Vision of the Seas Cruise Review by Love Boat Dream: Fantastic Trip, Bland Ship
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Fantastic Trip, Bland Ship
Traveling: 2 women in early 50's. Old friends. One coming from NY area, other from FL.
This was my 33 cruise. My buddy had only been on one other, and that was RCI.
Although, I am Elite on Princess, I am just Gold on RCI. I missed my elite perks, but I tried not to let it color my cruise.
I think there is no such thing as a BAD cruise. Although we had an enjoyable time, this cruise rates near the bottom of all of the cruises I have been on. Not, bad but bland and lackluster.
The ship was not so much a Vision of the Seas, but a Vision of the past! From the moment I stepped aboard, it shouted "OLD" to me. The ship was clean and not shabby but the decor was very outdated. It is slated for a much needed refurb soon.
It is a small ship, and that was in it's favor for getting around. But, the public rooms were very small. Especially the boutique area.
The food and menus were uninspired. Formal dinners were certainly not special. More (No lobster!) and RCI has discontinued the baked Alaska's awhile ago because of a law suit. Food was ok to eat, but not irresistible. Best part of the meals was the bread!
We had late seating and we really enjoyed our table mates. That was great because the service was so slow each night and we had a lot of time to talk! We did enjoy our waiter Luis from Peru and our assistant waiter, Eder, from Brazil was adorable with his huge smile!
The buffet got good reviews but I didn't go there for dinner. For breakfast and lunch, I thought the set up was too spread out. I didn't like to be at the main part of the buffet as soon as I entered the Windjammer. I prefer to find a seat and put my belongings down. I know the Princess buffets have had a lot of complaints on the boards but I prefer their set up.
Activities: I've never seen a ship with so few. Even on the one sea day, there was little to do. No wine tasting, culinary tour, champagne waterfall, only one midnight buffet. Lectures about the Baltics would have been great. There was a little trivia and an evening game show.
Entertainment: OK, but not spectacular. Of course, the dancers and singers work so hard to entertain but the material was just bland.
I did like the CD, Marc. He worked very hard to keep everyone happy.
Out of 2,000 passengers, there were 500 passengers from the US, 250 from Mexico, about 100 each from the UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway and the rest were from 40 something other countries. The shows were sparsely attended, maybe because of language? It was nice not to have to get there extra early to get a seat!
Formal nights: this was the most casual formal night set I've ever seen. And, with this itinerary, I think one formal night would have been better than 2. Less
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Cabin review: D17094
Our beds were really long and didn't seem to fit in the space. Hard to walk around them.
Port and Shore Excursions
The old town of Gdansk is a medieval masterpiece. An excellent place for amber.
There were several amber vendors set up on the pier as well.
We walked through the open air market that featured delicious fruits and vegetable and also upscale crafts. Our delicious lunch was at Havis, a seafood restaurant near the market. This meal was excellent!
Next stop was the indoor foodhall.
We walked up to the Finnish Orthodox church. Amazing building and fantastic view. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Orthodox_Church
Walked through Senate Square and popped in and out of shops.
The Marimekko flagship store was nearby as well.
I took the ship's shuttle ($4) back to the pier.
There is good shopping right at the dock. Prices comparable to town. Also you can get your global tax refund (like VAT) there.
Took ship shuttle to old city area ($4) Stop was right by the Museum of Occupation. Right behind the museum is the tourist office in the Blackheads building. Around the corner (look for the yellow umbrella) is a walking tour company.
Our ship excursion (Jewish Riga) was canceled so we took a guided Jewish tour with this company instead.
The old town is very charming. Lots of outdoor vendors. Amber here is inexpensive. You don't know if it is real from the carts but it is inexpensive so it may not matter.
On the ship, we were told that there are 3 ways to tell it is real amber. None are practical when you are shopping. One is to take a hot needle and pierce the amber. If it has a "piney" smell, it is real. Another is to immerse in salt water and it will float. The other is to put it in a freezer and it won't change temperature. They tell you this to try to get you to buy the amber on the ship instead because it comes with a certificate. In my opinion, the Valerio amber on the ship was not that nice.
In Riga, we walked though a HUGE market that was outdoor, but also had hangars full of stalls. We were told that Hitler used to keep his loot in these hangars!
We saw the foundations of a synagogue that had been burned down with 300 people inside! We also saw a new and beautiful synagogue.
The Art Deco area of the city was exquisite! Don't miss going there!
We walked back to the ship from town after. It isn't that far, but it is a long way to the opening in the gate!
I highly recommend getting a private guide here. You can only disembark if you have your own visa, are on a ship tour or with an authorized guide. Problem with the ship tour is that you have to go back to the ship right after the tour. There is an evening tour to the ballet as well. There was a Russian Folklore show brought on board that people enjoyed, but we didn't see it.
We used Best Guides email@example.com
We were looking for a Jewish themed tour. This was our itinerary
8.00-9.30 first drive around the city to give you the first impression of it
9.30-11.30 Hermitage museum. Early admission (I highly recommend early admission here! It gets packed and very hot!)
11.30-12.00 hydrofoil to Peterhof
12.00-13.30 Walk around the famous park with fountains, visit to Monplesir, a small palace on the grounds. (Peterhof was GORGEOUS!)
13.30-16.00 drive back to the city. Matroyshka doll master class on the way. We painted our own nesting dolls.
16.00-16.50 The Russian Museum of Ethnography. An exhibition "History and culture of the Jewish people on the territory of Russia" Well worth a visit!
17.20-17.40 visit to Synagogue
dinner at “Hutor Vodogray” – restaurant with Ukraine and South Russia traditions. DELICIOUS!
Evening program - ballet “Swan Lake” in Alexandrinsky Theater
We both loved St Petersburg! So much to see in so little time! We bought lacquer boxes and Matrouschkas (nesting dolls)
Note: do not buy amber here! Too expensive!
Ate at M/S Gerdes, a lovely restaurant on a boat.
I recommend getting the Stockholm card. We used it to get into attractions and transportation. We took the "Under the Bridges" boat tour. It was ok, but in the future I would have stuck with one of the boat tours covered on the Stockholm card. We went to the Palace, to Gamla Stan (old city) Skansen and the Vasa museum (don't miss this!)
Stockholm is magical!
We shared a cab to the pier with a couple staying in the same hotel. Embarkation at 2 pm was easy. We were in our cabin by 2:30.
We had a mixed day in Visby. The weather was awful and I don't think we should have been allowed to go ashore by tender. We did get our tender tickets at 9:30 and it took 2 hours for our number to be called.
We had umbrellas and ponchos and set off in the rain to explore. After a couple of hours, we had enough of being wet, so we headed back to the tender dock. There we were told that the tenders had been suspended since noon and they didn't know when they would be running again. The swells were just too high. We went back and forth a few times. The rain got heavier and it got colder. The only shelter at the pier was a tent with no sides. Shops closed at 4 so many of us camped out at bakeries and restaurants. One tour group was allowed to stay on their bus. Finally, at 5 they started running again and hundreds of people waited on line (some for hours) It was not a pleasant experience!
i would like to visit Visby again though in the sunshine because it is a beautiful town!