My husband and I chose our first cruise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and joint 50th birthdays and we weren't disappointed. We booked through a local travel agency as, although we are well travelled, we were not familiar with cruising. We flew from Manchester to San Juan via Philadelphia and arrived at the Caribe Hilton - which was lovely - in time for a couple of glasses of wine before bed. Out pick up time the next day was at 1:00pm so we had plenty of time to have breakfast, and enjoy the sunshine. Even managed a gin and tonic before we left!
Had no problems with embarkation. Picked up some bottled water before we boarded as recommended on this site. Our room was ready and we were delighted with it. We expected it to be compact so we weren't surprised by the size of it and it suited us well. I would not have wanted to do the cruise without a balcony. We left our doors open all night, every night and it was lovely to hear the sound of the sea. The only More
problem we encountered was that one of our suitcases did not reach us until 10:30pm. This was a bit disappointing but wasn't a great problem as dining on the first night was casual.
Food on board was great - plenty of choice. We enjoyed sitting out for breakfast, provided we could find some shade. The service by all staff was excellent and we loved the way they remembered your name, even though they had only met you once - made you feel special.
Went to the odd show but met such lovely people that we were happy to spend out evenings chatting. We elected my time dining - table for two - but soon became a table for four with some friends we met - June and Adam - which was lovely.
The ship never felt crowded apart from the last day when we were at sea and it was a little difficult to find somewhere on deck to sit but we did find somewhere eventually.
I liked that the dress code for Serenade is cruise casual. Everyone made an effort to look nice each evening but it wasn't over the top - simple dresses or trousers for ladies and trousers and shirts for the men. We had two formal nights - Sunday and Thursday when the ladies were a bit more dressed up and the men needed to wear collared shirts with smart trousers. Some wore jackets but this was not a requirement.
Drinks - We enjoyed our early evening cocktails as we set sail and watched the sun set, pre-dinner drinks and wine with our meal, then a night cap. Can't say that drinks were particularly expensive for this standard of ship but we were on holiday so just went for it! Even visited the champagne bar on a few occasions which was lovely!
Ports - Have done a port review below but would recommend doing your research before you leave home and then making trips independently. It's cheaper and allows you time to come and go as you please. Taxis are so reliable you never need to worry about being back on board on time.
Disembarkation - I was worried about having to pack and leave suitcases outside our cabin on our last night but it was no problem and they make the last night 'casual dress' so you don't need to worry about having lots of variations of clothes and shoes available. I was also not looking forward to leaving the ship early as our flight from San Juan not until 4:15pm. However, we had a leisurely breakfast and then met with some friends who also had a mid afternoon flight. We abandoned our transfer to the airport, got a taxi into San Juan with them, piled our suitcases up outside a lovely bar/bistro and spent a couple of hours chatting, with drinks and tapas. What a lovely way to end our trip.
All in all we thought Serenade was splendid and it exceeded all our expectations. The captain was sociable and informative and was often seen wandering around on deck shaking hands and saying hello. We would definitely sail with Royal Caribbean again. Less
Serenade of the Seas Cruises to the Southern Caribbean
Cabin review: Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony
8020 - Would chose this cabin again. Near the front of the ship with no restaurants/bars above or below. Not many people passing. View from balcony brilliant - nothing blocking view. Shower room tiny but to be expected. Plenty of storage space. Room service excellent.
A local taxi driver took us to Paynes Bay and left us in the capable hands of JC. We had beach beds with an unspoilt view of this beautiful caribbean bay - our favourite. JC arranged for a local boat to pull in and take about ten people out to snorkel with the turtles which we absolutely loved - what a brilliant experience. We were then taken to swim over the shipwreck. Funky beach bar serving drinks and snacks. We didn't want to leave this beach.
We joined up with friends to go the Trafalgar Falls. This is a trip you can do on your own. Our taxi driver took us on a trip through the botanical gardens, sulphur springs and onto the Waterfalls. It cost approx 5 dollars each to enter the falls and you can get into the hot spring water which was a great experience. One waterfall runs hot, the other runs cold! Need to have swimsuits and towels. it was like being in the middle of a rainforest.
This was the day of our anniversary. Weather was a little overcast at first but by the time we reached the Bay the sun was out and we just relaxed and enjoyed the sun. Had a cocktail in the beach bar and my husband went on a jet ski. After lunch we came back off the ship and had a wandered around the local shops - lots of jewellers in each port.
Loved St. Maarten - really vibrant. We had booked a catamaran trip in the morning which was great fun but we didn't see any turtles and the water was a little murky. We have snorkeled in the Red Sea so there was no comparison really but we were with a great crowd and the rum punch was flowing on the way back. Got back in time to have lunch then get the water taxi to the Dutch side. Really worth a trip to soak up the great Caribbean atmosphere. Lots of lively beach front bars with music playing.
Our first port of call and we were a little unsure of what to do but we needn't have worried. We had done some research into the various ports before we left home so knew we wanted to go to Cane Garden Bay - a lovely beach. There are plenty of taxis who fill up with people who want to go to the same destination - which brings the cost down. The driver drops you off and asks you to agree a time to be picked up. We stayed for about three hours and were back on the ship in time for lunch. Would recommend Cane Garden Bay for a chill out on the beach - plenty of bars to grab a drink.