We chose this cruise for the itinerary - four new ports our of five (St. Croix, St. Martin, Dominica, Antigua and St. Kitts). We had been to St. Martin before and always enjoy coming back. We were not disappointed -- very enjoyable cruise overall. I will talk more about each port and our shore excursions below, but first more about the cruise. The ship is set for dry dock and refurbishment in Spring 2013 and not soon enough in my opinion.
We saw a lot of worn, stained carpets, scratched up walls, missing and damaged artwork, and outdated furnishings. Our room had 3 doors that would not latch, drapes that would not close all the way and lots of squeaking/rattling from loose fixtures. Maintenance was only able to fix one door. We were told no parts for the rest. Our most recent cruises were on the Oasis and Allure so this made the Vision seem tiny in comparison which is unfair. It is a lovely little ship with everything in short distance (too much walking on Oasis class). Many rooms serve double duty which is usually fine but...library/cigar room?? Smokey books?? What were they thinking?? Viking Crown lounge already smells like an ashtray, put the cigar room up there. The only thing we missed on the smaller Vision was the lack of specialty restaurants and in-room wi-fi which will both be added during the Spring refurb.
We were pleasantly surprised to receive an upgrade to a Royal Family Suite (8 persons max/2 baths/1 tub/large balcony) before departure. We enjoyed the perks that went along with the suite including priority service, ship tours, fruit basket/cheese plate and welcome reception for suite guests. We may even look at getting a different suite in the future because of our experience with suite cruising; however, we cannot recommend this suite on the Vision currently due to the worn fixtures and furnishings and its placement immediately below the pool deck (noisy!!!).
With only a few minor exceptions, the crew was as knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful as we have come to expect from RCCL. Our room attendant Oliver was exceptional. The concierge was able to switch our poor dinner table assignment (cramped, dark, loud table in traffic at the back of the room) to a larger well-lit table closer to a window. (We would love to know why many of the prime window tables were largely empty and unused - what a waste!) Our waiter Angelito was entertaining and attentive to our every need. Bar service ranged from excellent to poor. No bar service for reserved balcony suite guests in Masquerade theater; only main floor got service.
Food was very good to excellent but often only lukewarm when it reached the table. No food warmers? The only disappointing meal was the Surf and Turf - mediocre steak quality and 4 small shrimp instead of lobster - has been better on past cruises. Coffee needs to be more consistent as well; ranged from extremely strong and burnt first night to weak and watery the next. Nice selection of yummy dishes in Windjammer but someone needs to teach the chef how to make light flaky biscuits instead of dry, flour-y hockey pucks. Would have liked to see more non-dairy desserts but that is personal preference not a failing.
All of the shore excursions were excellent, but poor communication and organization by RCCL caused much frustration and dissatisfaction. RCCL excursions website still not user friendly and no customer support (phone or email) when error message while booking excursion online. But most aggravating was locating the tour leaders in port. The St. Martin tour ticket said group would meet on the pier ASHORE. We got off the ship 10 minutes early and walk down the pier to the shore. No tour group. We look and ask everywhere. Time's running out. No tour group. We finally walk all the way back down the pier and find them BY THE SHIP. We learn there was one guy with a clipboard and NO TOUR SIGN on a pier teaming with THOUSANDS of people who was supposed to tell us to meet by the ship. RCCL tried to make it our fault that we didn't see this guy. On St. Kitt's, the Quad ATV tour left without us and the bus had to come back despite fact we were in the crowded terminal 10 minutes before tour start time but again unable to find tour leader. Tour sign was a faded blue piece of copy paper the girl was holding waist high folded over. No one could read it. Other cruise lines had brightly colored, easy to spot wooden signs held up high for their shore excursions. RCCL even has these big tour signs on other itineraries but not this one. See details of excursions in ports below.
Not up to the usual standard we have come to expect from Royal Caribbean entertainers. The only show we all liked was Matthew and Gunnar Nelson tribute to Ricky Nelson. We walked out on two other "headliner" shows with poor singers. Tribute to Disco...ugh!! The glow in the dark puppet show was good but strangely mixed with guys cracking whips. Huh?! The Vision Orchestra was excellent and so was pool deck band, but Teddy's Band and the C Winds Band both need more practice and new lead sings. About fell out of my chair laughing at the bad falsetto, wrong lyrics, and screeching off key singing. Singers did not know English. Guest lecturer was dull as dishwater despite interesting topics such as True Pirates of the Caribbean and the Mayan Calendar.
This was a very enjoyable cruise with a wonderful itinerary and crew. We would do it again and recommend to anyone especially after Vision undergoes her extreme makeover. Oh, and the world did not end so we got to finish the cruise...Hooray!