Just returned from an OUTSTANDING CRUISE on the Vision of the Seas. Food, Ship, and Entertainment were a "10" two big thumbs up. The ship was refurbished earlier this year and is looking splendid. Nice carpeting, beautiful marble tile, everything fresh and sparkling. Great pools and jacuzzi's, amazing casino with nickel machines. Weather was sunny in the ports the temperature hovered in the mid 80's, awesome for cruising. Word of warning regarding the last 2 sea days. Keep a heavy sweatshirt or 2, and a jacket for those cold winds on the ride back to Los Angeles.
Food: 5 stars - Excellent presentation, taste, and good size portions. Try the cookies, and Key Lime Pie in the Windjammer they are heavenly.
Service: 5 stars - Service is friendly and personable. Waiters were eager to please, & very professional. Purser's desk bent over backwards and helped us out with a MAJOR PROBLEM of NO LUGGAGE, more on that later.
Cabin: We had inside cabin 2455 which was a perfect cabin for us. Middle of the ship down a small hallway with no foot traffic since there are only 3 cabins in this area. This is a great location if you are prone to seasickness, since in this area we felt very little motion. Our cabin steward made the cute animal towels almost every night. Bathroom was kept clean and fresh.
Gratuities: Royal Caribbean still uses the traditional envelopes for the Cabin Stewart, Waiter, Assistant Waiter, and Head Waiter/Maitre'D. You can either submit cash in the envelopes or you can charge the tips on your credit card and they will type out the vouchers and put them under your cabin door 2 nights before the cruise ends with a description of who it is for.
Ports of Call: We did the Ship's Excursions to stay on the safe side. Now that I feel more comfortable about these ports I will take tax's and venture out on my own next time without hesitation.
Cabo San Lucas - Took the Coastal Highlights tour. They take you on a bus to a glass factory where you can see the items being made. Prices tended to be expensive and since the glasses and ornaments were hand made the workmanship was uneven and off kilter, but hey that is part of the charm. (he, he) Next stop Giorgio's a restaurant for a drink on the patio. The restaurant sits on a hill with a scenic view of the ocean it is an interesting venue. Then onto San Jose de Cabo. This is a stunning little shopping village. It's nice here because there is no one trying to push their wares on you.
Mazatlan - Took the Colonial Villages Tour. I heard Mazatlan wasn't very nice, but I totally disagree. Once you get past the dock/pier area it is a very nice city. Went to see how bricks are made, a drive through the country, to the town bakers home where we got fresh breads and sweets, then a little shopping, and a trip to the Golden Zone to see the Papulets (spelling?) Flyers, and another Colonial Town.
Puerto Vallarta - Took the Off the Beaten Track Tour. This was awesome. P.V. was my favorite place. It is very lush and jungley and reminded me of a Caribbean Island, something like a cross between St. Thomas and Tortola. There is lots of wealth here and it shows. We went to the rich areas and saw millionaires homes, also did a tour of Casa Kimberly where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor lived. Liz sold the house in 1990 to the folks who own it now. She left everything intact, furnishings, pictures, etc. Only took 2 photographs and left the rest. I was shocked to see that it is not the nicest house. The views were incredible though. Our driver even took us to shopping at a place the locals use. It was a very spiffy area. Again no beggars or solicitors.
Things to know: Most shops do not have prices on their articles. If you ask the shop keeper the cost they will give you an enormous price. Always bargain them down. We went into one shop where we were totally ignored, then when my Mom asked what the price for a swimsuit was they said $30. When we tried to negotiate the price, the gal said, "our prices are fixed. " I really don't know if she was being truthful since we visited about 30 stores and none of them had this philosophy. In general the shopkeepers would rather have a sale, than let you walk away. Also, no need for pesos they take and give change in American $. The shopkeepers always looked pained & agonized at the prices being offered by the cruise passengers. However, when thanked & walking away empty handed, they would say the same thing. "Give me your money. " Now my tablemates said the standard wage for a busdriver is .79 a day. So if they are getting $5 for a tee-shirt, and 10 people buy 1 tee-shirt a day they are bringing in a few more bucks than the average Mexican. ================================================================== Now to my sad tale of no luggage.
We had a heck of a time trying to fly out of San Jose, CA due to the fires in Southern Cal, and the evacuation of the air controllers facility. We were supposed to leave SJ at 9:30 am on Sunday, 10/26 an arrive at LAX at 10:40 am time enough for a nice lunch on the ship. In reality we ended up leaving at 4:30 p.m. and the ship was due to sail at 5:00. Luckily they held the boat for us. I think the trip was jinxed since when I packed my luggage in the morning the zipper broke on my largest bag and I needed to transfer everything into another suitcase. When we got to LAX, the conveyor belt broke and only 6 bags came off none of which was ours. Then the rep from RCCL came over and said the boat is leaving, you either wait for the luggage and meet us in Cabo or get on the boat now. The cab ride to the boat was a heart stopper. The ship was supposed to leave at 6:30 sharp, and we pulled up at 6:30. I could just imagine the ship sailing away. Fortunately it was still there. We found out later they were waiting for 20 more people so the ship actually sailed at 7:00. We only had the clothes on our backs for the 1st 3 days, then they said our luggage would be shipped to Cabo. We found out later we never got it because it was stuck in San Jose.
The evening of sail we went to the Purser's office and informed them we had no luggage. They gave us each a survivor pack which included 2 ship-shape tee-shirts, one to wear, and one to sleep in, toothpaste, and toothbrush, travel size deodorant, razor, shaving cream, and a small spool of dental floss.
On the evening of day 3 we went back to the purser's office and told them our luggage did not show up in Cabo. Fortunately the ship's pursers office gave us $150 each to buy clothes on board. As you know $150 doesn't buy much. For the dress-up nights we had on jeans, and tee-shirts. People were looking at us, but I had warned the waiter and the folks at our table so at least they knew that we didn't have a choice. There were others that didn't have luggage either, including a couple who were on their honeymoon. I heard the wife ranting and raving in one of the on board shops, and the hubby saying the ship knew they didn't have any luggage and wasn't doing anything. I pulled him aside and told him to go and speak with xxxxxxxx in the Purser's office. Thank goodness I have been on many cruises so I knew the ropes.
The ship was only slightly more than half full since most flights didn't arrive in time to catch the ship. There were 300 folks who flew to Cabo to meet up with the ship later. So for a whole week, no nice clothes, no makeup or hair done. The good thing was packing to come home was really easy. Ha, ha.
You know I usually always pack an overnighter when we transfer planes, but since this was an hour flight with no transfers I never thought anything could go wrong. We had no clue the fires would affect our flight, since they were not close to any of the airports. We really thought we were going to get out of San Jose a whole lot earlier than we did. Our plane was supposed to leave at 9:30, at 9:15 they said the air controllers facility was being evacuated due to the fires and they would update us in 1/2 an hour. Then they got on the PA in 1/2 hour and said they would know more in an hour, and so it went all day long, with updates. At 4:15 they said it would be another 6 - 6 1/2 hours before we could leave. I called my hubby and we agreed he would pick us up and get us on a flight to Cabo the next day at 11:00 am. Then 5 minutes later I hear my name being paged over the loudspeaker. It was 4:20 and we were flying out.
I booked our own air and had what they call a FUN FARE discount on Southwest which is a non-cancelable, non-refundable, no changes without a cost increase airfare. This trip was a birthday gift from my husband and I to my Mom for her 68th birthday. You would not believe how stressed out I was. I know for sure I would not have been able to rent a car and drive because I was such a bundle of nerves. My Mom has panic attacks so she could not have driven either, besides I would have to rent a car and by that time it was about 1:00 & and I didn't have a clue to get there, and we never would have made it on time. Like I said I was a mess!
At 2:00 p.m. at the San Jose airport they were boarding planes for Orange County and Burbank so we felt that LAX would be called shortly. The folks going to Orange and Burbank sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes then were disembarked, and told to stand by. It was a nightmare. Would you believe that I had temporary amnesia (mind went blank) as I was filling out the missing luggage report, and running to get into a taxi at the same time. Yes, its true. I couldn't remember my address for a few seconds. Scary.
We met a gal at the airport that was on the same cruise as us. Her friend was onboard the boat and they both had cell phones so we were receiving updates, and the fact that the ship was full of ash. Apparently no one onboard the ship knew they would be delayed until about 4:30. There are lots of stories to tell. Our table mates got on in Cabo. They flew from Canada to Minnesota where they spent 10 hrs in the airport waiting to fly to LAX. They arrived at LAX at 3:00 am and had a difficult time trying to locate a hotel since they were all booked because of the various airport shutdowns. There are several airlines that fly to Cabo from LAX, but they were all full except for 2 seats in the 1st class section which they took. Since they booked their own air the cruise line will not reimburse them for the difference. Another couple sat on a plane for 6 hours before they would allow them to fly to LAX. Then we met another couple who were told they were going to be flown to Las Vegas then bussed to LAX. Fortunately, they hovered in the air at Las Vegas for an hour then the pilot came & told them they were one of six of the last planes to fly into LAX.