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Home > Virtual Cruises > Serenade of the Seas: New York to Saint John
Serenade of the Seas: New York to Saint John
About the Virtual Cruise
Serenade of the Seas: New York to Saint John Royal Caribbean recently added the brand-new Serenade of the Seas to its fleet -- and we're cruising on it! Join us -- starting Tuesday -- on a five-night voyage for day-by-day reports from Serenade of the Seas, where we'll give you the inside scoop on everything from what's-for-breakfast and onboard shopping to the latest from the streets of Halifax and Saint John.
Day 1: New York
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Halifax
Day 4: Saint John
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: New York
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Day 1: Monday, New York
New YorkIt was with some trepidation that I left home in Pennsylvania for the port terminal in Manhattan. Beyond a slight hesitation about driving to the pier (as opposed to taking the train or bus) -- I get nervous navigating the Ikea parking lot -- the trip was pretty smooth, interspersed with the ominous warnings about Hurricane Isabel. Being extremely prone to seasickness, the thought of 150-m.p.h. winds made me fear I'd be writing a review of my stateroom's bathroom and little else.

The only challenge about getting there: the directions printed in my cruise documents were shaky at best. Exit numbers were wrong, and then you were boldly instructed to follow nonexistent signs for 10th Avenue out of the Lincoln Tunnel. And consider this a warning: parking on the lot is $120 -- and you have to prepay in cash only! Be prepared for this cost as I almost was not.

Security was a breeze. The longest line was for the baggage screening and even that was bearable -- and friends call me "insanely impatient". I expected a lot of congestion when boarding the ship, but I was wrong -- once onboard, people simply disappeared. The ship is absolutely gorgeous -- lots of blues and brass, sort of swanky and Tahitian. Glass panels everywhere let the natural light radiate throughout the ship. Very impressive!

I found my stateroom with little trouble, though I figured I'd take the elevator since I was juggling a laptop, purse, heavy sweater and digital camera. Plus, the glass elevators are beautiful and looked like fun. I waited over five minutes while at least seven elevators went right by without stopping -- and my "up" arrow light kept turning itself off. I'm not sure what was going on there but I ended up just taking the steps.

I have a port-side balcony cabin, category E3. It's spacious and has more than enough closet space, plus a nice chair-and-a-half that I immediately cozied up in to read the daily Compass. The balcony has two comfy deck chairs, and I was excited to be able to look out onto the parking garage and see my car -- I was more than a little nervous leaving it unattended in a Manhattan lot for five days.

The bathroom is tiny (with a shower but no tub) but it doesn't feel too cramped. I was pretty disgusted to find hairs on the floor in there that were far too short to be my own. Yuck.

Lunch was buffet-style in the Windjammer Cafe. The staff was quick to get you a drink -- no charge beverages include lemonade, iced tea and ice water. The food offerings were fairly standard: salad, pizza, burgers, deli sandwiches, and some hot food like pasta, mashed potatoes, chicken, etc. I didn't care so much about the food, though, because it the first time I could check out my fellow passengers. The cafe was crowded and it seemed like folks were almost exclusively couples, mostly above fifty. People seemed friendly and excited to be onboard. I've seen only a handful of children onboard and the passengers are mainly American.

The buzz at lunch -- and all throughout the day -- was Hurricane Isabel. CNN reported the storm was over 100 miles wide -- and, potentially, headed for New York right when we're scheduled to return. Passenger speculation ranged from "we'll be stuck in Halifax for days!" to "They'll just fly us home from Boston" to (a bit dramatically) "Are you sure this isn't Titanic of the Seas?" Will be interesting to see how everything turns out.

After lunch, I toured the spa facilities, which seem decadent though extremely overpriced. We saw hot stone massages and some face-lift-promising facials in action, and a tour of the gym facilities. I signed up for a $44 "spa manicure" for tomorrow -- let's hope my nails have super powers after spending that much to get them in shape.

I had been pre-assigned the "main" dinner seating and wanted to switch it to late so I headed down to talk to the maitre d'. He looked eerily like Anthony Hopkins. In any event, he was very accommodating -- spent at least ten minutes going through the tables to find a younger group of Americans with whom I could eat.

After that, it was back up to my stateroom to watch the ship depart from the privacy of my own balcony. The festivities on the top deck were loud and somewhat crowded, so with a pina colada in hand and my feet up on the balcony rail, I watched the New York skyline fade away. Then Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty came into view. Those with port side balconies were all at the rails taking photographs, and the most poignant moment of the trip thus far came when an elderly man several balconies down put his arm around his wife and sang the national anthem proudly as we passed Lady Liberty.

My luggage arrived at the stateroom around 5:30, so I spent some time unpacking, then headed up to the Schooner Bar for pre-dinner drinks. The bartender was from the Philippines and, like all of the staff, was eager to talk about his homeland. I met an intelligent, hilarious gay couple and spent an hour chatting with them. The Schooner Bar has a great atmosphere -- piano player, comfy couches, and a gorgeous dark cherry wood bar. Not too loud or smoky, but one of the only places with a nice group of people. The other bars seemed deserted (even the Pit Stop -- a sports bar empty while "Monday Night Football" is on?).

Dinner was delicious but I was sort of disappointed to find that the fellow passengers the Anthony Hopkins maitre d' placed me with didn't feel like attending, so I dined alone and chatted with the waiters, who nearly fell over themselves making conversation. I had a rustic tomato soup appetizer, followed by spinach salad with a really interesting white zinfandel dressing (will have to find a recipe when I get home!). The main course was shrimp ravioli with lobster sauce (can you all just hear me gaining weight?), then an apricot-cherry compote for dessert.

After dinner, I checked out the casino -- small and jam-packed -- also strangely (or brilliantly) located so that you have to pass through it to get to Portofino's, Chops, and the Schooner Bar. Not wanting to wait for a blackjack seat, I headed back to my cabin to relax.

Later that night, I went up to the Vortex disco for what promised to be a "Singles Mingle" event, in hopes of meeting other younger and potentially solo travelers. I got lost trying to find Deck 13 -- after ending up outside, in the gym, and seeing thousands of signs for Deck 12, I began to wonder if Deck 13 even existed. I finally went down to Deck 11 and headed to the other end of the ship, where I had more luck (for future reference: the elusive entryway is past the solarium on the forward side).

The disco was a blur of neon lights. The ship had begun rocking insanely, so along with dozens of other passengers, I popped Bonine like they were Skittles. The bar at the Vortex literally rotates, so the combination of a spinning bar, swaying ship, and a few libations were not necessarily ingredients for a great evening. The crowd picked up around midnight and people were dancing to everything from 50 Cent to the Village People. Overall, I met a few people but most passengers were sleeping by that point. The rocking ended up being too much to bear, so I grasped the railing and fumbled my way to my stateroom to end the night.

Tomorrow we spend the day at sea.
  Day 2: At Sea

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