My wife and I love Hawaii and have always been curious about cruising, so it was a fateful moment when Lois spotted an ad in our local paper for repositioning cruise of The Serenade of the Seas off the Alaska season to Hawaii. The price in the paper was very reasonable for the cruise plus 2 nights in Honolulu and airfare home to Vancouver. I called a travel agent the next day and booked a deck 3 inside cabin, which on the advice of a friend we upgraded to a deck 8 inside cabin. This was good advice as the upper deck was very quiet.
Living 30 minutes from Ballantine Pier made for a short drive to the ship which from ground level looked very big and somewhat intimidating. Our cruise agent suggested checking in after 2pm to miss the noon crush of guests arriving from out of town. This suggestion worked well as we were on the ship and in our cabin within 20 minutes of our arrival at the pier.
Our inside cabin was very well organized, all space is utilized to maximum advantage and was clean and inviting. The Serenade of the Seas is an impressive ship!
In the six months prior to our cruise date we spent many hours online viewing the ship on different websites. None of the photos we looked at could compare with the splendor of the real thing! The 9 story Centrum with the glass elevators, balconies and artwork simply can not be experienced on a small photo.
Our dining experience was shared with two other couples also from BC. The food quality, quantity and presentation in the dining room was very good. Every evening brought a varied selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts which met the dietary needs and desires of all of our table mates. Three of our table mates were diabetics and found no difficulty meeting special needs. In fact the sugar free desserts were usually the best! I recommend trying them. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches at the Windjammer. The relaxed cafeteria style was perfect for varied appetites and moods. The selection was always fresh, varied and plentiful. Tables overlooking the stern to watch the wake of the ship was relaxing and enjoyable.
The entertainment on board was constant, always something going on. The piano players in the lounges were great, the stage shows lively and varied, the interactive shows such as the Quest were very funny to watch as well as take part in.
Royal Caribbean should be commended on their efforts to promote physical exercise, all those calories need to get burned up!
Our cruise stopped in Kona, Hilo, Lahina and Honolulu. At Kona and Lahina we were anchored off shore and tendered in. This ability to move 2000 people back and forth was very efficiently accomplished.
We did only one shore tour at Hilo. This was an 8hr volcano/island tour with Roberts tours, which we booked online through Royal Caribbean prior to departure. The tour was good value as have been all of the Roberts tours we have been on. On Maui we acted as tour guides for a couple we met from Oklahoma, renting a car and seeing the sites. The opportunity to visit several islands was one of our reasons in choosing to cruise and we were not disappointed.
Disembarking in Honolulu was a letdown. The dock is a working dock and as such is not pretty. The luggage handling and connections to our hotel went smoothly, once again thanks to a detailed set of instructions provided by our travel agent.
Our first cruise was very enjoyable. For me it was the most relaxing vacation I have ever had. The service on board was exceptional. Our cabin steward Hollis was very helpful, polite and made wonderful towel animals. Arnel and Preston our dining room waiters were very efficient, friendly and attentive. The grand entrance and parade of waiters on Italian night was fantastic! Bernadette who waited tables in The Schooner lounge (one of my favorite hangouts) was friendly, lively and always interesting to talk with. Considering the long hours these people work and the length of time the are away from their families they were always smiling, congenial and ready to fulfill any request. I was impressed with the all the staff I met and spoke with.
Royal Caribbean should be proud of their staff. My wife and I look forward to our next cruise experience with Royal Caribbean. We made some wonderful friends from all over Canada and the USA with whom we are now keeping in touch and planning on visiting with again.