Vision of the Seas, March 4, 2007 to March 11, 2007.
My wife and I drove from the Phoenix area to LA San Pedro and parked at the pier ($12.00 per day to park). The drive took 5½ hrs and allowed us to avoid the security hassle at the Phoenix and LA airports. Considering the drive time to the Phoenix airport, time needed for check-in and security hassle in Phoenix, luggage pick up in LA and transfer to the pier; the time involved was about the same.
We arrived at about 11:00am, checked our luggage at the pier and proceeded to check-in. The check-in procedure took about 5 minutes and we proceeded to the waiting area. We waited in the priority lounge with our Platinum Crown and Anchor status. They served pastries and juice in the lounge. At about noon boarding began and we proceeded through security and let the photographer take our pictures as we boarded. We then went to the Windjammer for a light lunch and explored the ship.
We ate at the Windjammer most days for breakfast and lunch. We ate at the Aquarius dining room every day for dinner and on two days for breakfast and lunch. The food was very good and the selection was adequate. I'd compare the food to an upscale Olive Garden. We were assigned 6 superb table mates and we enjoyed excellent conversation every evening. Overall we found the ship to be very clean and the crew to be very attentive to our needs. We had a great cabin attendant as well as an excellent waiter and assistant waiter. We really enjoyed the afternoon show given by the magician. After performing some magic tricks he went through them slowly and showed us how they were done.
The weather for the cruise was (to quote the captain) "sunny, sunny, sunny". The only cloudy day was the last day sailing back to LA, which was a sea day. We stopped at Cabo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed Puerto Vallarta the best and found the shopping to be best in Puerto Vallarta. In Cabo we had planned to take a glass bottom boat to lands end, but we had such a good view of lands end as we came into the harbor that we changed plans and just wondered around the small town doing some shopping. We also saw several whales just before entering the harbor at Cabo.
The only negative was the departure process. Homeland security has done irrevocable harm to the airline industry and appears intent on crippling the cruise industry as well. We signed up for express departure and arrived at deck 4 with our luggage as instructed. We were scheduled to leave "before 8:00am". The ship arrived in port at 7:00am. We saw the homeland security people come on board at about 7:15am. At about 8:00am the ship was cleared (enough time for the bureaucrats to have a free breakfast and a few cups of coffee before putting their chops on whatever paperwork they required). About 20 minutes later the departure process started and we were off the ship at about 8:40am. Then we proceeded to another line to pass through customs and have our documents checked.
While standing in one line or another for more than 1½ hrs I couldn't help but remember our Mediterranean cruise two years ago. We got off the ship in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. We were never hassled by the authorities like here. The most thorough checks were done when we came back to Barcelona. However, the Spanish authorities boarded the ship well ahead of docking. Three officials checked our documents thoroughly and cleared the passengers before the ship ever arrived in port. US officials could easily board a ship well before arrival and make the security check less of a hassle for US citizens and visitors alike with no sacrifice in thoroughness.
Last year on another set of cruises, we got off the ship in England, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Finland, Russia, and Estonia. Again we were never hassled like here in the USA. It made me feel that it is easier for an illegal alien to get into the country than for a US citizen to reenter the country with a valid passport.