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Julian

Age: 65

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Vision of the Seas

Sailing Date: 12-8-2008

Itinerary: Mexican Rivera

Departure Tip: Be sure you do the computer on-line pre-board. Hold onto passport. Porters at curbside whisk away your luggage. Up the escalator to airport style security checkpoint. On to customs visa check. On to photo op and finally take another picture and receive all important Sea Pass. Walk the gangway and, boom, your lost. Since your luggage is in limbo and your room may or may not be ready you ask how to get to the Windjammer buffet on Deck 9. Find elevator and this is the first really cool impression of shipboard life, the buffet is in full swing with everything you could want, (including Paella) live Calypso band playing in front of the friendly bar on the open deck in front of the monster pool. Food is included, they charge for alcohol photos, etc. but the prices are moderate. Tip: included in the price of drinks is the gratuity. No fuss with cash on board except for Casino. Slots seem loose at Casino (bad news; smoking is allowed in the Casino) which includes; Craps, Roulette and Blackjack. Rooms are ready sometime after boarding. Tip: Get a room with a balcony, truly worth it. Rooms are narrow and the head is compact. TV, Phone, Room service is fantastic. Second most important person on the ship is your room steward. Luggage arrived about one hour after our room was ready. Not bad considering there are 2,300 people on this ship. BTW it is a ship, not a boat. At Sea Tip: Pack your warm weather gear; shorts, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. Brace for first day put-on-your-life vest and muster on deck for abandon ship drill. The Vision of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The ship does a little rock and roll and should rock you to sleep at night. Huge and sleek with every amenity. Captain gives progress report every day at noon. You can see all the features in your book. OK, the next hurdle is seating in the dining room. We were celebrating 40th wedding anniversary on the day of departure. We got in line (there are lots of lines) for dinner and it was like they never heard of us. Reservation was booked four months in advance for main dining room at six - and maitre d said sorry no table for you. Tip: When you get your Sea Pass Card approaching the ship, check to see if you have a table assigned. My travel agent did not get a table assignment. Our card said Table 00 which meant we did not have a table but we did not know that. So they sat us at 8:30. We met a delightful family from China and during dinner, the dining room boss came and told us he had a six o'clock table for the following night. This dining room people are the first most important people on the cruise unless you do the buffet every day and night. There is a total org chart of people serving you in the dining room, extensive menu, excellent food. At your table alone is the assistant waiter, the waiter and the head waiter. Then there is Kumar who is in charge of the whole dining experience and who we tangled with the first night. In fairness, he arranged for a first rate table for two which was rare and delightful for the duration of the cruise. The dining room is nice even if you have to dress up a little. Tip: the formal Captain's Reception/Dinner is really special and worth the effort. I really resisted getting dressed up for the formal part of this but it was cool. The party-hearty tank top and shorts bunch who walk around the ship making too much noise with a Corona in hand and live at the bar and all-you-can eat buffet, well...party on. At Port Unless you really know these towns I suggest a signed up in advance tour except Cabo. Generally I think things get better the further south. Cabo San Lucas, Baja del Sur Cabo is basically a party town for rich gringos who love Marlin fishing with famous night clubs such as Cabo Wabo, Squid Roe, etc. Cabo has a really lovely bay which you can see from the ship. You will take a small boat from the ship to the marina. Lots of lines. Most of the tours want to take you around the bay on a catamaran or maybe horseback on the beach. I recommend no tour in Cabo, (OK maybe a glass bottom boat) just take the tender to the marina dock and walk the marina and follow the signs to the shopping area. Walk around Cabo. Don’t buy much, prices are higher here than further south. Not a town for kids. Weather is super. Tip: Most vendors will accept USD, Visa, etc. They may give you change in Pesos which you don’t want to get stuck with when you arrive home. Tip: Best shopping value for booze is duty free on board the ship. Mazatlan, Gue. Now on the mainland and in a different time zone, different feel, more conservative, the ship is tied up snug to shore and the shore is green. Tip: The ship changes time during the trip and not necessarily consistent with local time zones so sure to know what is "ships time." We took the tour to Stone Island (not really an island) were loaded on a two deck panga, toured the bay, saw Pacifico Beer Factory, and finally herded into the limo, a flatbed with slat seats pulled by a tractor to the other side of the island, and spent a lazy morning at a lovely beach with open bar and Mahi Mahi lunch included. Pinata party for the kids. Wife won a prize dancing the Macarena on the shaky stern of the panga on the way back to ship. Great tour guide, Humberto. Although we enjoyed this, I recommend some other tour that gives you a better look at the city of Mazatlan. Puerto Vallarta, Jal. We took Town, County Tequila Tour with Jose. A bus tour which I thought was excellent. A good look at PV upscale hoods and rural life. Went to small tequila fabrica in the hills and learned how it is made, lots of free samples with an energetic Jose leading us in various toasts. Good tacos for lunch with handmade tortillas ($2 a taco was a little pricy). End tour with look at downtown PV, the malecon and shopping. Wife bought Mexican Fire Opal in 14k setting for $300 USD while the store staff piled me with "free" Pacifico beer. PV from a distance looks like Las Vegas in terms of construction underway, hotels, condos, etc. Lots of growth. Weather is Hawaii. Summary Excellent trip overall. The cruise is a good value. Crew is truly international (get used to very different accents) and really work hard to please customers. The ship is clean and luxurious. Tip: take a book for those days at sea, check out the Library, nice and quiet. 2,300 people is a crowd and you will encounter some long lines and all types of people. This cruise had 600 kids, lots of large family reunions which can test your patience in an elevator. I smile at the term "Mexican Riviera" but there is a deep national pride even from jaded tour guides and I suspect the true Mexican reception of cruise passengers is probably much more friendly and sincere than the other side of the pond.

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