Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by DaveT65: Serenade Southern Caribbean
Overall Member Rating
Serenade Southern Caribbean
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: San Juan
We flew to San Juan day prior on Jet Blue from Rochester, NY via JFK - no problems, on time, nice flights.
We took a taxi to our hotel. Driver quoted fixed price as listed on the sheet passed out at the taxi stand. Note there is a $1.50 fuel cost surcharge in effect.
We stayed at the Hotel Miramar. Not fancy, basic, small room, but adequate for 1 night. Clean, quiet [in spite of partying on the street until late.] Delightful terrace on roof - I went to a small supermarket 1 block away, bought juice and cookies, and we had a delightful breakfast on the terrace. Hotel does have a restaurant.
Taxi to the pier; same as above, but driver quoted a price that had only $1 surcharge.
We left the hotel room at 11:30, and arrived at the pier at about 11:45. There was a fairly long line to check-in, but I determined that the doors had opened just before we arrived. It is not obvious where to take the luggage prior to getting into the More check-in line, and very little signage. Taxi driver didn't help in this regard; he apparently didn't know and dropped us off at the end of the check-in line, not at luggage drop off. The line moved fast. By the time we got to the door, there was very little line behind us. Waits for check-in and other checks were minimal. We were at the Windjammer at 12:20. So all in all, embarkation was fine @ < 1hour.
We had D2 #9580, a hump balcony. It did not have one of the over-sized balconies, and the balcony was odd-shaped, but it was fine; excellent visibility forward. Location was wonderful; convenient to everything except the Theater. It was quiet, with very little noise from the Centrum EXCEPT that Serenade now has a band playing rock music until 11:00 or 12:00 midnight on some nights. Easy listening that late is fine; pounding drums is NOT. I can see why the decision was made to locate these activities in the Centrum, as they were quite popular, likely due to walk-by traffic. For that reason alone, I would NOT choose a hump cabin on Serenade [and others?] again. I would choose a cabin a bit Forward. I have always checked what is above, below, either side and across from our cabin selection; now I have to see how close it is to the Centrum. Our cabin attendant was good.
We have always been satisfied with the food on RCI, and this was no exception. Perhaps we are not demanding. There was only one night that I was less than delighted, and I'm sure I could have requested something else, but did not. There were usually 2 or 3 entrees I would have liked. And the desserts, as usual, were great. Our waiter and assistant were great. And our table mates were C&A Diamond and had requested an upper level table at the window, which we got.
Windjammer was also fine. Certainly a step below the dining room, but very adequate with a good variety always. Breakfast there was better than in the dining room based other cruisers' comments. We did not do Specialty Dining. I had a great Fish and Chips at Seaview Cafe, but was disappointed that it was only open at lunch time on sea days, and we only had one; its hours are strange.
We have usually never been enthralled by the entertainment, and this was no exception. The production shows seemed 'tired', and indeed the cast was leaving the ship after this cruise. We only attended one of those shows. Martin Lewis, a slight-of-hand magician was excellent, though. Great illusion and entertaining presentation. Comedians Mario and Daniel were good.
We cruise to relax, dine and just take it easy. So our participation in on-board activities was minimal. The 50's and 60's Music Trivia is my specialty, but one of the answers announced was wrong!! [I told the host.] The ship was alive, so other passengers were apparently happy with the activities.
Serenade is just "cozy". Having been on all classes of RCI ships except Oasis, I think I like the Radiance Class the best. My only complaint is that getting from the Centrum to the Theater is a hassle because of the winding path through the shops, often blocked by sale tables -- and people, of course! The gym was well-equipped, never crowded, and in decent repair. The Solarium was a delightful place to spend time. In general, just a comfortable ship.
Some areas of the ship could use some TLC, but we found nothing really objectionable. Two minor problems discovered upon arriving at out cabin were tended to the same day.
Partly because the average speed required to make the ports was between 6 - 16 knots and seas were never over 6 ft, the whole cruise was soooo smooth.
My comments here are similar to Activities - we just don't do a lot. We took only one ship tour - West Coast and Nutmeg Plantation in Grenada. It was "OK". Typical bus tour, except Grenada is very poor and rural. Winding roads in a van, no air-conditioning, sitting in the back, with no PA system for the driver. And did I say winding roads? The spice processing, almost all manual, was nevertheless interesting. Grenada's spice industry, particularly nutmeg, is still trying to recover from a hurricane which wiped out 80-90% of the trees in 2005-ish. At the other ports, we just strolled the area around the dock, or enjoyed the empty ship. Antigua, in particular, was a gauntlet of taxi drivers begging you to tour with them. We heard that 2 other ships we supposed to be there, and weren't - Caribbean Princess was under emergency repair, and Celebrity Summit had substituted Barbados. So the drivers and vendors were particularly aggressive. St Croix was pleasant, though we were dodging rain. St Lucia was nice, and I wish we had done something there. St Thomas was - St Thomas.
We had a flight time of 1:50, so were assigned a departure time of 9:00 am. Since we are C&A Emerald, we were also entitled to the private departure lounge, which had 8:00 & 9:00 departure times. So we elected to go to the Main Dining Room for a leisurely breakfast around 8:00, and then walk up the stairs to the upper level of the MDR to our C&A lounge. That worked out nicely; we were some of the last to leave the MDR, but didn't feel rushed.
We left the lounge promptly at 9:00, and I think the prior departures were largely on schedule. We were through baggage, customs/immigration and retrieval of a confiscated item by 9:30. [I had read that multi-tools had been confiscated in San Juan, but dismissed that as an over-zealous inspector - not the case; they held it.] I frankly was surprised that the "honor system" of no departure by color worked so well. The only use for the color tags was to find the luggage section. Turns out the overhead signs we off a bit relative to the actual luggage, but we found them quickly.
We walked right out to a cab with no line. Cab driver charged us correctly, but dropped us off at Terminal B - we needed C, and I said that - and barely spoke English. Good thing we knew about the separate agricultural inspection at SJU [courtesy of CC boards], as there were no signs that I saw, only a mass of people and lines. We got into that line, then into the baggage check in line. We had printed our boarding passes on board, courtesy of the $20 online credit with our C&A Emerald coupon booklet; internet is very slow, but I had time to check in online, print the boarding passes [free!!!], and check on weather forecast and flight status during those 30 free minutes. I don't know how long the wait was at the airport if you had to actually check in with an agent. There were kiosks to print boarding passes at SJU.
Security wasn't too bad, and we were at the gate by 10:30. Turns our we could have easily made an earlier flight @ 11:30, especially since we would have disembarked earlier, but my sense was that things went very smoothly that morning, and I know they don't always. Since the flights out are generally full, you can be "SOL" if you miss yours, and I didn't want to take the chance.
JetBlue flights back were fine again. L-o-n-g layover in JFK @ JetBlue's new terminal, but it is a wonderful terminal; if you must spend 5 hours in an airport terminal, that is one of the good ones.
Great cruise overall. Less
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