Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Vision of the Seas
Sailing Date: January 7th, 2007
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Vision of the Seas Cruise Review
Ryan – Myself – 28
Pamela – My girlfriend – 22
Allow me to begin by saying that my review is extremely comprehensive. I like to write, but more importantly, I like future cruisers to be well-informed before investing in this cruise. I sub-categorized each element of the cruise and I gave each a grade based on my observation and experience. I booked this cruise 11-months in advance. I took my girlfriend, Pamela, and let me state that we were extremely pleased with our overall experience.
EMBARKATION AND PRE-CRUISE PLANS
Although we live in the Philadelphia area, we utilized a travel agent in Orlando. The company is called Cruises & More and, besides giving us the best value (I did lots of research), our agent really went to bat for us with by averting a mini-cruise disaster. Her name is Ariel and I highly recommend her. This so-called disaster consisted of us nearly getting screwed in our stateroom assignment. I booked early and I secured a balcony cabin at midship (for you 1st time cruisers the goal is to get as close as possible to midship to avoid unnecessary walking and motion sickness). The cruise line decided to upgrade us without notifying us. Under normal circumstances, we’d happily accept this offer except they moved us to a room at the very aft of the ship. They wanted to move us to a room that they disclosed had an obstructed balcony view. Thankfully, we realized the room change a few weeks prior and Ariel helped us get our original room back. My advice is double check your correct stateroom before boarding.
If you are flying into LA , you will probably research transfers to the port. More than likely you’ll end up with the two big shuttle services Super Shuttle or Primetime. Without boring you with details, GO WITH SUPER SHUTTLE. Primetime was a complete and utter nightmare. If you want the whole story email me.
The actual ship boarding was VERY well organized and minimal stress. Of course you’ll need to clear a zillion security checkpoints but, if you are like me, you’ll gladly deal with the minor holdups in exchange for a safe voyage.
You have three basic choices (Interior, Oceanview and Balcony). Of course you also have limited number of suites and luxury accommodations. We went with Oceanview in the past, but this time I splurged for the balcony. It was worth every penny. Let me first state that I thought the room was fantastic. It was 197 sq feet and the ship makes use of every bit of space. When you walk into the room you’ll see a large closet on one side and your bathroom on the other side. The bathroom is pretty simple but very clean. If you walk further into the room you’ll see your bed(s). We requested our beds be pushed together to make a queen bed…SHHH!! Don’t tell our parents. Just kidding!
Then, there is a semi curtain partisan that separates your sleeping area and a sitting area, which I referred to as our living room. The sofa pulls out in case your loved one tosses you out of bed…I mean, I heard....; Of course the Balcony (aka veranda) follows the sitting area and it was breathless.
The ship is 10 floors but there is a special floor (11th floor) that has the Viking Lounge. It’s a late night party area, perfect for the single cruisers. Floors 5 to 10 have all the good stuff. There is an outdoor pool, which was quite crowded but had great music. Then the indoor pool (Solarium) that was calmer and tranquil but obviously less sunny. The upper floors also contained the Windjammer Café, which I’ll discuss later. The indoor pool was real close to the Shipshape Spa.
My girlfriend and I got several treatments. She got a hair treatment, which she got at a real good price. We both got the couples massage, which set me back $220 + tip (but very well worth it). They take you into a private room with exotic bay windows. The one complaint about the Shipshape Spa was some of the exercise classes. My girlfriend got up early to do some free classes but was encouraged to tip. She felt it was tacky. I would also recommend setting time aside to do the rock wall. We thought their staff at the wall was incredibly personable and fun.
This ship had many common areas in the Centrum. I reckon many other ships have similar common areas but this ship made great use of the central areas. We’d always peak down over the railings and see lots happening below with music and such. The ship had three themed lounge areas. The “Showboat” was barely used. This is a good area if you wanted a drink and a quiet area to converse. It was also the less smoky of the lounges. The “Schooner” Lounge had a lot of people flowing through plus each night they had a pianist / performer singing cover songs. The third lounge was “Some Enchanted Evening.” This was the biggest and most verse area on the ship. Besides having a nice bar area, it also featured a dance floor. The ship used this lounge for karaoke, tribute bands, quiz shows, captain’s night, etc. There were lots of cocktail tables and very comfy chairs / leather chairs and a dance floor. We loved this area.
The casino was big and it had games for all players. There were around 10 tables (Roulette, Craps, Poker, Blackjack) Table minimums varied but usually were $5 - $10. My girlfriend started our trip playing the 50 cent slots. When money started fading, she found herself clinched to the penny machines by day 7.
By far our favorite part of any cruise. This was the highlight for us. I would recommend checking the daily activity sheet to see what time the shows begin each night. Most days featured two shows for both seatings but sometimes it was a pre-dinner show and sometimes a post dinner show. On our cruise the entertainment was as follows…
NIGHT 1 – Carl Banks – Doing Family Comedy. As a comic myself, I’d say he was extremely good at doing famous musician impersonations as opposed to jokes.
NIGHT 2 – Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers – Boogie Wonderland (70’s Revue). I was afraid it would be boring because I don’t care much for the music of that time but boy was I blown away. It was simply entertaining. The cast was simply beyond talented. They could each hold their own on Broadway.
NIGHT 3 – Tony Tillman – He was a singer, dancer, actor and we later learned also very amusing. His act was precise, funny and quite infectious.
NIGHT 4 - Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers – Broadway Revue. Also well done.
NIGHT 5 – Howie and Bart – Comedy Juggling – Probably the best act on the cruise. Not only talent wise but they came across as very down to earth guys. In fact, they did a private juggling demonstration 2 days later in the Viking Lounge.
NIGHT 6 – The Osmonds. Yes the actual Osmond brothers minus Donnie “BigTime” Osmond.
NIGHT 7 – Another Comic. Honestly we missed that show because I was in the casino bar watching my beloved Eagles lose to the Saints in an NFL showdown but Pamela and I caught the act on stateroom TV later that night. I can’t recall the guy’s name.
My guess is that the only shows that will remain the same for you are the ones done by the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers.
I know it’s a small part of the trip but in between showering, meals and activities (or pre-sleeping) it was nice to see a good array of TV being presented. There were movies, TNT, CBS, FOX NEWS, CNN INTERNATIONAL, 5 trillion channels dedicated to activities on the ship and ESPN. I will say that the ESPN channel also doubles as the big game channel (ala any major sporting event will appear on that channel even if it isn’t on ESPN broadcast)
FOOD AND SERVICE
Ok. I’d say 10 in quality and presentation and a 7 in ampleness. Maybe it was me, but it seemed as though the Windjammer (the common eating area) served weird hours during lunch and also closed after 11pm (not many late night snacks). However, the indoor pool had a small café that had finger food served until 2:30am (Ship kind of keeps that mum).
Two other notes about The Windjammer:
1. I can’t state it enough how breath taking the view is in that area. The entire room has a 360 degree view of the ocean.
2. Bad note: Its located on the end of the ship so if you get sea sick, don’t hang around too long.
The Aquarius (The nicer dining area) has early seating and late seating dinners. You only have 3 – 4 dinner choices but eat as much as you want. I want to mention that our waiter and assistant waiter were EXTREMELY GREAT!! They went beyond their duty in making sure we all were having fun. I tipped them well. I can’t say enough about the crew on the ship. Every time you even thought about a drink, a server appeared as if they could read your mind.
GIFT SHOP / NOVELTY SHOPS
Firstly, the ship had a Ben and Jerry’s / Starbucks wannabe coffee shop. Kind of hit the spot for a cheap rate. Nextly, the photo shop was so awful. They disturb you as you are in the middle of having a nice dinner by taking your picture. Morever, if you wanted to overspend for a picture, you’ll be spending 4-hours in a small crowded shop trying to locate it among thousands of other photographs. Pamela and I did find one picture we liked and we spent $24 on an 8 x 10, which we were not able to package into wallet sizes. I guess we’ll need to do that ourselves. The ship had 5 very diverse mall-like stores. They call them boutiques. Lots of duty free stuff at very affordable prices. I must say that it help keep Pamela within her budget (with my credit card of course). One note about the stores: prices drop dramatically as the cruise gets near the end.
ACTIVITIES / CRUISE DIRECTOR
I must say that not only was there a lot to do on board but everything was well-planned and organized. I counted 5 bands on ship. Each unique in regards to music genre and style. Bingo was also a big hit on board, lots of trivia, game shows (Love and Marriage by far the most popular), karaoke, juggling demonstration, captain’s lecture, cigar club, ice carving show, theater backstage tour, napkin folding lesson. I did EVERYONE OF THESE ACTIVITIES. The cruise director was Kevin Williams. Truthfully, he came across as artificial but then again I think his job is kind of repetitive and monotonous (ala repeating his whole shtick each week for 6-months is probably tiresome). I’ll give credit where it’s due. He was a pro and did his job real well.
Let me make this clear. There is no need to overpay and book through Royal Caribbean like we did. Trust me, 9 out of 10 times you can get the same trips at lower costs when you walk around the harbor. The exceptions are those tours that require long transportation to get the intended destination. Our tablemates took joy in finding activities at port. Like tourist suckers, we pre-booked everything.
A QUICK GUIDE:
TO THE PORTS
Cabo San Lucas: very hilly, tons of shopping, tons to do. Very clean around the city.
Mazatlan: The place was a dump, very few attractions / tours, pushy people. Not the most attractive place in the world.
Puerto Vallarta: I may be wrong, but it seemed to be the largest and most developed of the three ports. A prime example is that big FAT Wal-Mart sat directly next to the port.
We did two tours. In Cabo, we swam with dolphins. It was lots of fun and quite unique. I hope I don’t sound like a cheapskate but I think $290 for two people to swim 30-minutes with a mammal is way overpriced, but I will say we did have fun though. The second tour was in Puerto, we did a canopy tour (i.e. we went down lots of zip lines in a forest). I will say this tour was also fun but my small gripe is that it was a long journey to get there. It took 75 minutes by both small motor boat then military-style terrain across a very rocky path to arrive to the destination. The tour took 90 minutes. So that’s a total of 150 minutes of r/t travel and 90 minutes of adventure. A few things to know about the ports. The locals will harass you to buy stuff. Just be polite to them and remember this is their way of life and prime income. Also, drink lots of spring water and be prepared to tip everyone around the city (cabbies, street performers, etc). Also, Cabo interestingly has no port large enough for Visions 900 – foot frame. So what occurs is that the ship anchors down app. 1 mile from land. They use (100 passenger) boats (7 or 8 in a rotation) to transport cruisers to the port. My suggestion is to get an early excursion, which automatically nets you one of the first priority trips off the ship.
FOR THE KIDS
Obviously, Pamela and I didn’t need this service but for a ship that has mostly couples, they seemed to still have a great kid and teen area. There was a kid lounge, arcade and for the real young ones there were camp-like structured activities. I’m not sure if there was an extra charge but I’d venture gratuity was greatly appreciated in that department.
TIME TO GO HOME
Leave a lot of time between exiting the cruise and flight parting. Even though the de-boarding is well-organized, it still very time consuming. Just be patient and allot your ample time to get to airport.
OVERALL THUMBS DOWN POINTS:
The ship has 999 staterooms. They boast they can accommodate between 2000 and 2400 cruisers. They informed us our voyage has 2100 plus. I hate to see it at full capacity because this ship was way too small for 2100 people. It was crowded everywhere. Mostly the pools and hot tubs were hard to use because of overcrowding. The Windjammer was…lets say JAMMED. The most crowded event was the Galla buffet on the last evening. I am not exaggerating when I say we waited 15 minutes to preview the buffet and we waited upwards of an hour to partake of the buffet.
THUMBS UP POINTS
Overall, this ship was fun. There was so much too keep you involved. I was most impressed by the crew. From the room stewards to the wait staff and the activity staff, everyone made you feel like you were on vacation. We loved the entertainment too.
OVERALL I GIVE THE VISION AN OVERALL SCORE OF
90 out of 100