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Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

April 30, 2006

 

     
 

For those of you who do not know, a "Seminar at Sea" is a travel agent trip on a cruise where
we do actually work a little bit.  On this cruise we had 10 hours of scheduled conference time
and it was well worth it to go and learn the new things with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (from
an agent and agency standpoint).  The fact that we could bring our significant others was a
great bonus, because in addition to classroom learning, they also wanted us to experience
the ship and on the last day, give them feedback of our experience.  So here is my feedback
and I will elaborate on each section a bit.

GETTING TO THE SHIP & BOARDING THE SHIP:

We decided to take our favorite airline to Southern California and flew Jet Blue from Oakland
to Long Beach, again the easiest airport in the world. Our bags came out 1-2-3 as we walked
to the baggage claim turnstile – got a taxi for $36 flat rate to San Pedro pier,  15 minute ride
with no traffic: E-A-S-Y!!  However, we had to take an early flight on Jet Blue, which meant we
were at the pier too early to check in for the cruise, but we waited patiently for our 1215p
boarding. We were lucky in that boarding so early, we had time to tour the ship and check
everything out, even our bags arrived at our room before the muster drill, so we were able to
unpack everything.


DINING AND LOUNGE VENUES:


Our group was scheduled for Late Dining for the main dining room "Aquarius" and we felt
obligated to dine with the group the first night.  However, eating that late is just not our style
and it did tend to interfere with the dancing options available to us.  So we ate in Aquarius 3
of our 7 nights and will say though that the service and food quality was excellent.  I was a bit
disappointed that they did not keep dinner rolls on the table and you had to ask for additional,
but that would really be my only complaint.  (I am not a big soup/salad person, so I tend to
nibble on bread while others at the table have soup and salad).

Our other nights for dinner we went to the "Windjammer Café" which is Royal Caribbean's
signature buffet restaurant.  Each evening they had different selections and also had a
section in the middle of the room with "make your own" pasta bar and fajitas.  I loved the
Pasta they made on the spot with whatever spices you wanted to have.  The wait staff in the
Windjammer would come deliver water, juice, coffee to your table and they would also stroll
around with a dessert cart (you could also go to the dessert table).

Windjammer Café is open for 3 meals each day, so we did frequent this location for
breakfast most of our days because it is easy and quick with many good choices.  Hot meals
to cold cereals and danishes, you really have a good selection.  The only day we ate lunch in
the Windjammer was our day of embarkation and it was very good as well.

Solarium is the "snack shack" poolside restaurant with very good hot dogs, hamburgers,
French fries and pizza.  Easy, quick lunch, which is what we did most other days, unless we
were in port for lunch.  Also, they have a table with fresh fruit and cookies.

A cruise would not be complete without a Soft Serve Ice Cream machine, located poolside by
the main pool, CAUTION: this can be dangerous to your waistline!

Café Latte-tudes and Ben & Jerry's are located together and you have gourmet coffees
and ice cream delectable treats for purchase.

Viking Crown Lounge is the signature lounge found on all Royal Caribbean Ships and
located on the highest deck.  It is a drinking venue and then the "disco"  in the late hours.  
The dance floor is on the small side and the music caters to the younger crowd (early 20's
crowd).  What I didn't like about the Viking Crown was that you really could smell cigarette
smoke throughout, even though there is a designated area for smoking, I'm not sure it really
is enforced properly.  We did enjoy the 70's disco party one night, but as the night
progressed, so did the DJ, into current music and as he did, the crowd changed.

Some Enchanted Evening Lounge was our favorite place to hang out in the evenings,
because this location has the best dance floor.  A beautifully huge dance floor, but the room
is under-utilized in this capacity.  They had a band that played very limited hours each night
and I would have liked to see more time for dancing.  This room was also used for "game
show", karaoke nights, late night comedy and bingo.  Most of these things could have been
held in the big showroom, Masquerade Theatre because that was only used for the main
performance each night.

Champagne Terrace was our second place to dance, although a very small area is allowed
for dancing and it was oddly placed (almost in a walkway area), 3-5 couples could usually
dance in this small area.  Bar service here was probably the best, but it was a small place so
the wait staff didn't have a lot of territory to cover.  This was also a nice place to hang out on
the nights we went to the Aquarius dining room as it was located right outside the dining room.

Schooner Bar was the Piano Bar and although we never really sat in there, we did walk
through it often to get to other places and the people there seemed to be enjoying
themselves and singing along with the pianist.

Casino Bar, Poolside Bar, and Solarium Bar were not places we actually went to drink.  
When we were poolside, the wait staff was very attentive in bringing our drink orders and we
really didn't spend much time in the Casino.  Actually, we lost our money quicker than a wait
person could come to take a drink order.

  ENTERTAINMENT:
  Each night there was a show in the Masquerade Theatre, and
  most of the shows were very enjoyable.  We saw comedians,
  magicians and then the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers in
  two headline shows:  "Boogie Wonderland", which was just O.K.-
  there were times that it just wasn't entertaining and then   "Broadway Rhythm and Rhyme", which was very good, very entertaining.

Most of the more entertaining shows were the ones that were comprised of audience
participation.  You could not laugh anymore, these shows were hilarious. The
"Newlywed
Game"
was comprised of 4 couples anywhere from 1 week to 40 years of marriage and  the
answers these couples had for each other were hysterical.  We had one very cute "newlywed
couple" in their 80's and they had been married just under 10 years and they were so matter
of fact about their answers, for example:  "who of your wife's family would you not want to be
stranded on a desert island with?" his answer was, "I dunno, her family is all dead".     

"The Quest" game show was a team effort scavenger hunt type of game that was wild and
crazy and again non-stop laughter.  Teams began by having to find lipstick, calendars, drink swizzles
(very easy items), then progressed to needing 3 bras, guys wearing girls shoes and then the
bonanza "quest" was for each team to dress up one of their guys as a female......then they had a
parade around the showroom...These guys made some pretty ugly women!! :)
                                                                               
                                                             

There were of course the standard Karaoke nights and they actually had the "Karaoke
Idol" contest and there were some very talented guests on board the ship who participated
and provided a great source of entertainment.  Bingo is one of my favorite forms of
entertainment and I must say that Bill did win twice, and was very close to winning the
snowball jackpot at the end of the cruise- but close doesn't count!   There were nightly
themed parties: 50's Sock Hop, 70's disco night, Country-Western Night, etc. The cast and
crew of the ship dressed in theme and they usually provided activities along the theme for
that night.  Always something to do, but then also you have the option to do nothing at all

 

PORTS OF CALL:
With cruising, many times you have "port" people and you have "ship" people.  I tend to be
both, in that I enjoy the ship and cruising experience and feel the ship is a destination of its'
own, but also enjoy visiting the ports of call and seeing what they have to offer.  More and
more over the years though,  I am not as interested in the ports of call, unless there is
something of great interest to do while ashore.  I found this to be much of the case with this
trip.

 

CABO SAN LUCAS was our first port of call and
I had never been there before, but overall the
excursions offered weren't of any great interest.
We decided to take a coastal cruise, which took
us by "Land's End" and "Los Arcos" (pictured here) We drank margaritas and heard about the local history.  As a travel agent, it was nice to see several of the resort hotels from the sea side.  It was a very nice boat ride, nice to be in the warm sun and have little to worry or care about.  

Once the boat cruise was done, we walked along the marina area for a bit, thought about
walking into town, but we really didn't want to shop or eat, which would have been our two
options at that time.  So we went back to the ship and enjoyed ourselves on board.

MAZATLAN was our second port of call and again, a place that I had not visited before.  
Here we had decided to take an excursion that took us 45 minutes outside of Mazaltan to a
private villa estate in the hills.  We enjoyed the pool, had an authentic Mexican meal (the
food here was mediocre), a few drinks and the option to explore the grounds.  There was an
old chapel on the property which we were able to tour through, the bougainvilleas around the
chapel were amazingly beautiful.  This was a rest and relax day, but honestly can't say that
we couldn't have been just as happy sitting poolside on the ship.  There were guests from
                                                                                                  two other ships at the villas that day, so we all compared notes about our ships and the experiences we had all had so far.  Again,  the travel agent in me "took notes", it was nice to get opinions from people who had no  that I was a travel agent.  One of the other ships did have horseback riding as part of  their villa experience, which would have nice for the rest of us as well.   Overall, we did have a very nice day, the weather was beautiful and the people on the
excursion were all very nice.  

 

PUERTO VALLARTA was our third and final port of call and as the saying goes, "we saved
the best for last".  I have been to Puerto Vallarta before, several years ago and stayed in
town for a few days.  I liked it then and I was very impressed with the town as a cruise port of
call.  They had the cleanest, most appealing dock area.  They only have room for one ship at
the pier, so we had to tender in, but we were scheduled to depart Puerto Vallarta at 10pm
that night, so once the other ship ended its' day in Puerto Vallarta, our ship pulled up to the
pier.  The excursion that we splurged on was the Dolphin Encounter.  I would highly
recommend this to anyone travelling to Puerto Vallarta.  It was the most amazing experience
and one to remember for a lifetime.  We were bussed to the facility, given our instructions
and then in small groups were put in the pool with 3 dolphins per group.  We interacted with
the dolphins: pet them, fed them, kissed them, played with them and at the end were even
given the chance to ride them--AWESOME!!!  I cannot even being to explain the wonder!!

 

But, I think the picture does a great job of conveying the experience!  It was not a cheap
excursion, once you add up the cost of the excursion, and then the cost for your optional
DVD and pictures (they are optional, but trust me after the experience, you want to have the
memories)- it was easily a $400 day--but I'd do it again, well worth the price!!

After the Dolphin Encounter, we were bussed back to the pier and decided to eat lunch at
the pier-side "taco stand" and had nachos and quesadillas that were very good, back to the
ship and we enjoyed the "Dancing Under the Stars" Deck party once we set sail from Puerto
Vallarta at 10pm.  This was the last sailing for Mexico on the Vision for a few months as the
ship was heading to Alaska after our sailing, so the captain took his time along the coastline
and we were able to enjoy the nighttime lights of Puerto Vallarta.  It was a nice way to say
"goodbye" to Mexico.

HEALTH CLUB AND SPA:


Of course being the fitness professional (for those who do not know, in addition to being a
travel specialist and agency owner, I also teach classes at the local gyms.)  I did attend both
a yoga and spin class.  The Yoga class was very basic and not what I was hoping for, but for
the first time student, it would have been a good class.  The Spin class was a good workout
and I was happy to see the instructor teach a "true" spin class, didn't notice her teaching
contraindicated moves or anything harmful to the students.  I also went to the health club a
few other times to run the treadmill and do some line dancing to my own Ipod tunes and get a
bit more of a workout.  It was a small facility, for the age of the ship, about the norm.  

I also treated myself to an hour massage one day and that  was really just "O.K.", I didn't feel
as though the massage therapist was being very individualized, felt more like I was just one
more massage for the day.  I have had better on a ship before and even better on land!

Of course, throughout the week there were scheduled walks around the ship for exercise and
dance lessons.  If you participated in these activities you were given "ship shape" dollars that
were redeemable for t-shirts, water bottles, etc.  Also, can't forget  the best workout of all -
the Rock Climbing wall.  I didn't indulge this time, although I have climbed a wall on a
previous Royal Caribbean ship.  It is very fun, I think this time I just forgot about it.


OVERALL SUMMARY:


Was it my favorite cruise?  No
Did I have a good time?  Yes
Food? Good, not out of this world, but adequate
Service?  Excellent!  We had a great cabin steward
Entertainment/Activities?  Overall very good, would have liked more dancing options
Would I do it again?  Cruising?- yes   To Mexico?- probably not
Would I sail with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line again?  Absolutely.

I think if I was going to go to Mexico, I would fly to Puerto Vallarta or Cabo and just stay a few
days to a week and enjoy the resort atmosphere.  I love to cruise, but part of why I love to
cruise is the days at sea to lounge around the pool, our days at sea (2 of 3) weren't the
greatest for that, we had a lot of wind and overcast skies, which for the beginning of May,
should not have been the case.  My experience in the Caribbean with cruising has always
been wonderful sunshine days at sea, so I have that for a comparison and that is truly what I
love about cruising- the days at sea.

GOTTA LOVE THOSE TOWEL ANIMALS, introducing Bonnie the Bunny and Ellie the

Elephant: