CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
Vision of the Seas
October 1, 2005
This was the 4th cruise for my wife and I, all have been on Royal Caribbean. After 3 straight cruises in the Caribbean, we decided to change things and try the Mexican Riviera this year. I'll review both the cruise and the ship, and try to give you an idea of what a great experience we had on the Vision of the Seas, and in Mexico.
Pre-cruise - As is our usual custom, we arrived a day early in LA and stayed in a hotel. Lucky for us, we stayed in Long Beach CA in a hotel right next to the original Queen Mary. The City of Long Beach purchased the Queen Mary some time ago and turned her into a luxury hotel and tourist attraction. We toured the great ship and had dinner in one of her restaurants the night before our cruise. If you ever get to the LA area, a tour of the luxury liner Queen Mary is a must see!
Day 1 (Embarkation) - We arrived at the pier just a little after noon on Sunday. We were met by a porter who took our luggage, and we entered the Royal Caribbean lounge and got in line for departure. We waited in line about 20 minutes and since I had completed the online check-in before we departed, our check-in was a breeze and we were on the ship within 30 minutes of our arrival. For those of you wondering whether to do the online check-in before an RCI cruise, it cuts down on the time you spend checking in, and thus it makes the long check-in line move so much faster. Thankfully, a vast majority of those in front of us did complete the online check-in and spent about 2 minutes or less with the clerk, while those who hadn't, spent more than 5 minutes with the clerk.
We boarded the ship, and went to check out our balcony cabin. We have always booked a D1 Superior Ocean View Stateroom with a balcony when available for our cruises. The balcony was well worth the expense, especially for this cruise. Our stateroom was perfect, very clean and was located mid-ship on the starboard side. After a quick lunch in the Windjammer Café, we met our friends (my wife's former coworker and her husband) from LA who had just boarded and were cruising with us for a drink. We all participated in the mandatory muster drill, and then went to dinner. I'll review the food, staff, ship facilities and entertainment a little later, so stay tuned. After our welcome aboard show with the cruise director and a funny comedian, we had a few more drinks and said goodnight.
Day 2 (At Sea) - We slept in a little on our 1st full day onboard. We met our friends for a late breakfast in the Windjammer and spent most of the day exploring the ship and spending time at the pool. We spent a vast majority if our pool time in the solarium pool area, which is 16 years and older only. I was happy to see 2 deck patrol crewpersons in attendance every time we were in the solarium, and they kept the place spotless and enforced the age and most importantly the no chair saving rules. This was our first formal night, so we changed early enough to attend the Captain's welcome aboard reception and then went to dinner. After dinner we attended the first full production show by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers called "Boogie Wonderland" which was a salute to the 70's. We played a little in the casino after the show, spent some time on our balcony watching the beautiful Pacific Ocean and called it a night.
Day 3 (Cabo San Lucas) - We awoke this morning during our approach to Cabo. We had a room service breakfast on our balcony and took some pictures of the Baja coast. We anchored at 10:30am, and with no dock in Cabo, we tendered ashore about 11:00am. Our shore planes for Cabo included a shore excursion right on the waterfront. We were going to swim with the dolphins. Before our excursion, we explored the waterfront area of Cabo, did some tourist shopping and had some nachos and beer in a water front café. At our designated time, we went to the Cabo Dolphins aquarium and had just an awesome time. The staff there truly loves and cares for the 5 dolphins under their care. All were dolphins that for some reason couldn't live in the ocean, so the staff cared for them and trained them in the large aquarium pool on the waterfront in Cabo. These we all well trained dolphins and we spent about 45 minutes in the pool with them and their trainers. This was a shore excursion well worth the money and we loved it!
After our swim with the dolphins, we took a glass bottom boat ride out to the Arch and Land's End for a tour of the rock formations found on the Baja. We returned back to the waterfront and tendered back to the ship. After dinner, we went to the Crown and Anchor party, met our friends for some drinks and then attended the Love and Marriage Game show. A little more time in the casino and it was off to bed.
Day 4 (Mazatlan) - Our plan for Mazatlan was an easy one, we decided to go it alone and just wonder the town with our friends. Upon departing the ship, we were met by a local tour company that offered us a guided tour of Mazatlan for roughly the same price as a taxi. So we signed up and along with a few others, we got in the van with our tour guide, Raul, and we were off. Raul turned out to be a great guide. He was born and raised in Mazatlan, and he loved his hometown. He showed us so many interesting things and gave us a real guided tour of the old town and all about Mazatlan's history, showed us both the rich and poor parts of town, the tourist area and the beaches. What was supposed to be a 3½ hour tour, turned into 5 hours. Raul even took me to a local Fire Station, with me being a firefighter at home, so I could meet some of Mexico's bravest. Raul was a fabulous tour guide; I certainly can say I have a much better understanding and a deeper respect for the Mexican people after Raul's tour.
After we sailed from Mazatlan, we had a great dinner and attended the 2nd production show by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers called "Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme". This show was a tribute to Broadway musicals. After the show we spent some time in the casino again and the most amazing thing happened! I won! Yes, I actually won back all we had previously lost and won an addition $70 to boot! We also attended our favorite RCI event on any cruise, the "Quest" game show. I am pleased to report that yours truly was a member of the 2nd place team, and we all took home a shiny RCI anchor silver medal.
Day 5 (Puerto Vallarta) - We planned on a beach day for our day in Puerto Vallarta. We signed up for the shore excursion called "Beach Break", and we were bussed to a local beach resort and spent the day on the beach and in the resort pool. We were served a Mexican buffet lunch at the resort, and the food and drinks were really good.
After our beach day, we returned to the ship and got ready for dinner. Rather than eat in the Dinning room, we decided to catch a taxi into Puerto Vallarta and have dinner in town since our ship didn't set sail until 10pm that night. We were told of a great little steak and seafood place right under the bridge on the river, and our taxi driver knew right where to let us out. We had the best seafood dinner here. I had the garlic shrimp and pasta special, and I can honestly say, I've never had better shrimp in my life! All four of us enjoyed our different seafood plates, and after dinner, a chocolate cake dessert! We did some night shopping in Puerto Vallarta, and caught a taxi back to the ship and we were back on in plenty of time before the ship sailed. We sailed away from Puerto Vallarta around 10pm, and the Puerto Vallarta said goodbye to us with a fireworks show on the waterfront. We watched the sail away from the pool deck, as the cruise director and staff put on a "Dancing under the Stars" sail away party; compete with live music, dancing and a BBQ chicken and ribs feast!
Day 6 (At Sea) - This day we decided it would be "ship" day. After breakfast in the dining room, we set about looking into all the different areas of the ship we hadn't been to yet. We explored the spa, the different decks, the various bars and lounges, the ice cream shop, did our souvenir shopping in the onboard shops and the photo gallery. We took some of the onboard classes, spent time playing games in the card room and read in the library. We also played bingo and enjoyed the ocean for a while. Later on in the afternoon, we got ready for our 2nd formal night a little early because we wanted to catch a live performance we had heard about. There had been some sightings and rumors going about the ship, and we wanted to see if they were true. At 5pm we gathered in the "Some Enchanted Evening" lounge on deck 6, and we found out that what we had heard was indeed true! Elvis lives, and he cruises on the Vision of the Seas! On board with us this week was an Elvis tribute society, who had brought onboard 4 Elvis impersonators with them. The group agreed to open up what had previously been a private show for them to the entire ship, and on day 6 at 5pm, what a show they put on! All 4 did a fantastic job of paying tribute to "The King"; we went to dinner humming an Elvis tune that evening.
After dinner, we took in the comedy show of well-known actor and comedian, John Joseph and his sidekick Johnny B. This was the funniest comedy show I have ever seen! These two had us rolling in the aisles and the entire theatre roaring in laughter! After the show, we spent some time in the Schooner Bar with some of the Elvis impersonators and got another impromptu show, and had a late night snack at the midnight gala buffet in the dining room before bed.
Day 7 (At Sea) - We awoke to a chill on our balcony this morning. We could tell we were getting back towards LA and the fall chill of the north. We made this a pool day, and spent a vast majority of the day in the solarium, reading, swimming and soaking up the sun. We took care of our sea pass account, got our tip money for our wait staff and room steward and attended our last dinner in the dining room, enjoyed the farewell show with the cruise director, another funny comedian and the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. We returned to our room to pack and get ready for our return home the next day.
Debarkation Day - We awoke early and had breakfast in the dining room, said goodbye to our cruise mates from LA, and took our place in the main lounge to await our luggage tags color being called. What were off the ship by 9:30am, through Immigration and Customs very quickly and on to the airport for our flight home.
The Ship - The Vision of the Seas is an extremely well maintained ship. First launched in April 1998, the Captain informed us this was the Vision's 400th cruise. The facilities crews have done well, we didn't see any worn carpet, all the brass was highly polished and I can swear just about every part of the ship was cleaned every day. The crew did a great job keeping the ship beautiful and shinny clean.
Service - The service on the ship was superb! I believe this is where Royal Caribbean really out does itself. Every member of the staff and crew had a smile and a greeting for you. The dining room wait staff was great, our waiter was Randy from the Philippines, asst. waiter was Robert from India, and our headwaiter was Erik from Chile. Erik, our headwaiter, told us he was retiring from Royal Caribbean in December after 20 years with the company. We wished him well in retirement with a good tip. Our dining room wait staff was far and above the best we ever had on ship. Our room steward was kind of in the back ground most of the cruise. We didn't see him much, but he did a superb job on our stateroom multiple times a day.
Food - Since food is really a subjective matter, I can't really tell you much. I can tell you that the food in the dining room was very good. There is a clear difference in the quality of food served in the Windjammer buffet (very much commercially mass produced food) and quality of food served in the dining room and for room service. No food was bad in any way, but for better quality, go to the dining room for your meals or call room service.
Entertainment - The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were good, but it was the comedy shows that really entertained on this cruise. Our Cruise Director was John Blair and his wife, Katrina, was the activities director. I applaud them for all they did, they did keep us well entertained and active.
In conclusion, we really enjoyed our cruise on the Vision of the Seas. A wonderful ship, a superb crew and staff and a really good itinerary too. I highly recommend this cruise and this ship. We liked it so much, while onboard we booked the Vision of the Seas again for next year and a cruise to Alaska. Happy cruising to all, we'll see you onboard!