Vision of the Seas Cruise Review by shtexas: Baltic Speedpass
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We pick cruises based upon the destination and the ports. This cruise included Oslo, Copenhagen, Riga, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. This was only a seven night cruise and it included 6 countries. No other cruise line offered this same itinerary. Even RCI offered it only once (our cruise in July 2011). We also liked the "one way" nature of the cruise so we could arrive early in Oslo and stay later in Stockholm.
We had never cruised with RCI, lately NCL and Regent. So, we had an Owners' Suite which are the largest 8 suites on the ship (except for the one Royal Suite).
We stayed two nights in Oslo prior to leaving on the cruise. We stayed at the Thon Hotel by the Opera House. This Thon hotel is right next to the train station so was more convenient for airport transportation rather than convenient to the port. The RCI port in Oslo is not far from the main tourist area and downtown but the cab ride was still about 300 kroners.
As a suiteholder, we More had access to a speed-line that basically let us cut in front of all other passengers. The check-in was simple and quick and then we took off for our cabin --- no one escorted us to our cabin, offered us drinks, etc., just "go and we'll see you later".
The cabin was very nice and very comparable to the same class of suite on NCL. Kingsize bed which could be separated from the sitting area, nice jetted tub and separate free-standing shower, 2 sinks, 2 TV's and a very large balcony with 2 cushioned recliners.
There was no directly-assigned concierge or butler. When you would call the "special" extension for suite services, you would get various people in Guest Services dept.-- much different from NCL.
For suiteholders, there was free wine and champagne every night in one of the lounges (a come as you want 3 hour designated area). Very nice touch. Also, you had special balcony seating for the shows, however, no one ever checked our cards. One show was completely full and so was our section with non-suite holders.
We bought the pre-paid "My Time Dining" which included prepaying gratuities. This seemed to have no bearing on the service, which was wonderful. However, they seat you in the same general area each night (and try to seat you at the same table) so you have the same staff serving you each night. Because of that, they preferred to know when we planned to arrive each night so it wasn't really my time "just show-up at the door at some random time" dining. The food was great. There was always a steak, grilled chicken or fish on the "everyday" menu but each night there were about 5-6 choices for main entree, starters and desserts. We always ate dinner in the main dining room.
For breakfast, we ate in the main dining room three times (in a separate section for suiteholder where we also had menu service). The other mornings we had room service. For room service, we ordered breakfast items from the regular menu (not the room service card). Room service always arrived exactly when we noted on our card. When we needed other snacks, etc, we ate from the buffet which seemed to be always crowded and chaotic.
Entertainment - The regular ship singers and dancers were ordinary. The special guest entertainers were different. One was a "tennis juggler". Besides being one of the best jugglers that I have ever seen, he juggled tennis rackets too (hence the name). The other unique one was a unicyclist. He was excellent as a cyclist but unfortunately he tried to talk too much instead of sticking to his talent. Overall, I'd rate the shows "average". However, the cruise director was a female (and hot).
On days at sea, the fitness center was crammed. They had 2 pools, one indoor and one outdoor. Both were nice and depending upon the weather were well used. We were not traveling with kids so can't comment on other activities but shuffle board and ping pong appeared to be popular.
On day of departure, we were assigned a waiting area in one of the lounges. Once we got there, they said our bags were on the dock and we could leave. In Stockholm, there was no passport control or anything. We were at our Stockholm hotel by 9:00.
Overall, we had a great cruise. The ports were fantastic and the itinerary perfect. Less
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Cabin review: OS8004
8004 - Very large suite. Nice balcony with padded chairs. Bathroom is large with 2 sinks, a jetted tub and separate shower. Room has 2 TV's but didn't get ESPN. DVD player and free movies to check-out. Well positioned near the front of the ship. Very quiet.
Port and Shore Excursions
The weather wasn't very nice on this day but a sunny day would have made everything more enjoyable.
However, our tour guide was great. We absolutely zipped thru the Hermitage and saw all of the "famous" pieces. We did not linger or stroll, we marched thru the museum with a purpose! Lunch was in a nice Russian restaurant but took about 1 and 1/2 hours which was too long. The afternoon was spent seeing the other main sites in the city. Our tour did well to get us to all sites and they let you off the bus for pictures (but not to go inside anything). The rest of the time is spent in traffic jams.
Once the tour ended, you get dropped off at the ship. Even though our ship did not leave port until 11:00, you can not leave the ship. A Russian folk dancing group provided the on-ship entertainment for the one show that night.
In the afternoon, we left Gamla Stan and walked directly thru the Parliament archway into the main city area. There is a lot of shopping as you head towards Sergels Torg. Once you hit the Tram (trolley) tracks take a right for more shopping/strolling as you head towards Nybroplan where many of the ferries and sightseeing boats are located.
Day 2 --- and if we had only one day, this may be Day 1 ---- we went to the Djurgarden area. We started at the Vasa Museum. The museum centers around a 17th century ship that sank in the harbor on its initial voyage. The ship has been dredged from the sea floor and restored. Very interesting. Then, we went to Skansen. Skansen is in a park-like setting with old homes, churches, shops and many kinds of animals. I suggest going to Vasa in the morning before about a 100 tour buses invade and then spend the afternoon at Skansen.
The fastest way to get to Djurgarden is to take the Tram from Sergels Torg or anywhere along its route. The tram has its own traffic lane right down the middle of the street. Buy tickets at any 7-11.
If going to the airport in Stockholm, take the Arlanda Express from the train station. Direct, fast and leaves every 15 minutes.