|The majestic Vision
of the Seas berthed in Malta Harbor.
Diary of a cost-effective dream cruise, visiting historic port cities
aboard Vision of the Seas
Text and photos by Toby Saltzman
Saturday: Barcelona, Spain.
Brilliant sunshine. Check on board ship. Hustle to Las Ramblas for
alfresco lunch: spicy paella under a shady umbrella. Picasso museum:
historic building, enigmatic mix of exciting and drab works. Tiny
gallery across alley sells gorgeous glass art. Antoni Gaudi's architecture:
resplendently gaudy. Down by bay, the Vision is, well, a splendid
vision, towering over other ships. Like my notes say, it's taller
than Niagara Falls, twice as wide as the London Bridge, and as long
as the Eiffel Tower is high.
|A gleaming sculpture
holds court at
the entrance to Rome’s Capitoline.
Exploring inside, I find passengers oohing and aahing over the
ship's atrium lobby and pool. Gym is top-notch: bikes and treadmills
have exciting video "tracks" and the jogging track is good and uninterrupted.
Spa gals tout an amazing electro-shock therapy "guarantied to knock
off inches." Dress code tonight is casual. Ken wears a sports-jacket,
many other men, jeans and T-shirts. Dinner is delicious sea bass.
Skip variety show for romantic piano bar. Sleep easy on smooth sailing
across the Mediterranean.
Sunday: Villefranche, France.
Blue sky over Cote d'azur. Market in Vieux Nice brimming with voluptuous
fruits and flowers, real and marzipan. Lunch in Eze overlooking
sea. Met a young family from ship here - it's their fourth Royal
Caribbean International cruise with their parents and three children
who "love the kids' program." Stroll around Monaco Palace and gardens.
Cafe au lait while watching ritzy crowd at Monte Carlo. Back on
Vision for relaxing swim. Dinner: tender beef. Skip comedian for
|Make a wish at the
Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Monday: Ajaccio, Corsica.
Sparkling sunshine. Thrilled - in spite of long, roller-coaster
bus ride - to see Les Calanches. This spectacular range of red granite
mountains soaring above crystal clear waters is a UNESCO World Heritage
site. Met a couple of hip grad students, late 20's, on their first
trip to Europe: they "love the whole Vision scene." Befriend two
40-ish couples who say this is their "dream cruise." Formal night.
Captain's Gala. Ken in tux. Most men in suits. Rich menu: caviar,
fancy seafood. My fish is bland.
Tuesday: Civitavecchia, Italy.
Sunny. The Vision's Eternal City Tour to the Vatican, Sistine Chapel,
Coliseum, Forum - a dream come true for first timers. We head for
Via Condotti, the old Jewish ghetto. Pasta at Tre Scalini overlooking
Bernini's fountains. At the cocktail dance, people rave about the
ship, the itinerary, the food. Entertainment is RCI's Rock on Broadway,
a peppy and fun rendition of great hits.
grace the fountains
in Rome’s Piazza Navona
Wednesday Messina, Sicily.
Sunny. Drive to Taormina, the 18th century town known for its ancient
amphitheater and ceramic crafts. Have a frosty gelato and buy a
pretty plate. Return to the Vision for a decadent day on deck. Entertainment
is Coasters of Yakety Yak fame, who put on terrific show, but the
European and Russian passengers don't get it and walk out.
Thursday: Valletta, Malta.
Sunny. Forego another peek at Caravaggio's masterpiece for a sail
around Valletta's historic harbor. After, a lovely sun-kissed day
|The family that
Friday: at sea. Drizzly. Everyone
indoors. Heard the food demo, bingo, art auction, and horse racing
were packed. Shmoozing at dinner: our tablemates "loved" this cruise.
So, having experienced the world's finest cruise ships, how do
I peg my review of the Vision while under the influence of this
perfectly delightful Mediterranean itinerary?
|Les Calanches is
a UNESCO World Heritage site. The spectacular range of red granite
mountains soar above crystal clear waters.
Take this Vision of the Seas, the $275 million (US), 2,435 passenger,
78,491 ton, mega-ship launched by Royal Caribbean International
in May 1998. Its publicity pitch - "like no vacation on earth" -
aims squarely at "active travelers looking for an affordable, cost-effective
vacation that's fun, relaxing and refined." In other words, dare
I say, middle-America.
In that context, the hype is true. The reality is the Vision of
the Seas is a meticulously conceived statement of design, service
and amenity. The Vision wows passengers with its public areas: the
soaring atrium lobby with its glass enclosed elevators; vast swaths
of windows that meld exterior views with gleaming natural wood interiors,
sumptuous furnishings in tapestry and soft leather; the two-story
theatre with its lavish masquerade-inspired curtain; the kaleidoscopic
jolt of the casino; the glass-ceilinged solarium with its indoor
pool; the big outdoor pool with its shaded, twin tandem whirlpools.
|Taormina is an 18th
town known for its ancient amphitheater
and ceramic crafts.
However, "cost-effective" defines the level of service and amenities.
The staterooms are pleasant, roomy enough, immaculately clean. You
must upgrade for a bathtub, bar fridge or balcony. Bring or buy
a hairblower. And forget complimentary, in-room goodies. Fees apply
for fruit, coffee, pop, bottled water - never mind caviar and champagne.
While food is free in a generous cycle of meals and snacks, drinks
are not. So passengers pony up a couple of bucks a quaff for an
endless stream of drinks, most with cute paper umbrellas and souvenir
glasses. Apparently, RCI pegs its moderately-upscale passengers
well, since the company is booming full sail ahead. Since 1988,
when RCI launched Sovereign of the Seas, at that time the world's
largest cruise ship, each of its new ships boasted improvements.
The Vision has the biggest space ratio, the biggest spa, the best
youth clubs (supervised by professionally trained teachers). In
June 1997, RCI (owned by Anders Wilhelmsem & Co and the Pritzker
family of Chicago, who also have a controlling interest in Hyatt
Hotels) bought and merged with the posh Celebrity Cruises. In November
1999, RCI launched the latest "world's largest cruise ship", the
$500 million (US), 136,000 ton Voyager of the Seas, the first of
the three "Eagle-class" mega-liners.
My thoughts? The creators had perfect vision. The Vision of the
Seas is a beautiful ship, perfectly suited to its target passengers.
For itineraries and prices contact your travel agent or
Royal Caribbean International, 1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132.
RCI is the official cruise line of the Professional Golfers Association.
Passengers on the "Golf Ahoy Program" may play at top clubs around