I quickly tire of reviews and blogs that focus only on the short comings of a cruise, or focus only on "the good old days" of cruising, with its high quality and food and staples such as caviar, real crab meat, high quality veal, ... Read More
I quickly tire of reviews and blogs that focus only on the short comings of a cruise, or focus only on "the good old days" of cruising, with its high quality and food and staples such as caviar, real crab meat, high quality veal, exotic fruits (mangos, papayas, etc. galore), and an endless variety of entrees, but I fear my review this time will lean in that direction though, like most seasoned cruisers, I realize the "good old days" are not coming back and when I do take a cruise with a number of disappointments, I just skip writing any on-line review rather than write an endless list of negatives.
I have waited and researched for a long time to find a Bermuda cruise FROM Florida. This caught my eye as "perfect", though was disappointed (as others have written) that after much searching and waiting, my "perfect" 3 days in Bermuda was as described by others on CC, far too short and with the weekend making it even worse. For that reason, will be watching closely for future cruises FROM Florida that arrive in Bermuda on a weekday and earlier on the first day in port and stay longer. However, congrats to RCCL for this unique itinerary with an opportunity to see a wonderful destination in the USA. There were so many passengers from central Florida, that all I met agreed we hope RCCL will consider more and longer interesting itineraries from Port Canaveral (a beautiful, efficient port with a lot to offer, too bad so many cruise lines choose to put their older, less interesting ships and itineraries at this port !), but on to VOTS review.
Can't say enough about Charleston, having a port lecturer aboard (a standard expectation in the "good old days"...LOL!) really enhanced the experience. Immediately upon arriving home from the cruise, I made arrangements to visit this wonderful city again. There is enough to do in this city to over night in this port too !
The sites, history, plantations, tours, water front activities and tours, and outstanding food, together with the friendliness of the local people, makes me wish more cruise lines offered this destination.
Embarkation on Vision was, as with RCCL in general, flawless as usual. I arrived at the port by 9:30 and was on the ship in far less than an hour. I found the comments by others on this site concerning the lunch buffet to be true: barely warm food even at the opening of the lines and not very interesting. A LOT of Indian style dishes that became the standard for the entire 10 days along with other stews and casserole type dishes, and unfortunately, this did not change day after day. Nachos, hotdogs, brats, and casseroles (which used to be the fare of the pool side snack bars only) have now become the standard fare of the Windjammer. Gone are the luscious desserts, great variety, and the daily "theme" menus of days gone by. Craving any food to provide some potassium I searched constantly for bananas and was told on the 5th day that "we have absolutely NO bananas". To their credit, the great Vision staff really tried to provide me with this "exotic" and rare food, a single banana, but with no luck. I was able to find and enjoy other things of course, but this pattern of no bananas (which started a few RCCL cruises back, along with offering nothing but artificial high fructose corn syrup, no maple syrup, really poor quality yogurt, very low quality toiletries (if any), outdated TV sets, are all small annoyances that begin to build year after year and just have to be over looked and just enjoy cruising. Obviously I have the choice to choose a land based hotel, with Bananas.....LOL....but obviously I will keep cruising and enjoying each cruise no matter the small simple comforts that once made cruising so enjoyable, just keep disappearing. Why RCCL continues to stock the cabins with more and more snack and soda selections boggles the mind, people must purchase this vending machine type fare in high percentages it worth it for RCCL to annoy so many passengers. (This seems to be a constant topic among passengers, why the precious space is taken up with vending machine products when so many snacks are available around the ship !)
My late seating staff at table #34 was one of the best I have ever had on RCCL, and that is saying a lot since most have been memorable reaching back to the 1970's ! My cabin attendant, Ronald, on deck 8 was fantastic, always there for any little thing, yet never intrusive, took care of every detail. Yes, I too am really annoyed that one can stay at a motel 6 and find BETTER basic bath provisions, not made in China and not listing the ingredients, yet RCCL seems to be on a dollar saving campaign to make it standard for passengers to now bring their own supply, and even their own shower caps. On my last cruise RCCL cruise just two weeks before this one, my cabin attendant seemed really personally embarrassed that he could not find a few simple things I requested: a shower cap and a pen to make some notes.
Again, this is not enough to spoil a cruise for me so that is probably why they can get away with it. It does make me really appreciate the high quality products provided on Disney ships, the type RCCL used to provide to everyone, even first time cruisers. Unfortunately, I have allowed the newer ships like Allure and Oasis to spoil me, so while there is a charm to the older ships, I (and many others on this cruise) expressed the opinion that RCCL MUST stop focusing ONLY on money making renovations like more upcharge restaurants and additional cabins, and face the fact that that lumpy mattresses with "trenches" worn into each side and a "hill" in the middle making it impossible to sleep in the middle of the bed, just have to be addressed to retain today's sophisticated cruisers with so many choices.
Two weeks prior to this cruise, I was on RCCL Enchantment with the same poor bedding, towels pushed into the frame to prevent the lumps, and no quality gel mattress pads ( I did not have a suite, but friends who did reported the same situation in their suites). Cruise lines are in business to make money, but RCCL has to start a focus on upgrading their bedding just as quality hotels do.
Dinner in the main dining room was "hit and miss" for me. I ate in Izumi several times as it is a favorite of mine on RCCL ships, but certainly not the choice of many I noticed. The dining room service was superior, the menu really uninspired at best. I had great dinner companions which, as it does on all cruises, made the dinner experience something to look forward to, but one night ( and for several nights after) we had so many laughs over my ordering of a dessert described as "....... and berries". I made a comment that it was the "berries" that sold me on that selection.
When my " Berries & _____" came, we all roared. There on my mousse like dessert was an almost visible sliver of a strawberry. We had great conversations and laughed more than at the comedy show, speculating how anyone, no matter how hard they tried, could actually cut one strawberry into 1/16
slices. At least it was good fun, and of course no complaints to the waiters (who were probably also embarrassed with the description of "berries").
But this is what so many can't help but mention when they refer to the "slipping of quality" on most cruise lines, but of course it is a business and profit is the bottom line. RCCL remains my all around favorite, and of all the loyalty programs in which I have reached the top tier, I stay mainly with RCCL as I do believe they treat their C&A members very well.
A comment on the newer focus on entertainment in the centrums. Love the live music, enjoy all the special celebrations with take place on the promenades on the larger class ships, and the new aerial acts. I really enjoy them, but again, I noticed many comments that these acts are VERY short, and yes, they are, some as short as 5 minutes after 60 minutes of waiting or more, so it's a toss up, but I enjoyed them very much. If waiting is not your thing, skip it, it certainly will not ruin the cruise, but I enjoyed them.
The other entertainment was far below any RCCL cruise I have been on. The shows were poorly attended, but I shrugged that off as RCCL tries to offer a little something for everyone, a juggler, a comic, a couple less than spectacular shows, and one fantastic group called Savannah Jack that put on a country music type show that would bring country music HATERS to their feet chapping and cheering. What a show even if you don't care for this type of music ! Others were just mediocre shows, not even average. Even the movies (not many) did not seem to have much thought or planning compared to other RCCL cruises, even a short 4 night cruise I took just two weeks previous to this one had far far superior entertainers and selection of current movies !
The pool side was crowded, but plenty of lounge chairs for everyone if you would settle for a few yards back or in one of the other areas (deck above the pool deck), promenade deck, etc. No checking in and out of daily pool towels with cabin cards on RCCL ( thank you RCCL !)
Staff everywhere was exceptional. Difficult to say this as the diamond/concierge lounges seem to have exceptional staff regardless of the ship, but on Vision I can not say enough about the hosts and hostesses. Mangesh Jambhulkar is about as skilled a concierge as they come. Captain Marek, like Capt. "Gus" on the Enchantment, is beyond description. Knowledgeable, personable, very visible, and obviously knows how to keep staff morale soaring (or at least give that impression). My observation was the staff's high morale was genuine with the captain often participating in activities WITH his subordinates and always visible to passengers, open to listening to their comments and suggestions, and even sharing his own personal background and interests. This seems to be a new trend on RCCL, previously I have seldom chatted with captains with the exception of the few occasions when we were invited to dine with them in the past.
The most important comment (and probably the reason the "cons" of less than quality bedding and mediocre food choices will not need to be changed by RCCL), is: would I do it again ? In a heartbeat, in fact, I can't wait for next year's Bermuda trips FROM Florida to be published (was unable to book on board for next year) and am seriously thinking of books not one, but two dates for this same cruise itinerary. Read Less