Chosen for its interesting itinerary, this cruise from Istanbul went to Haifa, Ashdod, Athens, Kusadasi, back to Istanbul. And it gave good shore time, including overnites & evening departures.
We're Brits, we booked late through a T/A who had an excellent eye for an opportunity. The ship had obviously been under-booked, so with RCI slashing prices but no flight availability, the T/A had lined up flights for a day ahead & an overnight hotel in Istanbul. Add Heathrow hotel/parking, direct flights by BA, and ship's auto-tips taken care of, and we couldn't resist this attractive package.
Early-morning flight no problem with a Heathrow hotel - we even slipped into central London for the evening.
A private transfer booked at â‚¬20 to our Istanbul hotel, on the fringe of Sultanahmet, gave us the afternoon & evening exploring.
We later met folk who'd booked ship's fly-cruise from Heathrow. Via Amsterdam. Took all day.
Left us feeling smug.
Next morning, transfer to the ship.
Hotel was near the tram line.
Port was near the tram line.
2 Turkish lire pp by over-crowded tram, or ten times as much by taxi?
No contest for cheapskates.
With all our luggage, getting on the jam-packed tram was errrrr ..........interesting.
No matter, a tenner saved is a tenner saved.
Warm welcome on Vision of the Seas.
And at the CC meet-and-mingle
Some reviews had suggested that the ship needed a re-fit & that crew morale was low. Nonsense
Cabin very acceptable, decent size, clean & up-together, though no fridge or hot drinks. Older-style TV with no access to our on-board account. But all OK & no issues.
Excellent public facilities, indoor & outdoor pools, two theatres, varied bars, very poor library. The multi-floor atrium looked like a triumph of design over utility, but the entertainments team knew how to use it, and they laid on some hot-hot evenings. Way better than the theatre offerings, though they had their good moments too.
Food in the MDR was very acceptable. We'd chosen my-time, met one couple at dinner & booked together for the next night. Ditto other couples later, & we finished our cruise as effectively fixed dining for 8, without the lottery of fixed-dining companions.
The Windjammer was also very acceptable, reasonable choice though some was rather bland, including excessive use of tasteless buttercreams, etc. Nice surroundings, table-clearing mebbe a shade slow if I want to be picky, but no bunfight for seats.
Staff were pretty good - cheerful, willing, helpful.
There were a few.
RCI's high drinks prices are notorious, certainly amongst Brits. But to compound that, RCI were very cagey about disclosing prices. Drinks featured on table promos were un-priced, as were the cocktail-of-the-day being touted by the tray-full, and the printed wine suggestions on the dinner menu.
If I have to ask the price, they can keep it.
Cheapest wine was the unmemorable but drinkable "La Terre" house at $30 incl service charge. But this wine was not offered everywhere, and other more expensive wines were quoted as the house wine, causing confusion. Except in the Schooner bar, where the cheapest wine was, from memory, $60 plus 15% service.
Never bought a beer or a soft drink aboard, and drank more water, tea and coffee than I've ever drunk on a cruise. Rationing meant we spent about the same as on other cruises, and the under-worked bar staff touting for business suggests others were doing likewise. Minimal extra profit at the expense of significant customer dis-satisfaction, and self-imposed rationing because we hate being ripped-off is not the way to fully enjoy any vacation.
Way too much of the "Hey, hey", "whooooooo-yeahhhhhhhhh" and, worst of all, "remember, I looooooove you" from the tannoy.
Cringeworthy at first, then comical, then downright boring.
But cruise director Simeon, perhaps a little too in-your-face life-and-soul for us despite his Welsh ancestry, did know his stuff, was full of enthusiasm, did inject life into the activities, and was interesting to talk to in a quiet interlude. The guy is well-worth a 9+
Stuff like the belly-flop competition. Ugh. But we're plebs, it was a bit of fun.
Rather more fun is "Quest".
If it's promoted on a cruise just go along and see.
Then roll about laughing, or walk out in disgust.
Last-minute we took ship's over-priced Piraeus-Athens transfer, after learning of a 24-hour transport strike incl taxis.
Shame we hadn't known that the ho-ho buses included a transfer route from port to city centre, at â‚¬20 they were about half the cost of RCI's transfer.
In other ports we did our own thing, for the usual reasons.
RCI's promo for their Bethlehem excursion made us laugh. It went to great lengths to berate the fact that in Bethlehem, which is a Palestinian enclave, a Palestinian guide will take over & will direct clients to chosen outlets.
Thus time spent ....... "is solely at the discretion of the local guide who may receive a commission for any purchases. .....this is beyond the control of RCI."
This from RCI !! - the cruiseline with perhaps the world's worst reputation for wasting their excursionists' valuable shore time by diverting them to commission-earning shops etc.
Which in the case of this cruise included an awful lot of carpet demonstrations !!!
But the positives outweighed the negatives, and all in all a good cruise experience.