Where to begin: from start to finish, our 14 day trans-atlantic voyage last fall on RC's "Vision of the Seas" was not very visionary!!! There was neither signage nor RC personnel stationed outside the terminal pierside in Lisbon on the early afternoon of 30 Nov 2010 which contributed mightily to the confusion of the Portuguese-speaking masses milling around in the rain, even though there were quite obviously 2 RC ships tied at opposite ends of the long pier.
Once on board it quickly became apparent that this RC voyage should have been advertised as an expeditious/low cost ferry boat service for 2,000-odd Brazilian expatriots heading home to the New World for the holidays/or emigrating Portuguese leaving behind the financial chaos on the Iberian peninsula (with all their worldly possessions). (Our female cabin steward noted that many of the extended Portuguese-speaking families under her care had rented a couple cabins, one for all their steamer trunks/luggage/worldly possessions, and one to crash in. Think: 10 bags per person!)
Although the Vision had been in dry dock in Lisbon for an "Extreme Makeover" for approx 2 weeks prior to our 30 Nov departure, it would appear that the RC administative staff must have "pencil-whipped" everyones' passport/visa paperwork prior to sailing. Half way to Brazil, we were notified by the "my time dining" head waiter on deck 5 that our dining options were being severely constrained since half of his kitchen and wait staff were confined to their staterooms by on board Brazilian customs/immigration officials for "paperwork irregularities". In fact, 125 crewmembers were summarily escorted off the ship at our first port of call, Recife, and promptly deported! Likewise, we'd typically depart for breakfast mid-morning, and alert our overworked cabin steward that she could make up our room, but it was rarely made up before mid-afternoon.
Unfortunately, two elderly, fellow passengers were severely injured dockside in the rundown port of Recife, in a freak accident adjacent to the ship, on the afternoon of 9 December 2010 (a "tort lawyer's wet dream"). A strong/rogue gust of wind had rushed down the length of the pier a few minutes before our return to the ship and dislodged a pair of 15' high, heavy, steel warehouse doors right off their track. The huge doors fell halfway across the width of the 30' pier, crushing the pair. We left them behind in a 3rd World intensive care facility. (It could have been any one of us!)
From this point on, following the forced departure/DEPORTATION of the English speaking Broadway-style singers and dancers in Recife as well, the evening's entertainment in the main Masquerade Theater was always in the Portuguese language ONLY. (The 200-odd English speaking passengers had to be content with a movie after the show.)
For whatever reason, the enrichment/destination lecturer was a Brazilian engineer whose 3 offerings were limited to all things pertaining to Ancient Egypt! I'd imagined presentations on Portuguese explorers, the flora and fauna of the Amazon, Brazilian history etc, but it wasn't meant to be. (I'm guessing the lecturer had just come off an RC Eastern Med cruise and simply needed a free ride home!)
Until I personally drafted a letter to the cruise director following our departure from Salvador, a "live" port lecture had never been offered on this cruise. I believed that the English-speaking minority on board deserved some "straight talk" on what to expect ashore in Rio, whose poorer suburbs had just been cleared by a joint police/army armored task force. The very next day a Rio native was drafted from the Purser's office for a Q & A presentation in a minor ship's lounge. (From dawn to dusk, beginning with the Brazilian cruise director's Portuguese language ONLY morning presentation on the ship's closed circuit TV, the English speaking passengers were pretty much ignored/left to fend for themselves!)
The final straw: our scheduled 0730 disembarkation from the ship in Santos on 14 December 2010, was delayed 2 full hours by Brazilian customs (or RC screwups), which impacted our scheduled tour of Sao Paulo w/lunch! All in all, it was the proverbial cruise from hell!!!
Great room with huge, wraparound balcony on stern/port side, with plenty of room on the veranda for two tables, two chairs, and two chaise lounges. We were the envy of all our fellow English speaking passengers nearby, along the stern. It was our own little Shangri-La Retreat! Could have done a bunch of deep sea fishing all the way across the South Atlantic!