Vision of the seas is one of Royal Caribbean's older ships (1998) and is due to be fully refitted next year 2013. The ship whilst small by today's standards has a very light, open and airy feel about it and whilst it may not have the expanse of facilities of the larger ships it is laid out in a pleasing manner.
Priority check-in had us quickly through the small queue (it was 11:30) unfortunately, the Royal Caribbean check in lady we used was probably the most unfriendly Royal Caribbean employee we have ever come across and definitely should not be in a customer facing job. We checked in and went on board without further incident and proceeded to the pool deck and had some lunch -- food will be reviewed later. Our room was ready at 1pm and our stateroom attendant Carlos was superb -- crew reviews will be later.
The itinerary had to be changed at the last minute (owing to a Pilot strike in Portugal) and whilst disappointing the alternative was interesting; the revised itinerary was Southampton, GijÃ³n, Vigo, La Coruna, The Azores and Fort Lauderdale.
The three Spanish ports each had their own character and having spent a lot of time in Spain and knowing that it was easy to get back there we decided to stay in the local area rather than avail of any tours - our favourite was GijÃ³n.
The Azores -- I had never considered the Azores as a destination before and all I can say is it is one of Portugal's best kept secrets -- beautiful volcanic landscapes, hot springs and great food and drink what more can you ask? I am sure that we will return there at some future date for a more extensive visit -- we had a tour (organised by me through Tripadvisor with Lisa which I would recommend) visiting the Fire Lake and Furnas.
Unfortunately, we also had to make a stop off the coast of Bermuda as two people had taken ill and had to be removed by a Pilot Rescue boat at this stage. It would have been nice if this was one of the destination ports as it would have broken up the sea days a little if we could have stopped there.
Entertainment, well the entertainment was a mixed bag which makes it more difficult to review than normal. I'll break this into several parts:-
The Theatre Shows
Vision of the Seas Singers and Dancers
One of the things I enjoy when cruising is getting dressed for dinner and then seeing a stage show -- I don't expect West End or Broadway standards but I do expect the singers and dancers to hold a tune and look good. With one exception the female dancers looked like they had been indulging themselves too much on the ship's cuisine and had larger thighs than I have (quite a feat really). The ships singers and dancers were so bad that we ended up walking out of the second and third shows that they performed -- they have to be the worst group in the fleet.
The violinist was OK but when they decided to repeat his show because one of the acts couldn't make it on board the audience groaned in disappointment.
This was really terrible -- no personality -- poor show -- boring and tired act.
Other people enjoyed the comedian -- In the talent show comedians are not allowed in case as humour is not international -- in which case why have a US comedian?
West End Singer
The saving grace of the theatre entertainment was listening to someone who could sing -- he received a standing ovation.
The orchestra where excellent, however, on one evening the show consisted of the orchestra playing whilst people danced on the stage -- hardly a captivating night!
Around the ship
Groups and Musicians
There was plenty to do around the ship and the various groups that played in the Centrum, the lounge and the pool deck were are good and much better than the Singers in the theatre shows.
I have three left feet and I went to a few dance classes and I was impressed by the quality and the patience of the instructors -- well done Russ and Rosalie.
There were a number of other events on the ship which we took part in or heard about and overall there was enough to keep you busy.
The only other niggle regarding the entertainment was that some events were not announced in the Cruise Compass and we were lucky enough to come upon them by chance. One evening in particular there was a spread laid on by the pool, only a dozen or so people turned up as no one was aware of it.
The Captain and Crew
The one area where this cruise really stood out was the high quality of the Captain and Crew. The Captain obviously enjoyed his role and mingled with guests on a daily basis and this friendliness was seen throughout the ship. Special mentions to Carlos our room attendant, Andrea in the Windjammer and the young Indian guy who is learning Spanish and whose name I have lost again in the windjammer and the bar staff.
This is always a difficult item to review. I enjoy good quality food and prefer quality over quantity.
Breakfast -- after trying the restaurant and the Windjammer the Windjammer won as although you had to queue for eggs they were cooked as requested rather than the poor attempts in the main restaurant. We ate breakfast at the Windjammer on all but 2 occasions and we were happy with the quality of the breakfast food.
Lunch -- I tried the restaurant for lunch and the quality was good -- nothing special -- the service was a little tortuous and we ended up eating mainly at the Windjammer for lunch -- I am a big salad and fruit eater and those items were perfectly good to very good. The hot food choices looked less appetizing but judging by the towers of food some people managed to mount onto their plates the quality must have been OK.
Dinner -- this for me is the best part of cruising after a relaxing day getting dressed to eat and watch a show is a great way to top the day. Unfortunately, the service and quality of the food in the main restaurant left much to be desired -- I would expect to eat in the restaurant of an evening on at least five out of seven days on a cruise -- on this cruise we ended up eating there on four nights and regretted it on each occasion. The Windjammer (a cafe) had more heart and better service and whilst overall the food was just OK there was always something that you could enjoy.
The pool BBQs were well received and my wife enjoyed the ribs -- I didn't try the BBQ's as I like a lighter lunch which I found the Windjammer perfectly good for.
The coffee was appalling and was most definitely catered towards North American rather than European or South American tastes. I tried the speciality coffee shop too and that was so weak that I never tried again.
Alcoholic drinks -- I am probably not typical in that I do not drink that much -- this was a very good thing as the price of wine on this cruise was extortionate!
Once I accepted the shortcomings I just got on with and enjoyed the cruise -- there was plenty to do and the crew were great. Would I do a TA again -- Yes , would I sail on the same ship -- maybe but only at a lower price and with a couple of bottles of wine in the suitcase ;-).