This was our 2nd time on Serenade of the Sea. We sailed her in 2005 with fond memories. We arrived at 11am and our luggage was taken in the right hand line asap ($5 tip). We then got in the left hand line and at 11:30 promptly, they were letting us on. Embarkation was a breeze and by 11:40am we were in the Windjammer eating wonderful food.
We proceeded to the dining staff to change our seating to a private table for two, early seating as I had requested. I thought this may prove difficult. With quiet efficiency and a smile we were given a table for two, #418 by a window with a beautiful view without any problem what so ever!
Next, our room was ready at 1pm and our luggage was there waiting for us. There was not one person on this ship that didn't greet you with a smile and a heartfelt salutation. Having worked for tips in our youth, both my husband and I are "extra tippers". Our Room Stewart Luis was given a little extra most mornings for his towel art.
Muster was a thing of beauty! No more long, drawn out over heated meetings under the life boats. 8pm we were called to the Theatre with no need to carry life jackets. 2 crew members demonstrated how to use them while instructions were spoken over the PA system in English and then in Spanish. By 8:20pm we were on our way to enjoy the ship.
Helen from St Vincent was our Waitress. I have never had a more professional server with a warm and thoughtful personality. Assistant Waiter Daniel from Romania was a excellent. They were a team that worked smoothly like a well oiled machine. My husband always orders multiple appetizers and dinners so we had them working hard for us but it always seemed easy because they were so good. They earned their extra tips every night. The food was exquisite. Being a great cook, or so I have been told, and after 10 cruises I feel qualified to say this.
Constantine, the Head Waiter of was always visible...24/7, and he genuinely cared for the happiness of every traveler during any meal. I never saw a Head Waiter like him...he worked always, stopping at table after table, night and day to ensure we were pleased. The last crew member that shook Scott's hand and said goodbye before debarkation was...Constantine!
While Eggs Benedict were not on the main dining room breakfast menu you can order it. Room service in the morning did not have smoked salmon but it was served both in the Windjammer and formal Dining. The Seaview Cafe in the rear of deck 12 was Scott's favorite for chowder, sandwiches and snacks. It was only slightly difficult with so many ports the hours were not always convenient to us. We recommend the Cuban sandwich and the chowder. The onion rings were not good this time.
The Captain's "Welcome Aboard" party was at 7:30pm on day 2 for everyone with free champagne and horderves serves. We played backgammon while everyone made speeches and enjoyed the night.
We get room service every morning with coffee and tea. I should have asked if salmon was available for room service! The nice part was they would call you on the room phone to tell you they were on the way...very nice touch as on other cruise we were awakened and had to scramble for clothes and tip.
The "Welcome Back" party for previous RC guests was very nice. We had too many complimentary drinks...again playing backgammon and had a ball!
The Solarium pool area for adults only was very nice a I remembered but it smelled way to strongly of chlorine so we never stayed in that room after the 1st day. The main pool was very nice and the 2 hot tubs there were hotter than in the Solarium which was very nice. We played mini golf often and it was nicer than the last cruises we were on (not Royal Caribbean).
We also never had a problem getting a chair. The last day at sea was hard for some people but we are early risers and brought dominoes and card and found a table with 2 chairs and spent a lovely day on deck 11. Although it was the smoking side and we don't, we were at the end by the Windjammer with open windows for a smoke-free breeze.
The Schooner Bar was a stop for us most nights. They always had something going on across from the bar like trivia and Brian the bartender was extra personable.
The Casino was usually pretty empty but we did play Caribbean Stud a few times when table play was $3. When they raised the prices we would not play. They would do better to have lower starting prices. Then maybe it would fill up.
Debarkation was also very easy. As we had a 5:45pm fight, we took our time and had a nice breakfast in the Windjammer. Then we went back to the room to shower. After that we sat by the Champagne Bar and read books while sipping coffee. At 10am a staff member said we could leave when we wanted. We showed our ship card and went down to the luggage and had a cab all within 5 to 10 minutes.
We flew from Boston to San Juan on Jet Blue...great nonstop flight at a very low price, arriving at 5am. I had contacted The Sheraton Hotel & Casino Convention Center after checking many other hotels, to ask if we could check our luggage for a few hours. All the others wanted a full night cost just to check the luggage.
The Casino Host sent us Player Card #'s and said we were more than welcome. We tipped the Bell Captain $5 in and $4 out. We played pennies and left $50 up! The cab there was $19 and $12 from the hotel to the cruise ship.
We went back to the Sheraton after debarkation for more fun as we had a 5:45pm Jet Blue flight home. The Sheraton in Old San Juan would not hold luggage so don't go to the wrong one!
This was our first time to Tortola. We went for a cab at 9am to Brewers bay for some snorkeling as we carry our own equipment. The cabs wanted $8pp each way and wanted to wait for a full van of 12-14. After 6 people and 5 minutes or so, I said they were going to lose our fare if they didn't take us asap as we would go back to the ship and lay by the pool. The others agreed...so off we went.
The only drawback to Brewers Bay was one captive Bar with firm prices..$3 any beer and $5 for rum drink. The chairs for the beach were $5 each and slightly beat.
It was a cloudy morning so the water was cool and rains did come so we stayed on the deck and sipped beers and met Jenny and Tim. They were on a 10day cruise on Norwegian Jewel out of NY. We had a great time talking and laughing and having rum drinks! Jenny_Penny gave me instructions on how to get on Cruisecritic.com roll call. They were a fun couple with grand plans for their future.
There were lots of chickens and roosters running around the island. Pelicans were swimming along the beach and the bay was full of fish but due to weather we declined snorkeling.
We headed back to the ship at 1pm for lunch. I will reserve my opinion until the next time I try Tortola.
ST MAARTEN - ST MARTIN
This was our 5th time in St Maarten. In the past we have rented scooters twice, an ATV once and a car once. We drove around the whole island, both French and Dutch, went to Orient Beach ($25 for 2 chairs & 1 umbrella) and Pinel Island (in 2008 was $5, in was 2010 $10) ferry each way for snorkeling. Both scooters had major problems like no shocks and no mirrors, the ATV broke down and the car had a tire slashed...but we always had a fun adventure! By the way...the car was the cheapest and we put the spare on and refused to pay for a new tire.
This trip we decided to get the unlimited water taxi for $6 each. This takes you from the cruise port to the beach, "The Boardwalk" in Philipsburg.
We walked 2 minutes to 99 Front St to "Caribbean Paradise" store and bought 750ml Absolute Vodka $7.99, a beach towel $5 and a T-shirt $4 and cold beer from a back cooler for $1. This store never pressured you...just walk around and browse peacefully. They also sell trinkets, watches and leather handbags, all at great prices.
Next, Scott remembered a place on the beach that he really liked last year so we went in search. We found it...Lizzy's, with the best deal in the Caribbean. It hosts a very large covered open porch with a gorgeous view of the ships and the ocean. We got 2 great chairs, a big new umbrella, a water bed float, 2 beers and shots of rum punch with free WiFi for $10 total!!!
The beach was beautiful. I was glad I had flip-flops as the sand closest to the road/bars had some broken shells. Everyone at Lizzy's was warm and friendly. They had nice oldies music playing all day and Scott went back to the ship midday for lunch and brought me back a sandwich and fruit. I would say for a perfect island stop at low cost, this is the way to go.
The beach and town hawkers were too plentiful but just say "No Thank You" and they walk away. Aloe massages are $30 but I agreed only to $20 for 20-30 minutes of back, neck and head massage...wow! Thank you to Sherine...she was fabulous.
ST KITTS - ST NEVIS
This was our 2nd time to St Kitts as last January we came. We remembered a quiet, less inhabited beach on South Friar's Bay. The place we had been to midway up the beach was destroyed in the hurricane and they rebuilt by too much coral and had no umbrellas to speak of.
The van had taken us at $4 pp after too much trouble waiting, to "The Shipwreck" on the far left of South Friar's. They were the only place with a coral & sea urchin free swim beach, a float to swim out to and a rope designating where the coral started for snorkeling. Their beach chairs with a fabulous thatched umbrella structure were 2 chairs & umbrella for $10 Beers were an ice cold bucket of 6 $15 or $3 each. I recommend the Pirates Punch $4 was strong and tasty. They rent snorkel equipment but we had our own.
For total privacy, walk north on the beach an you would be alone. St Nevis, her sister island is visible to the south and breath taking...it looks like it is lost in the clouds.
There are mongoose and monkeys running up by the road for entertainment. Amanda and Kim from the US were our friendly bartenders.
20 minute leg and foot massages were available on the beach for $20. The Hawkers were not too bad.
www.shipwreckbeachbarandgrill.webs.com We were treated 5 star .
Cabs back were plentiful. I might suggest gathering a group of 6 - 8 beforehand for a van so you don't have to haggle. I started quite irritated and ended in total relaxation.
This was the first time we visited Dominica, NOT to be confused with Dominica Republic. I had booked an excursion online with funrivertours.com and the cost for 2 was $104.50 for 4.75 hrs of fun.
Upon leaving the ship I was very uncomfortable to start. The area you cross to has way too many cabbies that are like vultures trying to grab you. We were early for our 11am pickup time so we tried to walk up and down the street. Scott was less bothered as he said a polite "no thank you, we have a tour booked" worked easily but had to be said too often.
We went directly across and slightly left to the Emporium that RC recommended and bought a large bottle of spring water for $2 ($3.99 + tip on board) and a local beer, Kabuli for $2 also.
The tour conformation email told to look for a guide holding a "Fun River Tours" sign...it said "Fun Sun" so I was confused to start. Everything worked out wonderful. There were 4 of us with our driver Peter and our tour guide, Danny Eusebe (email@example.com , a local singing artist.
We drove @ 30 minutes or less and met the river guides and a group of @ 30 on the RC excursion. Vests and helmets were mandatory to tube ride the river. We brought our own snorkel vests and they were accepted. We were given a tube and off we went.
The young men who ran this were fantastic. All but 1 of them would head down river to possible trouble spots to help all the people who needed it. It was slow at points and very invigorating white water at other time while riding through rain forests and lush cliffs. We never fell out but some did and no one got hurt and everyone loved it! I tipped the guys $5 from the two of us and we parted ways with the large group.
We next went to Trafalgar Falls for a 10 minute walk up to dual falls, shooting out of the mountain. One was ariver falls and one was a lake falls. The photo shoot was great.
Next, we were taken to Papillote Rain Forest Restaurant for a free drink, either rum, beer or soft drink. There was a natural hot mineral pool for swimming. We bought 2 music CD's that Danny had made for $10. We tipped him and out driver and went back to the ship by 4pm for a 4:30 all aboard time. What an absolutely great tour.
This was our 2nd time in Barbados but I don't think I was impressed the first time.
We booked a Turtle & Shipwreck Snorkeling tour with www.westwater-adventures-barbados.com/tours.html . The cost of $84.93 total for 2 went through Alcatraz Media, Inc. in Georgia on my charge card. All emails were helpful and I called Alcatraz to change our start time from 9am to 11am after the conformation email stated "due to road work we must meet at Folkestone Marine Park. After checking, I was informed that the cab cost was $25 each way...I was very upset.
After investigating, I found the buses are government run public transportation. We left the cruise ship and walked about 5 minutes past the vans and cabs, past the Pelican Craft Center on your left (a large complex of stores and restaurants) to the bus terminal, also on the left. It was $1 each way and we asked the bus driver to put us off at Folkestone. It was a breeze!
We arrived early at 10am as we didn't know how the travel would be. Monica, the owner met us. She called in the "Shamon Two" glass bottom boat, driven by Kendrick. He took us at her behest to the shipwreck and coral reef for a private snorkel trip while awaiting the other 8 people.
The boat had an upper deck for a magnificent view that we used on the trip back. Once at the man-made sunken ship, Kendrick breaded the water after we got in. There were dozens of fish by the ship.
We headed to the coral ad told that we be careful not to step on or injure the coral reef. We found it best by the shipwreck. After awhile, we got back in the boat. I had 2 plastic fish charts in our snorkel equipment...I gave one to Kendrick and he was like a kid at Xmas!
Back to shore his brother Michael brought the remaining tour members and we headed to feed and swim with the large sea turtles. Leave you flippers in the boat so as not to injure them and almost all of us ran our hands down the top shell of the ancient sea critters. They do not bite and it was very safe.
We went back to the shore to pick up more people before Hendrick headed back to the shipwreck. We were told we could stay on but now we were thirsty and wanted R&R on the beach so we gave Kendrick $5 tip and got off the best boat excursion ever!
Michael took us back to Monica and we asked about beverages. The beverage stand was not open yet so she had Michael go to a store and he came back with 4 Banks beers...their local brew. He opened them without an opener, using each bottle on the next...the last one was tricky..he tapped an open cover slightly and used that to open the 4th. We were duly impressed. I tried to tip him but he declined. It was a great day in paradise. I would highly recommend this tour group!!!
We walked out of Folkestone Park, crossed the road and walked 1 block up to the bus stop. Put your hand up for the blue bus, not the yellow we were told. Tell the driver if you want to get off in town or go back to the ship as we did.