On May 11, 2013, we embarked on the Vision of the Seas for a Scandinavian and Russia Cruise. Starting in Copenhagen, with stops in Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden before returning to Copenhagen. We booked Grand Suite 8508. Were a husband and wife in our thirties and this was our eighth cruise together (five on RCCL, one on Celebrity, one on Cunard and one on Regent).
Boarding in Copenhagen was easy (love the priority line for Suite Guests), and we had about an hour and a half before the rooms would be ready at 1pm, so we went up to the pool bar and met Melvin. Melvin was so welcoming and starting telling us all about the ship and what to do on board. He also confirmed for us that in lieu of a Concierge Lounge, Suite Guests could go to the Viking Crown Lounge nightly from 5-8:30pm for drinks and appetizers. It was nice to get this confirmation early in the cruise because we hadnt really seen a definitive answer. Diamond and above also joined us in the VCL during this time for their nightly event.
When our room was ready, we headed down there, and wow, the Grand Suite on the Vision blew the Grand Suite on the Navigator away. Its smaller, but the layout is the same, the biggest difference is the balcony and the windows. Basically, the entire wall is floor to ceiling glass, so you can see everything going by. We loved this because on the days it was a little too chilly to sit on the balcony, we could still watch the world sail by from our couch or bed. No noise complaints or any real issues, we did hear a little thumping from deck nine above as things were being set up, but nothing that bothered us. The cabin is in great ship for a ship that hasnt been refurbed yet, and if you just keep that in mind, youll be pleasantly surprised.
Maintenance was always there to fix a leaky pipe or a door that was slightly off-hinged. Again, nothing that detracted from our cruise. Leon, our Suite Attendant, was by far the best attendant weve had on any ship, and we gave him one of our Wow cards.
We were then off to explore the ship, and shes in great shape for her age and not having a recent refurb. Very clean, but the decor is definitely dated, and while we loved the layout and openness of the Vision class (the amount of light and views of the sea are incredible), we found that the current layout of the bars and lounges doesnt make sense any longer, i.e. they were designed for a time when cruising was all passengers were being shuffled from event to event, room to room, not the more individual, lots of options (bars, restaurants, nooks and crannies) that cruisers are looking for today. After talking with the staff, there will be lots of options after the refurb, i.e. Chops, Portofinos and some of the bars I cant remember if its Boleros, Vintages, the sports bars, but theyll be options like that on the other ships. The other change thats being made is the silver thing thats hanging in the Centrum will be removed and replaced with an aerial dance show.
Because there were no specialty restaurants on board, we had all of our dinners in the main dining room, and the food on the Vision was the best weve had in the MDR on a RCCL cruise. Food is very subjective, so I wont go into a lot of details, but the menus were varied and everything we had was good. Our waiter, Anand, was also very accommodating to anything we would like. It was a very port intensive itinerary, so we didnt eat in the Windjammer once (we actually didnt set foot in there, which was strange for us). Having the Solarium Cafe was nice because we could grab a quick snack when returning from port; if that wasnt there, we would probably go to the Windjammer more. Breakfast was Room Service, which was good and standard for RCCL. The only complaint was the terrible coffee it was so bitter and like tar. We even ordered Room Service for lunch on one of the two sea days, and being able to order off the full lunch menu was a nice Suite perk.
The nightly Suite/Diamond event was good and after the first day, the waiters know your name and drink. Because we had the late seating for dinner, the light appetizers were nice before dinner.
The Casino was a good size, and they even had sit-down Texas Hold Em with a real dealer, not the computer based tables. The shops are good and have plenty of selection, although the layout is a little strange, and Im sure there will be upgrades with the refurb. We didnt attend any of the shows because theyre not our thing (in eight cruises, weve never been a show). The musicians that played around the ship were good. We did go to the Spa, which was nice, pretty standard for RCCL.
What well always remember from the Vision is how eager to please the staff is if theres anything you need, just ask, they will bend over backwards to try to make it happen for you. The service on this ship rivaled the service we received on our Regent cruise; if we interacted more than once with someone, they remembered our name and/or preference, they always asked if there was anything more that they could do for us and if we had a request, they took care of it quickly or gave alternatives. Captain Lis was also the most personable Captain weve met. Captain Lis is one of four female Captains in the ENTIRE cruise industry (one of the others also works for RCCL). We took the Bridge Tour, and she stopped to talk with the guests and even take photos with the kids that were on the tour. She sets an amazing example for her team, and at the Suite Reception, when we were introduced to all the Officers, they also made it very clear how grateful they were for us cruisers and again wanted to express if there was anything that could make our cruise better, to just ask. Bojana, the Guest Departure Officer/Suite Coordinator, was also excellent. Topi, the Cruise Director that joined the Vision with our sailing, was friendly; we didnt have a lot of exposure to him because we dont go to a lot of the events.
Other than the dated decor, one thing to be mindful of is that because this is an older ship without the latest technology and is also small, cruisers will feel more vibration in certain parts of the ship than others. Nothing at dinner or in our cabin, but in the Spa especially, which sort of added to the experience, you will feel the ship moving. We loved it because we like knowing were on a boat, and not just a floating hotel.
The port itinerary was excellent and highlights just how wonderful a mode of transportation cruising is how else can you see five countries in seven days and travel there in style? We love waking up in a whole other country and only having to unpack once. Cruising Europe is so different than cruising the Caribbean, the former is sightseeing and the latter is relaxing for us. We spent a few days in Copenhagen before boarding, and in Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm, we just did our own thing with a guidebook and walked around the various towns. In St. Petersburg, we opted for a ship shore excursion because we didnt get our own visas. It was a nine hour tour, and it was good we saw all the sights and will return to St. Petersburg to see more. The Hermitage and Winter Palace is unlike any museum or palace Ive been to in the world.
We will definitely be back on this class of ship, especially for a non-Caribbean itinerary, and the service that went above and beyond is one of the many reasons were loyal to Royal. Having the two seas days was also nice so that we could enjoy the ship and relax. Being a Baltic cruise, we had also heard that the dress is more casual, and it was. On formal nights, there were still a few tuxes (hubby left his at home this trip) and long dresses, but on the other nights, it was acceptable to where jeans and a nice shirt for the men, and nice top for the ladies. I had never worn jeans in the main dining room before, so it was kind of nice to be so casual.
Disembarking in Copenhagen was a breeze; baggage was waiting for us in the tented area and there was no line to the taxi stand to grab a cab to the airport. We docked at 7am, were off the ship and in a cab by 7:45am, and at the airport by 8:30am, easily making our 12:25pm flight. We were surprised how long the line was for the RCCL airport shuttle, which was $37/pp and a taxi with no lines, was only about $65 total.
Ive posted pictures of our suite on Flickr below because I know how hard it was to find Grand Suite photos on the Vision. If youd like to see another area of the ship (other than the Windjammer or the Theatre), just let me know, and I might be able to dig up a picture for it because we took over a thousand. Also, let me know if you have any questions, Ill do my best to answer them!