Vision of the Seas Cruise Review by Dicko66
- Sail Date: January 2017
- Destination: Middle East
We were cruise virgins and were recommended this holiday by our agent having given the brief to find a holiday in a sunny location with some class and things to do. The holiday for the weeks cruise wasn't inexpensive. Unfortunately Royal Caribbean and their ship The Vision [Prison] of the Seas didn't in any way live up to our expectations.
Firstly the Arabian Adventures "private transfer" from the airport to our hotel for the night before was a beaten up grubby Toyota mini van driven by a chap of Pakistani origin who thought it hilarious to tell us that he had tried to get entry into the UK but had been refused because he was on a terrorist watch list, ha ha ha. We weren't laughing. Both of the other AA transfers were late to arrive, the last back to Dubai airport at the end of the holiday so late we just got on a bus also bound for the airport.
The next day, embarkation involved standing in line for an hour and then having our passports taken from us. Hmmm....I'm sure I was always told never to give up your passport and we effectively became RC's prisoners.
Starting as they meant to go on, every 10m on the walk to the boat there was another Royal Caribbean display and staff member badgering you to buy this, that or the other. I was already feeling harangued and stressed.
Whilst the low level staff were all very nice and desperate to please (ultimately clearly their corporate masters rather than us) to the point where you could see the fear behind their eyes, at a corporate level Royal Caribbean and their ship we found tired scruffy, worn, crass and low brow. The cabin looked like a Travel Lodge room, not the new ones rather the ones in bad need of a refit some years ago and nothing like the website. Belly flop and ships sexiest man competitions around the pool, the 70's and early 80's Saturday seaside special shows (complete with white people wearing afro wigs, dark make-up, and singing off key) and the ships Captain prowling around the central bar floor singing Jon Bon Jovi songs was not what we really expected for "entertainment". Maybe JBJ was piloting the ship at the time, but I think not.
Ra ra flag waving by the dining staff, clearly made to do it, in the dining room at dinner similarly lacked any decorum or class. It was Butlin's in the 70's on a boat, like it or not, and there was no way to get away from it.
There was a totally overbearing and relentless competitive upselling going on throughout the week everywhere which included the staff themselves asking directly if we wanted to buy a $40-$50 (including $6 "service charge") bottle of £5 wine (Euro2 if you are in France) because "we are under so much pressure from our bosses to meet our sales targets". Plus staff openly trying to poach orders from other staff members tables causing a relentless barrage of request to order drinks. I did notice that those who had pre-paid for drinks packages didn't appear to have this issue however, I wonder why!
Similarly their staff were repeatedly requesting that when we fill in the end of cruise questionnaire please could we rate them 10's because this is what determines what they get paid for the week. Furthermore Royal Caribbean are clearly aware of this issue as there is a question about it on the end of cruise survey. The fact that they seem to think we should also inform on these bottom of the rung put upon staff to them too so they don't get paid beggars belief. Clearly their "dedicated international staff" from places such as Peru, Madagascar, India and so on (didn't see any Germans, British, Australians etc) in these lower level roles, were very poorly paid and under the corporate cosh all of the time. There were also PA announcements to "put extra gratuities for staff in envelopes provided" presumably so RC could get away with paying them even less themselves.
Everything included was done to the most basic level they felt they could get away with. For example, the listed ballroom dance classes were in fact 30 minutes once in a bar area by two of the show staff who could neither teach nor were qualified and just wanted to get it done and away to their day jobs, box ticked! Similarly the Poker lessons were not a lesson at all rather just a game with other (far more experienced players) and with the sole intention to turn you into a Royal Caribbean fish for the week bled dry by the 10% table rake. Everything not included they charged as much as they thought they could get away with.
The indoor pool, one quieter place on the ship where you could get away from the likes of Black Lace - Agadoo playing over the PA system, was partly empty of water and falling to bits. We even had to ask the staff to get the maintenance men to take their hammer drill elsewhere mid afternoon while by the pool.
The assistant entertainment manager was openly announcing to everyone from the main stage in the theatre that she was leaving at the end of the week to go and work for Celebrity, at every opportunity she had. I've not seen anything like the entertainment director since Hi-de-Hi and the only person I would recommend see him would be Steve Coogan if looking for ideas for new material.
The drinks were limited and extortionately priced with 18% service charge added just to add insult to injury. As well as wine we like cider and English pale ale; requests for which were met with blank faces and a shrug from the "carefully selected international staff". It was all lager, mostly American, cocktails and mid range supermarket grade wine at grossly inflated prices amounting to profiteering.
The main dining room food appeared ready made and often from frozen. The unpopular gritty snails ended up on the menu every night they were so slow moving. The orange juice wasn't orange juice and all the drinks appeared mixed up from artificial concentrate rather than actual juice full of artificial sweetener. The coffee was good however! Everything was American centric rather than with regard for the main demographic of the ship which was plainly predominantly British, certainly European.
At every doorway there was a nazi staff member demanding to squirt disinfectant goop on your hands because everything is infected apparently. Don't know about you but I was taught to wash my hands before meals and after using the toilet and I don't want to be on holiday with people who don't or on a boat that is generally infected!
My case was delivered with the lock broken off to my room, 6 hours after we boarded the ship which got things off to an unfortunate start. Nothing was taken from the case but plainly the case was broken into rather than by accident. We later learned that anyone with their own alcohol in their cases would have it seized on boarding! Nothing was said, it was just dropped off at our room. The porters Royal Caribbean are using were grubby in dirty clothes and equally grubby high viz vests and I was uncomfortable leaving our cases with them particularly when we disembarked. They definitely didn't look the part.
We met plenty of people on the boat, some of whom had done more than 50 cruises in their time and they were of the same opinion. One couple, cruise veterans of 30 years, said that this was the tackiest cruise they had been on and would not be sailing RC again.
On the plus side (and I'm trying really hard to find something), the ships band were good and we would have liked to have seen more of them doing their own sets.
The lower level staff are clearly doing their best in difficult corporate circumstances but we were left with the clear understanding that RC are not a nice company to work for.
We also found we would have liked to try the games in the casino (Poker and Blackjack) but the table cut and minimums were way too high and for reasons that are not clear smoking was also allowed in the casino and made for a quite unpleasant environment.
Food was not 24 hours and room service incurred a charge at certain times contrary to what was promised. The food that could be got out of hours was rudimentary and low class. Burgers, chips, processed chicken pieces, or maybe gritty snails in garlic.
We won't be doing anything with RC again and in the process of making complaints to get a good part of our money back - In short, avoid!
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