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Rachel Smith

Age: 31

Occupation:Human Resources/Commercial Banking

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Vision of the Seas

Sailing Date: September 25th, 2005

Itinerary: Mexican Rivera

Royal Caribbean
Vision of the Seas
Mexican Riviera

Rachel Smith


Arrival:
Coming from New York City, I wanted to make sure that I arrived in Los Angeles without any problems. So, my family and I agreed to fly in a day early to avoid any hassles or delays. I know that RC suggests flying into LAX, but if you can manage it, Long Beach Airport is much closer. Finding an affordable hotel for one night in LA was a bit of a challenge, but I still feel it was worth it. We had the entire morning in LA to get everyone breakfasted and organized, as well as time to meet up with other family that were driving up from Hemet, CA.

It was very easy to take a cab from the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center. We requested a van (we had a lot of bags) and were provided one easily. Once at the Terminal we found the others in our party and went inside to begin Embarkation. One member of our group is disabled, and an employee offered to assist in pushing her wheelchair so we could carry our bags. He was very helpful, but we were all pretty stumped when looking for the desk for those with special needs. After being rerouted several times, we found it (there was nothing special about it) we were finally processed and allowed to proceed. The other members of our party were already finished and on their way by the time we were processed (it took a long time for some reason).

We had arrived a bit early (12 noon), so the lines weren’t bad at all. We got upstairs relatively quickly, but once we got to the security checkpoint, none of our Sea Passes worked. We were in a party of 9 and all 9 rejected. This was very frustrating, and we had to all step aside to let other passengers go by.

Miraculously, after several attempts they worked. Still not sure how or why.

Embarkation:

Once inside we were told to relax in any of the lounges or to help ourselves to lunch in the Windjammer. I realized from my first cruise to always pack your swimsuit in your purse so that you can take a dip while the other passengers sit on lounge chairs sweating out the wait until the rooms are ready… well, that didn’t do me any good this time. I darted upstairs to make my spa reservation and to check out the saltwater pool…and the pool was empty! I couldn’t believe it. I was very disappointed to see netting up and a sign saying that it was undergoing maintenance. Can’t they do that sort of thing in the middle of the night? I can’t say that was a great first impression for me. A sparkling pool is one of the first things I want to see when I get on a ship for the first time. This was a bad omen.

We had explained to the employee helping us onto the ship with the wheelchair that we needed to get into our stateroom for just a few minutes, for a quick medical procedure that needs to be performed every few hours. We assured him we would only be 15 minutes at most (since we new the staterooms weren’t supposed to be occupied until after 1pm). He said it wouldn’t be a problem and led us directly to our room. The door to the room was closed, so we put in our key and let ourselves in. A minute later our Stateroom attendant arrived telling us to leave the room. We tried to discretely explain the situation, but he wouldn’t let us get a word in. After getting nowhere for several minutes, I decided to head to the pursers desk to find out if there is another place we could take care of this. The purser was helpful, at best. She called down to the Manager of that floor and explained our situation and asked that we be allowed to use the room for just a few more minutes… (We could have been almost done already!) The purser assured me there wouldn’t be a problem. I was happier but realized that no one had apologized for the miscommunication, or the rudeness on the part of the room attendant. Back at the room, the attendant comes by as we are leaving to say, not “Sorry” but, “ oh, I didn’t know you had a sick kid in the room”. (I guess being PC is not something RC gives in their training).

The Overall the ship was pleasant in décor, and clean. It is not the newest ship I have been on, but it had been well maintained. I never felt that it was dirty, or that it was looking worn. I didn’t feel cramped or overwhelmed (as you can feel on some of the mega ships). Getting around was easy, and you didn’t feel like there were always people around you. The dining room was spacious and had plenty of seating so that you could enjoy the view. The staircase in the middle often served as the “stage” for the short performances from the wait staff. My impressions of the dining room staff was that they were genuinely warm and really made an effort to impress. Having them remember whether you take coffee or tea after dinner, and even how you take it, I thought was remarkable.

The meals were delicious, with the right balance of gourmet sophistication and staples, to make everyone happy. They even include a nice children’s menu with lots of favorites. The shops were nice, but didn’t carry the variety that I had hoped for. The fine jewelry was what I had expected, but seemed to be in short supply (the cases were sparsely filled). The liquor shop was small but well stocked (although they had sold out of Sheridan’s on the first day!) The gift shop was alright, but their costume jewelry was way too expensive. There were handy items like snorkel sets and other items that you may have had a hard time finding before your trip…

The spa was very nice, and the full body massage with facial was worth the money. It was truly great. My only suggestion to RC would be to not put the waiting customers in the “relaxation room” when there are Yoga classes going on. The room is way too small for chairs and Yoga mats with limbs flying all around. No sooner had I sat down, did the instructor ask me to get up so she could move my chair! It was uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing. I felt like I didn’t belong there, and I was some stupid person in the wrong room. The person at the desk kept on sending more people in the room, and we all looked confused standing in the hallway for lack of space.

The Solarium pool is a treat for the adults (16 and older only), as it is not only beautiful but it has a gentle current for you to swim against for exercise. If you just hang out on the steps there are lots of jets making bubbles (fun!) On either side of the steps to the pool are hot tubs. I found they were always in demand, so if you like privacy you might want to try early in the am or late in the pm.

The main pool was eventually filled with water, but it seemed like everyone had the same idea at that point. It is the only other pool besides the Solarium so it and its four hot tubs were pretty much packed all of the time.

We enjoyed Cabo San Lucas, even though it can get very hot there. If you have a wheelchair with you keep in mind that the pier is made of cobblestone. This can be an irritant especially for children. We didn’t take an RC excursion, but we did find a person to take us to Lover’s Beach on a small boat. I found that everyone else on the boat had all paid a different price, so don’t forget to haggle a bit. I think the lowest price paid was $6 (US) per person to get a round trip. Don’t forget to ask for a receipt for your round trip, and memorize the name of your boat so that you get on the right one back to the pier (otherwise you may end up paying again). The boat ride was a lot of fun, but keep in mind when you get to Lover’s Beach you will have to jump off of the boat as it pulls up to the beach. It looks easy, but you’re going to jump about 4 feet to the sand/surf below. What we didn’t know if that there was a hurricane churning a few hundred miles away, and that the surf was going to be very rough. My older brothers and I were all ready for our beach adventure, but we weren’t prepared for getting ON or OFF the little boat. One of us fell off of the boat, and the other ended up getting very wet prematurely. I was able to get off without a hitch, but it was way more exciting than I had planned on. There is no food or water there so bring your own, or you will wilt from the intense heat. Also, you are at the mercy of the person who dropped you off. We told him to come back in 2 hours, but he came back in 1 hour 40 minutes. It was O.K. though; we had had enough at that point (it was very hot). There are men who work the beach, and just help you on and off he boats for tips. They will get into the surf to take your beach bags/towels from you to keep them dry. They do this just for tips. Let me tell you, they are worth it. They aren’t going to run away with your stuff (there is no where to go!) and they really work for the money. When my brother fell off of the boat, into the surf, thes!

e guys dove in and made sure he was O.K., retrieved his sunglasses from the bottom of the water (Amazing!) and helped him find all of his stuff floating in the water. When it came time to get back on the boat, they saw I was a little intimidated by the task (I’m a big girl), and they made it very easy for me to jump on. They were great and worth every penny! I gave them $5 (US) coming and going, in addition to the fee for the boat. Even though the surf was rough, and the boat trip was rustic, this was a highlight of the trip. Lover’s Beach is a must see.

Mazatlan was a neat town to shop in. There was a little bit of everything, and it seems like the taxi drivers have agreements with shop owners, to bring you straight to certain jewelers, if you don’t have a specific destination. We had a blast shopping, and found some great deals. Be careful, as RC says, of buying at shops that aren’t approved by the ship. There are plenty of places that will sell you beautiful silver rings, but will neglect to tell you that the stones are simulated or plastic. I was disappointed to find out that several items where not genuine, once I got home. The items I bought in the recommended shops were just fine.

Also, if you are interested in making a phone call or getting on the internet, there are shops that will advertise access. This is a great value compared to the ship. To call on the ship is $7.95/ min. but in the shop it was $0.25/min to call the US or Canada. Internet on the ship is slow and costs $0.50/min while in the shop it was about the same, but with a high speed connection. They will also let you print and fax in these shops. Great value!

In Puerto Vallarta I took a taxi into town and shopped. The shops were very touristy, but if you were vigilant you could find a few that made handcrafted items. The town is adjacent to the port, so the vistas are gorgeous. Take a break from shopping and sit on one of the benches to enjoy the view. Also, there are some sculptures along the port that will interest anyone with an artistic eye. In some shops I found items made by local artists. Beautiful sculptures, but not cheap. Some of these range from a few hundred (US) to a few thousand dollars.

I took an early morning excursion, to swim with the dolphins. It was well done, and definitely worth it. There was a mix up with the start time (I was told it was due to the time change), so I had to wait from 8am to 9am for us to get on the buses to leave.

Issues:
The time change was unexpected. We never knew what time it was, or was supposed to be. My suggestion is just to forget it (you will change time zones on this trip more times than you will change outfits). We only worried about making dinner, and getting back to the boat in time.

Logistical problems were with our cabin. We were in an aft cabin, deck 2. Our air conditioner never worked very well, and it gave the room a funny smell. When I called up to complain, again I was not apologized to, I was simply told that others had complained about it being to warm in the other Aft cabins…what good does that do me???? I’m sweating! It was never fixed the entire week. I was not happy about that.

Additionally, on our last evening on the ship there was an extremely loud banging noise within the walls of our cabin. It started about 3am, and by 3:30 when it hadn’t stopped I called the purser. (Again, no apology.) She sent down two security officers who looked in a panel in the hallway, and then asked to come into my room to check things out (glad I was dressed). They looked at the ceiling for a minute, listened to the noise and said that there was nothing they could do. It was a piece of equipment doing its job. Wow. Glad this didn’t happen on day one, or I would have lost my mind! Hopefully, they would have allowed me to move to another room if they had one. But if they hadn’t, that is an unfortunate situation to be in. I ended up going out of my room to find some peace and quiet. I walked all over the ship, but there was music playing in every lounge and even up on the top deck there was Techno playing (its 4am!). So I found that the night club, Viking Lounge, was the best place to go. It had the most soothing music at the time, and that is where I slept until breakfast….

After revisiting this dilemma with the purser, all that I was told was that they would report the problem and that I would be hearing from Guest Relations…well, RC, I’m still waiting. No apology and no reply from Guest Relations. That really disappointed me. Especially since I am in the business of Customer Service, I found that just an apology would have made me feel better, and I couldn’t even get that much.

Overall, the trip was nice and the rooms were all comfortable. RC just needs to work on their Customer Relations protocol and don’t book an aft room!

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