My husband and I (50-somethings) have been on half-a-dozen cruises, but not since 1/17. All but one of our cruises have been on smaller ships (Vision class Royal Caribbean and M-class Celebrity) and the one on a larger (S-class) ship ... Read More
My husband and I (50-somethings) have been on half-a-dozen cruises, but not since 1/17. All but one of our cruises have been on smaller ships (Vision class Royal Caribbean and M-class Celebrity) and the one on a larger (S-class) ship convinced us small ships are for us.
Just a few weeks ago, we decided to take a January vacation and stumbled across a sailing on the Vision of the Seas out of New Orleans. We've never been to New Orleans, or to Key West (one of the ports of call) and the price was unbeatable--I think we paid less than $900 for our inside cabin. Even pre-paying tips and adding in an internet package (about $19/day for two devices), this was a really inexpensive vacation.
We spent two nights in New Orleans at the Courtyard Marriott French Quarter/Iberville. It's a great location. We'd stay there again. We did two terrific walking tours with Free Tours by Foot--one of the Garden District and one of the French Quarter. 100% recommended. Did the obligatory coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, a muffaletta sandwich in the French Market (half a sandwich is enough for two people) and rode the streetcar.
Embarkation was a breeze--hotel lobby to Windjammer in less than 20 minutes.Our Lyft driver knew how to avoid the construction snarls. I gather others were not as lucky.
This was our first cruise in an inside cabin, and we were glad to discover it met our needs just fine. There was PLENTY of storage space for two (we had empty drawers) but a little less surface space (the desk is a bit shallower than in a balcony, I think, and the coffee table is replaced with a teeny circular table), so I was glad we'd brought magnets to hold papers on the wall and a shoe holder we hung over the closet door to gather our this-and-that. It helped us keep the surfaces uncluttered. Our cabin was just forward of the Centrum, but we never heard any noise. It was quite convenient to the Centrum, both the forward and aft stairs/elevators, the theater, and the casino (not that we ever went there). I think it was under the casino but we didn't hear any noise from above.
The crew is very pleasant and helpful. The activities program was really great, with lots and lots of trivia games, lots of interactive game shows, dance lessons, karaoke, etc. And the passengers were a very game and enthusiastic bunch, always willing to get involved with any game on offer. This gave us plenty to do and plenty to watch when we didn't care to do. The cruise director, Steve, didn't participate in too many of these events (or, at least, not the ones we went to) and we didn't really see him until the "Love and Marriage" Game. But there we were really impressed with his manner. He was warm and not mocking and managed to make the show hilarious while not humiliating the participants.
The rest of the activities team (Talita, the manager, and the three hosts, Orlando, Charlie and Jacob) did a nice job of keeping us busy, although I found Talita's and Orlando's senses of humor sometimes veered towards making fun of people. The DJ, Bam, had great playlists (at least, it was to my taste!) and the live music was terrific. The Rockport band, in particular, did a great job.
The ports of call were Miami, Nassau, and Key West. The price to book the Hop-on, Hop-off bus in Miami through the ship was the same as the list price on their brochure, and our excursion included a shuttle from/to the cruise port. The price for the Old Town Trolley in Key West was LESS than the online price for Old Town Trolley. Normally I feel like I'm a chump for booking through the cruise line, but this wasn't a bad deal. Plus, in Key West the ENTIRE SHIP had to clear an immigration check (whether or not they wanted to leave the ship), and being booked on the "excursion" to the Old Town Trolley got us off the ship first. So that was a bonus. In Key West we got off at the Hemingway house and took a guided tour. Definitely worth a visit. Such beautiful grounds! The entry fee is a bit steep ($14 pp) though. In Nassau, we booked an excursion to do a flight simulator where my husband, an aviation buff, got to take off and land a 737! He loved it and we're looking for when we can get back to Nassau to do it again.
Now for the bad part...the food. Two years ago, we were on the Grandeur of the Seas and discovered that the WJ at dinner time was peaceful and quiet, and that the SAME FOOD was available in the WJ and the MDR! We were delighted by this discovery--especially me, because I love to sample lots of different dishes. We were looking forward to this again, but it turned out this was not the case at all on this cruise. I'm not sure if it's because things have changed fleet-wide in two years, or because it's a different ship, or a different departure port, or what, but the food in the Windjammer was just...SAD. The offerings at dinner were typically mashed potatoes, chicken breast, steamed fish, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, PLAIN spaghetti noodles with a vat of sauce...basically the picky eater alternative menu that is usually off to one side while the interesting food is front-and-center. But there was no interesting food. Not even as interesting as a filled pasta (even when tortellini was on the MDR menu--how hard would it be to put a dish of that out on the buffet? There's only one kitchen!) To make it even more irritating, the physical layout of the WJ is just illogical. The main entrees are at a station right inside the door. People entering/exiting have to squeeze by the people trying to serve themselves. It creates a jam up at the entrance that doesn't have to happen. Go look at the Grandeur!
Event the Park Cafe managed to make an unappealing roast beef sandwich. (Not the same cut of meat we're used to in the Park Cafe.)
Did we starve? No. Once I got over being annoyed, we found it kind of funny. The fries were good. The soft serve ice cream was fine. There was a nice selection of bread and cheese. And on the plus side, I didn't find myself overeating because of all the appealing choices and wanting to try everything. My understanding is that the food in the MDR was better (certainly the menu was more interesting) but we'd booked late and been assigned an 8 pm dining time which conflicted with a number of things we wanted to do.
I would have liked to see a couple of lectures (the only port talks were from the shopping "experts" and the shore excursions team, and there wasn't--as far as I saw--even a lecture from a ship's officer about navigation or similar topic). We've enjoyed these in the past. I also would have liked to see more of the activities that took place in the theater broadcast on the stateroom t.v. I didn't come across anything until about Day 5. These are minor issues because we spent most of our time out of the cabin anyway and generally had plenty of things to do. Read Less