My husband and I decided to take a cruise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We were joined by another couple who were also celebrating their 25th. It was the first time any of us has cruised. We decided to visit the Southern Caribbean and sail aboard the Serenade of the Seas. We flew to San Juan April 8th, one day before the start of the cruise. After arriving a the airport in San Juan. We quickly found a taxi which cost about $17 for the four of us, to take us to our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton near the convention center. We arrived early afternoon and our room was not ready yet, so we put our luggage in storage with the hotel, and headed out by taxi again to Old San Juan. It was a short taxi ride which was around $15. We walked around Old San Juan and had lunch in a Jamacian restaurant. It was very hot and spicy, but very good. We walked to one of the forts and did the tour,w hich was only a few dollars per person. Afterwards we were really hot and wanted to get back to the hotel and shower and change our clothes etc. We took a taxi back which was another $15 or so. For dinner that night we opted to walk instead of paying a taxi. We walked to the Sizzler which we had passed while in the taxi. It was a fairly short walk and I was suprised I did not see more people walking around. The Sizzler,which is a steakhouse was very full, with mostly locals. I guess most of the hotel guests ate at the hotel. The sizzler food was ok and was reasonable. After dinner we walked back to the hotel to try out the pool. The pool at the Sheraton was nice, but very cold water, so we went in the hot tub instead. There was a bar at the pool and also a nice view of convention center, where there was a fashion show going on that night. The Sheraton had a very nice room and comfortable bed so we had a good night sleep. The next morning we had a buffet breakfast at the hotel which was expensive bu t good. Afterward we decided to do a tour of the Bacardi Rum Factory. The hotel had a tour which would have been about $60 per person and also took you to Old San Juan. We decided to take a taxi and go the factory on our own. I think we paid around $30 for all four of us each way. The taxi have fixed rates, but the drivers seem to take liberty with that and tell you different amounts. The Bacardi tour was very enjoyable and the admission was free. There was a history of Bacardi lesson and a bartender demonstration ending with a trip to the gift shop. They also gave each person two free drinks, which was a great way to end the tour. After the tour we headed back to the hotel to collect our luggage and take a taxi to the ship. On board the Ship, Day 1 We arrived by taxi around 2:00 to board the ship. The taxi fair was again around $17. There was a long line when we got there, but it moved quickly and we were soon on board the ship and checked out our room. We had a ocean view room on the 4th floor, with a large window. The room was a good size and the only thing that seemed cramped to me was the bathroom. The room actually had more storage and closet space then most hotel rooms do, so there was plenty of places to put things. We had lunch in the Windjammer, which is a buffet and has lots of great choices. My favorite section in the Windjammer is the Healthy and Sweet area. It is a salad bar at lunch and breakfast there is fruit on one side and donuts and all sort of buns. Healthy and Sweet! After lunch we checked out the pools. Being a first time cruisers the pools looked smaller than I had imagined, but there were plenty of deck chairs and they were never crowded. There are 2 pools. The main pool which is for everyone, and also the Solarium pool, which is adults only. That was a very nice feature, since were traveling without kids. The Solarium is really very pretty, with a greenhouse affect. There is glass enclosure over the pool area which can be opened, but was closed anytime I was there. At 8:00 there was a mandatory muster. We all had to go to certain spot on deck and stand in straight lines for what seemed like a long time until everyone got there. There were still people boarding the ship late and we had wait for everyone. Then the staff went over the emergency evacuation information. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and not high heels to this as I did. For dinner we had chosen the My Time Dining option. You are supposed to be able to make reservations for different times every night, but I found that after the first night or two they seemed to want to fit you into the same time. A couple times I had a hard time getting anyone to answer the phone when trying to call for the reservation and so I went to the My Time Dining desk and the person who was supposed to be on duty was nowhere to be found. So next time I will just pick the early or late seating because it seems like it would just be easier. Other than that the Dining Room was an enjoyable experience. We had the same waiters all week. Royston our waiter and Ericson or assistant waiter were superb! They definitely pampered us. The food was very good and we always had everything we needed. We met our room steward that night and she was awesome. Just a note to all you other first time cruisers. Make sure to double lock your door and put out your do not disturb sign when you are in your room, because they will come in often. Our room was cleaned twice a day and the ice tray seemed to be refilled several times. Our steward Lauret,did a great job. She made several towel animals for us during our stay. Day 2- We woke up during the night and looked out our window and could see lights and knew we were near land. By morning we woke up and looked out the window to see the Island of Tortola, with the beautiful mountains with desert like trees and crystal clear water. See the port review section for more details. We had breakfast in the Windjammer, where we found our favorite spot to eat on the outside deck. After our tour on Tortola we had a late lunch again in the Windjammer. Tonight was the captains party in the Safari Club. The Safari Club is our favorite lounge on the ship. To me, It resembles a night club from the 1930'so r 40's. Everyone had a chance to get there picture taken with the captain, who is the first female captain in the cruise industry. Very impressive. Everyone at the party got free drinks and a lot of the officers and head crew members introduces themselves. There was also a question and answer time. We again had a late seating for dinner in the Dining room. It was the first formal night and almost everyone we saw was dresses very nice although they do allow people to come even if they do not have formal dress. and then went to the show in the theater. It was Broadway style review. The singers and dancers were definitely talented and we did enjoy the show. Our room steward brought us an anniversary certificate and made us a towel swan that day, which she put my sunglasses on. It was so cute. Just a note that by the second day or so the pool water was heated and it felt very good to go in, almost like the hot tub, but comfortable. Day 3- Woke up again to see a lovely Island view. Today was St. Marteen, which was our favorite port. We didn't do a tour but went shopping and the beach on our own. The water and sky were the bluest I have ever seen. Beautiful! We had breakfast in the main dining room this morning and it was very tasty. The put our friends and us at a big table with another couple who were very friendly. I had really tasty French Toast and the service was great as usual. We came back to the ship for lunch in the Windjammer and were able to go back out afterward to the beach. Another great dinner in the Dining room. The next show we saw was a mentalist, which was very entertaining. Day 4- St. Kitts. Very beautiful again. Windjammer breakfast and lunch were great. We did the Rain forest tour, reviewed below. Had lunch on the boat and then back out to do some shopping. Everyone got drenched by the rain and went back to the boat soaking wet.That night after dinner I believe was the Dominic Allen show. It is hard to remember the exact night of the shows so forgive me if I am wrong with the days. Anyway, Dominic had an amazing show. I did not previously know who he was, but my husband was familiar with him as being a part of the group Foreigner. He had also been on Days of Our Lives. He sang and played many instruments as part of his show and he had an awesome young drummer who did an incredible solo. Day 5 Woke up to see Dominica. A beautiful island with lush mountains. We did a tour of the waterfalls and emerald baths. I think there would be so much to see even if staying a week on this island. It was our friends favorite island because of the tropical flowers and how green and lush it was. There are many rivers all over the island. That night back on the ship, we saw a Love and Marriage show, which was kind of like the newly wed game. It was a lot of fun! We also enjoyed the Schooner Bar on the ship. It had a very nautical theme and had an entertaining piano player. It is a great place to meet up with friends you met on the ship. We played pool in the area between the Schooner Bar and the Safari club. I believe the Serenade is the only ship to have the self leveling pool tables. It was fun to watch the table level itself. We went to Karaoke in the Safari club but almost everyone that night was singing in Spanish and we didn't know the songs. It was fun though. Day 6 Barbados was the port today. Looked out the window to see the island which is very flat. We did breakfast in the dining room. It was chocolate day, with chocolate pancakes, waffles, chocolate drinks and more. I tried the chocolate pancakes. We went to the beach in Barbados and then returned to the ship and had a late lunch at the solarium cafe as lunch in the Windjammer was done for the day. The Solarium cafe has pizza and sandwiches, with cookies for desert. That night was the second formal night with lobster tail on the menu for dinner. Very yummy! They tails were small. My hubby asked for two and they gave me two also, All the food was very good all week. The beef was mouthwatering the night I had it. The pasta was especially good as well. I didn't have anything all week I didn't like. There was another show by the Royal Caribbean singers about music throughout the decades. It was again a great show. I loved the number by the female singer especially, which was the song "The First Time Ever I saw your Face". Day 7 This was a sea day. There were so many activities, we could not do all of them. We watched the belly flop contest, which was so much fun. We also did the salsa dancing lesson, which was enjoyable and real work out. There were also hip hop and jive lessons which we didn't try. There was an ice sculpting demonstration, and a sexiest man competition as well as bingo and trivia, which they had all week on the ship. We got explore so much of the ship that day. The helicopter landing deck was open so we could go to the very front of the ship. We checked out the rock climbing wall which my friend tried. She went about quarter of the way up and said it was harder than it looked. There was also a miniature golf course which we meant to try but did not get around to. There were nice shops to check out every night. They were open all day on the sea day. The fitness room looked nice but we did not use it. Spa treatments were pretty expensive so we did not use them either, but there were plenty of different options available. We also had our picture take at most ports and throughout the ship. All the pictures were displayed in an area near the shops and the theater and you could purchase the ones you want. I have to give a special mention to Ricki the cruise director. He had so much energy and was so entertaining. He did an amazing job! In the evening there was a farewell show with the comedian who had a show the first night, but we did not see, as well as the ships singers and some of the staff from the ship. It was so sad it was the last night. The Serenade is a beautiful ship and we had the time our lives. Can't wait to sail Royal Caribbean again. We are hooked now! Day 8, Sadly, we had to disembark this morning. Just a note to say it is better to just get a taxi yourself rather than use the transportation that Royal Caribbean provides to go to the San Jan airport. It is much cheaper to take the taxi and easier to have your luggage with you. We spoke to people who used Royal Caribbeans transfer and they took them on a bus with the luggage on another truck and it took them much longer to get their belongings and go through customs. Taxi was about $20 dollars for four of us. We flew home that afternoon to Philadelphia. You can also disembark a little later this way. We had time to take a look at the royal suites and some of the fancier suites that were open. If you have never done this it is a fun thing to do and the stewards are happy for you to see these rooms and hopefully give you the idea to upgrade some day! I will just be happy to return some day to the Serenade of one of the other Royal Caribbean ships. Try the Serenade of the Seas and you will not be disappointed. It is a sensational ship!
In Tortola we did the Gorda Baths tour through Royal Caribbean. After getting off the ship that morning our group took ferry boat and then went in small groups on open buses through a scenic route of Tortola to get to the Gorda Baths. There was a long trail to get to the baths. It was not a difficult walk, but could be challenging for older people if they have a hard time walking. The Gorda Baths is a beautiful sanding beach for clear water and small waves but fairly calm. There is a bathroom and one changing area, but most people wore there there suits under there clothing, which is a good idea. There are also was another area you could walk to, which we did go to. You have to walk under caves and over rooks, so you have to be able to bend well to go under and manover some tricking foot work. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to walk to this area, but it is worth the walk. Once you get to this beach there is very little shade to wear sunscreen. We walked back to the bus area through another trail which takes you to the road. You can see lots of cactus and other plants and again it seems like a long walk until you get back. The area where you get the bus has a little restaurant and bar as well as some stores. We got beer and soda at the bar before we had to leave. There is also a small pool there that you can go it. The view is spectacular there.
This was our favorite port. We did not book a tour here. There is a water taxi that you can take back and forth from the port to town, for $6, for as many times as you want to use it all day. After arriving at port in the morning we took the water taxi to St. Phillipsburg and went shopping. There are a lot of nice shops with resonable prices and friendly people. While walking on front street we met Kendall who worked at the Blue Bitch Bar (excuse my French, but that was the name of the bar)He offered us a great deal for spots on the beach,including umbrella, lounge chairs, and a bucket of bear and soda. We said we would be back after lunch and he said he would honor the deal if we honored our end and came back. He was pleasently suprised to see that we kept our word and came back after lunch. We took the water taxi back to the ship for lunch and put on our swim suites and headed back to the beach to find our friend Kendall. He gave us great service all afternoon. St Marteen was so lovely. I have never seen such blue water and ski. We would love to return there some days.
In St. Kitts we went on the Rainforest tour we booked by Royal Caribbean. We took a bus and had a great tour guide. I wish I could remember his name as he was awesome. It was interesting on the drive to the forest to see the villages. We passed by some very poor areas were the people obviously did not have much. Our guide told us that tourism is the only income of the island, since the sugar trade has shot down there. They desperately need to have recycling as plastic and glass bottles and other trash litter some of the streets. The rainforest was beautiful though and I was impressed by the knowledge of the plants and wildlife that our guide had. Before we walked into the rain forest we were taken to a lovely garden with a gift shop. We were saw monkeys in the trees there and were later surprised to see that people have them on leashes as pets also. After the tour we went back to the ship for lunch and then came back out to the port. The town is right there at the port. We were immediately approached by the young boys with the monkeys who want you to pay them for pictures with the moneys. We did a picture with monkey as it was hard for me to say no. The monkey were very cute. We shopped awhile and then we got soaked by rain and went back to the ship.
Dominca was very beautiful. We did the waterfall and emerald pool tour, arranged by the ship. I think this would be much cheaper if you did on your own. There are plenty of taxi drivers. The falls were beautiful and we a lot of time for pictures. The Emerald Falls were beautiful as well, will a slightly long trail to get to them. If you do this tour, wear your bathing suit if you want to go in the emerald pool. It will be well worth it. I did not see anywhere to change so if you wear it under you clothes it would be a good idea. We made a stop for refreshments in between the falls and the pool and after the pool, we drove through a garden and stopped a place to take pictures of the view and also buy soveniers. This is a lovely island with lush plants and trees. The Banana and Mango trade is big here as well as the tourism so it seems like a lot of the people are slighlty more well off then some of the islands, but maybe that is just the part we saw. I think there would be plent of things to see here even if staying for a week. It is a very short walk from the ship to the port where there are shops and restaurants, so we were able to go back for lunch and then come back out to shop.
In Barbados we did not plan a tour, but went to the Bridgeport Beach after asking our waiter which beach would be good. At the port there are a lot of shops before you get to the taxi station. Getting a taxi here was the most confusing of all the ports. We were instantly surrounded by drivers trying to get us to come with them. There was supposed to be set rates, but I think they did not all follow that. After a drive through town we got dropped off with several others at the Bridgeport Beach. We walked around awhile before choosing which beach sections we wanted. We finally settled on the deal we thought was best or umbrella, chair, restroom use, and at this particular spot, 3 drinks per couple. The water was beautiful there. So crystal clear. We all got burned here the most. We were going to eat lunch here, but the restaurant at the beach was very expensive and we decided to wait until we went back to the ship. It was lovely here, but Bridgeport is a very big city and like I mentioned the transportation area was hectic. I would like to see more of the island someday.