The beautiful Vision of the Seas left Southampton for Cadiz on the 24th September 2013, arriving on the 27th. For the next month she would undergo transformation and never be the same ship again. After 5 fabulous cruises on her since 2008, including the last before refit, it was time to check out what they’d done and, more importantly, see if she received a ducktail like Rhapsody. Grandeur hadn’t, which confused things further! She left the yard on the 25th October, arriving in Lisbon the day after.
So I flew to Lisbon on the 28th October in trepidation of the end results. Would she still have that certain something which made her my number 1 or would I hate what Royal Caribbean had done? But before that was a more important worry. The southern half of the UK would be hit by a storm from the 27th and through the 28th. While the weather forecasters were still trying to scare the population with warnings on 90mph winds, the storm was actually downgraded, gusting most in exposed areas such as the Needles. British Airways cancelled some flights but from Terminal 5. Mine was T3, which was a relief! I’d still be travelling to Heathrow in it though. I was picked up just before 3.45am and off we went, arriving just after 5am. Things were going okay. The bus to the plane turned up but we were kept at the gate due to a 70mph squall. We eventually went at 7.20pm, an hour late. Almost everyone was on the plane 15 minutes later but we waited for a disabled lady and her husband and then headed off. The take off wasn’t too bad but approach into Lisbon and landing was horrendous! In September, I’d been the only one on my plane going on Vision. This time there were a whole lot more – phew! We were all taken one by one to a minibus which already had 2 Americans onboard. Out of 17 on it, there were them, a German and the rest were Brits including two more from Southampton. The drive didn’t take 45 minutes at all but only 25. The weather was as bad as home minus the wind. I had arranged to meet Oscar Mouro of Portuscales Cruises and visit the Funchal, which was further down the docks. First of all it was check-in. There was no Crown & Anchor queue and no one I asked knew what that was. Instead there were two lines – US & Canada and the rest. We had to show our ESTA then a green sticker was put onto the passport. Check-in was pretty past anyway but no one also knew when you had to be onboard the ship for. After getting my seapass, I asked a lady as I was on the way out. She said the ship was sailing at 5pm. I told her it was 6pm so we went to check. I was right (course – I am on the thing!) and when I explained about visiting the Funchal, she said to me like I was a simpleton, “No, dear. This isn’t Funchal, it’s Lisbon.” I explained I knew that but was visiting the ship. She’d obviously not a clue so continued thinking I didn’t.
So my brief interlude was seeing a classic lady, which was recently back in service after an uncertain future when her previous owners went bust as she was being brought up to 2010 SOLAS standard. Now she and three others were getting lots of love under new owners. Lisboa was in the dry dock having a hull inspection but Funchal was going to return for a few days to finish some previous work. As a result, most of the rooms were covered but what I saw I liked very much. Space, cosiness and lots of deck are my three must haves in a ship. Vision has the first two of those. It rained a bit but I was back well before 2pm.
Then it was time to board my Vision of loveliness! I really liked this old terminal building. There was another passport control then onto the dockside for the long walk to the gangway, which was located unusually on deck 2. Normally it would be deck 4 and your first sight was the Centrum. Sometimes I got the feeling she was trying to keep me being upset as long as possible. It was raining so thank goodness for some shelter. And that’s where I saw her deformity – I mean ducktail. Her beautiful Ducky Bum ruined when Grandeur got away with it.
I went up to my cabin. I have only ever had one upgrade from Royal Caribbean and that was Navigator in 2007 – my first with them. Rising through the Crown & Anchor ranks gets me zilch. In this case I was delighted because I didn’t want upgrading. I booked 7152 deliberately since it was under my solo budget. It was my first in 2008 and now would most likely be my last so I’d be coming full circle, having began her in the US, I would also be ending my association there too (unless the either brought her back to Europe or put her back on cruises out of there longer than week long boring milk runs), albeit on different sides of the country. The bathroom was new. Sink not bad but the tap too short if you only want to wash your hands. The shower is worse than the old one. The showerhead has an annoying habit of spurting onto the bathroom floor, no matter what angle you have the thing at. The hose design makes it difficult to just rest the showerhead on the bottom if you’re only washing your hair. Instead, again, water goes all over the place. Detachable are the best but whoever chose these clearly won’t ever use them. I miss the storage behind the mirrors and who decided to put the toilet paper holder under the sink? It’s one hell of a reach (worse when you have a bad back like I do) and going into Royal Princess cock-up territory. Again, I bet the moron who decided that won’t use it. I’d forgotten how large the room was. It is bigger than oceanview/hull hole (including balcony) on Queen Mary 2 before adding the balcony and costs a fraction of the price! Lunch and the Windjammer didn’t look that different. I’d been told it was going to be totally redesigned.
Muster was scheduled for 5.30pm but took place fifteen minutes earlier and conducted in about five languages. I was at muster station 16, my very first. We would be late sailing due to waiting for passengers so Oriana went first. We finally moved off around 6.40pm silently. Dinner was at 8.30pm and I was on table 66, not far near the entrance. Also on the table were Emmett and Sarah, who has been married 63 years, Debra from New York who looked like Morticia Addams and did like being the Great I Am and monopolising the conversation and finally Signe. They were all American. Our waiters were Emil from the Ukraine, Dragan from Serbia and head waiter Jose from Portugal. Due to having been up since 8.45pm the night before, I went to bed and really needed it! But before I reached the cabin, I noticed they were preparing for the rough night ahead. I also went to sign on to the internet but there was an error. It said card needs a folio. The girl at Guest Services told me there was a general problem which was being looked into. When are Royal Caribbean/Celebrity going to allow you to register in your cabin like other cruise lines??? This swiping card thing is a pain when it’s working properly, never mind when it’s buggered.
Our first of 7 sea days on the 29th. Very lazy day. My cabin had no mobile signal and I KNOW there was one in 2008. I reported it but the girl at Guest services (same one from the night before) didn’t particularly care even though she reported it. Finally called back nearly 5 hours later to tell me maintenance say there’s nothing they can do as it’s the location of the cabin. That doesn’t explain why there is also a dead spot in the Windjammer now too. The further forward you sit, the less signal you receive until there’s none. It’s the same on the deck above when you overlook the bow. Yet there WAS a signal on ALL on my previous cruises. I’ve had Facebook and Twitter since 2009 and photos from my last 3 cruises on here had uploads while sat at the front of the Windjammer as well as during sailaways while overlooking the bow. Someone has messed up somewhere while they did the rewiring but they can’t be arsed to fix it. It was the Captain’s booze up in the Centrum. I quite liked what they’d done. Bloody awful columns and green sculpture gone and much more space created. Pity about the glass stairs between decks. I miss those. Captain Srecko Ban was on during my cruise in 2012 but I didn’t meet him then. He didn’t say passenger numbers or how many of each nationality there were. Show after dinner was Stephen Bayliss, a singer from Preston who was good. Then bed.
We gained an hour – wooo! Extra hour of kip!!!! The weather had calmed down and was warm! I ended up booking Chops Grille for the 1st November after talking to the bloke taking the bookings. He was on QE2’s final year. He also showed me some of the dry dock photos. I quite liked what they did with the area, formerly Showboat Lounge. It was a quiet place and not used for a lot of activities. After lunch I went to the lecture about Sir Francis Drake but I do with Americans would pronounce Leicester properly. It’s not “Lie-cester” but “Lester”. It was very good and I’m not really a lecture person. He got a bit behind so ended up rushing through the last 10 minutes. In the Centrum they were practicing the acrobatics. Having the Park Café just 2 decks above my cabin is a very bad idea. It’s just so tempting! On Radiance there were free crisps. None on here and I don’t know if they will. It was so nice and ideal to spend on the balcony. A quick pop into the shops later saw bugger all I wanted to buy for once and in the duty free shop they had sundries – wooo! Pity in September I wasn’t able to buy bloody aspirin or anything to help fight my cold. I skipped the show, instead going on deck for a while. It was lovely and cool. At dinner, I’d pre-ordered the fish but also was brought the potato curry! I had mentioned it to Jose the night before and he told me it’s no longer on the menu so hadn’t expected that. I ordered it the following night too. Signe came along towards the end, first time she’d been out of the cabin since the first night. We stayed chatting after Emmett and Sarah left. Quick pop to Park Café again before bed.
Halloween!!!! I had intended to get up to go around the ship photographing the new bits but ended up watching As Good As It Gets on telly instead after the sunrise before going back to sleep. Lunch then three old gits took advantage of my offer to keep an eye on their stuff while they got lunch. Not one reappeared by 2pm so I pissed off. Another wander and a few places were decorated for Halloween. I found Giovanni’s Table, which replaced three conference rooms (the naughty rooms where your luggage would be held if confiscated after discovering stuff inside you shouldn’t have) and the Diamond Club. I saw Signe leaving the art auction so we chatted a while and were handed a free print for attending. Not bad since I hadn’t! I accompanied her to the casino where it was the Blackjack Tournament. She missed registering for the first round but did the second and third. I had a lazy afternoon, just booking Giovanni’s, until the 7pm show. Jeff Nease is an American comedian who was doing very well until he starting talking about kids (especially his). Fell flat from then on and didn’t really recover. Dinner and Signe came. I left just after 9.30pm, telling Jose I’ll gladly have my usual salad and the potato curry again when I was back on the 3rd. It was the Halloween Party in the Centrum and I can’t stand long periods with my back so I needed to find a seat. It was good. There was an Ozzy Osbourne and someone wearing a Prince William mask! I was filmed but will probably end up on the cutting room floor. Park Café then back to the cabin.