The Captain and the Crooner
I’ve wanted to do this cruise for some time but up until now ‘life’ has got in the way, so we were glad to be heading towards the UAE and Oman for our first cruise with RCI. Vision of the Seas carried us on our way and although we knew this was one of the older ships in the fleet, she still looks good, in good repair and nicely decorated (no doubt as a result of the odd refit along the way).
We had a large outside cabin that was perfectly adequate for our need and no doubt has similar facilities and footprint to other cabins in this class. In fairly calm seas (a 1 meter swell seemed to be the norm for this cruise) the ship was so stable that at time I had to look out to sea to make sure we were still moving. So the only thing that disturbed a good night’s sleep in our deck 2 cabin was the intermittent but regular noise from some unknown machinery. Sadly this meant that Linda needed to sleep with earplugs to get a good night’s slumber.
Food was excellent in the Aquarius restaurant, where we had the 6pm fixed dining (‘My dining’ so we could eat at any time wasn’t an option when we booked) and in the buffet style Windjammer. Course after course of great food was a credit to the UK Executive Chef and her team. My biggest issue in the dining room was that we were allocated to a table of 10 but on 4 of the 7 nights we ate on our own, so the social experience of a cruise was somewhat diminished. The fact that 18% service charge was added to any drinks purchase was also a bit of an irritation, but that needs to be offset against the low up front cost we paid for this cruise. Clearly the total cost including the gratuities needs to be considered when deciding if this cruise meets your budget and I thought it was pretty good value overall.
On board entertainment was good and the Beatles Celebration Band that we listen to on 2 occasions was excellent. There was always plenty to do on the ship but it would have been nice to see some lectures or workshops added that would give the grey matter some stimulus as well as the bingo and quizzes. Plenty of physical activities to do as well; climbing wall, swimming pools and gym but we just grabbed a lounger and relaxed when not on an excursion.
Unfortunately my first experience with RCI was somewhat blighted by a consistent stream of service issues, none of any major significance but a series of niggles that needed to be resolved. Not really what you need when you’re on holiday. This is the first cruise I have ever removed the standard gratuities from my bill, feeling they couldn’t possibly be justified.
Destination wise, we had a great time. Khasab in Oman was quite small but the Dhow cruise, with dolphin sightings, was superb. Muscat was perhaps modest in displaying its charms verses its more flamboyant neighbours along the Gulf coastline, but that has allowed it to keep a more traditional style. Abu Dhabi and Dubai, on the other hand, are fighting it out for the bragging rights as to who has the tallest, biggest, most leaning (oh yes the building that leans the most) in the world. A visit to these two can leave you struggling for superlatives that adequately describe what you see.
Despite the niggles this was a very enjoyable cruise and definitely one with many fond memories. Possibly we were unlucky with the service niggles as many no doubt cruise with RCI without incident, so perhaps we’ll give them another try sometime. We’re definitely a fan of the Arabian Gulf though, top destination.
Oh, nearly forgot, the Captain and the Crooner. Well it was one and the same person, not only master of the ship but able to belt out a great tune as well. Talented bloke!