Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver
Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we flew to Seattle ). Always love SW, no charge for bags and employee's are always friendly.
A flight attendant that lives in Seattle gave us a list of restaurants for us to try. On our first evening we ate close to the hotel at Adobe (similar to Chipotle's). Good nights sleep at the Sheraton downtown, Priceline $90.
On Friday we headed for Top Pot doughnuts near 3rd/Bell for the best doughnuts in town, we were not disappointed. Next Pikes Market, what wonderful produce and floral arrangements....cheap $5-$10 for a beautiful bunch of flowers. Ate lunch at the market in the square at the end of the market, lots of street performers and colorful singers to keep you entertained. We took the monorail to the space needle and a trip to the top to enjoy a 360 view of Seattle , $16ea. but a beautiful view. We took in a Seattle Mariners game Friday evening, beautiful stadium and the smell of garlic fries is still with me.
On Saturday morning we took a cab $7 to the Amtrak station for an early train to Vancouver BC. If you've never taken a train it's definitely the way to go, lots of time to think and get your thoughts together while enjoying the beautiful trip from Seattle to Vancouver ($35pp one way). The train ride was a little late getting into Vancouver due to a couple in Bellingham Wa . Trying to run for the train, NOTE never run for a train arrive early this attempt delayed us 20min. No worries though we were not due to be on board ship till noon at the earliest.
Vancouver....customs was a breeze off the train, a $25US taxi ride to the pier most of which was in line at the Balentyne cruise ship terminal, remember Vancouver has two piers Canada Place (new) and Balentyne (old)...NOTE, get the taxi driver to pull to the side and let you off if you have no trouble walking, only 100 yards and it'll save you $10 off the fare at the peak time. Vancouver drop off at the pier is one of the strangest I've ever seen, they make the taxis and buses back in slowing the process immensely. The process of boarding ran smoothly and very quickly compared to other ports we'd sailed from.
Naturally we headed for the windjammer dining room since it had been hours since we'd eaten and we needed to get in shape for the week ahead. I'm sorry if you're looking for a long evaluation of the food on Serenade of the Seas, we ate all our meals at the windjammer neglecting the main dining room (Reflections). We've had a couple of bad experiences on the last several cruises with dining mates and waiters, so we've chosen to avoid the main dining rooms, besides they take too long and you spend too much of your vacation waiting on waiters. The food in the windjammer is of good quality and varies every day, lots of good salads and fruit, they can keep the sushi. The staff there is always happy to see someone and you can get lots of good conversations and information from this staff with a little friendly effort on your part.
Serenade of the Seas ratings;
Cruise director.....A Cruise Staff.........A Cabin Att............A+
Dining...............B Entertainment......B Tendering...........A
Only one small problem kept arising and RCI is not at fault. There were just too many unsupervised children running the ship at all times. One even wandered into the casino into the area even adults are not allowed...behind the dealers. At dinner and breakfast we were always trying to find a quiet place to eat and it would never fail here's mom dad and little Johnny noise maker choosing to sit next to us. It would be ok if the parents instilled a little discipline in the kids teaching them how to act in public. Better get off this!
First Day - At sea
Tons of whales to watch for, the little ones are really fast and exciting to see for the first time.
Second Day - Tracy Arm Fiord
We got lucky today, sunshine weather and we got to see both sides of the Sawyer glacier thanks to our great captain. The second side which very few ships get to go to we actually saw the glacier cave in causing a charter boat to scurry away at the site, don't blame them.
Third day - Icy Strait Point
I have to admit, I was not sure going in what to expect from ISP, but we enjoyed a good hike to the town and another later in the day around the beach/zip liner area. NOTE...tours were not considered great and overpriced, the area's just getting started as a tourist destination, the people are very friendly though.
Fourth Day - Skagway
We took the train ride up to the mountain pass and back, for those that have never been before or never been to like Colorado or Utah train rides it is a good tour. For those that have been on tours like Salida Colorado , you can use the time for other things. We ate lunch back on the ship and went on an excursion booked a hike/float trip outside the ship through southwest tours a local agency in Skagway for $85pp, considerably less than the ship's price and we got a private float/hike. On the hike portion is where we got the thrill of a lifetime, not my wife's version. While hiking and observing nature we stumbled onto a brown bear eating salmon, we surprised him and he definitely surprised us. Our guide handled it coolly but did as she said pull her bear spray and pin out for the first time ever. This was her first real encounter for the year and the years almost over. We waited and made noise thinking that the bear had moved on we proceeded only to find he hadn't, we just kept making noise and got the heck out of there. We took the float portion back to near Skagway and a trip back to the ship with a story of a lifetime.
Fifth Day - Juneau
We took a float plane rid on Wings Air that was just great, you got to see plenty of the glaciers and wildlife areas around Juneau and the employees were great. I'd like to thank the 3 helicopter agencies in Juneau that charge 1.5 times the normal rate for a ride on their copters for turning me down. For those that don't know the chopper agencies all charge 1.5 times the price for someone over 250lbs or more, I'm a weightlifter in great shape for my age but 5lbs over their max allotment and not willing to diet on a cruise. I wrote e-mails to all 3 agency's and got a response from only one. They stand hard; even though my wife only weighs 100lbs they wouldn't budge on me or combine our weights like agencies did in Hawaii earlier this year. Anyway thanks, I had a great time on the floatplane and saved $$$.
The Sixth Day - at sea
Nice relaxing day to do all the things we wanted but didn't have the time to do, I love sea days. Packed late in the afternoon and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Seventh Day - Debarkation
We left the ship at 7:30am for an early departure just as scheduled. Took Quickshuttle $35pp (bus service) back to Seattle for an early flight out the next morning. QS was a good experience, the driver makes stops so sitting for 3-4 hrs was not a hassle. The trip through customs went a little slower because we had New Zelanders on the bus entering the USA for the first time.
Stayed ay Hilton Airport for the final night, eat out before you settle in for the evening. Delivery fees to the hotel and prices in general in Seattle are murder as far as eating goes.
Great ship, great crew, great trip....