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Joanie Ogg CTC MCC

Age: Various

Occupation:Travel Professionals

Number of Cruises: Var

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Vision of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 28th, 2002

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean International
Sailing Date: April 28th, 2002

The NACTA Seminar at Sea aboard the Vision of the Seas was a great success. Thanks to the generous efforts of David Thrower our NACTA Area Manager for the state of Massachusetts and his lovely wife and business partner Paula, we are able to provide you with a very in-depth review. Thank you David for your photos and your assistance with this review.

Embarkation:
The check-in process at the San Diego terminal was efficient and relatively painless. Of course the traffic and terminal lines depended one arrived at the terminal. Around 1:00pm it was probably at the most crowded level. People who arrived earlier talked about a simple 5-minute process while it took about 30 minutes at peak times. There were plenty of counter agents checking in the passengers and the attitude of those involved in the process was very warm and accommodating. Being a San Diego native, I like to think that is because people who live in San Diego are just plain nice and easy going.

The Vision of the Seas is a beautiful ship and was built in 1998. The ship is kept up very well and found the cabins and public areas very clean.

Cabins:
The inside cabins range from 135 sq. ft. (Cat-M) to 174 sq. feet (Cat-L). The standard outside cabins (no balcony) range from 154 sq. ft. (Cat-I) to 237 sq. ft. (Cat-E which is a family stateroom that can accommodate 6 passengers). Standard balcony cabins are 195 sq. ft. (Cat-D). Balcony suites range from 241 sq. ft. (Cat-C) to 1,140 sq. ft. (Cat-R Royal Suite)

Our group was assigned inside cabins, Category L which slept 2 with two twin beds. The bathroom was about the average size with a shower area and shelves inside the shower stalls to hold your soaps, shampoos and other necessities. There is also a soap dispenser in the shower. There was a small love seat and a cocktail table. There was also had a desk with a chair. Above the desk on either side were mirrors that opened up with shelves for storage behind them. The storage space was very good with a double closet that can hold your clothes and luggage. Also there is room under the beds to store luggage. There was ample room for 2 passengers to move around. The Vision Class Ships certainly have larger cabins then some of the earlier Royal Caribbean ships.

Some of the inside cabins have Pullman beds available for 3rd and 4th passengers. All had twin beds that can be converted to a queen bed. The outside cabins and some of the suites Categories B through I have twin beds that can be converted to a queen bed. All balcony cabins and family staterooms have refrigerators and sofa beds.

All suites have a bathtub and all have a safe. There are 14 accessible staterooms, but make sure if you have a passenger that needs a wheelchair that they have someone that can assist them. Most of the thresholds through the ship are high and need a strong person to help navigate over them. One of our agents was using a wheelchair on this sailing and we found some limitations and inconveniences in terms of accessibility but nothing that could not be overcome.

Dining and Restaurants

The Aquarius dining room on board the Vision is the formal dining facility open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a beautiful two-level dining room with huge and brilliant windows facing out from the aft of the ship. As will all of the public rooms on the Vision, the tones are light and airy creating an elegant yet sophisticated feel. A talented trio plays piano, cello and violin for diners listening pleasure. It is neither loud nor invasive in any way but instead just the perfect tone to enjoy a relaxing meal.

Royal Caribbean’s dining is traditional offering a variety of unique choices each day and evening. They have adjusted the menu to accommodate not only a “healthy choice” but also serve favorites nightly such as Caesar salad and other favorite deserts. This was a real treat as often with traditional dining if you say no to an entrée or salad you may never see it again as a choice in the next 6 days of the voyage. With this new feature, diners enjoy what they like as often as they like.

Our agent group noted that the dining staff was most accommodating and friendlier than on many other lines they had experienced. Instead of feeling rushed through late seating so they could be done with their day, they took time to chat with all of us and make us feel very welcome, at home and in no rush. Truly a lovely dining experience each night of the voyage.

It should be noted that the matire d' went out of his way to accommodate our group and make sure we were all seated in nearby tables. While we don’t normally see waiters and staff on ships anxious to have you move around among the tables, he instead encouraged this. He wanted to be sure we experienced the various servers and had an opportunity to mingle with one another. Again, after cruising many times, I must share this was not only very helpful but also very accommodating.

This ship did something very special one evening in the dining room for all the guests to enjoy. The counselors of the children’s program had worked out a skit with the children who appeared to be ages 3-8 years of age. The children appeared on the staircase in pirate garb and performed a wonderful little skit for the diners. It was met with great approval from all and something very precious to see. This same night the waiters performed a song in honor of the guests as well. It made for a very festive evening.

The Windjammer Café located on deck 9 was one of my favorites. The hours of operation are very generous and they serve a great buffet in the morning, noon and night. The breakfast offerings were varied daily with an omelet station and other specialties.

At lunch the café offered a salad bar and other varieties of prepared salads; hot and cold entrees; daily specials such as a nacho bar and freshly prepared wraps and deli sandwiches. There was ample seating both inside and out by the pool. The line was only a bit long at peak times in the day and was never a problem. I heard no complaints and the staff was very friendly and accommodating.

Afternoon Tea is also offered in the Windjammer and features very fresh sandwiches and a wonderful variety of pastries and cookies. The ice cream sundae bar also seemed to be a favorite for many.

One can also get hamburgers and pizza in the solarium during the better part of the day. Word was the fries were great.

The Meeting Facilities

The conference and meeting facilities on Royal Caribbean are among the best in the cruise industry. They make a point of designing and choosing the perfect ingredients in the room for a successful meeting venue. From very soft and comfortable chairs to tables at the correct height (this is not common on other lines) to full audio and visual equipment free to use. A large screen, professional lectern, various types of microphones, lights that dim as needed, a dry erase board, a TV for videos, and a full LCD projector set up. Again, this is an incredible bonus when conducting any type of seminars or meetings on the Royal Caribbean vessels. If you are doing groups that require meeting space, you owe it to yourself to look at RCI for such a venue.

Not only are the conference facilities efficient and comfortable, but also Royal Caribbean staffs one full time person on board to be the Group Coordinator for all groups on the ship. Unlike other lines that perhaps use a member of the entertainment staff or other crew member to organize and follow up on meeting needs, RCI staffs an individual just for this. This is one of the many NACTA Seminars at Sea we have had the pleasure of hosting on RCI and each time the group meeting needs have been flawless. For a group escort or meeting planner, this is something so important you cannot even put a value on it. Suffice to say, another major bonus. Our group coordinator was Jamie and he was a dream. He met us at the meeting space early in the morning to be sure the Audio Visual and all our needs were met in order to assure us a successful meeting venue. Thanks to Jamie for all that he did to make our group feel warm and important to RCI!

The Internet Café

There are about 10 stations with full Internet access on Deck 8 in the center of the ship, which serves as the Centrum. Royal Caribbean charged .50 per minute for Internet access. They do not however offer a full week or full cruise prepaid package as many lines do. Certainly would be a plus if they did. At .50 a minute and with what seemed a very slow connection, it was quite costly. I noted a number of passengers commenting on how slow it was and how much money it was costing them to just check a few emails. Great equipment in a lovely setting but an area that could use some improvement in my mind as well as some of the other passengers.

The Photo Gallery

Located on Deck 6 in the Centrum as well. It is spacious with plenty of room to saunter through and look for pictures. Unlike some photo galleries that are small and cramped not allowing space to really see too much when a crowd is there, this worked well.

As I always do when I first board the ship, I made my way to the photographer to schedule a group photo for our NACTA group. My experience on the Vision was rather comical. I strolled up to ask the young man about the possibility of setting something up for our group. His first comment was and I quote “Oh, that will be a problem.” I chuckled and said “Wow, already…. you don’t even know when I am asking to do it?” He proceeded to tell me what a problem it would be as I surely wanted to schedule it on formal night and that they just were not staffed to handle this. I smiled and said, “Yes, I understand, perhaps we can just get one of our agents to use their digital and take a shot. I would not want to cause any problems.” Then I suggested perhaps we could look at doing it on the second formal night so that he would not miss out on the possible revenue of those purchasing the picture. We had a group of about 30 so if just each cabin purchased one, it might be meaningful. Suddenly, the light went on and he said “Sure, let’s see what I have on the schedule for that night.” He opened his book and sure enough the night was wide open and I had the chance to pick the perfect time for our shot. Kill em with kindness and revenue potential is my new motto.

The gymnasium sits above the spa on deck 10. It is well equipped with eight treadmills, two stair step machines, three stationary seated bikes, a couple of elliptical trainers and a small variety of Cybex equipment. There is a small area only big enough for two to train with free weights. It is not one of finest gyms I have had the opportunity to experience, as it is somewhat limited in size and was crowded much of the time. I tried going early and again late in the afternoon and both were rather busy times. The jogging track is on deck 10 and a mile is 3 and ½ times around the vessel. The track is a nice one but a bit crowded as there are deck chairs on that deck as well.

The spa is lovely with a full range of treatments and packages to experience. Some of our agents did enjoy massages and facials and found them to be great. The locker rooms have a wet and dry sauna and showers. The changing room is also fully equipped with shampoo, blow dryers and amenities. It was never very crowded and a lovely experience.

Bars and Nightlife

The Schooner Bar seems to be a tradition on this class of vessel as I have seen the same on the Rhapsody and the Enchantment of the Seas. It is a wonderful place to spend leisurely time watching the ocean and enjoying comfortable leather couches and a piano bar. The entertainment was offered in the evening.

The Champagne Bar is located just off the Centrum on Deck 4 and is a small and intimate bar offering a variety of champagnes, wines and specialty ports. It also offers a full bar but the champagne is the focus. The serve light appetizers nightly and music plays in the background by a light jazz group in the Centrum that also offers a small dance floor.

The Pool Bar is your typical pool bar making sweet and delicious specialty drinks all day long for the bathers to enjoy. I must note that unlike I have experienced on some other ships, the waiters were very unobtrusive and did not pester one to purchase drinks. They were simply available to assist you if you needed something to quench your thirst. No pool boys or girls running around spraying passengers with water to cool them, which I personally found to be a delight. I always found that to be a bit invasive and I enjoyed being able to simply relax. A band plays daily for a few hours by the pool.

The Viking Crown Lounge up on Deck 11 sit at the highest point on the ship and offers a tremendous view overlooking the pool and the sea. They usually offered evening specialty drinks and in the late evening it becomes the nightclub on the ship with a DJ and dancing music till the wee hours of the morning. Adults 18 years and older are the only ones allowed in the nightclub after 10 or so at night.

Entertainment

The entertainment was fantastic as was the consensus of the entire group. Following is a brief listing of some of the events offered throughout the week.

70’s Disco Party
50’s and 60s Rock and Roll Party
80’s Music Party
Karaoke
Love and Marriage Game Show
Movie Trivia
Bingo
Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party
Crown and Anchor Society Repeat Cruisers Reception
Country Western Theme Night

Some of the shows in the showroom included:
Comedy and Juggling
Various shows performed by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers such as “Rhythm Nation” and “Rock on Broadway.”

Masquerade Theater
Deck 5 and 6 Forward. This is the main theatre on the ship for the shows and is stadium type seating.
The shows were very good and the seats are comfortable. There are a few obstructed view seats in the balcony and recommend getting to the show early to get a good seat on the deck 5 level. During the day there is also movies and other entertainment held in this theatre. There is no smoking in this theater.

Some Enchanted Evening Lounge
Deck 6 Rear. There is a host of entertainment throughout the day and evening at this lounge. This is the second largest entertainment showplace on the ship. There is no smoking at this lounge.

Casino Royale
Deck 5 Midship. This is the place to go if you feel lucky. They have a variety of table games and slots. Several NACTA members did very well in the Casino and walked away with smiles on their faces and money in their pockets.

Bingo was a huge deal on this vessel. Again, the NACTA group was lucky again and won big!

Centrum Shops and Photo Gallery
Deck 6 Midship. There are 5 shops (gifts and jewelry, fashion, liquor, perfume, souvenir and photo) to purchase tax and duty free items or to purchase pictures taken during the cruise. Each day sales were offered on various items in the shops.

Library
Deck 7 Midship Starboard. The Library is fair sized with quite a few books, and has very comfortable chairs. The lighting is very good. This room is also used for cigar smoking during certain times of the cruise.

Card Room
Deck 7 Midship Port. This is a nice place to have a game of cards or board games with friends.

Swimming Pools
Deck 9 Midship. The Main Pool area has 4 relaxing whirlpools and lounge chairs located around the pool to soak up the rays of the sun or under the sun walk if you prefer the shade.


Deck 9 Midship/Rear. The Solarium pool area can be open during nice weather and covered by a glass roof during bad weather. There are also lounge chairs to relax by the pool.

FantaSeas Teen Center & Club Ocean
Deck 10 Forward. A wide variety of shipboard activities for teens and children of varying ages. Ping-pong tables, videogames and other activities were offered to the younger passengers on the vessel.

Following is a review of the ports of call provided by David and Paula Thrower.

The first port of call was Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where passengers were tendered to shore by the ship's own boats and was a smooth process. This was done according to your scheduled shore excursion and everyone is gathered in the Masquerade Theater. If you have a client booked on a shore excursion that was not booked with the cruise line, please make sure they get in the theater so they will get on the tenders in time to get to there tour. We will be docked at the other ports.

We went on the City highlights tour was nice and visited an Jose del Cabo and toured a glass blowing factory on the way back to Cabo San Lucas after that we stopped main shopping area where you could get back on the bus after shopping or stay in town and get a taxi back to the tender piers (cost about $5).

We departed Cabo San Lucas on schedule for Matzatlan and arrived an hour early. This gave everyone some extra time on Matzatlan. This was good if you had a long tour and wanted to do some shopping or relax before going back to the ship.

We went on the Sierra Madre Tour in which we visited an adobe brick making facility. The bricks are made buy hand. We then visited a furniture factory and 2 villages in the mountains were we toured churches and had a Mexican lunch. After this we returned to Matzatlan for some shopping before returning to the ship. This was a 7 hour tour and there is a bit of walking to do. They do have transportation if you have trouble walking.

We departed Matzatlan a little late and 2 passengers did not make it back to the ship before leaving. We arrived on time in Puerto Vallarta. This was our first time here and the beaches are wonderful.

We went on the City tour and saw some of the highlights of the city and a walking tour tin the old section of town. We also drove by the some of the major hotels and visited the site were the movie Night of the Iguana was filmed. We also stopped for some shopping and had a choice to go back to the ship after shopping or stay in town and can walk to the ship (about 15 minutes) or take a taxi (cost about $5).

We departed Puerto Vallarta on schedule for out 2 days at sea back to San Diego. The debarkation with customs went very smooth and everyone was off the ship by 10am. We took a taxi back to the airport and was about $10 including the tip.

The Seminars
This was unique as both NACTA and Royal Caribbean hosted this seminar at sea.

The speakers were:
Jeff Geston, Western Region District Sales Manager, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines

Joanie Ogg, President of NACTA

The presentations by Jeff were very good and gave some good ideas for marketing the RCCL/Celebrity products. Especially the Alaska and Canadian Rockies Cruise Tours.

Joanie had a great seminar and really got the agents to give some good marketing plans to share. We always leave the NACTA seminar at seas with some great marketing ideas and tools.

Overall this was one of the best cruises we have been on and definitely the best Seminar-At-Sea.

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