My wife and I had planned to go on this cruise in December 2006 to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel, but we were able to rebook for this cruise. We decided to go during spring break so that our seven year-old could join us.
We drove down from the Bay Area via a rental car, and stayed overnight at the Hyatt Long Beach. This hotel is within easy walking distance to the Long Beach Aquarium, an open-air mall, and several restaurants. We had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen with an old friend.
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, and hopped in a taxi for the fifteen minute ride to the cruise ship pier in San Pedro. We arrived at about 11:15, and a porter immediately took our luggage. We checked in and were onboard shortly after 12:00. Because our staterooms were not available, we went to the Windjammer for lunch.
ISSUE #1 The shower dripped, and my wife noticed that the carpeting on her side of the bed, adjacent to the shower area, was wet. In fact it was soaking wet. We notified our stateroom attendant, who called the plumber and other maintenance personnel. The plumber fixed the shower leak, but the carpeting remained wet and a musty odor began to pervade throughout the cabin.
Monday morning at 9am, the staff put in an industrial-strength blower to dry the carpet. This produced a loud noise and continued non-stop until Tuesday evening at 7pm, when the carpet was finally dry. We were told that the carpeting had been replaced, but I saw no evidence of this. Monday evening we were offered another stateroom where we could sleep and use until the carpet issue was fixed. It was much smaller than our accessible room, and the rollaway bed was squeezed in between the twin beds. We slept there Monday night.
ISSUE #2 My daughter has cerebral palsy and is unable to climb a ladder to a Pullman bed. I had requested accessible stateroom 2102 because the RCI brochure and website indicate that it has a sofa bed. To our dismay we found that it had no sofa bed, but two Pullmans. When we showed the brochure to our stateroom attendant, at first she didn't know what to do. Eventually the staff provided a rollaway bed, which I was able to squeeze into a corner by moving the love seat and chair.
ISSUE #3 The bathroom had not been cleaned -- the shower was wet and the toilet was filthy. We notified housekeeping, and this was promptly taken care of.
ISSUE #4 Our stateroom was never cleaned Monday during the day. When I called housekeeping at 2:00 pm, I was told that our attendant was off duty and would not be back on until 5:30. At 2:30 I complained to guest services. At 4:30 housekeeping called and offered to have our stateroom made up. It was, however, too late, as we were showering and getting dressed for the formal night. We did receive turn-down service Monday evening.
We received $150 onboard credit to compensate for the carpeting issue. For the missing sofa bed, RCI offered to refund $250 of our cruise price, or give us $499 credit toward a future cruise within the next two years. We chose the latter. I was somewhat surprised by RCI's value of our stateroom problems. The carpeting issue affected our cruise experience much more than the missing sofa bed. At any rate we considered that the combined $659 adequately compensated us for the two issues.
We had dinner each night in the dining room. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent, and always saw to our needs. The head waiter came by each night to make sure everything ran smoothly. Other than the fact that the beef was occasionally overdone, the food was very good. We were seated at a table for nine, paired with a family of six that included two boys about the same age as my daughter. We enjoyed their company immensely -- this was the best pairing of our four cruises.
Most breakfasts and lunches we went to the Windjammer Cafe. The Windjammer had a good variety of choices. The hot food was not as hot as it could be. Overall the service was polite and efficient, but not intrusive.
My wife participated in the various trivia games. While the prizes were kind of cheap, she enjoyed meeting other people with similar interests. I tried the rock climbing wall the first two days, and was able to reach the top one time. However I kept losing my grip on the rock handles. Wish that gloves or chalk were available to strengthen the grip.
The guest performers were all very good. Our cruise featured two comedians, a ventriloquist, a singer, and a magician. The RCI production numbers were okay. It seemed that they just threw together snippets from various songs, whereas I would prefer a show that tells more of a story. Perhaps instead of a show that tries to cram all of Broadway into forty minutes, they could have focused on Andrew Lloyd Webber.
My daughter enrolled in the kids program the first day. Royal Caribbean divides the kids into five age groups, so she was with 6-8 year olds. Typically my daughter we attend during the morning, then joined us for lunch and took a nap in the afternoon, then returned for evening activities. The Adventure Ocean staff were professional and friendly. We asked them to let my daughter wear her shoes and braces, which help her to balance, and they said no problem.
One word of advice. If you're planning to leave your child after 10:00, let them know. One evening we didn't pick her up until close to midnight, and she had wanted to go back to the stateroom for over an hour. The next time, we made sure to tell her that we would be by about 11:30, and she had no problem.
I was told that there were 600 junior cruisers sailing on our Spring Break cruise. The children were mostly well behaved, and we never had to deal with rowdy teenagers or other issues that I've read about.
PORTS OF CALL At Cabo San Lucas we stayed on the ship. I spent the morning reading a book from the library in a near-empty Solarium. In the afternoon I took my daughter for a swim in the main pool -- again we had the pool mostly to ourselves. Our dinner companions did the zipline shore excursion and enjoyed it.
In Mazatlan we took a taxi to the Gold Zone for some shopping and dining by the beach.
In Puerto Vallarta, we left my daughter in Adventure Ocean and walked to the Krystall Hotel for lunch and a couple's massage that we had learned about from Cruise Critic posters. The setting was ideal -- in a straw tent where we could hear the rolling waves and the seabirds chirp. For two 75-minute full-body massages, we paid 60% of the cost of what one 60-minute massage would cost onboard the ship. The experience was pure bliss.
In spite of the difficulties we encountered with our stateroom for 2 1/2 days, we were able to setting down and enjoy the rest of our cruise. This is the third time we've been on a Vision Class ship, and while there's always been plenty to do, we're ready to move on to a different class. Mariner of the Seas will be cruising this itinerary in 2009, so we might move up to the Voyager class. Otherwise we'll look for a Radiance-class ship.