This was our 19th cruise, 18 on Royal Caribbean and one on Celebrity, and we chose it to introduce family members to cruising. We had done this cruise in 2009 and knew it was awe inspiring. Our air travel was a nightmare - late out of DFW due to a missing log book (took an hour to locate), we missed our connection in Madrid to Barcelona. Got another flight which was also delayed due to mechanical problems. We spent two nights in Hotel Regina which is near La Rambla. Although sparsely decorated, the room was nice and the staff was friendly. With La Ramblas within easy walking distance, we had plenty of shopping to so and sights to see. We took all three on-and-off bus tours and saw the incredible architecture the city is famous for.
The RC shuttle bus was on time and delivered us to the terminal. Being Diamond Plus, check-in was easy. The ship was in excellent condition, and our JS was large and confortable. We had a table for ten at first seating and were blessed with very compatible companions. Our dining room wait staff struggled to remember names and drink preferences but overall they were satisfactory. Our head water Paul was excpetional, taking charge when he discovered that we were having some problems getting our food at times. The food was standard RC fare, good enough but not momorable. This was true of the other dining venues too.
Excursions were very good. We did a walking tour in Cannes before doing some shopping. Livorno was next, and we did an extended walking tour of Florence before seeing Pisa. The tour guide in Florence persistently ignored several requests for toilet breaks, opting to deliver the last word of her canned speech before directing us to the nearest facilities. Many of us were made very uncomfortable by her insensitivity. Rome was next and the extended tours of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Bascilica and the coliseum were excellent and well worth the money., The guide was friendly and professional.
Athens was Athens, crowded, covered in grafitti, but the Acropolis is a must-see. We also visited the Museaum of the Acropolis which was nice. The stone paving into, around and out of the Acropolis has been worn smooth but millions of feet and it can be treacherous. A tour guide slipped and fell right in front of me, breaking her ankle. My brother-in-law and I carried her down the stairs to the entrance where she was taken for medical treatment.
We also visited Kusadasi, touring Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary. The tour guide may have been the best we have ever had on any excursion in all of our many cruises - friendly, educated, courteous,knowledgeable. We visited Santorini which must be seen to be believed. We took the cable car to the top, then a taxi to Oia and back, and then walked down on the mule trail. Having done the mule trail, we won't need to do it again. It wasn't so much the mule poop that made it a difficult trip, although there was plenty of it. It was the very slick and steep stone paving. It was a sli-and-slide all the way to the bottom - not too bad for me in my walking shoes but my wife's shoes had smooth soles which were not compatible with the surface.
Salerno was our last stop before returning to Barcelona. We saw Pompeii which is not to be missed, and then we did a bus tour of the Amalfi coast. What a trip that was. Our driver was amazing as he negotiated the 1100 curves over that 34 mile route, dodging motorcycles and small cars driven by tourists and other lunatics. The scenery was incredible - jaw dropping beautiful.
The weather was perfect for our entire trip, and the seas were glass smooth for all but the last day as we returned to Barcelona. The service provided by the Serenade's staff in all departments was excellent. The Hotel Director was especially friendly, greeting us by name on several occasions and coming to our aid at the guest services desk when we had an internet problem. It was a great cruise, and The Serenace of the Seas delivered on all counts. Go see for yourself.