I reluctantly went on my first cruise vacation. It was surprisingly fun, but the crowding was intense.

When you go into the Windjammer buffet, it overlooks the front of the ship and gives a nice view of the ocean.

Jeffrey Greenberg/Getty Images

I took a five-day trip on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, visiting the Bahamas and CocoCay.
I was initially hesitant about the trip due to previous COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships.
Cruising wouldn’t be my first choice for a vacation, but I would be willing to go on another one. 

I’ve never liked the idea of being stuck at sea on a cruise ship. And after seeing how COVID-19 spread on the ships in 2020, I swore I would never board one. But I was recently persuaded to book a cruise vacation — and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. 

I opted for Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas, which is one of the smallest and oldest fleets out of the 28 listed on RC’s website. It sailed out of Baltimore and embarked on a five-day journey with stops at the Bahamas and CocoCay. 

Vision of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean’s older vessels and was built in 1998, according to one of the ship’s crew members.

Christopher Biggs/Getty Images

Our first stop was Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. The beach was hot and crowded, and loud music made the whole scene overwhelming. I probably would have preferred booking an excursion, which is a paid experience like snorkeling or hiking that’s facilitated by Royal Caribbean. 

The next day the ship docked at CocoCay, a private island owned by Admiral Cruises, which has been owned by Royal Caribbean since 1988. Admiral Cruises leased the island until 2050 in 1985, and it will probably be renewed, according to Royal Caribbean.

More recently, in 2019, the island got a $250 million renovation. Now Coco Cay has a water park with 13 slides, an exclusive beach club and two pools, a wave pool and a freshwater pool, both of which are the region’s largest. The only people who live on the island full time are employees, Royal Caribbean says. Can you talk about a dream job? 

CocoCay provided the serene tropical destination I was looking for.

Haley Tenore

I really liked CocoCay. It was just as hot and humid as Nassau, but we could hop on trams that shuttled people around the island to avoid the crowds. There were beaches with soft white sand and crystal clear turquoise waters. We disembarked earlier than most passengers, so we got to enjoy the beach before the crowds arrived.

I enjoyed the beach so much that I stayed in the ocean all morning. I wish we had more time on the island, but we had to be back on board by 2 p.m. to sail back to Baltimore.

I was unnerved by how long the hallways outside the ship’s cabins were.

Haley Tenore

The ship had several dining options, including a buffet, a dining room, room service, and a Ben and Jerry’s kiosk that also served Starbucks coffee. Overall, I was pleased with everything I ate. But I did also notice that the portions were usually on the smaller side. 

Some of the food highlights from my trip include the New York Strip Steak and the Royal Cheesecake, both of which I got from the main dining room, and some chicken wings I got as room service on the last night of the trip.

I opted for the refreshment package, which did not include alcohol — I learned this the hard way after being charged $15 for a mimosa. There were bars on almost every deck and I was able to try lots of different mocktails. My favorite ended up being the virgin strawberry daiquiri. 

My biggest complaint was that the ship was packed. Crowding was an issue throughout the entire vessel. Oftentimes I struggled to find a place to sit. I’d have to fight through hordes of people to get food at the buffet, and people would cram the elevators to their very limits. 

When the Windjammer buffet wasn’t packed with people it was a nice place to watch the sun set.

Haley Tenore

I was also shocked by how much everything cost. I bought a packet of peach rings from the gift shop one day because I was hungry between mealtimes at the buffet. They had no price tag, but I figured they’d be no more than $5. It turns out they were $15. 

I spent a little more than I hoped to, but at least I was rarely bored. There were several ways to stay entertained on the ship, including shows, games, and my favorite: the two pools. The pools got crowded like the rest of the ship, however, and boat’s swaying meant led to lots of awkward moments bumping into strangers. 

When we docked in Nassau, we got a view of what looked like the Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas resort.

Haley Tenore

One of the best parts of the trip was the crew, who were all nice and helpful. Royal Caribbean employs people from all over the world, and I enjoyed be in the presence of such diversity. 

I wouldn’t write off going on another cruise, but I think I prefer planning my own trips. With this cruise, everything was pre-planned — right down to the times I was able to eat.

If I’m going to a new city, state, or country, I like to be able to plan where I’m gonna go, how long I’m going to spend there, how much money I will spend, and when I’m going to need downtime.

Do you cruise, or work on a cruise ship, and have a story to share? Contact the reporter from a non-work email at [email protected]

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