We just returned from a 4 day weekend cruise on Vision of the Seas and found it to be a great ship! This was my 8th cruise, first on Royal Caribbean. In the Fall of 2002, the Vision sails from Los Angeles to Ensenada Mexico. I am very analytical, so this will contain some information not found on many reviews.
Embarkation. We flew into LAX and was met by a ship representative, after gathering our luggage, we waited about 20 minutes for the bus to come, as we had bought the ship's transfers. A full size bus took us the 30 minutes to San Pedro. The driver and porter took our bags (and tips) and we went around to the front of the terminal and found a fair sized line, the wait being 45 minutes. But the actual check in took less than 2 minutes, then we went and found a 5 minute line to actually board the ship.
An afternoon buffet in the Windjammer's lounge had a wide variety of food. Royal makes the lines faster than other ships by having drinks already poured and silver ware and plates already on the trays. The Windjammer is the neatest "cafe" we have eaten in, with better furnishings and more of an upscale feel, it feels like a real restaurant and has a wonderful view with floor to ceiling windows.
Cabin. We had a balcony on floor 7 and found the drawer and closet space more than enough for the two of us. The room sleeps 4, so it might be a little tight, but the room had as much storage as any cabin we have ever had. There were both 240 and 110 outlets on the desk. A safe and TV were also in the desk area. The TV had 3 music channels, TNT, CNN, ESPN, a cartoon channel, a Retro TV channel, and several movie channels. The current movies for the fall of 2002 included the Count of Monte Cristo, Spiderman, and the Majestic. Also, a view off the front of the ship was shown. Last, the dinning room menu for lunch and dinner were shown all day, which helped us decide how much lunch to eat (a great dinner merited a lighter lunch).
Service. We felt we had the best service we have seen, compared to Disney, Princess, and Carnival. For example, it was the first cruise where our cabin steward made a point to give us a "tour" of our cabin, showing how everything worked, including the weird controls on the shower. On some ships we hardly saw our steward, little own get a personalized tour of our room. Very few times were we hounded to by drinks or play bingo. Our waiter was friendlier than what we had experienced elsewhere, and the head waiter actually came by each night and chatted. On other ships, we had only seen the head waiter on tip night.
The Ship. We felt the ship had many extra things other ships did not have, or have as nice. For example, the library was twice as large as any we have seen. The solarium (indoor pool) was phenomenal! We hit some cooler weather on our cruise, and the heated, indoor pool was heaven! It had whirlpool jets that gave the sound of the ocean, and because it was salt water you could float easier. The first night I had the pool to myself, and the glass ceiling acted as a mirror as I floated on my back. The shifting of the ship caused the water to act as light waves that pushed me around the pool. It was a very unique swimming experience!
The show lounge was the nicest afloat, and very large with very few blocked seats. The dinning room was well appointed as well. The ship was very well marked, with the floor number outside of each elevator, and a model of the ship and each floor by the center elevators on each floor. A snap to find any part of the ship! Also, they actually change the carpet in the elevator each day, with the day (Sunday, Monday) in the middle of the carpet.
The Food. Above average for a ship! The first night was Italian. It was pretty good. The second night was shrimp and Filet Mingon, and the last night was shrimp and Prime Rib. Of course you could order other things, or more of the same. I had two complete dinners on night 2 and 3! The deserts were good, the Chocolate Souffle on night 2 was the best. Breakfast and lunch was more typical cruise food fare. Beside having the menu on the TV, they post it outside the dinning room each day so you can choose to eat there or elsewhere.
The Entertainment. The Vision has a dance and song group that was typical ship stuff. Good but not my style. Rock on Broadway, the last night show, was better. The second night had the best show by far, a singing impressionist "Finese" somebody. It was first class, as he did everything from Michael Jackson to Dean Martin to Willie Nelson to Martin Luther King. A must see show!
There was outside calypso music, inside live disco dance music at night in the Enchanted Evening lounge, but I fell in love with the music at the Schooner piano bar. Elle Silver plays until March of 2003. And she is awesome! Perhaps one of the most talented keyboardist in the world, Elle plays over 1000 requests from complete memory, including keyboard, drum machine, and synthesizer. From the Eagles and Bangles to Louie Armstrong and other standards of the 50's 60's to today, Elle plays them all on request. She plays two sets in the later evening, including a few off her own CD. See www.ellesilver.com I never pictured myself at the piano bar over the disco, but I stayed til closing each night Elle played, and she played over 20 of my requests! Don't miss her.
The Route. The ship left on time out of San Pedro, and it was night fall. The ship hugged the California coast, about 10 miles out, but the lights of the mainland could be seen. Coming into Ensenada was a treat. It is quite a job to park a big ship, and do a 180 in the harbor. Seals make the harbor home and "barked" constantly while coming into port. Ironically, we did not even get off the ship while in port. The weather was rainy, and we had been there before. Nothing really to see, so we napped and hung out at the indoor pool! The second day is a sea day. The ship goes up between Catalina and Isabel Island and parks in the afternoon, just in the channel. The ship activities go on, but the ship just sits. Then in the evening it makes it way up to San Pedro for docking the next morning. You can see land nearly the entire voyage.
While ship to shore calls can be made from your room for $8 per minute, cell phones also work the entire way, with most of the route covered by US Carriers. In Mexico, be aware, they charge what ever they want for calls. I heard as much as $5 per minute to the US from your cell phone. Text messaging, if you have it, works on most of the cruise except in Mexico. One has to remember that a 3 night cruise out of Los Angeles is going to be less exotic than one out of Miami. The waters of the Caribbean are significantly clearer and prettier than the murky west coast waters.
The Crowd. Perhaps the only less than average part of the cruise was the weekend crowd. We went on this shorter cruise because of time constraints. We noticed this weekend cruise attracted a different type of clientele than a 7 or 10 day cruise. Many came to make this a "booze cruise" and were not as sophisticated as the groups we have seen on longer cruises. For example, in the dinning room for dinner we saw many people wearing T-shirts! On formal night, there were several men wearing golf shirts! Someone called it a largely "blue collar" crowd (there words, not mine). Perhaps the mid week cruise attracts the usual crowd that actually has a suit to wear to formal night! This was beyond Royals' control, but just be ready to see T- shirts for dinner.
Overall, the ship was clean, easy to get around, and had some great features not found on others. The food was above average (but no lobster on the shorter cruises) and the service was the best we had ever had. The destination was fair but we knew what we were getting when we signed up. The only disappointment were the few "booze cruisers" a weekend jaunt like this attracts, complete without suits for formal night.