My Darling Aunt had booked this cruise for us, as we both wanted to visit the Holy Land and it was a priority on my Bucket list. I also was keen on experiencing a Royal Caribbean Cruise myself as my Aunt had always told me how wonderful they are.
Since I have been in hotel management for some time I always go by the motto 'one gets what one pays for', and when our agent sold us the cruise at a bargain price I wasn't too expecting. I am also fairly easy to please, give me sunshine a pool and a breakfast buffet that serves a descent coffee and french toast and I am Happy!
We traveled to Istanbul 2 days before our embarkation and stayed at a Holiday Inn in Topkapi, which was conveniently enough located in front of the Tram line that takes you in minutes to Sultanahmet with the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque etc.
We embarked on Monday 26th of September and the Vision of the Seas set sail for Kusadasi on the 28th. The port in Istanbul is a mix of several old buildings and boarding is a simple and speedy procedure. Unlike ports like Barcelona, where most cruise lines have their designated pier, in Istanbul all cruise liners use the piers.We had booked an Inside cabin and we were allocated stateroom 2057, because I had pre requested a refrigerator this hrfad already been installed in our room and the beds were twinned.We had a most wondeul cabin steward named Marievic,who looked after us and pampered us with her genuine polite hospitality.On our walkabouts we found that the ship is clean and well maintained and all the public areas as well as the Masquerade Theater were very comfortable and spacious. The Windjammer Cafe on deck 9 is the casual dining option and the Aquarius dining room is the only restaurant on the ship, apart from a snack bar located in the solarium also on deck 9. We frequently ordered room service for our morning coffee which always came very punctual. Our dining time was set for 8.45 pm and we were allocated table 76 on the 4th floor of the Aquarius. Our waiters were Alejandro and Rafael who did their utmost best to satisfy needs, I can however not remember nor care to (I shall explain) the name of our 'Head Waiter'. As I mentioned earlier, I don't expect much for the low prices go for these days, so it came to no surprise to me that the food served in the Aquarius wasn't always as good as it could have been. This I believe had a lot to do with the execution and preparation of the dishes. The other guests on our table (as many of our neighbouring tables)who were seasoned cruisers did find the same faults as my Aunt and I did. For instance when one orders a steak (especially the filet Mignon which there is a surcharge of $14.95) Rare, then it shouldn't come to the table completely dry and done. I found no fault with the buffet Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner (the Aquarius serving many of the same dishes, with a few additions and of course the healthy options and the chef's recommendations). When my Aunt or one our fellow diners raised an issue (often they were severe issues) the aforementioned head waiter would appear with his walkie talkie in one hand and putting the other hand on the back of my Aunts chair, talking down to us and saying how sorry he was and that 'he will speak to the kitchen'. However never a word of apology nor even trying to rectify a problem. I found this most astonishing, if this were to happen in any other restaurant people would either just get up and leave or the Maitre'D would make sure the guests wee happy. It is of course also rather difficult since there are no alternative restaurants aboard this vessel.
When it came to tipping on the last night, we all made it quite clear that we were unhappy, we tipped everyone the exact amount suggested, but Not the Head Waiter, as he did nothing. We very much enjoyed the entertainment there was one stand out show with Viva Voce who were brilliant, a Musical performance, a fantastic modern String quartet which really brought the house down a one woman show and several other shows all were extremely well received. We only had booked one tour with the excursions desk, a 9 1/2 hour tour from Haifa to the see of Galilee and Nazareth. I have to say that this was my worst ever tour and I am dealing with RCL at the moment with regards to this tour. From Ashdod I had organised a private tour for 6 people of Jerusalem and Bethlehem which was absolutely wonderful and the pinnacle of my religious travels.In Kusadasi,Rhodes and Mykonos we only went on land for a little walk as we were here before.
I had also made use of the Spa services on one of the port days and booked myself a massage,which was a most delightful experience and I can totally recommend Richarda, who is a fantastic beautician and masseuse. The 2 pools and 6 jacuzzis on deck 9 were clean and I enjoyed using them every day, the entertainment there was also very nice if somewhat noisy, but pool2 located in the solarium is the quiet option.
Would I cruise on this ship again or with RCL, I personally yes,but I would not even bother with the restaurant. My Aunt would most likely never again use RCL, as she is a far more experienced cruiser than I am.