Vision of the Seas
February 26, 2006
This review is mainly for someone who is trying to decide if this cruise will be a good family vacation. I read almost every review for the last two years about this ship and itinerary before we left and there were only two or three from a family perspective.
This was the eighth cruise for my wife and I and the second one we have taken our children on. We have been on RCCL, Princess, and Carnival. We have traveled to Alaska, the Caribbean, and Mexico on previous cruises. We chose this cruise and itinerary because we live in California and it was an easy drive for us to get to the ship.
We are a family of five. We have a 6 year old son, 4 year old daughter, and a four month old infant. Also traveling with us was my mother in law, father in law, and two nieces 11 years old and 9 years old.
I have broken my review into categories to save you time if you don't want to read the whole review. If you have any questions you can e-mail me at email@example.com
Let me say now that we had a very enjoyable cruise. I can not say enough good things about their children's program. The 4, 6, and 9 year old had a blast and wanted/asked to go to the children's program. The ship was completely booked. Vision is an older ship and smaller compared to new mega ships but I did not feel cramped or over crowded. The crew was probably the friendliest crew we have ever had. This could be because they just started their contract most of the crew just joined the ship in February 2006. (After the cruise my wife and spoke and believe one of the reasons the crew was so friendly is because they were not burned out yet. Most of the crew work on 5 month contracts so you can figure out at what stage in their contract they are in when you plan to travel.)Embarkation:
For some reason our cruise had a late boarding. Boarding for our cruise did not start until 1:00 PM. We arrived at the port at about 12:00 PM and we able to check-in and we were on the ship by 1:00 PM. I parked in the long term parking at the port that was $82 for 7 days. You can walk to the ship from the parking lot or there is a shuttle.
If you use the on-line registration you still have to wait in line to get your sea/sail cards but the line moved well.
You have to go through a metal detector and scanner prior to boarding the ship so for you families if you can pack it in a suitcase you should, it will make going through security a lot easier.Cabin:
I had Cabin 3110 and 3112. They were outside cabins with an ajoining door. (There is a limited number of ajoining cabins so if you have certain dates that you have to travel you may want to book early.) Each cabin had four beds, two twins that can convert to a queen and two beds that came out of the ceiling. Because my in laws booked late they were only able to get an inside cabin that slept four. Their cabin had the same two twins that can convert to a queen and two beds that came out of the ceiling.
The 4,6,9, and 11 year old all slept in 3110 most of the cruise. My wife, the baby and I slept in 3112. The cruise line does offer a crib. It is a Play and Pack model, play pen type, crib. The cabin was big enough that we left the crib up the entire cruise. With two cabins we had plenty of room for clothes, strollers, and other items we brought. The next time we cruise I will again get two ajoining cabins instead of a family suite. One reason is that we could have a child napping in one cabin and still be able to watch TV or get ready in the other. Another reason for two cabins is two bathrooms. My wife was able to have a bathroom all to herself to get ready.
The cabins were big enough for four people but everyone getting showers and trying to get dressed could get interesting. (My father in law took a shower in spa a couple of times so he did not have to fight for shower time in the cabin.)
The only down side of these cabins is that they don't have refrigerators, but the cabin steward did keep the ice bucket full all the time.
The cabin has a small TV. There are two cartoon channels (Cartoon Network and Boomerang) and the RCCL children's channel which shows activities in the children's program and runs Playschool's Little People cartoons. I brought a portable DVD player which you can plug into the TV, we never used it. The kids were happy watching the cartoon network and the ship TV channel.
The closets are good sized and they fit all of my mother in laws, two nieces, and father in laws clothes in one. There are only 14-16 hangers in the closet so you may want to bring some hangers from home.
A lot of reviews talked about needing a night light. Our children do sleep with a night light at home. We did not bring one. We just left the bathroom light on and the door cracked open. It is so dark in the cabin that just the light coming from the crack in the door gives off quite a bit of light.
There is a hair dryer in the cabin. But there are also only two plugs in the cabin. I brought a power strip but never used it.FOOD:
This is a very subjective area. We eat at and enjoy a variety of different restaurants from family restaurants to upscale steakhouses. In my opinion the food overall was very good. This is not gourmet food but they offer a great variety and what they do serve is prepared well.
We ate dinner every night in the Dining Room. Through out the cruise there was never a meal or dish that anyone in our party of 8 complained about. Each dish was prepared as requested and was served hot when we received it. There was a good variety of items each night. The children had the choice to eat from the main menu or a children's menu. The children's menu had at least 10 different items. The children's menu does not change from night to night. The children's menu had different types of pasta, pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, steak, chicken, and some other items. Sometimes the kids ate an item from each.
Our waiter would tell us what was really good on the menu and what was just okay and he was right on with all of his suggestions and comments. For example, one night there was a choice of Pork Chops, Fish, and another item I can't remember. The waiter said the item I can't remember was the best thing that night and that Pork Chops were good but dry. I got both items and he was right the one he suggested was excellent and the Pork Chops were dry. The desserts were excellent. I love desserts or all kinds and I don't restrict my diet at all. The "healthy" desserts tasted as good as the regular desserts and some nights they tasted better.
Okay parents here is the best part for you, the kids have three nights when they can eat dinner with the children's program. They are the two formal nights which are the first day at sea and the day at sea after Puerto Vallarta and the night the ship is in Puerto Vallarta. My son was the only one who wanted to go to the children's dinner. He went the first night and enjoyed it but decided he wanted to eat with us the other two nights because he liked the menu selection in the dinning room.
I know this is a parental decision but we started allowing our kids to bring some toys to dinner or the Gameboy. Dinner for our party of 8 was taking about 2 hours every night.
If you want the children be able to eat there main meal while you are eating soup and salad just let your waiter know that. A lot of nights our kids wanted to go back to the children's program which started at 7:00 PM. The waiter would serve them their meal while we ate soup and salad. By 7:00 PM most nights the kids had eaten their meal and ice cream and were ready to go to the kid's program. This was nice also because we got to eat our main dish and dessert in peace and have adult conversations. I felt this gave us the best of both worlds, we got to have a family meal but then we as adults also got to enjoy a part of meal with some quite or nice conversation.
We only ate in the Dining Room once for breakfast. The menu had the same items you could get at the Windjammer. I would have enjoyed eating breakfast in the Dining Room but with the kids it was easier to eat in Windjammer. For breakfast and lunch it is open seating in the Dining Room. So they just keep putting people at a table until it is full. We never ate lunch in the Dining Room. Again I would have liked to but the kids wanted to swim and do other things.
The food in Windjammer I thought for the most part was good. Lunch items changed every day but the breakfast items were same every day. It would have been nice if they changed the breakfast items a couple of times.
In the Solarium they have a Café that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. The hot dogs and pizza were okay. Sorry pizza lovers this is cardboard crest with sauce, cheese, and a topping. The hamburgers were I thought excellent. They were not just frozen patties fried up. They were real meat hamburgers that had a lot of flavor. They were always putting fresh hot hamburger in the heating tray.
My wife had room service most morning because of the baby's sleep schedule. It was always delivered during the time frame she requested. The food she received tasted good and was delivered hot.
The room service menu is very small and has very little variety (there are a couple of salads, a fruit bowl, and two sandwiches) which was kind of disappointing. We did order room service a couple of times and again it was delivered in a short amount of time and tasted good.
The only free ice cream machine on the ship is outside of the Windjammer on the port side. It is open from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM. My father in law and the kids were there at least three times a day if not more. They offer chocolate, vanilla, and a chocolate/vanilla swirl. The kids loved being able to walk up to the machine and get their own ice cream.POOL:
There are two pools. The main pool and the pool in the Solarium. Both pools are salt water. The hot tubs are fresh water. The pool in the Solarium is supposed to be for 16 year olds and over. If there is "inclement weather" then from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM children are allowed in the Solarium pool. We ate in the Solarium Café and I never saw any children in the Solarium pool until the last day at Sea when it was cold outside and there was no one at or in the main pool.
About a 1/4 of the main pool is gated off from the rest of the pool. This 1/4 of the pool is shallow and good for kids that don't swim yet. It is probably 2' deep. The main pool is 5 ˝' deep. The main swimming area is not very big. I think about 20 people in the main pool would have it full.
Our kids really enjoyed playing in the pool. My 4 year does not swim yet so she played in the swallow part while the older kids that swim, swam in the main part of the pool.
On Sea days it is hard to find a chair in the pool area unless you get there early. Every day we went in the afternoon and were able to find at lest one chair or moved one from another area. They say that if a chair is not used for 30 minutes they will remove the towel and make it available, it really does not happened though.CHILDREN'S PROGRAM:
RCCL Ocean Adventures program is great. It is not just baby sitting or them putting your child in front of the TV. This is an actual program that schedules different things for the children to do through the day. They play games, color, art, and do experiments. They also have balls and other things they can throw around the children's area. There are at least 6 counselors in the children's program. All of the counselors seemed to really like their job and enjoyed being with kids.
The program goes from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, 2:00 PM-5:00 PM, 7:00 PM-10:00 PM on Sea days and on port days it opens ˝ hour before the first excursion leaves and closes at 5:00 PM in Cabo and Mazatlan and 10:00 PM in Puerto Vallarta. You can leave your children on the ship while you go into the port if want. In Cabo we left our children on ship, they never knew we left the ship.TIME CHANGE:
You change time four times during the cruise. You go forward one hour the night before Cabo. You go forward another hour the night before Puerto Vallarta. You go back one hour the night after Puerto Vallarta and you get the other hour back the night before arriving back in LA.MONEY:
There is no need to get Pesos. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Bring from home a lot of $1,$5,$10's. $20 are okay but generally to large to use except for long cab rides. If you use large bills you will get change back in Pesos.
There was another review I read about this cruise where the reviewer gave a break down on how much of each denomination to bring. I used his suggestion and found it to be pretty accurate.PORTS:
We did not do anything with our kids as I mentioned above. My wife, the baby, and I just walked around town. It was a nice break for my wife and I to have some alone time. Cabo is really the only port where you can get off the ship and just walk around. All the shopping/restaurants are right near where you get off the tender.
You do tender in. We were in no hurry to get off the ship. We got off the ship at 12:00 PM and walked onto a waiting tender. If you book an excursion through RCCL they make sure you get off first to get to your excursion on time.
We took a tender back at 4:30 PM and again walked onto a waiting tender.Mazatlan
All 9 of us went to the El Sid resort. I found it by reading other people's reviews and it met my expectations. We took a van because there was some many of us. Is was $30 one way or $50 round trip with the same driver. We agreed that we would not pay him until the return trip to the ship. For $80 he would have given us a tour of Mazatlan on the drive back to the ship. It is about a 15-20 minute drive out to El Sid from the ship. The current prices for the taxis are posted at the taxi stand so your bargaining power is reduced a little bit. (It was $24 to El Sid in a taxi that held 4 people.)
The El Sid was a very nice resort. When you enter they will try to get you into the time share meeting just politely say no or if you can just walk in the lobby and go to the right and you hit the pools. You can bring towels from the ship, which the ship provides, or you can get towels from the resort you just need to leave them a picture ID.
There are two pools. One pool is large and set up for water volleyball. Next to the pool is a children's play area. There is also access to the beach. The second pool has a slide and rock structure that is about 6'-8' over the pool that you can jump from into the pool.
We spent part of our day on the beach. We were hit up to do parasailing as we were walking to the beach. We told the guy we needed a place in the shade for the baby. He found us an umbrella and chairs. Three of us parasailed for $25 each. We launched and landed on the beach. We were up in the air for about 10 minutes each. We then rented two 3 person Jet Skis for $45 for ˝ hour for each. We took all the kids out on the Jet Skis. The kids played on the beach for awhile and then we went to the pool.
We paid about $30 for lunch for nachos and quesadillas for 8 of us. The food was good and the service was fast.
Unfortunately for our kids we did not find the pool with the slide and large rock structure until about ˝ hour before he had to leave.Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta has a Wal-Mart should you need something for the kids like diapers or something along those lines.
We walked to Krystal Vallarta resort from the ship. It was about a 7-10 minute walk. To get to Krystal Vallarta, once you get off the ship you will be facing a circular building. Go to the right of the building, walk straight past the little shops at the port and you will see a fence and street. Walk down the street to the end of the street and you will be at Krystal Vallarta.
Krystal Vallarta is now charging $20 per adult to get into the resort. But they give you a voucher for $20 per worth of food, beverages, or act ivies per adult at the resort. We used our vouchers to rent a Jet Ski. If you want to go to Krystal Vallarta but don't want to pay the $20 per adult, there are several other hotels on the street before Krystal Vallarta that you could probably walk through to get to the beach and then walk down the beach to Krystal Vallarta.
This resort is not as nice as El Sid. This resort also has two pools. The main pool which we did not go to and a smaller second pool that is on the right between two of the hotel buildings. This smaller pool has a slide and shallow areas for children that can't swim.
We did not eat here so I can't comment on the food or service.SHIP ENTERTAINMENT:
Again this is a subjective area and the performers change a lot from cruise to cruise. In my opinion one of the RCCL productions shows (Salute to Broadway) was pretty good. The other production (Boogie Wonderland) was horrible. I thought Boogie Wonderland was horrible on many levels. The show itself and the premise 70's/Disco retrospective was not very good and the show was not entertaining. The show did not flow very well.
The other entertainers/performers were all very good.
The kids went with us some nights to the shows. The shows they did go to they enjoyed.DISEMBARKATION:
RCCL now has express disembarkation for passengers willing to carry their own bags off the ship. Express disembarkation is supposed to be limited to certain number of passengers. My in-laws used Express disembarkation because they had an early flight. (I would not suggest booking a flight before 1:00 PM) With Express disembarkation my in-laws still waited about 20 minutes to get off the ship once Express disembarkation was called. Then you have to wait in line to go through Customs. If you have a passport, take it and use it. The passport line went much much faster but everyone in your party has to have a passport or they will make you wait in the regular line.
They disembark the ship starting with the upper level cabins and working there way down to the Deck 2 cabins.
We left our cabin at 8:00 AM and went to breakfast at the Windjammer. We stayed in the Windjammer until about 9:30 AM when they finally asked us to leave so that they could get ready for the next sailing. They really do stop serving food at 8:30 AM. At 8:30 AM they started putting everything away.
Once we left the Windjammer we went to the Main showroom. Our group was not called to disembark until about 10:30 AM. It took about 1 hour from the time we were called to disembark to get to our bags. The whole hour you are standing waiting in line. I allowed our son to bring his Gameboy it really helped him pass the time.
I know I put in a lot of details but I hope this will help you decide on a vacation and if you chose this vacation I hope my experience helps you.
If you have any questions you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org