This was our second cruise to the Baltic the previous one having been 4 years ago.It really is a lovely part of the world with great ports to visit.
Had an enjoyable cruise on Vision from Stockholm in July 2012.This is the oldest ship that we have sailed on in a long time so we were prepared for her to be showing her age especially as she is due for a major overhaul sometime next year.
Embarkation at Stockholm was handled smoothly and speedily and we were on board shortly after 12 noon.The public areas of the ship were in much better condition than I thought they would be.Had lunch in the buffet and explored the ship.I was pleasantly surprised when touring the spa to be told that the relaxation area could be used anytime free of charge. I was also able to sign a waiver which allowed my 14 year old to use the gym facilities.
Cabins were released at about 1pm.We had booked an inside cabin,but a week before sailing we were e mailed by RCI to say that we had been upgraded to an outside cabin.The luggage arrived almost as soon as we went to the cabin.My husband and children went to the pool while I started to unpack.It was whilst I was doing this that I started to notice how dirty the cabin was-coffee mug rings on bedside lockers,carpet not hoovered, fingermarks on mirrors,rubbish in the bin and someones used razor in the shower cubicle.Oh well not the end of the world and I always travel with disinfectant wipes so I got to work.I thought things would be taken care of when the room was turned down for the night.After dinner I returned to the cabin and it had been set up but only for two people.We had our two children with us.I managed to pull down the two pullman berths and they both had dirty bed linen on them.I went to Guest Services and told my story.A very nice apologetic girl said she would deal with it.It took a further two hours and 3 visits from different housekeeping staff to get the cabin set up for 4 people.We have never experienced anything like this before.Housekeeping supervisor was very apologetic and arranged to have the carpet steam cleaned and assigned a fresh cabin attendant to us.
On the first sea day we were upgraded to a Junior suite by way of an apology and also offered 30% of the price that we had paid for this cruise off of a future cruise.
The Junior suite was disabled accessible and huge. It was kept very clean and I didn't need to get my wet wipes out for the rest of the cruise!
Every time we came back to the cabin something had been left for us-chocolate covered strawberries, backpacks and baseball caps, crayola things for the children.
We took all of our evening meals in the dining room and had excellent friendly service from both of our waiters.The Head Waiter(A woman) was also very attentive.We ate breakfast at both the buffet and the main dining room.The buffet was always busy but we never had any major problems finding a table.
We went to several of the theatre shows.We have been spoiled by some of the shows on bigger ships so found some of the performances a bit basic.
There is a good size library but it also doubles as a cigar lounge.I think this should be re -thought.Despite air purifying machines the smell of smoke is very evident.Also smoking is allowed in the casino.We would have donated more money here if it was a smoke free area.
Enjoyed the covered swimming pool area.The rock climbing wall did not open often due to high winds but my daughter loved this when she did get to try it.We also made good use of the table tennis tables and the shuffleboard.
My 9 year old loved the Adventure Ocean.All of the staff seemed friendly and engaged the children well.She did the usual colouring in of a pillowcase ,had her face painted a couple of evenings,enjoyed a pirate night,played lots of dodgeball and generally enjoyed herself.She also loved the Pets At Sea and is now the proud owner of a lion wearing a RCCI chefs suit.
My 14 year old went to the teen club a couple of times but was not very keen to go back.She thought the staff were nice and the lounge was a good hang out space, it was some of the teens that she did not feel comfortable with.As we are from Europe she has different references from US teenagers and she feels excluded.This is a very subjective thing and obviously can vary from sailing to sailing.There was a group who were travelling together and they seemed to dominate events.This was a shame as she has really enjoyed meeting kids from all over the world on previous cruises.She came to the shows and lounges with us in the evenings and had an enjoyable and inspirational chat with the lady Captain at the Crown & Anchor meeting.
The Captain and her officers were highly visible around the ship in the evenings.
We did our own thing in all ports except for St Petersburg where we took a ships excursion which exceeded our expectations.
Disembarkation was very smooth.After breakfast in the main dining room we walked off the ship to find our luggage waiting for us.I had prebooked a taxi for 8am to take us to Arlanda Airport at a cost of 390SEK. There was no sign of uor taxi and my husband asked adriver from the firm that we had booked with if he could help but he quoted 900SEK for the same journey.Fortunately for us the pre booked taxi arrived at 8.10am and we were at the airport with time to spare.
The weather was very pleasant and we enjoyed the Vision. For a ship of her age she is in good shape. There have been changes since we last cruised with RCCI -no individual toiletries in lower grade cabins,no chocolates on pillows,decline in food quality,having to pay extra for lobster and good steak etc but I think cruising still offers good value for money and for us it's more about the ports than the ships anyway.
We do not have any brand loyalty and have cruised with RCCI,Celebrity,Disney,NCL and MSC in the past and if the itinerary and the price suited us I would consider RCCI again.
We had a problem with our initial cabin but I felt that the way Guest Services handled things made up for it and we had a good holiday.