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I Arrived in San Juan at about 1:30pm the day before the cruise. After getting luggage went and got a taxi (There is an over abundance of taxi's) to the hotel and arrived at the hotel at about 2:45pm. The taxi fair to the hotel Courtyard Marriot Miramar was $16.00. It took longer than usual to get to the hotel as the traffic was heavy due to recent heavy rains that had streets flooded, but our driver knew some great short cuts off the main roads to get us there quicker. The normal time with normal traffic would only be about 15 minutes. The Courtyard Marriot Miramar (3 star) has a lot of mixed reviews, so I did not know what to really expect when I booked it. I booked it for the price ($129.00 with no resort fees). The hotel turned out to be great! Friendly staff, easy check in, very clean inside and out. Our room on the 11th floor had plenty of room, very clean and a very good view. It was located in the convention district and within a two blocks there were 3 restaurants, A Japanese Sushi Bar, a fast food taco place (Like Taco Bell), a Subway, a Supermarket, Domino's Pizza, 2 Pharmacy's and a U.S. Post Office. Contrary to reviews that I have read, the area was very safe day and night, and only saw one vagrant on the streets (I saw more in old San Juan than I saw here). The restaurant in the Hotel was expensive so we never ate in there. Went down the street and ate in one of the restaurants to eat authentic Puerto Rican food and it was very good and very reasonably priced. We also ate breakfast there the morning of the cruise (Ham & Cheese Omelet with toast and coffee for $4.50). Bought some snacks at the supermarket and the prices there were comparable with the prices in mainland United States Supermarkets. This hotel is not hotel to be at however, if you want to be at the beach (Not within close walking distance) or if you are looking for a lot of entertainment (None at the hotel or in the vicinity). I was mainly looking for a hotel to rest my head overnight without spending a lot of money, that was close to the pier and close to Old San Juan. At 3:30pm we were ready to go off to Old San Juan. If you decide to go in a Taxi (They are lined up outside the hotel day and night), it will cost you $14.00. We went by bus, which the stop is one block up the street for 75 cents (Must have exact change). The ride by taxi is approximately 15 minutes or 20 minutes by bus due to stops for passengers along the route. After arriving in Old San Juan we walked around for a bit until the heat became a bit much and we wanted to get into some air conditioning. We were meeting with people for a Meet & Greet from our Roll Call from Cruise Critic at Mojito's Restaurant, but the 1st people from the Roll Call that had arrived Friday found out that it closed for vacation. They put a sign on the door to let everyone know that the plans had changed to meet at Senior Frogs instead. The Meet and Greet was great, There was about 28 people that showed up and we had a good time getting to know each other. It was like getting together with old friends even though it was the 1st time that anybody had met each other. Day 0 Sunday - Embarkation Day: Checked out of the hotel at 11:00am (Smooth), got a taxi to the Pan Am pier ($14.00 - 10 minute ride), and there she was…. The Serenade Of The Seas! When we arrived at 11:15am there was people already lined up. We checked our luggage right at curbside and got in line. The doors opened at noon and we processed and was on the ship in about 20 minutes (We travel with passports and I cannot tell you if it was any faster with passports as compared to DL/BC's and didn't really care - I just wanted to get on board). We went right to the spa to get a massage reservation, but they had a table set up and was able to do it as soon as we got off the elevator by the Windjammer. There was a very friendly and comical person who greeted you at the entrance to the Windjammer that was there every day. She was always able to make you smile and laugh. We ate lunch and the food offered was pretty good. We are not 5 star restaurant gourmet dinners and do the occasional buffet restaurants. The offerings in the Windjammer were as good as anything I have eaten in any buffet restaurant so we had no complaints and by 1:00 the rooms were ready. Got to the room (9580 - Balcony on the hump) and everything that I had pre ordered was there waiting. My DW did not know about the things I had ordered as it was a surprise. I had ordered one of the romance packages and a wine and fruit tray and anniversary decorations. In spite of what I had read on here, the decorations were just as advertised on the website. Our State room attendant (Denardo) was at the room within 5 minutes of our arrival to introduce himself and to set the start of what would turn out to be a very pleasant experience for the entire week. We did the prepaid gratuities and he was one of the persons that we tipped extra in cash to at the end of the cruise. We then went on our exploration of the ship to check things out. Serenade is a beautiful ship. Glass to look out over the ocean everywhere including the centrum elevators. Following is pictures of our exploration: Went to the solarium and bought a beer package ($39.00 for 9 beers with a insulated carrying case, then refills were $28.00 if I remember correctly) then sat and chilled for a bit with a couple from our roll call. Our Roll Call did a Meet and Greet at 4:00 with everybody that was at Senior Frogs in San Juan and the rest who was not there until embarkation day up at the Sky Bar above the pool area. It started getting close to dinner time (Early Seating), so we went back to the room to see if our luggage had arrived yet, but it had not. At 6:00 we went to be seated for dinner. The dress on embarkation day is whatever you have on, due to many people not having luggage to arrive yet. We were escorted to our table (460), which was a table for 4. We greeted by our Waiter for the week (Filton who received the other extra cash gratuity) and our assistant waiter (Francisco) as well as our table mates. Dinner was great (Don’t remember what we had each night). Now about the MDR dining experience….. Although I said we don’t eat in fine dining gourmet restaurants, I mean we don’t all the time, but do on occasions. If you are looking for that kind of dining you might be setting you expectations too high. I believe that the chefs on board do a hell of a job to provide a quality menu to give you a gourmet type meal experience each night. I applaud them for their efforts to feed over 2000 people nightly. I would love to see a 5 star gourmet restaurant do that and still maintain the same quality. After dinner we returned back to our room about 7:40 and our luggage had finally arrived. The luggage by the way is left “Inside” your room. A little after 8:00pm there was the call for muster (No life vest required) and at 8:30pm sharp we were pulling away from the pier and on our way! The 1st day is the Sea Day is the 1st formal night. Here is the real deal about dress on formal night as well as dress in the MDR on other nights aboard The Serenade of the Seas. 1st we like to dress for formal nights as part of our overall cruise experience. I brought one suit along with two shirts and two ties to have a different look at both formal nights. You saw various types of dress for men and women on this night from formal wear, suit and ties, pants suits, gowns short evening wear for women, as well as sports jackets and slacks, shirts and slacks or smart casual. We did not see anybody being questioned or put out because of what they were wearing. On the other nights we saw various types of dress also, even some with shorts on. Did not see tank tops or flip flops, but it appeared that anything else was acceptable.

Serenade in the Southern Caribbean - What Could be Better!

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by bigque

Trip Details
I Arrived in San Juan at about 1:30pm the day before the cruise. After getting luggage went and got a taxi (There is an over abundance of taxi's) to the hotel and arrived at the hotel at about 2:45pm. The taxi fair to the hotel Courtyard Marriot Miramar was $16.00. It took longer than usual to get to the hotel as the traffic was heavy due to recent heavy rains that had streets flooded, but our driver knew some great short cuts off the main roads to get us there quicker. The normal time with normal traffic would only be about 15 minutes.



The Courtyard Marriot Miramar (3 star) has a lot of mixed reviews, so I did not know what to really expect when I booked it. I booked it for the price ($129.00 with no resort fees). The hotel turned out to be great! Friendly staff, easy check in, very clean inside and out. Our room on the 11th floor had plenty of room, very clean and a very good view. It was located in the convention district and within a two blocks there were 3 restaurants, A Japanese Sushi Bar, a fast food taco place (Like Taco Bell), a Subway, a Supermarket, Domino's Pizza, 2 Pharmacy's and a U.S. Post Office. Contrary to reviews that I have read, the area was very safe day and night, and only saw one vagrant on the streets (I saw more in old San Juan than I saw here). The restaurant in the Hotel was expensive so we never ate in there. Went down the street and ate in one of the restaurants to eat authentic Puerto Rican food and it was very good and very reasonably priced. We also ate breakfast there the morning of the cruise (Ham & Cheese Omelet with toast and coffee for $4.50). Bought some snacks at the supermarket and the prices there were comparable with the prices in mainland United States Supermarkets. This hotel is not hotel to be at however, if you want to be at the beach (Not within close walking distance) or if you are looking for a lot of entertainment (None at the hotel or in the vicinity). I was mainly looking for a hotel to rest my head overnight without spending a lot of money, that was close to the pier and close to Old San Juan.











At 3:30pm we were ready to go off to Old San Juan. If you decide to go in a Taxi (They are lined up outside the hotel day and night), it will cost you $14.00. We went by bus, which the stop is one block up the street for 75 cents (Must have exact change). The ride by taxi is approximately 15 minutes or 20 minutes by bus due to stops for passengers along the route. After arriving in Old San Juan we walked around for a bit until the heat became a bit much and we wanted to get into some air conditioning. We were meeting with people for a Meet & Greet from our Roll Call from Cruise Critic at Mojito's Restaurant, but the 1st people from the Roll Call that had arrived Friday found out that it closed for vacation. They put a sign on the door to let everyone know that the plans had changed to meet at Senior Frogs instead. The Meet and Greet was great, There was about 28 people that showed up and we had a good time getting to know each other. It was like getting together with old friends even though it was the 1st time that anybody had met each other. Day 0 Sunday - Embarkation Day:





Checked out of the hotel at 11:00am (Smooth), got a taxi to the Pan Am pier ($14.00 - 10 minute ride), and there she was…. The Serenade Of The Seas!







When we arrived at 11:15am there was people already lined up. We checked our luggage right at curbside and got in line. The doors opened at noon and we processed and was on the ship in about 20 minutes (We travel with passports and I cannot tell you if it was any faster with passports as compared to DL/BC's and didn't really care - I just wanted to get on board). We went right to the spa to get a massage reservation, but they had a table set up and was able to do it as soon as we got off the elevator by the Windjammer. There was a very friendly and comical person who greeted you at the entrance to the Windjammer that was there every day. She was always able to make you smile and laugh. We ate lunch and the food offered was pretty good. We are not 5 star restaurant gourmet dinners and do the occasional buffet restaurants. The offerings in the Windjammer were as good as anything I have eaten in any buffet restaurant so we had no complaints and by 1:00 the rooms were ready. Got to the room (9580 - Balcony on the hump) and everything that I had pre ordered was there waiting. My DW did not know about the things I had ordered as it was a surprise. I had ordered one of the romance packages and a wine and fruit tray and anniversary decorations. In spite of what I had read on here, the decorations were just as advertised on the website. Our State room attendant (Denardo) was at the room within 5 minutes of our arrival to introduce himself and to set the start of what would turn out to be a very pleasant experience for the entire week. We did the prepaid gratuities and he was one of the persons that we tipped extra in cash to at the end of the cruise.



We then went on our exploration of the ship to check things out. Serenade is a beautiful ship. Glass to look out over the ocean everywhere including the centrum elevators. Following is pictures of our exploration:



Went to the solarium and bought a beer package ($39.00 for 9 beers with a insulated carrying case, then refills were $28.00 if I remember correctly) then sat and chilled for a bit with a couple from our roll call. Our Roll Call did a Meet and Greet at 4:00 with everybody that was at Senior Frogs in San Juan and the rest who was not there until embarkation day up at the Sky Bar above the pool area. It started getting close to dinner time (Early Seating), so we went back to the room to see if our luggage had arrived yet, but it had not. At 6:00 we went to be seated for dinner. The dress on embarkation day is whatever you have on, due to many people not having luggage to arrive yet. We were escorted to our table (460), which was a table for 4. We greeted by our Waiter for the week (Filton who received the other extra cash gratuity) and our assistant waiter (Francisco) as well as our table mates. Dinner was great (Don’t remember what we had each night). Now about the MDR dining experience….. Although I said we don’t eat in fine dining gourmet restaurants, I mean we don’t all the time, but do on occasions. If you are looking for that kind of dining you might be setting you expectations too high. I believe that the chefs on board do a hell of a job to provide a quality menu to give you a gourmet type meal experience each night. I applaud them for their efforts to feed over 2000 people nightly. I would love to see a 5 star gourmet restaurant do that and still maintain the same quality. After dinner we returned back to our room about 7:40 and our luggage had finally arrived. The luggage by the way is left “Inside” your room.



A little after 8:00pm there was the call for muster (No life vest required) and at 8:30pm sharp we were pulling away from the pier and on our way!





The 1st day is the Sea Day is the 1st formal night. Here is the real deal about dress on formal night as well as dress in the MDR on other nights aboard The Serenade of the Seas. 1st we like to dress for formal nights as part of our overall cruise experience. I brought one suit along with two shirts and two ties to have a different look at both formal nights. You saw various types of dress for men and women on this night from formal wear, suit and ties, pants suits, gowns short evening wear for women, as well as sports jackets and slacks, shirts and slacks or smart casual. We did not see anybody being questioned or put out because of what they were wearing. On the other nights we saw various types of dress also, even some with shorts on. Did not see tank tops or flip flops, but it appeared that anything else was acceptable.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 9580
We were Cabin 9580. It was D2 Balcony on the hump. We thought the room was nice and had plenty of space for 2 people. The hump balcony was great but I just felt it needed a little bigger table (Ok for sitting drinks on, but small for sitting the breakfast tray on each morning. 9580 was right across from the library. The centrum area is located right there. They had music and a 1970's party one night on the 4th deck centrum and although you can hear the music clearly outside the room, It was more of a muffled sound inside the room and it was not disturbing and would not be unless you have to have absolute quiet when you are in your cabin trying to sleep. Other than that you never heard any noise etc while in the cabin. There was plenty of closet space with shelves for storing your clothes along with 6 drawers on the desk/vanity (We had plenty of room for our clothes for a 7 day cruise). Were able to fit 4 suitcases under the bed with no problem at all. The bathroom was small, but big enough for one person to use the sink area at a time. The shower with sliding door was round shape and plenty of room to shower in, but not much else. There was a shampoo dispenser in there as well.
  Serenade of the Seas Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Antigua
    On this day it was once again the same with the morning ritual of early sunrise then breakfast on the balcony @ 7:00. This day was to be exciting for me as I was going zip lining for the 1st time. DW was not going as she did not want to play Tarzan & Jane above the rainforest on Antigua! Once off the ship @ 9:15 we were lined up on the pier to start the excursion which was the “Canopy Tour” through Royal Caribbean. We departed at 9:30 and it took about 45 minutes to get there. Once we arrived we had a quick briefing and then went to an area where we receive our harness, pulley’s & helmet. This zip line adventure consisted of 12 zip lines high up on the mountain and you work your down the mountain over the rainforest. The 12 lines range from short to one that was very long (Don’t remember how long)! After the longest one (You will have done 9 at this point) you climb stairs back up to it to do it again, followed by the last 3. After the last zip you get to a platform and you get connected by your harness to take a 20 foot parachute drop (They call it the Leap of Faith)! that takes your breath away! After that you have to climb a very very long stair case back to the top where it all began. You need to be in half way decent shape for this tour, cause there is some long waling involved and the stairs at the end is a killer! After you turn in your equipment, you are offered complimentary rum punch or non-alcoholic punch along with a little paper certificate of completion. Inside the building there is souvenir and T-shirt shop with a bar to buy a beer or a drink. Here you can also purchase a snapshot they take of you coming down one of the zip lines. Sorry no pictures as they do not allow you to photograph it yourself and stated that you would be pulled from the course if they caught you taking photos. They have lockers for you to lock up cameras and valuables while on the course. The staff here that work the platforms to hook you up to the lines were very nice and very professional. It was fun to see them hot dogging it on the zip lines while we were holding on for dear life! This was one of the most adventurous things I have done besides taking flying lessons! We were back at the port by 1:30. I give this tour an A+. What I saw of Antigua on the way to the Zip Lines – A. Total Tour time 9:30 1:30.
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  • Barbados
    Best of Barbados Tour (Through RCI) - Left ship for 8:30 Tour time. The1st port date the line was long when we got to the 2nd deck gangway. On the rest of the port days the lines were not bad. I guess everybody figured out that they did not need to rush to be the 1st off the ship. Once off the ship we walked over to where the tours depart and as with many ports you go through a mini duty free shopping mall. I did not see anything I wanted to purchase there other than souvenirs to say I been there. The tour took us through one of the poorest neighborhoods on the island with a 1st stop at the house & grounds of I believe was the 1st governor of the island after they obtained independence. You tour through the house and there is an original slave hut on the grounds and that is it. This is the 1st of a weeklong drink of Rum Punch on every tour all week long, which was always too weak or very strong……..Enjoyed them all! Next stop of the tour was at St. John's Church, an old historic church on top of a mountain and gave you good views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean:
    From there it was off to Orchid World, which is like a Botanical Garden (Saw some interesting plant life), as well as what the name suggests… Orchids!
    After that stop we were off through the sugar cane fields of the island and back to the ship. Back on board we did Windjammer lunch and went and got in the Jacuzzi as there was not a lot of people on the pool deck and we were able to sit wherever we wanted!
    Tour time 8:30 till about 12:30 - 12:45. My grades - Tour Guide - B; Tour itself C-; The Island of Barbados - C (Did not see beaches to give a grade, people from the ship however said they weren't bad).
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  • St. Croix
    On this day after the sunrise we decided that we wanted to eat breakfast in the Windjammer to get a bigger variety. We were not rushed on this day, because this was the only stop on the cruise that we did not plan an excursion. We did however about 9:30 leave the ship to go look around. There is not much at this port but there is a beach within walking distance down a side path which was in view of the ship. We were told that cruise ships had stopped coming there for a while and when that happened the shops there closed and moved to Christiansted which is the capitol. There are taxi’s that you can take a 30 minute ride to Christiansted right off the pier for $12.00. As we traveled there the taxi driver asked the 8 of us in the van if we wanted to go the direct route or the scenic route and we all chose scenic. The scenic route was really not that scenic. When we arrived in downtown Christiansted, we were very disappointed. There were a few small souvenir shops and a couple of jewelry stores. Most of it seem to be closed on this day. We only stayed there for about 35 or 40 minutes and then jumped in a taxi to go back. I did however purchase a watch that I saw in one of the jewelry stores that I got at a very good price that I didn’t see on any of the other islands. Back at the port we walked around the tent vendor’s area outside the gates of the pier. St. Croix is a US Virgin Island so the currency is the only stop that is in US currency. All the islands however took US currency and gave you change back in US currency as well as credit or debit cards. The largest denomination I used for cash on any island was $20.00. My DW bought something from one of the vendor’s and then we decided to go on back to the ship to hang out at the pool deck for a while and sip the drink of the day and a beer or two.
    St. Croix was the least favorite of our stops on the cruise so I have to be objective here since we did not do an excursion or go to the beach. St. Croix (From the scenic route in Taxi) – D; Shopping – D (Not an F because I found a watch I wanted). We felt that they could replace this island with another or maybe an extra sea day!
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  • St. Lucia
    After breakfast and the ship docked we were off the ship by 8:15 for our 8:30 meet time for the tour (Historic Island Splendor) through Royal. By 9:00 we were on the tour bus and on our way. The tours 1st stop was at an historical house that overlooked the harbor leading out to sea. I took the picture below of the Serenade from the balcony of the house. I had seen this picture from the same vantage point before on the internet and always wondered where it was taken from (as I had it as my background picture on my computer), and now I know. Rum Punch was served outside after the tour through the house. We toured the countryside of the beautiful island that had many photo opportunities. One stop was a silk screen factory where we saw how silk screens are made (Interesting). We went to a little café place overlooking the Bay for some nice photo shots (More Rum Punch) and then on to a small village (Anse-La-Raye) that is specifically set up for a tour bus shopping stop. It is mainly a souvenir, t-shirts, etc type of place lining one side of a street in the village. Here is a few picks from this tour and around the port.
    Tour time 8:30 till about 1:00. My grades – Tour Guide – B+; Tour itself - A; The Island of St. Lucia – A (Did not go to the beaches (as you can probably tell we are not big time beach people, but did go to one on another island –review to come) to give a grade, people from the ship however said they weren’t bad and were better than Barbados).
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  • St. Maarten
    Sunrise and breakfast on the balcony! This was always a great start to the day! Loved it! At this port we did the excursion with Bernard Tours, rather than a tour through Royal Caribbean because we had heard so many good things about it from right here on Cruise Critic. We left the tour gathering area @ 9:45. The tour with Bernard's was great! We were in a van for 12, but on this day there were only 6 of us. Our tour guide/driver's name was John and he was good also. At one stop he even went down into the water in the rocks and pulled out sea urchins for us to touch and hold. This stop overlooking the Ocean was great for pictures also.
    You have all you can drink rum punch, beer, sodas or water that is included also for the entire tour. We spent 2 hours at Orient Beach! Orient Beach was a nice beach with nice white sand and beautiful clear water. Were were let out in the parking lot right near the entrance to Club Orient which is the nude beach. There is a bar and grill there also. We rented two loungers and umbrellas for $18.00 which includes all day bathroom pass and us and the people that were on our tour sat in a row of 8 chairs by the entrance to Club Orient.. Now about the infamous nude section of Orient Beach. The side we were sitting was the clothing optional side. Note: There is no privacy fencing separating the 2 sides. As we sat on the beach we saw occasional nude people that would walk right by us over to the clothing optional side and some would even get nude in the parking lot before walking over to the beach. Beside that you would see an occasional topless female walking by. If you have kids or if you do not want to see the nude folks, then you would need to go further down the other end of the beach. When I walked down to that end, I saw one topless female. I rented a Jet Ski which was $40 for 30 minutes. You go out without a guide (I fell off the Jet Ski twice in CocoCay on a previous cruise with a guide and was hoping this didn’t happen while out by myself) and they just let you know the areas not to go into. We did not have to buy drinks at the bar since they were provided by John, unless you wanted something different.
    After leaving Orient we went on to Marigot for a quick 45 minute shopping stop in a what would be considered like a strip mall and there was a mall next door as well. John provided us with a coupon to receive a free gift or a free 10 minute telephone call back to the U.S. in one of the shops. We all bought a couple of tropical drinks at a small outdoor bar there which were pretty good.
    We were then on our way to a 1 hour stop at Maho beach in which time we were able to capture 6 planes landing on film, as well as a shopping stop on the French side of the island. We also ate lunch there at the Sunset Bar (Which is still open and in great shape from hurricane season). We ordered cheeseburger and fries which was $10 each with no drink. They were however nice thick cheeseburgers and plenty of fries and were very tasty. Watching those planes fly in right over your head was exciting and awesome (Videos to come in a future video thread of the cruise that I am going to put on YouTube) and a must see in St. Maartin. Keep in mind that the beach has suffered corrosion form the hurricanes so there is really no beach as the water comes right up to the rocks by the road! All the people that were taking pictures and videos would go to the center median in the road in the flight path to the runway to get the shots. Once again this was AWESOME! Even if you just get a table at the Sunset Bar, you get some good close views of the planes landing and taking off from the runway which is right across the street. When we left Maho we ran into a traffic jam that had traffic at a complete standstill due to the building of an extension to the runway at the airport. John turned back around to get us out of the traffic and took an alternate way back to port which added about an extra 30 minutes to the ride back. He said it would have taken a lot longer if we would have waited in the traffic, which as I said was not moving at all. We all decided to get out in Phillipsburg rather and look around and shop rather than go all the way back to the port. After looking around and making a few purchases, we caught a water taxi back to the ship ($18.00 for two).
    We really enjoyed St. Maartin and thought it was the best island that we went to during the week. We enjoyed it so much that we said we wouldn’t even mind living there or having a vacation home there! Total Tour Time – 9:45 – 2:30; Barnard Tours – A+, Tour Guide - A+, St Maartin – A+. Guavaberry Rum (Unique to St. Maartin) A+
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