This was our 4th cruise, first on Royal Caribbean. There were 4 of us, me, my husband and 2 sons ages 13 & 20. We had booked our own airfare and shuttle - and except for a little hiccup on the pre-payment for the shuttle, we had no trouble from LAX to San Pedro. (Funny coincidences began at the Sacto long term parking. Struck up a conversation with a couple, who were not only on our plane, but on our ship as well. Ran into them again waiting for the same shuttle service we had booked at LAX.)
Embarkation: We got to the terminal a little before 12:00. There was a line of people with luggage waiting for porters. It's a good thing we asked questions as the porters were not being assigned in the order of the line, but was just helping whoever asked first. Short line at the check-in then down to the waiting area. My husband has a broken back so the cruise line did not make him stand too long, we were able to get on board fairly quickly - about 1:00.
Ship: The Vision is a beautiful ship. There were signs of age, wear and tear, but more signs of it being cared for - fresh paint, very clean. We found some of the public areas a little on the gaudy side, but not unpleasantly so and much less than the Carnival ship we had cruised on. The Centrium is very beautiful. Pools were inviting. Really liked the solarium pool. That area was relaxing, quiet and warm.
Meet & Mingle: Another coincidence - the couple we met in Sacto airport were Cruise Critics. And they met their neighbors on the ship, who they didn't know were going to be there. Good turnout, but I was late. Sorry everyone.Dining: The dining room experience did not meet our expectations. The food was just so-so. There was nothing served at any meal that was so wonderful I couldn't wait to eat it again. The morning coffee was good. Our wait staff were pleasant and efficient. The head waiter was wonderfully entertaining. We were extremely disappointed with our table. We asked for a table for 10, but the first night, there were only two others. (Another one of the coincidences - they were Cruise Critics and very nice people.) Apparently, they moved to main seating as the second night they weren't there and a couple with a young daughter were at the table. That was the last night we had table mates. We talked with the head waiter about wanting a larger table, but all he would offer was another table in the same waiter's section, but only on nights when some of that table was not there (he only had two tables and the other was a table was only 1/2 full most nights). Must admit that we did not force the issue as we felt sorry for our server and he tried so hard to please.
Buffet: Also found this disappointing. Food again was edible. The arrangement was strange, so that the food was in several different locations and seemed to encourage disorganization of the diners. My kids really missed the fruit punch that we had come to expect on cruise ships. The coffee was awful in the buffet, never did finish a morning cup except in the dining room.
Ports: 2nd time in all of them and just did the shopping tourist thing in Cabo and Mazatlan. Took the beach break excursion in PV. Beautiful resort, lightly heated pools - just enough to take the chill off. Lovely beach and warm ocean water. The food at the lunch buffet was much better than the ship's buffet food. Comfortable buses back and forth from the ship. Well worth the money.Activities: My husband felt that there were not enough activities, but I thought there were, they were just timed wrong. Kind of like TV, it seemed that sometimes there was nothing to do, and at others everything we wanted to do was on at the same time. For example, I had to miss the midnight buffet in order to attend the adult comedy. But we enjoyed all the activities in which we participated. The shows were very nice for the most part. One vocal imitator/comedian was pretty bad, was actually booed during the cruise review at the goodbye show, but I would see the rest again. Didn't catch the name of the black Royal Caribbean male singer, but he was a phenomenal vocalist. The orchestra was great. Our 13 yo did not want to do the kid activities and the 20 yo had trouble finding singles his age, so we did a lot of family activities and had no trouble staying entertained whenever we wished. One suggestion to the activities staff - remember the people to left and right near the stage in various venues, they can't see if you move too far away from the stage and play only for the people directly in front.
Cabin: Smallest oceanview we've had, but was laid out well, clean and cozy. Not enough hangers for 4 people, but was expecting this and brought extra. Plenty of drawer space even for 4 people. The air conditioning was spotty, going from stuffy and hot to overly cool. I don't think it worked while we were in port. I don't think they consider some people have to lay down in the cabin sometimes even on port days. There was brand new comfortable bedding. I don't usually sleep well away from home, but I did on that bed with that bedding. Our stateroom attendant was exactly what she should be, quiet, pleasant and efficient.
Debarkation: Slow, but isn't it always. But I really hate the way I feel discarded by a ship as soon as we're out of the cabin. We had to sit and wait for 3 1/2 hours with nothing to do, nothing to drink. They should have TV screens in the waiting areas with at least water to drink. Another coincidence - met our Sacto friends at LAX, they were on our flight again. And met more fellow cruise passengers on the parking lot shuttle in Sacto, plus another family who had been on the Vision over Thanksgiving.
Overall: Would do the Vision of the Seas again, but if the Vision and the Mercury were both doing a similar itinerary for a similar price, would have to choose the Mercury.