Vision of the Seas - 10 British Isles Cruise
My beautiful Vision of the Seas was due to have a refit, gaining many of the features her sisters have.  Originally due to take place in March 2013, it was changed to September and they had a repositioning cruise from Copenhagen to Southampton from the 14th-24th of that month, before heading off to the yard.  It was called a British Isle cruise but only two ports were part of it.  I was already booked on her immediate post-refit one and had mulled this over for some time.  It would be fantastic to go on her once more as she was.  While on fleet mate, Independence, on the 5th November 2012, I went to the sales desk and booked, paying the balance on the 6th July 2013.

The 14th arrived and it was time to return to Copenhagen and board this ship exactly a year since I last did it!  I just hoped the terminal wouldn't be as chaotic as it had been at 3pm then.  The flight was several hours earlier, which was a good start, so we would arrive at 9.25am.  I was picked up at 3.40am and got to Heathrow before 5am.  The self check-in kiosks were just about working but it didn't print the receipt on my luggage label, so I had to queue up and wait for the desks to open at 5am.  When I'd done this in 2012, SAS staff made it perfectly clear you could NOT check-in at the desk, only drop your luggage so wish they'd make up their minds!  It was ever so quiet and very odd being like that.  Gate 9 was announced fifteen minutes early and when we went to the plane, we were taken on a magical mystery tour, ending up on the tarmac, where we boarded via the aft steps as the sun began to rise, which were wet from rain.  My seat was the first row as you went on and there couldn't have been more than thirty in the seats.  Once we landed, it was the usual long walk to immigration then baggage reclaim.  I was the only person on my flight for the ship, which was a complete contrast from exactly one year prior.  I was told to wait at the meeting point, soon joined by a Norwegian man called Nils, who had arrived from Oslo.  Then the Americans arrived!  Many were meant to have been there the day before but their flights were cancelled due to weather.  Whereas we'd left a rainy London, Copenhagen was hot!  We arrived at the port at 11am after another smooth transfer, which was really good.  With Vision being replaced by Legend, this will be the last time I flew to or from here for a ship for a looooooooooong time.  No offence to Legend, but I already have 2014 plans now they're taking Vision away.  The normal queues were short with Crown & Anchor empty apart from Nils but before then we were given a letter about passports and immigration.  In 2012, they had taken ALL passports at immigration but you still needed photo ID.  I had asked Royal Caribbean UK if the same would happen again and they said yes.  The letter said, "Passport Collection only for Schengen Visa Holders during check-in.  All guests with Schengen Visa (2 or Multi entries) need to hand their passports to the check-in agents".  It also stated for the 16th, our first sea day, "Face to face control with UK immigration for ALL guests. Passport distribution for ALL Schengen Visa holders. Passport collection for ALL NON European guests".  Meanwhile, on the 22nd there would be passport distribution for all non-Europeans, except Schengen Visa holders, who could collect theirs in Southampton on the 24th in Southampton  It was good we kept our passports, though I had taken the photocopy the check-in lady did for me the year before just in case.  I'm always like a big excited kid when I go on Vision and this was no exception.  The cabins weren't ready until 1pm so up to the Windjammer, which opened at 11.30pm but already loads were waiting.  I bought the soda package then went to sit with Nils, sharing a table once we were allowed in then waiting on the hot pool deck chatting.  His husband was working so Nils was on his own.  I made my way to 3024 and it turned out he was in 3004.  Despite having Diamond C&A status, my case turned up just after 3.40pm.  On the one of the RCTV channels was weather info from Topi Ylonen, our cruise director from Finland, and Captain Lis Lauritzen, warning us we may skip Invergordon and go to Greenock via the English Channel instead, resulting in three sea days.  Either way didn't bother me.  I was there for the ship, not itinerary.
Muster was at 4.30pm with sailaway half an hour later.  Before going to my muster station, the announcement was also given in Italian, German, Spanish and French.  Yet people complain about MSC and Costa being in several languages!  Topi did the muster announcement then Captain Lis came on before sailing to inform everyone about the possible itinerary change and then we were off from Copenhagen for the last time  It was a lovely sailaway.  The ferry, Pearl Seaways, was already on the way to Oslo.  I then found the Diamond Club, had a snack and drink then returned to the cabin.  My cabin steward was Patricia Howard, a Columbian lady who had joined that day, having previously been on Freedom and Splendour.  She was having training during the week so apologised in advance if things were done late.  The 7pm show in the theatre was originally Kirk Marsh but changed to Bee Gees Magic, who were scheduled a couple of days later.  Sounds like they were going to be getting off at Invergordon so we wouldn't be going there then!  They were very good and it does make a change from sodding Beatles tribute acts.  Dinner was at 8.45pm, which is a bit late and one reason second sitting struggles now to fill the tables.  As Royal Caribbean don't put solos together, I ended up on a table for eight with two elderly American ladies who had trouble hearing anything and remembering as well.  I'm not sure which was worse - those awful couples on Radiance trying to outdo each other while ignoring me, or being stuck with those like Hinge & Bracket for over an hour!  My waiters were nice though.  Branislav from Serbia and Rahul from India, while Dorota from Poland was in charge of the area.  Brani told us about being on Radiance when they ship ended up staying in Sydney New Year's Eve due to weather.  The menu was the new one I'd heard about.  It had been a long day with hardly any sleep so I decided to go to bed after a quick stroll on the deck.
Oslo was our first port.  I was there the first time on Vision when she did her first European cruise in 2009 from Harwich.  The weather was mild and thankfully dry as we arrived for 10am.  Thomson Spirit was already there, docked by the Opera House, while Pearl Seaways caught us up.  Some of the workmen who would be upgrading the satellite systems and creating ship wide wifi, were on deck.  In the lift was the bloke from Bee Gees Magic who played Maurice Gibb complete with baggage.  No Invergordon then if they were getting off now!  After a late breakfast, I went ashore for photos and typically, as I was nearly finished, it started raining.
Lunch then resting my back and knee after that walking.    The rain continued, and I noticed through the window the ferry, Color Magic, sail in the gloom.  Later it began to brighten up just as Pearl Seaways left for Copenhagen.  ;No sooner had I got some nibbles and ordered a drink at Diamond Club, than I spotted Thomson Spirit on the move.  I'd forgotten she was going at 5pm.  With the doors locked, I had a choice of getting her through the window or dashing down and causing my knee pain so I stayed where I was.  As I returned to the cabin to grab my coat, I noticed the sick bags out.  Nothing like taking precautions!  Meanwhile, as I neared the cabin, a waiter was closing my door, having left my Diamond formal night nibbles.
Unsurprisingly, Captain Lis confirmed we wouldn't be going to Invergordon.  We left about five minutes before 6pm.  Stena Saga arrived back from wherever and passed us but not many were on deck, which was probably wise since, no sooner had Vision straightened, than the heavens opened.  Oslo was crying and didn't want her to go either!  It was ironic really.  It poured when I arrived on her in 2009, resulting in a ten hour wait at the airport along with several others who decided to skip exploring the city, and now it did it as I left.


© Patricia Dempsey 14th-24th September 2013
Not to be reproduced without permission