26 Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Fitness Cruise Reviews

We chose the serenade because of the great destinations and with a 7 year old girl it felt like a convenient way to get around and see Scandinavia and Russia. Having said that we were very conscious that the ship itself was fairly old and ... Read More
We chose the serenade because of the great destinations and with a 7 year old girl it felt like a convenient way to get around and see Scandinavia and Russia. Having said that we were very conscious that the ship itself was fairly old and small and we’d read reviews about everything that has gone wrong from embarkation to food to the service. But we were so pleasantly surprised right through the programme. Getting on the ship was an absolute breeze. We were taken into lunch at the Windjammer and by the time we’d finished the rooms were ready. The rooms also was just about right and clean with a cozy balcony. It was serviced twice a day with my child’s bunker bed put down during the evening turn down service. Our daughter absolutely loved the kids club activities in the adventure ocean club (9 am to 12pm; 2pm to 5pm and 7pm to 10pm). So much so that she didn’t join us in a couple of ports. This gave us ample time to lounge around, check the 16 bars without having to worry about her. This was such a blessing and the team at adventure ocean where thorough professionals providing fun educational ways to keep the children engaged. The service also was really exceptional and personalised. We got the same table in the dining room. But also in Windjammer. The staff is from all over and friendly and ever willing to engage in conversations. The food was amazing all through and surprisingly we did not get bored although we didn’t do any of the speciality dining. The staff is particular about hiegene and everyone follows through with sanitised hands. No cases of Nora virus was reported on the ship which was the other thing we were worried about. The other impressive feat was the way a helicopter landed to fly someone out. It was just the most amazing sight. And the copter looked too large but we didn’t feel a thing when it landed or took off. And there wasn’t any fuss at all. Entertainment on the ship was also quite nice in the tropical theatre, in the centrum and the safari club. Some of the home grown productions are quite good. The team really makes an effort and it comes through. We didn’t do shore excursions with the exception of Russia for visa. In all other places we were offered a shuttle service into the city centre for 10 dollars. There was no hassle getting out or in whatsoever and no preference was given to people on the shore excursions as we had read. All in all without having to spend on any additionals the cruise turned out to be a lovely experience and we are considering more such cruises. We will in all probability sail on the royal Caribbean. The ship offers gorgeous views of the sea with glass everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Such a great time, staff was amazing with us and our 2 kids, always had a smile and remembered names which made us feel welcome! Food was excellent, lots of choices, kids program amazing...kept my oldest occupied with waterslide races, ... Read More
Such a great time, staff was amazing with us and our 2 kids, always had a smile and remembered names which made us feel welcome! Food was excellent, lots of choices, kids program amazing...kept my oldest occupied with waterslide races, scavenger hunts and tons of family activities....kids pool was great as there weren't a ton of kids on board so wasn't crowded but more pool options would be beneficial, fitness area was clean and lots of equipment to use! Shore excursions were great, used the royal Caribbean ones for Antigua, St Lucia, Curacao and Aruba, did beaches as we were travelling with 2 kids....beaches were great and excursions were long enough to keep everyone busy and gave time to experience the sand and beautiful location but not so long that you had to buy food or kids getting to tired. Would go again in a heart beat. Location of this stateroom is great...away from noise, above the life boats far enough from elevators.....rooms are amazingly quiet. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I wanna visit St Petersburg so I choose this cruise. Come on board to enjoy good food and good service. Embarkation and disemarkation went smoothly.no need to wait too long. cabin service are excellent staffs very polite . Dining ... Read More
I wanna visit St Petersburg so I choose this cruise. Come on board to enjoy good food and good service. Embarkation and disemarkation went smoothly.no need to wait too long. cabin service are excellent staffs very polite . Dining room service excellent the waiter Judas a very cheerful guy always has a sense of humour.and the assistant waiter Nykyta he is a very helpful and smart guy . I ordered hot milk for my coffee once and the following days of the dinner time I dont need to ask again and he remember to bring me the hot milk. excellent service. After dinner we will enjoy the show at the theater. good show especially the Rock and Roll time.I love the class to teach cha cha and enjoy to take part. overall the service are excellent . I will highly recommand my friends to join this cruise and wish to board this ship again in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
We choose this route because we wanted to visit the baltic and this was a perfect experience. The entertainment is fantastic the musicians are really good (all of them), dining experience is fantastic the only problem is when you want ... Read More
We choose this route because we wanted to visit the baltic and this was a perfect experience. The entertainment is fantastic the musicians are really good (all of them), dining experience is fantastic the only problem is when you want to have dinner because there hours which can be very busy. We took the St Petersbourgh shore excursion due to problems with visa, but they are very expensive so we rather walk or take the bus. Cleaning in the Windjammer could be better during lunch time. Very nice service in board, the barman were attentive and fast, the pool is nice but full of kids so we end up in the solarium (no kids). The ports of call were fantastic, and they give you enough time to visit without any problem. The only problem I found from shore excursions is they are very slow as some people are always complaining they have to walk. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
An excellent opportunity to relax combining high level tourism, living in a luxurious environment and simultaneously enjoying on board any activity you wanted to have immediate access to it ( theater, cinema, gym, swimming , ... Read More
An excellent opportunity to relax combining high level tourism, living in a luxurious environment and simultaneously enjoying on board any activity you wanted to have immediate access to it ( theater, cinema, gym, swimming , entertainment , etc) and excellent quality, variety and quantity of food all day plus variety of gourmet restaurants at reasonable price. On the other hand the cost of some of the excursions may be improved as well as the variety and quality of the entertainment (more and more resent movies, theater). Very important was the embarkation de-embarkation process which was very well organized very quick and with minimum effort of the passengers. The crew members were always available and ready to explain and assist, always with a smile. The Windjammer, you could always find a place, the food and the service excellent and the cooks eager to satisfy any request. This level should at least be maintained as such. At last , a bravo to Taor and Marcus, our waiters in the dining room and bravo to the management for an excellent job. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this trip for the many island stops, some of which we've never visited. The ship seemed just fine for our needs. It's disappointing how many people talked about how old this ship is, or that they didn't like the ... Read More
We chose this trip for the many island stops, some of which we've never visited. The ship seemed just fine for our needs. It's disappointing how many people talked about how old this ship is, or that they didn't like the activities, entertainment or food. Honestly, it was fine for us, but in general it seems all ships/cruise lines are going down hill in food quality, service and offerings (that are included). Now, to get anything special, it's all extra, extra, extra. I'd like to see a few things. One is the crew not allowing people to save lounge chairs by the pool. It was posted in signs, but no one enforced it. Large groups of chairs were saved for a couple of hours without people in them. It's so discourteous of people to do this. Two, it would be nice to have a spa service and/or a spa/fitness seminar without feeling like we are being asked to buy a product. After a couple of seminars, I didn't even want to go to anymore as it's one huge selling scheme. Lastly, we did have some great waiters and service in the dining room, but some just weren't up to par with how to serve, timing, and personality. We tried the My Time dining for the first time, and loved the flexibility, and we met a lot of nice people, but I missed the consistency of one waiter/assistant waiter team that we got to know, etc. Not sure I'll do the My Time again. We had an inside cabin on Deck 3 this time. Quiet and great location in the back of the ship as just one deck down was where we'd get off boat for islands. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Royal Caribbean was so disappointing this time around. The staff did not seem sympathetic to our plight of lost luggage, and assured us that we would be able to shop for clothes on our excursions. We were not able to shop for any ... Read More
Royal Caribbean was so disappointing this time around. The staff did not seem sympathetic to our plight of lost luggage, and assured us that we would be able to shop for clothes on our excursions. We were not able to shop for any essentials on our excursions as we only went to souvenir shops. I suggested that Royal help us find a way to get to shopping and they did not. All they were able to give us for the five days that we had no luggage was a white t-shirt and sub very sub-par toiletries. They offered us laundry service, but the guest services desk lady must have not been very in touch with what was happening because when I asked how long our laundry would take to get to us she said "48 hours." Luckily, housekeeping was a bit more realistic and when we discussed it with them, they were able to turn our laundry around in a couple of hours. For formal night, she offered to give my husband a free tuxedo, but offered nothing to me. The lady at the front desk (Jasmine) told us she would locate our luggage, and then told us she couldn't locate it. When I asked her who she called, she told me SAS. To that I told her that we had a transfer from United to SAS and our luggage was most likely with United. She asked ME if I wanted to call United myself! My husband firmly recommended that she do it herself. Later that day, she told us she was able to locate it with United. So that caused an unseemly delay in getting our luggage because of her ineptitude. I came crying to the front office after four days of no luggage , no makeup and no toiletries and she offered me 100 dollars credit to my account (any outfit on the ship cost no less than 54 dollars each) and a night at one of their restaurants in her words "out of my own goodwill towards you." I was aghast at the lack of sympathy. She later told me our luggage would be waiting for us in Estonia on the morning before our excursion. To my dismay, we did not get our luggage as promised in the morning but at night. The ladies in the spa, were very gossipy and rude, even talking about guests behind their backs. The people working in the Windjammer never smiled or offered any table service. The whole crew (aside from a few people in housekeeping and in various bars) were amazingly lacking in customer service. After this trip, I will never want to board a Royal Caribbean trip again! Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We really loved the Serenade of the Seas ship. It was a nice compromise between the larger class of ships and the smaller class. We had never been to the Southern C ports (there were 6 stops) and loved the port of calls. The snorkeling ... Read More
We really loved the Serenade of the Seas ship. It was a nice compromise between the larger class of ships and the smaller class. We had never been to the Southern C ports (there were 6 stops) and loved the port of calls. The snorkeling with the Turtles and the Sting Rays were the highlights. The dining room service was excellent and the food very good (although we are not picky eaters), The entertainment was good, although we had seen a few of the acts before. We already have 4 more cruises booked with RC. I imagine once you start going on a particular cruise line one sticks with that line. We have been on three different lines, and quite frankly, we do not see a huge difference (although some people swear by particular lines)...oh, whatever. Maybe Azamara or Cunnard would be better but that is not our thing. Overall...we were very pleased with the cruise and with Royal Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
San Juan We arrived a day early in San Juan at around 5 pm. We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris. It is right on the beach but yo should know the street side is very city-style. Walking the street is like walking any major city block ... Read More
San Juan We arrived a day early in San Juan at around 5 pm. We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris. It is right on the beach but yo should know the street side is very city-style. Walking the street is like walking any major city block except that the ocean is on the other side. The hotel was quite accommodating. We walked down to the recommended Di Parma restaurant and ate out on the patio. It was quite good. There is everything from a Dunkin Donuts to a Louis Vuitton within a block or two. Next time, I would likely stay at the Hilton closer to the cruise port. however the taxi was easy. Boarding We arrived to the boat at 11:30 am. The cruise line organized people according to when the arrived and thus the early birds generally boarded first. We boarded at noon sharp. We checked out the location of our cabin, ,any of the public areas and then went to the WINDJAMMER FOR LUNCH. everything ABOUT THE SHIP[HAVING BEEN ON THE allure LAST Easter] IS INTIMATE AND DOWNRIGHT GENERALLY UNCIRWDED AS WITH THE HUGE SHIPS. noticeable DURING OUR ENTIRE STAY WAS THAT NO MATTER WHERE YOU HAD TO GO, BE IT THE SPA, THE SPORT COURT, BREAKFAST OR THE THEATER, NOTHING WAS A WAL OF DRUDGERY AS THE SHIP IS MID-SIZED. First Sea Day Having traveled on the Celebrity boats with the Aqua Spa class which featured a relaxation room, we learned that they had this on the Serenade for a fee. The price was reduced the first day and was $149 for a couple to use unlimited throughout the cruise. This room has heated tile lounge beds looking out at the seas through floor to ceiling windows with calming spa music. There is a nice sauna again overlooking the seas; and aromatherapy room overlooking the sea and a steam room [enclosed]. They are spotless and NEVER crowded. there are also several warm and ice rain showers situated with privacy and crushed ice streaming into a vessel bowl to grab and cool yourself down. there are towels and no related room recording etc. You also can go in the lounge outside this area where you can grab a lemon water to enjoy while you lie and read, before you sleep etc. This is the bomb. I promise. We used it every day. Also on the sea day for about 100$ my husband had an hour and a half head and shoulder massage, warm towel and face masque and shave etc. They followed with moisturizing masque , arm and hand massage. He loved it as he does on the Celebrity boats too. Just so you know...my husband would never do this or have a massage or pedicure until I forced him. He is a guy's guy and grew up working on a farm and is now a professional. Want to do something nice...try it guys. We also did a 75 minute couples massage. Again, nice special time for parents/adults. We fell asleep! The kids were wise to go to the first day meet ups with other teens. I cannot stress enough that the abundance of other teens on the boat made this so wonderful for our kids. I will say I did not witness bad behavior or rowdy kids running around which certainly would bother me. Every night after dinner the kids met up, played ping pong, talked in the lobby, danced at Fuel or went up and had a late night bite at the Seaview Cafe...a must stop ( a bit like Johnny Rockets but nor fee and classier) on Deck 12. Adults - don't wait to go there. You will be sorry. Grenada I did not book an excursion for Grenada as we just wanted to relax. We took a water taxi to Grand Anse beach. It was quite nice. Four lounge chairs and two big umbrellas were $40 total. When you arrive, the beach has a football field length of a line of all different umbrellas. Beware...not much food there. I didn't have the dogs and burgers. Bring some snacks. bucket of 5 bears...the local which was nice, on ice was $12. That was fair. The water was turquoise and the beach white and sugary...no complaining allowed! After four hours or so, the sun was a bit much so we happily went back to the boat for fun. St Lucia St Lucia is just wild looking. Jutting mountains rise up out of the water and 20 stories above your head. They are rock with a bit of green life and quite volcanic looking. The bays are turquoise and depending on how you travel around, you see every side of life. The fishing towns are very old...several centuries and quite simple and sometimes poverty laden. The bays, like Marigot Bay are outrageously gorgeous. You can see the homes of Mick Jagger, George Forman, Oprah, and the like. Now for the outrageous part... I love researching excursions and did so for this trip. We selected the Spencer Ambrose Land and Sea tour which was $85 per person including for the teens. When we arrived, we were whisked away with another family from NYS with kids [that our kids had already met] and a couple from Russia and their children. Our guide announced his name was Neptune and when we said..."No really what is your name?" He said again "NEPTUNE" we should have suspected something from someone who insists on being known by the name of a god. Anyway. We climbed in his rather ram-shackled van and started out. The very first part was a set of hairpin turns followed by a few more sets as we approached the top of a jagged mountain and Neptune pulled over to a well used look out complete with long established island wares stands. He asked we get out, take our pictures, shop and jump aboard again so we could motor on. After way too long waiting, our group noticed that as we stood around, more and more police officers, police vehicles and the like were joining the passe of tour vans stopped at the lookout. And of course, our God Neptune was embroiled with the officials. At one point, he ran back and barked we all had to immediately get in the van...no small feat as we had to get into our sardine lineup. When we all were nicely shoehorned in, the officials approached his driver side(right front) and commanded he leave the vehicle. This was followed by all of our oohs and aahs and gazing as Neptune clearly was not winning a war of words with the officials. He had told us in the minute he was in the van he was being targeted and wrongly accused of having an improper license. This is better known a a "gypsy cab" in the old NYC. Neptune sat in the back of the official vehicle ahead of us between two police with two in front and others surrounding the vehicle. he cam back to our van, jumped in and unfortunately, started up again with the old loud mouth scene. Two female officers stood next to our car and at least 6 in front of it including a militia garbed, large and powerful looking leader. Neptune screamed out...GO AHEAD SHOOT ME WITH YOUR BULLETS. We, that was all folks. The two ladies, who never cracked a smile, hit the side of the van, demanded he exit and they forcefully made us all exit as well. the van was moved to the side of the road and Neptune, now better called Tuna, was escorted to the promised land by five police and the militia man and taken into custody down the mountain. Yes my friends. We were left here...with nothing. The two females stayed back. I begged them to use their cell phones...which incidentally, everyone and I do mean virtually everyone on all for the islands has and uses, to call our tour operator. They refused. they both said in a military tone " I have no credit". Unfortunately for them, we stood for another hour and one of them had a call come in. Of course she answered and chatted. I nicely asked if we could call. the answer was no but they called down to the jail to arrange another taxi to pick us up. It was clear the vehicle we had was not properly licensed as a tourist taxi. We lost hours on our tour but gained a great new driver. More than anything, we really bonded with the folks we were thrown into this with and had so many laughs I will; never forget. It was something out of a comedy skit but one step this side of of a bad movie. Take the water trip in St Lucia and go to the Pitons. Don't use Ambrose. Met the guy. He cut the rate $25 but we caught him in a lie about the whole thing. Antigua This place was just gorgeous as well. A bit different. We took the Adventure Antigua all day eco-tour. It was just great. The people that ran the tour were fantastic and very helpful in the snorkeling, hiking and various activities. The food for lunch was fresh and delicious. We went to Hell's Gate, saw the roosting pelicans' snorkels, oh I can't say enough. We soaked up the beautiful sun and again the operators were A+. St Croix We took the Big Beard all day Buck Island excursion. Please know that when you land, you need to take a taxi ($16 per person rt) from that port to another port across the island. It was about 25 minutes. This was again superb. Buck island snorkeling at the national underwater park was second to none. The beach at Buck Island was out of a postcard and desolate. Very natural trip. They took us to a secluded beach and and we had a great barbecue under the treetops off the beach. It was rum punch and other drinks, burgers, dogs and fresh island fish with lots of American munchies...fritos doritos etc. And frankly folks it was a welcome and simple change from the ship food. My son brought a football and played football on the beach with all sorts of the people with us. The water was turquoise and the winds plentiful. The guys that run the trip are wonderful...some from Antigua and others from all over USA. Great time and highly recommended. St Thomas this day we reserved for shopping. Just off the boat there are international designers: Ferragamo, Vutton, Gucci for no tax and thus a good buy as compared to our big cities. My daughter and I took a taxi ($8 each round trip) downtown where there are 5 million jewelery stores and some rum shops. Frankly it got old quickly and I couldn't wait to get back to the ship. I heard the other beaches were great. Food We ate in the main dining room with two other families that we met at the seating. It was wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed that rather than eating with just our family. We specifically asked to be placed with families with children of similar ages and that was perfect. The lids hung around every evening and laughed about the night before.The food was quite good and nothing was too much of a request. We ate at Portofino and Chops with the kids. The menus are fantastic and the service is perfect. The rooms are elegant and not at all crowded. there were couples and also families but never inappropriate conduct. These are some of the nicest and most competent waiter i have ever met anywhere. Ship This is not the Allure mega ship and thank you for that. While there are not all the flying ziplines, dual surfing setups and 12-15 restaurants, we were nonetheless grateful for the intimacy and yet variety on the ship. there is a lot of glass on this ship and my crazy attention to the details caused me to often wonder why they didn't wash the glass at the appropriate times depending on where and when it could be addressed. The room balconies were glass but often had water marks all over that made them far from transparent. It just ruined what could be beautiful. As to the kids' activities, my son is telling me to write that it was great! He said the kids "partied the night away" by meeting up at Fuel event s and then finding another place to go on the ship such as ping pong, the sports courts or lounge chairs. Go you will love it! The islands were awesome Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Cruised out of San Juan for early February departure. Arrived in San Juan about 4:30 pm, caught a cab and was at the cruise terminal by 5:45. On the ship within 10 minutes. Perfect time of year to cruise the southern Caribbean. Tempts ... Read More
Cruised out of San Juan for early February departure. Arrived in San Juan about 4:30 pm, caught a cab and was at the cruise terminal by 5:45. On the ship within 10 minutes. Perfect time of year to cruise the southern Caribbean. Tempts were lows of mid 60s and highs of mid 80s. I particularly like this cruise because of the minimal time at sea. All cruising was at night and at ports during day. Islands included Tortola, St. Martin, St.Kitts, Dominica, and Barbados. Excursions: My wife and I were traveling with two other couples which made it most convenient to arrange some of our own excursions on the islands. 6 people are a perfect fit for the taxis which are most commonly 7 passenger vans. We did catamaran with snorkeling excursions on Tortola and Barbados which we booked through Royal Caribbean. The Tortola all inclusive catamaran and snorkeling excursion was outstanding. On the other islands we arranged our own excursions after interviewing taxi drivers at the ports. Its fun to bargain your own daily rate and pick the driver with the best attitude. We did our research before hand and knew the beaches and other activities that were of interest to us. Always had the driver stop at a local store where we picked up rum, beer, mixes and snacks. Had the driver take us on a quick tour, some shopping and ended up at a beach. Arranged for the driver to pick us up around 2:30 to return to ship. Only pay the driver after he returns you to the dock. Negotiate this when you make your initial arrangements. Typical cost for the six of us was about $80.00 which include the taxi, tour, booze, snacks etc. Huge savings over booking a beach excursion through the ship. Shopping is extraordinary at St. Martin. Ship Entertainment: Great comedian and adequate floor shows. Dancing at the clubs was okay, but on this particular cruise there was a lot of calypso music which is understandable for a Caribbean Cruise, but I'd like to see a little more variety. I don't gamble so can't comment on casino. There are a lot of quiet places on the ship for reading, napping, or playing games with friends. A great health and fitness club with steam, sauna, showers, etc. I always did a late afternoon workout before dinner while my wife was in the cabin getting ready. I was out of her way and the steam and showers were quite luxurious compared to the confined cabin facilities. Dining: Outstanding breakfasts at the Windjammer buffet. Particularly enjoyed the smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels. We had breakfast in the formal dinning room one morning, nothing special, I preferred the buffet. Most days we were onshore for lunch, but we did have snacks and a couple lunches on board and all of the cafes were quite good with the Windjammer buffet once again being my favorite. All of our evening meals were in the formal dinning, and they were excellent. We ordered multiple appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Service was outstanding and its always great to learn about your servers. We took along multiple T-Shirts from our various Universities and gave them to our waiters the last night of the cruise along with their tips. They loved it and immediately put them on. Small gifts such as this may not be of much value, but its nice to let the servers know you appreciate their efforts. Debarkation: All was well coordinated and went smoothly. We were off the ship by 10:00 am and spent the day in Old San Juan shopping and touring and having lunch. Once again we found our own driver and stored our luggage at a local restaurant during the day for a small fee. Driver picked us up at the designated time and off to the the airport for our 6:00 pm return trip home. Cabin: We always get an interior cabin on one of the upper decks as close to mid ship as possible. Its much cheaper and you're closer to the dining and other amenities. The cabin is only for sleeping, dressing, etc. Don't waste your money on upgraded cabins. You're very rarely in the cabin. Overall a very good cruise with excellent service, food and itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Royal Caribbean treated us great! We were able to board about noon in San Juan and the on-boarding at that time was fast. We explored the ship and had our first on-board lunch in the Windjammer! After lunch we decided to find our cabin ... Read More
Royal Caribbean treated us great! We were able to board about noon in San Juan and the on-boarding at that time was fast. We explored the ship and had our first on-board lunch in the Windjammer! After lunch we decided to find our cabin and were surprised how big it actually was. It is laid out very smartly. Here are some details for others- Window was actually large maybe 3' in dia, there was room to move on all sides of the bed (2 nightstands- great to hold books etc) lots of room for the suitcases under the bed. We had a small loveseat and table too! Large closet with shoe shelves, tie bar, and a long hanging side and a dual hanging side. The desk had 2 dual outlets (never needed the suggested extension cord- and it did have a hair dryer in the room. Desk had large drawers on each side. TV, small refrig, and some more cabinets above the TV. There were small shelves above the desk- and in the bathroom! Water on board was fine to drink, and the small shower had a clothes drying line- we brought clothes pins and it worked great. Our luggage arrived while we were still checking the room out. We did the Mytime dining and really enjoyed the main dining room. We had a table to ourselves, and sometimes thought it would have been good to move about and meet others- but it seemed all seats were assigned. We liked the flexibility of when to arrive for dinner. We had the same waiter and assistant waited for the whole cruise- they were super. The food in the main dining room was very good with a nice selection of fine dining choices. We used the Windjammer for Breakfast and found it to be OK. It had all the food you would think of for a large breakfast buffet. It was like buffet food though- nothing special. We went out at each port, so most of our days were off ship except our one cruise day. During the one day at sea we had wonderful sunshine (many days had rain or showers) so everyone was in a lounge in the sun. We maxed out on the sun by lunch time and did some of the ship activities. Climbing wall had almost no wait, we took a swing dance class (just one other couple so private lessons with the professional dancers from the production cast), and a video scavenger hunt (did some crazy stuff). In the evenings we enjoyed some dancing. Lots of dance choices all with live music. Most sat and watched as we hit the floor but we didn't care...and are not all that good. Just know that all the alcohol on the ship is extra cost as are the soft drinks! We went to most of the big productions shows- mostly music and dancing- "Stage to Screen", Tony Tillman, The Unexpected Boys, "Vibe-Ology" and a variety show with David Morgan. I'd rate the shows as OK. Other info for us first time crusiers- Lifeboad drill is the first night. Lots of hand sanitizer was available to keep us healthy, you get a "Seapass card"- logs you on and off the ship, and is your onboard credit card. You put out bags on Friday and get them back after you get off the ship just before customs. Off boarding times are preset depending on you flight times or if you are staying in port. Everything was very well organized. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
The trip overall was wonderful.We were a couple- one person 40 and the other an active 56 on our fifth cruise together. We did have a scare with Hurricane Maria in front of our return. The captain monitored the path and notified us with ... Read More
The trip overall was wonderful.We were a couple- one person 40 and the other an active 56 on our fifth cruise together. We did have a scare with Hurricane Maria in front of our return. The captain monitored the path and notified us with updates. They could have been a bit more frequent. Especially since you could not hear them in your cabin. The San Juan port was closed awhile. There was confusion as to which flights were canceled Sunday morning or afternoon. They could have posted them on a screen so EVERYONE did not have to call their airline. Hotel arrangements needed were made by you -they gave you a list of recommended ones -if needed. A personal cell phone with international calling came in handy as did a lap top-bring one or both if possible during hurricane season especially. They had 6 phone lines to use -you took a number and waited. They also provided free wi fi for 5 hours-should have been longer. Disembarkation- Going through customs and getting your luggage was easy. All morning excursions were cancelled due to the storm so you had to plan what to do. You now have luggage to contend with. There were tour guides there offering city tours 25 dollars per person. They would either drop you off at the end at your hotel or at the airport. You can check bags up to 3 hours before your flight. They also have a suitcase scale (too many souvenirs-transfer extra to carry on) ,an agricultural checkpoint before you check your bags and a body scan. Plan time accordingly. The ship- It was smaller but easy to get around. Beach chairs are abundant-surprisingly. Jogging track is an obstacle course chairs and people get in the way. Only at midnight is it clear jogging.The public areas were always very clean even behind the pictures! The glass elevators are very lovely. I love the days on the rug on the floor. Personnel on the ship were very accommodating for any special dinner request.We were late one night due to the flight arrangement confusion and they held our dinner. The food was delicious in the main dining room. Lobster was very tender as was the shrimp.They had a chocolate special every night. I liked the entertainment of the waiters on the fifth night. The ships entertainment was fair. The comedians were good but for a smaller setting as in the Safari club at night for an adult show not for the big theater.They were very funny. The dancers were good but just lacked the "show" quality. The costumes were lackluster. One of the male singers just did not have a strong voice. The best part of one of the shows was when they sang at the end and they had a transparent curtain in front of them. That was unique. I always have liked the show when the employees come out on the last night with their talent. We just had to give them applause no talent show. Plus then we had to rush to dinner - bad time planning. Activities could have had more pool side activities- participated in a few inside- bingo,salsa dancing,trivia,wine tasting,casino, karaoke, cake decorating,acupuncture (had a treatment but did not help) Health club- could have had tai chi classes,nutrition or zumba classes machines were always busy Spa- very nice and relaxing-go for the special 5 deal 139.00 the 90 minutes are so worth it Money- just a note bring small bills "ones" for knick knacks-and smaller bills for tips for the excursion operators, taxi cab, bus operators or stores- if not you may get change in local currency Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We arrived in San Juan on July 23 at about 2:30 pm from Washington D.C. and got a taxi to the San Juan Marriott Resort. The fare came to $21 for the three of us, which included $1 per suitcase. On previous trips to San Juan, we had stayed ... Read More
We arrived in San Juan on July 23 at about 2:30 pm from Washington D.C. and got a taxi to the San Juan Marriott Resort. The fare came to $21 for the three of us, which included $1 per suitcase. On previous trips to San Juan, we had stayed at the Intercontinental. This time, we wanted to try something else, just for a bit of a change. I had reserved a corner room on a higher floor at the Marriott. When we arrived to check in, the line was quite long. It took at least 30 minutes to arrive at the counter to check in. We were told that our room was not yet cleaned and that it should be ready in about 1 hour. The clerk confirmed the type of room that I had reserved. We walked around the area for a while and about 1 ½ hours later we were notified by cell phone, that our room was ready. Well, upon arrival back at the hotel I found that I had to wait in the very same check in line that I had earlier. My goodness, what a poor set up! Having to wait in line to pick up our room key with everyone that was checking in was painful, this time it was close to an hour before I reached the desk. We were given keys to a room on the ground floor in the older section of the hotel. Not at all what I was expecting. We had been upgraded (?) to a suite at the very end of the building on the ground floor. We settled in and while we were sitting on the patio about 6:30 that evening, a wedding party was finishing their pictures. They all looked so beautiful! Then it began to rain, and the wedding party asked if they could go through our room to enter the building. Of course! It was so fun having a wedding party of 20, including the bride and groom, all came through our room to gain entry into the building! Their photographer took photos of us for the Newlywed's wedding memories ? Check out was very easy the following morning, we used Express checkout. We took a cab to the port at 10:00 and when we arrived there were about 6 people ahead of us. It had been several years since we have sailed out of San Juan and the major thing we noted was the lack of organization for check in. This had always been one of favorite embarkation ports due to the smooth embarkations we experienced. There were no announcements made, no directions given, just a semi chaotic mess. Take passports out, put them away, 6 feet later, take passports out and put them away again. Same with the Sea Pass cards. We were given our cards at the check in window, showed them to get through to have our pictures taken, oops, passports needed again. I had to ask if they thought I was someone else other than who I was 4 feet away from them. What a hold up this whole procedure was. After that process at 12:15 we were in the Windjammer having lunch, mmm! We were able to get into our cabin, 1050, at 1:00 on the dot. We have not been on a ship this small before and initially we noticed everything was just on a smaller scale. The cabin (GS) was smaller than the GS suites on the larger ships (Adventure and Freedom class). Not a bad thing, just something we noticed. We explored the ship while waiting for our luggage to arrive and found it to be lovely! Muster was just terrible, hot, long, and semi chaotic. I still do not understand why RCL does not do something similar to Princess. On Princess ships, passengers gather in various lounges to watch a video. Everyone remains cool, calm, etc. Also, if on a B2B, passengers are permitted to skip the Muster drill the second week. Much nicer! We had early seating in the main dining room (Reflections) and were seated at table 437. Great table! We were on the lower floor right at the base of the staircase. Our waiter, Fernando and assistant waiter, Francisco were terrific! Very pleasant and attentive to our needs and desires. We were seated at a 4 top table, as we chose to dine alone this trip. The food was good to okay. Some evening's choices were limited, but we never went hungry. We did a combination of dining room and Windjammer depending on our mood. On this sailing (the Aruba route) there were many, many young ladies and their families celebrating their Qincineras. The majority of the passengers (it felt) were involved with this group. It is our opinion that this can make things difficult at times (no flames please as again this is just our opinion) with communication, rules, lines and other things. They did not try to interact with others. Folks would walk right in front of us, as if we were not even there. It almost made me feel as if they thought they were just plain more important than other passengers. Just awkward at times, but really will make me think twice about leaving out of San Juan again. Some of the staff mentioned to us that the Aruba route was far more popular for the Qincineras groups. The concierge was Francois. He is awesome!!! Very nice, professional and was always very helpful. The bar mixer in the lounge was Priscilla and she was an absolute delight! On Monday we were in St. Thomas. We usually go to Megan's Bay but I had made reservations for a ship tour to St. John. It included a powercat ride to St. John from the ship and 3 hours at the beach then return to the ship by power cat for $30 something. I thought this was reasonable as the taxi to Red Hook and the Ferry would be near that much and this was we did not have to go all the way to Red Hook and back. Well, we found out Sunday night, via voice mail, that our excursion was cancelled due to lack of interest (I guess I was one of the only that thought it would be nice and convenient). As a result we went to Sapphire Bay. Beautiful, but oh my goodness, a ton of seaweed! Yuck! Next time, I would like to try Morningstar Beach as we heard it was lovely. The following day we were in St. Kitts, our first time there. Oh my goodness, it was a beautiful island! So nice and lush, with constant trade winds. We rode ATVs here and saw a lot of gorgeous scenery. The ATVs were fun and the guide great! We booked this through Spectrum ATVs and I would highly recommend them. A great day ? Our next day was a sea day. It was about 10:00 before it started to get crowded. At 11:30 I went in...too hot! Phew! We all took a much-needed nap that afternoon...ahhh ? In Aruba the following day, I had made reservations to go horseback riding with Rancho Ponderosa. We had a great time!!At one point on the ride, my horse tripped on some loose rocks on the trails and fell. Pretty frightening for both the horse and I! I was able to stay on (barely) by grabbing the horse's neck and holding on until the guide came up and I was able to grab her hand and pull myself up into the saddle again. The horse was also able to get up again. We went on to have a wonderful ride and it was great fun for all three of us. After our ride, we went back to the ship to clean up and then went back out shopping for a while. By that evening we were pretty saddle sore and took it easy until the Quest that night. It was very interesting having the Quest in a much smaller venue than we had previously experienced, pretty neat! The CD, Marc, did let loads of teams participate. Many more than I had previously seen. Fun was had by all! ? Curacao was okay. We did an Aquaboat excursion (through the ship) and I really would not recommend it. The guides didn't speak to the group after they told us the rules. It was like follow the leader on very underpowered jet skis and going around in circles a great deal. It would have been nice to know what some of the sites were that we were passing. All in all, I would pass on this excursion if given a choice again. Saturday was a Sea day. All three of us poked around the ship at our leisure, ate and relaxed. Very nice day. We packed that night, ate breakfast in the dining room and were able to get off the ship at about 7:30 am with the other suite guests. We got our luggage (very painlessly!), went through customs, into a cab and to the airport without incident. In closing, in our opinions, Royal Caribbean is just not what it used to be. This was evident in food choices, perks (or lack of I should say) and entertainment. Additionally,there are no type of activities for the 18-21 age group. Difficult for that age group to make friends, etc. Perhaps it is us that has changed, perhaps we have grown and need to try other lines more and spread our wings a bit. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Last year my husband and I greatly enjoyed our Holland America cruise to Alaska, so we decided to go on a Caribbean cruise on Serenade of the Seas (we did not pick HAL because they offered no sailings when and where we wanted to sail). We ... Read More
Last year my husband and I greatly enjoyed our Holland America cruise to Alaska, so we decided to go on a Caribbean cruise on Serenade of the Seas (we did not pick HAL because they offered no sailings when and where we wanted to sail). We picked late May to avoid the big crowds in winter and spring, or later in the summer. Given that, with our copious slathering of sunscreen, we still got burned, I don't even want to think about what the sun must be like in summer. If you are new to this kind of climate, please do NOT take seriously the hype about sunscreens or even sunblocks. SPF 70 won't protect you twice as long as 30. And whatever 'waterproof' means, it does not mean that you can slather it on, be in the water for 45 minutes, and not get burned. If you are planning on spending time in the water or anywhere other than indoors, buy yourselves some sunproof clothing, like a surfer shirt that you can swim with. This, unless you are the kind of person who never gets burned (and I'd use them even in that case).The good: The price was just right for a balcony stateroom, which was extremely well designed with more than enough space for us and our things. No, it didn't have the fancy flat screen TV. No, we did not care. We have one at home and didn't miss it one bit.The stateroom was impressively soundproof. They regularly had blaring music down at the Centrum (the 'core' of the ship), but as soon as you shut the door it was pure, blissful silence. For people who don't particularly care about the party life, or about loud music late at night, this was a big plus. We never heard our neighbors, ever. The itinerary was great. We stopped in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Croix. Each island had its own flavor. I had booked (independently-thanks to Cruise Critic reviewers for all the info!) excursions for most ports and we enjoyed them immensely. I recommend Spencer Ambrose's Land and Sea tour of St. Lucia (his rum punch, as far as we are concerned, is the best in the Caribbeans), Big Beard's all day trip to Buck's Island in St. Croix, Adventure Antigua's Extreme Tour on Antigua. The sea taxi on St. Maarten sells Carib beer for 2 bucks a bottle, and you can get smashed before 9am, if this is what you want. The food. It went from 'pretty darn good' to delicious. We didn't have anything we didn't like, although risotto cooking is a hit or miss (that is true of most restaurants). Don't miss the Coconut Ranger cookies. And beware the bread tray at dinner: it's overflowing with delights, a torture if you are on a carb restricted diet.The service. Five stars. From Jorge's attentive service in our stateroom (and his lovely towel animals) to the team Corwin-Estephan in the dining room, and almost anyone in between, it was flawless (read below).Entertainment. We gave it a shot, and we enjoyed it very much. Talented singers and dancers, and a comedian/juggler that made us laugh and then go aaaw! in seconds (he made a few mistakes, maybe because of the ship motion, maybe because he hit the rum punch too much, but we had a blast anyway). We did not see their comedy show. We also enjoyed Joseph's fresh pasta demonstration. The 'room for improvement'. We arrived around 12.30 (departure scheduled for 8.30 pm). Our suitcases did not show up until after 6pm. When we boarded the ship, there just wasn't a big crowd. I have no idea why the suitcases took so long. I dread to think about how long they'll take at a busier time of the year.The gym. Nicely set up, but a bit small for such a large ship. There were enough cardio machines, but the weight section was overcrowded. We did not try the climbing wall, and we did most of our exercise out in the sea, so no biggie, but if you are considering exercising a lot to burn all that food and alcohol, consider going very early in the morning or during a dinner seating.Service in the Windjammer was mostly OK, but sometimes, with the restaurant half-empty, you'd see the servers loitering around and if you wanted a drink you'd have to pick up your own. Not a big deal, of course, but it mars an otherwise flawless crew.And talking about the Windjammer: the garbage room reeks. Seriously. Well, duh. So, why was the door always open, in a spot where people keep passing because it's right behind the drink counter?Computer glitches. RCI website is a bear. So say I, so says my travel agent, and so, apparently, say several of her customers. I had to re-do online check in several times, because the system would not save the info I submitted, and yes, I clicked all the appropriate buttons (my employer has very counterintuitive softwares that I must use, so I always check everything). With all this, the seapass I printed was apparently incomplete, and I had to fill a bunch of information by hand that should have been already in the system (credit card number etc.).Food choices: my main objection is that I would have liked some Caribbean options on the menu. There was Italian, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Thai; you could have tempura, pizza, enchiladas and goulash; but not a single Caribbean item. They had a Caribbean buffet-at 10.30 pm, and not everyone can, or is willing to, eat at that time. A dinner option would have been nice. The shower shelves are a pain. It's not a matter of whether stuff will fall, but when. And be aware-at least in the stateroom we were in (which is the next option down from a Jr. suite) there were no toiletries, except for bars of soap. In these times where people try to squeeze as much as possible in carry-on baggage, you may want to take notice that you need to bring your own lotion, shampoo, conditioner and whatnot (we did, so no problem).The theater. If some parents are so clueless or selfish (or both) as to think that it's OK to bring a baby who will not stop squalling at an evening show, staff should intervene. I would have loved to tell those parents off myself, or to call staff on them, but I would have had to ask a half row of people to get up for that. Chair hogs were in full swing, but we did not hang much by the pool, which is small, noisy and overcrowded.We had one drink, and it wasn't that great. Bit more alcohol next time. I am not much of a drinker, but I can tell.The hard sell: especially on the first day, waiters were really pushing drinks under your nose. And you had to ask for the price, because they did not volunteer that the drink was not free. The waiters in the dining room pushed for wine or bottled water packages. I am sure that they were under orders, but... memo to RCI: I understood you the first time, and I said "thanks but no thanks." And where I come from "no thanks" means no.Sugar substitutes. They offered sugar free options for dessert, which is nice, but they should explicitly mention the sweeteners used. Waiters aren't always informed, and not everybody tolerates Aspartame well (we were told that Equal was the sweetener used).Overall we had a great trip, and we would not hesitate to sail RCI again or to recommend them. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Our cruise group: Me (34), husband (37)and two of my girlfriends (ages around mine and a little older) We flew down a day early (Saturday) to see San Juan and relax before the cruise. We stayed at the Renaissance La Concha (Marriot ... Read More
Our cruise group: Me (34), husband (37)and two of my girlfriends (ages around mine and a little older) We flew down a day early (Saturday) to see San Juan and relax before the cruise. We stayed at the Renaissance La Concha (Marriot resort). We stayed on points, but paid to upgrade to an oceanfront room. The hotel is gorgeous. I loved the view from our room. My husband and I ate at the onsite restaurant on the beach La Perla. It was probably one of the best meals we have ever had. (It was also very pricey-a special occasion type restaraunt)After dinner we took a lovely walk on the beach. Some guys in the elevator suggested a place called Columbo for breakfast. It was a great recommendation and just a short walk from the hotel. Food was very good. It looks like a bar, but we sat on the outdoor balcony and had a nice view of town. We returned to the hotel to check out and grabbed a cab to the pier. The ride was much shorter than expected. (10 minutes tops, maybe less) Arrival We arrived at the pier around 12:15 and there were only a a couple people in line in front of us. Note they say not to arrive until 2pm, but they actually let you board much earlier. We walked around the ship and took pictures since there were very few people around. (The ship doesn't leave port until 8pm at night.) We hung out in the centrum for a few minutes until our rooms were ready at 1pm. We had a different room. It was listed as a deluxe balcony room. It had a huge balcony. There was room for 2 lounge chairs, a small table plus two regular chairs. It was really long and did have an overhang. Loved the balcony. The room seemed a little smaller than a regular balcony room and only had a chair instead of a loveseat even though it was not a connecting room. Here's the bad. The room was the first room after the elevators and first room in the hallway. There was a lot of noise from music/dancing parties coming from the Centrum every night until midnight. The Ship: Our favorite area was the Solarium. It was so relaxing and felt like being at a spa every afternoon. There was even a snack bar there with yummy wraps and juices. I ate most of my lunches and breakfast at the Windjammer. Good service and I like the beverage area. I enjoyed the different sandwiches in the windjammer. Pizza was ok and I always had a slice of that. Enjoyed cookies also. They have juice/flavored water for free that I really liked. (Mango, Stawberry kiwi)Our waitress in the dinning room also served us at breakfast in the windjammer. She was the best waitress we have ever had on a ship. Very personable. We had 6pm dinning in the dinning room every night, but one. We ate at Chops one night since I had a free coupon. Service was awesome. I didn't care for the fish dish I ordered and they brought me another dish with no problems. This was not a problem with the food. I am just kind of a picky eater. So everything we ate was very good. Dessert was awesome. Creme bru le? made with Bailey's Irish cream. I did feel there were not enough activities offered during the day, but it was a port intensive itinerary so that's probably why. The comedian was very good the first night. Musical shows were ok, but nothing to write home about. This cruise was mostly for the ports! Ports: Barbados: Snorkeled with the Sea Turtles and Ship Wreck through RCI. The water was a little choppy that day. Water was crowded, but so worth it. Saw tons of turtles swimming all around us. This was on my bucket list. The second stop we saw some schools of fish over a shipwreck, but I wasn't too impressed. (Snorkeling in Roatan Honduras spoiled me) The water was the prettiest blue I have ever seen. St. Lucia: Land and Sea to the Pitions through RCI. We stopped at some photo stops overlooks which were nice, but the vendors were a little annoying. The botanical gardens were beautiful and I got some very nice pictures. Lunch was ok. We met some nice people at lunch from Brazil and that's what traveling is really all about. After lunch we headed to a catamaran that took us all around the island. It stopped at a beach to swim where we did get in the water for a while. Views from the catamaran were gorgeous and got some great pictures. It was a very relaxing boat ride. Once again though annoying vendors in kayaks in the water when we stopped for our swim. Overall a nice excursion though. Antigua: Best of Antigua tour through RCI. We stopped at a fort and navel dockyard. The tour was ok, but not that interesting. I wouldn't reccomend it. St. Maarten: I had been to the Duth side before so we asked a taxi to take us to the French side. When we got there all the shops were closed so we told him to take us to a quiet beach. He took us to Boui Rouge and we loved it. Paid for a couple chairs, but spent most of the time swimming in the water and playing in the waves. Loved it and would go back. St. Croix: Took a taxi to Christenstead then a ferry over to an island called Little Cay on the Beach. The water was warm and completely calm. Just spent a lovely time relaxing in the water. We also rented an umbrella and chairs, but again didn't use them much. It was a nice day. We also looked around the little shops at the pier and got some t-shirts. San Juan: Because our flights didn't leave until later we took the RCI excursion from the ship of Old San Juan. We stopped at Fort Cristobal which was really neat and beautiful pictures. We also stopped and walked through downtown down to the cathedral. It was not crowded at all in town-very nice day. The only downside was we were nervous about our luggage since they put it on a separate truck instead of on the bus with us, but it did make it to the airport with no problems. I would recommend the tour if you have a late flight. No problems at San Juan airport that I have read on other posts. The end of May must have been a good time to go. Also we were the only ship in every port! This was great as none of the islands were crowded. We couldn't get over the lack of people. Summary: Loved the ports. We had a very relaxing cruise. This was not our favorite ship, but it was nice and suited our purposes. We are sailing RCI again soon on the Freedom and are looking forward to a few more activities. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My husband and I spent our honeymoon aboard the Serenade of the Seas. We were on the eight-night Southern Caribbean itinerary out of San Juan, PR. Overall, we loved the cruise and had a blast! As a first time cruiser, I found the reviews ... Read More
My husband and I spent our honeymoon aboard the Serenade of the Seas. We were on the eight-night Southern Caribbean itinerary out of San Juan, PR. Overall, we loved the cruise and had a blast! As a first time cruiser, I found the reviews on Cruise Critic to be very informative and helpful while planning our trip, o I've typed up the review below in hopes that it may be informative to others. Pre-Cruise in San Juan: We arrived in San Juan two days prior to the cruise and stayed at the Numero Uno Guesthouse in Ocean Park. If you prefer a more quaint lodging experience over a large resort, I would highly recommend Numero Uno. Its located right on the beach, the staff is excellent, and the connected restaurant (Pamela's) is amazing (although quite pricey). Cab fair from the airport was $15 plus $1 for each of our bags.We spent our first day in PR doing a rain forest tour/hike of El Yunque with Roberto of Sunset Tours. The tour was a lot of fun and Roberto was a good tour guide. We got to see a couple waterfalls, went to an observation deck with spectacular views, hiked about 1.5 miles in the forest, and checked out the visitors' center at the forest. Then Roberto took us to a little local eatery in the rain forest after our hike - it was very cheap and very yummy! Following our day in the forest, we took a cab to Old San Juan ($15 each way from our hotel) and ate dinner at a restaurant called Barrachina, which Roberto had recommended. While the atmosphere at Barrachina was very pleasant and they served some good pina coladas, the food was HORRIBLE. By far the worst food of our entire trip. I would suggest avoiding this place. We were very disappointed to have wasted $60 on a bad dining experience. We actually ended up walking around to some of the bars in Old San Juan and getting a slice of pizza later in the evening because we were so unsatisfied with dinner. The following morning, we went for a morning swim in the ocean and then had lunch at a lovely deli/bakery a few blocks from Numero Uno called Kasalta. LOVED this place! We were both very impressed with the food and it was a great people watching spot. We then took a cab from Numero Uno to the pier ($15 plus $1 per suitcase).Embarkation: There were only a few people in line when we arrived at the pier around 2:30pm, and we were initially happy thinking that we'd be on the ship very quickly. However, we had elected to do a cash account onboard the ship, and apparently this information did not make it from the online registration form I'd completed to the people in the check-in area at the pier. It ended up causing some confusion and delay in us getting onboard. We were also surprised by how rigorous the security process was. I believe we each showed our IDs/passports at four different points and had our carry-on bags scanned twice before we were able to board the ship. It was a little hectic and I have to say I felt a bit overwhelmed by the whole process. The good news was that we were onboard within about 45 minutes and our luggage was waiting for us outside our room within about three hours (around 5:30pm).The Ship: The Serenade is a pretty ship and is very well maintained. In one of the ports of call, there was a Norwegian Cruiselines ship docked next to ours, and everyone was chatting about how much nicer our shipped looked than the Norwegian ship. The Centrum and main elevators are beautiful with all of the glass details. The main pool is a bit small, but there is a decent amount of wading area around the pool so it wasn't hard to find a spot to get in the water. The fitness center is very nice! My husband and I didn't use it as much as we'd planned to, but we did think that the equipment was top-notch and the trainers staffing the center were very helpful and friendly. The Reflections dining room was a lot nicer and more elegant than I'd expected. All of the bar areas were comfortable with plenty of seating. The Windjammer was usually very crowded at mealtimes, but it was never too hard to find a table. The bathrooms around the ship were almost always super clean (with a few exceptions when I came across clogged toilets, etc). Overall, we were more than pleased with the amenities, cleanliness and condition of the ship.Our Stateroom: We had a balcony room on deck seven, on the starboard aft side of the ship. The room was a decent size. The bathroom was very small, but we'd expected that and we were both happy with the amount of counter space. The shower was awesome - plenty of warm water and great water pressure! It always felt great after a day in the sun. Our bed was fairly large and the bedding was cozy. The TV sometimes didn't work correctly (i.e. static, stations freezing up, etc.). It wasn't a big deal since we barely watched TV anyway. There was more than enough closet and drawer space for us to unpack all of our clothes. We took advantage of the ironing service - I had seven dresses ironed and my husband had two shirts ironed. The total cost was $24.50. I was a little disappointed that we had to pay for the ironing service, but it was either pay for the service or have very wrinkled clothes, so we bit the bullet. Our balcony was a good size. We had two chairs and a small table. It was just enough room to sit on and have breakfast in the morning. In my opinion, it was well worth the additional cost to upgrade to a balcony room and be able to get some fresh air without leaving the room.Rosa, our stateroom attendant, was sweet and friendly. She did a wonderful job keeping our room clean, and would even pick up after us and fold out clothes and such. We always had plenty of clean towels and drinking glasses each day. Rosa made us a few towel animals throughout the week, which were always fun to see after returning from dinner. We couldn't hear any noise from our neighbors with one exception. There was a man a few rooms down who would go out to his balcony at 5:30AM EVERY MORNING to smoke and would start hacking and coughing so loudly that it would literally wake us up even with the balcony door closed. The first two nights, we tried to sleep with the door open so that we could hear the waves, but we quickly learned that the hacker waking us up at 5:30AM everyday made it impossible for us to sleep with the door open. It was beyond annoying, however, there wasn't really much we could do about it, and it actually became almost funny because it was so ridiculous. We just grinned and bared it. The Food: The food on the ship was very good. We had an 8:30PM dinner seating and were assigned to a table for six along with two other couples, one of which was also on their honeymoon. While I initially wasn't too thrilled about the idea of sitting with strangers every night at dinner, my opinion quickly changed. We lucked out and ended up bonding with our tablemates and enjoyed their company so much that the six of us hung out at several ports of call as well as in the evenings after dinner. My husband and I agreed that one of the highlights of our trip was meeting these people (as well as some other passengers and crew that we hit it off with). There were usually plenty of good dinner options in the main dining room. I tried the Indian food one night and it was delicious. My husband is a seafood lover and he was always happy with the seafood dishes he ordered. The desserts were decent to good, the only exception being the crème brulee, which everyone at our table agreed was not good at all and very watery. We all ordered caprese salads one night and they were delicious. The creamy garlic soup was great. Our dinner waiters were Vener and Juan. They were both excellent! Both had constant smiles on their faces and were polite, friendly and helpful in making menu selection suggestions. Vener told us a couple jokes each night and his personality made him such a joy. We truly felt the service they provided was top-notch.Food in the Windjammer was good. I found the lunch options to be more varied and usually tastier than the breakfast options. The breakfast options did not vary at all from day to day and they got a little boring by the end of the cruise. I think I ate more bacon on the cruise than I'd eaten in the past five years combined. The pasta selections at lunchtime were good. I loved the low fat frozen yogurt for dessert.For late night snacks, the pizza in the Solarium and the onion rings and chili in the Seaview Cafe were all yummy. My husband had the chicken wings in the Seaview Cafe one night and ended up not finishing them because he said they were not good. We ordered room service for dinner one evening and were a little disappointed with the lack of options. We both got a burger, and we were not able to select how we wanted them cooked - they came pre-made and were well-done only. They were very dry and bland. Luckily, the sweet potato fries that we got alongside the burgers were very good. We also got room service for breakfast several times. It wasn't bad - better options than the room service dinner options. We paid the additional $25/person to dine at Chops (the steakhouse on the ship) one evening. We agreed that our Chops meal was one of the best of our trip and was worth the $50 we spent. We each got a filet, and we shared sides of potatoes, asparagus and broccoli. All were delicious. The best part of the meal was the amazing chocolate cake we got for dessert. Absolutely the best chocolate cake ever!The Drinks: My husband and I enjoy having some drinks...sometimes quite a few drinks! We visited most of the bars on board and our favorite place for happy hour/evening drinks quickly became the Schooner Bar. The bartenders, Kelville and Laurence, were fabulous. They were so friendly and pleasant to chat with and made great drinks. The entertainment in the Schooner Bar was always good, too. Piano and violin players, singers, occasional karaoke. There is plenty of comfy seating at and around the bar, and it was it was rarely crowded. We really loved this bar. The fruity drinks at the Pool Bar and Sky Bar were tasty and not horribly expensive. We quickly made it a habit to have a pina colada or mojito by the pool after returning to the boat from the various ports. We found that the Sky Bar usually had better and faster service than the Pool Bar and was often less crowded. The servers walking the pool deck were extremely helpful without being pushy.The Champagne Bar didn't have as many champagne options as one would expect and those they did offer seemed a bit over-priced. One visit to the Champagne Bar was enough for us.The Vortex Night Club was pretty dead all week with only a couple dozen people at most there at night. Next door, the Hollywood Odyssey Cigar Bar was pretty dead as well. We did go there several times though, so my husband could have a cigar, and the bartender Angelica was wonderful and fun to chat with.We bought a wine package (seven bottle Gold package) to have with dinner, and it ended up being a good option for us. We were happy with the quality and selection of the wines available with our package.The Entertainment:My husband and I aren't really big on seeing shows, movies, etc. We did catch the end of the Battle of the Sexes in the Safari Club, which was fun. And I checked out The Quest game show with our friends (my husband was a bit seasick that night). The Quest was AWESOME! It is a hilarious adult scavenger hunt in the Safari Club. Ricky, the Cruise Director, leads the game show. He did a great job and is a very charismatic and funny entertainer. We also checked out the final night's goodbye show in the Tropical Theater. Al, the comedian, is quite funny and the RCI singers and dancers were all very good. Ricky, again, was excellent.Ports of Call:BarbadosWe booked a catamaran tour through Silvermoon to snorkel with sea turtles and see a shipwreck. I read wonderful reviews of Silvermoon on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor, and they did not disappoint. We both absolutely loved the catamaran tour - it was a highlight of our cruise! Our guides treated us like gold, serving us wonderful homemade banana bread, carrot cake and a gourmet lunch. The local beer and rum punch was flowing all day. The boat itself was very well kept and beautiful. The snorkeling and swimming experience was unforgettable. The water was a beautiful clear blue and warm. It was a wonderful day with beautiful weather! The only negative to doing the tour was that we spent all of our time on the water and didn't have any time remaining to check out Bridgetown or and of the beaches. But I would do the Silvermoon tour again in a heartbeat!St. LuciaWe had scheduled an island tour of St. Lucia through Cosol Tours, another recommendation through Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. This was a wonderful tour as well. Our guide was Baptiste and he was friendly and very knowledgeable about the island. We first went to a banana plantation, where we viewed the bananas growing and sampled fresh bananas, mangos and coconuts. We stopped at several beautiful viewpoints to take photos and stopped at a small bar/restaurant area to have a morning snack. The morning snack was more of an all out buffet of local foods. We tried local fruits, homemade candy, fish, chicken, breads, johnnycakes and banana ketchup. Everything was delicious. There was a van that followed the tour vans around all day and provided us with whatever beverages we wanted (rum punch, beer, soda, water, etc.). After our morning snack, we drove by an area where a recent hurricane had caused a landslide. We visited an active volcano near the town of Soufriere and took a motorboat from Soufriere to a swimming beach between the Pitons. After swimming, Cosol himself met us back at the boat dock and was cracking us all up as he swung around a huge bottle of locally made alcohol (160 proof...whew!) and was pouring shots for us all while cracking jokes. Everyone in our group was having a great time laughing and drinking. On the way back to the dock, we stopped at a little house and Baptiste went in and returned with some wonderful, hot bread and fresh white cheddar cheese for all of us. The whole day was fun. I felt like we got to see a lot of the island. The weather was fairly sunny in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon. Very hot all day. The landscape of the island is very pretty, but there is a lot of poverty and run-down areas and swarms of hacklers trying to sell goods to the tourists along all of the overlook spots. The only real complaint I had about the tour was that when the motor boat dropped us off at the swimming beach, there was some confusion about where we could sit (as some chairs were for resort guests only) and what areas we could swim in. Also, some of the other tour groups that were at the beach had access to coolers of drinks, but our group had no beverage access for the hour or so we were there. Otherwise, the tour was great. I would recommend Cosol Tours if you want to check out the island as a whole.AntiguaAfter having tours the previous two days, we decided to sleep in a bit and just go explore on our own in Antigua. It was a very hot but pretty day. Hacklers initially swarmed us when we got off the ship. We wandered around St. John's a little aimlessly for a while and honestly were not very impressed. BUT, then we stumbled upon a wonderful mix of little shops, art galleries and restaurants that sat back a ways from the street in an area filled with greenery and a lot of iguanas and birds. We found an art gallery with a great selection of work, and purchased two canvas paintings for a total of $50 and got to meet the artist. We then sat outside at the bar of the Big Banana restaurant. We had a few Red Stripes and enjoyed sitting and chatting with the bartender and some of our shipmates. For lunch, we tried the Big Banana's pizza, baked chicken and chicken wings. All were wonderful. My husband said the wings were the best he had had in is whole life! The total cost for all of our food and six beers was only $40 - you can't beat that. We headed back to the ship early this day and enjoyed lying by the pool in the afternoon. We heard from our friends that the beaches were beautiful in Antigua, and several of our friends said this was their favorite island.St. KittsBased on recommendations through Cruise Critic, we booked an Island Tour through Rose and Jim's taxi. Rose and Jim are a married couple and are both very sweet. It is quite evident that they are both in love with their island and they like to show visitors the sites. My husband and I were in Jim's van. We visited a Batik Factory and botanical garden first. I found the batik factory to be a bit commercial and more like a gift shop than a factory. The botanical garden was very beautiful, though, and we really enjoyed exploring it and taking photos. We then went up the most narrow, winding road I have ever seen to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress, which is also a national park. We loved visiting the fortress - there was so much to explore and the views of the island were spectacular. We went to an overlook to see the place where the Atlantic and the Caribbean meet and then another overlook to see the large black lava rocks along the coast. At this overlook, we were more entertained by the animals we saw than by the view. There were several vendors set up selling their goods, and we got to hold a monkey, play with some wild dogs and pet some donkeys. One of the donkeys was a baby and was very friendly. It actually tried to get in the van with us, and chased our van when we left because it didn't want us to leave. I really enjoyed this part of the tour - it is one of my favorite memories from the cruise. We went to the opposite site of the island (which Jim explained was the "wealthy side") in the afternoon to visit Cockleshell Beach. It was very cloudy and windy, so we decided we didn't feel like swimming and instead got lunch in the beach restaurant there. We got the chicken curry burritos with grilled veggies and rice - yum! Jim took us back to the cruise pier mid-afternoon. While we did enjoy this tour and several of the stops, it was not our favorite island. Most of the island seemed run-down. There was a lot of trash along the roads and things just didn't seem very clean. No beverages or food were included in the coat of the tour (we were a bit spoiled by this point after the Silvermoon and Cosol Tours). It seemed like a lot of time spent just riding around in the van, and considering that there was a couple with a screaming baby in the front row of the van, it was not very pleasant being cooped up with them for the bulk of the day.St. MaartenThis was by far our favorite island! We had a nice, sunny day for this one and started the day off with a walk to downtown Philipsburg (about 15 minutes from the pier). We did some shopping. There are a lot of great shops and restaurants located downtown. We then went with our friends from the dining room to Maho Beach (aka the "Airplane Beach"). This beach was about a 25-minute cab ride away ($15 per couple each way) and is right by the airport. When the planes land and take off, they fly right over your head. It was exhilarating and a very memorable experience! Not to mention, the beach was beautiful with warm, clear water and great waves. We spent most of the day swimming and then got some food at the beach bar before heading back to the ship. I would recommend visiting this beach - great fun! The entire island seemed much cleaner, more modern and better kept than the previous islands. We loved St. Maarten and would like to go back for a vacation!St. ThomasSt. Thomas was our last port of call. We had a cloudy day and started of by going via cab ($4/person) into Charlotte Amalie to do some shopping. The cabs in St. Thomas are open air safari-type vehicles and are actually a lot of fun to ride in. The shopping was good here. I got a great deal on a pendant necklace. There are literally more jewelry stores along the main street than I could count! We then took a cab ($8/person each way) and met our friends at Magen's Bay, which is known to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It was very crowded, but I have to say it was quite pretty. There are lots of beach items available for rent, including towels, chairs, snorkels, swimming mats, etc. We got drinks called Painkillers from the beach bar. They were the strongest drinks we had on the trip and one was all I could handle. After returning to the pier, we all went to Senor Frogs. We didn't find it to be as fun or entertaining as we expected, and got back on the boat just as a huge thunderstorm rolled in. We went to deck five to watch the boat push off from the pier just as the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was an absolutely amazing sunset. We enjoyed St. Thomas but it didn't top St. Maarten.DisembarkationThis process went pretty smoothly, and we were able to get off the ship a bit earlier than our scheduled time of 10:20AM. However, when we got down to the customs area, we waited in a very long line for about 30-40 minutes before being able to be cleared and allowed to exit. As we are not experienced cruisers, I am not sure whether this was an unusually long wait to get off the ship or not. Either way, it was a little tiresome standing there with all our luggage for that long.Post-Cruise in San Juan:We went back to Numero Uno for a final night after getting off the ship. I had hoped to spend out last day of our honeymoon laying on the beach and swimming, but unfortunately it stormed all day. So instead, we went back to Kasalta for another yummy lunch and then relaxed in our room. We checked out Metropol in Isla Verde for dinner. The food was great. Portions were huge and it was very affordable. Try the Cuban Sampler plate. For $15.95 you get an array of about six of their most popular dishes.Highlights of the Trip:Highlights included the great service aboard the Serenade (stateroom attendant, dining room staff, bartenders); Silvermoon Cruise in Barbados; local foods on the Cosol Tour in St. Lucia; Big Banana in Antigua; Maho Beach in St. Maarten; Chops restaurant; Schooner Bar; breakfast on our balcony; The Quest game show; relaxing on the pool deck; and exploring San Juan pre and post cruise. Something tells me we will soon be experienced cruisers. We will certainly cruise with Royal Caribbean again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
SundayTook a direct flight on JetBlue from Boston to San Juan. There were 4 of us so we drove in and parked at Preflight parking in Chelsea for about $90 for the week. We were surprised by the large amount of people at the airport on a ... Read More
SundayTook a direct flight on JetBlue from Boston to San Juan. There were 4 of us so we drove in and parked at Preflight parking in Chelsea for about $90 for the week. We were surprised by the large amount of people at the airport on a Sunday morning. Line to check luggage was at least 40 minutes and the line for security was at least another 40 minutes. Could not take full advantage of the JetBlue satellite TV since about 40 minutes into the flight the satellite coverage over the ocean was weak and only the in-flight movies were available. Great flight overall, arrived ahead of schedule by half an hour.Took a cab to the ship from the airport for $18 for 4 people plus $1 each for 6 bags ($24 without tip). Embarkation was easy as usual. At the Pan Am Pier you can no longer buy a bottle of rum and tuck it in your carry on. We have cruised out of San Juan three other times and found that as long as you hid a bottle in your carry on and did not carry it in a bag no one questioned you. That was not the case this time. I stopped in the duty free shop and asked if they would take it away and they said yes the baggage screeners are looking for alcohol. You are able to buy water and soda as you enter and can bring on as much as you like.We were on deck 9 in an E1 category room (Deluxe balcony stateroom). We previously sailed on Serenade and were on deck 10 which was a more spacious room ( I'm guessing 3 ft bigger??) The deck 10 room had a full size couch with a Pullman bed over the couch for our two kids. The deck 10 couch turned into a bed and did not encroach much on the walking space in the room. The deck 9 room had an over sized chair instead of a couch and it folded out towards the vanity so you had to step over it to get to the bathroom. The deck 9 "chair bed" was fairly uncomfortable for anyone over 12 years old. Also the Pullman on deck 9 was over the king size bed whereas on deck 10 it was over the couch and you could pull a curtain to separate the king sized bed from the Pullman and sofa bed. Not a big deal but I'd spend the extra money to be on deck 10 with 4 people next time.We read in earlier posts that Serenade changed the menu recently and the food was sub-par. The May 22 cruise we found the food to be excellent as expected. This was our 7th cruise (3 Royal Carribean, 3 Carnival, 1 Norwegian) and in general we have found the dining room food very good and about the same across the cruise lines. I think the Windjammer on Royal Carribean is slightly better than the others however. Most days we had breakfast in the windjammer, snacks at 4:30-5:00 in the Seaview Cafe on deck 12 and dinner in the dining room. The Seaview is like a secret place; seldom crowded and items made to order - check it out at the beginning of the week. We are not late night folks and are typically in bed by 11:30 on weekends at home but we still find that the 8:30 seating is the best for dinner. To make a 6pm seating you are very rushed when you come off an excursion at 4:30 and you are hot and tired. It's great to have a 4:30 snack, relax and have a cocktail and quick nap before dinner. The dinners are great but the portions are not the US restaurant portions that would choke a horse so eating late was not an issue for us. We always ordered 2 appetizers in fact to sample more of the good food. If you are a big eater don't hesitate to order two dinners - it's not an issue.Cruise director Ricky was excellent (I'm usually mocking the cruise director by the end of the week and want to shut them up but not Ricky, he was very good). Overall the entertainment was above average.Monday Day at sea. No trouble getting a chair on the top deck at 10am.TuesdayBarbados. Planned to go to Paynes Bay for the day. Went to get a cab and they said that it was $30 each way. We started walking to the bus station and were stopped by a cabbie who offered to take us for $20 each way and negotiated an additional stop at Mt Gay Rum factory on the way back for $12 more. Paynes Bay is where the catamaran tours go to take clients snorkeling with the turtles. Go to BJ's Wholesale before you leave home and buy two sets of snorkeling gear (typically $40-50) and they will pay for themselves avoiding just 4 rentals. At Paynes Bay you can snorkel out ~100 yards and see the turtles. Wait for the catamarans to come in and the turtles will congregate since they know they get fed everyday at that time. "Big Daddy" gave us two chairs ($7.50 ea) and an umbrella ($5). There is a bar and clean bathroom and outdoor shower at the beach. Beers were about $4 each. Two lower budget alternatives are to walk 1 ½ miles to "boatyard beach" which is south of the ship. Out dinner tablemates got a chair, umbrella and ride back to ship for $12. They had a rope swing which was fun. It was described as "a little cheesey" but a good low budget day on a good beach. We also read about Brighton beach and a bar there where you can rent chairs relatively cheap. It's only 2-3 miles from the ship and right across from Mt Gay Rum factory so you can do the tour without paying for another ride like we did (but no Turtles!!). The rum tour was a good take but as a secondary excursion not a primary - 1 ½ hours is all you need and you get 3-4 shots of rum for the $12 entrance fee. You can also buy a bottle of rum and pour it in your water bottles to take back on the ship like we did. They make a bid deal about sneaking alcohol on the ship in the first day or two but if you are discrete I don't see a problem.WednesdaySt Lucia. We arranged for a ½ day deep sea fishing trip with Hackshaw's (12:15 - 4:00). They pick you up at the water taxi dock right by the ship. We went south west out of Castries and immediately started trolling for billfish and wahoo. I would guess we ended up 8 miles offshore and almost as far south as the Pitons (it was hot and hazy so not a good view from that far out). We chased a school of tuna for about 40 minutes and sighted a blue marlin 10 yards off the boat and circled a few times but no hits. We went through the better part of a case of complementary beer but no fish for our $550. You can charter a smaller 31 ft boat for $450 but I was not sure how large of seas we would have this time of year and wanted a bigger boat with the family. (if it was all guys I'd save the $100 and go with the 31 ft boat). When you are going for specific fish and not bottom fishing for junk fish sometimes you hit them sometimes you don't - we didn't. The captain said the best time of year is around September. I not sure I'd go again in the future unless I was splitting the cost with the guys but it was a lot of fun. We've been to St Lucia three other times. If it is your first time going you must take a tour with Consol or Fabian Tours. Zip Lining in Dennery was great also but pricey.ThursdayAntigua. Arranged our own tour for Sting Ray City via e:mail - paid $50 each (credit card). This was the highlight of the trip. They took us out in four ~20 ft Carolina skiffs about 3-4 miles out to a large sandbar with a floating dock. They supply snorkel gear. You stand in waist deep water and 25-30 gentle sting ray swim around you. They set up a line and have everyone who wants to hold a sting ray - don't be afraid it's great!! They have a good camera and take pictures that you can purchase when you return to the dock. They had plenty of squid and took a lot of time to let anyone who wanted to feed the sting ray. One guy was helping people hold sting ray near the floating dock which was a good opportunity to get rid of the cheap water camera and take some good pictures from the dock with my digital camera. Cab fare to sting ray city was $32 each way and we negotiated with the cabbie to take us to our favorite beach in the Caribbean - Long Bay beach for $10 more. The cabbie just stayed at the beach for the 3 ½ hrs we were there since there were not many fares back at St John with just one ship in port. Look up the Grand Pineapple ( beach club in Antigua) to see what the beach looks like - you stop at the opposite end of the beach from the club with simple chairs and umbrellas but it's the beach that you need to look at. It has a nice reef for snorkeling, beautiful white sand, beautiful blue water and a few shops and a bar with a basic but clean bathroom.FridaySt Marten. Took a cab to Orient Beach ~ 30 minute ride $7 each (each way). Since we had 6 in the van it was only $6 per person. Cabbie dropped us at a beach club and for $8 got an umbrella, chair, and a drink ( get the 16oz rum punch for the free drink!). We got a bucket of 6 Corona's for $15, a big hot dog/fries $8, and chili nachos for $8 - all very good. Beach was not crowded at all. This is a semi nude beach but there were very few people sunbathing topless (3-4 women ranging from 30-70 year old on the whole section we were in) and in 4 hours only 2 people walked by in the buff from the all nude beach down the road. The beach itself is very nice, small waves, no reef, several small shops. Shopping downtown was good in the afternoon.SaturdaySt Croix. You really felt like you were back in the US in St Croix. More upscale houses, US cars, etc. We went to Canes Bay beach for the day - $18 per person round trip. You can rent a chair for $10 at the dive shop behind the bar. You don't need an umbrella since there is a lot of shade on the beach. This beach is long (1/2 mile??) but not very wide (10 yard until you are under the trees - plenty of shady spots). The dive shop had a sign that said "new scuba dive" $60 and I thought it said experienced divers could rent for $40 - check website yourself. We just snorkeled with our own gear. Food at the bar was good, my son said he had the best pulled pork he ever had. You can see the kitchen as you enter and they had a fresh whole Wahoo fish which was going to be on the menu for the afternoon. The snorkeling was great. About 10 yard off the beach is a very shallow reef. You need to walk to the boat ramp and go straight out to get by the reef. Beyond the reef the water was maybe 10 feet deep and didn't seem to get much deeper than 15 to 20 feet over the area we snorkeled so you really could see the bottom with lots of coral and more fish than I've seen since a trip to Cozumel years ago. The bay is noted for the "wall". At the edge of the bay it drops from shallow (20-50 ft??) to 3200 ft in a very short distance. The people were the friendliest of any island. My wife met a retired woman and she invited my wife back for a visit. I was talking with a cabbie and she said that you should be careful about where you go since there are robbers who are looking for money mostly for drugs. In fact while sitting in the bar a young couple walked in and said they were robbed of $150 just down the road a few moments ago. The wife negotiated to keep all their IDs. The bartender listened to the story but didn't seem surprised and never offered to call the police. Big lesson learned is only bring one credit card on any island, separate your ID's and credit cards from your wallet and only carry the cash you need in your wallet so you don't lose everything if you are asked to hand over your wallet. Leave the good jewelry in the ship safe. This was our first trip to St Croix and we definitely would go back.Disembarkation took only 30 minutes and went very smoothly. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was our 3rd spring break cruise. Our previous cruises had been with Carnival. We have done one 5 day cruise and the other 2 were 7 day cruises. I disliked the 5 day cruise. I found it to be over to soon considering your 5th day is ... Read More
This was our 3rd spring break cruise. Our previous cruises had been with Carnival. We have done one 5 day cruise and the other 2 were 7 day cruises. I disliked the 5 day cruise. I found it to be over to soon considering your 5th day is disembarking. But my main reason for never doing a 5 day cruise again was because it appeared to be more "partiers" on board. For a family cruise, I found this unacceptable. We found it worth the price to pay a little more for a 7 day cruise which changed the clientele of cruisers considerably.We flew into San Juan on the first day of boarding. We grabbed a cab at the airport which only charged $3 per person plus $1 per bag. With 7 of us, we thought it was very reasonable. Much cheaper than using the ship's service.The Serenade of the Seas was a spectacular ship! It was kept exceptionally clean. We enjoyed most areas of the ship. It was equipped to entertain all ages of people. There was a kiddie pool, a main pool and an adult-only pool in the solarium. It also had a water slide. For some reason, the slide did not open most days until 3:30. The ship also had a mini golf, a climbing wall, and basketball. For those who like to exercise during their cruise, there was an outdoor track which was 1/6 of a mile. The fitness room was well equipped. We just wish it had fans going as it got very hot with no air circulation. The kids' club had good activities for the most part, however, my almost 11 year old rarely wanted to venture there. We wished they had put times on their itineraries to know precisely when certain activities would take place. Our friends' daughter and her friend loved the teen area. They met lots of new people! As for the food, we enjoyed doing our breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer and had a 6:00 seating reserved at Reflections. There was a large variety of good food. Everyone would be able to find plenty to their liking. I was a little disappointed in the desserts. I'm a chocolate fan and none of the chocolate desserts seemed to have much taste to them. There were some complaints that the Windjammer closed to early in the evening for all those peoople who like to snack at night, especially the ice cream lovers!I was extremely impressed with the entire staff on Serenade of the Seas! Everyone was extremely kind, patient, personable, and happy! Getting on and off the ship was painless. It went very quickly! Be sure to have paperwork done ahead to get on ship! It saved a lot of time. Because we were not flying out of San Juan until 2:30, we also decided to do one last exploration instead of sitting in an airport for 4 or more hours. That was a great decision! We disembarked the ship, got on a bus and toured, then we were dropped off at the airport! Our luggage waiting for us! I highly recommend this. As far as excursions go. We did many. In St. Thomas we did a snorkeling/turtle adventure in Buck Bay? The crew was amazing! It ended with everyone getting pirate tatoos! (stick ons) In St. Croix, we did the bike hike. It was fun but extremely exhausting. It was 12-13 miles. My son and I were elated we actually finished! We had hoped to go on a waterfall hike adventure but it was full. We did visit 2 beautiful beaches in St. Lucia and Grenada. Our friends did an aerial tram and zip lining activity, which they loved. We were unable to do this due to minimum age requirements of 12. We also did a river cruise on tubes which was lots of fun! Over all, this cruise was sensational and I would definitely recommend a southern caribbean cruise. Serenade of the Seas was a spectacular ship to do our adventure on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
BACKGROUND I have cruised 14 times on Carnival, Princess, once on HAL and a two times on NCL - my least favorite cruise line, because I feel they are ruining and "dumbing down" cruising with their over use of their ... Read More
BACKGROUND I have cruised 14 times on Carnival, Princess, once on HAL and a two times on NCL - my least favorite cruise line, because I feel they are ruining and "dumbing down" cruising with their over use of their Freestyle(means pay more for the good stuff) concept - more fees, more costs. This was our first cruise with RCL and they really wowed us and won us over - beautiful ships, well designed for crowds, and the food and service was as good as any line we have sailed. The Serenade might be considered a little older now, but it was appreciated that they did not peddle too many extras that you have to pay for and represented a lot of what is traditionally great about cruising. PRE-CRUISE and HOTEL We had a week in Puerto Rico surrounding a 7 night Caribbean cruise from San Juan. We were blessed with beautiful weather most days - rain was short lived and usually short afternoon events when it did rain a few days, except at Dominica there were a lot of rain squalls off and on during the day. Most of the past 4 or 5 trips to Florida and the Caribbean from November through February had been plagued by a fair amount of rain, bad weather and cold. We had pretty good weather this time - mostly sunny warm days and a couple of days with hardly a cloud in the sky. We flew in for 3 nights and 2 days stay before the cruise and then planned to visit Ponce in southern Puerto Rico for 4 nights and 3 days after the cruise. The land part of the trip was excellent and very memorable. Puerto Rico is fun, friendly, and a crazy, interesting mix of cultures. Before the cruise we stayed at the Conrad Condado Plaza hotel, within sight of the cruise ship port. This was an excellent location. We got a special price of $109 night on Hotwire and felt this hotel was a great value for the price and amenities. Arriving fairly late, around 9 PM, and the hotel being full we got a special unexpected benefit - although it took a while to find us an available room we got a free upgrade to a suite room, that was one of the largest and nicest we ever stayed in. The hotel pool and grounds were perfect for one of our days hanging out and the much better than average, fully equipped and well furnished fitness center was much appreciated for a good work out on out "hotel" day. The main breakfast eatery in the hotel has very good breakfast deals which we used both days. You can get an American style breakfast for under $10. We also rented a car at the on site Enterprise car rental. Great service and prices by the Enterprise desk there. We were very glad we opted for the new Garmin Nuvi GPS. If you don't know your way around, a GPS is pretty indispensable. In the San Juan area, however, we never could figure out how to get an exact address recognized by the GPA or get the GPs to find several places we wanted, but it did not get lost and saved us a lot of time and trouble. It also seemed it had the proper turns, but wrong street names several places in San Juan and that was not just translation problems -0 the Names were different but the turn directions were correct. Still it managed to get us around when we would have been totally lost oterhwise. After the cruise the Garmin GPS we used in southern Puerto Rico was pretty accurate on everything, but again we didn't have much luck getting it to find some specific businesses and addresses. I had read about a beach bicycle/walking trail and board walk at Pinones, near San Juan, in the Carolina area that had bicycle rentals. My wife and I like cycling. The GPS helped get us to Pinones and as described, as soon as you cross the bridge and on the down ramp, go right into the first parking lot and business area. Here your will find a building marked COPI that rents some old beater multi gear mountain bikes - good enough to have fun with. We rode for several hours along the trail, seeing beautiful beaches, shoreline and some inland swampy areas loaded with tiny crabs, making a very interesting and nice outing. You will be able to see much more by riding than walking and I recommend you use COPI or keep driving to find some other bike rentals that we saw signs for along the way, but you probably will not find any "great" bikes. We also had lunch across the street from the COPI building before riding, at a popular hill top place, favored by locals, and good food and prices. After riding we enjoyed drinks at a local beach front bar overlooking the ocean and interesting reef and rock formations. The area seemed mostly used by locals and wasn't busy during a mid-week day. You could also takes towels and have some great beaching, wading or even snorkeling on beaches in that area after parking your car or taking the stuff with you as you bike or walk the trail. EMBARKATION The 8 PM sailing time, recommended boarding at 2 or 4 PM seemed late for us since we were staying within sight of the ship and cruise reviewers reported they were getting on board with little problem around noon. We taxied over at 11:30. The initial rush seemed large, but really we were in the first hundred and after maybe 20 or 30 minutes waiting in line, we went through security, check in and boarding pretty quickly and efficiently to be some of the first on board, to check out the ship, our dining table and buffet lunch on Lido. Same as I have found many times - arriving early can usually get you on board early and with little hassle. It seemed like this was another time that getting there for earl boarding was rewarding and less stressful than arriving later. STATEROOM AND SHIP INFO Our balcony cabin number was 7068, about midway up the front half of the ship, on port side, deck 7 out of 12 decks on Serenade. One of the very few drawbacks we found on Serenade, was that our row of balconies, just above the life boats, had a metal canopy/cover over the life boat deck and that canopy stretched out from the base of our balcony, obscuring the view of the water or any activity for several yards out from the ship. For example, in port, we could not even tell if passengers were getting on and off even when the ramps were on our side of the ship. You would probably see more of the water and stuff going on by the ship if you were in a balcony wher the ship curved out past the life boat area, or on a higher deck. My wife and I both thought Serenade Of The Seas was one of the most beautiful and well designed ships we have ever been on. We like the extra pools, decks, bars, lounges, etc of by now, just mid-size newer ships, with about 3,000 passengers but the slightly older, 2,000 passenger Serenade made up for it with great design in all areas. ENTERTAINMENT AND DANCING We cruise for the ports, food and good accommodations and service and although we like to swing dance plus slow dance and some line dance, we have found all cruises, in recent years, to be lacking in entertainment during sea days and early evening. Not many people want stay up to 10 PM to mid-night for dancing when they have active early tours the next day such as scuba diving. For a lot of people vacations are not about burning yourself out trying to enjoy everything, but also getting some rest and relaxation. Not having as many passengers as some ships we have been on the past 10 years, and making even worse use of the space and dance floors the have - such as the Safari lounge and lounge on top of the ship, until very late at night we felt the on board entertainment ad dancing opportunities were the worst ever, especially for dancing in the early evening - good thing we had low expectations anyway. The other aspect of cruise entertainment we find so poor is "snippets" - EVERYTHING is short - less than an hour. This was as bad as ever too on Serenade - for example, country and western "night", our favorite music was only one 45 minute set AND they held this like most early evening dancing on the tiny, totally inadequate, overcrowded and overrun atrium floor - it quickly turned into a wiggle fest, mass of people gyrating in place that was un-danceable in a normal sense, especially for swing or c&w dancers. The c&w music by the Philippine band was very light country, a lot of cross over to rock n roll and the finale was not c&w at all. As expected - a short snippet of dancing on a too crowded floor and that's it. I'm sue their spacious Safari lounge was available or the club on top of the ship that they never seemed to use at all until late at night after we had gone to bed. I constantly submit comments and suggestions about this to all cruise lines. Instead of getting more logical in their use of dance area and music it seems to just be getting worse - maximum impact for minimum bucks and forget about people who have a passion for some really great dancing and entertainment for most of the evening. The ship's main theatre, at least every other night, was just another song and dance by the ship's entertainment crew and orchestra, with "fancy Vegas like" apparel and uninteresting themes. Some poor comedian/variety acts with jokes we have heard on several recent cruises. We tried several of the shows and were usually bored crazy and gone within 15 minutes. Again, low expectations saved us. If you like any old song and dance( I do grant that their young ship's performers are good - that I'm no disputing) and a Vegas like show or really hungry for comedy or not used to great shows, you might find the ship's shows fulfilling or even fascinating. I am surprised on all cruise lines that reviewers like the canned, bland entertainment so much. WINE SERVICE AND BEER We had never used a ship's wine services before but for this cruise we pre-purchased a 5 bottle, lowest level, Gold wine package. Buying it before the cruise it was supposed to be something like 20% off, but being the profit center liquor is for cruise lines, the Beringer white zinfandel, which we drank 4 of our 5 bottle, we can get at home for around $10 a bottle was more like $30 a bottle on RCL in our package. When checking out and paying for our package there was also a $25 service charge - part of the reason for $30/bottle total. We did enjoy having the wines with dinner. The cost seemed high but the wine was enjoyed enough that we might do that again. As a beer lover, I brew my own, and like amber and dark beers like Porter. Cruising beer selections and the Caribbean in general is a barren wasteland except for popular lagers and lights such as Corona, Heineken, Carib and of course Budweiser, which I will drink - not even so much as popular and inexpensive Amber Bock or Killian's Red is to be found - it's a light colored beer and light beeer world out there and don't expect to find anything for beer connoisseurs, unless they prefer light colored beers . I drank one regular beer on RCl. I researched ahead of time and didn't really expect they would have anything unusual and the selection of beers was as typical limited and I have always found on cruises. I guess if they carried a wider selection they would have to charge even more to make big profits for carrying a better selection of beers or having a "Beer Bar". FITNESS CENTER We are 58 and 64 years old but like to work out with weights at least 3 times a week, plus other daily exercising, and try to get in several word outs during a cruise, especially since ships usually have rather nice work out centers - certainly much better than the majority of hotels and resorts. The Serenade fitness center was as good or better than any we have used on a cruise - open, lots of room plus windows all around for views outside. We expected RCL cruisers to be a little younger and more active and using the fitness center a lot. Instead the fellow passenger's age range seemed very similar to all other cruises we have been on and on this cruise they were even more into lounging by the pool - the fitness center was one of the lightest used we have enjoyed. PORTS OF CALL AND TOURS We picked the cruise for lots of ports of call, some new for us. See port reviews below Our last day at sea was another beautiful day. For most passengers that was a day for lying around the pool and sun bathing. My first full day on board we enjoyed various aspects of the ship - shopping deals on RCL insignia clothing, a long work out at the fitness center, a few miles of laps walking the deck, the food and of course, some lounging on deck, but in the shade. It was too hot for us in the sun and it looked like a lot of people were overdoing that. DISEMBARKATION Disembarking the Serenade was very traditional. We had pre-assigned bag tags for a disembark group and time and had to have out luggage out between 6 and 11 PM the last night. No problem. Since we were not flying out they gave us one of the last disembark groups. I noticed that might make us late for our car rental reservation at San Juan international airport, so we decided to jump in with one of the earlier, middle groups. Since they weren't checking groups codes that seemed to work Ok and it didn't look like we were putting an extra load on that group or in the way of people needing to get off the ship for very early flights. We go to the airport about 30 minutes before my car rental reservation time. The ship does make it clear that the day before disembarking you can talk to them to get an earlier group if you need to get off quickly for travel arrangements. Very efficient. The only slowdown was TSA in the luggage area. With only 2, sometimes 3 agents, the line of people with bags, exiting, was almost the length of the building. I didn't time it but it seemed like at least 15 minutes in line. Worse can be the way TSA does things. We got in the slightly shorter line at first and for a while seemed to move with the other line. Then TSA added a third agent to the floor, but only servicing the other line. It was frustrating to see that line surge way ahead of us and they never put anyone else on our line and didn't have the third agent alternate taking people from the two lines. The effect was very noticeable and pretty annoying / unfair to our line that had waited as long. POST CRUISE, SOUTHERN PUERTO RICO AND HILTON PONCE Post cruise we got a taxi to the airport to pick up a Budget rental car and GPS, about 10:30 AM local time. We drove to Ponce, in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, where we were staying at the Ponce Hilton, getting there around noon on a Saturday. This is an older Hilton, but nicely furnished and remolded with lots of amenities, a pretty good beach considering southern PR doesn't have good beaches, and lots of activities and a beautiful pool area to hang out. There are not may resort like hotels in the area and after getting a price of about $125.night it seemed like a great value and perfect fit for us. I wanted my wife to have a resort to hang out at while I went diving one day and then for both of us to enjoy. That afternoon we used the GPS to find a Mexican restaurant I read about on Tripadvisor. I don't think we could have found it without a lot of problems and trouble without the GPS. The food there, at Maria Bonita, was very good - we had burritos stuffed with chicken and beef , perfectly spiced and plentiful meat. Then we used the GPS to find a Wal-Mart for some goodies for our room. Ponce was much bigger and busier than I ever expected. I got the feeling from per-trip research that it was small, It is not a large land area but it is densely populated and somewhat congested. The first morning I had to get up and leave by 6:30 Am to find a dive shop I had reserved a two tank dive with, at Guanica. Using the GPS to get me to Guanica, then directions from their web site, I had little trouble finding it, but it did seem like it was out there in the boonies. The dive operation, Island Scuba, was excellent and I had been wanting to see the 20 mile long underwater wall, that falls away to 1,500 foot plus depths. The day was one of the best I have ever gone diving - beautiful sunny blue skies and calm winds for a fairly flat ocean and of course, it was warm. The wall dive was good, with a bank of coral maybe 30-50 feet high, then a sandy slope before vanishing into the blue depths. There were some noticeable suspended particles in the water but visibility was still good, probably 80 feet. There was good coverage of marine life and fish, but nothing impressive like big coral heads, big sponges and soft corals, or caves, and swim throughs. It was a good dive but not as great as I hoped it would be and I prefer several other Caribbean destinations more for diving. I did not dive when we were at San Juan because the visibility there is usually poor and it doesn't seem popular as a dive destination. I was getting a cold and my head was totally stopped up after the first dive. I stayed on the boat for the second dive which it sounds like I would have liked - lots of fish and fish varieties. I highly recommend the dive shop - Island Scuba. I might have liked the dives more if I got to do more of them. The next day we caught a great kayak deal from the Hilton, much to our dismay that seemed lightly used. For $20 we got a tandem kayak for 2 hours. The large shallow bay by the resort had a string of 3 small mangrove islands and just outside of that was a barrier reef. It was an easy paddle out to the islands. There was a narrow almost hidden entry to a sand beach on one of the mangrove islands that made a sandy, shady, interesting stop. The shallows had lots of grasses and you could paddle around some fairly large coral heads some of which broke the surface in during swells - very interesting and nice kayaking. We seemed to be the only ones using that part of the resort that day. We spent the afternoon enjoying the resort's pool area and amenities. Around 5 PM we had to drive about 45 minutes to a bay that has bioluminescent water tours at night. The bioluminescent tours are very interesting and there are 3 places in Puerto Rico you can see it.. My parents went to Puerto Rico years ago and my Dad kept recounting the story and recommending their bioluminescent trip. After dark you are taken in a boat to a dark bay in the mangroves. When you wave your hand in the water - the stars and heavens seem to appear where you disturb the water - brilliant tiny specks of white light. Our boat also had a swimmer that went in. You could see the ghostly glow of his arms and legs as he swam through the water and it was shocking to see his illuminated form popping through when he swam under the boat. You can catch these tours, near Gaunica for $6 per person. The third and last day we thought we had a boat snorkeling tour to the newly environmentally protected islands near Ponce with Caribbean Images - a highly rated tour, but when we showed up at the instructed spot about 9 Am no one was around. A mix up, on both sides they did not show up for us. They are fairly hard to deal with unless you have a cell phone and constantly stay in touch with them to satisfy them that you are going to show up. They don't have enough customers to just go every day and sometimes they cancel because of the weather. If you try them I suggest you have alternate plans at the ready in case your tour gets canceled or mixed up. We revered by taking a "tour" recommended by a frequent visitor in a PR tourist magazine. The recommendation was to go into old Ponce to the big park - a square like most Mexican towns have - that was very fun - theer was also an interesting closed pedestrian only street, with shops, no tourists, beautiful pink flower trees, that goes off from one corner of the square The square had a big Catholic cathedral, a grand fountain and on our visit, they were setting up for a festival. It was a great place to people watch and catch interesting cheap food at stands and shops. You have to go and get out of your car to experience how nice it is. You can find the pedestrian street of shops by following the east side of the park going north - the pedestrian "mall" starts at the northeast corner of the square and runs about 3 blocks north. There is also an enclosed "mall" along the way, with mostly fruit and food vendors inside. For the second half of the day we drove to an attraction called Guilligans Island. It was great but we should have been more prepared and had poor information from the Hilton about it - we expected kayak rentals and snorkel equipment rentals. When we arrived it looked like some kind of cheap tourist trap. For $6 we could get a boat ride to the island and back, but this day it was going at 2Pm, coming back at 3 PM and then not until the last 5 PM boat, so we only got an hour because we didn't want to stay 3 hours. The island is a beach gem of wading, shallows, fish , great for snorkeling and wonderful for families and picnics, but there were no rentals, food sales or anything commercial. If you go, be prepared - take your own cooler and snorkel equipment. You can also order food from their land based restaurant for eating on the island and they will even take your order on the boat and bring the food to you on the island using the next boat. The main menu, of mostly sea foods, seemed pricey, but their $6 specials of pork or chicken, boiled and served Puerto Rican style was delicious when we returned from the island and ate there. I highly recommend this as a beach break, but go prepared with some of your own stuff. There are quite a few picnic tables, shade and restrooms on the island but that's about all. Beware San Juan rush hour traffic. Our trip home starting from Ponce at 5:30 AM, with a 1 hour 20 minute drive time, for an 8:40 AM flight seemed like a no-brainer. We did have a hint when before the cruise we saw a fairly nasty rush hour going the opposite direction as we were returning to our hotel from bicycling at Pinones in the afternoon. We got to San Juan metro area around 7 AM on a Wednesday and at just 17 miles to the airport, hit some of the worst rush hour morning traffic we had ever witnessed. Each time we got "going again" we hit another seemingly worse jam up. It took us nearly 40 minutes to wrap up the 17 miles and had us mightily worried and stressed out that we would miss our flight. After returning the rental car we hit the airport curbside about 60 minutes before our flight and probably due to light mid-week flights loads, we got to the gate about 5-10 minutes before boarding. Please do factor in San Juan morning and evening rush hour traffic if you like to get to the airport on time. After that out flight home with a stop over at Dllas Fort Worth was thankfully uneventful and okay. A great cruise and trip. I have been to most of the islands of Central America, and the Caribbean and found a week long stay in Puerto Rico very fascinating and entertaining, if you are not expecting just relaxing and enjoying great beaches. Puerto Rico has a few great beaches but you need to search and work for those, but there is so much more to see and do that makes it a wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Seattle - In a word; GORGEOUS. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast called the Shafer Bailie Mansion on Capitol Hill and it was lovely. One block away from Volunteer Park, walking distance to quaint shops and several restaurants. We ate ... Read More
Seattle - In a word; GORGEOUS. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast called the Shafer Bailie Mansion on Capitol Hill and it was lovely. One block away from Volunteer Park, walking distance to quaint shops and several restaurants. We ate at the Coastal Kitchen which was fabulous. We discovered on the trip from the airport to our B&B that Seattle is not the best of cities to drive in and is far better suited for walking. We actually walked the almost 3 miles from Capitol Hill to the Space Needle and took a bus back. (The bus dropped us off a block from our B&B for a whopping $1.75 apiece) Drive to Vancouver - Played tourist at Pike Place Market and could have stayed there all day. Enjoyed a chamber of commerce day in Seattle with weather in the 70s and not a cloud in the sky! We drove to Vancouver via Chuckanut Drive. Beautifully scenic. We stopped to have lunch at the Peace Arch Park in Blaine which is a beautiful little town and the port of entry into Canada. Endured a horrible traffic jam getting into Vancouver (Labor Day traffic and evidently the wrong time of day to arrive; between 4:30-5:30 p.m.) and discovered the hard way that there's only one gas station in Vancouver. Checked into the Sheraton Wall Centre, (a beautiful, centrally located property) gladly dumped the rental and begin walking. Vancouver is another city that is ideal for walking. Cruise Day 1 - Ballantyne Pier/Boarding the Serenade - The pier is not the most scenic but pretty darned functional. About a 7-10 minute cab ride from the Sheraton Wall Centre. Once there, we were checked in and on the ship before noon. (We left the hotel around 11:15 or so) We were on the "pop out" (mid ship) portion of the ship and while we had some smokers that sometimes interfered with our balcony time, the location was absolutely perfect. I'd recommend this location (Cabin 7602) to anyone. It's prime real estate right above the Champagne Bar which is generally one of our favorite spots on any RCL ship. This Champagne Bar was smokier than most and we were quite pleased to discover that the Schooner Bar (adjacent to the Champagne Bar) which is usually a fog bank of smoke on other RCL ships was practically smoke-free. We'd taken too long to decide on one of the tours we wanted and bought it via our TV once we arrived in our room. We also stopped at the dining room to sign up for My Time Dining (MTD). (We enjoyed the flexibility of MTD but I'm not sure we'd do it again as we ended up at a table for 2 every time.) We split our time between the dining room and the Windjammer for dinner. Day 2 - Sea Day - Had our Mix and Mingle (M&M) on the ship. We began our progressive trivia contest with a couple of folks we'd met on the cruise critic board/M&M. It was great to finally meet everyone in person. Huge sale on board. Every Alaska souvie you could imagine on sale for 50-75% off. There's an incentive to an end-of-season cruise! We did our part to help rid the ship of its inventory. Day 3 - Icy Strait Point/Hoonah - You have to tender here; maybe 100 yards! We'd scheduled a Bike Ride/Ziprider tour. Bike ride was a lot shorter than advertised but our guides were great. Had about 15 minutes to shop before the bike ride. Forty-minute drive up to the Ziprider on a zig zag road in a bus. No guard rails but beautiful views below. Looking back, it was the bus ride that was scary. The Ziprider was exhilarating! A note to those doing the ziprider- there are 2 porta-potties, a small pavilion (with a campfire) and NO FOOD at the wait station for the ziprider. We had to wait almost 4 hours to board the zip and hadn't eaten since breakfast. After some debate as to whether or not we'd even get to go on the ziprider due to delays we were on our way. And, while it was truly unfortunate that we had to wait so long, the Ziprider is awesome! Gratefully this was an RCL excursion. Our delay made the ship late by about 30 minutes and after our complaint to the shore excursion desk, I'm happy to report that RCL did the right thing by us before our cruise was over. Day 3 - Tracy Arm Fjord - Glacier - Absolutely beautiful glacier and the route to it is breathtaking. Waterfalls everywhere! Kudos to the captain (or whomever "drives" the ship) for some pretty amazing pivoting/maneuvering. Paid for a spin class in the gym and got our money's worth! Had brunch in Portofino's with a view of the glacier as our backdrop. Kept kicking backside at our progressive trivia . . . Day 4 - Skagway - We did the train/hike combo which I highly recommend. (The ship uses Packer Expeditions and their guides were great.) Drizzly and maybe 55 degrees here. Hiked about 4-5 miles total along the river. It was absolutely beautiful. We rented a car to drive to Emerald Lake upon returning from our hike. Breathtaking scenery on the way to the Yukon where we discovered that signs of any kind are few and far between. We sped past Emerald Lake without realizing it and saw 20 extra miles of bonus scenery. We see- what has now been identified as a coyote- in a National Geographic moment as he caught and played with a mouse before ultimately making it a mid-afternoon snack. And while Mr. Coyote was aware we were there, he was totally unimpressed with our paparazzi-esque attack as we photographed and filmed from every possible angle. Day 5 - Juneau - We were greeted by a light but persistent rain that never let up. The ship had made an announcement that all helicopter tours booked through the ship had been grounded. I'd booked ours independently and we were a go. I'm glad we got to go but visibility was poor and it was sleeting heavily on the glacier. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. (Hello! I was on a GLACIER!) Returned to the ship after making our last souvie purchases in Juneau. Onboard, the Captain announces that we'll have rough seas on the way back . . . Day 6 - Sea day - The Captain was right. We wondered why there were so few people at the Vortex as we're dancing our backsides off to 80s music and getting a LOT of help on our dance moves from Mother Nature. Evidently the rough seas didn't sit too well with a lot of folks . . . many of whom chose to be cabin-bound rather than boogie. (It DID get pretty rough!) Earlier that day our team ties for first in progressive trivia and we're the proud owners of gold medals and other fabulous prizes! Day 7 - Debarkation - We opt to get off the ship early as we could (barely!) carry our own bags. Dressed and down for breakfast by 6:00 a.m., at the Tropical Theatre by 7:15. Off the ship by 7:45, through customs, in a cab, and on the way to the Pacific Palisades Hotel before 8:00 a.m.! Make it there by 8:15, drop off our bags off with the bellman and begin enjoying Vancouver. The Pacific Palisades is a lovely hotel located right on Robson Street and our room was larger (and much prettier!)than my first apartment! It's a beautiful property within walking distance of everything. We walked to the ferry and toured Granville Island in the morning and rented bikes on Denman Street and circled Stanley Park (twice!)on a glorious Saturday afternoon. We had an absolutely wonderful time aboard a beautiful ship, enjoyed fabulous ports, participated in some amazing excursions, met some great folks, and can't wait to get back! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we flew to Seattle ). Always love SW, no charge for bags and employee's are always friendly. A flight attendant that lives in Seattle gave us a list of restaurants for us to try. On our first evening we ate close to the hotel at Adobe (similar to Chipotle's). Good nights sleep at the Sheraton downtown, Priceline $90. On Friday we headed for Top Pot doughnuts near 3rd/Bell for the best doughnuts in town, we were not disappointed. Next Pikes Market, what wonderful produce and floral arrangements....cheap $5-$10 for a beautiful bunch of flowers. Ate lunch at the market in the square at the end of the market, lots of street performers and colorful singers to keep you entertained. We took the monorail to the space needle and a trip to the top to enjoy a 360 view of Seattle , $16ea. but a beautiful view. We took in a Seattle Mariners game Friday evening, beautiful stadium and the smell of garlic fries is still with me. On Saturday morning we took a cab $7 to the Amtrak station for an early train to Vancouver BC. If you've never taken a train it's definitely the way to go, lots of time to think and get your thoughts together while enjoying the beautiful trip from Seattle to Vancouver ($35pp one way). The train ride was a little late getting into Vancouver due to a couple in Bellingham Wa . Trying to run for the train, NOTE never run for a train arrive early this attempt delayed us 20min. No worries though we were not due to be on board ship till noon at the earliest. Vancouver....customs was a breeze off the train, a $25US taxi ride to the pier most of which was in line at the Balentyne cruise ship terminal, remember Vancouver has two piers Canada Place (new) and Balentyne (old)...NOTE, get the taxi driver to pull to the side and let you off if you have no trouble walking, only 100 yards and it'll save you $10 off the fare at the peak time. Vancouver drop off at the pier is one of the strangest I've ever seen, they make the taxis and buses back in slowing the process immensely. The process of boarding ran smoothly and very quickly compared to other ports we'd sailed from. Naturally we headed for the windjammer dining room since it had been hours since we'd eaten and we needed to get in shape for the week ahead. I'm sorry if you're looking for a long evaluation of the food on Serenade of the Seas, we ate all our meals at the windjammer neglecting the main dining room (Reflections). We've had a couple of bad experiences on the last several cruises with dining mates and waiters, so we've chosen to avoid the main dining rooms, besides they take too long and you spend too much of your vacation waiting on waiters. The food in the windjammer is of good quality and varies every day, lots of good salads and fruit, they can keep the sushi. The staff there is always happy to see someone and you can get lots of good conversations and information from this staff with a little friendly effort on your part. Serenade of the Seas ratings; Cruise director.....A Cruise Staff.........A Cabin Att............A+ Dining...............B Entertainment......B Tendering...........A Only one small problem kept arising and RCI is not at fault. There were just too many unsupervised children running the ship at all times. One even wandered into the casino into the area even adults are not allowed...behind the dealers. At dinner and breakfast we were always trying to find a quiet place to eat and it would never fail here's mom dad and little Johnny noise maker choosing to sit next to us. It would be ok if the parents instilled a little discipline in the kids teaching them how to act in public. Better get off this! First Day - At sea Tons of whales to watch for, the little ones are really fast and exciting to see for the first time. Second Day - Tracy Arm Fiord We got lucky today, sunshine weather and we got to see both sides of the Sawyer glacier thanks to our great captain. The second side which very few ships get to go to we actually saw the glacier cave in causing a charter boat to scurry away at the site, don't blame them. Third day - Icy Strait Point I have to admit, I was not sure going in what to expect from ISP, but we enjoyed a good hike to the town and another later in the day around the beach/zip liner area. NOTE...tours were not considered great and overpriced, the area's just getting started as a tourist destination, the people are very friendly though. Fourth Day - Skagway We took the train ride up to the mountain pass and back, for those that have never been before or never been to like Colorado or Utah train rides it is a good tour. For those that have been on tours like Salida Colorado , you can use the time for other things. We ate lunch back on the ship and went on an excursion booked a hike/float trip outside the ship through southwest tours a local agency in Skagway for $85pp, considerably less than the ship's price and we got a private float/hike. On the hike portion is where we got the thrill of a lifetime, not my wife's version. While hiking and observing nature we stumbled onto a brown bear eating salmon, we surprised him and he definitely surprised us. Our guide handled it coolly but did as she said pull her bear spray and pin out for the first time ever. This was her first real encounter for the year and the years almost over. We waited and made noise thinking that the bear had moved on we proceeded only to find he hadn't, we just kept making noise and got the heck out of there. We took the float portion back to near Skagway and a trip back to the ship with a story of a lifetime. Fifth Day - Juneau We took a float plane rid on Wings Air that was just great, you got to see plenty of the glaciers and wildlife areas around Juneau and the employees were great. I'd like to thank the 3 helicopter agencies in Juneau that charge 1.5 times the normal rate for a ride on their copters for turning me down. For those that don't know the chopper agencies all charge 1.5 times the price for someone over 250lbs or more, I'm a weightlifter in great shape for my age but 5lbs over their max allotment and not willing to diet on a cruise. I wrote e-mails to all 3 agency's and got a response from only one. They stand hard; even though my wife only weighs 100lbs they wouldn't budge on me or combine our weights like agencies did in Hawaii earlier this year. Anyway thanks, I had a great time on the floatplane and saved $$$. The Sixth Day - at sea Nice relaxing day to do all the things we wanted but didn't have the time to do, I love sea days. Packed late in the afternoon and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Seventh Day - Debarkation We left the ship at 7:30am for an early departure just as scheduled. Took Quickshuttle $35pp (bus service) back to Seattle for an early flight out the next morning. QS was a good experience, the driver makes stops so sitting for 3-4 hrs was not a hassle. The trip through customs went a little slower because we had New Zelanders on the bus entering the USA for the first time. Stayed ay Hilton Airport for the final night, eat out before you settle in for the evening. Delivery fees to the hotel and prices in general in Seattle are murder as far as eating goes. Great ship, great crew, great trip.... Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of ... Read More
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of Vancouver, BC. This turned out to be a great choice, as it gave us plenty of opportunities to see the beautiful landscapes of Alaskan shorelines. Embarkation was a breeze. We actually arrived in Vancouver early on the day of sailing, so we checked all of our luggage in with RCCL's airport transfer point, then jumped on the newly-opened Skytrain into downtown Vancouver for a bit of sight-seeing before boarding the ship. RCCL's port was a short taxi ride from downtown Vancouver, and once arriving there, it took only a few minutes to get through registration and onboard. We had booked our excursions online prior to the sailing date, so we had the afternoon free to explore the ship, get a workout in, and get to meet fellow passengers. We did manage to change from late to early dining, as "My Time" dining slots were all full. The ship is magnificent. There were a few places that were under repair, but other than that, everything was in great shape! This was our second cruise with RCCL, the first being on the Navigator of the Seas, so we found the ship a bit smaller, but still plenty to do and easy to find your way around. The staff was terrific. The Cruise Director, Dennis, was so full of energy and vivacious, we really enjoyed him. The dining room staff was always on top of things (our waiter & asst. were Melroy & Melissa). Our cabin steward, Rommel, was the best! Unfortunately, his contract is up and he & his wife are heading home to the Philippines, but you may see them again next year! We had heard that the prior sailings had been plagued by rain, but had beautiful weather all week. In fact, on the day we sailed Tracy Arm Fjord, the weather was so great that we were able to sail up a usually-closed arm and see both sides of Sawyer Glacier...an opportunity which the Captain said he had only been able to do only 3 times on the Serenade. It was magnificent! To see a ship this size navigate through that narrow fjord makes you marvel at the technology of cruise ships and the expertise of the crew! The glacier was an amazing site, as well as Icy Falls. Our ports were Icy Strait Point, Skagway and Juneau. We hired a private charter in ISP to go whale watching (Dream Fish Alaska). This was a great adventure, being on a small fishing boat rather than a big, crowded tour boat. Frank, our captain, was able to get us up close and personal to several humpback whales, despite a thick fog. This was Frank's last season in ISP, however. If interested in a similar excursion, check out F.I.S.H.E.S. Whatever you do, definitely try some halibut pizza while in Hoonah...it's the best! (And sidenote...Frank may be leaving ISP, but is moving to eastern Washington, so if you have a trip planned there and want a hunting/fishing guide, try to find Frank Byrd!) Didn't do any excursions in Skagway, although everyone said the White Pass Railway was well worth it. We shopped around and hiked up to Lower Dewey Lake. It's an easy uphill hike to the lake, with 3 other trails available even farther up the mountain. If you are an avid hiker, make sure to do the trek around the lakes, as they provide more technical terrain. Juneau was our best excursion choice. We booked a helicopter glacier trek through the cruiseline. This was a 30 minute helicopter ride up onto the flow line of Mendenhall Glacier, followed by a 2 hour trek on the glacier itself. You cannot imagine how amazing this was...words cannot describe it! To be on a glacier, see how blue the ice is, and experience it first hand, is something everyone needs to put on their bucket list of things to do. The company was North Star Trekking, our guide was Amanda, and all were first rate! The only negative we would have from the entire cruise would be a lack of variety in the food. They offered the same choices for room service daily (we ate breakfast via room service),and had the same selections available in Windjammer for lunch each day. It would have been nice to see some other options available. All in all, it was a great cruise, a fantastic choice for a vacation, and worth every penny. Note: The Serenade will not be returning to Alaska, but I'm sure any other RCCL cruise would be just as great! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was my second cruise on this itinerary and on this ship. This trip was planned last year on AOS, after having met a group of people from Cruise Critic that "clicked" and decided to sail together again. We now have about 14 ... Read More
This was my second cruise on this itinerary and on this ship. This trip was planned last year on AOS, after having met a group of people from Cruise Critic that "clicked" and decided to sail together again. We now have about 14 sailing together again next year! We headed over to the Pan Am pier at about 11:30 a.m. on day of embarkation. The line wasn't very long and moved quickly. At most, we were outside in line for five minutes. Once inside, being Diamond C&A members, we headed over to the priority check-in. We were checked in within minutes. On to the ship! Since it was before 1:00, the rooms were not yet ready. We headed up to the Windjammer, which was not busy at all (yet). We took our time having a bit of lunch (I still don't get what the big deal about the honey stung chicken is) and promptly at 1:00 headed to our cabins. After a tour of our friends' cabins (owner's suite and HC accessible) we arrived at D1 cabin 9092. I booked this particular cabin because it's on the hump and has an extended balcony. It was also just one flight down from the Concierge Lounge, making morning coffee runs very convenient. In any case, the room was clean and the beds were apart, as requested. Our cabin attendant, Veronica, was knocking on the door within minutes of our arrival. Throughout the week, Veronica was upbeat and friendly, and took wonderful care of us and our cabin. The balcony on this cabin is awesome. We had two lounge chairs and two regular chairs, along with a small table, and still had room. There was plenty of storage space. We did not have chocolates on our pillows all week, which didn't bother me, but we did have towel animals all but the first night. Because some members of our group prefer early seating and others prefer late, we compromised and signed up for My Time Dining. I went down the first afternoon and scheduled a table for 6 for 6:30 that evening, since Muster was at 8:00. At the same time, I set up reservations for the remainder of the week for 6:45. This could be changed at any time, but we had decided that this time would suit us all. We did actually move to a table for 8 as a couple from our roll call was dining at the same time. They joined us for the rest of the week. We had the same wait staff, Christina & Kevin, all week. They were fabulous. Kevin learned day one about my savory bites addiction and kept me well stocked. Drink preferences were noted and managed perfectly all week. Christina was a delight and managed taking care of multiple tables and hostessing with aplomb. Service was a bit slow the first night, but was well paced the rest of the week. I would definitely do MTD again on future cruises. It quickly became our habit, once back on board from the ports, to meet up in the Concierge Lounge for pre-dinner drinks. Happy Hour for this sailing was held in Hollywood Odyssey, as the number of suite guests and Diamond/Diamond+ members exceeded the space constraints of the regular CL. Our Concierge was Kenneth and he was great. I can't compare to previous cruises, as this was my first experience. I can state that future concierges will have a lot to live up to. Also, kudos to Alok in Hollywood Odyssey, who was our bartender during our time in the lounge. He is an asset to Royal Caribbean. Entertainment, what I saw of it, was very good. I only attended the two non-production shows. Judy Kolba (sp) is highly entertaining and full of energy. The other entertainer was an Elton John impersonator, for lack of better description, and was outstanding. I'm not a fan of production shows, so I did not attend any. The Love & Marriage show left a bit to be desired. I've found that the success of this show relies as much, if not more, on the contestants as it does the Cruise Director. Quest was hilarious, as always. Speaking of Cruise Directors, ours was Dennis Charles. Who, you ask? In searching Cruise Critic upon our return, Dennis Charles is Dennis Sciortino. Not sure why the name change. Whatever his real name, he was awesome. In 15 cruises (10 prior on RCI), I had never met the CD. We happened to chat with Dennis on night two and almost every night thereafter. He was very personable, outgoing and charming. And he has a great sense of humor, without the cheese factor. He was very visible, always out and about among the guests. Definitely would like to see him on a future cruise. Finally, I was very pleased with almost every meal I had on board in the main dining room. One evening my steak was too raw, but really that's the only complaint I had. I stayed away from desserts, but this is one area the RCI really needs to improve. We did dine in both Portfino and Chops. The service and the meals in both rate as perfection. As I have been to all these islands before, I did not do any ships excursions. This was a truly wonderful, memorable cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
I flew from Atlanta to San Juan and after a repair was made to the right engine on my Delta flight, we arrived 1 1/2 hours late but safe. A taxi ride to the Pan American pier and a 15 minute embarkation, creation of Sea Passes to board the ... Read More
I flew from Atlanta to San Juan and after a repair was made to the right engine on my Delta flight, we arrived 1 1/2 hours late but safe. A taxi ride to the Pan American pier and a 15 minute embarkation, creation of Sea Passes to board the ship and we were off to the Windjammer for lunch. There were ample choices, great tasting snacks and free lemonade that hit the spot. There were great desserts as well. I then went off to my Junior Suite 1038 and it was nearly 300 sq feet and very comfortable. There was a noticeable odor in the hallway and in my bathroom as others have posted before. This was brought to management's attention and it took 3 days to eradicate but they did apologize and offer a credit for future travel. The first night was casual and we ate in the Reflections and met a younger couple from Reston,Va who were extremely pleased as well with the dinner offerings. There were excellent appetizers, main courses and desserts. We are big restaurant goers in atlanta and the choices and quality and taste were excellent. Anyone that complains really is being too damn picky. The first port was St Thomas and we took a ferry to St John to visit Trunk Bay was amazing. We had to taxi over to ferry and while this was a bit annoying, it was a nice beach with beautiful sand and clear water.... The second day we went to St Maarten and taxied over to Orient Beach. There were so many choices where to sit, get chairs and umbrellas and it rained on and off a few times, but it was a pretty beach. Some Nudity and certainly some people should have never removed their closes.... The 3rd day we went to Antiqua and visited Runaway Beach that was really nice, very close and had great drinks...Have an Antiqua Smile.... The 4th day we went to St Lucia, visited the Pitons and Anse Chastanet, the beach is not very nice even though the snorkeling was ok. The beach bar was a rip off...T Shirts were $45 and burgers were $18....They need a reality check at this island.... The 5th day we went to Barbados and the shopping downtown was great and the walk to the Boatyard beach was 10 minutes...It was a very nice beach that was for mostly young people with great bar and great prices on drinks food towels chairs etc.... The 6th day we were at sea and the only time that the boat appeared crowded with 2000 guests....It was still a very pleasant day at sea with great weather Summary: The food, service and casino were all a great deal of fun and an excellent experience. I am already planning for my next RCL cruise....I think once they figure out how to clean their waste system on the boat more effectively, this boat gets 5 1/2 starts vs the 4 1/2 that I give it now Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Our first cruise was an absolutely wonderful experience! We always had plenty of things to do, from hitting the casino to hanging out at the pool to special events like short trivia challenges and longer Broadway shows. We stayed busy at ... Read More
Our first cruise was an absolutely wonderful experience! We always had plenty of things to do, from hitting the casino to hanging out at the pool to special events like short trivia challenges and longer Broadway shows. We stayed busy at each port exploring the different islands, but our time on the ship was jam-packed as well! A typical day for us would look like this: -early morning workout as the ship rolls into port (only 3 or so days did we get up for this!) -breakfast at the Windjammer buffet - so many options and actually decent food! -off to the island for whatever excursion or plans we had set -back to the ship around 4 or 5, grab a few drinks at the pool before cleaning up back at the room -early evening relaxing in our room or wandering the ship if we were going to seated dinner at 830 -if not doing seated dinner, grabbing some dinner or snack food at Windjammer -cathing a show in the Theatre, watching a game at the Pit Stop sports bar, going to an event like the bartenders' flair show or a trivia game, listening to live musicians, etc. -crashing between 11 and midnight to get ready for the next day's adventure! We really tried to explore all the different areas of the ship and see all it offered. Each day through till the end we would discover something new to do or see! We were worried about eating with 4 other couples who were strangers, and only ate at the restaurant about 4 nights, but it was good company. Food, good, not great. The advantage there was that you got served specific portions. We probably liked having a wide selection at the Windjammer better, and for a buffet it was pretty darn good food. Except with a buffet you eat TOO MUCH - ALL THE TIME! It was hard (for me at least) to control my portions. We didn't feel the need to pay extra to go to Chops or Portofino. The midnight buffet on one evening was not great food-wise, but the atmosphere and event was kinda neat. I'd just plan on eating earlier and then going for the atmosphere. Our balcony stateroom was small compared to a normal hotel room, but you're on a ship - what do you expect? I thought it was pretty good sized for us. The shower is the only thing I would really call small. Definitely get at least a balcony though, it's worth it to have the extra space, serenity, and views. We kept the sliding door open somewhat each night to hear the sounds of the ocean - awesome! Only drawback - if you're near smokers, you'll get their smoke. I made this comment to the cruise line, suggesting to put smokers on one side of the boat and nonsmokers on the other. ***The main thing my husband and I realized was that your impression of each port will be determined by what you do. For example, on the islands we did a planned excursion, we had a great time but only saw the "nice" parts of the island. On days where we either rented our own car or just bombed around, we got to see more on our own and had a more realistic impression of what the island was like (including seeing a lot of poverty). It's a trade-off - either pay and see the best, or go on your own and see both best and worst. But with 5 ports, we didn't want to pay for a big excursion each day, so we just took it easy on a few of them. Either way, get off the boat and take in the uniqueness of each port; the boat will always be there when you're finished ready to keep you rolling in the fun. I really must emphasize how professional, courteous, warm, and fun all the staff on our cruise ship was - from our stateroom attendant to the bartenders (all except 1 at the pool bar who always seemed to be in a bad mood) to the Cruise Director - he was awesome! Take lots of souvenirs and read the Compass each day to know what your options are - they are vast and most of them well worth attending! We spent a LOT more money than originally planned, but that's because we're boozers and spent an average of $50 in drinks each day, just on the boat. But it's vacation, right? We don't plan on taking another cruise for quite awhile, but when we do, I would pick Royal Caribbean in a heartbeat. I miss being on the ship! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Serenade of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 5.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.9
Enrichment 1.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

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