We booked this cruise at the last minute based on price and itinerary. We have done several European cruises and have hit the usual spots, so this was perfect for us since all the ports are rarely visited by any cruise lines. We always book a balcony, but this time we opted for a Grand Suite. It is still one room, but is twice the size of a regular balcony.
We also booked the next cruise (back to back) from Southampton to Copenhagen (4 days).
We stayed 2 nights in Lisbon at the Tivoli Lisboa, which turned out to be a great choice. This nicest part was the lovely secluded pool and gardens behind the hotel...a real oasis!!
The Vision of the Seas is an older boat, and so lacks the megaship things like multiple pay restaurants, ice rinks etc. However, it is well maintained and as long as you don't crave all the extras then it does the trick. There is just the main dining room (2 levels) and the buffet for dining. We chose anytime dining which is served on the top starboard side of the dining room. They are very accommodating and will try to get you the same table, and waiter each night. We found the service and quality of food pretty good. Special thanks to Savio, Arthur and Vijay who really added to our dinner experience. Also Effey the head waiter was great and efficient. Oddly enough there were a couple of nights where the menu was sort of dull, and yet the buffet (Windjammer) had much better options (e.g. lamb shank)...not sure why that was?
Being in a suite we had access to the "Diamond Lounge" event from 5:30 to 8:30 each night in the Viking Crown Lounge (on larger ships I believe they have a concierge lounge which offers a complete open bar and appetizers). This was great since you get the best seat in the house, free wine/beer, and a chance to meet other cruisers. Since the ship was only about 2/3 full there was lots of room and great service. The bartender Gilberto Smith was the best, and Isabella the waitress was perfect...we miss them both! The free wine was great since drinks are verrrry expensive on the ship, and RCL will not let you bring ANY wine on board (unlike most other cruise lines). RCL should lighten up on the wine at least and allow you to bring a couple of bottles on board - or lower their prices. We did buy a wine package before we sailed that worked out to about $35 per bottle (Platinum package).
As I mentioned, this cruise was pretty cheap. However there were several instances where it was obvious that RCL was doing their best to boost revenues any way they could. One instance was charging passengers for transfers from the ports (which are mostly industrial)....there was no choice, so a lot of people were upset about that. I realize that these sorts of cruises are a great deal overall, but maybe RCL should think about raising the base cost a bit to avoid leaving staff and customers in an awkward situation.
The last 4 days from Southampton to Copenhagen was sold out, and a lot of the crew from Brazil seemed to leave. Needless to say, things did not go smoothly at all, and I felt really sorry for waiters and bartenders who felt the wrath of the new cruisers. If this had been the only cruise we did I doubt we would have ever gone on RCL again. Hopefully they have worked out the kinks by now.
Entertainment was predictable. We really enjoy listening to live music in the lounges, by the pool etc. They had a great Reggae band but they had a hard time with the weather by the pool...it was usually chilly once the ship left port. The other music was a bit of a letdown - there HAVE to be lots of really talented musicians out there????
Overall we had a great time, and although the problems on the last 4 days were unfortunate they did not spoil our vacation by any means.