I was on the same cruise as Carpecruisin and am sorry that a good time was not had by all, but would like to add my review of this very same cruise.
To start off, I would like to say that in Aug 2008 and May 2009 we took 2 wonderful cruises aboard RCI’s ‘biggest and best’ liner (at this very moment) The Independence of the Seas.
Being relatively new to this cruising lark, (since 2007) but now fully addicted, we have now racked up all of an impressive 4 cruises – so it is early days for us to be gauging lines and ships. The Indy had proved herself to be absolutely delightful and therefore, having experienced the crème de la crème from RCI, it was with trepidation that I finally booked a trip on the Vision of the Seas, the itinerary being a 5 night cruise from Copenhagen to Bergen and Gerainger in Norway.
I was also a little hesitant due to the cost…..it was cheap……….would that mean nasty? We opted for an inside cabin, (large, allocated on deck 3) paying £280 per person (ex grats). This worked out around £56 each per day and represented extremely good value for money.….lets be honest a good meal in a decent restaurant could come to that price, so would there be a catch?
The day before the cruise we arrived in Copenhagen and stayed overnight at the Bethel Hotel on the Nyhavn. Copenhagen is very expensive we soon realised (although having done research, I knew it would be) and so we were eager to get onboard and sup reasonably priced Cappuccinos and feast at the Windjammer.
On arrival at the Cruise Terminal by taxi our bags were whisked out of the boot (trunk) and taken away by enthusiastic staff before the car door was open, we then joined the shortish queue for ‘security and check-in’ at the RCI marquee. The system for processing passengers seemed a little odd, but the lines were moving quickly. Firstly, we were processed through security screening, then completed the ‘form that declared we were free from swine flu and bubonic plague’ and then onwards to the seating / holding area. An officious English lady (with a very clipped accent) was in charge here and took great care and joy in herding passengers to seats; whilst distributing small numbered tickets. Upon calling the number out, that group was let loose to join yet another queue for ‘check-in’.
Passengers were arriving thick and fast, but the 20 mins in line were no hassle and all part of the enjoyment of ‘people watching’. Soon we were at the desk and our Seapass issued.
All aboard – first impressions were very good – we had a quick tour around and were very pleased to see that the Vision was not the dishevelled or tatty rust-bucket as imagined! It was elegant, bright and had a nice ambience. The carpets were clean and fresh (and looked new), the brass was gleaming, the vast windows and atrium area very pleasant. A big relief.
Windjammer – having experienced RCI’s brand, we kind of knew what to expect at the Windjammer. We thought it would be busy and geared ourselves up for a crush. Indeed it was quite busy, but not awful. The food quality, freshness and variety was very good indeed. The only flaws of note were the layout in a few areas. One bottleneck was the main food island; one side being very narrow, so no over-taking here or back-tracking! The desert island, (section) seemed silly with one way in and no way out once a queue had blocked the gangway! But hey, these were quibbles and no big deal.
Cabin – Ok, so we took the cheap option, but I studied the deck plans and wanted to make sure there was no noisy disco above or below! Our cabin was mid-deck (although I would have liked aft) and even by day 5 I still had trouble navigating, but do get confused easily. Our stateroom attendant was very nice and hopefully we were not too messy either! The bed was comfortable –albeit 2 singles pushed together with a topper. The bathroom was small as expected, but nice and clean. Only soap and shampoo supplied via a wall dispenser are available. Towels were changed daily if that is your preference, and plenty of them. With no natural light, it was a little claustrophobic at times, but we didn’t spend much time languishing in the cabin!
Dinner – Having opted for ‘My Time Dining’ and having done this before, I knew there would be some negotiation to get the dining time preferred. Although RCI offer this wonderful service, there is a catch – it can be ‘My Time Dining’ BUT you need to call or visit the MTD desk (as soon as possible upon embarkation) and secure your time – so making a reservation after all…….. ? I called the allocated service number and was offered 18h30 – the 19h15 time I would like to have called ‘My Time Dining’ time, was not available. I was disappointed with this and did say so and also added that maybe this could change after the first evening. So up to the Aquarius restaurant we merrily went just after 18h30.
However, on the 2nd and subsequent evenings, we were rebellious and just turned up at anytime to suit! Oh the cheek of it – like naughty school children. However the Matre’d smiled graciously and said it was ok, but if they had no suitable tables to offer, we would have to come back. This was never the case!
Lunch – on sea days the restaurant offers lunch at their ‘Bistro 30’ venue – ok, so it’s deck 4 dining room! We loved this – they offer a 2 course lunch and / or a salad bar. I love salad bars and especially this service as they mix up a variety of offerings including, prawns, chicken, bacon, prosciutto eggs etc, if you so wish with your salad and chosen dressing. Absolutely wonderful and highly recommended.
Entertainment – each day the Cruise Compass highlights a variety of offerings from Bingo to Art Auctions. Matt Sole was the Cruise Director on the Vision and we felt he was very enthusiastic. I was impressed by all of the staff actually, there were some 40 nationalities onboard and so translation and announcements were in numerous languages and most of the staff had a good command of maybe 2 or 3 languages.
The in-house cabaret staff made a very good effort at all of the performance shows in the Masquerade Theatre. Granted, it was not West End class performances, but very enjoyable. (saying that, the band/musicians onboard were fab). We also had an Australian magician and his lovely assistant and whilst not quite Paul Daniels and Debbie Magee, it was watchable. The Soul Sensation band were terrific – and actually we saw them on the Indy last year – so they must do the rounds! There was a variety juggling act that went on for about 15 too long, but again, to give him his due, he was impressive.
We also went up to the Disco one night where a themed 70’s party was in full swing. On another night a ‘White Party’ was hosted in the solarium where a steel band played and to our amazement a vast array of food surrounded by impressive ice-sculptures, fruit carving and other wondrous foody stuff was laid out! You could gorge on all of that just after your 5 course meal – amazing!!!
Other areas and facilities – As mentioned before, this ship was well maintained, the restrooms always clean and stocked; the walkways tidy and the seating areas very impressive. The bars and lounges and atrium had plenty of seating – so you can watch the world go by or peacefully read if you want to.
Shops onboard – there are no windows in the ‘shopping Centrum’ and so this area feels a bit gloomy and maze-like. However, there were the usual goods to tempt – branded clothing and apparel; daily offers - Bijoux Terner and the like, gifts and knick-knacks! Also stocked are medicines and necessities. Jewellery – ranging from reasonable up to branded and expensive is all on offer. Duty free perfumes and makeup is limited, so don’t bank on your fave perfume being available. However, alcohol and ciggies were stocked in abundance! This is where you can pick up your bargains!
Casino – this is one of my fave haunts and this casino pretty big and had a ncie feel to it, if you like casinos that is! I understand that some people never step foot inside, but I like a little flutter. Lady luck was on my side this trip, as I won a small progressive jackpot AND a Bingo game to boot. The casino was nicely laid out and had bar service. Most nights they gave away raffle tickets for prizes and one night a glass of champagne was offered to lure in the punters!
Pools/Solarium – I didn’t manage a dip this time around. However, the outside pools looked smallish but nice and there is an inside solarium area which is covered, with Jacuzzis also. Neither of the pools seemed to get packed, but this was probably due to the weather and I would imagine that if the Vision were sailing in warmer climes, the pool would be crowded!
I didn’t step foot in the gym or use the spa or partake in rock-climbing, but that is on offer too!
Staff and service – I didn’t encounter one rude member of staff and mostly always when passing a staff member (of any rank or role) we received a ‘hello’ or smile. I didn’t get the impression that staff were falsely cheerful. We opted to pay our gratuities in advance – as this option suits us well and the cost is then factored in avoiding extra payments. I appreciate that not all folks agree on this method and the tipping debate is hot, hot hot! However, we felt the tips awarded were duly earned.
As mentioned before, the entertainment ‘team’ running the activities were very helpful, happy and enthusiastic. I was in awe of some staff who seemed to fluently speak many languages effortlessly.
Shore Excursions –
Bergen – we chose to do our own thing and meandered around the Bryggen. On foot from the ship it was around a 7 minute stroll to the heart of Bergen. It was drizzling, so not the greatest day to see this nice little town. We headed into the fish market which is nice to have a look around. However, be aware that RCI don’t allow any fish products to be brought back onboard – and they state this in the Cruise Compass. What a shame – I was going to bring some kippers back – surely 5 days in a plastic bag would do no harm! ?
We then took the funicular railway to Mount Fløyen. Costing around 70Nkr return, this was a good value little trip up to a viewing platform overlooking the harbour and surrounding area and mountainside. We were lucky to have chosen the one hour that day when the sun peeked through the clouds, as upon departing, the heavens opened.
Gerainger – I can tell you that this Fjord town was worth the price of the whole cruise itself – the gem of the trip. I literally came out on deck open-mouthed in awe at the scenery and landscape surrounding us.
We had opted to take the tour up to Mt Dalsnibba (150 MOH) by coach. This was arranged via RCI. The cost was $50:00 pp – for a trip lasting just shy of 3 hours and it was worth every cent!
Just so you know, I looked on the local tourist site for Gerainger and could not easily find any tour company offering this trip – although I did find a bus timetable. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance on this one and so booked via the Excursions desk onboard.
To reach Dalsnibba, it takes about an hour trundling along the Gerainger road – closed October through to June due to the snowfall. After 71 hair-pin bends and after some awesome scenery, you reach the peak. The view was breathtaking even though it was damp and cloudy. Take warm clothes and wear closed shoes or trainers and it is slippery and cold up there!!!
Disembarkation - A doddle for us as we self carried our cases off after having a leisurely breakfast in the dining room at around 9am – a nice end to a great cruise!
So in summary –
The good – excellent value for money; staff helpful and friendly; ship clean tidy and well appointed. This ship is a manageable size and I envisage would appeal to those who don’t have to do the ‘biggest and flashiest’; good range of activities onboard; meals in the restaurant very nice and tasty - no complaints at all; Windjammer food varied and appetising; room service good (although only had the cold items and coffee); stateroom attendant very courteous and attentive; Staff – those we met were great, no miserable faces. To be honest, we make our holiday/cruise ourselves. Whilst nice friendly staff enhance the experience; it doesn’t ruin my day if I don’t get a smile – I would hate to do some of those jobs!
The bad : nothing awful of note – just niggles. No mint leaves at any of the bars for Mojito cocktails – so I got my own from the restaurant each night! ? Issue with ‘mini bar’ item added to the bill; which took longer than anticipated to resolve. Next time, I am having all of the mini-bar cleared by the S/Attendant on arrival as I don’t take the water or cans on offer. Upon booking (self via RCI site) I noted that we were celebrating our Anniversary whilst on board. During the cruise many tables were sung to for anniversaries, birthdays etc, but nothing for us. I probably would have been embarrassed about the fuss, but nevertheless, was a tad disappointed. If you intend to observe a celebration I would suggest you tell the Matre’d. Bergen – getting back onboard mid-afternoon, was not a great experience. The queue of passengers waiting to board was very long as I guess everyone had the same idea at the same time! It was raining and there was no shelter; luckily we had a flimsy umbrella. Nearing the gangplank seemed to take ages and once onboard – after about 50 mins, we were dismayed to see only 2 staff members operating the machines – come on folks, 2 operators is not enough!
All in all, this cruise was excellent value for money. I would have loved this to have been a 7 nighter with one more Norway port added in, but hey, there is always another cruise, another day.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Vision of the Seas or this route, especially at this price!
Oh and about us – x2 42 year olds (travelling without our dear son who was away with Mum & Dad – thanks!).