February 2016 - Vision of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Keep in mind that this was my first cruise (age 45) so I have no basis for comparison. Also, neither of us drink, nor do we smoke, which I only mention because plenty of others do. One full side of ship, on certain outdoor decks allow smoking and have ashtrays placed every few feet. The casino, which had a small designated non-smoking area, reeks of cigarette smoke. I should also mention that The Vision is a small ship compared to many these days. I believe it accommodates around 2,000 passengers. My BF and I chose this trip for the itinerary, price and dates of travel.We booked the cruise nearly a year in advance and chose our stateroom (large oceanview ) based on advice from my BF, who has cruised multiple times.Be aware that wifi will cost you another small fortune with no guarantee that it will work (we did not purchase, but heard many others complaining).
We left from Tampa with scheduled stops in Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Sadly we never made it to Roatan as the ship diverted to Cozumel in the middle of the night due to a passenger needing medical care beyond what the ship and/or Roatan could offer.
Prior to boarding the ship we had purchased excursions for each port of call through Royal Caribbean's site. Be prepared! This can be a huge ( $800+ for the 2 of us) expense on top of what the cruise cost. However, the excursions were the saving grace and worth every cent. We had originally booked a dolphin encounter in Roatan, so when we diverted we decided on the Royal Dolphin Swim and Manatee interaction in Cozumel at Chankanaab National Park. AMAZING!!!! We also took our own snorkel gear and took advantage of time left over after our dolphin experience at the park.We chose the Lamanai River and Ruins tour while in Belize (air conditioned, 45 minute bus ride then an awesome, fast speedboat ride in the rain and a tour of ruins followed by a wonderful meal!), a catamaran sail and snorkel in Costa Maya (gorgeous water, but ship sponsored excursion required us to wear life vests while snorkeling in a tightly packed group) and a Mexican cuisine class (we prepared and then indulged in a spectacular 3 course meal) at Playa Mia on our 2nd trip to Cozumel.
Back to the ship experience. The onboard activities were limited and many were an upcharge. Some things that were of interest went on too late at night and our excursions all started very early. We started to feel like we were being nickel and dimed to death. There was an evening that we went to the scheduled karaoke to find the venue closed to public due to a group of Elvis fanatics buying out the place. No activity was scheduled to replace and it was never removed from schedule. The explanation was that they had no time to schedule another activity. We only ate in the Windjammer (big selection, mediocre food and many items served were listed as menu items in the main dining room, as well), aside from one night of specialty dining at Giovanni"s. We have traveled to many places and it is very different to stay on a ship vs in a hotel room. Size, amenities, etc. I seriously over-packed due to the inability to do laundry on the ship myself (or pay a ridiculous fee to have it done for us). The ship seemed to be constantly rocking, making me somewhat seasick, which I DID NOT expect to feel. There was also a smell of sewage throughout certain areas of the ship for the entire trip. The staff was pleasant and helpful and our room steward, Daniel was sweet and kept the room tidied up throughout. However, I wish I'd seen more than 2 towel animals in 7 nights and a souvenir Coke bottle from Belize was thrown away when not in a trash can.
I know there are a lot of negatives mentioned, but we did truly enjoy ourselves. on this trip. The weather in February (coming from the Wash D.C. area) was superb! The water was warm and beautiful. The breeze on the ship was amazing. Watching the sun rise and set over the water was beautiful! Honestly, I didn't think I'd want to cruise again yet we are already booked for next Feb on a larger ship.