This was the 2nd cruise for myself and my husband and our second with Royal Caribbean. Our first cruise was a Southern Caribbean on the Adventure of the Seas. We chose this cruise for a few different reasons. 1) We live on the west coast, so this cruise was easy for us to get to, there was not a lot of travel involved. 2) Our last cruise was very port intensive and we found that our final day, the only day at sea, was the most relaxing. This itinerary on the Vision gave us 3 days at sea which we thought would be enjoyable. 3) The Adventure was a wonderful ship, but I felt it was a little too touristy. I thought that by cruising a smaller ship, we might get more of an intimate feel for cruising without that extra touristy feeling. 4) The week that we chose to cruise was over Halloween and we thought that would be a fun experience.
I had booked our cruise through our cruise travel agent. She had arranged our last cruise, which we took with a large group. I liked that she did all of the paperwork for us and made any arrangements that we needed, which is why I chose to use her again.
We flew into LAX a few days early to spend some time with my husband's cousin, that lives in the area. When the day of the cruise came, our cousin and his wife drove us to the pier and dropped us off. Locating the pier was very easy with the directions given by Royal Caribbean. We were able to stop right in front of the cruise terminal and a porter was right there to collect our luggage.
Embarkation was very fast and very easy. We had arrived around 1pm with the cruise departing at 5. Royal Caribbean had separate lines for different decks of the ship for those that had filled out their SeaPass information ahead of time. Each of the lines was short and we had completed our paperwork and were waiting in line to board the ship in just 5 or 10 minutes. While waiting to board and get our embarkation pictures taken, I could see the ship staff unloading old mattresses from the upper levels of the ship down to the docks and new mattresses & pillows being loaded on. Royal Caribbean is in the process of upgrading their bedding on all of their fleet and this was scheduled to be the last week for upgrade on the Vision. They are just a little behind schedule though, as mattresses & pillows were being loaded & unloaded when we disembarked the next week.
We were traveling with some friend, who had already boarded the ship and were waiting for us on Deck 4 when we stepped on board. The cabins were not yet ready for us when we got on, so our friends went for some lunch in the Windjammer while DH explored the ship and I went to the spa to schedule myself a massage. By the time I was done with that and had found my way back to my husband, our room was ready and we were able to drop off our carry-on bags.
We explored the ship for a while and before we knew it, it was time for Muster drill. After Muster we went to the Viking Crown Lounge for an informal sail away party with our new Cruise Critic friends. We weren't able to stay long as we were scheduled for early dining and had to leave for dinner. Also by then, our luggage had arrived and we were able to start unpacking.
Our dining staff on the Vision was very good to us, and given that a few of the tables in our area of the dining room opted to dine in the Windjammer during most of the cruise, we were given a lot of individual attention by the staff. Our waiter Belic was kind, as was his assistant Robert. Another pleasing surprise was all of the attention that we were given by the Head Waiter, Robert. On our last cruise we had met the head waiter twice, once on the first day and once on the last when tips were being handed out. Eric on the other hand had taken the time to memorize our names and visit with us every night. He was the one to cut my lobster on the 2nd formal evening and even brought us coffee if the waiter & assistant were both busy. We used the dining room for all of our evening meals, for 2 breakfast meals and for 2 of our lunch meals. All of our meals and service in the dining room were wonderful. We only ended up eating in the Windjammer 3 or 4 times and being pregnant and hungry all of the time, I utilized room service in the middle of the night 3 or 4 times as well :)
Our itinerary consisted of 3 sea days, one on our way down to Mexico and 2 on the way home. I enjoyed having our first full day on the ship at sea, as it gave us a chance to relax and hang out on the ship, as well also enjoy all that the ship has to offer. I had scheduled my massage for this first sea day to help set the mood of my vacation and it was quite enjoyable. I scheduled the Absolute Full Body Massage which includes the full body massage and a facial, which is an hour and a half procedure. It was extremely relaxing. There was not a lot of pressure afterwards to purchase the facial products and $160 later I was on my way.
During our days at sea, we enjoyed the casino and shops and all of the activities that the cruise director had scheduled. All in all I was fairly happy with the activities provided, but the consensus among our Cruise Critic group was that the Cruise Director himself was not very good. He was not visible throughout the cruise and was not personally at many of the activities scheduled, instead his staff it seemed did all of the work. He also did not seem as energetic as I would have hoped and as talented of a singer as he may be, I preferred the entertainment of the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers to his performances. Another exception to the programs for our day at sea was our very last day. There was virtually nothing scheduled to do this day and the weather had turned bad. The pool was closed to swimmers and it was too cold and cloudy to sun bathe and the waters were rough, so most people did not even leave the lower levels of the ship. I was disappointed that Royal Caribbean had not scheduled more activities onboard the ship for all of the passengers this day other than expecting us to gamble, spend money in the shops and on pictures and pack.
Entertainment this week was enjoyable and we were able to make it to all of the shows. There were 2 comedians, both of whom I enjoyed. There was also a magician/comedian that was OK and 2 shows done by the Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers- Boogie Wonderland and Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme. The talent of the performer was mixed, 2 of the singers were VERY good and 2 of them were mediocre at best. All of the dancers were very good though, the band fantastic and the productions were nicely done which made the shows worth seeing. In comparing this show to the one we saw on the Adventure last year, I would say that the Adventure staff was better. On our last day at sea I went to a backstage tour of the Masquerade Theater and met 2 of the singers. I learned that this group of singers & dancers had all boarded the Vision just 2 weeks before and though they had all practiced together for a month a the Royal Caribbean studio in Florida, they were still learning together. A couple of the members were new to Royal Caribbean and the cruising industry, which gave me a better impression of out entertainment.
Our cruise was over the week of Halloween and I was curious to see what Royal Caribbean had planned for the holiday, if anything. I had brought a door decoration and a bowl of candy to put outside the door for anyone who wished. I was told that the Adventure Ocean staff would be bringing the kids by all the state rooms to trick-or-treat. I suspect that instead of kids eating my candy it was staff members and other cruisers on our deck, but I did not care. The centrum was decorated with Jack-o-Lanterns and cruisers were encouraged to wear costumes. There was a big costume party and contest in the Viking Crown Lounge that night as well and many people had shown with costumes, so it was well worth going. Some people were far more creative than myself. I was 26 weeks pregnant on this cruise, so DH an I dressed as a priest and a nun :)
There were 2 midnight buffets on this cruise as well. A midnight BBQ buffet and the standard midnight Gala buffet. I went to the Gala buffet to take photos, but skipped eating so we could make it to the midnight comedy show. I was also late getting to the BBQ buffet on the pool deck and was not able to eat much more than some salad, BBQ chicken and baked beans, but it was all good, the music was lively and the weather leaving Puerto Vallarta that night exceptional.
We had 3 ports on the cruise. Day Two was in Cabo San Lucas, Day Three in Mazatlan and Day Four in Puerto Vallarta. We did disembark every day and I enjoyed our time in Mexico, but after cruising this itinerary I do not know if I would do it again.
Cabo San Lucas- Cabo is a tendered port and not a very long stay. We arrived around 10am and passengers were allowed to disembark not long after. Everyone was required to board the ship by 5pm so we could leave at 5:30, so there was not a lot of time in port. My husband and I did tender in and walk around Cabo to do some shopping and have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Shopping was not that great. Royal Caribbean had their standard list of stores they suggested you go to like Diamonds International, but since we were not interested in any of that this vacation, we didn't find the shopping to be worth it. I was also hoping to find more authentic Mexican items for sale by the local vendors but all we found were the same items at all 3 ports and the items were exactly the same... silver bracelets, sombreros and little toy dolls. I was disappointed in the lack of clothing for sale and your standard knock-off designer handbacks & sunglasses, which I find fun looking at. I was hoping to see a lot of traditional Mexican toys and foods available, but apparently not along the port. It was a holiday this week, the Day of the Dead, and I was hoping to see a more prominent presence of the holiday in the form of candy skulls and toys, but this was not the case.
Mazatlan- we had booked a private tour with Mazatlan Frank. Our tour was his Colonial and City tour, which was very informative and full of stops. The tour did run a little long and everyone in our Cruise Critic group was tired by the end of the day. If I were to do the tour again, I would have probably cut out a few of the stops like the first cathedral and the tour of Old Mazatlan, which was a nice view of some of the buildings but not necessary. We had stopped for lunch on the beach and the water looked so inviting I wished we had more time to relax and do some beach activities.
Puerto Vallarta- we scheduled a Dolphin Swim through Royal Caribbean this day and it was worth every penny! The two dolphins that we swam with were pregnant like myself and in feeling the belly on one dolphin, you could actually feel the baby moving inside of her! This excursion was wonderful and made an exciting and perfect end to our cruise. We were done with our excursion by lunch time and after some lunch in the Windjammer, we did venture back out to do a little shopping before taking a nap in the afternoon. The dining room was fairly empty that evening as we were in PV until 11pm, so many cruisers were out enjoying sunset sails and dinner cruises. Leaving Puerto Vallarta that night was warm and enjoyable. We were on deck when we noticed the harbor master leaving the ship on his little guide boat. He honked his little horn at us a few times and we blew ours back in response to bid Mexico fairwell.
Again, Mexico was enjoyable and I would definitely visit Puerto Vallarta again. We will swim with dolphins again some day and if we were to take the same itinerary another time, I would skip city tours and shopping in exchange for beach days with snorkeling or parasailing.
Our biggest complaint over the entire cruise was the unfortunate occasional presence of a sewage smell over parts of the ship that made it uncomfortable to bear. I noticed this especially on Deck 4 outside of the dining room at times and I heard it was also on Deck 8 as well. One morning we even woke up to find the smell wafting into our room through our air vent. A quick call to the pursers desk and a promise to get maintenance out resolved that, as when we got back to our room later it was gone. It was still not pleasant to smell though and I hope that Royal Caribbean can remedy this situation quickly.
In the end, my original assumptions were partially correct. Traveling to LA was a breeze and the 3 days at sea were wonderful. Halloween was also not a disappointment like I've heard it was for some other cruisers on some other lines. I has surprised myself at the end of the cruise though, when I admitted that I enjoyed the larger Voyager class of ships over the Vision. I found that as touristy as it feels, the atmosphere of the larger ships with specialty restaurants and large promenade shopping mall made something of my vacation that I missed a little this week. But overall, I was very please with this cruise and had a lot of fun. There were a few things that I wished could have been different, but we did not at all regret taking the cruise or traveling on the Vision.