a long way to go and a short time to get there. Seas were moderate and the realized wind topside was about 40 knots. In order to make speed, the stabilizers didn't seem to be deployed. Vision maintained a slow undulation punctuated by jerks and vibrations. Seasick bags were hung on stair landings, and seasick pills were available at the Guest Services Desk for green dawgs. It serves as a warning. Dawgs prone to motion sickness are well-advised to be prepared to medicate. In rough seas Vision will definitely rock-n-roll.
The Shows: The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers productions were a notch above theme park shows. To their credit, the shows were performed live to music provided by a live band. Special kudos go to Tim, the sound tech - who kept the sound from becoming loud and distorted.
Headliner Guests were hit and miss. Our best performers were singer Bruce Parker and pianist Naki Ataman. Your cruise will probably feature different entertainers. Most of the others had show dawgs heading out the exits.
Day 5 - Haifa, Isreal This is the port for excursions to Nazareth, the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. The city itself features the famous Baha'i Gardens. For those who plan to walk into Haifa, be forewarned to be met by taxi drivers promising the moon for a bargain but most will take you for a ride and demand more than you thought you agreed to pay. A word about shopping: make your shopping list before you leave home. Too often dawgs purchase items on a cruise destined for a yard sale. Record the local or internet price so you'll know whether you are getting a bargain. Bone up on U.S. Custom limitations before you leave or you might find yourself in the dawghouse.
Day 6 - Ashdod, Isreal This is the port for excursions to Jerusalem and area. Hopefully you took advantage of the free travel talks that should prepare you for what you will see. For most, it isn't like anything they pictured. The Jerusalem walking tours are strenuous. Many group tours throughout this cruise rush here and there with limited site visitation time and greatly restricted opportunity to purchase merchandise along the way. At the end of the tour you will be taken shopping at a "trusted and approved" but overpriced store. Be aware that the merchant gives a percentage of sales to the tour guide and to the cruise line. Many of the same items are sold for less in shops near the port. Also be aware that Jerusalem is not a good place to attempt to tour on your own.
Days 7 & 8 - Alexandria, Egypt This is the gateway to ancient Egypt and you will find a good variety of excursions to match your interests and budget. There are a few rules to remember here: (1) Nothing is free. (2) Bargain for everything. (3) If you make a counteroffer, the merchant understands you are serious about buying. (4) Stay with and in your pack. This is a place dawgs should consider risky to attempt to tour on your own.
Day 9 - At Sea After four straight days of excursions most welcome a restful day at sea. The seas were glassy calm and the weather delightfully sunny and warm. So why was Vision still jerking and vibrating, especially aftwards? Most salty dawgs suspected the engine room.
Day 10 - Kusadasi, Turkey This is the port to catch excursions to the amazing ruins of Ephesus. Kusadasi has a maze of shops at the port entrance worth investigating.
Days 11 & 12 - At Sea The weather turned windy and rainy, with moderate seas as Vision steamed back to Venice. As before, Vision rolled, jerked and vibrated as she had to average 17 knots and the stabilizers were probably not deployed. The seasick bags reappeared and attendance in the main dining room dropped considerably. Salty dawgs feasted on abundant quantities of truly giant shrimp.
There is a lot going on aboard as RCCL makes an all-out final effort to part dawgs from their money. Bingo jackpot's gotta go! Items in shops go on close-out sale! Book your next RCCL cruise now and get onboard credit! Haven't climbed the Rock Wall yet? Well "get out there!" while you still have the opportunity!
You'll have received your envelopes to stash your cash for tips to your cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter. RCCL's suggests tip guidelines for all of the above persons per passenger.
You'll receive a comment card. My thinking is that if you mark everything "excellent" then RCCL will have no incentive to improve anything. But what most want RCCL to improve is not even on the comment card. You'll have to write in comments like "enforce your rules", "need more crew checking SeaPasses and attending the Guest Relations Desk", etc. yourself.
Check your SeaPass account for charges and accuracy at Guest Relations today before the crowd forms a long line. You should get a statement of account in your stateroom tonight. That's when many discover their bar tab, purchases, casino gaming and excursions cost more than the stateroom!
We had a early flight out and only had carry-on luggage so we signed up for express departure.
Departure: We ate a final breakfast in Windjammers then got our luggage from our stateroom.
Departure went well. There were the usual rude line-breakers trying to beat the system and too few crew members assigned to stop them. I can't figure out why line-breakers think they're the only ones in a hurry or why they are more important than anyone else in the scheme of things. This is one area I fault RCCL - too few personnel assigned to handle so many passengers. This should be an "all available hands on deck" situation. There were handicapped passengers needing more assistance than they received. There were people who didn't know which line to get in (one went to Guest Relations - not the exit). Nor do I comprehend why everyone must pass through one and only one exit. (FYI - those who booked the grandest staterooms receive special treatment. The old First Class and Steerage Class steamship system can still be witnessed.)
Given the recent bad press RCCL has received regarding poor security and crime coverup, we thought we might see more security patrolling the decks and enforcing the rules during the cruise. Not so. Know what you are getting into. You are taking certain legal risks on a cruise. U.S. law does not apply on the high seas. That is to say, you don't have Constitutional rights once you leave US territorial waters. Maritime law applies and by signing your ticket, dawgs waive many legal rights. From what I have experienced, RCCL security is all about minimizing RCCL liabilities and protecting their interests (and casino profits) and not protecting passengers or their belongings.
We used express departure - and rolled our own luggage off the ship. Sea Dawg has learned there are many advantages to packing light.
Should You Take This Cruise?
Cruise lines would have you believe cruising is for everyone. It's not! Are you willing toeat and converse with people you have never met? tolerate long, slow lines to most everything? Line-breakers? listen to loud music and noisy, rude, often drunk people? tolerate unsupervised teens running about the ship? be herded like cattle here and there? accept you're getting ripped off paying high prices for sodas, juice and alcohol? be comfortable in cramped quarters? Do you like seeing new places and doing new things? Do you function well in crowds? If so, then cruising may be for you. If not, then it wouldn't take much to ruin your vacation. As for us, we are ready to go again - but not on Royal Caribbean. I have a question for the "Nation of Why Not?"; Why not treat your Platinum and Diamond members better?
Excited about visiting the Baltic, we set out for Oslo. FYI - Oslo is very expensive city. Boarding and checking in at the terminal was a breeze. However, our cabin was not ready and the hallways leading to it smelt of urine. This was just the beginning of our disapointment. The food was horrible - we were in the late seating and it seemed the food was cooked 2 hours before and left under a heat lamp. The service at the restaurant was great but service on the rest of the ship was lacking. Maybe it was because we were the first baltic cruise of the summer, but we would get different answers to questions regarding debarkment and embarkment depending on who we asked. While trying to reboard in Tallin, we waited nearly 2 hours - all the while ship staff went in another door.
All in all, the cruise was a disapointment. Although the itenerary was great, the service, food and overall experience was not what we were used to. Many told us not to rate Royal Caribbean by this experience because this was the smallest of their ships but it'shard not to.
This was the 6th cruise for my wife and I, all on RCI. This was also our 2nd time on RCI's "Vision of the Seas". We sailed on the Vision OTS one year ago to the Mexican Riviera, and we returned this year to sail her to Alaska and her repositioning to Los Angeles for the winter season in Mexico. This cruise was scheduled for 9-nights, 5-nights in Alaska with a day cruising the Inside Passage and stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, followed by 4-nights southbound to LA, 3 days cruising with a stop in San Francisco in between on the way.
Precruise We arrived in Vancouver a couple of days before our cruise to see Vancouver, Vancouver Island and Victoria. We were not disappointed in any way with our time in Canada. We really enjoyed to sites in Vancouver (especially Stanley Park) and our ferry ride to Vancouver Island to see Victoria and the famous Butchart Gardens.
Embarkation When the day finally arrived to set sail, we turned in our rental car and took a shuttle to the port. RCI often uses Ballantyne Pier, not Canada Place for it's ships,so if you are sailing out of Vancouver to Alaska, be sure to check your documents and make sure you get to the right pier in Vancouver. We arrived around 2pm, and now that we are Platinum Crown and Anchor members, we were able to use the VIP check in and we were through security and on the ship in about 15 minutes. Online check-in before sailing is a must for RCI and makes the embarkation process go very smooth, I highly recommend it.
The Ship The Vision OTS is still the elegant ship we remembered from 1 year ago. Very clean, nor wear marks on the carpets or the furniture. The crew kept the ship spotless and sparkling! We marveled again at just how nice everything looked on the ship. The art work was of a southwest US kind of motif, with lots of paintings and sculptures from artist in Mexico and the southwest United States. It seemed to follow that general theme in all the art work throughout the ship. One other type of art work is the numerous model ships all in glass we found in many of the public area, like the Crown and Anchor Lounge, the Windjammer Café and the Schooner Bar.
The Cabin We opted for a junior suite, deck 8 aft on the corner with a wrap around balcony. The corner balcony cabins and suites are famous on RCI Vision class ships, and we booked 12 months out to get this one. We were very pleased with our stateroom! It is true what has been written on the message boards here, the better your stateroom, the more time you will spend in it. Our balcony wrapped around the ship from the aft to the starboard side of the ship. We had views to 2 sides of the ship, just great for Alaska viewing! Our wrap around balcony had so much space; we could probably have fit 15 people comfortably on the balcony if we had wanted to. Inside the junior suite, we had a nice seating area with a love seat on one side and 2 chairs on the other. The bed was comfortable and our bathroom actually had a full bath tub, not a shower stall! RCI hasn't gotten around to changing the staterooms on the Vision yet, so the older bedding is still there and no new flat screen TVs, but our junior suite was still a great home for our 9-nights on the Vision OTS.
Staff As has been the case in all our previous RCI cruises, the staff and service were excellent! Our stateroom attendant did a great job; he knew our names and greeted us with a smile every morning and evening when we saw him. He kept the room very clean and kept our fridge stocked and plenty of towels on hand for us. Our dining room staff was equally magnificent. Our head waiter this year was the roommate of our head waiter from a year ago. Our waiter and asst. waiter did fantastic, they learned our dinks and food preferences the very 1st night, and we never had to ask for anything twice with this staff. We did see some familiar faces from a year ago, the cruise director John Blair and his wife the activities director Katrina were still onboard. I got a chance to speak with them both during the cruise, and I know they probably didn't remember me from last year, I enjoyed getting a chance to spend some time on deck with them both late one night and talking a long while about RCI and the Vision OTS. If there is one area that RCI really excels in, it is their staff and service onboard.
Ports of Call We had 3 stops in Alaska and a stop in San Francisco on this cruise. Our 1st port was Juneau, Alaska's capitol city. My wife and I took separate shore excursions at this port. My wife is an avid photographer and booked herself on a photo safari, while I took a shore excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier. Juneau is an interesting city, only accessible by air or water. It has a real western and frontier fell to it. Just stop by the Red Dog Saloon and you'll know what I mean. Our 2nd stop was in Skagway, the gateway for the 1898 gold rush. This was my favorite port on our cruise. Skagway has a very colorful history to it. When you walk through downtown Skagway, you are walking by buildings actually built over 100 years ago and still in use today. We took the White Pass Railway excursion through the mountains up to Frasier B.C. This was the original railway the miners took during the gold rush, and is a great way to see Alaska and its beauty. If you ever do go to Skagway, make sure you hear the story of Soapy Smith and Frank Reid, and visit their graves at the Gold Rush Cemetery. Skagway has a lot of interesting history and great stories in its past. The last port in Alaska was Ketchikan, and here we took an excursion on a sightseeing boat to see American Bald Eagles and Totem Poles; both of which Ketchikan has more of than anywhere else in the world they claim. While sailing south to LA, we stopped in San Francisco for a day. We arrived at approx. 11am and didn't sail away until midnight. We spent our time on the waterfront, visiting Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, and Ghirardelli square. We skipped dinner on the ship that night and visited our favorite restaurant in San Francisco, "The Stinking Rose". It has kind of become a tradition whenever we go to San Francisco to visit this restaurant and eat here. It's an all garlic restaurant and has great food!
Food The food in the dining room was good and there was plenty of it. Food is not RCI's strongest asset. The Windjammer buffet was good, but it was typical RCI buffet food, and you had better get to it when it 1st comes out because it is not very good after it has sat in the warmer for very long. We did enjoy the dining room food, and we tended to eat there for all our meals.
Entertainment The highlight of our cruise was the entertainment. We skipped the 2 singers and dancers production shows because they were the exact same production shows we saw a year ago on the Vision OTS and this last February on the Majesty OTS. However, the specialty acts were great! We were treated to a performance by the great comedian Marty Allen of the Ed Sullivan Show fame. He and his wife, Karon Kate, put on the best show of comedy I can remember onboard a ship. The ship also had 2 other acts, jugglers/comedians called "Shark Bait", and a group of drummers and dancers from Argentina. Overall we were very happy with the entertainment onboard.
Disembarkation On our debarkation day, we decided to keep our own luggage and use the self-assist process and walk off the ship with our luggage. This worked out very well for us and after waiting in a line for about 10 minutes, we were off the ship and on our way to the airport for our flight home.
Overall Report I would give this cruise a 9 on a 1 to 10 scale. We had a great cruise, but unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for us on this trip. We had some very rough seas leaving Vancouver, and it rained and/or drizzled at all of our 3 ports in Alaska. You cannot blame RCI for the weather, and we tried to go about our shore excursions as if the weather didn't matter, but sometimes we just couldn't avoid it. In Juneau for example, all the helicopter and floatplane excursions were canceled due to weather and a lot of cruisers were very disappointed. Our dining room table mates told us this was the 3rd or 4th time they had taken this very cruise on the Vision OTS in late September to Alaska and repositioning to LA, and they said this was the worst weather they had ever experienced on this cruise. Oh well, no one to blame, just the luck of the draw I guess. In RCI's wisdom, however, they have decided that the Vision OTS will no longer cruise Alaska, this was her very last cruise to the last frontier of America. She will now sail the Mexican Riviera exclusively for RCI until January 2009 when she will then be brought through the Panama Canal to cruise the Caribbean year around. We did get to see and experience a lot in Alaska and had a great time on my favorite RCI ship Vision OTS. I highly recommend a cruise on the Vision OTS to anyone.
This review is mainly for someone who is trying to decide if this cruise will be a good family vacation. I read almost every review for the last two years about this ship and itinerary before we left and there were only two or three from a family perspective.
This was the eighth cruise for my wife and I and the second one we have taken our children on. We have been on RCCL, Princess, and Carnival. We have traveled to Alaska, the Caribbean, and Mexico on previous cruises. We chose this cruise and itinerary because we live in California and it was an easy drive for us to get to the ship.
We are a family of five. We have a 6 year old son, 4 year old daughter, and a four month old infant. Also traveling with us was my mother in law, father in law, and two nieces 11 years old and 9 years old.
I have broken my review into categories to save you time if you don't want to read the whole review. If you have any questions you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let me say nowthat we had a very enjoyable cruise. I can not say enough good things about their children's program. The 4, 6, and 9 year old had a blast and wanted/asked to go to the children's program. The ship was completely booked. Vision is an older ship and smaller compared to new mega ships but I did not feel cramped or over crowded. The crew was probably the friendliest crew we have ever had. This could be because they just started their contract most of the crew just joined the ship in February 2006. (After the cruise my wife and spoke and believe one of the reasons the crew was so friendly is because they were not burned out yet. Most of the crew work on 5 month contracts so you can figure out at what stage in their contract they are in when you plan to travel.)Embarkation:
For some reason our cruise had a late boarding. Boarding for our cruise did not start until 1:00 PM. We arrived at the port at about 12:00 PM and we able to check-in and we were on the ship by 1:00 PM. I parked in the long term parking at the port that was $82 for 7 days. You can walk to the ship from the parking lot or there is a shuttle.
If you use the on-line registration you still have to wait in line to get your sea/sail cards but the line moved well.
You have to go through a metal detector and scanner prior to boarding the ship so for you families if you can pack it in a suitcase you should, it will make going through security a lot easier.Cabin:
I had Cabin 3110 and 3112. They were outside cabins with an ajoining door. (There is a limited number of ajoining cabins so if you have certain dates that you have to travel you may want to book early.) Each cabin had four beds, two twins that can convert to a queen and two beds that came out of the ceiling. Because my in laws booked late they were only able to get an inside cabin that slept four. Their cabin had the same two twins that can convert to a queen and two beds that came out of the ceiling.
The 4,6,9, and 11 year old all slept in 3110 most of the cruise. My wife, the baby and I slept in 3112. The cruise line does offer a crib. It is a Play and Pack model, play pen type, crib. The cabin was big enough that we left the crib up the entire cruise. With two cabins we had plenty of room for clothes, strollers, and other items we brought. The next time we cruise I will again get two ajoining cabins instead of a family suite. One reason is that we could have a child napping in one cabin and still be able to watch TV or get ready in the other. Another reason for two cabins is two bathrooms. My wife was able to have a bathroom all to herself to get ready.
The cabins were big enough for four people but everyone getting showers and trying to get dressed could get interesting. (My father in law took a shower in spa a couple of times so he did not have to fight for shower time in the cabin.)
The only down side of these cabins is that they don't have refrigerators, but the cabin steward did keep the ice bucket full all the time.
The cabin has a small TV. There are two cartoon channels (Cartoon Network and Boomerang) and the RCCL children's channel which shows activities in the children's program and runs Playschool's Little People cartoons. I brought a portable DVD player which you can plug into the TV, we never used it. The kids were happy watching the cartoon network and the ship TV channel.
The closets are good sized and they fit all of my mother in laws, two nieces, and father in laws clothes in one. There are only 14-16 hangers in the closet so you may want to bring some hangers from home.
A lot of reviews talked about needing a night light. Our children do sleep with a night light at home. We did not bring one. We just left the bathroom light on and the door cracked open. It is so dark in the cabin that just the light coming from the crack in the door gives off quite a bit of light.
There is a hair dryer in the cabin. But there are also only two plugs in the cabin. I brought a power strip but never used it.FOOD:
This is a very subjective area. We eat at and enjoy a variety of different restaurants from family restaurants to upscale steakhouses. In my opinion the food overall was very good. This is not gourmet food but they offer a great variety and what they do serve is prepared well.
We ate dinner every night in the Dining Room. Through out the cruise there was never a meal or dish that anyone in our party of 8 complained about. Each dish was prepared as requested and was served hot when we received it. There was a good variety of items each night. The children had the choice to eat from the main menu or a children's menu. The children's menu had at least 10 different items. The children's menu does not change from night to night. The children's menu had different types of pasta, pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, steak, chicken, and some other items. Sometimes the kids ate an item from each.
Our waiter would tell us what was really good on the menu and what was just okay and he was right on with all of his suggestions and comments. For example, one night there was a choice of Pork Chops, Fish, and another item I can't remember. The waiter said the item I can't remember was the best thing that night and that Pork Chops were good but dry. I got both items and he was right the one he suggested was excellent and the Pork Chops were dry. The desserts were excellent. I love desserts or all kinds and I don't restrict my diet at all. The "healthy" desserts tasted as good as the regular desserts and some nights they tasted better.
Okay parents here is the best part for you, the kids have three nights when they can eat dinner with the children's program. They are the two formal nights which are the first day at sea and the day at sea after Puerto Vallarta and the night the ship is in Puerto Vallarta. My son was the only one who wanted to go to the children's dinner. He went the first night and enjoyed it but decided he wanted to eat with us the other two nights because he liked the menu selection in the dinning room.
I know this is a parental decision but we started allowing our kids to bring some toys to dinner or the Gameboy. Dinner for our party of 8 was taking about 2 hours every night.
If you want the children be able to eat there main meal while you are eating soup and salad just let your waiter know that. A lot of nights our kids wanted to go back to the children's program which started at 7:00 PM. The waiter would serve them their meal while we ate soup and salad. By 7:00 PM most nights the kids had eaten their meal and ice cream and were ready to go to the kid's program. This was nice also because we got to eat our main dish and dessert in peace and have adult conversations. I felt this gave us the best of both worlds, we got to have a family meal but then we as adults also got to enjoy a part of meal with some quite or nice conversation.
We only ate in the Dining Room once for breakfast. The menu had the same items you could get at the Windjammer. I would have enjoyed eating breakfast in the Dining Room but with the kids it was easier to eat in Windjammer. For breakfast and lunch it is open seating in the Dining Room. So they just keep putting people at a table until it is full. We never ate lunch in the Dining Room. Again I would have liked to but the kids wanted to swim and do other things.
The food in Windjammer I thought for the most part was good. Lunch items changed every day but the breakfast items were same every day. It would have been nice if they changed the breakfast items a couple of times.
In the Solarium they have a Café that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. The hot dogs and pizza were okay. Sorry pizza lovers this is cardboard crest with sauce, cheese, and a topping. The hamburgers were I thought excellent. They were not just frozen patties fried up. They were real meat hamburgers that had a lot of flavor. They were always putting fresh hot hamburger in the heating tray.
My wife had room service most morning because of the baby's sleep schedule. It was always delivered during the time frame she requested. The food she received tasted good and was delivered hot.
The room service menu is very small and has very little variety (there are a couple of salads, a fruit bowl, and two sandwiches) which was kind of disappointing. We did order room service a couple of times and again it was delivered in a short amount of time and tasted good.
The only free ice cream machine on the ship is outside of the Windjammer on the port side. It is open from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM. My father in law and the kids were there at least three times a day if not more. They offer chocolate, vanilla, and a chocolate/vanilla swirl. The kids loved being able to walk up to the machine and get their own ice cream.POOL:
There are two pools. The main pool and the pool in the Solarium. Both pools are salt water. The hot tubs are fresh water. The pool in the Solarium is supposed to be for 16 year olds and over. If there is "inclement weather" then from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM children are allowed in the Solarium pool. We ate in the Solarium Café and I never saw any children in the Solarium pool until the last day at Sea when it was cold outside and there was no one at or in the main pool.
About a 1/4 of the main pool is gated off from the rest of the pool. This 1/4 of the pool is shallow and good for kids that don't swim yet. It is probably 2' deep. The main pool is 5 ½' deep. The main swimming area is not very big. I think about 20 people in the main pool would have it full.
Our kids really enjoyed playing in the pool. My 4 year does not swim yet so she played in the swallow part while the older kids that swim, swam in the main part of the pool.
On Sea days it is hard to find a chair in the pool area unless you get there early. Every day we went in the afternoon and were able to find at lest one chair or moved one from another area. They say that if a chair is not used for 30 minutes they will remove the towel and make it available, it really does not happened though.CHILDREN'S PROGRAM:
RCCL Ocean Adventures program is great. It is not just baby sitting or them putting your child in front of the TV. This is an actual program that schedules different things for the children to do through the day. They play games, color, art, and do experiments. They also have balls and other things they can throw around the children's area. There are at least 6 counselors in the children's program. All of the counselors seemed to really like their job and enjoyed being with kids.
The program goes from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, 2:00 PM-5:00 PM, 7:00 PM-10:00 PM on Sea days and on port days it opens ½ hour before the first excursion leaves and closes at 5:00 PM in Cabo and Mazatlan and 10:00 PM in Puerto Vallarta. You can leave your children on the ship while you go into the port if want. In Cabo we left our children on ship, they never knew we left the ship.TIME CHANGE:
You change time four times during the cruise. You go forward one hour the night before Cabo. You go forward another hour the night before Puerto Vallarta. You go back one hour the night after Puerto Vallarta and you get the other hour back the night before arriving back in LA.MONEY:
There is no need to get Pesos. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Bring from home a lot of $1,$5,$10's. $20 are okay but generally to large to use except for long cab rides. If you use large bills you will get change back in Pesos.
There was another review I read about this cruise where the reviewer gave a break down on how much of each denomination to bring. I used his suggestion and found it to be pretty accurate.PORTS: Cabo
We did not do anything with our kids as I mentioned above. My wife, the baby, and I just walked around town. It was a nice break for my wife and I to have some alone time. Cabo is really the only port where you can get off the ship and just walk around. All the shopping/restaurants are right near where you get off the tender.
You do tender in. We were in no hurry to get off the ship. We got off the ship at 12:00 PM and walked onto a waiting tender. If you book an excursion through RCCL they make sure you get off first to get to your excursion on time.
We took a tender back at 4:30 PM and again walked onto a waiting tender.Mazatlan
All 9 of us went to the El Sid resort. I found it by reading other people's reviews and it met my expectations. We took a van because there was some many of us. Is was $30 one way or $50 round trip with the same driver. We agreed that we would not pay him until the return trip to the ship. For $80 he would have given us a tour of Mazatlan on the drive back to the ship. It is about a 15-20 minute drive out to El Sid from the ship. The current prices for the taxis are posted at the taxi stand so your bargaining power is reduced a little bit. (It was $24 to El Sid in a taxi that held 4 people.)
The El Sid was a very nice resort. When you enter they will try to get you into the time share meeting just politely say no or if you can just walk in the lobby and go to the right and you hit the pools. You can bring towels from the ship, which the ship provides, or you can get towels from the resort you just need to leave them a picture ID.
There are two pools. One pool is large and set up for water volleyball. Next to the pool is a children's play area. There is also access to the beach. The second pool has a slide and rock structure that is about 6'-8' over the pool that you can jump from into the pool.
We spent part of our day on the beach. We were hit up to do parasailing as we were walking to the beach. We told the guy we needed a place in the shade for the baby. He found us an umbrella and chairs. Three of us parasailed for $25 each. We launched and landed on the beach. We were up in the air for about 10 minutes each. We then rented two 3 person Jet Skis for $45 for ½ hour for each. We took all the kids out on the Jet Skis. The kids played on the beach for awhile and then we went to the pool.
We paid about $30 for lunch for nachos and quesadillas for 8 of us. The food was good and the service was fast.
Unfortunately for our kids we did not find the pool with the slide and large rock structure until about ½ hour before he had to leave.Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has a Wal-Mart should you need something for the kids like diapers or something along those lines.
We walked to Krystal Vallarta resort from the ship. It was about a 7-10 minute walk. To get to Krystal Vallarta, once you get off the ship you will be facing a circular building. Go to the right of the building, walk straight past the little shops at the port and you will see a fence and street. Walk down the street to the end of the street and you will be at Krystal Vallarta.
Krystal Vallarta is now charging $20 per adult to get into the resort. But they give you a voucher for $20 per worth of food, beverages, or act ivies per adult at the resort. We used our vouchers to rent a Jet Ski. If you want to go to Krystal Vallarta but don't want to pay the $20 per adult, there are several other hotels on the street before Krystal Vallarta that you could probably walk through to get to the beach and then walk down the beach to Krystal Vallarta.
This resort is not as nice as El Sid. This resort also has two pools. The main pool which we did not go to and a smaller second pool that is on the right between two of the hotel buildings. This smaller pool has a slide and shallow areas for children that can't swim.
We did not eat here so I can't comment on the food or service.SHIP ENTERTAINMENT:
Again this is a subjective area and the performers change a lot from cruise to cruise. In my opinion one of the RCCL productions shows (Salute to Broadway) was pretty good. The other production (Boogie Wonderland) was horrible. I thought Boogie Wonderland was horrible on many levels. The show itself and the premise 70's/Disco retrospective was not very good and the show was not entertaining. The show did not flow very well.
The other entertainers/performers were all very good.
The kids went with us some nights to the shows. The shows they did go to they enjoyed.DISEMBARKATION:
RCCL now has express disembarkation for passengers willing to carry their own bags off the ship. Express disembarkation is supposed to be limited to certain number of passengers. My in-laws used Express disembarkation because they had an early flight. (I would not suggest booking a flight before 1:00 PM) With Express disembarkation my in-laws still waited about 20 minutes to get off the ship once Express disembarkation was called. Then you have to wait in line to go through Customs. If you have a passport, take it and use it. The passport line went much much faster but everyone in your party has to have a passport or they will make you wait in the regular line.
They disembark the ship starting with the upper level cabins and working there way down to the Deck 2 cabins.
We left our cabin at 8:00 AM and went to breakfast at the Windjammer. We stayed in the Windjammer until about 9:30 AM when they finally asked us to leave so that they could get ready for the next sailing. They really do stop serving food at 8:30 AM. At 8:30 AM they started putting everything away.
Once we left the Windjammer we went to the Main showroom. Our group was not called to disembark until about 10:30 AM. It took about 1 hour from the time we were called to disembark to get to our bags. The whole hour you are standing waiting in line. I allowed our son to bring his Gameboy it really helped him pass the time.
I know I put in a lot of details but I hope this will help you decide on a vacation and if you chose this vacation I hope my experience helps you.
If you have any questions you can e-mail me at email@example.com
We were very disappointed about our recent trip to Alaska on Vision of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. It was not just worth of the money. It was more waste of our precious vacation time.
We didn't have any choice when deciding the cruise. Our family booked the reservation as a large group last year. The traveling group ranged from 2 years old to 65. Most of the family had traveled with RC before in Mexico and were happy with the trip.
The service was poor. We reserved a port-a-crib well in advance for the 2 year-old toddler, and called twice to confirm it. Guess what, there was no crib when we arrived. Just to make the situation worse, the plane was delayed and by the time we got on the ship, it was past her bed time. She was so cranky. It took them 30 min to set a crib in the cabin.
Shampoo was out when we first got to the cabin. We had to ask twice to get it refill. It was so obvious the last day, because we had a glass with shampoo in there whichwe borrowed from our parents' cabin.
TV remote was missing for 3 days, before we finally got one. The feedback form was missing. By the time we had it, we were too busy with packing and departing the ship. Hmm...I wonder!
The food was disappointing - just a little better than TGIF (I mean the formal dining, not just the buffet). Where is the midnight buffet? and Alaskan king crab legs? Well, there is only ONE midnight buffet for the entire week. The line was about 30 minutes long. Maybe we were pampered by the SF Bay Area cuisine. There was absolutely no variety. The buffet was more like cafeteria in college. They pack up all the fresh food in Vancouver. We were on the south bound. So the food was at least one-two weeks old. Had some stale fruits.
So the weather was miserable. It rained on every port. There is a reason they named it 'Misty Fjords', or 'Icy Straits'. Be prepared!
The ship is OLD OLD OLD. We had a few holes on the ceiling in the balcony room. You see the age in the wear and tear and colors and design.
The excursion trips were over priced. Same dog sledding trip was $30 in Fairbank, but $120 booked through the cruise. Try to book the trip on land. They never sold out.
Don't take me wrong. We love Alaska. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there for two weeks. We love the majestic scenery, national parks, the friendly natives, and all the wild life. We don't mind the occasional bad weather. But we didn't really get to meet any of the real locals. Most of these ports are centered around cruise business. People who work there only stay for the summer, except Juneau. Many of the souvenier stores on land are also owned by the cruise companies. They want to make sure that every dollar you spend goes to them.
Do I travel again with RC? Most likely not, just based on the service and food. If you want to go to Alaska, try different ship.
My wife, my son, and I were on the March 20, 2005 sailing of the Vision of the Seas for seven nights to the Mexican Riviera. This was my eighth cruise, and my third on Royal Caribbean. We were on the Vision's sister ship the Rhapsody six years a go. Because we were traveling with my young child, we chose not to book any shore excursions, rather explore on our own. We had been to Mexico previously on another cruise and knew the Riviera well. We chose this particular cruise because we live near L.A. and the price was unbelievably low. I will not review the ports because I believe it is difficult to get a sense of a place in a short time period, but they are all fun cities to visit.
The ship itself is in great condition considering her age. The crew does a nice job keeping her in tip top shape. There are some obvious signs of wear on some carpeted areas and surfaces, but overall I would say that the ship is still in fine shape. The Centrum or atrium as it is called isa nice and peaceful place to relax with great views of the passing ocean. The Vision is a moderate sized ship, but rarely feels crowded due to a good layout. The common areas are done in tasteful pastel type colors and the ship has great ocean views from most floors. The dining room looks brand new and the windjammer café is kept clean and neat. The pool deck is often busy especially on sea days, but always kept tidy by the attendants and maintenance personnel. The indoor pool or solarium area is a great "adults only" (at least that's what they claim) place to spend time for a lazy afternoon or a swim. The bars and lounges are the standard run of the mill places you see on all ships. The theatre is very beautiful and is in top condition with state of the art equipment.
Our room was on deck two with a large window. We were given a handicapped room because it was available and we were in need of as much space as possible for our child's crib. The room was huge! We felt like we were in a suite! Though the furnishings, the carpet, and the décor looked a bit tired, it was all functional and comfortable. Our room steward was great and our cabin was cleaned twice a day in a timely manner. My in-laws went with us and they had a standard outside cabin, though it was small, it was still functional.
From the first moment we walked on the ship we felt like this was a happy place to be. The Vision has a very friendly and casual atmosphere that makes her a pleasure to cruise on. Though we are somewhat experienced cruisers, we still were impressed with the casual and fun atmosphere on board. The staff always greeted us with a smile and was so very nice to my young son!
Food is a subjective matter, but I will do my best to be fair in this area. We have certainly had better on other RCI cruises and especially on Celebrity. The food was good, but not great. I will do my best to explain how dining has seemed to have changed over the years on RCI. First of all, the menus on this ship were quite different than previous cruises. The offerings were less elaborate and sometimes the choices were not that appealing. Most entrees were cooked properly and the food was hot when it arrived. The side dishes lacked originality and as on most cruises the vegetables were more like a garnish than sustenance. The assistant waiters now bring around a bread basket and serve you where as before it was help yourself. I was unsure if this was due to health reasons or because of cutting down on wasted bread. I personally liked the basket on the table. Most meat dishes were cooked as ordered, and the seafood was good. Deserts were just alright with an occasional outstanding. The flourless chocolate cake is a must have! There was always alternative choices on the menu (Chicken, Steak or Fish) if you did not like the evenings offerings. The dining room was much more casual than on other ships and the service was friendly and courteous. There was always live music playing while dining that we felt was nice.
We ate all breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Café and found the food to be just alright. Many reviews state that the choices in the buffet for breakfast are limited or unoriginal and the same, but I often wonder what the heck they eat at home for breakfast. Though the breakfast menus did not change in the buffet, there was plenty of variety of foods to choose from. There was no omelet or fresh waffle stations, and the waffles and pancakes were served in warmers that sometimes made them a bit soggy. They toasted bagels, muffins, and bread for you at a station which was nice. We like the fact that you can also get a limited breakfast menu delivered from room service if you choose. We never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room, however we noticed that they do not change the daily breakfast and lunch menus in the dining room as was done previously. This was disappointing because we found the lunch menu especially disappointing when we viewed it.
The Vision of the Seas is the most musical ship I have ever been on. We thoroughly enjoyed the live music that was being played throughout the ship. At all meals in the dining room there was a pianist or a string quartet. The Centrum area always had a band or pianist playing, and the standard trio band played daily and nightly by the pool. The entertainment was mixed; there was a great comedian on board and a duo of magicians/comedians who did a great show. The production show was called "Boogie Wonderland" was not impressive at all. We found it to be boring and the singing and dancing mediocre at best. They also had a musical impressionist who was good and an ethnic dance trio from South America who were quite entertaining. The cruise director and his staff were the same as most cruises and did a good job promoting the daily activities. I do grow tired of the constant promoting of Bingo however.
I would also like to take a moment and comment on RCI's new program for little kids called aquababies and tots. This program is sponsored by Fisher Price and allows children and their parents an opportunity to play with other children in a structured play group. This is not a drop off program and is far to structured and scripted for little ones, but the intentions are good. This was the first week it was being offered on the Vision and I suspect it will only improve. The toys are great and my little one enjoyed the daily 45 minute session.
Last but not least I would like to comment on embarkation and debarkation. We got to the Port of Los Angeles at 12:00 and we were on board by 12:30. The entire process was very quick and easy. Our room was not ready until 1:00, however we were able to drop off our bag and go to the welcome aboard buffet. Debarkation is an entirely different story. Please be aware that every ninety days the entire crew is now obliged to clear customs along with the passengers at the home port. This means that the entire debarking process took twice as long and we were stuck on the ship until around noon. We had no place to go because they were cleaning all the public bathrooms and lounges and we were basically confined to the outside decks or the Centrum. They should give people warning of this because I believe that many people missed their flights home because of the long delay. I do understand that RCI has no control over customs, but they could have made our last morning on board a bit more pleasant.
Departure Tip: Be sure you do the computer on-line pre board. Hold onto passport. Porters at curbside whisk away your luggage. Up the escalator to airport style security checkpoint. On to customs visa check. On to photo op and finally take another picture and receive all important "Sea Pass". Walk the gangway and, boom, you're lost. Since your luggage is in limbo and your room may or may not be ready you ask how to get to the Windjammer on Deck 9. Find elevator and this is the first really cool impression of shipboard life. The buffet is in full swing with everything you could want, live Calypso band playing in front of the friendly bar on the open deck in front of the monster pool, and you with this new Sea Pass card where you can charge anything that is not included. Food is included, they charge for alcohol, photos, etc. but the prices are moderate. Tip: Included in the price of drinks is the gratuity. No fuss with cash on board except for Casino. Slots seem loose at Casino which includes; Craps, Roulette and Blackjack.
Rooms are ready "sometime" shortlyafter boarding. Tip: Get a room with a balcony, truly worth it. Rooms are narrow and the head is compact. TV, Phone, Room service is fantastic. Second most important person on the ship is your room steward. Luggage arrived about one hour after room was ready. Not bad considering there are 2,300 people on this ship.
At Sea Brace for first day put-on-your-life vest and muster on deck for abandon ship drill. The Vision of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The ship does a little rock and roll and should rock you to sleep at night. Huge and sleek with every amenity. Captain gives progress report every day at noon. You can see all the features in your book. OK, the next hurdle is seating in the dining room. We were celebrating 40th wedding anniversary on the day of departure. We got in line (there are lots of lines) for dinner and it was like they never heard of us. Reservation was booked four months in advance for main dining room at six -- and maître'd said "sorry no table for you". Tip: When you get your Sea Pass Card approaching the ship, check to see if you have a table assigned. Your travel agent does not get a table assignment. Our card said Table 00 which meant we did not have a table but we did not know that. So they sat us at 8:30. We met a delightful family from China and during dinner, the dining room boss came and told us he had a six o'clock table for the following night. These dining room people are the first most important people on the cruise unless you do the buffet every day and night. There is a total org chart of people serving you in the dining room. At your table alone is the assistant waiter, the waiter and the head waiter. Then there is Kumar who is in charge of the whole dining experience and who we tangled with the first night. In fairness, he arranged for a first rate table for two which was rare and delightful for the duration of the cruise.
The dining room is nice even if you have to dress up a little. Tip: the formal Captain's Reception/Dinner is really special and worth the effort. I really resisted getting dressed up for the formal part of this but it was cool. The party-hearty tank top and shorts bunch who walk around the ship making too much noise with a Corona in hand and live at the bar and all-you-can eat buffet, well...party on.
At Port Unless you really know these towns I suggest a signed up in advance for tour except Cabo. Generally I think things get better the further south you go.
Cabo San Lucas, Baja del Sur: Cabo is basically a party town for rich gringos who love Marlin fishing with famous night clubs such as Cabo Wabo, Squid Roe, etc. Cabo has a really lovely bay which you can see from the ship. You will take a small boat from the ship to the marina. Lots of lines. Most of the tours want to take you around the bay on a catamaran or maybe horseback on the beach. I recommend no tour in Cabo, (OK maybe a glass bottom boat). Just take the tender to the marina dock and walk the marina and follow the signs to the shopping area. Walk around Cabo. Don't buy much, prices are higher here than further south. Not a town for kids. Weather is super. Tip: Most vendors will accept USD, Visa, etc. They may give you change in Pesos which you don't want to get stuck with when you arrive home. Tip: Best shopping value for booze is duty free on board the ship.
Mazatlan, Gue.: Now on the mainland and in a different time zone, different feel, more conservative, the ship is tied up snug to shore and the shore is green. Tip: The ship changes time during the trip and not necessarily consistent with local time zones so be sure to know what is "ship's time". We took the tour to Stone Island (not really an island), were loaded on a two deck panga, toured the bay, saw Pacifico Beer Factory, and finally herded into the "limo" -- a flatbed with slat seats pulled by a tractor to the other side of the "island" and spent a lazy morning at a lovely beach with open bar and Mahi Mahi lunch included. Pinata party for the kids. Wife won a prize dancing the Macarena on the shaky stern of the panga on the way back to ship. Great tour guide, Humberto. Although we enjoyed this, I recommend some other tour that gives you a better look at the city of Mazatlan.
Puerto Vallarta, Jal.: We took Town, County Tequila Tour with Jose. A bus tour which I thought was excellent. A good look at PV upscale hoods and rural life. Went to small tequila fabrica and learned how it is made, lots of free samples with an energetic Jose leading us in various toasts. Good tacos for lunch with handmade tortillas. ($2 a taco was a little pricy). End tour with look at downtown PV, the malecon and shopping. Wife bought Mexican Fire Opal in 14k setting for $300 USD while the store staff plied me with "free" Pacifico beer. PV from a distance looks like Las Vegas in terms of construction underway, condos, etc. Lots of growth. Weather is like Hawaii.
Summary Excellent trip overall. The cruise is a good value. Crew is truly international, (get used to very different accents) and really work hard to please customers. The ship is clean and luxurious. 2,300 people is a crowd and you will encounter some long lines and all types of people. This cruise had 600 kids, lots of large family reunions which can test your patience in an elevator.
I smile at the term "Mexican Riviera" but there is a deep pride even from jaded tour guides and I suspect the true Mexican reception of cruise passengers is probably much more friendly and sincere than the other side of the pond.
A repositioning cruise L.A., via San Francisco, Victoria B.C., ending in Vancouver. 22-28 May 2005. This ship needs a major overhaul, it is 8 or 9 years old and is shop worn. Asked for early seating, got late seating. Took all our meals in the Winjammer Cafe, the food was good but not up to the standards of our last cruise with RCI on the Jewell in September 2004.
Service was well below RCI standards, no brochures were available for future cruises (The lady said they were locked in a room and she did not have a key that worked - Wow!, she advised to use the RCI site on the internet, tried for the last three days of the cruise, it was always down. The Internet Cafe does not access AOL, so if you plan on using email, to stay in touch, take another ship.
The saving grace for this cruise were the Weather and the ports we visited, absolutely Outstanding!!!! RCI is still our favorite line but we will be careful to research the next ship unless we go on the Freedom of the Seas next year.