Vision of the Seas
March 27th through April 3rd
This trip included my husband and I, along with our son (DS), age 17, and daughter (DD), age 8. This was my husband’s and my 8th cruise, but first with Royal Caribbean. DS had been on two previous cruises (American Hawaii and Costa), and DD had been on one previous cruise (Costa). We’ve also all done land vacations to Europe, Belize and Hawaii, so we are fairly well-traveled. I tell you this, so you know about our previous travel experiences in relation to this one. My parents met us on this cruise, and have also been on 8 cruises, including one previously on Royal Caribbean.
Friday, March 25th (pre-cruise stay)
Flew out of Indianapolis this morning on a nonstop flight aboard Northwest Airlines. Arrived at LAX around 9:30 a.m., and took a short shuttle ride to Budget Rent-A-Car to get our prebooked premium car. I booked this large car strictly for the luggage space, as DD and I are not light packers. After being told our car would be ready in 20 minutes on two separate occasions, we ended up waiting over two hours for the prebooked car. The place was packed with travelers, and no one seemed to be getting the car they booked. After a complaint to the manager, however, we were lucky to finally get our requested car and were on our way. (By the way, our luggage just fit in the gargantuan trunk.)
Arrived at the Inn at Venice Beach (only a few miles from LAX). This little hotel is well-located, just a block from the boardwalk and even included a continental breakfast each morning for $119. It is a European-style hotel, and the room looked newly appointed and was really attractive. We headed out to the boardwalk for lunch at the Sidewalk Café, where we requested a sidewalk table to get a good look at the "action." The food was great, and the spectacle on the boardwalk was even better. The kids loved it, and we spent the afternoon shell-picking, shopping and renting bikes. We rode the bikes over to the Santa Monica pier, and our daughter climbed the rock wall there and played some games. It was a great day. We ended it with dinner at the C & O Trattoria just up the street from our hotel. This is a little Italian restaurant that had been recommended to me, and turned out to be excellent as well. Long day, so headed back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep.
Saturday, March 26th (pre-cruise stay)
DD had the stomach flu during the night and couldn’t keep any food down, but was a real trooper and wanted to go through this day as planned. She took some children’s Tylenol for her fever, and we were on our way. Started the day on Rodeo Drive. Parked the car and did some window shopping, although did stop into Prada and Louis Vuitton. DS found a great coat on sale for half off (now only $3000.00). Unfortunately, we had to pass on that one. Went up the Sunset Strip, and then over to Hollywood Boulevard where we parked next to Graumann’s for $15, when we could have parked behind it for $2. (Live and learn, I guess.) Anyway, we went through Graumann’s, found all of our favorite stars, and then had some lunch at a great restaurant in the mall at Hollywood and Vine. After lunch we proceeded to go on Starlines’ tour of the stars’ homes. We all thoroughly enjoyed this tour, and were taken by at least 50 stars homes, including the Playboy mansion and the Osbourne’s much to our DS’s delight. We even saw Leonardo DeCaprio’s Prius. If you’re into the stars at all, it really is a fun trip.
After a little shopping, we headed over to the Ivy for dinner, hoping to spot some stars. We unfortunately did not spot any, but we felt cool anyway being at one of their restaurant hangouts. Then headed back to the hotel, because Sunday would be the start of the cruise.
Sunday, March 27th (Day one)
DD’s flu is completely gone. (Thank God!!) We returned the rental car to the Long Beach Budget location, just minutes from the dock. There was no surcharge for this, and they had a cab there to take us to the pier literally within minutes. The cab fare to the dock was only $15. We were one of the first people at the dock at around 11 a.m., and people were still disembarking the ship from the previous cruise. We were told that there were major delays with customs from that previous cruise, but after a short wait, a porter took our luggage, and we headed inside and checked in. This was a very expedient process, and we then waited for our number two to be called for entry into the ship.
We also met my parents at this time while waiting for boarding. My parents flew in on Saturday and stayed at the Sheraton Inn with their fly and ride program, and were very pleased with their stay, as well as with the shuttle service to the pier.
By 11:30, we were able to board the vessel, and immediately headed to the Windjammer Café for the welcome aboard buffet. The ship was very clean and really beautiful. All of the staff was very friendly, and the buffet was not only good, but had a great variety. After the buffet, we explored the ship a little bit, and then made our way to our cabin around 1:30. We were in a "large inside cabin," number 3585. As I told you before, we are not light packers, but we were able to put everything away in the closet and then put the luggage out of the way under the bed.
The cabin was the only part of the ship that looked a bit worn. The bedspread looked a little faded and there were a few very minor stains on the carpet and loveseat. Other than that, however, the room was very clean. The rest of the ship was really beautiful with wonderful works of art, glass everywhere, and I did not see any other signs of wear, like we had in our cabin. We got unpacked, then explored the ship a little bit after picking up our Compass. After the requisite muster drill, there was a nice sailaway party with line dance lessons out on deck, and that was really fun. DD and I both participated in that, while DH took embarrassing pictures (of me anyway). DD then made a beeline for the rock wall, and was proud to make it to the top on her first try. By then it was time to get ready for dinner.`
We had the main seating for dinner, and were very attentively served by Rodgie (our wonderful waiter), Aila (his great assistant), and Ryan (literally the best and most attentive head waiter that we have had on ANY other cruise). The food was truly wonderful. All six of us really enjoyed everything we had. The food was always served hot, the breads always fresh, and there were 10 entrees each evening to choose from, including five main entrees, as well as five alternative entree options. Desserts were excellent as well.
Tonight’s welcome aboard show featured CD John Blair, as well as comedian Rick Corso, who was quite good. John Blair and his wife, Katrina, paired up as the cruise directors for the week and, compared to other cruise directors, I would have to say (and others we met concurred) that they would have to be rated only as fair. Katrina’s only obvious interest is bingo, and that seems to be the big focus activity of the week. I guess if you like bingo, you’ll be really happy with this. For us, the bingo was okay once, but that was more than enough. I also have to say that after eight cruises, these were the first CDs that made absolutely no attempt to mix with the passengers. The only time you saw them was on stage. The activities for the week were (from what I’ve heard from previous cruisers) not up to RCI standards either, and this went for both the kids and adults, as well. I’ll go into more detail on this as we go through the days individually.
Monday, March 28th (At Sea)
Had to call security at 2:30 this morning. DS had been told to come in by midnight and when I woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t find him anywhere on deck, we got a little panicky. Went to the purser’s desk where, ironically, another bleary-eyed parent was looking for her teenage daughter as well. As my husband and I walked around the ship to look for DS (and I use the term ‘dear’ here rather loosely), we saw yet another teenage girl getting yelled at by her parent for breaking her curfew as well. We finally went back to the cabin to let security do their job, and our phone rang, with DS having the feeble excuse that he lost his room key and didn’t want to wake us up. (Yeah, right.) So with that drama solved, we managed to get a few hours sleep, so we could start our first day at sea.
Had a wonderful breakfast in the dining room with DD. Didn’t really see DS much today, except for glimpses of him with this girl or that girl. Played a little bingo ($35 for five games with six cards each). As I’ve said, I’m not a big bingo fan, but DD really wanted to play. Of course, we didn’t win, but had fun anyway. Also took a waltz class that was fun, and met a lot of people because we all changed partners. There was a cartoonist on board who is the cartoonist for the new Pink Panther cartoon, and he gave drawing lessons that were very informative.
Tonight was our first formal night, and most everyone was dressed appropriately (gowns or cocktail dresses for ladies and tuxes or suits for men). Surprisingly, all of my son’s male friends had on tuxes and his female friends were really decked out as well. We went to the captain’s cocktail party, where there was dancing and champagne, and dinner tonight was excellent. I had the duck, which was probably the best duck I have ever had. DS had at least four shrimp cocktails, along with two entrees. The staff could not have been more accommodating. Our favorite drinks were already poured when we came to the table this evening. DS is a Coke (the drink) addict, so we bought him the Coke card for $28 on embarkation. This was definitely a good buy for someone who likes soft drinks as much as he does.
The show this second night was put on by singer impressionist Roger Behr.. DD wanted to sit in the front row tonight, and I was the lucky lady who was embarrassingly sung to through the entire show . She and DH thought that was really funny. Turned in after the show, since tomorrow is a port day. Even DS came in at 12:30 so he would be rested for the port.
Tuesday, March 29th (Cabo San Lucas)
This was one port where I had no solid plans. DH got in line around 8:45 a.m. in the centrum to get the coveted number one voucher so we could get on the first tender, since we had so little time in this port. This worked out very nicely, and we were off the ship at 10:00, just after docking.
Cabo was really a pretty place, and our 17-year-old says it was his favorite port. We did a little shopping first, and then the kids really wanted to spend some time swimming and on the beach, so we took fellow Cruise Critic member Bob’s advice and headed (via $6 cab ride) to the Melia San Lucas. This hotel was truly beautiful, right on the beach, with a series of swimming pools, and an amazing view of the ship. Things worked just as Bob said they would. We tipped the lady at the towel stand and were given a wonderful mattressed bed area and some towels. DH and I laid out on the mattress, enjoyed some drinks and nachos, and watched DD swim and make new friends in the beautiful pools. DS went out to the beach and rented a jet ski for an hour, and had a blast. He was able to ride it way over to Lover’s Beach, and he said it was very fast as well. He paid only about $40.00 for the hour, and thought that was a pretty good deal. We spent the whole afternoon here enjoying the pool and beach. Afterward, we went back to town and did a little more shopping, where DS bought a gigantic sombrero, and then we rode a pedicab back to the pier. It was a great day.
Tonight was Italian night at dinner. We all had the wonderful shrimp scampi. After dinner, the show featured Los Pampos Gauchos and comedian David Orion. This was probably one of the two best nights of entertainment. David Orion was hilarious, and Los Pampos Gauchos were truly amazing. We were really tired after our day at the beach, so we turned in after the show. (DS of course stayed up just a little later – I believe he came piking in at something like 2:30. This time we kept right on sleeping.
Wednesday, March 30th (Mazatlan)
Got off the boat, took the tram through the terminal, and met Randi (who was just as wonderful as everyone says) for our horseback riding trip to Stone Island. She was waiting for us as promised, and within minutes we were on our way. My parents ended up going along to enjoy Victor’s and the beach.
Just getting to Stone Island is half the fun . . . Started out with a ride in the back of a pick up. This took us to a pier that was literally covered with pelicans. The pelicans are attracted to the fisherman there, and the fisherman accommodate them with a snack now and then. We then took a boat over to Stone Island and were treated with a wonderful view of our ship on the way. At Stone Island, we boarded a trailer pulled by a tractor for our final ride to the ranch and horses. Stone Island is literally like going back in time to what Mexico was probably like years ago, and we really enjoyed being there. Upon arrival, we were paired with our horses. I was the first chosen and paired with "Clown." I kind-of wondered about that. My daughter was paired with "Little Red." After we were all paired with our horses, we began our ride. DS had a great horse who literally led the pack the entire way. We went through the pretty coconut plantation, gaining our confidence with our horses (none of us had ever ridden before), and by the time we got to the beach, we were all ready to gallop. The views on the beach were amazing, and the ride was really fun. After about a 90 minute ride, we returned to Victor’s on the beach for lunch. I will admit we were all pretty stiff when we got off our horses (and frankly I was sore for a couple of days, but it was sure worth it.)
Had the legendary garlic shrimp and onion rings at Victor’s, and sat with Randi and thoroughly enjoyed her company. DH and DS rented ATVs and explored the island further (DS said they were really fast and he really enjoyed that). DD played in the waves and rented a boogie board for a couple of dollars. She and grandpa did some shell-picking as well, and we all truly had a great afternoon. We were all really sad to leave Randi. After we returned to the pier, we did a little shopping, and then reboarded the boat to get ready for dinner.
After the day of horseback riding in the sun, we were all exhausted (except for DS), so we missed tonight’s show. My parents went and said it was just "okay." Juggler Dan Bennett and singer Sherri Caffaro performed.
Found out that Blake and his gang won the infamous Quest game show tonight. They proudly wore their medals the entire week. Was told that when they asked for mens’ pants, my son had his off in record time. (How proud am I?)
Thursday, March 31st (Puerto Vallarta)
DS says he got in around 2, and I have to admit, he actually looks more rested that the three of us. Several people said they saw him with a lot of girls in one of the hot tubs around 1:00 in the morning. They did say that the group was well-behaved, so that’s a good thing.
Got off the boat and walked outside looking for the recommended yellow cabs. You actually have to walk away from the pier area to get one, but they are almost half the price (about $6) of the white ones that are sitting curbside when you disembark. Took the yellow cab for a 15 minute ride to the Premex Gas Station on the south side of town, as we had been told to, and prepared to go on the Los Veranos Canopy Tour. If you do go on this tour, be sure to sit on the right side of the van on the way up into the mountains. The views of the ocean are truly breathtaking. After about a 45 minute ride up into the mountains in the open-air bus, we arrived. The Canopy Tour was everything we had been told it would be. Our fearless daughter was the first of the group to go, and she and her brother just loved it. At one point, the height is 300 feet, and over a river bed. With the jungle soaring up on the both sides, the views are amazing. Afterwards, we had some nachos at the restaurant there, enjoyed looking at the turtles and tarantulas they have, and DD and DS went off their water slide into a rushing creek. The end of the slide is about 20 feet above the water, so the landing was pretty hard, but they both agreed they were glad they did it.
After we got back to the ship, we did a little shopping at an area right near the docks, and then went back in to clean up for dinner. It was island night, and I had the jerk chicken, which was quite good. DS had some type of seafood pasta, with everything from shrimp to scallops to squid in it, and he loved it.
Tonight’s show included Bowzer (formerly of Sha Na Na) & the Stingrays. This show was really a lot of fun. They brought DD and I up onstage to participate in a hula hoop contest. I actually won the women’s heat, which was extremely surprising, and so much fun. It was a shame, however, that they had scheduled this particular act for a night when so many people were still in port. (We didn’t depart Puerto Vallarta until 11:00 p.m., so the show lounge was sadly only about half full).
After dinner, we got a second wind and went to the family Karaoke. DD sang "I Love Rock & Roll," and received a keychain for her efforts, so she was happy. DS showed up with his posse of mostly girls, and they led the crowd in "YMCA,"also receiving the coveted keychain. It was really a lot of fun, and there were a lot of families participating.
Just after the Karaoke ended, they had dancing under the stars poolside as we sailed away from PV. It was a lot of fun. DD and I did the Casper slide, and danced for at least an hour. There was a big barbecue with roasted pig and a huge buffet as well. We finally called it a night around 12:30. DS said he was going to stay up late this night???
Friday, April 1st. (Sea Day)
Found out that late means 5:00 in the morning. Now I know why all of his new friends all have their own cabins. DS complained that he was the only one that had to go back to his cabin, and that all of the other kids didn’t have to sleep at all. DH and I are so hard to get along with.
Anyway, we slept in since it was finally a sea day. After a nice breakfast in the dining room, we went to the drawing workshop by the Pink Panther cartoonist again. He really did a good job and it was a great experience.
We had lunch in the dining room today. I went ahead and ordered the steak, which I had heard many bad things about on other threads here. I have to say it was very flavorful, simmering in garlic butter, and extremely tender (I could cut it easily with a butter knife). I think maybe whatever food problems this ship had in the past must be fixed now. After lunch, DD wanted some pool time, so DH and I relaxed by the pool, while she swam. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day. While there, they had an ice carving demonstration. There was not a whole lot else we found of interest on the Compass schedule, which was surprising since it was a Sea Day. DD and I wanted to get some spa treatments, but they were completely booked. Was told that the sea days book within the first few hours of embarkation, so if you are interested in that, make sure you make a beeline for the spa as soon as you board.
Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Tonight was the second formal night and lobster night! I could not decide between the lobster and the prime rib, so dear Rodgie brought me both. I’m embarrassed to say that I actually was able to eat both as well. The lobster tail was awesome, served with drawn butter, and the prime rib was very good as well. It was a very nice dinner.
Tonight was the only production show night of the week, which many people said is odd for an RCI cruise. They had just switched their dancers, and this was the first time they had performed the show, "Boogie Wonderland." I personally thought the show was only okay. DD dances competitively, and I couldn’t help but notice some of the dancers having difficulty with their double pirouettes. One dancer even fell down at one point. For me, only okay, but maybe it was because we were tired. We turned in early after the show. You don’t want to know what time we saw DS.
Saturday, April 2nd (Sea Day)
Our last day . . . The time has gone so fast, and all in all this has been an excellent cruise. DS says it is the best trip he has ever been on. He met the girl of his dreams a day ago, and is bumming that things are coming to an end.
This morning is the first time there is anything of interest to DD in the kids’ version of the Compass. There is a talent show sign-up at 10:00, with a rehearsal thereafter, followed by the actual show. DD adjusted her competitive cheer solo routine for the small stage, and did her back handsprings and back tucks without a mat (kind-of scary). They awarded her with a gold medal after her performance (along with the other participants), and she had a great time.
There was a hypnosis seminar put on by John Blair, which we went to after lunch. It was basically to teach self-hypnosis techniques. I thought I was being hypnotized, until I heard my father snoring. After that, my mind was wandering all over the place. I don’t think I’m made for hypnosis.
We stayed for the cartooning class after that, and learned how to draw caricatures of politicians, which was interesting. It was our one and only cool and overcast day, so sitting by the pool was really not an option. We did a little shopping, and then prepared for our last dinner.
I had a wonderful turkey dinner this evening. Shrimp cocktail was on the menu again this evening, and DS put away six of them, skipping the entrees altogether. After the wonderful dinner, and a serenade by the dining room staff, we said tearful goodbyes to wonderful Rodgie, Ryan, and Aila. We had arranged for our tipping through our Seapass card, and gave the certificates (in envelopes provided to us) to all of them. They had all done such a tremendous job.
The show this last night included a really neat fluorescent puppet show by Los Panchos Gauchos, and then John Blair did some singing, and all of the CD crew came out and sang a farewell. We were also able to view the week’s Cruise in Review video. Both of our kids were on there several times (including DS during the Quest game show, in lipstick, kissing a bald man’s head, and dirty dancing at one of the parties with girlfriend number two of the week. DD was shown during her climb up the rock wall, ringing the bell at the top, and then at the muster drill in a close-up).
It was then sadly time to go back to the cabin and get ready for departure the next day.
Sunday, April 3rd (Disembarkation)
Earlier in the week, DH went and requested red tags so we would be in the first regular group off of the ship (after the Diamond and Platinum members). Got up at 7 a.m., with no DS to be found. Apparently, he hadn’t come in at all on this last night. Packed the last of our belongings, looked around the ship, and found other disgruntled parents also without their errant teens. Went to breakfast, and then had the purser announce for our son to come to the purser’s desk. At this point, I was pretty sure he had fallen overboard. I didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to stay out all night when we needed to disembark early, especially when that person had absolutely no idea where we were to meet. Of course, DS did appear with girlfriend #3 of the week in tow, so he hadn’t fallen overboard, but DH and I would have liked to given him a push.
Had a nice breakfast, and then the red tag was called around 8:30 for us to disembark. Had no trouble with customs, and called on our way through for the limo to pick us up. Had arranged for a black Lincoln stretch from Epic Limos for $105, including tax and tip for our trip back to LAX. Knew DD would go ape, because she has always wanted to ride in a limo. Were told when we called that they could not get the black limo to us, but would instead upgrade us to white Lexus SUV stretch limo and would give us a deal at half price. Kids were very happy with the limo, but with laser lights and neon inside, it was not what I would call elegant.
Arrived at LAX, and had a flight on Northwest booked back to Indianapolis through Detroit. The flight was massively oversold, so they offered us $500 apiece to give up our seats, along with tickets to Vegas that afternoon, complete with hotel, meal vouchers, and free shuttle to the strip. Also they would give us a direct flight the next morning. The kids and I jumped on the deal, and ended up having a great time in Vegas. Stayed at the Hampton Inn, a really nice hotel just off the strip. Had a great dinner (kids were glad to have another shrimp cocktail before getting back to the "real world." After dinner, went to the strip, and spent some time and played some games at New York, New York, Excalibur, and the Luxor.
Extremely exhausted, we took our direct flight home the next morning. The good news is, we now have the air portion of our next cruise!!
DS said this was his best cruise ever. DD also said she had a wonderful time. DH and I (even with DS’s antics) also really enjoyed ourselves, and we would all definitely recommend this trip to anyone. __________________