This was our third year in a row taking a cruise during Thanksgiving week, with the first two times being on Princess. Although we were happy with Princess and it was the same itinerary on the Mexican Riviera, we wanted to try another cruise line. We were quite looking forward to the trip as we had splurged and reserved a premium balcony suite.
We were pleasantly surprised that we had a special check-in line that allowed us to bypass the hour-long line for regular check-in. Entering the suite, 8th deck, suite 8506, the room was pleasant enough. by cruise standards, the room was large, approximately 350 sq feet with more than enough closet space. The bathroom was a normal, full-size size with a full shower tub. The other first impression upon entering the room was that the view through the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door was wonderful but the glass was filthy. The balcony was also quite spacious and had a table with two chairs and two padded lounge chairs. Again the glass balcony panels were quite dirty. The first 15 minutes were spent cleaning the windows. The carpeting was a little wornand the bed not particularly comfy but good enough. (As a note, after we got back from the cruise, I took a look at the virtual tour of the cabin again on Expedia and discovered that the layout of the room in the virtual tour was NOT the same as our actual room, which I think is a bit deceptive.)
As we looked at the "Compass" detailing the available activities for the first day of the cruise, we noticed that there did not appear to be any movies showing that night. We had enjoyed this feature on Princess, and assumed that it would be standard on RCL. We soon learned that RCL does not show movies in an auditorium, but were nonetheless pleased to see that our suite was equipped with both a VCR and a DVD player connected to the TV. We then went to the purser's desk to find out where videos and DVD's could be rented. Believe it or not, we were told that there was no such service on board. Instead, the woman at the purser's desk looked genuinely surprised and commented on what a great idea that would be.
Although we had signed up for the early 6pm dinner seating, in order to switch from a table with other people and families to a table for two, we had to check in with the maitre'd. The dining room was quite busy with other people who wanted to rearrange their dinner seatings. Although we were able to get a table for 2, it was only available at the 8:30 seating. Dinner attire for the first evening was casual. On RCL, "casual" attire really is casual. People wore jeans, t-shirts and shorts and basically looked like slobs in a very nice, formal dining room. Our "dinner" table was rather uncomfortable. Because the cruise was fully booked, they had to set out additional tables where tables weren't intended to be set. Our "dinner" table was actually a game table with tablecloth over it. We discovered this right away because the top was not flat, making is difficult to keep glasses from sitting off-kilter and spilling. We managed to work around this problem, once we zeroed in on the spots where glasses should not be placed. The other problem with the table could not be addressed so easily. The table base was large and bulbous and made it impossible for two people to comfortably rest their legs beneath the table. This left us with two choices. The first was to extend our legs out to the side. This was not practicable, however, because our feet were then in the path of the countless servers using the thoroughfare in which our table had been placed. The second choice was to straddle the table base throughout the meal. The result was that we felt bowlegged by the end of dinner, as though we'd just finished a long ride on horseback.
Although the server and assistant server at dinner the first night were nice enough, the dining experience bordered on poor. Our entrée, shrimp ravioli, was simply bad. It tasted fishy to the point of being inedible, and we didn't have more than one bite. The assistant server apologized and asked us if she could make up for it by offering us coffee. So we asked for cappuccinos to go with dessert. Although she had offered, she informed us that cappuccinos came from the bar and thus she would have to charge us for them. After dinner cappuccinos on Princess are complimentary. Both our server and assistant server would both disappear into the galley for 5-10 minutes at a time which would leave everyone in our section looking around for them. by no stretch of the imagination were we the only people in our section who felt this way.
Assuming that our first night dining experience was an isolated incident, we made our way back to the Aquarius Dining Room the next morning for breakfast. The service seemed slow to everyone at our table of eight, but cruising is a leisurely activity anyway, so no one seemed too bothered by it. What did bother me and others at our table was the manner in which the food was served. Several of us ordered cereal, as one might expect at breakfast. What we did not realize at first was that when the server brought the cereal, he simultaneously brought out everyone's hot breakfast (bacon & eggs, eggs Benedict, etc.) and put them on the sideboard while we all ate our cereal. Some 5-10 minutes later, the server cleared the cereal bowls and served us all with our now stone-cold "hot" breakfasts which, conveniently for him, were already right there on the sideboard. As soon as we discovered this, the waiter was nowhere to be seen. We sat there for another five minutes waiting for him to return in the hopes that we might get some hot food. While we were waiting, we took the opportunity to fill out the comment card from the table, requesting in writing that our dinner table be changed to something other than a card table. On the way out of the dining room, we gave our written request about the dinner table to the head waiter. He told us in an off-hand way that the cruise was fully booked and they did not have enough dining tables but that he would see what they could do. We didn't have dinner in the dining room at our assigned table for several days again but nonetheless, they didn't do anything about the table nor did they even acknowledge that we had filled out a comment card. A guest at the same table told us that this was her 21st cruise on RCL and even she couldn't get a 6:00 dinner-seating assignment. I thought that said a lot about how RCL doesn't seem to care much about customer loyalty.
To save the annoyance of having to eat at 8:30 every night at an uncomfortable table and putting up with slow, inattentive service, we ended up eating at the buffet and ordering room service for the rest of the week for all but one night. Service in the dinner buffet was equally spotty. The beverage station was in an off-limits area but the servers seemed too busy to offer drinks because they were clearing tables. Food was fresh and hot if you arrived during the first hour of dinner service. After that, the food was dry and lukewarm, although it was served from a steam table. They had two carving and fresh prep stations but these were often unmanned and you'd have to catch someone's attention to be served there. Only a very small area of the Windjammer Café, where the dinner buffet was set up, was opened for dinner service. Although the entire café was large, the small area that was opened made it difficult to find a clean available table.
On the sixth night of the cruise, we decided to give the dining room another try. On the way to dinner, we stopped by one of the lounges (the Showboat Lounge) for a pre-dinner coffee at 8:00, which gave us half an hour. We ordered a cappuccino and Irish coffee, both of which were featured on the drink menu sitting on the table and specifically for the Showboat Lounge. The server came back ten minutes later with the drinks. (This is not an exaggeration - by this point we had actually started timing things as sort of an amusing pastime.) The amount of alcohol in the Irish coffee was virtually undetectable and was sent back along with a request for sugar for the cappuccino. It was a full 15 minutes before he came back. We told him that we were now late for dinner and wanted a credit for the both coffees. Rather than simply apologize for the delay, he argued that they had run out of sugar in this lounge and he had had to run down to the dining room for sugar. His attitude was that the delay was our fault because we had ordered coffees instead of drinks from the bar, even though coffees were plainly on the menu for this particular lounge.
Food from the Solarium pool grill (burgers, pizza, hotdogs) was satisfactory. Although the grill was popular, it was always understaffed though with only one single person behind the counter. I ordered a hotdog and fries on the first day and the server didn't even bother to put the wiener inside the bun. I tried to order an Oreo shake from the menu on the third day and was told they were out of Oreos.
Throughout the cruise, it seemed the room attendants and all of their supplies were constantly ubiquitous. For the first four days, until we requested that she move it, our room attendant's entire cleaning cart with her bags of dirty towels seemed parked right outside our door. I guess we had expected that service for the premium suites would be better and by experienced attendants. Even during the last two days, she repeatedly called me by the wrong name.
RCL touts their "gourmet" food selections and menus. Instead, while food looked good enough, flavor was rather bland and selection was limited to ordinary fare. No rack of lamb, beef Wellington nor king crab legs here. The highest end entrée of the week, surf and turf, was a big disappointment. The "steak" was not filet mignon nor any other decent cut but a cut from a shoulder which was tough and cooked well beyond medium rare as requested. In other words, it was a steak that you would expect on Bingo night. All entrees and courses for the entire section served by the server was brought out all at once. Thus from the time that the first person to the last person received their dishes, it would easily be five minutes by which time entrees would be lukewarm. Salads were set out by the server but you would have to wait 5 minutes until the assistant server brought the salad dressing around. Bread was not brought by and drinks were not refilled unless requested. Although the dessert descriptions sounded good and they looked delicious, they equally average tasting. Some fellow shipmates said that they though the food was delicious and it made us wonder if we were eating the same food.
Entertainment aboard the ship in the main theater was mediocre. The singers and dancers were actually quite good but the sets, customs and shows seemed dated and a bit cheesy. I would equate them to what you would see if you were to attend an American Idols show. Productions on Princess were higher quality and involved dramatic sets and lifts and effects.
We were glad when the cruise ended. One last annoyance was that we had expected our baggage tag group to be among the first groups to be scheduled to disembark (just as first and business class disembark first off an airplane). Instead, after waiting 1.5 hours for the majority of other the groups to disembark, we finally got in line to disembark even though our group hadn't been called yet.
The bottom line was that although the ship and facilities themselves were nice, the average to low food quality and poor service made this cruise experience less than enjoyable. Throughout the cruise, we wished that we had taken Princess again instead. After having cruised twice on Princess and being able to compare the two lines, it was obvious that Princess was noticeably superior in every way. While the staff on both Princess ships went out of their way to please and food was memorable, on the Vision, food was forgettable and the service was inexperienced and, at times, sullen. Hate to write such a negative review but unfortunately that was the experience and memories that we'll have of this cruise.
Just returned from an OUTSTANDING CRUISE on the Vision of the Seas. Food, Ship, and Entertainment were a "10" two big thumbs up. The ship was refurbished earlier this year and is looking splendid. Nice carpeting, beautiful marble tile, everything fresh and sparkling. Great pools and jacuzzi's, amazing casino with nickel machines. Weather was sunny in the ports the temperature hovered in the mid 80's, awesome for cruising. Word of warning regarding the last 2 sea days. Keep a heavy sweatshirt or 2, and a jacket for those cold winds on the ride back to Los Angeles.
Food: 5 stars - Excellent presentation, taste, and good size portions. Try the cookies, and Key Lime Pie in the Windjammer they are heavenly.
Service: 5 stars - Service is friendly and personable. Waiters were eager to please, & very professional. Purser's desk bent over backwards and helped us out with a MAJOR PROBLEM of NO LUGGAGE, more on that later.
Cabin: We had inside cabin 2455 which was a perfect cabin for us. Middle of the ship down a small hallway with no foot traffic since there are only 3 cabins in this area. Thisis a great location if you are prone to seasickness, since in this area we felt very little motion. Our cabin steward made the cute animal towels almost every night. Bathroom was kept clean and fresh.
Gratuities: Royal Caribbean still uses the traditional envelopes for the Cabin Stewart, Waiter, Assistant Waiter, and Head Waiter/Maitre'D. You can either submit cash in the envelopes or you can charge the tips on your credit card and they will type out the vouchers and put them under your cabin door 2 nights before the cruise ends with a description of who it is for.
Ports of Call: We did the Ships Excursions to stay on the safe side. Now that I feel more comfortable about these ports I will take taxi's and venture out on my own next time without hesitation.
Cabo San Lucas - Took the Coastal Highlights tour. They take you on a bus to a glass factory where you can see the items being made. Prices tended to be expensive and since the glasses and ornaments were hand made the workmanship was uneven and off kilter, but hey that is part of the charm. (he, he) Next stop Giorgio's a restaurant for a drink on the patio. The restaurant sits on a hill with a scenic view of the ocean it is an interesting venue. Then onto San Jose de Cabo. This is a stunning little shopping village. It's nice here because there is no one trying to push their wares on you.
Mazatlan - Took the Colonial Villages Tour. I heard Mazatlan wasn't very nice, but I totally disagree. Once you get past the dock/pier area it is a very nice city. Went to see how bricks are made, a drive through the country, to the town bakers home where we got fresh breads and sweets, then a little shopping, and a trip to the Golden Zone to see the Papulets (spelling?) Flyers, and another Colonial Town.
Puerto Vallarta - Took the Off the Beaten Track Tour. This was awesome. P.V. was my favorite place. It is very lush and jungley and reminded me of a Caribbean Island, something like a cross between St. Thomas and Tortola. There is lots of wealth here and it shows. We went to the rich areas and saw millionaires homes, also did a tour of Casa Kimberly where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor lived. Liz sold the house in 1990 to the folks who own it now. She left everything intact, furnishings, pictures, etc. Only took 2 photographs and left the rest. I was shocked to see that it is not the nicest house. The views were incredible though. Our driver even took us to shopping at a place the locals use. It was a very spiffy area. Again no beggars or soliciters.
Things to know: Most shops do not have prices on their articles. If you ask the shop keeper the cost they will give you an enormous price. Always bargain them down. We went into one shop where we were totally ignored, then when my Mom asked what the price for a swimsuit was they said $30. When we tried to negotiate the price, the gal said, "our prices are fixed. " I really don't know if she was being truthful since we visited about 30 stores and none of them had this philosophy. In general the shopkeepers would rather have a sale, than let you walk away. Also, no need for peso's they take and give change in American $. The shopkeepers always looked pained & agonized at the prices being offered by the cruise passengers. However, when thanked & walking away empty handed, they would say the same thing. "Give me your money. " Now my tablemates said the standard wage for a busdriver is .79 a day. So if they are getting $5 for a tee-shirt, and 10 people buy 1 tee-shirt a day they are bringing in a few more bucks than the average Mexican. ================================================================== Now to my sad tale of no luggage.
We had a heck of a time trying to fly out of San Jose, CA due to the fires in Southern Cal, and the evacuation of the air controllers facility. We were supposed to leave SJ at 9:30 am on Sunday, 10/26 an arrive at LAX at 10:40 am time enough for a nice lunch on the ship. In reality we ended up leaving at 4:30 p.m. and the ship was due to sail at 5:00. Luckily they held the boat for us. I think the trip was jinxed since when I packed my luggage in the morning the zipper broke on my largest bag and I needed to transfer everything into another suitcase. When we got to LAX, the conveyor belt broke and only 6 bags came off none of which was ours. Then the rep from RCCL came over and said the boat is leaving, you either wait for the luggage and meet us in Cabo or get on the boat now. The cab ride to the boat was a heart stopper. The ship was supposed to leave at 6:30 sharp, and we pulled up at 6:30. I could just imagine the ship sailing away. Fortunately it was still there. We found out later they were waiting for 20 more people so the ship actually sailed at 7:00. We only had the clothes on our backs for the 1st 3 days, then they said our luggage would be shipped to Cabo. We found out later we never got it because it was stuck in San Jose. The evening of sail we went to the Purser's office and informed them we had no luggage. They gave us each a survivor pack which included 2 ship-shape tee-shirts, one to wear, and one to sleep in, toothpaste, and toothbrush, travel size deoderant, razor, shaving cream, and a small spool of dental floss.
On day the evening of day 3 we went back to the purser's office and told them our luggage did not show up in Cabo. Fortunately the ship's pursers office gave us $150 each to buy clothes on board. As you know $150 doesn't buy much. For the dress-up nights we had on jeans, and tee-shirts. People were looking at us, but I had warned the waiter and the folks at our table so at least they knew that we didn't have a choice. There were others that didn't have luggage either., including a couple who were on their honeymoon. I heard the wife ranting and raving in one of the on board shops, and the hubby saying the ship knew they didn't have any luggage and wasn't doing anything. I pulled him aside and told him to go and speak with xxxxxxxx in the Purser's office. Thank goodness I have been on many cruises so I knew the ropes. The ship was only slightly more than half full since most flights didn't arrive in time to catch the ship. There were 300 folks who flew to Cabo to meet up with the ship later. So for a whole week, no nice clothes, no makeup or hair done. The good thing was packing to come home was really easy. Ha, ha.
You know I usually always pack an overnighter when we transfer planes, > but since this was an hour flight with no transfers I never thought anything > could go wrong. We had no clue the > fires would affect our flight, since they were not close to any of the > airports. We really thought we were going to get out of San Jose a whole > lot earlier than we did. Our plane was supposed to leave at 9:30, at 9:15 > they said the air controllers facility was being evacuated due to the fires, > and they would update us in 1/2 an hour. Then they got on the PA in 1/2 hour > and said they would know more in an hour, and so it went all day long, with > updates. At 4:15 they said it would be another 6 - 6 1/2 hours before we > could leave. I called my hubby and we agreed he would pick us up and get us > on a flight to Cabo the next day at 11:00 am. Then 5 minutes later I hear my > name being paged over the loudspeaker. It was 4:20 and were flying out. I booked our own air and had what they call a FUN FARE discount on Southwest which is a non-cancelable, > non-refundable, no changes without a cost increase airfare. This trip was a > birthday gift from my husband and I to my Mom for her 68th birthday. You > would not believe how stressed out I was. I know for sure I would not have > been able to rent a car and drive because I was such a bundle of nerves. My > Mom has panic attacks so she could not have driven either, besides I would > have to rent a car and by that time it was about 1:00 & and I didn't have a > clue to get there, and we never would have made it on time. Like I said I > was a mess! At 2:00 p.m. at the San Jose airport they were boarding planes > for Orange County, and Burbank so we felt that LAX would be called shortly. > They folks going to Orange and Burbank sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes then > were disembarked, and told to stand by. It was a nightmare. Would you > believe that I had temporary amnesia (mind went blank) as I was filling out > the missing luggage report, and running to get into a taxi at the same time. > Yes, its true. I couldn't remember my address for a few seconds. Scary. > > We met a gal at the airport that was on the same cruise as us. Her friend > was onboard the boat and they both had cell phones so we were receiving > updates, and the fact that the ship was full of ash. Apparently no one > onboard the ship knew they would be delayed until about 4:30. > > There are lots of stories to tell. Our table mates got on in Cabo. They > flew from Canada to Minnesota where they spent 10 hrs in the airport waiting > to fly to LAX. They arrived at LAX at 3:00 am and had a difficult time > trying to locate a hotel since they were all booked because of the various > airport shutdowns. There are several airlines that fly to Cabo from LAX, > but they were all full except for 2 seats in the 1st class section which > they took. Since they booked their own air the cruise line will not > reimburse them for the difference. Another couple sat on a plane for 6 > hours before they would allow them to fly to LAX. Then we met another > couple who were told they were going to be flown to Las Vegas then bussed to > LAX. Fortunately, they hovered in the air at Las Vegas for an hour then the > pilot came & told them they were one of six of the last planes to fly into > LAX.
Royal Caribbean lost potentially thousands of cruise customers this past week.
Inclement weather in the Mexican Riviera caused concern due to the reports. Three cruise lines offer service to that area out of Los Angeles. They are: Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.
Here is how each Company handled that situation...
1. Princess - Their Captain elected to steam to the original ports of call. He rotated the days to elude the storms. Passengers I have spoken to indicated that despite occasional showers, high humidity, and some clean up, the ports did not disappoint. 2. Carnival - Elected to play it safe and stay away from the area, selecting San Francisco, Catalina, and Ensenada instead of Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Some trade, huh? Realizing their customers frustration, the offered to deduct $300.00 off that cruise, and 50% off their next cruise with Carnival.
3. Royal Caribbean - Also played it safe and selected the same ports as Carnival. Any passengers wishing to disembark prior to sailing would receive 100.00 towards their next cruise. Those staying on board would receive 100.00 credit on this cruise and the 100.00 toward the next cruise. Obviously, the bottomline was more important than customer satisfaction. They were going to make their full profit despite their passengers disappointment. Perhaps this concern with the bottom line helps explain the mediocre food. When I asked their customer service operator if they were aware of the performance of the rival cruise companies, he indicated that since they (Royal Caribbean) were such an upscale company, he was surprised they offered anything at all!
I just wanted to make potential cruisers aware of service discrepancies between the companies, and which Lines really care about their passengers...
Our trip was wonderful. It was so helpful to find information on how to plan our trip on the bulletin boards prior to our trip, so I want to return the favor to others. I hope the following information will be helpful as you plan your trip. Our cruise was on the Inside Passage, we visited Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
My Dad and son flew into Vancouver and my Mom and I took the train from Texas to Vancouver. If you are going on Amtrack, e-mail me and ask me specific questions, I will be glad to answer them. The flight into Vancouver was wonderful for my Dad and son. Customs was quick entering Canada. Be sure to have all of your documents in order, it makes the process very quick. We had purchased document holders that had a belt loop, so you could hook the document holder onto your belt. Very easy to use!
We stayed overnight in Vancouver prior to our cruise. We did a pre-cruise tour the morning of our cruise of Vancouver through Land/Sea Tours. We saw Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, both cruise piers, went to thetop of a Skywalk, and much more. This was a quick overview of the island - you don't have much time to get out and explore, but we knew that when we decided to take it. We just didn't have much time. We felt like we got our moneys worth. The tour bus picked us and our luggage up at our hotel at 8:15 AM, toured the city, and then dropped us and our luggage off at our pier for the cruise. We didn't have to get a taxi.
Getting on the boat was longer than it usually is for us. Royal Caribbean did a good job in the areas that they had control over, but US Customs were on some kind of strike and were delaying passengers in getting through customs. We got tired waiting and a little frustrated, but there wasn't anything that could be done. It took us close to two hours just to get up to the US customs desk.
If you have someone that is traveling with you that has difficulty with walking up hills, take into account the fact that sometimes the gangplanks on the boats are steep depending on tides, etc. My mother has difficulty with hills, etc. and we didn't realize that this could be a problem for her. We had planned all easy walking tours, but we encountered walking problems that we didn't expect. Royal Caribbean was wonderful and always got wheelchairs for us when we needed them. If you have someone going with you that has any difficulty with endurance and hills when walking, I would suggest bringing a wheelchair (electric if possible). It just makes the trip easier.
We loved the Vision of the Seas. Every boat has a personality. We loved all of the windows on Vision of the Seas. The boat was sold out but we never felt crowded. There was plenty of room in the lounges, theater and pools. The only time that we had to wait for anything was in the line for the first bingo! We had four people in our cabin. We were in a Category D cabin - 7600 which was mid-ship, close to the library. We had plenty of space to store our clothes. We put our empty luggage under the bed. Our balcony was wonderful. I highly recommend having one when you go to Alaska. We spent hours on the balcony just watching the beautiful scenery. I loved the location of our room - we rarely felt the motion of the sea, it was three rooms down from the elevator and stairs - so it was quick to get anywhere that we wanted to go.
We paid attention to the boards and packed as lightly as we could. There is an excellent packing list on geocites. We had one suitcase for each person and one suitcase that carried all of our toiletries and our first aid kit. We did not want to carry two sets of clothes. So, we did jeans and short sleeve shirts. We brought a rain jacket for each person and one heavy shirt that we could wear over our short sleeve shirts if we needed it. We were very fortunate - we only had 1 hour of rain while we were in Ketchikan. The rest of the trip we had sunshine, this is very unusual for Alaska. We had also bought some pull on rain boots for our tennis shoes at our camping store, we didn't need them, but they would have been perfect if we had. They didn't take much space. We had two formal outfits - we made sure we could wear the same shoes for both. Organization was important and really paid off. It took us three weekends to pack! But, it was so organized that during the trip it was simple and we never felt crowed in our cabin. We bought two large mesh laundry bags and hung them in our closets for dirty clothes - worked great.
Tours: We did a variety of tours. Some all of us went on, some my Dad and son went on and some my Mom and I went on. There are so many to pick from that you need to research before you go. I highly recommend you book your tours before you leave. There is so much to do once you get on the boat that you don't want to waste time in the shore excursion lines booking tours. We booked some tours with Royal Caribbean and some through the companies themselves. When you are booking with the company directly, you want to be sure and book early tours so that you are book in plenty of time to get back on the boat. So, we booked our independent tours first thing in the morning and booked tours with the boat later in the day. We considered cost, time and product in choosing tours.
Skagway We all went on a land based dog sledding tour with an independent company. It was worth every penny. This was a very unique tour and something that you won't do anywhere else. The company picked us up at the boat, took us to the dog kennels (about 30 minutes from the boat), introduced us to all the dogs and puppies, carried us up a mountain and from there we took a dog sled ride over hills and rocks in beautiful Alaska. The dogs were beautiful. There were around 16 dogs on a team and they pulled a sled with 6 people in it. The sled is on wheels - this tour was not on snow. But, we got the feeling of what it would be like to ride on a real dog sled. We learned a lot about the history of dogsledding, Iditarod, etc. We got to hold 8 day old puppies! It was something we all enjoyed.
My Dad and son went on the Pilot's Choice glacier helicopter ride with Temsco. We also booked this tour directly with Temsco. It saved us about $40 per person to do this. They were gone for two hours. They still haven't stopped talking about this. They went up 5000 feet and walked on a glacier. The weather on that day was one of the best days of the summer. There were clear skies and it was about 64 degrees. The pilot said it was one of 5 days that summer that he could go to the spot that they got to go to. My Dad said that it took their breath away and he would highly recommend it. He is very frugal and said it was worth every penny.
Yellow Bus Tour - while my dad and son were flying in helicopters, my mom and I took the Yellow Skagway Bus Tour. We booked this through the boat. This was a very calm, easy-going tour. We learned a lot of the history of Skagway. The tour guides were dressed in costume and were extremely knowledgeable and a lot of fun. They took us to a sight high above Skagway so that we could take pictures of the city and our cruise ship at the pier. It was beautiful. Skagway only has a population of 800. When the cruise boats come in they have at times 8000 visitors in one day. They were very accommodating - we felt very welcomed.
Juneau - We did the whale watching and wildlife quest through the boat. We left early in the morning and the tour was about 4 hours. We saw around 12 humpback whales, stellar sea lions, harbour seals, eagles, a variety of birds. We took a lot of pictures and video. We had another beautiful day and the wildlife was enjoying it. On our boat we had refreshments, salmon pate, binoculars and great tour guides. The boat was large with panoramic windows. Seating was very comfortable.
After we finished the whale watching tour, we decided to go to the Salmon Hatchery on our own. We took a city bus - I wouldn't recommend that, it took a while to get to the hatchery, a taxi would be better. The nice thing about the bus, the driver dropped us off near a creek in the city and we got to see the salmon spawning - thousands of them. What a cool thing to see!!!! Bears come to that creek in the late afternoon to eat, but we were there earlier in the day - so we missed them. After looking at the salmon in the creek, we walked 3 blocks to the hatchery and salmon ladder. If you have kids or are interested in seeing something that you don't see at home, this was great. We loved it. There is a glass window built into the bottom of the salmon ladder so you can see how they struggle against the current and each other to get up the ladder. Close to the hatchery is a fishing area and you can rent fishing poles to fish. Needless to say, we saw a lot of people catching big salmon. But, it isn't good to eat the salmon that are getting ready to spawn - they don't taste good. Because this isn't a big tourist area, there aren't taxis's readily available, so we had to call for a taxi. It took about 15 minutes for the taxi to get there. After we left the hatchery, we ate in a small restaurant near the pier and did a little bit of fishing.
Ketchikan My dad and son went salmon fishing with two other men. We booked this independently with Ken at Northern Lights. My dad and son loved the tour and Ken. They caught approximately 22 salmon and had them packaged and sent home. My son caught the biggest fish, a 15 pound Koho. The trip was five hours long.
My mom and I did the horse drawn trolley tour of Ketchikan. It was relaxing and very informative. We had a large Siberian Husky on the tour and he was the star of the trip! We learned a lot about Ketchikan. It is an island of rock and the people have a lot of challenges living in the city. Rain water is used for drinking water - they can't dig wells on the island because of the rock. So, people have to collect rain water in huge containers. Ketchikan gets rain almost everyday of the year - so this isn't a problem for them. They have 20,000 eagles on their island and we saw a lot of them. Their houses are built on hills, so they have stairs that go up to houses (we saw some houses with at least 100 stairs to climb to get to the front door). There are so many stairs on the island that they are considered city streets, actually have street signs and the city maintains them. When you pull into the pier, the first thing you note is how quaint the town is and how neat the streets are around the pier, they are all wood!
We attended the Alaskan Lumberjack show. This was a lot of lighthearted fun. We went to the 1:15 PM show and our boat was booked to leave at 3:00 PM. The show is close to the pier and is a unique event to see.
Cruising back to Vancouver The weather was so nice that we cruised more of the Inside Passage than Vision of the Seas normally does on the return trip. We went through the Misty Fjords - gorgeous! You really get the sense of God's power. It was a very peaceful place. We were there a couple of hours.
Cruising the Hubbard Glacier We spent 4 hours cruising the Hubbard Glacier area. There are no words that can tell you how magnificent this experience was. Our captain pulled our boat up parallel to the glacier and he stopped the boat for 30 minutes so that we could experience the calving of the glacier. We saw many large calvings during our stay. This is when large pieces of the glacier crack and fall off into the water. You hear thundering throughout the process and you are just amazed at the beauty. The glacier had a lot of blue color the day that we were there. After our 30 minutes the captain turned the boat around so that the other side of the boat could see the glacier. Of course we all ran to the other side of the boat. We watched the glacier from our balcony. I could have set there for days. It really was magnificent. Our boat had a native Indian and teacher that shared with us information about the glacier, the history of glaciers and the process of calving while we sat and watched the glacier. You could hear the announcements on your TV. Announcements throughout the boat aren't allowed while you are in Hubbard Glacier Bay, this is to protect the wildlife. As you are cruising into the Hubbard Glacier area, you will see many icebergs floating around your boat.
Other helpful hints:
. We used $2 bills for tips. All of our waiters, waitresses, etc. really liked this. It was helpful because $2 bills don't take as much space in your wallet as $1's! . Write your name on your cameras if you are using disposables! That way if you misplace it, people will return it to you. . Go to the Vancouver airport 2.5 hours early on your way home. US customs took a long time going home. There is also an airport tax of $8 per person. We had two suitcases that were over the weight limit - cost $50. . Get Canadian money at the airport in Dallas or the major city that you go to prior to going to Vancouver. We got enough to cover our taxis, meals, and tours while in Vancouver. . If you use your credit card in Vancouver, your credit care will automatically convert to US dollars for you. We didn't run into any location that wouldn't take American money, but some didn't do accurate conversions. . We went to the flea market in Vancouver when we got back from the cruise. If you are into flea markets, e-mail me and I can give you some hints on that.
Eating on the boat-
We enjoyed the Windjammer. We liked the food and it was informal. We went to one formal night and it was great. The only food that we didn't like was the pizza in the Solarium. This was our only complaint - I just don't see how you can ruin pizza, but we only had it once and it is our favorite food.
Pictures - We took our formal pictures and bought all of them. If you haven't cruised before, the boat takes pictures of you throughout your cruise and you will have the opportunity to buy them. We love them and they are good memories.
The shows were fun. We missed one because we were tired after a full day at port.
Shopping on the boat -
My mom bought quite a bit on the boat. I'm not much of a shopper, but there is a lot of opportunity to spend your money!
If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. My typing hand is getting tired! It truly was the best vacation that we have ever had. We were in the military and we have traveled a lot, but we had never seen anything as beautiful as Alaska! If you are getting ready to go.....I hope that you enjoy each moment like we did!!!!
This was our third cruise and the first on RCI. We selected this line because we heard they have the highest rated childrens program. We travelled with our two kids, ages 2 and 5. Everyone told us to wait a year until the toddler was eligible for the childrens program but we threw caution to the wind and went anyways. I figured I could chase him in California or chase him in Alaska and I was ready for a change of scenery. I think I made the right choice. You be the judge.
We flew to Vancouver one day prior to the cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency downtown. Centrally located and only a $8 cab ride to Ballyntine Pier. Although located in a very desirable area I was aghast at the number of homeless people milling around the entrances hustling us for money. I kept my children close. At $200 a night I was hoping for a better experience. On the positive side my children had an interesting sociological experience and saw their first pregnant drug addict.
We bought some supplies in Vancouver that we did not want to haulwith us on the plane. Everything is a good 30% higher and with the 17% sales tax there were no bargains. Liquor is very expensive. We brought a bottle of good wine with us from home. A wise decision.
Embarkation was a breeze. you get assigned a group number and wait in an area for you rgroup to be called. We played cards and other games while waiting. The lines moved quickly and we were even brought to the head of the line since we were traveling with small children. Everyone was pleasant.
We booked two inside cabins upon the advice of this site. When your children tend to rise with the sun and the sun gets up at 4am each day its better to be inside where they are clueless to the light changes.Our cabins were spacious.Shampoo is dispensed in the shower but it was questionable.I always recommend two cabins when you are traveling with a family of four.
Our attendant Derrickson Charles was the best we've ever had. Never seemed to be bothered by our questions and my 2 yr old son fell in love with him. OK we did too. We tipped him in advance the first day and received superior treatment.We ended up tipping him $40 per person, including the children. It's silly to tip only half for children. We all know they make more of a mess than an adult.
We signed up for main seating at dinner but were assigned late. Don't believe those that tell you this can be changed on board. There were 300 other people trying to change and the Maitre d did not even blink at the $50 in my hand. We ended up eating in The Windjammer cafe which served the same food as the dining room. The manager, Kumar, was great.We missed out on that wonderful bonding that can occur with your seatmates but did enjoy the food in the cafe and the nightly piano playing with Gabriel. Yes, with Gabriel. My son played many a night with this wonderful Austrian.We sometimes ate in the dining room during lunch and breakfast but found the service very slow.
As for the maitre d. My toddler and husband are lactose and soy intolerant and need special milk which was ordered through RCI weeks and weeks before we set sail. I even called three times prior to the cruise to make sure it would be on board. Was it on board. No. The maitre d suggested we try the soy anyways and I told him it would give my toddler severe diarrhea and stomach cramping. He merely told us that it would be ordered in Juneau - 4 days away- and walked away. To say that I was upset was an understatement. This could have ruined our entire cruise had I not ruminated about this issue in Vancouver and decided to bring a quart of our milk on board. We had a refrigerator in the room and watered that poor boys milk down for days. He cried and cried. It was awful... More about this later.
The shipshape program is good. Many free activities such as aquafitness, walk a mile, scavenger hunt etc. The more you participate the more points you earn . At the end of the cruise you can turn in your points for prizes.
The childrens program ran on the same principal. My daughter loved it so much she never set foot off the ship. She spent the majority of her time in flip flops and her bathing suit complaining that alaska was too cold even though the daytime temps hovered around 70. She bonded with her new friends and never wanted to leave that kids room. We thought we might as well of left her home at grandma's and saved ourselves the cost of bringing her. She could care less about glaciers or eagles or misty fjords. All she wanted to do was play with her friends, swim and eat off the cheese cart. Just like home.
The manager of the progam was sweet enough to include my potty trained 2 yr old in several activities as long as I supervised him. Even gave him their signature stuffer animal which he still sleeps with.
The shipboard entertainment was typical cruise fare. John Davidson was the headliner and he is still good after all these years. My children loved most shows they attended.
I have yet to be on a ship where the advertised pool temperature is acurate. The pools were not even heated for the first couple of days driving out all but the brave or foolish, i.e. the under 12 set. The pools were finally heated to an acceptably cool temperature on day 4. We were kicked out of the indoor pool twice at 6pm because children aren't allowed in after that time. Ridiculous. There were no adults around or even willing to get into this cool pool. Some kids did not leave but I wanted to set a good moral example for the kids and followed there rules even though they were not posted. Did they really expect us to take kids outside to a cool pool when the evening temperature was about 55 degrees?
Everyone wants to know how a cruise was with a 2 yr old. It was great. Sure we were restricted in some areas but it never felt like it. There was so much to so and see. He liked being in the pools and listening to the various bands play throughout the day. He liked to snack and play cards and shop and watch movies and explore the ship and talk to people. Just like his mom.When I wanted to participate in an adults only activity my husband watched him. We decided up front that this would not be a romantic getaway but a family vacation and we were both very satisified.It did help that our boy has excellent behavior and has not yet reached his terrible twos. He joyfully came on each of our trips ashore.
Port one Skagway: 75 degrees.We did not prebook any tours through RCI as we did not know waht the temperment of the children or weather would be. Good thing since the 5 yr old refused to leave ship. First we had to search out special milk to bring on board. Not fun. But attainable at the Rainbow market in town.Having done that we toured the museum and booked an independent 3 hour motorcoach tour through Whites Passon with Klondike tours on main street. Reasonable at $25 per adult with kids free. My toddler loved it and there were plenty of stops along the way.Did the requisite souvenir shoppping ,watched the trains come in and played in the public park.
Port Two Juneau: 68 degrees. We liked this area the least. A blighted urban environment with much poverty and obvious alcoholism. Sorry that's the sociologist talking. Enjoyed the $10 roundtrip tour to Mendenhall Glacier,the small local museum, the Trolley Car tour through town, and the Mt. Roberts tram and subsequent 2 hours hike, yes even with the stroller. My toddler saw Marmots and Eagles in the wild and was fascinated. Sat trough the short documentary on the Tiglits and bought a few polished stones. Polished stones were a big hit on this trip. Walked around for an hour looking for milk.
Port three Ketchikan: 56 degrees. Finally some Alaskan weather. The kind we anticipated when we went out and bought a whole new cruise wardobe. We gleefully hiked through town in the cold drizzling rain, again with the stroller, to the Totem Museum and Salmon Hatchery/Eagle Preserve. I spoke with a fourth generation Tiglit descendant docent and was fascinated.The Salmon were a big hit with the toddler. Note: The Salmon do not run until mid July through August. Had we known this we might have delayed our trip, maybe. We were advised that the best weather in these parts occurs the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June. I couldn't agree more.Looked for milk again and could not find any. Not good.Kumar ended up finding a quart in the recesses of the ship and although it was about to expire we were thankful for small miracles.
We enjoyed the cruising by and through the Hubbard Glacier and Misty Fjords. Both were breathtaking in their beauty. My 5 yr old diva even vocalized these thoughts from the comfort of her club chair in the Schooner Bar observation area.
We were very careful to avoid salads during the trip , hearing that this is the most likely way to get a food or bacteria borne illness. The last night of the cruise I ordered my one and only room service plate: fresh fruit. My son and I ate it and quickly became sick. Thankfully this only lasted 24 hours and we had scheduled four more days in Vancouver so could be miserable in the comfort of our hotel room. And to think I tipped that gal $5 for this plate of death. Rule of thumb:always carry immodium with you.
Disembarkation was awful. And I would say that even if I hadn't been ill. Long lines, luggage strewn all over. Most unpleasant.
As previously noted we stayed another four days in Vancouver which really is a lovely city if you can look past all of the homeless, runaways,and drug addicts that are all over the downtown area. I live in a beach community with its share of the publically down and out but even I was shocked. Looking past this however was a city full of interactive museums, public gardens and conservatories and clean public transportation. Very expensive so bring lots of money.
Would I travel on RCI again? Maybe. If the price was right. The milk situation was unforgiveable. I filled out my commentary slip at the end of the cruise but I don't expect to hear from them. The food poisoning could have happened on any line. All it takes is one person with dirty hands.The food was very good. The ship was nice. The service very good. And Alaska was beautiful. We were never impeded by the presence of our toddler. He was a great traveller. The five year old diva was another matter. She did not benefit from having been on this cruise. We plan to go next year but leave the kids behind to get a different taste of Alaska.
We just returned from a 4 day weekend cruise on Vision of the Seas and found it to be a great ship! This was my 8th cruise, first on Royal Caribbean. In the Fall of 2002, the Vision sails from Los Angeles to Ensenada Mexico. I am very analytical, so this will contain some information not found on many reviews.
Embarkation. We flew into LAX and was met by a ship representative, after gathering our luggage, we waited about 20 minutes for the bus to come, as we had bought the ship's transfers. A full size bus took us the 30 minutes to San Pedro. The driver and porter took our bags (and tips) and we went around to the front of the terminal and found a fair sized line, the wait being 45 minutes. But the actual check in took less than 2 minutes, then we went and found a 5 minute line to actually board the ship.
An afternoon buffet in the Windjammer's lounge had a wide variety of food. Royal makes the lines faster than other ships by having drinks already poured and silver ware and platesalready on the trays. The Windjammer is the neatest "cafe" we have eaten in, with better furnishings and more of an upscale feel, it feels like a real restaurant and has a wonderful view with floor to ceiling windows.
Cabin. We had a balcony on floor 7 and found the drawer and closet space more than enough for the two of us. The room sleeps 4, so it might be a little tight, but the room had as much storage as any cabin we have ever had. There were both 240 and 110 outlets on the desk. A safe and TV were also in the desk area. The TV had 3 music channels, TNT, CNN, ESPN, a cartoon channel, a Retro TV channel, and several movie channels. The current movies for the fall of 2002 included the Count of Monte Cristo, Spiderman, and the Majestic. Also, a view off the front of the ship was shown. Last, the dinning room menu for lunch and dinner were shown all day, which helped us decide how much lunch to eat (a great dinner merited a lighter lunch).
Service. We felt we had the best service we have seen, compared to Disney, Princess, and Carnival. For example, it was the first cruise where our cabin steward made a point to give us a "tour" of our cabin, showing how everything worked, including the weird controls on the shower. On some ships we hardly saw our steward, little own get a personalized tour of our room. Very few times were we hounded to by drinks or play bingo. Our waiter was friendlier than what we had experienced elsewhere, and the head waiter actually came by each night and chatted. On other ships, we had only seen the head waiter on tip night.
The Ship. We felt the ship had many extra things other ships did not have, or have as nice. For example, the library was twice as large as any we have seen. The solarium (indoor pool) was phenomenal! We hit some cooler weather on our cruise, and the heated, indoor pool was heaven! It had whirlpool jets that gave the sound of the ocean, and because it was salt water you could float easier. The first night I had the pool to myself, and the glass ceiling acted as a mirror as I floated on my back. The shifting of the ship caused the water to act as light waves that pushed me around the pool. It was a very unique swimming experience!
The show lounge was the nicest afloat, and very large with very few blocked seats. The dinning room was well appointed as well. The ship was very well marked, with the floor number outside of each elevator, and a model of the ship and each floor by the center elevators on each floor. A snap to find any part of the ship! Also, they actually change the carpet in the elevator each day, with the day (Sunday, Monday) in the middle of the carpet.
The Food. Above average for a ship! The first night was Italian. It was pretty good. The second night was shrimp and Filet Mingon, and the last night was shrimp and Prime Rib. Of course you could order other things, or more of the same. I had two complete dinners on night 2 and 3! The deserts were good, the Chocolate Souffle on night 2 was the best. Breakfast and lunch was more typical cruise food fare. Beside having the menu on the TV, they post it outside the dinning room each day so you can choose to eat there or elsewhere.
The Entertainment. The Vision has a dance and song group that was typical ship stuff. Good but not my style. Rock on Broadway, the last night show, was better. The second night had the best show by far, a singing impressionist "Finese" somebody. It was first class, as he did everything from Michael Jackson to Dean Martin to Willie Nelson to Martin Luther King. A must see show!
There was outside calypso music, inside live disco dance music at night in the Enchanted Evening lounge, but I fell in love with the music at the Schooner piano bar. Elle Silver plays until March of 2003. And she is awesome! Perhaps one of the most talented keyboardist in the world, Elle plays over 1000 requests from complete memory, including keyboard, drum machine, and synthesizer. From the Eagles and Bangles to Louie Armstrong and other standards of the 50's 60's to today, Elle plays them all on request. She plays two sets in the later evening, including a few off her own CD. See www.ellesilver.com I never pictured myself at the piano bar over the disco, but I stayed til closing each night Elle played, and she played over 20 of my requests! Don't miss her.
The Route. The ship left on time out of San Pedro, and it was night fall. The ship hugged the California coast, about 10 miles out, but the lights of the mainland could be seen. Coming into Ensenada was a treat. It is quite a job to park a big ship, and do a 180 in the harbor. Seals make the harbor home and "barked" constantly while coming into port. Ironically, we did not even get off the ship while in port. The weather was rainy, and we had been there before. Nothing really to see, so we napped and hung out at the indoor pool! The second day is a sea day. The ship goes up between Catalina and Isabel Island and parks in the afternoon, just in the channel. The ship activities go on, but the ship just sits. Then in the evening it makes it way up to San Pedro for docking the next morning. You can see land nearly the entire voyage.
While ship to shore calls can be made from your room for $8 per minute, cell phones also work the entire way, with most of the route covered by US Carriers. In Mexico, be aware, they charge what ever they want for calls. I heard as much as $5 per minute to the US from your cell phone. Text messaging, if you have it, works on most of the cruise except in Mexico. One has to remember that a 3 night cruise out of Los Angeles is going to be less exotic than one out of Miami. The waters of the Caribbean are significantly clearer and prettier than the murky west coast waters.
The Crowd. Perhaps the only less than average part of the cruise was the weekend crowd. We went on this shorter cruise because of time constraints. We noticed this weekend cruise attracted a different type of clientele than a 7 or 10 day cruise. Many came to make this a "booze cruise" and were not as sophisticated as the groups we have seen on longer cruises. For example, in the dinning room for dinner we saw many people wearing T-shirts! On formal night, there were several men wearing golf shirts! Someone called it a largely "blue collar" crowd (there words, not mine). Perhaps the mid week cruise attracts the usual crowd that actually has a suit to wear to formal night! This was beyond Royals' control, but just be ready to see T- shirts for dinner.
Overall, the ship was clean, easy to get around, and had some great features not found on others. The food was above average (but no lobster on the shorter cruises) and the service was the best we had ever had. The destination was fair but we knew what we were getting when we signed up. The only disappointment were the few "booze cruisers" a weekend jaunt like this attracts, complete without suits for formal night.
Our cruise to Alaska on the Vision of the Seas was wonderful. We had taken the Rhapsody in 1998, so knew what to expect. Overall, we think the food was quite good. The best was the lobster, prime rib & steak on all different nights. We weren't crazy about having late seating, but one thing is you don't have to rush to dinner after being ashore. Our waiter was Mustava from Turkey, & he was great. We were always some of the first people out of the dining room.
Our cabin was always very clean. Our steward was Arief from Indonesia; he, like our waiter, was very friendly & always brought what we asked for. He was a real cutie!! We did have rough seas from Vancouver up to Hubbard Glacier. The weather was quite good for Sept. We weren't crazy about our cabin location tho, as it was on Deck 2 Aft. The last 3 days we had a lot of excessive engine noise. We called the Purser several times about it. This was our 6th cruise, & we would recommend this ship.
I have cruised previously aboard Royal Caribbean's Sovereign and Monarch of the Seas in the Caribbean during the late 90s, as well as Seabourn Cruise Lines' Spirit in the Indian Ocean in 99. This was my Fiance's first cruise.
Having been pampered by Seabourn's five-star service (1 crewmember for each of the 200 passengers), I was not excited about a return to the hit or miss service, mediocre food, lackluster entertainment and overcrowding typical of mass-market cruising. However, with the exception of some serious design flaws in the ship and excessive noise next to and above our suite, I was literally stunned by the exceptional food, top-notch entertainment, delightful service and high level of cleanliness and maintenance on board this vessel. Other passengers I spoke with gave the ship equally high marks in all of these areas.
You get the impression docking next to the larger and in some cases newer Princess vessels in the ports of call that the Vision is a bit outdated. From a design perspective there is certainly nothing remarkable about this ship, although it benefits from light and airy open spaces and ample deck spacetopside. Getting around the ship is simple enough, and those who have sailed aboard the previous generation of RCI ships will not find any striking variations in layout, design or aesthetics.just a bit bigger, newer, and perhaps a bit more stable in rough seas. The internet cafe on deck 8 is a nice addition, but the connections are slow and the .50 cents per minute fee excessive. This interior of this ship is clean.and I mean CLEAN. We even saw maintenance crews at work cleaning the public areas, replacing carpeting, painting, etc. The one notable exception to this was that many of the deck chairs and most of the green felt deck surfaces were filthy and in desperate need of replacement. The spa and gym are large and well appointed, and the steam room and saunas are larger than you find in some land-locked facilities.
We thought we had "lucked out" by getting an upgrade from a category C balcony suite to a category A owners' suite. Indeed, the square footage is more than double, and there is lots of marble, glass, cherry wood and recessed lighting, not to mention the two 25 inch color TVs, Bose stereo, and marble-covered bathroom, itself nearly as large as an inside stateroom. Looks can be deceiving. Our cabin, 8002, is right underneath the Windjammer Cafe, and each morning beginning at 5:30 a.m. and each evening at around 11:30 p.m. there was tremendous banging and commotion coming from above. The noise would persist, off and on, throughout the day, so naps in our cabin were out of the question. Repeated calls to the purser's desk brought no resolution to the problem. To add insult to injury, our cabin had miserable acoustics and construction quality.we could hear our neighbors snoring and because of all the extra wood and glass, everything creaked loudly as the ship swayed. We got two nights decent sleep out of six total nights at sea, and only with the help of industrial-strength ear plugs. What a big disappointment.
My expectations were set lowest in this area, and were probably exceeded more than in any other. I say this having sailed aboard Seabourn, which has arguably the best cuisine afloat, and having eaten in the finest restaurants in New York and Paris. The food was outstanding with very few exceptions, and was night and day compared to food aboard Sovereign and Monarch several years back. Dinner in the dining room was exceptional. Notable dishes included Duck L'Orange (probably the best I've ever had), seafood risotto, escargots, pork loin, and the lobster tail, (which unlike previous cruises was not small and overcooked but very large and succulent). Of course, you can order as many appetizers and entrees as you like. Deserts were consistently excellent. Breakfast served in the dining room was served to order and always well prepared. The Windjammer Cafe -- although constantly out of items and plagued by kids and sloppy eaters who would spill food all over the buffet -- served tasty, hot fare, including some very good seafood and carved meat selections. The big surprise was the food served in the Solarium Cafe. Supposedly only serving pizza, hot dogs and burgers (and according to other reviewers not of the highest quality), the Solarium Cafe also served up an excellent fish sandwich and turkey burger, both of which I had several times and thought were outstanding and up there with the best I've ever eaten. The fries were hot and crisp. The food was made to order and never took longer than 5 minutes, even with crowds. Room service was prompt and never had our order wrong. We mostly used room service for breakfast, and my favorite was egg beaters and turkey sausage with toasted bagels and smoked salmon, which was of a relatively high quality. The coffee was excellent. I missed one of the midnight buffets, which was excellent from all accounts and included suckling pig and other grilled steaks and meats.
Our dining room waiter, Amit from India, was the finest I've had aboard ANY ship, including Seabourn. He was not happy until we were happy. This meant making sure we had enough entrees and appetizers. He would always make suggestions and learn our likes and dislikes. Sometimes he would even surprise us with extra entrees if he sensed that we were having trouble deciding between items. On the other hand, he was not always bothering us and making us feel uncomfortable. Our assistant waiter was always very attentive although he got a bit too aggressive with pushing wine and other drinks. There was one drawback with the dining service. RCI apparently places more emphasis on protecting each waiter's passengers in their dining area (to protect their tip revenue) than on evenly distributing diners throughout the dining room. The result is very uneven coverage and some couples sitting by themselves. This was our predicament until we demanded to be moved, which was not viewed favorably by the dining staff. Because of the uneven coverage, Amit had over twice the passengers of some neighboring dining sections. The result was that we were consistently the last table to leave the dining room and often waited 15-30 minutes between appetizers and entrees. Had the company at our table not been as good as it was, this would have been a huge problem. Service in our stateroom was fine, and our Cabin Steward, Sydney, would often bring us complimentary water and soft drinks. Only rarely did I pass an RCI crewmember without a "good afternoon" or other friendly greeting.
Like the food, the quality of the entertainment was a real shocker - in a good way. All the shows I saw - a couple of the comedy acts and a game show of sorts called The Quest - were excellent and better than some I've seen in Vegas. Two Funny Guys was absolutely hilarious. An unlikely source of entertainment was the Captain's speech during the Captain's Cocktail Hour. This guy is hilarious. His bit was better than some on-board comedy acts on past voyages. There is always a lot to do on board, although a lot of it may only appeal to a small group, like the Yoga, trivia, bingo, slot tournaments, etc.
PORTS OF CALL
Don't take this cruise if you are expecting to visit exotic ports of call with authentic culture and tours of ruins and antiquities. If you like margaritas and cold beer, shopping for t-shirts and jewelry, and haggling with locals for just about everything, this is the cruise for you. The quality of the jewelry steadily improved as we moved south. Puerto Vallarta had by far the best selection and quality of silver and Tanzanite jewelry. The beaches were definitely quite average, nothing compared to Cancun, the Caribbean or Tahiti. Mazatlan was definitely our least favorite port of call. You have to take a 10 minute tax ride to the shopping area, which consists of roughly four blocks of the same old souvenir and jewelry stores. We took our only shore excursion in Mazatlan - the shopping and beach tour. The shopping was average and the resort where we had lunch and spent the afternoon was definitely a mid-to-low range property. I must admit that lunch was pretty good.
Were it not for the fact that RCI made up for the cabin noise by catering a small cocktail party for our tablemates and other friends (including champagne!), I would have left the ship quite unhappy. As it turns out, RCI is overwhelmingly committed to passenger satisfaction and I was frankly amazed that they went to the lengths that they did to ensure that we were satisfied with the entire experience. Vision may not be the newest, biggest or most feature-packed vessel on the seas, but the outstanding service, food and cleanliness of this vessel really stood out and resulted in a tremendous cruising experience that I recommend without any reservation. You can check out our cruise photos at www.geocities.com/vision042802, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about our cruising experience.
I took the same Easter vacation itinerary on the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas that I took last year during Easter vacation week on the Carnival Elation. Ports included Cabo San Lucas. Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, but the main attraction was the ship herself. This year I traveled with my seven year old granddaughter for little more for both of us than I paid last year for myself. Last year I shared a very cramped cabin with a stranger for the higher cruise fare.
Pros: The ship was beautiful and kept in spotless condition by a crew that cleaned continuously. The children's program was excellent. Hannah enjoyed the activities as much as the more elaborate ones on the Disney Magic last summer. She said that all of the counselors were very friendly all of the time. The climate control in an inside cabin on a lower deck worked perfectly. The bed was comfortable and the cabin nicely appointed for the price even though it was a bit on the small side. Room service was very well done with courteous delivery, warm food, and no errors. The Masquerade theater has an excellentsound and lighting system and the sound level at most of the shows was kept at an enjoyable level. Sight lines were excellent from all seats.
Cons: The most important con was that the food in the dining room was mediocre most of the time except the desserts. They were consistently excellent.
The signage on the ship for finding your way around was the worst of any ship on which I have been. I can usually find my way around fairly well by the end of the first day by using aid provided near elevators, over doorways, and on convenient walls. At the end of the week I was still having trouble because there were very few such aids and even the crew did not know where some rooms were. I never did find the gymnasium as I was sent to several decks and different locations on those decks when I asked for directions. There were Lucite crosssections of the ship near the midship elevators and small clear Lucite plaques in the halls that could be seen only if you came up very close to them. Fire doors in the halls had no indications of what lay beyond them. At first I avoided going through plain unmarked doors thinking they were to areas not for passengers. I soon learned that they often lead to main passenger areas.
The public restrooms are not on every floor and were not easy to find. Small signs pointing in the general direction were hard to spot. Sometimes the arrow meant go to another floor, sometimes down the hall.
More detailed observations, in no particular order:
Although I am familiar with the fact that the port is very close to the airport in San Diego; I decided to take the RCCL bus in order to avoid dealing with our luggage. by taking the bus for $15.00 each I did not have to deal with luggage again until it appeared in our cabin soon after we were on board. The lines were short at the ship terminal because we were over an hour before embarkation was officially to begin. We were through two lines, the paperwork counter, and two metal detectors in less than 45 minutes. Hannah spotted the main pool immediately, but agreed to a quick buffet lunch before swimming. I always pack as though my checked luggage is going to be lost by putting key items in our carry ons; therefore, Hannah was in her bathing suit and into the pool while most people were waiting for their luggage to arrive. She had the pool to herself for most of an hour. The pool was crystal clear heated sea water. There were lots of lounge chairs and large beach towels available. There was no music on deck for embarkation until just before we sailed. At about 4:45 PM a Caribbean band began to play. Piano music was featured in the Centrum during the afternoon. After Hannah's swim we went to the cabin where we found her suitcase inside. We got her unpacked and dressed in dry clothes. Our next stop was the children's area where we registered her for their program for 6-8 year olds. I was surprised to learn that a seven year olds could sign herself in and out with the permission of the parent.
THE CHILDREN'S PROGRAM
The children's program is divided by age groups. Hannah was in the "Explorers" for six to eight year olds. We were told to let the room steward know her age. Each evening the Compass was delivered to let me know all about adult activities for the next day and her own edition of the Compass with all of the activities for her age group was also delivered. Some meals could be scheduled to be eaten with the children and counselors. Hannah enjoyed this option so I had dinner in the dining room with her only a few times. She either ate with the children or grabbed a pizza or hot dog at the snack bar after her afternoon swim so that she wouldn't miss an activity going on during our dinner hour. Each day there were scheduled activities at appointed times: special games, science projects, arts and crafts, movies, and evening party activities. The only problem I found was that the time scheduled for parents to pick up children was often the same time the main show of the evening began for late sitting diners. Hannah did not like to leave in the middle of an activity and I did not want to come late into the theater; therefore, I was glad that she was allowed to sign herself out and come join me. The end of her evening party session was often before my dinner was quite ended so she could sign herself out and go to our cabin and get ready for bed. I would join her in the cabin within about five or ten minutes. She liked the independence, but I made sure to join her at the appointed place within a few minutes after her arrival. After the scheduled pick-up time group babysitting was $5.00 per hour per child. I did not use the after hours service. I would recommend that if you are going to allow your child sign out privileges you agree on exactly where you are to meet and make sure that the child is very familiar with the route from the children's area to the meeting place. You want the taste of independence to be fun, not frightening. One time when Hannah did not arrive in the theater as soon as I expected her I used the phone in the hall just outside the door to call the children's area. The counselor who answered was very pleasant when she explained that they were running a little late and that the children had not left yet. The children are given cardboard tokens for each activity in which they participate. They accumulate these tokens to exchange for prizes on the last night. Hannah got a small stuffed octopus that she values. She also decorated a pillowcase at the pajama party one night and decorated a T-shirt at pirates night. Overall I felt that the children's program was well run and the children seemed to be having a great time whenever I came to get Hannah to go swimming.
THE DINING EXPERIENCE
On this particular sailing there were too many diners to seat everyone in the main dining room. Therefore there were sixteen of us who were seated in a small private dining room off of the main room. At first I was disappointed as this was not nearly as beautifully decorated as the main room. However I soon learned that it was much more quiet during dinner and that my dinner companions at both tables were very friendly and added to the enjoyment of the dinner hour. We had a waiter and an assistant who served only our room. Our service was consistently very prompt as well as courteous and professional. We were often eating our dessert while many of those in the main room were starting on their entrees. This was fortunate for me as I had to leave in the middle of the dessert course to meet Hannah in the cabin. On the other side of the picture was the quality and selection of the food. The menu listed appetizers and soups all together as one group. Neither were very adventurous; they were rather ordinary selections for the most part. They were not bad and were presented attractively. I know that some passengers like to have familiar Western choices, but I look forward to trying fancy appetizers on a cruise, and to trying dishes that I cannot cook at home. These selections were just not special. The second night I had filet mignon, my fellow diner and I both found our cuts to be quite flavorless although tender. The asparagus served with it; however, was perfectly cooked to be tender crisp and delicious. I asked if it would be possible to have a serving of just the asparagus and not get the whole entree plate again. The waiter brought me a small plate of asparagus that was the best part of the meal. On lobster night instead of having a small cup of drawn butter to dip each bite of lobster into as I have done previously, the assistant waiter came around and spooned a bit over the whole serving at once. One of the alternate selections that were available at every meal was a Caesar salad. One night, nothing on the menu appealed to me enough to waste the calories on, so I asked if it would be possible to put a few slices of chicken in the Caesar and I would eat it as my entree. The salad came with two chicken breasts plopped on top of it. It was not a very attractive presentation but I sliced up one of them and mixed it into the salad, it was adequate. The worst disappointment was rack of lamb served with lukewarm french fries. The meat was delicious, but there should have been roasted potatoes, or at least mashed potatoes. This was toward the end of the week and I was getting used to the idea that the food would not be what I had had on the Majesty of the Seas a few years ago so I did not request a replacement. On the last night they served wonderfully prepared prime rib with perfectly cooked baked potatoes. It was a real treat. The prime rib, scampi, the desserts, and a few other dishes showed that the kitchen could put out great food; I just wish they had chosen to do so more often.
Breakfast in the windjammer was typical breakfast fare. The line for the omelet station was very long and slow moving. Then the omelet cooked dryer than I prefer so I did not wait in the line again. Each day there was one main breakfast type entree in addition to scrambled eggs, breads and breakfast meats. If pancakes were served there would be no French toast or waffles. Their pancakes and the Belgian waffles were quite good and I enjoyed the oatmeal every day. Room service only lists typical continental items on the card you put out at night. I really prefer a full breakfast so I crossed out the front selections and wrote eggs Benedict and oatmeal for me and French toast for Hannah on the back of the card. All were delivered at the requested time and all were warm and much enjoyed in the comfort of our cabin. I wish I tried it sooner.
Hannah ate hot dogs or pizza in the Solarium cafe for her dinner on a few occasions. The hot dogs were Ok but the pizza had way too much sauce which had an undercooked raw tomato paste flavor that neither of us liked. The pizza on the Elation was much better.
Lunch was about the same coffee shop quality in both the dining room and the Windjammer Cafe buffet. Since the lines did not appeal to me I ate in the dining room, if at all.
THE POOL SITUATION
The outside pool was on an exposed deck and was slightly heated. The pool in the solarium was covered, heated, and protected from the wind. After the second day the weather became a bit too cold to swim outside comfortably. The information we were given said adults only in the solarium pool. Although we saw many children in the solarium I did not let Hannah swim there the first two days. When she mentioned that she was disappointed because it was too cold to swim in the outside pool to one of the counselors, she was told that while we were in port she could swim in the solarium pool if I stayed with her the whole time. She loved swimming against the current in one end of the pool and had a great time during the port days. I liked the fact that no pre-teen boys were jumping into the pool and hitting her during their games of Marco Polo as had been a problem on nice days in the outside pool. I think the adults only policy is a good one, but I would like to see a few hours of every day when the nicer pool is available to supervised children too. If children had their time, maybe fewer would disregard the rules. Some children swam in the solarium pool without adult supervision most of the time. There was no enforcement of the stated policy. Hannah's fare was the same as for an adult; it bothered me that she was to swim in the cold while adults had use of the better pool at all times, but I am a rule follower. Since port time was the only time she could swim in the nicer pool, we did not go ashore in Cabo San Lucas or in Puerto Vallarta.
I had made advance arrangements on the internet for us to go horseback riding while the ship was in Mazatlan. I had had such a great time riding with Randy's Happy Horses while on the Elation last year that I made the same arrangements for this year. Hannah had never ridden on a full size horse before, only a pony, so was quite apprehensive. There were eighteen riders with three guides. One of the guides, a young man by the name of Tony, tied the rope from Hannah's horse to his and stayed with her the whole time. She had a great time. In fact at the end of the trip she said it was the best part of the whole week. We rode for a time through a palm orchard then out onto a beautiful stretch of beach. After the ride we walked to at an open air restaurant on the beach for beer or soda. Some people ordered lunch which I was told was delicious. Hannah played in the surf and sand on the beach until time to leave. If you would like to try this adventure, the cost was $45 per person. This included transportation from the ship and back, the ride, and a beer or soda at the restaurant. You can contact Randy through the Mazatlan web page at mazatlaninfo.com. After we returned to the ship I intended to e-mail my daughter to let her know Hannah was back on the ship safely, but the satellite connection was not working. The next morning I followed all of the directions and thought I had sent a message. My shipboard account was charged for the time, but no message ever reached my daughter, nor was I informed that there had been any problem with the transmission. It had worked nicely on the Disney Magic so I was not expecting a problem here.
As on all ships there was a show each evening in the main theater, either before or after dinner. Only one of the shows stands out in my mind as great. The others were a pleasant way to end the evening, but nothing special. The music and comedy of Mario D'Andrea was by far the most professional show of the week. A talented entertainer with good material. The ship's orchestra was also very good and was a valuable addition to the shows each evening. There were two evenings of the standard Las Vegas type review, a juggler, a Goucho act, a comedian, and a young singer from the ship's ensemble who does not have quite enough voice to be on by herself. She would have been better with some backup. Because I spent the evenings with Hannah I did not catch any of the shows in the lounges. On the night of the Captain's reception we were waiting to go into the appointed lounge when it was announced the lounge was filled to capacity and no one else would be allowed in. They just closed the doors. I have never had this happen before. I could see holding the line until a few people leave or something similar, but it was handled in a most unsatisfactory way. They need to break the crowd into smaller groups or hold the reception in a larger room. I did not really care much, but first time cruisers like to meet the captain and there were people at my dinner table who were really disappointed. No one likes to get all dressed up for a party to which you have been invited, arrive at the appointed time, and be told you can't come in.
Since Hannah spent her days with the explorers, I had lots of time to myself. The bathroom was very small so it was nice to take my shower and get ready for the day after breakfast while she was occupied elsewhere. Note: if you have a daughter with long hair bring detangler or conditioner. The ship only provides a basic blue shampoo. We had our own quality shampoo, but I had forgotten the conditioner. The saltwater pools plus horseback riding meant shampooing and painful combouts.
The library had comfortable chairs, large windows with great views, and a pretty good selection of books. The card room had a nice selection of board games including games that a seven year old can play and enjoy. Several had all of their pieces so Hannah and I played Sorry and Chinese Checkers after lunch a couple of times.
Bingo costs $20 for 3 cards or $35 for six cards per session of five games. You must use all six cards at the same session. You cannot use one card this time and another a different time in order to just enjoy the play. Bingo has changed a lot since the days when you paid $1.00 per card and split the pot each game. They only call 51 numbers for the big blackout pot so, of course, nobody wins and the jackpot continues to grow until the last night. The last night they called numbers until a ten year old boy and his parents won a large pot of about $12000. An expense I did not expect was a $10 fee for the yoga class. The Compass said a "nominal charge." Ten dollars for one class is not a small fee to me. I have always thought the recreation on a cruise was included in the price. This is becoming less and less true.
Overall I enjoyed the cruise on the Vision of the Seas more than on the Elation. The entertainment was of better quality, the cabin was nicer, the pools were heated, and the ship was more tastefully decorated.
If you tip exactly the amount recommended by the ship, you can charge your tips to your shipboard account if you do so before Thursday evening. If you want to give more or less to anyone, you mush pay in cash.
I know now that debarkation does not have to be a madhouse. On the Disney Magic we stayed in our cabins until the time we were assigned to eat breakfast in the dining room. As we finished breakfast we just walked off the ship in a leisurely fashion. Unfortunately this was not the case on the Vision of the Seas. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 AM. After breakfast we sat with our carry ons in lounges where we breathed cigarette smoke and waited our turn to leave. We left in large groups and our luggage was in large groups. We found Hannah's quickly, but mine was not near hers. After finding my luggage we joined the large throng heading for the single exit. There had been many messages about when and how to tip, but there had been no information about how taxis are handled or where to get one. The front of the terminal was a madhouse. About a half block to the left of the exit from the baggage room was a traffic policewoman who was giving out numbers for getting a taxi. After about a twenty minute wait it was our turn and about ten minutes and $10.00 later we were at the airport.
This is my 12th cruise and my 6th on RCCL. This was my best cruise with RCCL. The Vision of the Seas is a true masterpiece. The art, the décor of the public rooms, the elevators, dining room, spas, lounges, everything is beautiful, well designed and thought out. The huge glass windows is what I always like. The Vision was a much cleaner ship than its sister ship the Rhapsody. The cabins were clean and all public areas were clean. Though, not as clean as Holland America ships. The only dirty spots were on top deck the running track needs to be redone very dirty and all the deck chairs were very dirty and should be replaced. This was the same thing with the Rhapsody when I took it in 1999.
Because this was a 15 day cruise, everything was geared for older people. I like having older people rather than younger crowd, but this was more than I expected. Many people were in wheel chairs and tons of walkers. Very hard to get around them. You needed to have lots of patience on this cruise. One person died whenwe were in Acapulco. We saw crew taking off a body in a body bag. We also had 7 Alpha, Alpha messages during the 15 days. When they say on speaker Alpha, Alpha it means something bad happened to a passenger. You can tell this cruise was for older people because all the trivia games name that tone was from 1920's-1950's.
Food was a lot better on this ship. The Dining room food has improved since last I sailed on RCCL in 1999. Maybe its because its a 15 day cruise who knows. All the steaks had more taste to them. There were just more items to pick from. Our waiter always gave us extra dinners even if we did not ask for it. He gave me 3 lobsters one day. The Vision I think had a better dinner than Princess, but the Holland America is still the best. RCCL deserts still are just so-so. The Lido deck buffet Lunch was the same as usual. It was not that good. Princess lunch buffet is much better. RCCL needs to improve on selections for buffet food. You can get pizza and hamburgers in the pool area. This is open many times of the day. The pizza was awesome. Everyone raves about Princess pizza which I think sucks, the Vision pizza was 10 times better than Princess. Also, at 3:30 to 4:30 in Lido deck Buffet they have sandwiches, cookies, and ice cream. If you don't like the buffet, the dining room lunch was pretty good. They had some good food at times. Of course if you are still hungry just head to the buffet or the pool area and receive more food. Let's just say I get my moneys worth. Room service was just ok. Sandwiches and hamburgers. The best room service is on Holland America.
The Entertainment was just ok. Like I said before it was geared towards the older crowd. They did have two comedians. Usually RCCL has some awesome entertainment, but it was just too much singing. The older crowd loved the Entertainment. Here is some Entertainers we had. They had the Coasters, Singer Dolores Park, Comedy Jason Chase, Singer Hal Frazier, Piano person Craig Dahn, Comedian Marty Allen. The ones I liked were Los Diablos Gauchos and Comedian Yacov Noy. All this entertainment was for the older crowd. Also, Everyone got to the theater 40 min ahead of time. This was the first cruise that I had to get to the theater 40 min ahead of time to get a seat.
All the people working on the ship were much nicer than on other RCCL ships. The cruise director Tim Seivert and all the Bingo helpers worked well together. They all were very funny. I think they were better entertainment than the shows entertainment. I had Tim on three ships, Viking Serenade, (rest in peace) the Rhapsody and now the Vision. He is one of the best cruise directors I ever had. All the dining room staff, buffet staff were great. Everyone was so friendly.
Cabo - Was the Usual. My sister went whale watching. I told her "you don't need to go far from the ship." (Joke) I just went on the tender back and forth.
Acapulco -Was cool place. Very modern. Take the city tour that was nice. You go to the cliff divers, but be prepared to get hounded by people trying to sell you stuff. The cliff divers is not in the nicest area.
Costa Rica -Lots of garbage along the roads. We did the rain forest walk. Not worth the price. All we saw were ants and birds. You won't see monkeys. My parents took the 8 hr city tour same price as the rain forest and they loved it.
Columbia - "Interesting" I did not go off the ship, but my parents took the city tour and were hounded by people selling you stuff. They would get followed onto their tour bus and would get followed for a few blocks by people wanting to sell them stuff.
Panama Canal - That was awesome. You have to see it in person.
Aruba - Best port - I went snorkeling that was a blast. Aruba is very clean and tons of stuff to do. Tons of shops, casinos and sight seeing. Best of all did not get bugged.
The ship has the Internet for 50 cents a min so you can E-mail your family. The seas were not rough at all. I love when it gets bumpy, but the only time it got rough was leaving the Panama Canal to Aruba. I was disappointed it was not rough.
This was my first time on a 15 day cruise. I thought for sure I would get bored or miss home. But, I loved it. I could have went on for another week. This was so much fun and would love to go on it again.