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Greeting Folks,, I am sharing my thoughts on our recent first ever cruise. We chose Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of The Seas because of it’s size (not a mega sized ship) and from reports from users who have sailed with this specific ship. The focus of the trip was to celebrate our 27th Wedding Anniversary and to escape from Canada’s prolific Winter Wonderland for a couple of weeks. I will provide an overview of our experience in a somewhat narrative style. At the end I will provide a link to a small viideo/photo montage of our trip. Please note all excursions were booked through Royal Caribbean prior to departing Canada. Day 1. We departed from Ottawa Canada, via Montreal, on Air Canada en-route to the ship’s port city of Fort Lauderdale. It was recommended that due to the potential uncertainty of winter travelling (especially from certain parts of Canada), it would be prudent to give ourselves sufficient time in case of weather related flight delays. This allowed us to relax for a day before boarding the ship on day 2. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn for the one night. Our impressions of Rodeway Inn. The facility is clean and I would rate it as a 3 star establishment. We were picked up at KFLL with their airport shuttle service. When we arrived, it took some time for check in as service seemed rather slow. Once we received our room key, we went to our designated room to drop off our luggage. We decided to go for lunch and immediately discovered upon leaving our room, that the door would not lock. After confirming this a couple of times, we let the front desk know and they sent someone over who then proceeded to reinforce the door hinges with an electric drill. I was somewhat sceptical as to the effectiveness of the procedure, but it seemed to do the trick. The only eating establishment within walking distance was the Marina 84 Bar & Grill. While it looked to be a part of the Rodeway building, I found out it was not owned by the hotel. Food was pretty decent; some alcoholic drink prices seemed somewhat high, but that may have more to do with the fact that there were no other competitive establishments close by. Day 2 / 3 / 4 Pre-Boarding Rodeway again provided shuttle service to the ship terminal. This shuttle was not free however. I believe it was $2 US/ per person. We chose to get to the terminal early (again through advice given to us) in order to see if we could beat the crowds. As it turned out we did end up close to the front of the line, but the terminal doors did not open for almost an our after we arrived. Checkin was fairly straightforward; basically like at the airport. We had all of our documents printed (baggage tags / sea pass docs etc) so we went through very quickly. We were assigned to a specific seating area in groups, as they were boarding the ship in sections. Once our turn for boarding came up we were photographed (I guess to match the sea pass) and allowed to board the ship. On Board We tried not to look too much like cruise newbies, but failed miserably. We did not care :) It was a great first time experience. The basic things that we initially saw are captured in the video montage. Given that we had over two days of sailing prior to reach our first port of call, we made good use of the time getting to know the ship and her crew. Everyone was genuinely helpful and very pleasant. The ship was clean and easy to get around. I have read other reviews that say the ship seemed worn and is overdue for refurbishment, but maybe it was because this was my first cruise and I have no prior frame of reference; but It looked great to me. Our ocean view balcony stateroom seemed (surprisingly) larger than I expected it to be. I really could not tell from the pictures that I pored over while planning for the trip, but the room was very comfortable. More than enough closet and drawer space for two people. We were very happy with the room. Food The stories we had heard leading up to our first cruise made us think you would be wading in food! :). Food was in abundance, but we learned through others we met on board that the amount (and to some extent, quality) has somewhat diminished. The main food area is the Windjammer Cafe and for me, the quality varied from day to day. Sometimes the lunch menu was better than the dinner menu, and vice versa. We did book one night (our anniversary) in the Chops Specialty restaurant and that was exquisite. We really enjoyed that. We ate two or three times in the Reflections dining room for dinner and one time for breakfast. Two of the three dinners were average, with one being good. The one breakfast did not fare so well, but your mileage may vary. It took me 4 days to discover that you could order seconds when eating in Reflections and it took 5 days for me to find out that the desserts in Cafe Latitudes was free. :) The Park cafe had good salad selections and was my favourite spots for getting toasted bagels with cream cheese and salmon. Entertainment We attended Shows in the Tropical theatre that included Stand-Up Comics, Musicals etc. For the most part, were pretty good, but with varying quality. To be fair, it would depend on your own tastes and preferences. We tried to see a movie one afternoon in the ships cinema, but it was full. We discovered that whatever was showing in the cinema, was also available on your stateroom TV. Other Activities You will never be able (nor would you want) to do every scheduled activity onboard. We took part in a couple trivia games; watched a World Sexiest Man contest by the main pool (I cannot honestly say what possessed me to do so), as well as a Belly Flop Competition. We did discover our favourite spot on the ship - The Safari Lounge. especially sitting right by the floor to ceiling windows at the stern of the ship. A nice place to chill out with a book. Meeting Others We had missed a first time cruisers meeting on the 1st or 2nd day at sea, but invariably met people while dining. After two dinner bookings by ourselves in Reflections, we wanted to just join in at a group table to get to know others. Ports of Call We had selected the 10-Day Southern Caribbean itinerary that included the following Islands: Day 4 - Tortola BVI No planned excursions. We just walked around town. We did not really get to see any location highlights. Day 5 - St. Kitts - Plantation and Beach Excursion The only real hiccup in an otherwise fantastic cruise. The excursion itself was very good, but there was a fair bit of initial miscommunication pertaining to where and what time to meet for a planned day excursion. We were told to wait in a specific section on the pier after disembarking. We sat under a tent for about 35 minutes. I got up to look at the signs other excursion reps were holding up, but did not see ours. Went to the washroom nearby and when I exited I just happened to be passing by someone with a sign with really small print, and discovered it was our excursion. I confirmed that with them and they said they had been waiting for almost 20 minutes for the “final two” passengers. I was somewhat put out as we were told twice too just wait by the tent. No one called out that the excursion was boarding and we were not told how to find our excursion rep. I took it up with Guest Services after we got back on board later and they apologized. I did recommend that things should be more organized. Day 6 - Dominica - Rain Forest Excursion Our excursion on this island was to the Rain Forest. We had an excellent tour guide and thoroughly enjoyed this small island and its people. Day 7 - Antigua No planned excursion as we just walked around the capital city of St Johns. Again, not really much to see given that we were limited to just a small radius around the ship Day 8 - St. Maarten - Our Anniversary - Island Tour Excursion of The French & Dutch Sides Our most disappointing excursion, as our expectations were not met. The tour guide diligently pointed out things such as car dealerships, supermarkets, high schools and a few statues located in roundabouts. I guess I was looking for more on the history of the island, landmarks such as a fort up on a hill were only given a passing mention. We were brought to what I can only describe as “tourist traps”. Stalls selling locally crafted clothing and trinkets. We would have been better served if we took ourselves to a beach for the day. Please do not get me wrong. I do not begrudge anyone trying to make a living in these islands. For the most part that is their only source of livelihood, but if you have to navigate the same scene at every port of call and while on an excursion, it can become a bit tedious. Lessons learned I suppose. Given that this was our first cruise, we opted to “play it safe” as far as excursions went. Now with one cruise under our belt, we are already defining what we will do differently next time. Arriving Back In Florida Our flight back to Canada was scheduled to leave at 1:50pm, but we left the ship early due to the fact the ship had set a later than expected disembarkation time. We had previously booked a shuttle from the terminal to the airport for 9am, so we had to push our off ship time earlier to make the shuttle. Getting back to Canada was disruptive due to flights being affected by east coast winter weather…and yes our luggage made it home one day after we did. Better then, than on the cruise, so we are not complaining. Summary and Conclusion This was one of the best vacations I can ever recall taking. It has adjusted my viewpoint on all-inclusive resorts. I guess I have gotten the bug because I definitely will be planning to do this again in different geographic locations. Hopefully I have been able to give a sense of what a first cruise feels like, but it goes without saying it will be a different experience for everyone. One thing I know, there is a lot more to cruising that I am yet to learn. Video Montage (approx 16min) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTx62TEu3x8

First Ever Cruise / 27th Wedding Anniversary

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by Cynapz

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Greeting Folks,,

I am sharing my thoughts on our recent first ever cruise. We chose Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of The Seas because of it’s size (not a mega sized ship) and from reports from users who have sailed with this specific ship. The focus of the trip was to celebrate our 27th Wedding Anniversary and to escape from Canada’s prolific Winter Wonderland for a couple of weeks. I will provide an overview of our experience in a somewhat narrative style. At the end I will provide a link to a small viideo/photo montage of our trip. Please note all excursions were booked through Royal Caribbean prior to departing Canada.

Day 1.

We departed from Ottawa Canada, via Montreal, on Air Canada en-route to the ship’s port city of Fort Lauderdale. It was recommended that due to the potential uncertainty of winter travelling (especially from certain parts of Canada), it would be prudent to give ourselves sufficient time in case of weather related flight delays. This allowed us to relax for a day before boarding the ship on day 2. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn for the one night.

Our impressions of Rodeway Inn.

The facility is clean and I would rate it as a 3 star establishment. We were picked up at KFLL with their airport shuttle service. When we arrived, it took some time for check in as service seemed rather slow. Once we received our room key, we went to our designated room to drop off our luggage. We decided to go for lunch and immediately discovered upon leaving our room, that the door would not lock. After confirming this a couple of times, we let the front desk know and they sent someone over who then proceeded to reinforce the door hinges with an electric drill. I was somewhat sceptical as to the effectiveness of the procedure, but it seemed to do the trick.

The only eating establishment within walking distance was the Marina 84 Bar & Grill. While it looked to be a part of the Rodeway building, I found out it was not owned by the hotel. Food was pretty decent; some alcoholic drink prices seemed somewhat high, but that may have more to do with the fact that there were no other competitive establishments close by.

Day 2 / 3 / 4

Pre-Boarding

Rodeway again provided shuttle service to the ship terminal. This shuttle was not free however. I believe it was $2 US/ per person. We chose to get to the terminal early (again through advice given to us) in order to see if we could beat the crowds. As it turned out we did end up close to the front of the line, but the terminal doors did not open for almost an our after we arrived. Checkin was fairly straightforward; basically like at the airport. We had all of our documents printed (baggage tags / sea pass docs etc) so we went through very quickly.

We were assigned to a specific seating area in groups, as they were boarding the ship in sections. Once our turn for boarding came up we were photographed (I guess to match the sea pass) and allowed to board the ship.

On Board

We tried not to look too much like cruise newbies, but failed miserably. We did not care :) It was a great first time experience. The basic things that we initially saw are captured in the video montage.

Given that we had over two days of sailing prior to reach our first port of call, we made good use of the time getting to know the ship and her crew.

Everyone was genuinely helpful and very pleasant. The ship was clean and easy to get around. I have read other reviews that say the ship seemed worn and is overdue for refurbishment, but maybe it was because this was my first cruise and I have no prior frame of reference; but It looked great to me.

Our ocean view balcony stateroom seemed (surprisingly) larger than I expected it to be. I really could not tell from the pictures that I pored over while planning for the trip, but the room was very comfortable. More than enough closet and drawer space for two people. We were very happy with the room.

Food

The stories we had heard leading up to our first cruise made us think you would be wading in food! :). Food was in abundance, but we learned through others we met on board that the amount (and to some extent, quality) has somewhat diminished. The main food area is the Windjammer Cafe and for me, the quality varied from day to day. Sometimes the lunch menu was better than the dinner menu, and vice versa. We did book one night (our anniversary) in the Chops Specialty restaurant and that was exquisite. We really enjoyed that. We ate two or three times in the Reflections dining room for dinner and one time for breakfast. Two of the three dinners were average, with one being good. The one breakfast did not fare so well, but your mileage may vary.

It took me 4 days to discover that you could order seconds when eating in Reflections and it took 5 days for me to find out that the desserts in Cafe Latitudes was free. :) The Park cafe had good salad selections and was my favourite spots for getting toasted bagels with cream cheese and salmon.

Entertainment

We attended Shows in the Tropical theatre that included Stand-Up Comics, Musicals etc. For the most part, were pretty good, but with varying quality. To be fair, it would depend on your own tastes and preferences. We tried to see a movie one afternoon in the ships cinema, but it was full. We discovered that whatever was showing in the cinema, was also available on your stateroom TV.

Other Activities

You will never be able (nor would you want) to do every scheduled activity onboard. We took part in a couple trivia games; watched a World Sexiest Man contest by the main pool (I cannot honestly say what possessed me to do so), as well as a Belly Flop Competition. We did discover our favourite spot on the ship - The Safari Lounge. especially sitting right by the floor to ceiling windows at the stern of the ship. A nice place to chill out with a book.

Meeting Others

We had missed a first time cruisers meeting on the 1st or 2nd day at sea, but invariably met people while dining. After two dinner bookings by ourselves in Reflections, we wanted to just join in at a group table to get to know others.

Ports of Call

We had selected the 10-Day Southern Caribbean itinerary that included the following Islands:

Day 4 - Tortola BVI

No planned excursions. We just walked around town. We did not really get to see any location highlights.

Day 5 - St. Kitts - Plantation and Beach Excursion

The only real hiccup in an otherwise fantastic cruise. The excursion itself was very good, but there was a fair bit of initial miscommunication pertaining to where and what time to meet for a planned day excursion. We were told to wait in a specific section on the pier after disembarking. We sat under a tent for about 35 minutes. I got up to look at the signs other excursion reps were holding up, but did not see ours. Went to the washroom nearby and when I exited I just happened to be passing by someone with a sign with really small print, and discovered it was our excursion. I confirmed that with them and they said they had been waiting for almost 20 minutes for the “final two” passengers. I was somewhat put out as we were told twice too just wait by the tent. No one called out that the excursion was boarding and we were not told how to find our excursion rep. I took it up with Guest Services after we got back on board later and they apologized. I did recommend that things should be more organized.

Day 6 - Dominica - Rain Forest Excursion

Our excursion on this island was to the Rain Forest. We had an excellent tour guide and thoroughly enjoyed this small island and its people.

Day 7 - Antigua

No planned excursion as we just walked around the capital city of St Johns. Again, not really much to see given that we were limited to just a small radius around the ship

Day 8 - St. Maarten - Our Anniversary - Island Tour Excursion of The French & Dutch Sides

Our most disappointing excursion, as our expectations were not met. The tour guide diligently pointed out things such as car dealerships, supermarkets, high schools and a few statues located in roundabouts. I guess I was looking for more on the history of the island, landmarks such as a fort up on a hill were only given a passing mention. We were brought to what I can only describe as “tourist traps”. Stalls selling locally crafted clothing and trinkets. We would have been better served if we took ourselves to a beach for the day.

Please do not get me wrong. I do not begrudge anyone trying to make a living in these islands. For the most part that is their only source of livelihood, but if you have to navigate the same scene at every port of call and while on an excursion, it can become a bit tedious.

Lessons learned I suppose. Given that this was our first cruise, we opted to “play it safe” as far as excursions went. Now with one cruise under our belt, we are already defining what we will do differently next time.

Arriving Back In Florida

Our flight back to Canada was scheduled to leave at 1:50pm, but we left the ship early due to the fact the ship had set a later than expected disembarkation time. We had previously booked a shuttle from the terminal to the airport for 9am, so we had to push our off ship time earlier to make the shuttle. Getting back to Canada was disruptive due to flights being affected by east coast winter weather…and yes our luggage made it home one day after we did. Better then, than on the cruise, so we are not complaining.

Summary and Conclusion

This was one of the best vacations I can ever recall taking. It has adjusted my viewpoint on all-inclusive resorts. I guess I have gotten the bug because I definitely will be planning to do this again in different geographic locations. Hopefully I have been able to give a sense of what a first cruise feels like, but it goes without saying it will be a different experience for everyone. One thing I know, there is a lot more to cruising that I am yet to learn.

Video Montage (approx 16min) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTx62TEu3x8
Cynapz’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 9008
Excellent Cabin Size
Very Comfortable Bed
We had an exceptional Stateroom Attendant (Rocky)
More than enough storage space for two people
  Serenade of the Seas Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews