Southern Caribbean Great Escapes
The embarkation procedure in San Juan could not possibly have been smoother. Although as Diamond Members we have priority check in, we did not need it as there were only a few people waiting when we arrived. (People who have not cruised before should be aware that it is customary to tip the baggage handlers who take the luggage at the port even though they only "carry" it a few feet.)
This was our second trip on the Serenade of the Seas. We liked the ship so much last year that we booked it again for this year and we were not disappointed (with one exception which will be discussed later). The ship is kept spotlessly clean. Although there had recently been issues on another RC ship with Norovirus, we experienced no difficulties whatsoever (although I will also add that we were regular users of the purell stations - especially when we got on the ship after visiting a port. We also used the sanitizers outside the restaurants and Windjammer. ) (One suggestion would be to make More
this MANDATORY for the Windjammer since anyone who does NOT sanitize puts everyone at risk!) By coincidence we had the same room steward as we had last year. Not only did he remember us, but he welcomed us like family!!! It made our trip very special! We also met our restaurant server from last year and even though we were not seated at her station she would often come to check up on us!
I am prone to motion sickness but the ship is generally very stable. We encountered weather that was not typical for the Caribbean in the spring (rain, storms, high seas) but the only time motion was an issue was the last night of the cruise when there were 5-7 foot waves. It was unusual even by the crew's standards.
The food was very good (what we had expected!) - with lots of choices in the afternoon at the Windjammer. The cruiseline has become more sensitive to different dietary needs, so there are always lowfat or low carb options.
We also enjoyed the "open" coffee and tea stations outside the Windjammer. The only 'glitch' as far as food goes in the availability of late night snacks. If you are hungry, you have to trek up to the one small cafe that is open after 9:30. It takes a lot of determination to find it and to get there and the selection is somewhat limited.
The only other 'disappointment' was in the cruise director and staff. Last year, the cruise director was absolutely excellent. He MADE the trip -- great sense of humor and limitless energy! He remained at ALL events well beyond when the director normally departs and he seemed to really enjoy being around the passengers. The cruise director this year was not of the same caliber and we were disappointed. Less
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Cabin review: E27108 Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony
Our Cabin was 7108. It was the first cabin off the stairs and we were sure we would get noise from 'traffic' -- not true - we never heard any people in the hallway!! There was good news and bad news regarding our balcony. The good news was that because it is a corner room, we had an extra large balcony!! It was great!! Two full lounge chars plus a chair and table -- It added to our enjoyment and pretty much doubled the size of the room. The BAD news was that because we got a lot of rain, for some reason the rainwater backed up ONTO the deck. We talked to the room steward ASAP who called maintenance but I don't think this was a fixable problem as there was a drain pipe that ran down the side of the wall. It was a great location and the balcony 90% of the time (rain aside!) was a true plus. Also, since we had a corner room, there was no one on one side of us - extra plus!!
Port and Shore Excursions
You can walk off the ship to town. In the a.m., there was not much going on in town. We had planned to shop first , beach later, but we found that that was not really the way things worked (the taxi drivers told us we were doing it 'backwards' and they were right!!) We took a taxi to Runaway Beach. Most f the cruisetours were going to Dickenson Bay. We were told it would be more commercial. The driver agreed to take us and come back for us later in the afternooon. The trip was $12 each way. Chairs were $6.00 each as was the umbrella. This was by far our FAVORITE beach of the trip! We assumed that every place would be crowded because we were traveling during spring break, but for the entire day, we were one of only a handful of people on the beach. It was absolutely perfect!!! There were facilities there also. On the way back, we saw that the street vendors were set up and (as we had been told) that was the time to shop. We were able to bargain on items we liked and spent the last hour or so there before they closed.
Grenada is a VERY poor country that is also still rebuilding from recent hurricane damage (Ivan). The people were friendly and the beach (Grand Anse beach) was beautiful, but much of what we saw was very depressing and sad. The country is known for its spices and I am glad that we had a taxi tour (we did NOT use any of the cruisetour packages) that stopped at a spice stand. WE purchased prepackaged spices that we were able to bring home (make sure that any spices you buy are SEALED or they will be confiscated at the airport). Our tour did include the waterfall - which is beautiful, but again, there were a lot of local vendors including two guys who wanted paid to climb up to the top of the waterfall and jump off. It can be intimidating if you are a female traveling alone.
We were disappointed with our stop in St. Croix but it wasn't all St. Croix's fault!! Again we hit unseasonably rainy weather and it POURED most of the day in St. Croix. IT was also COLD!... You walk off the ship in Fredericksted and go directly into the tax stand area. Taxi tours are $25pp. The problem was that they wait until a taxi fills before they leave. The driver did not have a mike so no one in the van could hear him and he didn't seem to care. He also either didn't know the history or didn't care. He said that independence was in 1776 for slaves in St. Croix...wrong...Other facts were wrong as well. He spent an INTERMINABLE amount of time in the rain forest, but almost no time at historic sites. We drove quickly past one of the famous plantation/museums on the island and he wouldn't stop because he said they were too expensive. He did , however, stop at the rum factory (HINT: the tour is $5.00 that includes all you can drink of rum OR you can just get the rum for $5.00 -- the advice from people who took the tour was just get the rum!!) He drove us to Christiansted, which is on the other side of the island, but only gave us an hour there. He discussed DONE of the historical landmarks in either town. Since we couldn't got to the beach because of the weather, the tour should have afforded us some information we might not have had time for - it did not. Outside of that, St. Croix seemed to be a beautiful island with a very rich culture and history, so we are looking forward to a return visit.
We had been to St. Lucia before so we found a tax driver who agreed to take us and another family on a 'quick tour' (this is what we all wanted) of the island with a stop at the beach. For $25/pp we took a 90 minute tour of the island with a 2 hour stay at Reduit Beach. Chairs and umbrellas were available for $5.00/each. We had been to St. Lucia before and had thought it to be as economically disadvantaged as Grenada, but there was little comparison. St. Lucia is thriving by comparison. The beach was beautiful although there were, I believe, three ships in port so there were a lot of people on the beach.Still, we did not feel crowded.
We LOVE St. Thomas. We spent a week there last year and have cruised there many times. WE still find lots of things to do that we haven't gotten to!! Unfortunately, this year, the day started out very wet (unseasonably so as everyone pointed out!!) - so we delayed our start until the downpour let up. We went to EDEN Jewelers which is located in Drake's passage. We have worked with them before and they are very reputable. We also went to the Purple Papaya which is located on Main Street a few doors down from the public library. They have great deals on souvenir items and clothing/costume jewelry. We wanted to get lunch at the Green House before we left (it is an open air restaurant located on the street that borders the water), but the service was slower than we could afford so we had to head back to the ship. We had also wanted to got Lindbergh Beach -- The Emerald Beach Resort is close to town and is a beautiful beach with restaurants and facilities), but the weather did not permit this. We would also recommend Glady's Cafe downtown for some really good food in a very fun atmosphere! There are public restrooms in downtown St. Thomas that we have always found to be clean. HINT: We chose NOT to walk but they now have extended sidewalks from the Havensight dock to downtown. It is a reasonable distance to walk although taxis are not expensive (I believe it is $4/pp one way). There is also a local bookstore at Havensight that is worth visiting, but don't ignore downtown because of what's available right off the ship! Town is definitely worth the trip!