Vision of the Seas ~ May
27-June 3, 2001
By Mary & Vincent Finelli
On to Alaska with RCI! Last year we
booked an Alaskan cruise, but had to cancel for health reasons, so we were
geared up for this long delayed trip. We were not disappointed! You
may quote us: "Alaska is beautiful beyond words and the best way to see it
is from the deck, or your balcony aboard the beautiful ship, Vision of the
Seas." The wonderful sensation of the cool arctic air, and even
the rain only enhanced the total experience of cruising through bays with blue
icebergs in the water and the Hubbard glacier's white/blue cliffs of ice rising
out of the mist in front of you (It's the largest tidewater glacier in North
America). As the ship Captain Nikolaos Antalis said, it is the only way to
go and he is right.
The temperatures ranged from the upper 40s to
the low 60s, what we call "sweater weather." The pristine
Alaskan coast, with its natural wonders of fjords and miles and miles of
cruising through the Inside Passage with no hint of civilization in sight, is
worth preserving: The Hubbard glacier, the Misty Fjords, the immense landscape
of snow capped mountain peaks, rain forests, valleys and torrents visible from
our veranda, and the 16 to 18 hours of daylight all combined to make this trip
This was our eighth cruise aboard RCI and our
ninth will be the end of this month, on the Grandeur of the Seas, in the
Mediterranean traveling from Italy to Turkey and Greece (Captain Antalis'
homeland). Altogether we have cruised 18 times in the past 5 years, in
addition to some transatlantic crossings on luxury liners in the 50's and 60's;
we hope to keep on cruising since for us it is "like no vacation on
We flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Vancouver, B.C. the day before sailing and TWA
allowed the companion wheelchair on board, so transfer in St. Louis was simple.
We stayed at the Best Western Downtown and Sunday morning we toured the city on
the Vancouver Trolley Company (ancient looking red cars) and saw Stanley Park,
Gas Town and China Town. Vancouver was in bloom with rhododendrons, tulips
and roses. It's just a short taxi ride to the port where boarding was
simple. We dropped off our luggage curbside and a crew member pushed
the wheelchair to a special counter, where we were checked in at noon and in our
suite in about ten minutes. Boarding was simple and pleasant.
The Vision of the Seas has the sleek shape of the Royal Caribbean Vision
Class ships with the traditional aqua widows on top and glass everywhere which
gives cruisers a constant view of the ocean, even while dining. She was
built at Chantiers de L'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France and launched April 16,
1998; she is 78,000 tons; 915 ft. long, 106 ft. wide, with a draft of 25 ft. and
cruising speed is 22 knots. She carries 2,400 passengers and has a crew of
778. Of her 1,000 staterooms, 14 are wheelchair accessible and 539
have ocean view.
Her condition is incredibly good, considering
the number of cruisers who travel aboard the ship every week. Among her
memorable features are the Viking Crown Lounge (Deck 11), characteristic of RCI
ships, with its 360 degrees surround view of the ocean and the upper structures
of the ship, and the Centrum, which is six decks tall, lovely and enhanced by a
huge suspended chrome helix sculpture with hints of aquatic life in its design.
The over all color scheme of white/platinum silver and pale aqua and lavender is
refreshing. The two deck Aquarius Dining Room is a study in white with a
tapestry on the far wall depicting an astrological theme and, at the opposite
end, an intaglio in a marble wall with lighted stars in a figure representing
the Constellation Aquarius, very nice indeed!
The Solarium Pool (with two adjacent jacuzzi
tubs) is circled by white columns; the entrances are flanked with interesting
Aztec inspired block sculptures of terra cotta colored travertine by Helaine
Blumenfeld. These are quite wonderful as are the glass sculptures by
Gianni Arico` outside the Masquerade Theater, and the bronze sculptures near the
Centrum by Fritz Roel of the "Italian Circus Dog" and the figure of a
woman entitled "Carnevale in Venice." The Library has a
wooden Pinocchio staring out to sea (6 ft. tall). On deck 8, adjacent to
the Centrum, on the starboard is the Crown & Anchor Study and on port side
is the Explorers Club, an Internet Lounge with plenty of stations where cruisers
could check their e-mail and surf the web at 50 cents per minute. Among
the newer ships we found the Vision to be one of the more tastefully
decorated with fine art works, although not as abundant as the amazing Costa
Atlantica (a floating art museum), yet many cruisers commented on her beauty
and we agree. For the athletic minded cruisers on deck 10 there is a
jogging track and the Shipshape Center fully equipped with aerobic and weight
equipment. Health Spa and Beauty Salon are on deck 9. The nightly
entertainment performances were in the two-tiered Masquerade Theater (decks 5
and 6). The Captain's receptions and the Bingo games were in the Some
Enchanted Evening Lounge (deck 6). The Casino Royale (deck 5) was busy
whenever we passed through to donate.
Our wheelchair access Suite #8550 is a spacious stateroom (approx. 280 sq. ft.)
with a veranda (approx. 80 sq. ft.) and a wooden deck foyer. When entering
on the right there is a large bathroom/shower, rails all around, single sink
with two medicine cabinets (unfortunately no towel rack near the sink, but only
across the room on the far walls). Next, there is a console with TV,
refrigerator, personal safe, and six shelves and three drawers. There is
also a sofa, upholstered chair and small glass coffee table, too small for
breakfast in the cabin (as on most ships). The one thing that would
improve the comfort of this wheelchair cabin would be to make the furniture a
bit higher (4 or 5 inches to match the height of the wheelchair) especially, the
bed and sofa which are a tad too low for the physically challenged (as on most
ships). Entering on the left is a double armoire, lighted desk vanity with
six drawers, a queen size bed with two night stands (two drawers each) and
another bureau with two huge drawers, Needless to say, there is enough
storage space for 4 people even on a two week cruise. The color scheme is
pastel gray, aqua and lavender with white painted wood and two large watercolors
by Andrea Hansen Hobby. It is a spacious and airy stateroom.
The food was generally good with flashes of wonderful. We ate at the
welcome aboard buffet in the Windjammer Cafe` on Sunday, and it was the usual
buffet: good cafeteria food. We did not return there because we had
excellent breakfasts served in our stateroom (full American, omelets w/cheese,
ham, bacon, croissants, Danish, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices, fresh fruits
and cereals). We mostly lunched in the main dining room and there was a
nice selection in both the Ship Shape menu and the Chef's recommendations.
Soups were especially good, black bean and lobster bisque excellent.
Twice, Vincent went for snacks at the Solarium Grill (Deck 9), where good pizza,
hot-dogs, hamburgers and fries were available most of the time (10:30am - 6:30pm
and 11:00pm - 6:00am).
Evenings we always dined in the Aquarius Dining
Room where the service under the Maitre d' Clive Page was "Class A."
The food was hot even though our table was the most distant from the galley!
It was also plentiful. We heard from other cruisers that they would like
the choice of half portions. Our waiter Yalcin was courteous, the asst.
waiter Suzette was always smiling and the head waiter Veli Azari was always
around to see that service ran smoothly. All were extremely pleasant
and competent and made our dining a pleasure. At dinner the food was all
good and some dishes were exceptional, such as the halibut, lobster tails,
pate`, and seafood appetizer. The desserts were great and not overly
sweet. As for the pastas Vincent had two hits and a miss: The Bolognese
sauce was great, the seafood pasta with cream sauce was also good, but the
third pasta dish with tomato sauce was better forgotten. Two out of three
is not bad for a pasta aficionado; however, if cruise lines want to offer
Italian specialties, in our opinion, an Italian chef, with a discriminating
Italian palate, is a must. Somehow, the quasi Italian taste of some
dishes did not meet our expectation.
We had a wonderful meal at Captain Antalis'
table on Monday Gala Night. He is from Greece and was gallant, kind and
humorous throughout the meal, more later on the Captain. The menu included
Shrimp Cocktail, Terrine, Lobster Bisque, Caesar Salad, Alaskan Salmon and
Halibut, Duck a` l'Orange and Filet Mignon, accompanied with fine
red and white wines. This was a delicious dinner and a memorable night
mostly due to the wonderful company of the Captain and the other invited guests.
Thank you, Captain!
We truly believe that RCI knows how to select their captains, officers and crew.
We are happy to say RCI has excellent service on the Vision of the Seas.
The staff was smiling and most accommodating for the entire week. Captain
Antalis has a love for the sea and nature which he displayed by his enthusiastic
approach to this itinerary. He spoke of how a ship should be handled in
iceberg waters (always slowly forward so as to avoid any damage to the
propellers). He graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy of Greece and
has extensive experience in the cargo and cruise ship industries. He is
active in the ongoing continual education and training of his junior officers.
As former teachers, we were interested to know that he requires his men to
continue the learning of traditional navigational instruments, such as the
sextant and compass, for historical purposes and for a better understanding of
navigational principles, even though these appear unnecessary with the
computerized hi-tech system of modern liners. This combination of both
theory and practice can only make his men the ultimate sailors. Captain
Antalis exhibits a great sense of responsibility for the safety and happiness of
his passengers: A great Master and a Gentleman!
We also dined with Hotel Director Bjorn Erik
Julseth, Chief Purser Doug MacLennan, Social Hostess Susanne Hanson, and
International Ambassador Federica Pernechele. Bjorn runs a tight ship, his
priority is passenger contentment and he achieves it. Doug is cordial and
busy, busy. Susie is everywhere and her personality can only be described
as dazzling (bright, smiling and a touch of elegance). Federica's fluency
with many foreign languages was impressive and finally Jeffrey Jack, Guest
Relations Manager, was very pleasant and informative. These people, our
new friends, made this cruise memorable and gave us the desire to return to the Vision
There were three musical revues and all were very good , "Make Mine
Broadway" and "Rhythm Nation" were excellent; the Royal Caribbean
singers and dancers were bouncy and pert and deserved the hearty applause.
Unfortunately, we did not see Susan Anton, but have it on good authority from
many cruisers (whom we made a point to ask) that both she and her show were
beautiful and that she did some Bette Midler's songs with flair; however, some
complained that the show was a bit too loud.
The hit of the week was the virtuoso violinist
Maria Neglia, billed as "Fireworks on Four Strings"; she received
three standing ovations. Accompanied by the Vision of the Seas
orchestra, she mesmerized the audience. People were talking about her for
the rest of the cruise. She comes from a long line of musicians and it
shows! Maria appeared in the 50's and 60's on many Ed Sullivan and other
TV shows. We saw her later at the Vancouver Airport with her sixteenth
century Amati (Cremona, Italy) violin strapped to her back. She was a
pleasure to hear, unforgettable. Finally the Cruise Director Tim Seivert
(Minnesota) was sociable, approachable and a master of witty repartee.
He had the audience in stitches whenever he was on stage.
Ports of Call:
1. Skagway (population 800): The shore excursion we chose was the White
Pass Scenic Railroad (3 1/2 hrs). This is the original route for miners
into the gold fields. The terrain is mountainous, so the best way to see
it is by train (there is a wheelchair lift to facilitate access). There
are also many other tours with biking, hiking, kayaking, dog sledding, flight
sightseeing and fishing available.
2. Juneau (population 20,000) is the Alaskan
capital. We took the Juneau Highlights Tour (2 1/2 hrs) to the Gastineau
Salmon Hatchery (an attempt to keep the various species of salmon alive and well
in the Alaskan waters). We then saw Mendenhall Glacier, Chapel by the
Lake, and University of Alaska. Other tours were to the gold mines or to
the glaciers by float planes. On the way back to the ship we stopped at
the Red Dog Saloon (swinging doors and all), for the old time atmosphere, it was
great. Juneau is a nice town for souvenir shopping.
3. Ketchikan (population 15,000) is a small
town 1/2 mile wide by 7 miles long, most of which was visible from the ship.
We did not disembark here, but did enjoy watching fellow cruisers kayaking
in port. There were tours here for the Misty Fjords (which the ship also
sails through) nature hikes and a Jeep Safari: All great for the hale and
What we admired around the ports of call and
from the ship are mostly natural wonders. There are a few totem poles and
some interesting log buildings, scattered around, and a daring mountain climbing
railway (the White Pass Scenic Railroad) and a few other artifacts, but what
amazed us most of all are the breathtaking views of the wild unspoiled nature,
the calm and icy waters of the fjords and bays, the floating blue colored
icebergs and the still quietness in the misty coastal air which touched our
hearts and minds. There are very few signs of human encroachment, but
rather a lot of natural beauty. No oil derricks here yet! Let's keep
it that way for posterity!
We were given white tags for priority debarkation and told to wait on deck 5 at
7:45am for wheelchair assistance. When our color was called, we were
escorted through customs to the luggage area and then to the taxi stand.
In ten minutes we were on our way to the airport. It was all very simple
and expeditious and we never lifted a bag.
1. Some guests would like to know if half portions could be made
available in the dining room. We hate to waste good food. We realize
that many guests like the ample meals, but most mature people tend to limit
2. Perhaps smoking could be limited to
either port or starboard side cabins. It would be more accommodating if
non-smokers did not inherit a cabin with a residue of smoke scent.
3. The trundle carts used to haul bar
supplies in the Solarium are quite loud when empty and can be heard at odd hours
in the suites below.
These suggestions are minor things in light of
a magnificent cruise. RCI has done it again! It gave us one of our
most pleasurable cruising experience. Thank you RCI and Arrivederci
on the Grandeur of the Seas June 30, 2001 for our first cruise from
Civitavecchia (Italy) to Greece and Turkey! Happy Cruising to all!
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