An Amazing Mediterranean Itinerary: Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by Arizona Budgies

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Arizona Budgies
Member Since 2010
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An Amazing Mediterranean Itinerary

Sail Date: October 2012
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
Never having been to the Mediterranean we were looking forward to this cruise with stops at 5 different Italian ports, plus Cannes, France & Split, Croatia. We had planned on arriving into Barcelona two days early to see the city that seems to be the favorite of so many, but that was not to be. Coming from Phoenix on Friday morning we had four flights to take, PHX-MSP, MSP-ORD (Both on Delta), ORD-DUS, DUS-BCN (both on Lufthansa), with the ship sailing on Monday. In Chicago, the ORD-DUS flight was cancelled at 730pm Friday, necessitating an overnight stay in Chicago, courtesy of Lufthansa. We were booked on United for the next day via EWR, but the ORD-EWR flight was cancelled several hours prior to departure. Finally we were booked on US Air via Philadelphia arriving Barcelona on Sunday morning 8am.(NOTE: we had so much friendly help from so many different ticket agents with these canceled & rebooked flights, thank you). In Barcelona our first task was to file a bag claim form for More our one checked bag; after that we took the aerobus into the town center for 5.75E each (quick & inexpensive), arriving at our hotel (Zenit Borrell in the Eixample area) at 10am. Nice hotel, off the beaten path, our courtyard room was very quiet and nice ($127 USD/night). We had pre-purchased tickets to the Sagrada Familia (12.3E each) for entry 11-12N so used the metro to go there. Huge line for those without tickets, we went in within a few minutes--spectacular & very crowded. Next we went to Mont Juic via the funicular to view the fort, city & port area. Monday morning we had word our bag was coming at 12 noon & would be delivered to the ship in time (sailing at 5pm),not taking a chance, we made a trip to the airport (aerobus 5.75E each), got the bag at 12noon & took a cab to the port (28.55E), arriving 1pm. This bag contained all our exterior clothing items. A quick entry onto the Serenade, hit the room, then to the windjammer. This was the only bad meal we had the entire trip in the windjammer, we hoped this was not a prelude to our dining experience. (it was not).

DINING: we ate only in the included dining areas. Evening dining in the MDR: We were seated with 5 other couples at a table for 12, 3 from England, 1 from B.C., 1 from Ohio. What a marvelous group--we all looked forward to dinner each evening; the service (from Gener & Carl) was outstanding, the food was always very good to excellent & as a rule all couples ate there each evening. We normally used the windjammer for breakfast & lunch, with lunches being some of the best food of the cruise. We saw no reason to spend $30 each to eat elsewhere.

SHIP CONDITION: We were concerned the ship might not be up to par as it was heading to dry dock very soon - not a problem, we found it clean and well maintained, though a refreshing of some areas (carpets) would be good. As in the past, virtually all Royal employees always provided a greeting and smile. Our oceanview room was also clean and in good shape, our housekeeper always keept it clean and neat.

ENTERTAINMENT: The RC singers, dancers & orchestra were very good, some of enterainment booked we felt was not up to RC standards; this was one place where we were not uniformly satisfied. Activities on board were the usual, trivia, late night dance parties, bingo ($22 or $32 per session !!).

PASSENGERS: Approximately 2100; 1250 US, 320 Brits, 90 Australians, 60 Canadians and I would say less than 50 children; a nice international mixture, such a joy to talk with people from other parts of the world.

PORTS & ITINERARY: This was the outstanding part of this cruise, such a thrill to see these cities if only briefly. We tendered to Cannes, France & Split,Croatia, otherwise we docked at a port. At the start, 4 ports in 4 straight days was a chore but a labor of love. Hour plus commutes, 1 way, from Livorno to Florence and Civitavecchia to Rome. Venice overnight was great, docked from 10am Sunday till 840pm Monday, no city like it. MORE PORT DETAIL FOLLOWS IN MY CITY REVIEWS. We did not use any of the RC tours, used other vendors for Florence & Rome and did Pompeii via Salerno with our table mates on our own using local transport. This all worked well at a lower cost.

DISEMBARKATION: Opted for express departure, 1st off the ship as our flight was 1045am & the ship docked at 6am Monday. Left the departure lounge at 625am, 20 min cab ride to the airport (40.55E, RC charged $31USD each) and we were at the United counter at 655am, the counter didn't open till 745am! Once we had boarding passes we were thru security & customs and at our gate at 815am. The United flight to Newark left on time at 1051am, arriving Newark 50 minutes early, 8 hrs 20 mins total. In Newark--passport control, customs, bag claim, recheck bag, change terminals, re-screen security, this took 1 hour--allow time for this! Not a pleasant experience. Then EWR--DEN (3 3/4 hrs), finally DEN--PHX (1 1/4 hrs), all 3 United flights early or on time, all totaled - 6200 miles & 14 hrs in those 3 airline seats to get home & it went well, fortunately.

CRUISE PRICING: After we made our final payment RC marked our cruise down by another $600 or so. We were able to obtain an oceanview room vs. our original interior as a consolation (but no change in our amount paid) so our 12 day cruise was available at a very low cost had a person been able to book at the last minute. WEATHER: Could not have been better, no rain, sunny, 60 to 85 F each day, but rough seas to & from Barcelona on the 1st and last day. Could not be a much better time to do this itinerary. Less

Published 10/30/12

Cabin review: H3014 Large Ocean View Stateroom

Our cabin was an oceanview on the left side at the front of the ship. Was quiet and we were happy with it. Further up the hall (toward the front) was where the orchestra practiced and we could hear them occasionally even though we were 10 cabins away. Not too bad with rough seas, though we could hear when they dropped the anchor (chain sounds as it lowered). Overall happy with the placement. Also, we exited for ports at decks 2 or 3 so this was handy in that regard.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Tender into Cannes, sunny and warm, Tuesday the 16th, walked around the city, did some back streets, 2 hours then tendered back to the Serenade.
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The Florence access was via Livorno. We booked "Florence on our Own" with Cruising They provided transport only from Livorno to Florence and back for 35 British Pounds ($113.00 USD for 2). We left the port at 818am in a small van with 1 other Irish couple, arriving Florence at 930am. We toured several of the many beautiful sites, lunched there and were met by the guide at 4pm - another minibus ride back to the port arriving at 515pm. We felt Florence was doable on our own and it was one our favorite stops. Became crowded and warm by late afternoon. On the return approximately 10 couples in the minivan. Would recommend this vendor for price and service, no problem or complaint.

Friday, 10-19, NOTE: We docked in Salerno and chose to go to Pompeii not Naples. Three of our dining couples joined and we walked to the bus/train station in town (5 mins from the port), took bus #50 to the Pompeii ruins. The bus dropped us right at the entrance, 11E each entrance fee, and it took 1 hour travel time. We chose to take the Italian train service back to the port as it was faster, however, walking to the train station was a 15 min walk from the site entrance and it was warm this day. The bus and train both were later than scheduled, though frequent in running plan on lateness. The train took 40 mins to return to town. Total cost 2 round trips, 8.4E, so 20.4E for admits and transportation for two people, Pompeii was amazing but very sunny and warm.
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Thursday, 10-18. Of course access to Rome via Civitavecchia. We did take an excursion with a independent operator: (Civita Tours). They met us at the dock, 3 other couples in a minivan plus driver. We left the port at 915am, arriving Rome at 1020am. Cost was 68E each, 13E in advance and 55E each cash to the driver. The driver took us to the various sights of Rome, we would have free time at each, though not enough time to go inside, for example the line at St. Peters had to be in the thousands!! We felt he hit the high spots and driving in that huge city had to be done by an expert, too large to do on your own, so much traffic, so many people. All the sights were loaded with tourists and this is the off season (as we were told). He recommended a lunch place also. We left Rome at 400pm arriving the port at 510pm. Was nice to be in a small van with only 8 people and the driver. NOTE: watch your liquid intake, public bathrooms (WC) are few and far between and the clean ones are 1.5E each, when you can find them. We would recommend this tour operator as well, no complaint, no problems; total cost was approximately $100 each, still lower than RC offered for a similar tour experience.

NOTE: This review will be for 2 ports, Ravenna, Italy on 10/23 and Split Croatia on 10/24. Split--The boat docked at Ravenna, nothing around, no way to get into the city execept via RC shuttle at $14 each round trip, so we opted for that. A good move - this city features the mosaic look of the 4th and 5th centuries, so impressive and the museum sell a combo ticket to 5 sites for 9.5E each, we did all 5 sites, close for walking, then the shuttle back to the port. It was the RC transport or a cab and is a 20 minute bus ride into town, nothing at the port. Is worth seeing, we considered not leaving the ship. Split, Croatia on 10/24 - Tender to Split - near the port is the Diocletian palace, this is a huge palace and is like a huge shopping mall within an ancient ruin, never have seen anything like this, including a huge farmers market. So much to see - note - Croatia has it's own currency the Kuna (1 kuna is 17 cents), very interesting to see. Split reminded us of Cannes, France, sunny and warm, very scenic.
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Sunday/Monday, 10/21--22. We cruised into Venice in a fog and was so nice and cool, in the 60s. Boat docked at 10am, we walked 10 mins to the people mover from the port and for 1E each rode to Piazza Roma nearby. You can also walk to the P. Roma in 25 mins time for free. Walked to the Rialto bridge area and back, about 1/2 of the city, till we could walk no more, then back to the people mover and 10 mins back to the ship. Monday the 22nd; early start - walked entire way to P. Roma, then took vaparetto for 7E each to St. Marks plaza. Got there at 930am, in time for the 945am opening. We snaked through the church and then moved on to S. Zaccaria church, very beautiful, much less crowded. The St. Marks square again was packed with tourists and lines. From S. Zaccaria we walked back to P. Roma through various back streets and alleys enjoying every turn, walked till we could walk no more, so much to see and take in. Again a caution, limit your liquid intake, very few WC's. This was our favorite port, nothing like it but expect crowds and more crowds.
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Arizona Budgies
Member Since 2010
4 Forum Posts
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