My wife & I recently returned from the 12/3 -- 12/10 cruise on the Serenade. After several cruses (7 for her & 5 for me) we know that if you don't have fun on a cruise then you are not really trying. This one was more than just fun.
The ship is a nice size--large enough to have decent amenities but small enough that you don't feel over crowded. We had a balcony cabin on deck 9. Comfortable, clean, decent sized, & plenty of storage. The food was good-not 5 star but we don't expect it to be. The service was outstanding in all areas. The stage shows were enjoyable-think low budget Las Vegas, not Broadway. We especially enjoyed Tony B the Piano Man in the Schooner Bar, but we found out the last night that his contract was up & he will be on another ship next time.
It was our first time to cruise the southern Caribbean & we found the ports to be a mixed bag. The first stop was Tortola. We had independently booked a sail to Jost Van Dyke with Tortola Charters. It wasn't until we were waiting for pick up that we found they had gone out of business several weeks earlier. The weather was gray & overcast anyway so we just spent the morning at Cane Garden Bay & returned to the ship when the heavens opened up after lunch.
We had been to St. Maarten several times, including two week long land vacations. We made this port our shopping stop & updated my wife's Pandora collection. We were back on the ship by lunch & enjoyed a nice long afternoon siesta.
We booked a cooking demonstration thru RC at St. Kitts & it was wonderful. It was at a restored sugar plantation. We watched the chef (a British ex-pat) & her local assistant prepare a wonderful lunch while learning a great deal about local customs, culture, foods, etc. In addition to the cooking & eating we were given a tour of the plantation buildings & grounds. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Our next stop was Dominica. It appeared to us to be one of the most economically depressed islands we had ever visited. We did another cooking excursion thru RC (detect a pattern?). This one was more "hands on". We learned about the colorful & flavorful Creole influence on their cooking. Overall a very nice & different outing.
The last stop was Barbados & it was the highlight of the trip. We did a sail & snorkel with Calabaza. We enjoyed this so much that we have done a separate review on Tripadvisor. If you like sailing, snorkeling with sea turtles, good food, friendly service, & beautiful surroundings then this is your excursion.
We returned to San Juan after a well needed day at sea. Disembarkation was the only negative part of the entire cruise. The line to get off the ship wasn't too bad but then we had to find our bags & stand in a long, slow line for customs/immigration while in a large, hot, stuffy warehouse.
We did want to see some of San Juan since we did not get in until late the night before we embarked. Outside the cruise terminal there were several people hawking bus tours with airport transportation. Since our flight was several hours away & the cost was not much more than cab fare for two, we took advantage of their offer. The driver gave a running narration during the drive into old San Juan. We stopped to walk thru one of the old forts, had a 45 minute stop at the shops downtown, then another 45 minutes at a market/cafÃ© near the airport. We were at the airport about 1:00 for our 3:30 flight. Much better than waiting an extra 3 hours at the airport. We are already looking at similar itineraries on RC next winter & that is the best endorsement we can give.