5 Night Short Break To St. Petersburg (Stockholm Roundtrip) Sail Date: August 10, 2011 Ship: Vision of the Seas Cabin Type: Oceanview Traveled As: Singles/Friends Reviewed: 5 years ago
The cruise visited wonderful ports ... lots of great sightseeing opportunities ... but the ship-board experience was a challenging and frustrating example of hospitality.
The Vision of the Seas is aging and much too small/boring. There are no specialty dining options -- only the main dining room and the buffet, both of which were always crowded. The 'cafe' in the Solarium was uncomfortable ... it was difficult eating food after watching people shirtless or in speedos grabbing food ahead of you.
There were virtually no entertainment options aside from the music/dancing of the Royal Caribbean singers/dancers. No comedians, no magicians, nothing. Particularly frustrating on the day at sea ... All you could do is sleep all day, or drink in one of the dozen bars on the ship.
Further, I know that gratuities are expected aboard cruises ... but the number of times we were reminded of tipping was outrageous. For more than half of the cruise days, the onboard newsletter contained flyers about prepaid gratuities ... the ship TV channel looped a video about gratuities ... the envelopes were constantly left in annoyingly conspicuous places ... Enough. Such a turn off. It definitely resulted in reduced tips from me. Tips should be for quality service ... not for annoying your guests.
Food and Dining
1 out of 5
Too few options. The buffet was always crowded, the food was mediocre, and the selection was limited. The main dining room was poorly arranged with large tables ... with your tablemates likely not sharing the same language as you. Makes for awkward dining when you cannot converse with people sitting next to you.
1 out of 5
Virtually no options that didn't center around a ship bar. Only one entertainment act per night -- and they were all singing and dancing. Why not comedy or magic or something else to entertain guests?
Service and Staff
1 out of 5
Friendly staff, but way too much emphasis on gratuities and tipping. We were reminded by paper flyers three times about gratuities, then the envelopes being left in obvious places, and the shipboard TV channel repeatedly looping a video about gratuities. Wow, if I'm happy with your service, I'll gladly offer a tip but wow, it's a little too much to have it forced down my throat.
1 out of 5
Much, much too small. Virtually no real entertainment options. Very aged decor... Needs an overhaul. RCL had a terrible habit of closing off sections of the ship for cleaning including the primary walking / jogging deck. The last night of the cruise, the whole back half of the ship was roped off so they could hose down the track in anticipation of the next day's guests. When you're still onboard the cruise, that is a little frustrating. Worry about your current guests ... not the next ones.
Cabin / Stateroom
3 out of 5
Reasonable stateroom. Good size, nice picture window. Definitely showing age though ... and the TV quality was terrible. Even ship channels were fuzzy and occasionally in black and white.
A tour guide is a must. Do not try to visit this port city by yourself. Ignore everything Royal Caribbean says about RCL Shore Excursions ... you are welcome to book your own tours with third party companies which are often more affordable and customizable. We had a terrific private tour guide -- just my friend and I and a local guide who spoke wonderful English.
Definitely take time to get out of St. Petersburg proper ... get out to Peterhof and Pushkin. It's a long drive (about an hour) but well worth the trip. And the Hermitage ... pace yourself ... there's just so much to see that you could spend the entire stay there and still not see even half of the exhibits.
Don't Miss: Peterhof ... Particularly the Cascades opening.
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