Vision of the Seas Cruise Review by xine: Vision of the Seas - Pacific Coastal
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Vision of the Seas - Pacific Coastal
We booked the May 7, 2006 Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise, from Los Angeles to Vancouver, via an online travel agency approximately 6 months before the cruise. During that time we had two price drops and were promptly refunded the difference to our credit card when we inquired about it.
We arranged our air travel ourselves (via frequent flier miles) and arrived in LA the evening before the cruise. We booked a hotel (using hotel points) near the LA airport and took the hotel's free shuttle to the hotel for the evening. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Lawndale, which was about 15 minutes away. Decent basic hotel with free breakfast the next morning.
We arranged for the hotel shuttle to take us back to the airport at 9 am, in order to meet our reservation for Prime Time Shuttle for the trip to the San Pedro Port (our reservation as at 9:50 am). Because it was Sunday morning, there was very little traffic and we made it there very quickly. The Prime Time More people were very nice and called an earlier van for us, and we were at the port by 9:45 am! We had planned to be there by 11:30 am (which is why the shuttle company planned our trip for 9:50 am). The shuttle driver dropped us at the Celebrity ship instead of the RCCI ship, but it was no big deal to walk next door.
We each only had one large suitcase and a carryon bag, so it was easy to maneuver. We dropped our bags with a porter (after attaching our cruise luggage tags, of course!) and found the check in area easily. We had already completed the SeaPass info online, which was good because of the 15 check in windows available there were only 3 for people who hadn't done so!
They didn't open the check in until 10:30 am, and there was a comical bit where the port agents scrambled around changing the check in signs (it reminded me of a Price is Right bit where they change the price and run back and pull a lever to see it's right and then go back and change it again). This is a regular port for this ship, so I don't know what the problem was.
Anyway, we were first in line at 10:30 and checked in by 10:35. Then we had to wait until 12:00 pm to go through security. Sigh. The ladies at the front forgot to give people their security group numbers and came through and handed them out in the waiting room later.
There was a large wedding party that was allowed to board first, but then everyone else got in line and the guards were a little disorganized on whether we should be allowed in line or not. I think it was just untrained staff, not something indicative of a larger problem. We were through security and on ship in about 15 minutes.
Of course, rooms were not available yet (1 pm), so we went to Windjammer for lunch. We had already made friends with three other couples and were laughing about how we all wished we could pick our own dining companions! There was a fantastic buffet available in the WJ and wait staff was bringing drinks to the table, so you didn't need to negotiate your plate and a drink. They were pushing the wine package pretty hard (I think the same guy approached us 3 times in an hour, even after I said I was pregnant and not drinking any wine this cruise). My husband was surprised to find even more food available in the center section of the WJ (separate from the buffet line) -- all of his favorites, like pasta with chorizo sausage and seafood paella. He was in heaven.
At 1 pm we checked out our room and found that the foam mattress topper we had requested through Special Needs at RCCL.com was indeed in place. I left a note (and $5) for the steward for 2 more pillows and a robe. It took another day to get the robe, but the pillows were there later that afternoon. We didn't meet the room steward until the end of the second day. He was efficient and quick. I had taken the sodas and waters from the desktop (no fridge on this ship) and placed them in the shelves on the side of the vanity mirror. A few days later I went to get a Sprite and found the bottles of water missing. I asked the steward about it later and he said he had borrowed it for another guest but not to worry about being charged for it. He also didn't charge us for the 1 Sprite I had. One of our bags was delivered to the room about 2pm, and every time I heard another "thump" in the hall I went to see if it was ours. That's when our neighbors said that all of the luggage was waiting down by the stairs and I could go get it myself, which I did. I unpacked everything in short order and felt like I was "home".
The muster drill was efficient and we enjoyed meeting other people from our deck. Shortly afterwards we stopped in the Schooner Bar for a drink, then made our way to the Viking Crown Lounge for sail away. It was very breezy and cool on deck, so it was nice to be inside and still be able to see everything. We initially sat in the back of the lounge, and there was NO ONE there! We were amazed that on a ship this size that we had an entire part of a public area to ourselves. We eventually made our way to the front of the lounge to watch the antics of the cruise director's staff poolside, but also since that's looking forward on the ship and it didn't make me as seasick to face forward. We talked with some folks there that had been cruising for 25 years and continued to meet them all over the ship for the rest of the cruise.
Regarding bar service and drinks in general, don't forget to specify if you DON'T want the souvenir glass. I ordered a virgin strawberry daiquiri at the Schooner bar and was charged $3.50 (plus tip). A few days later in the Some Enchanted Evening lounge, I ordered the same thing, yet this one came in a souvenir glass that I didn't want and now was $4.95 (with a greater tip, of course). Stupid me! On the second formal night my husband ordered a glass of port, and it was brought in a blue "loving cup" instead of a small "snifter" type of glass that port is normally served in. Again, an upcharge for the "shot glass" sized loving cup. We only took the loving cup home. We trashed the hurricane glass in the room - not enough room in the suitcase. Consider yourself warned!
We went to dinner each night in the dining room and thoroughly enjoyed it each evening. My DH really got into it, ordering anywhere from 3-4 appetizers/soups and usually 2 entrees each evening. Since I was nauseous from the pregnancy (first trimester) and the rocking of the ship (12-15 foot waves) I tended to stick to more normal portions. Waiters were quick to remember what we liked and didn't, especially regarding breads, drinks, and extras such as cracked pepper or cocktail sauce. We had a table for 8 but only 6 of us showed up each night. The third through fifth nights another couple joined us (after checking with the head waiter) so we had our 8. It was much easier to converse at a round table with all the seats filled. Some other tables around us weren't full either and I noticed some other people asking to be moved. I guess that the first seating must have been very full and the second seating not as much.
After reading all the literature on rccl.com and the posts on cruisecritic.com I was surprised when I found out there were 2 formal nights on this 5 day cruise. Everything else had said only 1. We were a little unprepared, but I bought DH a $10 tie from the shops on board to give him a different look and I already had a sparely sweater set and black pants that I figured would pass muster (it did). The first formal night was our first at sea day. The highlight of the dinner was the filet mignon and shrimp cocktail. The second formal night was on our second sea day, with a "fisherman's platter" that had a lobster tail and garlic shrimp on it. Several of our tablemates really enjoyed the lamb shank one night. I asked about the brie-stuffed chicken breast, since I'm only supposed to have pasteurized cheese (some brie isn't). I told the waiter to bring me a steak if he couldn't verify where the brie was pasteurized or not. I ended up with the steak (typical RCCL shoe leather). The next day I saw the executive chef and the executive sous chef waiting for a safety briefing by the lifeboats and asked them about the cheese. They told me that all of their cheese is pasteurized and that the waiter only had to check the package. (I detected a little animosity towards the waitstaff.)
We usually ate in the dining room for breakfast and lunch, and had no problem getting a table for two when we requested it. They've started a new "Brasserie 30" menu that they promise to have out in 30 minutes. We ordered some pasta one day and it was a little soggy but the sauces were good.
We also ordered from room service once for breakfast and once for lunch. I had completed the door hanger for breakfast and had written in a toasted bagel on it, but we didn't get it. The food was very good and was delivery when requested for breakfast, and within 30 minutes for lunch.
We did not purchase anything from the coffee bar or from the Ben and Jerry's, though the smell of the baking waffle cones was incredibly hard to resist! With so many desserts available at lunch and dinner it was hard to justify an extra expense for ice cream.
My husband was happy to have the daily newsletter with NY Times news briefs as well as a separate newsletter with just sports news. His team is in the NBA playoffs and it was killing him to not be able to watch the games. The newsletters were available each day outside the purser's desk about 10:30 or 11:00 am.
We tried to play cribbage in the card room one sea day, but the cribbage board had no pegs (it was glued to a larger board, I guess to prevent theft) so the slot for the pegs was inaccessible. Chairs were in short supply, but there were people playing mahjong, euchre, and a table with a sign saying they were looking for another couple for bridge. There were many board games available, too. We were the youngest ones in the room, though (we're in our mid-30s).
Our cabin was well laid out and had a nice big window. We had a small loveseat and a round glass table that just seemed to get in the way. The drawers all seemed to be a little off kilter but I could still open and close them easily. The plastic ceiling tiles seemed to rub and squeak on nights when the seas were rocking and rolling, which was really annoying. We tried to find the squeak, to no avail. There were no shelves in the closet, but there were plenty of hangers. The lightswitch in front of the closet also trips the overhead lights mid cabin and over the bed, so be careful if you are early riser and your cabin mate is still sleeping. The bathroom had what I call the "typical RCCL cruise ship smell" -- a weird combination of sewage and cleansers. We also brought our own air freshener (what a godsend! -- don't leave home without it!). There is no electric plug in the bathroom except for a shaver, so all blow drying and hair curling must be done at the vanity in the cabin. The room safe operated on a four digit code instead of a magnetic-stripe card, which was more convenient. The 13" TV was on a swivel that made it easy turn to watch while in bed or when sitting on the loveseat. Our 26" Samsonite softsided suitcase only fit under the bed once we lifted it up to get it under the bar. Our Samsonite rolling garment bag fit fine.
Our Crown and Anchor coupon books were delivered the first night, while the C&A gifts (tote bags this time) weren't delivered until the fourth night.
The TV had a nice selection of movies available, oldies ('40s, '50s, '60s) and some that are just out on video now. We did have a difficult time telling when they would start, though. The bow camera is now nonexistent. We used to really enjoy that vantage point, especially when we would pull into port early in the morning. On this ship it only flashed for a few seconds at a time on the "ship info" channel. I asked the hotel director and cruise director about it and they said they no longer do it 24 hours, but that it should be on for more than 2 seconds at a time. We didn't notice any change later in the cruise.
There were several movies shown in the theater during the cruise, all ones that aren't out in video yet. The audio was extremely loud though, so we avoided it after the first movie. Also, they scheduled an animated Pixar film for 10:15 pm one evening, which seemed odd to me since most kids are going to bed then...
There were 2 comedians on board who were pretty good, but not outstanding. They also did "late night adult comedy" later in the week. Another night was a juggling/comedy act (Wright and Haines) that was pretty good. The cruise ship staff seems to get WAY into BINGO, making annoying public announcements about it every time a new session would start. They didn't announce every other activity, so it seemed like they were only concerned with their bottom line (IMHO).
The ship was in very good shape and there was constant cleaning going on. You could see some wear marks on the carpets in some areas, and some of the public lounge areas showed a little age. (What's with those horribly uncomfortable sloped back chairs in the lounges anyway??) The decks looked like they had recently had a rubber slip resistant coating applied in some areas. Elevators didn't seem to take too long to arrive.
The weather was too cool for us to want to venture out to the pool area, though we did see people in the hot tubs and kids in the pool. The solarium pool was an area that we didn't really visit. We also did not visit the spa, though our tablemates did and from what they reported it was similar to our other cruises in price and services offered. They did the "pod" destressing treatment and seemed to enjoy it.
We used the pressing and laundry service on board. Very reasonable costs and efficient service.
It was difficult to stay away from the smoke in the casino, especially since the smoking area was near the main walkway through the casino to the Masquerade Theater, which didn't make sense to me. I guess you could always take the elevators to the theater, bypassing the casino, but that usually didn't make sense for us. We broke even after spending $40 total in the casino, including our C&A coupons for $12 for $10 for slots.
We took a shore excursion in San Francisco and it seemed more disorganized than the ones we took on Splendour in Europe. The tickets were delivered to our stateroom and the directions were to "meet on the pier 10 minutes before the departure time." We understood what this meant, because we had taken other RCCL excursions, but our tablemates, who had planned an Alcatraz tour, went to the Fisherman's Wharf pier instead and of course no one there knew what they were talking about, so they bought their own excursion and planned to request a refund from RCCL. They never did tell us whether they were successful with the refund or not. (On other cruises they had us meet in a lounge and gave us stickers with our tour number on it to wear and then led us to the bus from there. On this one we just went to the bus and asked if we were at the right place.)
We took our own excursion in Victoria, BC. The captain had said in his announcements the previous day that we would probably dock at 8:00 am instead of 9:00 am, which was fine with us, since our whalewatching cruise left at 10:00 am. Well, we didn't dock until 9:15 and didn't get cleared through customs (the ship, not us personally) until 9:35. We hightailed it to the excursion meeting point and just made it. No whales to be seen, though. :( We did see many bald eagles, dall's porpoises, harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and other birds, though.)
The cruise ended in Vancouver, and unfortunately for one man, that may have literally been the end for him, too. A man had a heart attack (or so other passengers were saying) at the buffet line in the Windjammer on the last morning. "Alpha, Alpha, Alpha" alerts were called over the loudspeakers and staff rushed to help him. He did not appear to be conscious. I hope that he was ok.
We had requested "express" tickets off the ship since we were staying another night in Vancouver and could easily manage our luggage ourselves. We were called at 8:00 am, right on schedule. The line wasn't very long, and we only had to wait behind one other person at customs. The taxi line was VERY long though (I can only imagine what it was later in the morning!) so we went upstairs and hailed a taxi ourselves before they headed into the queue in the underground parking area. We dropped our luggage at the Hampton Inn and Suites and headed back to Gastown to pick up the hop-on/hop-off trolley ($33 for two days) and toured beautiful Vancouver. One other ship was in port that day, and two more came in the next day, so it was very busy at tourist attractions around town and on the trolleys.
The price of this cruise could not be beat ($400/person for 5 nights for an oceanview room) because it was a repositioning cruise. The seas were a little rough a few days, and the weather was much cooler than we thought it was going to be. Gale force winds were experienced on deck several times (Deck 5 was closed a couple of times). But there was plenty to do onboard and it was very relaxing not to feel like we had to have a jam packed schedule each day. We really enjoyed ourselves and are already trying to figure out how our new addition (due in December 2006) will take to cruising and how soon we can plan our next one! Less
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