This was our 19th cruise and 4th on Royal Caribbean (we last cruised with RCI in 2005). We had a fall foliage cruise on our bucket list and this 12-night itinerary seemed to suit our requirements. We booked the cruise in July 2016, after receiving some good information on promotions from RCI. We had cruised on a sister ship to the Vision, the Grandeur of the Seas, in 1998, and we really enjoyed that ship, mainly for its size.
Travel to embarkation port
We travelled from our home city, Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Quebec City via Toronto, on WestJet, two days before embarkation. The first leg of our journey was uneventful. Unfortunately, it turned into a gong show in Toronto, waiting for WestJet’s regional carrier, WestJet Encore, to get its act together, find a crew and then play “let’s tour the taxiways” before finally taking off an hour late. Upon arrival, my suitcase’s exterior pocket was severely damaged and another gong show ensued, trying to file a claim.
When we looked at the itinerary, it was only logical to do a pre-cruise stay in Quebec City. We had our Travel Agent do some research and she recommended the Hotel Manoir Victoria, 44 Cote du Pied, in the old town of Quebec City. It is a very quaint hotel which has been modernized. Note that there are 25 or so steps from the street level to the main lobby so the services of a bellman are essential. Check in was fast and we were in our room in about ten minutes. There is a very good breakfast buffet in the mornings (at your cost unless you have a voucher from your tour operator, agency, etc.) and there are two good restaurants for lunch and evening meals, as well as a coffee shop and patisserie on the main (street) level. However, this city, especially the old town, is chock full of good restaurants. The staff are very friendly and helpful. We spent the next day doing a complete walking tour (self-guided) from our hotel, to the St. Lawrence river, past the legendary Chateau Frontenac hotel, and back to our hotel. Note that there are several streets which are cobblestone paved and many are either an uphill or downhill walk; you will get your exercise!
Information on the ship is readily available on this site as well as Royal Caribbean’s. I am advised that this ship underwent a refurbishment in 2013. That said, it is a 19-year-old vessel and it is definitely showing signs of wear and tear, with worn furnishings, rusty paint, rusty balconies, and some issues I will cover in the Cabin section below.
This ship offers the usual range of spa, swimming pool, and hot tubs in the enclosed solarium area as well as a rock climbing wall (part of the 2013 refurbishment). As the average age on this cruise was probably 70+, I doubt that the latter was used very much. The CD’s staff organized a number of dance, booze tasting, trivia and game shows, and bingo. All seemed to be well attended.
Service was generally good from staff we interacted with. Our stateroom attendant was always greeting us and really looked after us. Our dining room staff were OK, attentive but sometimes distracted by an inconsistent wait for various courses to come out, and frustrated by entrées that were just warm or cold. The headwaiter was pleasant enough but always seemed to be surfing for compliments. Shore excursion, Guest Services and shops staff were all very good to deal with. I cannot say the same for the photographers who really just got annoying on and off the ship; they showed up several times at dinner when there was no real reason to do so, especially over a 12-night cruise – how many times can you take the same photo? Off ship, they corralled disembarking guests in each port and just got in our way. Bar servers were either very good or just incompetent in handling drink orders; I had to explain how to fix a dry vodka martini to most. My spouse was never given a 10% discount for two glasses of wine based on our Gold loyalty status and we had to go to Guest Services to get it straightened out.
Port & shore excursions
This was a port-intensive itinerary with stops in Corner Brook, NFLD, Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. John NB, Portland, Rockland and Bar Harbor ME, Boston and Newport RI. We had RCI shorex in most ports but just did some exploring as well. All shorex were well run with very good hosts. Our shorex reviews follow in the shore excursion part of this review.
We had stateroom 8562, a Junior Suite, starboard side, just aft of midships. It measures X square feet with a Y square foot balcony. This room is quite generous for space and especially storage; everywhere you looked, from the closet to the 4-piece bath to the main room itself, there were cupboards and drawers. It is nicely equipped with a large fridge, flat screen TV, hair dryer, large lighted makeup mirror, robes, sofa bed, two sitting chairs, coffee table and two Ottomans. The room has a nice décor, however, it is dated and the furnishings are a bit worn. The two 110-v outlets are so worn that chargers and the hair dryer plug would fall out (there are also two 220-v outlets). The balcony is rusted in many areas and the furniture is fading.
We had main dining at 8 p.m. in the Aquarius Dining Room on Deck 4. Our table was in the forward middle are of the room, adjacent to the staircase leading up to the Deck 5 level of the dining room. Our servers were pleasant and attentive, for the most part, even somewhat intrusive at times. The menu was not particularly special and a lot of repetition. Meals were not consistently delivered on time (sometimes we left the dining room close to 10 p.m.) and were frequently just warm or borderline cold until we complained to the headwaiter; things improved after that. We were surprised to see an upcharge for things like surf and turf, or specialty steak, with an added 18% gratuity – who charges a gratuity on food? Unbelievable.
N/A. Did not utilize.
Acts consisted of the usual ship’s entertainment company and orchestra, as well as a number of individual and group performers, small bands who entertained in the Centrum and pianists who played in the bars. Some shows by the ship’s company were so-so, quite repetitive. There was an outstanding Canadian group from Toronto which did a 50’s/60’s act; they got a standing ovation. An acrobatic duo called DUO Quintessence was something to behold – also just mesmerizing. The Cruise Director and his staff were very good and always worked to ensure everyone was enjoying themselves.
Disembarkation was in Cape Liberty (Bayonne NJ). The process went very smoothly, we were off the ship and through Customs & Border Protection review very quickly and waited for our car service to take us to Manhattan as we were doing a post-cruise stay in NYC as well as western NY state.
We quite enjoyed our cruise on the Vision. It is perfectly sized for us and easy to get around. The itinerary suited our desire to explore the Canadian Maritimes and New England, as well as a post cruise opportunity to stop in NYC and also visit relatives in western NY state.
We had stateroom 8562, a Junior Suite, starboard side, just aft of midships. It measures 241 square feet with a 41 square foot balcony. This room is quite generous for space and especially storage; everywhere you looked, from the closet to the 4-piece bath to the main room itself, there were cupboards and drawers. It is nicely equipped with a large fridge, flat screen TV, hair dryer, large lighted makeup mirror, robes, sofa bed, two sitting chairs, coffee table and two Ottomans. The room has a nice décor, however, it is dated and the furnishings are a bit worn. The two 110-v outlets are so worn that chargers and the hair dryer plug would fall out (there are also two 220-v outlets). The balcony is rusted in many areas and the furniture is fading.
We did the Corner Brook Panoramic City Tour, CB05A. We boarded a school bus which took us to various highlights around the city, such as Captain Cook’s lookout, Marble Mountain (ski lodge and pit stop), Man in the Mountain (rock formation), an old narrow gauge train display, before returning to the ship. Our host was excellent. Highly recommended.View All 2 City Tour Reviews
We did the Old Sydney Walking Tour, SX03A. We met our tour guide “old Ken” in period 18th century costume and proceeded to walk to a number of historic buildings in downtown old Sydney. At the Jost House, “Jill” was in full character explaining how life was in the 1700’s – she was hilarious – everyone just fell in love with her. We toured more houses and churches, ending up at the Sydney Historical Scoiety, located in an old Bank of Montreal building. We enjoyed coffee, tea and oatcakes, all you could eat and drink. For $1.00, you could buy a postcard with the recipe. Highly recommended.View All 5 Sydney Old Town Walking Tour Reviews
We did the Essential Halifax Tour, HX68A. This tour is operated by Grey Line tours and initially it was a bit confusing finding just what coach to be on. Eventually we got our stickers for this tour which is hop on-hop off, using modified English double decker buses. Our first stop was the Maritime Museum which houses an enormous amount of naval and maritime artifacts, as well as exhibits and salvage from the Titanic, from Halifax’s long history of seafaring and trade in the Canadian Maritimes and eastern seaboard of the United States. Our next stop was the public park in the centre of the city. It has beautiful gardens and displays and a small cafeteria. Our third stop was the Halifax Citadel, an historical fort from centuries past. We managed to tour the large army museum and other parts of the fort, however, as I was not feeling very well by this time, we cut short the rest of the tour locations. The locations on this tour can probably be obtained from the RCI or Grey Line web sites. Highly recommended.View All 55 City Tour Reviews
We did the St. John Highlights Tour, NB01A. We boarded our coach and went to the main market in the center of the city (very interesting but very crowded), Reversing Falls (tidal influences on river), and the Carleton Tower, an historic blockhouse from St. John’s past and also modified for coastal defence during WWII. It was an interesting albeit short tour. Highly recommended.View All 35 City Tour Reviews
We did the Old Town Trolley Tour of Boston, tour BX19A. We boarded a modified trolley car for this trip which took us on a narrated tour of the Seaport district, North end, Beacon Hill, Boston Common, South End, culminating in a drop off at the famous Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. We spent about an hour touring and shopping this interesting area although we found that it was very crowded inside the Market building itself. We enjoyed a coffee in the common area and caught a return trolley from the drop off point near the Quincy Market. Note that there are no stops before Quincy Market so a restroom break will only occur at the end of the tour. Our driver/guide was great and very knowledgeable. Highly recommended.View All 40 Old Town Trolley Tour Reviews
We did the Acadia National Park Loop Road tour, BY40A. After a long tender into this port, we waited quite a while to get loaded onto buses. As it turned out, one of the operator’s buses had broken down and other competing tour companies were pressed into service to transport us. Fortunately, for my spouse and I and one other couple, we were loaded into a large SUV with a driver (Melissa) so we ended up with a personal tour of the Park. We were treated to a fascinating history of the area, the land of rich and famous (think Dick Wolf from “Law and Order” fame, Martha Stewart, and other icons of American industry. We had three stops along the way for photo opportunities, although the weather had become almost overcast and foggy by the time we reached the summit of the Park. Interestingly, by the time we arrived back at Bar Harbor, it was sunny. We spent the rest of the time shopping and sightseeing before returning to the ship. Highly recommended.View All 236 Acadia National Park Reviews