151 Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Romantic Cruise Reviews

We boarded our cruise about 11am and with no difficulty.my husband walks with a stick and we were brought to the disability check in and got on the ship within five minutes. We had a look around and went for lunch. We ate all our food in ... Read More
We boarded our cruise about 11am and with no difficulty.my husband walks with a stick and we were brought to the disability check in and got on the ship within five minutes. We had a look around and went for lunch. We ate all our food in the Windjammer, except on the 1st formal night. The food in the main dining room was cold and not a good choice. The Windjammer had a big selection and the choices were excellent. The only complaint was not with the food but the waiters were slow in clearing the tables and only rarely asked if you would like something to drink. Our cabin was ready by one pm and our cases arrived shortly after that. We had a great cabin attendant. The shows were good(except the last night as it was not to our taste) the music and entertainment in the Centrum was excellant. We also enjoyed the entertainment in the Safarie Club. We had booked three excursions with the ship and the rest we did on our own. We wanted to stay on the ship until 2.30 on our last day. We were told that was ok but it was changed by the middle of the cruise and we were told it was not available and more. Lots of people were disappointed. We left the ship at nine am and again express check out. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Introduction: Let me start by providing brief introduction of my husband and myself so that readers can understand our perspective. I am 24 years old and my husband is 25. We have been married for a year and a half and are from Southern ... Read More
Introduction: Let me start by providing brief introduction of my husband and myself so that readers can understand our perspective. I am 24 years old and my husband is 25. We have been married for a year and a half and are from Southern California, specifically Los Angeles. Although we are young, we have traveled much of the world on and off cruises and have previously traveled on (and greatly enjoyed) RCI before. With regard to this trip, we had already visited time visiting Rome, Florence, and Pisa on a previous trip to Europe. We do NOT go on the cruise ship's excursions, but instead explore the cities on our own or with our own guide that we have found. Barcelona: We began our 10 day Western Mediterranean Cruise from Barcelona. My husband and I arrived in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise departure. We found a "flat" in the La Rambla area of Barcelona on www.airbnb.com. We really enjoyed staying in the apartment and found it to be a very affordable and practical place to stay. We had a 2 bed/1 bath apartment with a full kitchen and washer/dryer. We would highly recommend it. Our first night in Barcelona was spent walking up and down the great street of La Rambla. It was beautifully decorated for the holidays with lights in the trees. The area was fun and exciting with plenty of restaurants and shops lining the streets. We enjoyed delicious chocolate and churros at Cafe de la Opera- and HIGHLY recommend it! Our second day in Barcelona was spent exploring Barcelona. We walked all over the city and had a wonderful time exploring all of the fascinating architectural works of Gaudi. After a long, full day of exploration, we were excited to board the ship in the morning. Embarkation & the Ship: We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 2pm. The line was not too bad, as check-in had already begun about an hour before. The process was painless and straight-forward. We had brought on 2 bottles of wine (highly recommended as the ship's wine selection is limited and VERY expensive). Once we were aboard the ship, we were able to go straight to our rooms and drop off our coats and my bag. It was very nice to have the rooms ready, instead of being kept in the public areas and waiting. The ship had JUST come out of dry dock and had only been on a 4 day cruise before we boarded. Our balcony room was large (for a cruise ship), the bed was comfortable, the shower & bathroom was clean, and the balcony was fantastic. We were on the 7th floor (room 7534) near the front of the ship. We were unaware beforehand, however, our balcony was MUCH larger than the rest of the balconies- it was a fantastic surprise! Overall, the food was very good. We had the "My Time Dining" option, which was perfect for us. We made reservations on the first day for 6:30 and kept that time for the rest of the trip, however, if we returned to the ship late, we could call in and push our reservation back. We were able to keep our same waiters (Melroy and Cesar) whom we LOVED and provided us with EXCELLENT service. The My Time Dining is a great option and the way that RCI implemented it was great- we never had to wait in line or miss our dining due to being off of the ship on an excursion. The only complaint that my husband had regarding the food was that lobster tail was not served or offered during the 10 day cruise. We asked our waiter why this was, and he explained that lobster was not offered on the European RCI cruises because of the lack of interest from previous cruisers. The ship itself was in great condition (having just been modernized during its time in dry dock). The way they utilized the centrum was great- we have never experienced such a creative use of that space before. The Solarium was relaxing and the salad bar in there was very good. We loved the touch screens on every floor by the elevators that could show what was currently happening on the ship (entertainment), what was on the menu for dinner, and where anything on the ship was located (great addition!). We ate at 2 of the specialty restaurants Izumi (sushi) and Chop Steak House. Chop was delicious and well worth the $30/person charge. Coming from California, we are pretty pretentious sushi eaters and were not impressed by Izumi. The fish quality and quantity was not good, although it may be acceptable for those not used to the same quality. We were hoping it would be the same quality as Oceania, but unfortunately, it wasn't even close. As for the on board entertainment, we were extremely disappointed. The singers and dancers were below par compared to other cruise lines we have recently traveled (i.e. Carnival). We did enjoy the magician and thought that he was BY far the best act of the entire 10 day venture. We do understand that we, being as young as we are, are in the minority, however, the entertainment was CLEARLY aimed for an older crowd with no alternative form of entertainment. On Carnival, in comparison, we GREATLY enjoyed their nightly comedy in their Punchliner comedy club. However, on RCI, throughout the whole 10 day cruise, there was NO comedy at all. The service on board has been topnotch. The ship is clean and the staff are friendly and helpful. We would happily sail on RCI again. Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands: We did not have anything specific planned for this port, however, we enjoyed exploring the city, castle, and cathedral. We got off the ship at about 9am, and because it is a small city and we had done and seen everything by the early afternoon (3pm). There is not much to report here, as there was not much do to. Valletta, Malta: Again, we did not have any specific plans for this port, however, we walked around the city, saw the beautiful views, and charming European style alleyways, buildings, and shops. Again, we left the ship at 9am and were done with our exploration of the whole city by 3pm. Messina, Sicily: Again, we did not have any specific plans for this port, however, we later found out that visiting Torumena was a popular and enjoyable spot to visit. We ventured around the city of Messina (although it was our one day of rain). We went on a small tour of the city on one of the little local tour trams (which was pretty much a waste of time). Overall, we did have a nice day exploring Messina, although it is not as quaint as Valletta or Palma and is much more of a big, busy city. Naples: After previous warning of Naples, we hopped on a train as soon as we arrived and headed towards Pompeii. Naples is a big city with a relatively high crime rate. There are many "creepy" people lining the streets and it is best to head out of the city and go to one of the many neighboring areas. However, it is not so easy to navigate the public transportation system in order to get to the train and my husband and I luckily hopped on the right bus that led us to the station. Once at the station we were able to buy our ticket to Pompeii with no problem and headed out. Pompeii was amazing. Be warned there are 2 places to purchase the audio guide- one when you get off the train and one in the ruins where you purchase your ticket (Advice: be sure to purchase the audio guide at the one IN the ruins as we've heard it's better). Pompeii is a MUST see. This vast city is in ruins, but it is HUGE and incredible. The audio guide was OK, but we were often confused at what we were looking at. If we had to do it again, we probably would try to hire a guide for a couple hours. We heard a lot has changed over the years and they have blocked some of the areas to see. Furthermore, it was VERY VERY crowded. We were shocked at how many people were actually there. It has almost become too commercialized as they even have a small pizza and souvenir shop RIGHT in the middle of the ruins by the forum; however, it was well worth every penny to visit as it's still an amazing site to see. Once we were through with Pompeii we purchased another ticket and headed further south to Sorrento. This small town was beautiful. We loved it. We had incredible food at Ristorante Pizzeria Giardiniello Enoteca. This place is a MUST. It is a small, family owned, family run restaurant with all homemade food. It really is the quintessential, stereotypical Italian restaurant. One word: Phenomenal. It is one of the things we will truly remember from this trip -- it is THAT good. After lunch we walked around a bit more then caught the train back to Naples and shared a cab with 2 couples to get back to the ship. Overall, great day. Rome/Civitivecchia (2 day stop): On our first day we had plans to go to Orvieto. I had read on Tripadvisor.com that this was a great place to take a day trip from Rome. However, I did not take into account that the trip from Civitivecchia to Rome by train is 90 minutes and then another 90+ minutes to get from Rome to Orvieto. Totaling 6 hours on trains. We tried very hard to make it to Orvieto, however Roma termini is extremely difficult to navigate, even for experienced travelers. We somehow missed our train even though we were at the platform it was supposed to arrive at 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after its supposed arrival/departure. After missing our train we decided to make the most of our day and explore Rome again. We had been in Rome 2 years ago, but how could you not see the Coliseum again!? We walked the entire city the rest of the afternoon and ended up having a great day and were exhausted when we caught the train back to the ship. PS there is a shuttle that will take you from the end of the port to your ship- it is about a 1 mile walk- we did the walk the first morning when we did not realize how long it would take. On our second day, we decided to try to see a smaller town, as we had seen the big city. Therefore, we decided to tempt our fait again, but this time with the hope of getting to Anguillara, a small town bordering the Lake Bracciano. This time, we did make it there, after a 120 minute train ride with a transfer of trains at the St. Peter's Basilica station. The lake was very pretty, but the town was all closed down for the most part. It was a very quaint little town, but we suspected that because this was the off time of travel, that most of the shops and restaurants had closed for the winter. We assumed that it would be a great place to visit in the summer. We did enjoy our walk along the lake, as it was very peaceful, and nice to get away from the big city and common "tours." Livorno/Tuscan Wine Country/Pisa/Florence: As stated previously, my husband and I had already visited Pisa and Florence and although we LOVED Florence and laugh at our pictures with the leaning tower, we did not need to see those sites again. Instead, prior to leaving LA, we booked a Wine Tasting Tour with Alessandro Cammili (see www.alessandrocammilli.com ; alecamma@hotmail.com ; +39 339 6441133). This tour with Alessandro was probably the highlight of our trip. Alessandro was professional, kind, friendly, knowledgeable, funny, and easy to talk to. He picked us up at 8:30 in the morning from the ship and we were on our way to explore the Tuscan wine country. Initially, he asked if we wanted to go see Florence/Pisa on the way/way back from Tuscany, but since we have already seen these two cities, we decided to just enjoy Tuscany. It was about an hour drive from Livorno on an incredibly scenic route with a brief history and education on the wines from the region by Alessandro. Our first stop was a castle at the top of Tuscany where we enjoyed a tasting of traditional Chianti Classico wine. Then, our favorite stop, was at Fattoria Di Montagliari (www.montagliara.com) with Alessandro. We received an amazing private tour of the winery BY ALESSANDRO, met the winemaker himself, and learned about the history of the winery. Additionally, Alessandro was able to give us a tour AND taste of the oil and balsamic vinegar. Alessandro was the person that gave us the tasting, walked us around the property, and even poured us all of the wines in the tasting and he knew what he was talking about and knew the owners and workers at the winery. His involvement in the experience was welcomed by us and by the winery. We've visited many wineries and experienced plenty of tastings from Napa and Temecula, but we have never had such a memorable, behind the scenes experience like Alessandro was able to provide. I cannot recommend him enough. Even if you have never seen Florence/Pisa, I would advise hiring Alessandro to help plan your day. He can take you wherever you want to go and will ensure you have a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We arrived in Barcelona 2 days ahead of the cruise. Stayed at the Hotel Continental Barcelona. Very nice and centrally located. Boarding the ship on Monday was very well organized and we were on board within minutes of check-in. Our ... Read More
We arrived in Barcelona 2 days ahead of the cruise. Stayed at the Hotel Continental Barcelona. Very nice and centrally located. Boarding the ship on Monday was very well organized and we were on board within minutes of check-in. Our cabin was on deck 7 fwd. Excellent service provided by James 'Mr. Bond' from Costa Rica. My Time Dining worked out well and we were well cared for by Sathish and Milan. Stephanie was a pleasure to work with in setting up dining times. Food throughout the ship was very good and we especially enjoyed one night at Chop's Steakhouse. We ordered breakfast in bed twice and Room Service was prompt and food was hot. We found the Schooner Bar to be a great meeting place and we were entertained by Cresente (Chris) with card tricks and bar puzzles. Windel at the Sky Bar and Deel at the Pool Bar kept us well refreshed. The evening shows were good but we didn't see most of them due to full days of sight-seeing. This is a port intensive cruise and we enjoyed every port of call. Tendered in Cannes and Split, but this did not cause any problems with meeting tours ashore on time. We took private tours in groups of 8 with Riviera Premium Tours in Cannes, Tuscany Taste Tour in Pisa/Florence and Rome, and AP Tours in Salerno for our Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast. I would highly recommend them all but ESPECIALLY Tuscan Taste Tour. Venice, Ravenna and Split are easily done without a paid tour. Disembarkation was as easy as getting on the ship and we were at the airport by 0830. Taxi cost 23 Euro. This was a super cruise, great people, and excellent crew and staff. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Background Information: My wife and I decided to try a 12 Day "Royal Caribbean" Mediterranean Cruise for our first cruising experience. RCL came highly recommended by friends and family. Ship Info: The Serenade is 9 years ... Read More
Background Information: My wife and I decided to try a 12 Day "Royal Caribbean" Mediterranean Cruise for our first cruising experience. RCL came highly recommended by friends and family. Ship Info: The Serenade is 9 years old but doesn't show her age at all. The Crew make sure everything is spic and span and in ship shape :) She goes into Dry Dock in November for some refurbishments etc. Activities: For a mid sized ship, the Serenade had lots to see and do on board for people of all ages. We spent most of our time on deck, by the pool or in the cinema. The shops are good as well. Service: The service on the ship was Exemplary! From our Stateroom attendant to our servers and Guest Relations staff; each one did more than asked of them, to make our trip really great. Port & Shore Excursions: We did 3 shore excursions with RCL and 3 with third party providers. One word of advice. Go with the 3rd party providers... We somehow felt like cattle with the ship excursions. Thought they were very nice, we didn't see half as much with the RCL excursions. Third party ones like Romeinlimo were fantastic! Oscar, Oscar, Oscar: On the 7th night, at 4:30am, the Captain blared on the ships announcement system that we had a man overboard. We later learned that it was a crew member. The ship stopped, turned around and the emergency rescue team deployed rescue rings and boats immediately. We searched for 12 hours but to no avail. We lost a day in Venice because of this. It was a very sad event and our thoughts go out to the crew members family. Embarkation: was very smooth. They took our passports and gave us receipt tokens, to be used to get back the passports at the end of the cruise. That's the only thing that took time to process. Stateroom: The room was 170 sq ft. Small. But had enough storage, nooks and crannys to store all our clothes and luggage. The bathrooms are microscopic, but I believe that's the norm on all cruise ships. Dining: Excellent food and service in the main dining room. Windjammer was crowded and I felt the quality a bit diminished. It always took us a minute or so to find an available table. Staff were quick to clear old plates and clean tables for us. Entertainment: Sub par, except for this stand up magician who was fantastic! Disembarkation: No issues at all. We were off the ship in 15 mins. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Embarkation: Taxi from the airport to the ship in Barcelona will run you about 35 euro, its about 15 min drive. Arrived at port at 1230, plenty of porters outside and greeted by several available RCI reps after going through a maze of ... Read More
Embarkation: Taxi from the airport to the ship in Barcelona will run you about 35 euro, its about 15 min drive. Arrived at port at 1230, plenty of porters outside and greeted by several available RCI reps after going through a maze of empty lines divided up by Crown and Anchor levels. After receiving our ship cards there was a few duty free shops inside the terminal. Be aware that duty free liquor purchased here cannot be brought onto the ship, it will be confiscated. Ship overall impression: The ship is in good condition and is kept very clean per usual by RCI. The staff seemed nice and friendly but were nothing to write home about. Needed a corkscrew one night and had some trouble getting one. Entertainment quantity i felt was lacking but understandable with a port intensive itinerary. I did not attend any of the main shows but heard good things about them. Stateroom: E1 balcony room was decent size with plenty of storage for 2. Tight shower but it is a plastic tube enclosure which is an improvement over a curtain. Room furniture had very some wear such as worn legs, tarnished metals, stained drawer bottoms, tired deflated couch. Bed was comfortable with nice fresh looking linens and plenty of pillows. Food: Windjammer offered a good and varied selection of foods every day. Food was hot and plentiful. Ice cream machine located in the back left corner. Outdoor seating aft is great. Solarium cafe offers good wraps and fresh pizza, both were good. Main dining room for us provided excellent service, decent menu selection. Food was always hot and quality was great. We ate in chops once, steak was excellent and cooked to perfection! Sides were enormous and great as well. Service was impeccable as usual with all the attention you can handle from your server without being overbearing. Seaview cafe was great as well, cuban sandwich, chicken wings, chips and salsa, brownie were all delicious and cooked to order. We used it for late night snacks, they are open till 1am. Ports: Great choice of itinerary, Dubrovnik was beautiful. Ravenna was a beach day for us. Took advantage of the overnight in Venice and stayed out late and went to dinner, i would recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
As most know, Serenade is headed for the Mediterranean in April, so she is in her last few laps of the Caribbean for awhile. As well, she is slated for some refitting later in the year. The ship itself is showing her age and use. We were ... Read More
As most know, Serenade is headed for the Mediterranean in April, so she is in her last few laps of the Caribbean for awhile. As well, she is slated for some refitting later in the year. The ship itself is showing her age and use. We were in JS 1100 at the aft of the ship. A very nice cabin with a large balcony. The bath door had been damaged and it appeared they had simply taped over the damaged area below the door handle. The balcony furniture was VERY worn and soiled and in need of replacement. Paint residue was all over the glass below the deck railing, carpet was worn etc. I found two of the treadmills in the fitness center to be non-functioning, and actually fewer pieces of equipment than on our last visit 2 or 3 years ago. Towels and other necessities showed a lot of age. Our cabin attendant was super. Always cheerful and ready to provide whatever service was necessary or wanted. The food in the Windjammer was bland and tasteless for the most part. Most mornings found a Turkey breast at the carving station. I am probably showing my ignorance, but when did turkey breast become a staple at breakfast? The food and choices here were simply uninspiring. It would be nice to be able to say that the Main Dining Room saved the day with dinner choices, but that was not the case. We have cruised with RCL for the last 7 years, and for the most part, the dinner menu is unchanged. Perhaps one new item was added each evening, but that was almost always a Vitality meal. The portion sizes were smaller, which was a plus for us, perhaps not for others. We know it would be a huge undertaking to revamp the menu's, but it does appear change is necessary. Portofino was excellent as always, as was the wait staff. They are always attentive and helpful, which is much appreciated. The ship was well kept and clean, and of course we had the ever present warnings and hand sanitation for the norovirus. The crew was, on the whole, excellent and we found most to be cheerful and helpful. Alas, the entertainment was not up to par, they had 4 different comedy acts, which in itself would not have been too bad, had they all been funny. That was not the case. A few of them simply went thru the motions and gave the impression that the venue was beneath them. Sad but true. We had one bad excursion experience in Roseau, Dominica. We went tubing and to a waterfalls. Unfortunately there was NOTHING in the literature about the 1 hour and 40 minute bus ride to the river and another hour and 40 minutes back. The tubing itself was great, the bus ride was terrible. Always check when possible to see how much time you will spend traveling to and from the location. We did not and suffered the consequences, The weather was GREAT! Could not have asked for more. Sun and 80's every day. The boarding and departure were a piece of cake. The more we sail the better we get at it I suppose. Perhaps I am coming across as the ugly American here, but RCL is the one that has set the standards in the past. When they fail to meet the standard they establish it does call for some honesty.. This was not a deal breaker for us with RCL. We have booked for next year with them. Our previous adventures on Serenade had just been exceptional and it was difficult when the inevitable comparisons are made. I must say, they did a superb job with kid / young adult control. This was "spring break" (as if any cruise from January to May isn't), so the boat was absolutely loaded with youngsters. For the most part they were well behaved and orderly (thanks parents!!). Sad to see our old friend sailing to Europe. We hope the refit is a rejuvenating event, and that she will live up to her high standards. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
I am an avid "explore and conquer" type of vacationer, so always thought the cruising side would be too laid back, more like an all inclusive vacation where it was all sit around the pool getting drunk with several thousand ... Read More
I am an avid "explore and conquer" type of vacationer, so always thought the cruising side would be too laid back, more like an all inclusive vacation where it was all sit around the pool getting drunk with several thousand others doing the same thing and nothing else really going on. Boy was I wrong! With five islands to explore, as well as all of the ship activities, it was almost too much to take in. I was exhausted by the end (always a sign of a good vacation in my book... should need a vacation from the vacation by the time you get home!) I worried that the lines for embarking, disembarking, eating, etc. would be annoying and take away from the vacation experience. They have this down to a "T" on the Serenade, with very little waiting in line ever. Amazing how they can move this many people this quickly and keep the experience positive and far from feeling like a cattle call. The ship is very nice. Yes, there are a few places showing her age. Nothing compared to the hotels we stayed at in San Juan (but that is for a different review...) Overall, it's amazing how well she is taken care of and the continuous work to keep her in top shape. We enjoyed the shows and activities, the pool scene, the fitness center, and dancing the night away. Almost hated to leave to go see the islands, and always looked forward to coming back. She has turned me into a cruisaholic, and I'm looking forward to my next fix! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
The embarkation procedure in San Juan could not possibly have been smoother. Although as Diamond Members we have priority check in, we did not need it as there were only a few people waiting when we arrived. (People who have not cruised ... Read More
The embarkation procedure in San Juan could not possibly have been smoother. Although as Diamond Members we have priority check in, we did not need it as there were only a few people waiting when we arrived. (People who have not cruised before should be aware that it is customary to tip the baggage handlers who take the luggage at the port even though they only "carry" it a few feet.) This was our second trip on the Serenade of the Seas. We liked the ship so much last year that we booked it again for this year and we were not disappointed (with one exception which will be discussed later). The ship is kept spotlessly clean. Although there had recently been issues on another RC ship with Norovirus, we experienced no difficulties whatsoever (although I will also add that we were regular users of the purell stations - especially when we got on the ship after visiting a port. We also used the sanitizers outside the restaurants and Windjammer. ) (One suggestion would be to make this MANDATORY for the Windjammer since anyone who does NOT sanitize puts everyone at risk!) By coincidence we had the same room steward as we had last year. Not only did he remember us, but he welcomed us like family!!! It made our trip very special! We also met our restaurant server from last year and even though we were not seated at her station she would often come to check up on us! I am prone to motion sickness but the ship is generally very stable. We encountered weather that was not typical for the Caribbean in the spring (rain, storms, high seas) but the only time motion was an issue was the last night of the cruise when there were 5-7 foot waves. It was unusual even by the crew's standards. The food was very good (what we had expected!) - with lots of choices in the afternoon at the Windjammer. The cruiseline has become more sensitive to different dietary needs, so there are always lowfat or low carb options. We also enjoyed the "open" coffee and tea stations outside the Windjammer. The only 'glitch' as far as food goes in the availability of late night snacks. If you are hungry, you have to trek up to the one small cafe that is open after 9:30. It takes a lot of determination to find it and to get there and the selection is somewhat limited. The only other 'disappointment' was in the cruise director and staff. Last year, the cruise director was absolutely excellent. He MADE the trip -- great sense of humor and limitless energy! He remained at ALL events well beyond when the director normally departs and he seemed to really enjoy being around the passengers. The cruise director this year was not of the same caliber and we were disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
My boyfriend and I have each been on four cruises...one with Carnival, one on RCI's Adventure of the Seas, one on Freedom of the Seas, and this most recent one on Serenade of the Seas. This was my least favorite of the four. The ... Read More
My boyfriend and I have each been on four cruises...one with Carnival, one on RCI's Adventure of the Seas, one on Freedom of the Seas, and this most recent one on Serenade of the Seas. This was my least favorite of the four. The pros: Most of the staff were wonderful. Our waiter, Maya, was THE BEST!!! She was very friendly and seemed to truly want our dining experience to be top-notch. And the assitant waiter, Ramon, was very attentive. Our room steward, Marta, was great, and most of the staff we met was helpful and friendly. The cruise director, Mark, was funny and did a good job of providing fun activities. However he did say that his wife is expecting a baby in May, and after he takes some parental leave he will be joinging Monarch of the Seas. The itenerary was quite good. We joined the ship in St. Maarten. Having been there on two of our other cruises, we elected to spend three days there instead of boarding the ship on day one in San Juan. That meant we also missed the first stop, which was Tortola. The second stop was St. Maarten. The next day was St. Kitts, and then Dominica and Barbados. St. Kitts and Dominica were beautiful. We are not that fond of Barbados (we had been there on a prior cruise) and spent most of that day on the ship, enjoying the pool. The desserts in the dining room were wonderfully delicious. The cons: This ship is on the smaller side for RCI, and if you opt for My Time Dining, reservations are required. On Adventure and Freedom, we could just show up and get seated pretty quickly. On Serenade, we had to wait over a half an hour the first night we were on the ship and just showed up. On the second night, we made reservations but were five minutes late and we were "informed" (and I do mean "informed") that our table was given to someone else because the matre de thought we were not coming. Five minutes? Seriously? After that we made reservations and showed up a few minutes early to make sure we didn't end up in the buffet. The matre de was inexcusably rude. This was the exception to our experience with the rest of the staff. He apologized the first night for our long wait, but the remaining nights he was abrupt and did not offer any apology for giving up our reservation after only five minutes on the second night. I am actually going to write a letter to RCI regarding this experience. Main courses in the dining room were good, but not particularly memorable. Food in the buffet is decent, but predictable. We had fish and chips at the Seaview Cafe one afternoon. It was so-so. We had room service deliver our breakfast a couple of mornings, and it was quite good and the room service was on time. The staff seemed overly busy. Especially in the dining room, they didn't have time to stop and talk. One of things we have enjoyed on prior cruises was talking to staff about where they are from. I realize that they are working, but on Serenade they seemed to be practically running. There was a lot of cigarette smoking on this ship. I'm not sure if it is because it is a smaller ship or if there is some other reason, but the only place I ever smelled cigarette smoke on the other three cruises was in the casino. On Serenade there was a lot of smoke at the main pool and in most of the bars. The dance club (the Vortex) was just a dance floor that was part of a bar. The two times we stopped in there wasn't any music really playing. They did have some live music and dancing in the Centrum, but it was too small for the more popular events and we felt very crowded there. No Johnny Rockets :( Yes, we knew that when we booked the cruise, but we missed it anyway. No skating rink :( We knew that when we booked the cruise as well, but it was missed non-the-less. All-in-all, we will likely cruise again on Adventure of the Seas. Serenade was a bit boring after being on bigger ships, and the staff on Adventure was top-notch. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
This was the 4th cruise for my husband and I-- three with RCI and one on the Celebrity Solstice. This was our first time on the Southern Caribbean itinerary. Pre-Cruise We arrived in San Juan around 4:30pm on Thursday and decided to ... Read More
This was the 4th cruise for my husband and I-- three with RCI and one on the Celebrity Solstice. This was our first time on the Southern Caribbean itinerary. Pre-Cruise We arrived in San Juan around 4:30pm on Thursday and decided to cab to our hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel and Resort. It's about a $11 cab ride, plus $1 for each piece of luggage. I had won the hotel on Priceline. Check-in was fantastic and we were given a room on the 15th floor. The grounds of the hotel are very well taken care of, with a large pool area, swim-up bar, and 2 patios for drinks. You can also walk right out to the beach from the hotel. There is also a Ruth Chris' Steakhouse, Japanese, and Italian restaurant inside the hotel. To explore Old San Juan, there are 2 buses right outside the Intercontinental that drop you off in the centre of town. It costs $0.75 per person and takes about 40 minutes. We had no problems. There is a close by Walgreen's and many chain restaurants -- Chili's, Subway, a Mexican place, and a local restaurant called Metropol. Isla Verde is a fantastic place to stay, at night we felt very safe and there's a nice casino at the El San Juan Hotel. Embarkation We arrived at the Pan American Pier around 11:30am. Cost of a taxi from out hotel was $15. The area was very well organized. You are directed to the porters to drop off the luggage and then to stand in-line. Checking in and security was very fast. We were given our sea pass cards and were onboard shortly after 12:00pm. Stateroom Our balcony stateroom was on deck 7. Our cabin stewart, Rummell, did a fantastic job. He was able to get us bathrobes and made sure our cabin was in great condition. Reflections (Dining Room) We tried to eat breakfast in the dining room as often as possible. They always had a new feature everyday (e.g., Spanish omelette). Highlights included the grilled tomatoes, crispy bacon, and assorted pastries (cinnamon rolls). However, the watered-down orange juice and weak coffee were terrible. We always looked forward to dinner in the dining room. The service that our assistant waiter, Sunny, was outstanding. We made a special note of this on the customer survey. Some of the stand out dishes included the prime rib, escargot, seafood linguine, and shrimp cocktail. Lobster night was OK, we found the tails to be quite small; however, our waiter came around with a 2nd tail for the whole table before we were even finished! Desserts always stood-out -- recommendations include the lemon meringue pie, flourless chocolate cake, and cherries jubilee. The service in the dining room was consistently excellent! No complaints at all. Room Service A few mornings we ordered room service since our excursions began early. It always arrived promptly and we would receive a phone call prior to the delivery. Windjammer Buffet We snuck in here a few times to grab a quick bite. The layout was actually very nice and there was always a plentiful selection. We especially enjoyed the salad bar, pizza slices, and frozen yogurt stand. Seaview Cafe One of the best hidden secrets of the ship is the Seaview Cafe located on Deck 13. It has an old fashion soda bar feel to it and serves traditional pub fare, cooked to order. The Rueben sandwich is delicious, as well as the onion rings! It was never busy and the outdoor seating offers a great view. Ports of Call Grenada - We decided to have a quiet beach day. The taxi drivers at this port are quite aggressive so it's a good idea to know the costs ahead of time and be ready to negotiate. Luckily, we found 2 ship employees and shared a taxi to Grand Anse Beach ($20 one way). When we arrived, we were given a quick tour of the shops and then headed to the beach. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas to rent for $15. The beach is all white sand and turquoise water. Our only complaint was the number of people asking us about renting water sports equipment, hair braiding and beer/drinks. We left around 2:30pm to get back and have a late lunch on the ship. St.Lucia - We chose Spencer Ambrose's Beach Break ($80pp) to Jalousie for the day. Our group of eight met Spencer at the dock at 8:30am. We immediately took a high speed boat to the Pitons, which took about 45 minutes. It was a beautiful ride and when we arrived at the beach we were able to get prime seats under the umbrellas. We roamed freely around the Jalousie Beach Resort grounds. Throughout the day, Spencer brought us drinks (pop, water, beer, rum punch) and even a local, fresh cooked lunch on the beach. It started to get extremely busy in the afternoon so we were thankful for getting good seats. We left around 2:30pm and Spencer took us for a tour of Marigot Bay and showed us the famous homes of Madonna, Mick Jagger, and Oprah. This was our favourite port and would highly recommend Spencer Ambrose's tour. Antigua - Another quiet beach day for us. We took a cab to a very secluded location, Runaway Beach and negotiated a pick-up time. Cost was $11 one way. It's only about 10 minutes from the port and there's a bar there for drinks/food called Sandhaven Beach Bar. It's quite pricey though so if you don't have any snacks, be prepared to pay $14 for a hamburger and fries. Again, you can rent 2 chairs and an umbrella for around $15. There weren't that many hecklers at this beach, so we had a very relaxing day. There are 365 beaches in Antigua and many people went to Dickenson Bay. St.Croix -- Since we didn't have anything planned we decided to book a last minute ship excursion ~ Snorkeling at Buck Island. For the cost of the excursion, I highly recommend using Big Beard's or another provider. We left the ship at 12:30pm and it was a 30 minute drive to Christiansted. We then boarded a boat and it was another 40 minutes out to Buck Island. The sea was very rough that day (in fact, a few passengers were very, very sea sick). We were given about 1.5hr to snorkel and then had to return. The excursion was definitely not worth the money. St.Thomas - We decided to use RCI's excursion to St.John. It was incredibly easy and only took 45 minutes by boat from the ship. We were then free to roam and decided to take a taxi to Trunk Bay ($5 pp) which was absolutely breath-taking. There is also an entrance fee of $6pp. Afterwards, we came back into town and had lunch at a local deli --Deli Gratto's (delicious)! We shared a boat with the Marriott guests. Our boat left around 3:30pm, so we didn't have much time to go shopping. I would recommend using this mode of transportation to St.John. It cost only $40 and is a lot easier than trying to get to Red Hook ferry terminal. Entertainment We saw a variety of shows and comedians throughout the week. The shows that featured the Liberty singers and dancers were not that good; however, the guest appearances such as the comedian and Olympic gold medal gymnast was fantastic. Mark was our cruise director. He was outgoing and entertaining but not overbearing. Mark also didn't overly abuse the announcement system which was nice. We did attend the 70's disco party in the Atrium and his staff did a great job. The bands around the ship were also great. We played mini-putt once and it wasn't busy. The 9-hole course is located by the basketball nets and kid zone. The Captain's Gala was nice, as the champagne/rum drinks were plentiful. The casino was always busy in the evenings - when we went, we hit the 777 so we were happy with our luck. We visited the gym twice and never had to wait for a machine. It has several cardio machines and a nice weights area. Meet N'Mingle It was great to finally meet our CC group. The meeting took place during our Sea Day and we were provided drinks and fruit. We were also given a notepad set. The door prizes included a "Bingo" t-shirt, RCI cap, and a coffee mug. We did not receive the invite for the past guest party. We also did not receive the coupon book and had to ask guest relations for a copy. That was quite disappointing. Overall Impressions We thoroughly enjoyed the Southern Caribbean ports. During this cruise, we did find a major difference between RCI and Celebrity. On Celebrity, there is no tracking of towels on your sea pass, so there's no risk of being charged $25. Celebrity also does the welcome aboard champagne, has much better coffee/OJ, and overall, the entertainment is much better. We're not too picky, but did find all of the little things do make Celebrity more superior. Would we return to RCI? Of course -- it is reliable and service always exceeds our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I find it very easy to find fault with the hospitality industry. I was a meeting planner and have a gimlet eye when it comes to service and cleanliness. I could not find a thing wrong with Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Sea. The ... Read More
I find it very easy to find fault with the hospitality industry. I was a meeting planner and have a gimlet eye when it comes to service and cleanliness. I could not find a thing wrong with Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Sea. The ship is fantastically clean. It looks like no one has ever used the ship. The crew was always cleaning and repairing, but unobtrusively. Even the tables in the buffet were cleaned as soon as you put down a fork! The crew was friendly. We always received a greeting, even passing crew in the hallway. Waiters asked what you wanted to be called and remembered for the entire trip. Crew was willing to chat, but not 'in your face.' The itinerary was interesting, the usual Caribbean suspects, but the salt water pool in the Solarium kept our attention! No kids allowed and rarely used. Piped in bird sound made it feel like outside. The main pool was crowded with Alternative Rock blaring - and a great Caribbean band in the afternoon. It was a fun diversion from the quiet off the Solarium. Any complaint: overcharges, incorrect charges on a bill, were immediately taken care of. No problem was the standard answer to any request. They even gave me free Internet time when my boarding passes refused to print!Entertainment was okay. Comedian from Boston, magician, Broadway show tunes, vocal mimic - really something for everyone. Shows were broadcast on in ship TV after live show. Nice touch for people who go to bed early or just prefer their cabin! Met a third grader on the flight home who was on the cruise. He had a blast. All kids seemed to be having fun and very well behaved. Highly recommended for fussy people, neat freaks and those who demand great service. We will be sailing with Royal Caribbean again soon! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Just came back from our September 4, 2011 sailing from Puerto Rico to the Southern Caribbean (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curacao). We got married on September 1, 2011 and since we love cruising we figured hey, let's go to puerto ... Read More
Just came back from our September 4, 2011 sailing from Puerto Rico to the Southern Caribbean (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curacao). We got married on September 1, 2011 and since we love cruising we figured hey, let's go to puerto rico for a few days and then take a cruise around the caribbean. I really wanted to go to Aruba so this itinerary was perfect. Hubby agreed and off we went. Upon approaching the ship, my husband immediately noticed that the ship seemed rather small compared to cruises we have gone on before. I wanted to try a much smaller ship so I expected the ship size. We checked in pretty quickly and was off to the room and then to eat lunch. We were suprised that the room seemed small, but the balcony was adequate. We liked that the balcony was covered and we knew that we would spend a lot of time on the balcony. Our room was located in the forward part of the ship so we always had to walk past the swimming pools on the 11th deck to go to the Windjammer. We noticed that both the indoor and outdoor pool seemed nice but did not have a lot of people. But we thought that perhaps this was because it was still early and everyone didnt arrive as yet. The food in the windjammer was good. There were alot of options and everything we tried, we liked. Overall, we didnt prefer this cruise. On every cruise, I look forward to the shoes in the theater. There was a show every night and we only saw about 3 because they were horrible. So low budget, the siging was below average and it just wasent what we were used to or expected. The shows on Carnival and Princess are pretty good. Everytime we went to a show, we sat there, glanced back at each other and wondered why people actually clapped for the performance. By day 2 or 3 we noticed that we never saw the cruise director and didn't know who he or she was. Then, out of the blue, a british guy appears on the television station and then we realized oh, that is the cruise director. My husband loves competing in the pool games and basketball competitions. There were no real pool games except for "belly flop" and "sexiest man contest." They were ridiculous and often times, we combed through the cruise itineraries shaking our head by the lack of things to do. By day 5, the cruise director left early and then Mark, a short jamaican cruise director replaced him. Mark tried to engage the guests, but there was just something lacking. We found the staff on the cruise to be rather short and not always the most friendliest. We went to the movie theater once and found that the picture quality was horrible and they must of shown the Harry Potter movie ten times. We are a couple who loves taking formal pictures. We look foward to it and spend tons of money buying the pictures. We were not motivated to take any pictures, and most nights, after our 6pm dinner, we retired. We enjoyed each port. We didnt go through the cruise line and we always negotiated tours with the locals. By day 5, we wanted a change and couldnt wait to disembark. We have heard lots of good things about the Oasis and Allure so we will give Royal Caribbean one more shot, but we are treading softly. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We enjoyed every aspect of this cruise! The crew and staff were very friendly and helpful. The dining room staff was entertaining, friendly and helpful as well. The food was very good and they had a nice variety also. The people we shared ... Read More
We enjoyed every aspect of this cruise! The crew and staff were very friendly and helpful. The dining room staff was entertaining, friendly and helpful as well. The food was very good and they had a nice variety also. The people we shared a table with made the trip so much fun we couldn't wait to get to dinner each night! They have become friends for life!! Our room was nice sized and was well maintained. While the bathroom was a bit small it was adequate for the want we needed. the shore excursions were nice though one of our few complaints on anything was that the cost of the trips was a bit high in our view. Another of our complaints would be that the shows on board were a bit poor. While the orchestra was very good the shows themselves were of a bit lower quality than we expected.... Over all though we will definitely be going again on Royal Caribbean! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We flew into San Juan on Friday 9/23 and spent 2 nights at the Sheraton Old San Juan. Our room was fine, clean and enjoyed the rooftop jacuzzi and pool. Perfect location was able to walk all over Old San Juan without having to spend ... Read More
We flew into San Juan on Friday 9/23 and spent 2 nights at the Sheraton Old San Juan. Our room was fine, clean and enjoyed the rooftop jacuzzi and pool. Perfect location was able to walk all over Old San Juan without having to spend money on cabs until we left for port. We left for the port about 11:00 am on Sunday 9/25 and thought we would get there too early but there was already a line and we were onboard by 12:00. Went up to Windjammer to have some lunch. Our room was ready by 1:00 and all our luggage was there by 3:00 which was awesome, usually have to wait much longer for the suitcases to arrive. Our balcony was nice as it extended out but honestly we didn't get too enjoy it much with the non-stop smoking and noise from various neighbors. We had late dining and the food in the dining room was very good. We requested a table for 2 but were seated at a table for 10. Wasn't too crazy about that but our table mates turned out to all be very friendly. One couple at our table got married onboard. We ate at Chopps one night because I had a certificate from my travel agent. The steaks were not very good, both were overcooked. My fiance had to send his back. I have eaten in the steakhouses on Carnival, Princess and Norwegian. The appetizers were good and so was the desert. Also they do not offer Lobster and usually they have both in all of the steakhouses I have eaten at before. There is a section off of the Windjammer where you can eat and relax on cushioned wicker sofas and it closed off except for some large windows being opened and they allow smoking in here which is horrible. You literally choke sitting in there. There was not much variety when it came to nightly entertainment on this ship. Other than the main theatre show and singing in the main centrum area there was no other entertainment. Sorry I don't consider game shows or karaoke entertainment. Overall I wasn't very impressed with Royal Caribbean. Maybe because it was a smaller ship not sure. I will probably try Royal Caribbean again on a bigger boat but I definitely prefer Princess over them. Picked this cruise more for the itinerary and wanted to try this line out. Definitely will not sail this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We chose this cruise as one of our favorite islands, Barbados, was the first stop and it happen to fall on our actual 25th anniversary. We planned to renew our vows on the beach there. We flew into San Juan on Friday night and spent ... Read More
We chose this cruise as one of our favorite islands, Barbados, was the first stop and it happen to fall on our actual 25th anniversary. We planned to renew our vows on the beach there. We flew into San Juan on Friday night and spent our nights pre-cruise at the Ritz Carlton. I loved this hotel, they made it a special stay, as they knew we were celebrating our anniversary, and had our room decorated with rose petals, everywhere. The pool is beautiful and the beach was nice too. We spent Saturday sitting on the beach for most of the day, and then by the pool. We went across the street for dinner at Metropol, for some authentic Cuban/Puerto Rican food - yummy! Sunday - I had my husband's father and his wife (Jim & Sandy) and another couple of friends (Glenn & Lauri) staying at the Raddison, surprise cruise guests for my husband! He had no idea, I had kept the secret for 3 months. I had arranged for a car to pick them up and take them to the ship before us, so they could get champagne and meet us in our room for the big - SURPRISE! The other couple (Kevin & Darla) flew into San Juan that morning, and caught a taxi to the Ritz to meet up with us. We took a private SUV to the port and got in line to check in. All together, from getting out of the SUV to walking on the ship took less than 30 minutes, all the while I was texting our surprise guests with our location. We went straight to the forward elevators and headed up to deck 8 - where my husband got his socks knocked off - our surprise guests were waiting there! He was shocked to see his dad, wife and our other friends, he almost forgot to get off the elevator! We went to our room, shared a bottle of champagne and then headed to the Windjammer for some lunch. This was Jim & Sandy and Kevin & Darla's first cruise, so we showed them around a bit after lunch. We had 6pm reservations in the MDR, so we all went back to our cabins to refresh, unpack a little, and rest. Dinner was great and then came the sail away - we watched from the helipad on the front of the ship, taking the "I'm King of the world" pics.... Monday - We had breakfast in the Windjammer, it was nothing spectacular, just your normal buffet food. The crew was very friendly though, and always smiling, I liked that. Everyone went their own way then, to explore the ship, work out, and what ever. Me? I was at the pool, where my husband sat me, while he went back to the cabin to write his vows for our ceremony the next day in Barbados. Around 11am I ordered a bucket of beer and had a couple, as it was pretty warm out there. I fell asleep and missed the M&M get together. And then about 2pm, Lauri & Glenn found me - still alone - and we moved into the Solarium. I was wondering why it was taking my husband so long to write his vows, but after I heard them on Tuesday, I knew - Sorry, ladies, I have the best husband in the world!! Everyone mt up for dinner at 8pm in the MDR and chatted about their day. Tuesday - Barbados - Our vow renewal day! We were met by the agency outside the shopping area and whisked away to the Hilton. There on the beach was our Reverend and the other witnesses from the agency. We had the most beautiful ceremony, with the waves crashing in the background. The view of the ocean was awesome and so blue.... After the ceremony, we headed to Harbour Lights for our reception, which I had set up with them before hand. They totally took care of everything we needed, food, wine, buckets of beer, chairs, umbrellas and even took some photos for us. Gave my husband and I their t-shirts for souvenirs. I highly recommend spending your day there while on Barbados (even if you just stop by after an excursion). It's about 5 minutes, by cab, away from the pier. We had dinner reservations at Chops for our celebration to continue. We brought our wedding cake to them to serve to us for dessert, which they handled great! Our waiter and assistant even came up from the MDR to give us a congratulations too! Food and service in Chops is great - well worth the extra charge! Wednesday - St. Lucia - I booked a private tour to TiKaye Resort, as we had been there before. They sent a water taxi to pick us up and take us to the resort, about 35 minute ride from the ship. We spent the day on the black sand beach, snorkeling in the marine park and having a wonderful, slightly overcast day. The resort is beautiful too, just 156 stair climb, but worth every step. Thursday - Antigua - I booked Ziplining on our own, as I had done it before when they first opened about 4 years ago, Rainforest Antigua. They sent a van for us, and picked us up at the pier. It was so much fun, and after we had our driver take the scenic way back. He called ahead to a place at Valley Church Beach for lunch for us. That beach was beautiful! Will definitely return there! Lunch was good, as was the seagrape rum! Friday - St. Maarten - I booked a private yacht through Turtle Tours and when we got to their place at Simpson Bay, their boat was not working. The owner already had an alternative plan in place and proceeded to take our order for lunch and drinks on board another boat. We waited about 40 minutes for him to get the replacement boat and supplies, and then we were off. It was just the 8 of us, our captain and his first mate. We got a full tour of St. Maarten from the ocean. We stopped at a beach and had lunch, swam, took pictures and drank beer & wine. The captain then took us to Maho beach and let us film the planes coming into the airport. They literally fly right over your head! Way too cool!! A MUST see!! Saturday - St. Croix - We all went our separate ways on this day. We had been here before and went straight to Cane Bay for some snorkeling. I got some great photos and even saw a turtle! Just a relaxing day. St. Croix is beautiful! Sunday - Disembarking was a little tough for us. We are so used to just getting up and walking off the ship when we are ready, so the whole time schedule thing threw us for a loop. We were supposed to get off the ship at 9am - but didn't walk off until 9:45. We sat in the theater for the last 45 minutes, waiting...The last few ships we had been on were much smaller - so I guess it takes time to get that many people off the ship. I liked this cruise, but it was exhausting! Our next cruise will have more sea days, for sure. One benefit to not spending a lot of time on the ship, is a lower ship card bill at the end - ours was only $180!! The lowest we've ever had!!! The ship was beautiful, the crew was great and the food in the MDR was great. The food in the Windjammer was just ok, but good enough for breakfast & snacks. If you have any questions, please shoot me an email - crez4jc at me dot com Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Just wanted to give you our view and some pricing on our latest cruise with Royal Caribbean. We flew into San Juan airport and waited about 25 minutes for our luggage to get off of the plane and onto the carousel. The ride over to the ... Read More
Just wanted to give you our view and some pricing on our latest cruise with Royal Caribbean. We flew into San Juan airport and waited about 25 minutes for our luggage to get off of the plane and onto the carousel. The ride over to the airport was about 15 minutes ($24 dollars plus tip). The check in process was very easy as we only waited in line for about 2 minutes. We had a (D2) balcony room at the back of the ship and our room was very nice. The room did come with a fridge (doesn't get very cold) Just to let you know, Royal Caribbean is cutting back on some services, so don't expect to get a towel animal every night (not a big deal to us) or Ice (unless you ask your room steward) or any bathroom care package (that we had received before). They have also cut back on how many towels they are putting in your bathroom, but all we had to do was ask our steward at the beginning of our cruise and we had extra towels the whole week. We were disappointed with the food on the cruise. The main dining rooms food was just ok. It was definitely lower quality than on previous Royal Caribbean cruises we had been on before. They now offer you a appetizer a main course and dessert. The appetizer is very small (I ordered a salad in addition and I don't eat much regularly). They were happy to bring it to you, but it just seemed like Royal Caribbean adjusted their menu because of the recent cutbacks or ???, but the menu in no way compared to previous cruises. We went to Portofino ($20 pp) one night and the food was a step up from the main dining room. Portofino has changed their menu from the last time we sailed with them (not as good to us) and cut out one of their courses. The desserts were good and the wait staff was just ok. We also ate at Chops one night($30 pp)and again the food was just ok. The desserts were very good and the wait staff were very attentive. To put it in perspective, our meals at Portofino's and Chops this time, would match up with our last cruises main dining room (except for the desserts) meals. The breakfast buffet was very good and had a wide range of choices. The lunch buffet was disappointing to us. I usually get a grilled chicken sandwich, but was unable to get one the entire cruise. There was plenty of choices, just nothing that appealed to us. We thought the shows were a definite down grade from previous cruises and actually walked out of 2 shows (and we weren't the only ones). We heard other passengers talking about how bad it was the next day. If you wanted to go to a show after a couple days on the ship you either had to go at 7 pm or 8:30 pm. There was no late show for people who had an 8:30 dining time. The disco was the worst for us. I preface this by telling you I have been on 14 other cruises and had a good time dancing the night away on every other cruise. The DJ(Ron) was just not reading the crowd and seemed very set in what he was going to play. We tried to dance there a couple of nights, but could never get in a groove with him. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We headed to the port on Sunday around 2:00. Dropping luggage with the ship porters took 20 minutes and we waited another 15 minutes to get inside the terminal, but actual check-in took less than 5. We were in our cabin by 3:00 and our ... Read More
We headed to the port on Sunday around 2:00. Dropping luggage with the ship porters took 20 minutes and we waited another 15 minutes to get inside the terminal, but actual check-in took less than 5. We were in our cabin by 3:00 and our luggage arrived about an hour later (although we were out and about this ship). RC seems to do as well as any other line with their boarding process. Getting on and off the ship at each port was easy and predictable. We ate the buffet for breakfast and lunch and went to the dining room at night. The food in the dining room is very good. The food at the buffet was no better than average with many items remaining the same each day. The specialty venues are not worth the up charge. Stick with the main dining room and you will get great food every night. The entertainment was high in quality, but limited in quantity. The showroom had good offerings each night, but the smaller bars and shows were very unimpressive. RC tries to use the deck 4 centrum as a venue, but it is limited in floor space. If you are interested in the entertainment, you end up on deck 5 through 8 listening and hanging over the rail to watch what is happening. The spa if OK but the fitness center is top notch with lots of equipment and numerous class - some were even free. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
June 17th: Pre-flight Hotel stay Finally got off work at around 10:30pm and headed to the Hyatt Place hotel by the airport for our pre-flight stay out of Kansas City. The drive was easy due to the lack of traffic at that time of night ... Read More
June 17th: Pre-flight Hotel stay Finally got off work at around 10:30pm and headed to the Hyatt Place hotel by the airport for our pre-flight stay out of Kansas City. The drive was easy due to the lack of traffic at that time of night and it took us less that 40 minutes to get there. When we arrived at the hotel we couldn't find any parking spots though so we had to leave our car out front and ask where to park. The gentleman at the reception desk told us that if there was no spots open that we would have to park in the street. We weren't very comfortable with that so we just parked at the other hotel across the street. Luckily, we didn't have any problems parking there, but I later found out that people had gotten their cars towed. The hotel it's self has great dEcor and the staff was wonderful. I'd say it was nice for an overnight stay but there's not much around it that's open late as far as food goes. We were stuck eating cold ham & cheese sandwiches from the hotel, which with the addition of 2 sodas came to $30...a little overpriced, even for a hotel, if you ask me. The rooms at the hotel are very spacious and clean but the bathrooms are very oddly set up. The sink and vanity was out side the main bath area right in front to the bed. Then the toilet and bath are in a separate little room that is so small it's difficult to close the door after you enter. I would think that with as spacious as the rest of the room was they could've used some of the space to make the bath area more user friendly. June 18th: Travel day from Kansas City to San Juan The alarm went off at 3:45am and I was soooo not ready to get up yet. After yanking our selves out of bed and getting ready we left the hotel right at 4am. We parked at The Parking Spot like we always do but this time the service was not up to par. It took the airport shuttle over 25 minutes to pick us up and the driver was driving as slow as a slug! What usually takes 10 minutes from parking to getting picked up and to the airport took over 35 minutes and made us very close to flight time. Thank goodness I checked in and printed our boarding passes the night before. Kansas City International security was fairly smooth and quick as always. We were so close to our flight time that by the time we got through security and sat down at the terminal they had already started calling the boarding zones. The flight was uneventful and we made it to our layover destination in Atlanta 10 minutes early. We had over 2 and a half hours for our lay over and for once our flight was in the same terminal as the one we had landed in. To kill time we grabbed some breakfast at the Burger King and walked around for a bit. Amazingly, our flight to San Juan left on time and was once again uneventful. We got into San Juan around 3pm, quickly grabbed our luggage, got a taxi, and checked in to our pre-cruise hotel by 4pm. We stayed at the Sheraton in Old San Juan because we've stayed there many times before and love the location. The hotel it's self is well taken care of and the staff was good. We had a room on the 6th floor that was in the interior of the hotel. While this makes for a room with just a mediocre view of an inner court yard type area; it also makes for a very quiet and peaceful room. The room it's self was nicely decorated and was a decent size but once again I had an issue with the bathroom set up. It wasn't a huge deal but the only lighting in the bath was above the vanity so created a dark shower/tub experience. The beds were very nice and we had no problems getting hypo-allergenic pillows. (I'm allergic to feathers) After getting checked into the hotel and seeing our room we both realized we were starving, so, off we went to find a bite to eat. We deliberated for about 15 minutes on where to go and finally decided just to go to Senor Frogs because it was close and we knew the food was pretty good. The Senor Frogs in Old San Juan is just like any one you'd go to around the Caribbean. They have the usual Tex-Mex quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and burgers/sandwiches. I personally have always been a fan of their chicken quesadillas but then again that's kind of a dish that's hard to screw up. We decided, because we knew we wanted to go out to dinner tonight, that we'd just share the chicken quesadilla. The size was perfect and our waiter even brought us an extra side of sour cream at no charge. After stuffing our faces we decided to walk around and get reacquainted with Old San Juan. This was our 5th trip here and I think we fall more in love with it every time. We even decided after this last trip that in 5 years, after our kids are done with school, we're going to do all we can to move here. We walked around for about an hour and a half, looking in shops and checking out some of the new restaurants and looking at menus for some of our favorites to see if they'd changed at all. We did get one sad surprise...there is no longer a McDonalds in Old San Juan. Now you may ask, "Who Cares?!?!" But you have to understand one thing, the McDonalds that used to be in Old San Juan was the best McDonalds we had ever been to...the service was always wonderful and the food was always fresh and hot. Also, with kids who aren't always into trying new exotic foods, a good McDonalds near by is always a good thing. When we were done wandering around we went back to the hotel and took a nice long nap. We ended up sleeping until almost 8pm...I had no idea I was even that tired! Waking from our obviously needed long nap we decided it was time to go to dinner. Last year we found a really good steak place in Old San Juan called the Old Harbour Brewery and we decided to go there again this year. Though the food was just as yummy, the service wasn't as great as we'd experienced the year before. This could've been due to the fact that they were extremely busy this time and last year we caught it at a slow hour. As we walked back to the Sheraton after dinner I decided that I needed something chocolate. We walked up and down looking for a restaurant that had any sort of chocolate dessert and finally we stopped at a cozy little place we'd gone to a few times before for breakfast called Toro Salao. Sure enough they had an awesome flourless chocolate cake infused with different spices like ginger and red pepper. It was the best dessert I've ever had!!!! One little side note though, if you like your chocolate cake with a glass of milk, like I do, be aware that most places serve the milk warm. That was fine with me since it was so late I figured it would just put me to sleep faster. June 19th: Embarkation Day We got up around 10am, checked out of the hotel but had them store our bags and went back to Toro Salao for breakfast. It was just on a whim last year that we found this place for breakfast. The atmosphere is great and the prices are pretty good too. It's a short walk from our hotel and they serve a nice basic breakfast. We both got the Dos Huevos breakfast which included 2 eggs, seasoned breakfast potatoes, your choice of ham or bacon, and toast. Shortly after breakfast we walked over to the San Cristobal fort. Even though we've been to Old San Juan multiple times we always enjoy going to one of the forts each time we're there. We went to El Morro last time so it was San Cristobal's turn. In 2009, when we went to San Crisobal, there were iguanas every where and me, being the wildlife enthusiast that I am, was really looking forward to seeing them again. Unfortunately, this time the only ones we saw was one little on sunning on one of the walkways and a bigger one right as we were leaving sitting on a wall. As usual, the fort was fantastic and it looked as though they'd added quite a bit in the way of exhibits. If you have some extra time in Old San Juan and are even remotely into history, go to the forts....they are fantastic! Once we were done at the fort we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags and head to our new home for a week, the Serenade of the Seas. We got to the ship at about 12pm and thanks to cruise critic I knew that because we were Diamond Crown and Anchor members we could bypass the main baggage and check in lines. We were on the ship and on our way to lunch in the Windjammer within 15 minutes. The Windjammer set up is fantastic on this ship, with all the separate stations there was never a line for anything. The food on the other hand was just so so. It's not like it was all bad and we were always able to find stuff to eat there, but it just wasn't as tasty as we've had in the past on other Royal Caribbean ships. After lunch we wandered the ship a bit and then went to check our table assignment for dinner. As requested through Royal Caribbean we got our 2 top table...Yay! Our table was on deck 4 in the Reflections dining room right in the middle of the room. This was an awesome spot because you could easily see every thing that was going on around, yet it was set next to one of the large pillars so we still felt like it was nice and intimate. Finally, it was 1pm and we could go check out our cabin. We had cabin 8088 which is one of the coveted hump cabins with the extra large balcony. This cabin was wonderful, even though the interior of the cabin is the same size as the normal balcony cabins the balcony was huge! It really made the cabin feel much larger than it actually was because I could go out on the balcony with a book and read in the one of the lounge chairs while my husband watched tv or took a nap. Around the same time we got into our cabin our room steward stopped by. He was fantastic the whole cruise doing a great job keeping our room spic and span and leaving a towel animal every night. (I'm a sucker for a good towel animal!) The rest of the day was spent either unpacking or exploring the ship. Speaking of the ship, she is beautiful! Out of all the cruises we've been on we both have said that this ship is the classiest looking ship we've seen. With all of the glass and the small touches here and there it really looks great. Eventually it was time for the dreaded boring muster drill. To be honest, it wasn't too bad this time. Our station was inside the schooner bar which is more than big enough that every one assigned there was able to sit though the drill. After the muster drill we quickly made our way back to our cabin and got ready for our first night of dinner in the dining room. The dining room food was good every night and our wait staff was well trained. We had Pedro as our Waiter and Iris as our Assistant Waiter, both of which did a good job of waiting on us hand and foot. Unfortunately, even though he stopped by our table a few times, I can't remember our Head Waiter. Once dinner was over and we had stuffed ourselves completely we went to the opening show. We're not really show people but we always like to at least see the first one on a cruise. Tonight's show started with Ricky our cruise director who we'd just had on our winter weekend cruise in January on the Majesty. This guy is a riot, I swear he has to be on some sort of drug because he never stops moving. Then the Singers and Dancers did a short number. Though the did a good number I felt like we'd seen better on other ships. Finally, they had the guest comedian do an act. He was pretty funny and I guess he's done a lot of stuff for Jay Leno. When the show was over we both decided we were too tired to do anything else so that was the end of the day for us. June 20th: Sea Day... So, for us, sea days aren't exactly what we look forward to on a cruise because we're the type of people that constantly want to be out doing something. Lo an behold this one cruise day was actually a lot of fun! We got up at our leisure (around 9:30am), went and had breakfast in the Windjammer (the "scrambled eggs" were horrible but the other options were yummy) and then wandered the ship some more. Eventually, we ended up at the mini golf and figured we'd play a few games. My husband beat the pants off me the first game and when we came back around to play again we saw there was a big line so we decided to go to the pool instead. Little did I know what an event that would be! We got to the pool around 11:30 and couldn't find a lounge chair any where. We figured we'd probably just be in the pool most of the time so we just put our stuff next to the pool and got in. I ordered a Margarita from the pool bar and that's where the excitement begins. Let me start off by saying, I do not drink unless we're on vacation or it's a very special occasion. Well, we were on vacation so I thought it wouldn't hurt to get a little tipsy. Boy would I regret that later! After I'd had 2 margaritas and a mud slide they announced it was almost time for the belly-flop contest and if you'd like to enter to go to the front music area. My husband and I began discussing the fact that we'd never see a female do the contest on any of the cruises we've been on. Then liquid courage stepped up and I decided to go up and enter. Much to my surprise the let me enter and thanks to the liquid courage I didn't back down. Granted, it was fun, but it's something I would've never done had I been sober. For the rest of the cruise I had complete strangers coming up to "congratulate" me. Even though I didn't win (Thank God) I soon became known as the belly-flop girl all around the ship. Once I was done humiliating myself it was time for the dodge ball tournament up on the ball court. Any time there is dodge ball on our cruises we go to watch...I don't know what it is about people smashing each other with small red balls but we both find it fun to watch. This one, though, was a bit lame. There weren't very many teams and the energy that is usually there was a bit lacking. Towards the end we decided the leave and go find the Seaview Cafe for lunch. The Seaview Cafe is on Deck 12 up the stairs towards the back of the ship. I think because it is a little out of the way not a lot of people think about it but the food was awesome. I had the Cuban Sandwich with fries and my husband had the Fish n' Chips but with onion rings instead of fries. We'd never been on a ship with a Seaview cafe but now both agree they should replace Johnny Rockets with them instead. The food is better and you don't have pay a "cover charge" to eat there. I don't know if it was the sun or the alcohol but after lunch I was exhausted and so we went back to the cabin for a cat nap. I think we slept for a good 2 hours and then I just sat out on our balcony reading my book while my husband watched some sports on tv. Once the sun went down I came back in and we went to dinner. Tonight was the first formal night and it was a mess. We really wanted to get a bunch of pictures taken because we each had a coupon for a free photo in our diamond coupon booklet but when we got to the centrum area where they were doing photos we were hit with a crowd of people. Through the whole cruise and even on the other formal photo night the ship never seemed crowded but tonight it was horrible. There were people every where and we couldn't get through anywhere. Finally, after standing in line for 45 minutes we were able to get our pictures taken at the white backdrop. Though this wasn't the backdrop we wanted we figured it had the shortest line and there fore was our best chance if we wanted pictures. Dinner, as usual, was wonderful and we had both stuffed our bellies full so it was time for bed for us. June 21st: Barbados The ship docked at around 8am and we were off by 8:30 to meet our excursion group and head out for a day of snorkeling with the turtles. We chose to do Silver Moon Catamaran's 12 person turtle encounter and snorkel excursion. Even though it was a bit on the expensive side it was well worth the money. Because there are only 12 people on the catamaran we were pretty well waited on hand and foot. Our captain was Stacy and her assistant was Tony and both did an excellent job. I still wish I was able to get the recipe for their excellent banana bread they served when we got on the boat. The turtle encounter was amazing. Tony got into the water with us and started luring the turtles close with food and we were able to touch them...I even had a turtle get so close that it head butted me! Unfortunately, when we got into the water at the snorkel spot I noticed that there were lots of small jelly fish. Now, I've been stung by a jelly fish before and it is not something I ever want to do again. Stacy got in the water and checked it out and told us that they we just babies and hadn't gotten their stingers yet. They say that if you are allergic to bees that you could also have the same reaction to certain jelly fish, and even though I didn't have a horrible reaction when I got stung by a jelly fish, I am allergic to bees so I wasn't going to take that chance so I stayed on the boat while every one else snorkeled. I really didn't feel like I missed out on too much because they only snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then we were off again to have lunch on the boat by the beach. Lunch was fried flying fish, baked chicken, cheesy macaroni casserole, seasoned rice, and salad. It was all really tasty except I wasn't too keen on the flying fish. Other people seemed to enjoy it but mine tasted over fried. After lunch we were able swim around for a bit, go to the beach, or just hang out on the boat. We'd swam to the beach last year and even though it looks really close it's further than it seems so we just swam around the boat for a while and then hung out on the netting at the front of the catamaran. After our excursion we had the excursion driver take me and my husband into town instead of back to the port because I needed a new pair of shoes. Some how or another I had brought to different black dress shoes. Luckily, I also had a pair of silver shoes but they weren't going to match all my outfits. I found a pair at a nice little women's shoe store for just $14 American! We then noticed we only had 45 minutes left so we headed back to the ship. Instead of hailing a taxi and spending extra cash we decided to walk back. I do not recommend this. Not only is it a fairly long walk back from the shopping area downtown I also felt like it was not the safest. We had to cross traffic a few times because the side walks end on one side and start again on the other side and traffic does not really slow down for pedestrians like it does back home. Once back on the ship we got cleaned up, watched sail away from our balcony, relaxed for a bit, and then got ready for dinner. I had Royal Caribbean make a note in our reservation that we'd like to celebrate our Anniversary tonight and sure enough at the end of dinner our wait staff and the dining serenaders came over with a dessert with a candle in it and sang us "Happy Anniversary". I was actually surprised that they remembered because I've heard stories where things like that have been noted but never recognized. All in all this day was an awesome and memorable day. June 22nd: St. Lucia Once again the ship was docked by 8am and we were off by 8:30. We had a private tour with Frank today to see the Caribbean side of the island, the botanical gardens, the pitons, and the volcano. Due to unforeseen circumstances Frank was unable to do our tour but he got his friend Aaron to do it instead. I was perfectly fine with this especially when we saw that Aaron had arranged a nice BMW as our transportation instead of the typical minivan. Aaron did a wonderful job and explained things very well to us. He showed us a few of the fishing villages, took us to some over look areas that we simply breath taking, showed us the Pitons (amazing), walked around the botanical gardens (which has a great waterfall), took us to lunch at a local restaurant, and to the volcano. Though we enjoyed the tour we would skip the volcano and maybe do a beach next time. The volcano was not only not very impressive but it also smelled horrible. I had heard that it smelled like sulfur but this was a stink like no other. It reeked and even after we left I could still smell it on our bodies and our clothes. After the volcano Aaron offered to show us the Atlantic side of the island for an extra cost because we still had a bit of time before we had to be back. Though we would've liked to see the other side of the island we were both pretty tired from sitting and driving in the car most of the day and decided instead to just go back into town for a bit and wander the straw markets. The St. Lucia straw market, though bigger than most we've been to, has the same touristy crap in every stall. Most of which they tout as authentic St. Lucian but, when you turn it over, it says "Made in China". Eventually, we were bored of looking at the same stuff over and over again and headed back to the ship. Once again, we decided to be good healthy people and walk back to the ship. We figured after sitting most of the day our legs could use a good stretch and per usual just because you can see the ship from where you're at doesn't mean it's really that close by. I'm not totally sure how far away it really was, and maybe it was because it was really hot out and we were pretty tired but it felt like it took forever to get back. When we got back on the ship we did the usual routine of getting cleaned up, watching sail away from the balcony, and taking a much needed nap. Tonight we had reservations for Chop Grille for dinner and decided to go to the Schooner bar before hand for a drink. We've never been the type to just hang out at a bar for any length of time but the Schooner bar had a great relaxing atmosphere and we were having such a nice time just sitting and chatting we almost forgot about our dinner reservations. Luckily, our waitress asked us what our other plans were for the night and that reminded us. Dinner at Chops was amazing in every way and definitely worth the extra cost. The moment we walked in and gave our name we were seated. Our half circle booth was in a cozy little corner yet still in line where we could people watch. The atmosphere and dEcor reminded me of a five star restaurant in a big city. With in seconds of sitting down our waitress was there to take our drink order and delivered it with in a minute or two. The menu was explained very well and we ordered the shrimp cocktail to share, a salad each, the filet mignon for my husband, a rib eye for me, and we each had a baked potato. Every thing came out quickly and the portions we a lot bigger than expected. Even though we were so full from dinner we both ordered dessert. I had the Chocolate layer cake and my husband had the Red Velvet cake both of which were to die for. After our huge meal we waddled back to our cabin to drift into a food coma until the next morning. June 23rd: Antigua We chose to do a 4x4 land rover "off road" tour through the cruise line today. Normally, we book everything on our own but we couldn't find an excursion we wanted to do at a good price. This ship tour just reminded us why we research and book tours our selves. The excursion was supposed to be an "off road adventure" but the only off roading we did was a quarter mile stretch on a gravel road. Pretty much what the tour ended up being was riding in the back of a modified Land Rover listening to our driver tell us about each and every church we went by. Then we ended up at a beach which was the only thing that saved it from being a worthless day. This beach was beautiful! The sand was soft yet, where the high tide came up there were piles of shells and sea glass. Also, the water had that perfect turquoise blue that you only see in pictures but can never get a picture of your self. We spent about an hour there at the beach and then headed back to the ship. We got back to the ship and lounged by the pool until it was time to get ready for dinner and then just had our normal evening schedule of dinner, some tv, and bed. June 24th: St. Maarten This would be our 4th time in St. Maarten and we knew we'd be pretty worn out by all our other excursions so we didn't book anything here. We got up and had a leisurely breakfast and then headed off ship. We took the water taxi over to Phillipsburg to shop around for a while and go to the beach there. We found last year that the Holland House Hotel offers 2 beach chairs, an umbrella, and a bucket of beers/soda/water for just $15. Not only that but they also give you access to their bathrooms and have a beach shower that you can use. For us ,who hate to be covered with sand after the beach, it's a perfect deal. We stayed at the beach until around 3pm and then headed over to the Blue B***h Bar for lunch. We've been to this bar multiple times to each because even though the service is on the slow side the food is always great. They have a large diverse menu with every thing from baby back ribs to sandwiches. Once we finished eating we thought about doing a little more shopping but noticed we were getting a bit short on time so back to the ship we went to resume our typical on board activities. P.S. : Tonight was also the second formal night and was a lot less chaotic than the previous formal night. June 25th: St. Croix The last time we were in St. Croix (2009) we really wanted to do some snorkeling at Buck Island but our son had made himself sick off of desserts on a bet from his other 2 brothers the night before so we thought it best just to hang out at the beach instead. This year I was determined to snorkel though so we booked with Black Beards catamaran for the full day snorkel with lunch tour. In all actuality the excursion was really good. We had to take a taxi van from the port in Fredricksted to the dock in Christensted and then boarded the catamaran about 9:15am. They took us first to a beach on Buck Island for about 45 minutes to teach the people who hadn't snorkeled and then they took us around the other side of the island to snorkel in deeper water. The snorkeling was wonderful with tons of fish (we even saw some lobsters) and lasted about an hour and a half. We then went to another beach and had a nice barbeque lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, fish, and potato chips. The only thing I didn't like at this beach was that is was rather narrow and pretty rocky. On the other hand, when we started to get our food a few mongoose showed up (they are soooo cute) so I guess the rocky beach was made up by my love for cute furry creatures. When lunch was over we had another 30 minutes to swim or just hang out on the beach and then they took us back to the dock in Christensted. I must say that, even though the tour was very good, I think we got a little spoiled by our catamaran excursion in Barbados that only had 12 people. This tour in St. Croix was packed (40+ people) and I felt like there wasn't enough room on the boat for all of us. Other than that though I'd give the tour an A+. The staff was good, the boat was nice, and the snorkeling was fantastic. The length of tour didn't give us much time back at the cruise ship port but I did notice they had a lot of vendors on the main stretch selling some cool stuff like paintings and what not. I wish we'd had a bit of time to check it out but by the time we made it back most of the vendors were already closing up so we just headed back to the ship to repack our suitcases and prepare for leaving the ship in the morning. June 26th: Debarkation Day (Boo Hoo) Because we weren't flying out today we were able to stay on the ship a little longer that most. We got up around 9 and went to the Safari Club lounge to wait for our deck number to be called. They had orange juice, water, coffee, and some pastries out for breakfast and were playing a movie while we waited. Our deck was called at about 10am and we were escorted down to get off the ship. The whole process was pretty painless until we had to get in line for the customs/declarations. They only had 2 lines going so it took us over an hour to get through. Once we got out and into the taxi for our trip back to the Sheraton in Old San Juan for our 3 day post cruise stay I shed a tear or two. This cruise was the best cruise we've ever been on. The crew was sooo fantastic, they always were smiling and we really felt like we were waited on hand and foot the whole time. The Ship was really gorgeous and so easy to get around, except for the one time it never really felt crowded and you could tell they really worked had keeping it in tip top shape. They even repainted the pools while we were there (how they get it to dry in less than 12 hours I have no idea). The ports were wonderful too, even though we'd been to all these ports before, we still enjoyed each and every stop. Around noon we made it to the hotel and were able to pre-check in. I asked about the possibility of getting an upgrade to a junior suite and we were able to do so for just 50 extra dollars. I was pretty surprised because I'd gotten our 3 day stay trough hotwire for just $60 a night anyways so in the end it was like getting a more than free upgrade! The hotel told us the room wouldn't be ready until around 3pm but that they would call us on our cell phone when it was time so we went to find some lunch. I was really in the mood for a good sandwich and after walking around for over an hour looking for a place we happened upon Fefo's Deli and Cafe. They had a great cafe vibe and the sandwiches were not just tasty but each was the size of my head and they came with French fries. Had we known the sandwiches were so big we would've just gotten one and shared. As we were getting ready to leave the waiter let us know that they also serve breakfast so we put it on our list for later on. The hotel called us shortly after lunch to let us know our room was ready and we headed back there. We quickly got formally checked in and made our way to our room. I was quite impressed with the junior suite. It was similar to the suite we had in 2009 there but it had a small hallway instead of a door separating the living room from the bed room. It was located on the 4th floor and was at the very front of the hotel. This location was really cool because we woke up one morning to find a cruise ship right out side our balcony. Once again the lighting in the bathroom was horrible but the rest of the room was completely up to par. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the room. I let my husband get caught up on his sports while I caught up on what was going on in the rest of the world. For dinner we went to the Parrot Club. The food was great, I had a dish that had pork cutlets and bean with rice and my husband had a sea food dish with fried rice. With the atmosphere and good food this place has I see why it has stayed in business while so many other restaurants fail in Old San Juan. After dinner we walked around the city for a while. I figured it would be good to walk off some of our dinner and I love Old San Juan at night, the buildings almost seem to change colors when being illuminated by the street lamps. June 27th: San Juan We were supposed to have a full day snorkeling excursion and bio bay evening tour with East Wind Catamaran today so we were up at 7:00am. Our transportation arranged through East Wind was to meet us in the lobby of the hotel by 7:30am yet by 7:45am they still had not arrived. I had my husband call at around 8:00am and they told him they had to cancel because there was a rain storm heading that way. Why they failed to call us I have no idea. Since we were up anyways and had nothing to do we went to go have breakfast at Fefo's Deli. The walk up to the restaurant is well worth it. We had the best breakfast we'd had all trip. My husband had the pancakes which we the size of serving plates and I had a ham and cheese omelet that also came with a side of quartered fried potatoes. We also both had orange juice that was truly freshly squeezed. The orange juice cost a bit more at $4 per glass but the taste was completely worth it. After discussing over breakfast what we should for the day, now that our original plans had been canceled, we decided to just rent a car and explore the outer areas of San Juan. When we made it back to our hotel and to the Hertz rental counter we were told that there was only one car left. We told him we'd take it with out finding out what the car was first. It ended up being a yellow and black Smartcar! Granted, we felt a little silly driving around in a bumble bee colored itty bitty Smartcar but in the end we named the car "Buzz" and kept it for the rest of our trip. We found that having a tiny little car on some of the back streets was a total God send and after a while it kind of grew on us. No, we will not be buying a Smartcar for use here at home but for this trip in Old San Juan it was perfect. We ended up driving out the Bacardi Factory for the free tour (not worth it). Then we drove around to one of the points facing Old San Juan. It had a small fortification that was nice to look at but they didn't allow you to actually go into it. The park also had boat ramps, a visitor center with restaurant, and some nice walking trails. I think we would've spent more time here had it not started raining. Due to the rain, I suggested we go out to the Condado area and go to the Art Museum and then grab some lunch. Unfortunately, the museum was having some remodeling work done and was there for not open but we did find a nice place to have a bite to eat. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the restaurant but it was a little pizzeria right down from the museum. They served great New York style pizza by the slice or by the whole pie and it was really inexpensive. As we finished eating we saw that it had stopped raining so we made a plan to go see some of the sights we thought were interesting on the Condado/Miramar tourist map we'd picked up earlier. Most of the sights were at the Gran Ventana al Mar Park next to the La Concha Hotel and there were a few cool art sculptures down the street from there so we found a parking spot and decided to walk down Ashford Ave and leisurely see the sights. It was just our luck that it started to down pour just as we got a good distance away from the car but luckily there was a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop that we could duck into. We waited for almost an hour for the rain to stop and when the guy at the counter kept giving us the stare down (yes we had bought some ice cream/ we weren't just loitering) and when the rain kept going we just made a mad dash to the car. Because it didn't look like the rain was going to end any time soon, we thought we'd head over to Miramar to look at the supposedly awesome architecture. When we got over there though we didn't really notice any buildings that we call fantastic so we headed back to Old San Juan. Due to the fact that the Smartcar is so small it had no space for a GPS unit so we were totally relying on the old fashioned map system. Somehow we got totally turned around and before we realized it we were on the other side of town heading towards the airport and stuck in rush hour traffic. I told my husband to get off the highway and after taking the first exit we saw we were once again stuck in traffic. My husband, being the man he is, decided to turn off onto one of the side streets and try to make it back the other way towards Old San Juan. Next thing we know we're in, what I would call, a not nice part of town and I was getting just a little concerned. I couldn't find any of the streets we were passing on the map and when I thought we were getting close to one of the streets labeled on the map we couldn't find any street signs. After driving for what seemed like forever we finally came up on another highway and figured out that we could just take it back to Old San Juan. We made our way back to our hotel, had the valet take our car, and went back to our room to relax for a while before we headed out for dinner. For whatever reason I was really in the mood for some Mexican food so tonight we went to Lupi's Cantina. The atmosphere was similar to what you'd find in a sports bar restaurant but the food was pretty good. I didn't like the salsa though...it was on the sweet side and I like mine more spicy. True to form, after dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. June 28th: San Juan relaxation day Today I wanted a total beach and relaxation day. We'd been going non-stop since we'd left home and this was our last full day so the beach sounded really good. After talking to multiple people we were told to go to Isle Verde because they have the best beach there that offered every thing we wanted (ie. Beach chairs and food nearby). When we got over there though the only parking open was a pay to park place at the very end of the strip. My husband decided he was tired of looking for parking so we parked there and started our trek to the beach. On the strip of Isle Verde they have lots of openings leading to the beach but from where we had to park it felt like we walked forever to find one and eventually found a street that went through to the beach. Funny enough, when we got to the end of the street we realized that we were at the exact same beach, in the exact same location we had taken our kids to a few years before! We headed down the beach in hopes that when we were done we could just sneak through one of the hotels that was closer to where we'd parked so we wouldn't have such a long trek back. We ended up at almost at the end of the beach area by the El San Juan and were able to get beach chairs and an umbrella for $20. We stayed at the beach from about 11am until 3pm and then went to find a bite to eat. We found a really good out door covered eatery called El Alambique which served Puerto Rican fare and American fare together. We both got what the called a Puerto Rican burrito which had pulled pork, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes rolled up in a flour tortilla (yum), my husband had a side of French fries, and I got a side of rice and beans. This place had the best rice and beans I'd had the whole trip. Afterwards we went back to our chairs to enjoy a little more beach time but I decided I was too full to feel comfortable laying out so we packed up our stuff to go. We asked the chair guy if it was inappropriate to sneak through the hotel and he told us that is was a no trespassing zone but there was a street at the end that led out to the main street. Low and behold when we came out on the main street we found that we were only about 100 yards from where we'd parked just in the other direction from where we'd originally walked to get to the beach! It was still a little early to call it a day and head back to the hotel so we went back to Condado to see if we could finally see the sights at Gran Ventana al Mar Park. We got there and quickly found a parking spot right across the street from the park, walked around the park a bit (it was nice but nothing to really write about, checked out the La Concha hotel (might stay there next year), and took a few pictures of the different sculptures. When we headed back to our car we noticed a lot of the cars had parking tickets and then as we got closer to our car we realized that we were supposed to pay an auto meter (it was almost half a block from where we parked so we never saw it) to park there. Luckily, we got back to the car and didn't have a ticket. We decided we'd had enough odd stuff happen to us today so we'd better just get back to the hotel and relax for a while. Tonight, since it was our last night in San Juan, we wanted to have a nice intimate dinner so we went to Al Dente. The restaurant has a sophisticated yet comfortable feel to it and we were able to get a table right away. The service was wonderful, at one point we had 3 different employees waiting on us. The food was utterly delicious. I had the Veal Tortellini and my husband had the Involtini alla Siciliana which was veal wrapped with prosciutto and melted cheese. We then shared a serving of their warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. We then leisurely walked back to the hotel, finished packing for our return trip home, and then went to bed. June 29th: Travel Day back home We got up later than usual at 10am and got ready to leave for the airport to make our 1:30pm flight. By 10:15 the housekeeping was already trying to kick us out so they could clean...I found that a bit rude since check out was stated as 11am. None the less, we quickly got things together and headed out to the airport. When we got to the airport we made our way through the USDA and checked in at the Delta kiosk. Some how between us walking in the airport and getting to the security area to enter the terminals the airport had gotten extremely busy and the security line was huge. I had noticed when we first walked by it check in that they had a special entry line for airline awards members so when we saw the line had ballooned to a very long wait I pulled out my Delta awards miles card. The agent let us through with no hassle and we got through security in less than 5 minutes. Yay awards programs! The flight from San Juan to Atlanta was boring and uneventful as was our flight from Atlanta back to Kansas City. We landed in KC by 8:30pm, quickly got our baggage, picked up the shuttle to the parking spot and were back to our car by 8:45pm. I had a rewards certificate for our parking so we ended up only paying for 4 days of parking for the whole trip! Yay! Made it out of the parking lot and we where home by 9:30 and already wishing we were back in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date June 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
We had the most wonderful experience ever on a cruise. First lets start saying that the Radiance ships are great since they are a bit smaller than the Voyager class there are very few waiting lines to contend with. We arrived in SJ on ... Read More
We had the most wonderful experience ever on a cruise. First lets start saying that the Radiance ships are great since they are a bit smaller than the Voyager class there are very few waiting lines to contend with. We arrived in SJ on Friday 27, picked up our rental at Charlie's in Isla Verde ( i recommend) and stayed at the Wyndham Rio Mar...our son got this through hotwire and was something like $85 a night!!! Wonderful place but very pricey, so we used their pool facilities and for dinner went outside to many places where local food is very good and cheaper. for breakfast we visited a bakery at a local mall like 15 minutes away and had a really nice breakfast for only a few bucks. The mall also has Walgreen's if you need last minute items. On Sunday we returned our rental at El Condado site and they shuttle us to the Pan American port. The shuttle from Charlies has some connection with the baggage handlers because he called one , the guy took our bags and took us directly in front of the line by the counters. Literally we were inside the ship in less that 10 minutes. Tip...make sure to have loose small change dollars for tips in a separate bag. We went up to the room and just relaxed!!! The ship left on time and everyone went upstairs for the departure. In the past we had either music or a calypso party during departure but this time was subdued. We also noticed how the cruise line are cutting down on cost. Lobster was offered just on Friday and was very small. They has Mahi Mahi but was very small compared to the one we had at Iguana Joes in Aruba and didn't looked fresh. We liked the ship and is very different from the Voyager class we have cruised before. It lacks the long central area that has all the shops etc, it does contains a centrum area with a bar and there are walking hallways to walk but they are at different levels and are short. So there is a trade off for the smaller space but it was OK with us since the ship is smaller. Smaller means shorter lines and better service, so we were happy. Port will be discussed in the ports area. Disembark was a breeze, by 10am we were out, we called the car rental company and they came to pick us up since we stayed 4 more days in SJ. Every night the centrum was packed with different musical venues and people were just partying and dancing all night long. Overall the food was good, not great but good. The service was outstanding and the waiters and assistant waiters were super, we left extra tipping. Our cabin attendant from Colombia was excellent. The itinerary was great since we have been in three of the islands before we did different things this time. A snorkeling schooner in St Thomas to Christmas cove, we rented a jeep in Aruba at American Car and did the desert /beach thing, in St Kitts Jim/Roses taxi took me and wife the entire day on a personal tour around the island, let me say this , this is the best tour ever, i found them on trip advisor. We invited rose to eat lunch with us at cockleshell beach!!! In Curacao did the walk thru downtown, snapped pictures then at 1230 the fun beach express booked through the ship, they took us to the blue moon beach resort after a short ride downtown. Great beach for snorkeling. Overall i give this trip a 98% plus review. Forgot to mention that for entertainment we had a comedian, a juggler, a Vegas style performer. The show were not as elaborate as the Adventure of the Seas and Carnival Miracle we have been before. The productions were not too deep and you could tell. Very short and sweet. I guess a reflection of economic times. They were good but not great. The cruise director was very dynamic and funny, he was excellent!!! On our room i am going to say that the only thing i dislike was the balcony was basically a triangle since this room is the last one on the hump, starboard side and on these ports always facing the ocean and never the port. so the balcony was ok on one side but very tiny on the other, just enough room to put a chair there and that was it! This room was next to elevators and it was not a problem, but the sound from the centrum party every night was really loud until 11pm so if you plan to sleep early good luck! The door was next to the personal computer room or Internet place. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We started in San Juan for a night after a short and uneventful flight from orlando, this is my 1st cruise so I have little to compare it to previously, just alot of internet research and word of mouth, my wfe cruised about 10 years ago on ... Read More
We started in San Juan for a night after a short and uneventful flight from orlando, this is my 1st cruise so I have little to compare it to previously, just alot of internet research and word of mouth, my wfe cruised about 10 years ago on Disney and it wasn't exceptionally memorable for her, we wanted a long cruise w/ interesting port and we certainly got that.-we taxied to the cruise ship port after a fun night and day in OSJ, the forts were really nice and the restaurants and shopping were interesting, tons of photo ops here-getting on the ship was ultra easy, we got on at approx 2pm and could go right to our room, we were in 3002, a oceanview room near the bow, it was quiet and no issues with it, a few toilet flushing issues but thats it, our attendant was excellent and we got the requisite towel animal all week, we also got presents so to speak for our honeymoon and wife's bday which coincided. categorically speaking though i'll break it down this was til we get to the ports:food: was good albeit not overly memorable I cant exactly put my finger on it why but I cant say I was ever overwhelmed, the windjammer was nice and we seldom had trouble finding seats, as was regular dining and Chops was excellent for a single night, not one specific dish was uber-amazing but all especially desserts were pretty solid, highlight: ny strip at chops, soft serve icecream at the windjammer.Fitness center/Spa: we took a yoga class and oddly it was just wife and i, nice facilities if you have the time and want, check them out. the service: good everywhere really, if i cant think of an instance where it wasnt appropriate thats a good thing, waiters at the bars were all very good...some of the bartenders seemed to go off the reservation a bit on a few things but overall quite goodcleanliness: very clean, bathrooms all well appointed, again no complaints...room service was picked up from halls very quickly. entertainment: only saw 1 production show the broadway revue which was ok, heard many of the other shows were meh, but Ricky the cruise director and his staff always had lots of events, we played a bunch of trivia, tried very had to win the "quest" which was a riot, saw alot of themed dance nights and karaoke, something for everyone...really EVERYONEwe met some amazing new friends on the boat and had an actual cruise bar crawl which turned into quite a bender but ultimately our time on the ship was extremely fun, there werent a ton of kids but the ones we saw always seemed like they had a ton to do, we never felt really crowded, rarely had to wait for anything, drinks, bathroom, even generally found pool chairs and spots in the hottubs reasonably easy. getting off the boat was really easy (albeit sad) 10 minutes through customs and we were unfortunately in a cab back to the airport. the cons: I have are few but worth noting, the hard sell on all the shipboard picture taking was somewhat annoying, although we did buy a few all the disembarkation photo ops at the ports were borderline hokey? giant plush turtle in barbados? cmon now. also I thought there handling of a weather situation in st. kitts where they actually lost a couple ropes due to high winds was a bit odd....as has been mentioned before, the main outside pool needs a paint job. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
This was our fourth cruise - first review. The wife and I are in our upper thirties and have cruised twice with Carnival and once previously with Royal Caribbean on the Freedom. We booked this trip at the last minute as an 'us ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise - first review. The wife and I are in our upper thirties and have cruised twice with Carnival and once previously with Royal Caribbean on the Freedom. We booked this trip at the last minute as an 'us only' getaway - our first vacation without kids in over ten years. From that perspective, we will not be reviewing any of the children or teenage activities. However, we would note that all the children on board seemed to be having a wonderful time and there were lots of activities for them spanning day and night. Last minute airfare to San Juan is pricey - so if able to plan in advance, you should do so. We flew in on AirTran from Reagan National via Atlanta on Friday. The flight was smooth; although, when going on the first flight out, note that the terminal does not fully open to let passengers through until approximately 4:45 AM and no coffee service opens before 5:30 AM. We arrived in San Juan around 12:30 and took a taxi directly to the Doubletree to relax as we were exhausted from our early departure and late night packing. Taxi service is fixed rate around Puerto Rico. Fares to most hotels that people use while waiting for the cruise run $15 or $19 plus $1 per bag. If you go directly to the pier, it is the $19 fare. The taxi stand is easy to find as you exit the airport for ground transportation. The Doubletree is a good hotel choice for pre-cruise to just relax in until time to set sail. The pool itself is a little small and can get crowded but there were plenty of sunning chairs - you need to get towels from the front desk. The food options were plentiful. We highly recommend eating at the hotel restaurant 'Under the Trees'. It has a full range of food from seafood and pasta to sandwiches and burgers. The Jibarita burger was one of the most amazing burgers I have had - it had sweet plantains, bacon, queso del pais, and recao garlic mayo. Whoever thought plantains and burgers go together? One of the 'lighter' fares were large avocado halves stuffed with various things. The wife had hers with chicken salad but options included shrimp and other seafood. All the food was fresh and tasted great - including the drinks (i.e. mojitos). For dinner, we ate at 'Silk' which included sushi and Chinese/Japanese fare. The sushi was fresh and the various rolls were well prepared. The breakfast buffet was okay - standard fare and nothing special except for some very fresh salsa with the eggs, but it was free with my room so we utilized it. EMBARKATION On Saturday, we decided we were still a little beat down from our work week, so we would put off any San Juan touring till after the cruise. We headed to the Pan American Pier around 11:30 by taxi. There was no line of cars and the taxi dropped us right off by the luggage drop and line. The line was about 100 people long at this point. We walked up to drop our baggage with the porters and were already tipping before they started their mention of 'tips'. I guess it was appreciated because they opened up the end of the line area where the smaller line for suites and diamond begins and put us on through instead of sending us to go back to the end of the larger line. We were through security and checked in within 15 minutes and onboard the ship. The main line looked to take no more than 30-40 minutes to get checked in. For the drinkers, you can get some sample drinks right inside the terminal at duty free and a little cart before checking into the ship. Right after getting onboard, we stopped to book a wine package. This was our first time to use the package and we were pleased. We used the platinum five bottle package and were very pleased with the Estancia Pinot Noir, Ravenswood Zinfandel, and Solaire Cabernet Sauvignon (Robert Mondavi). Note that the 25% off additional bottles is only for the same bottles in the package and you can only use the package in the dining room and Windjammer to get your bottle of wine. However, they will provide glasses to take to the room or cork it and hold any remainder till your next meal. Since the room would not be ready until 1 pm, we stopped to have a drink in the lobby bar. Jenny and JJ (Jia Yu), who were working this location, make the best caipirinha and mojitos on the ship. Service here, as with almost everything on the ship, was always excellent and was the location of numerous events throughout the week. Don't miss the 70's disco night. THE ROOM We finally go into our room shortly after 1 pm. We had a Large Oceanview Stateroom, Category G #4526. The room was clean and had plenty of storage space. Our steward, Sean, kept the room in excellent condition during our stay and always met our needs. The shower had incredible water pressure and plenty of hot water. THE SHIPThe Serenade is a beautiful ship with an easy to follow layout. The use of glass is stunning and you can always get a good view of the sea. There are plenty of sunning chairs and the pool and hot tub never seemed overly crowded until the sea day on day 7. Even on that day, chairs could still be found near the basketball court after noon. The Solarium was almost always quiet and we were not bothered by the slight chlorine smell in the air from the pool. For the most part, the kids were kept out and few teenagers over the 16 year old lower limit tried to take refuge there. It was a good place to relax as fake birds chirped. Since this cruise fell during Easter week and spring break, there were probably more children than usual. However, the population of children was more limited and well behaved than any other cruise we have been on. While school is in session, I imagine this cruise has more of a forty and up crowd. DININGWe prefer late dining but had a booking for early dining due to a miscommunication with our agent. You can switch dining preferences by the Reflections dining room after 2pm on embarkation day. This was handled quickly and we were switched to 8:30 dining at a large table. We prefer to sit with others as a cruise to us is not only about the ship and places to see but meeting wonderful people, as well. Reflections (Main Dining Room): The food was mostly good. We were disappointed in the New York Strip one night which was a little chewy. We really enjoyed the Vidalia Onion Tart and the Asparagus and Brie Tart. Also, we always ordered the Indian dish on the side as we enjoy Indian food. The Indian dishes ran from mediocre to good. Dessert was usually good but nothing special. Overall, we are surprised that the food is not generally better on Royal Caribbean as Carnival usually beats them in the main dining room hands down. We still prefer the overall Royal experience but wish they would spend some focus in this area - especially in the dining room. The service was excellent and our waiter and assistant waiter made significant efforts to accommodate the Spanish speakers (everyone but us at the table). This made the week a lot of fun at dinner as we used our sparse Spanish, our tablemates used their sparse English, and we all used invented sign language to communicate throughout the week. By the end of the week, we were all fluent in spanglish. Breakfast was better in the main dining room when served. The French Toast is a can't miss. Seaview cafe: An excellent hideaway right above the Windjammer. You can order burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other items here. The Cubano was good and they always happily gave me avocado to add to the sandwich on the side. Windjammer: As always, the food here can be hit or miss depending on what you select. The chicken is usually great whether roasted, fried, or grilled. The Italian was usually iffy and most other dishes had some great selections. The desserts are usually mediocre. Again, wish Royal would spend a little more effort on the quality and taste of their food. Not that we wouldn't find stuff that was good but it rarely exceeded an average experience. Chops: Excellent food, as usual, but you need to pay the premium for it. We have not eaten anything that was not great at Chops. We did the wine dinner this time. It was a good experience, but I was a little disappointed that they only poured one glass of each of the four wines to try and left the rest of the bottles just sitting. For the extra price, an extra glass or two should have been available. We will always return to chops, but we will probably pass on the wine dinner and just order a bottle for less to go with our dinner. ENTERTAINMENTThe Schooner Bar had live music at night and two of the funniest bartenders at sea - Alok (the comic) and Ernesto (the straight man). As mentioned, the lobby/centrum bar was also excellent and had live music often. You could get hors d'oeuvres at the Champagne bar for a light snack while waiting on dinner. The casino always had room at the tables or slots. It had all the mainstays - three card poker, blackjack, Caribbean stud, Texas Hold'em, and roulette. It was best to hit the casino after late dining as the crowd was really moving then. Before 9 pm, it was often a little quiet. Vortex was a nice nightclub with slightly varied music, but had little to the crowd most nights - probably due to the large number of port days. It had a much larger crowd the night before the one sea day.This was our first time to experience 'The Quest' and it was a lot of fun to watch. I highly recommend taking in this adult rated game show experience if you haven't done it before. In the theatre, we skipped most of the musical shows as they were average dancing shows per most cruise line experiences. There was one good comic. The best experience was the 'rockstar' juggler. He really engaged the audience and performed some unique juggling acts. PORTSSt. Thomas: We took a taxi to the Wyndham Sugar Bay and enjoyed a couples experience at the spa there after reading excellent reviews online. The price was a little higher than average but the experience was great. I confess I had my first massage by a male masseuse and it put me a little off for the first few minutes, but Jason did an excellent job and had a much firmer technique than usual. St Croix: We didn't do much but briefly exit the ship before returning to relax by the pool. Seems like a nice port, but we wanted to be lazy in the sun.Antigua: We woke too late to worry about breakfast and quickly made our way off the ship. The port is full of slightly pushy sellers and offers left and right for taxi service and 'special trips'. A firm but polite, "No, thank you" tended to deal with the problem but a few persisted and we would just walk on. We walked straight back from the ship and came out with St. Mary's Street facing away from us. We discovered a little restaurant there on the right called Hemingway's Caribbean Cafe - second floor. The food was fresh and had some nice combinations you don't get in the states. The wife had a seafood platter with lobster, blackened shrimp, clams, and fish. I had the curried conch which came with a vegetable medley of pumpkin, broccoli, and plantain along with dirty rice with lentils. After Hemingway's, we headed up the street another block to a bookstore with a local artist upstairs (Edison's Art Gallery). Edison had some very nice paintings including ocean/beach settings, flowers, and Caribbean musicians (reminded me of New Orleans art work). For $20, he would paint a similar scene from any of his paintings onto a t-shirt to pick up a couple hours later. The shirts are really unique and make great gifts. Finally, we stopped at a store right there and tried a local beverage called Vita Malt. It was different from soda but we found it to be good. St. Lucia: We took a short taxi ride over to an all-inclusive adults only resort called Rendezvous. If you were at the other pier, you could probably walk to it, but we were on the far side. We bought day passes for $50 each. They had a great beach, great buffet, and made great drinks. If you go, you should contact them in advance to book. Even though the afternoon pass is supposed to run from noon till late, they let us pay and enter at 11:15. The best spot was the wading pools - a series of small linked pools in the lush foliage. There are tiny alcoves for two people to sun in all throughout. It was peaceful and the server (his name was Mini-me) would come around to bring drinks. We tipped him up front and our drinks never went half empty. Be careful of some of the drinks which have 160 proof rum. This made the rest of the day a little painful after leaving. Good news - went to bed early for the next day's tour. Grenada: We booked the Spice Plantation Route through Mandoo Tours. Mandoo is very knowledgeable and provided one of the best tours we have ever been on. You stop at a nutmeg receiving station, the Douglaston Spice Depot, drive through the volcanic mountains, stop at Grand Etang Forest Reserve/Crater Lake, and the Annandale Water Fall. At Grand Etang, we got to see the Mona Monkeys. At the receiving station, refreshments are provided including sampling cocoa tea, nutmeg syrup, and nutmeg jelly and jam. DISEMBARKATION: What else can I say but It went smooth and we were off the ship in no time and getting a taxi to our after cruise hotel. We did not try to make breakfast since we knew we were going to head straight into Old Town San Juan after dropping bags at the hotel before check in time. CRUISE GREATS: Chops food, the service, the ease of finding sunning space in a chair, the Solarium, the Quest, and did I mention the service?CRUISE NOT SO GREATS: We were disappointed in having signed up for our first Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle and then the invitations did not arrive till one hour before the event. We were napping and heard them put it on the door, but we did not realize what it was for till after we were up and it was over. Others said the same happened to them. I would have liked to meet everyone, but I guess it happens. Also, the internet was spotty at Royal Caribbean online and you needed twice as many minutes to avoid random freezes - not a huge issue since I only needed to check a few minor things during the cruise. Honestly, the 'not so greats' never bother us much since we are still on a ship with fantastic people and great places. If you let yourself get bogged down in the nits, then you are spoiling it for yourself. AFTER CRUISEWe stayed at the Hilton Caribe. Since check-in was later in the day, we dropped our bags with the bellman and then continued on in our taxi to Old Town. The taxi dropped us in the plaza by Castillo San Cristóbal where we were able to find a perfect stop for coffee and breakfast called Caficultura. The coffee drinks and barista here were simply amazing. For breakfast, the wife had a wrap with eggs and fresh roasted vegetables. I had Brioche Bread Coconut French Toast with pineapple marmalade on top and fresh coconut shavings. A special shout out to France, an amazing waitress - funny and quick service. We then toured the fort. It was hot, but it was worth it to see. We also stopped in the capital building to look at the artwork on the ceiling and get a few photos. At this point, it was getting up into the afternoon, and we were ready to head back to the hotel. It was not a bad walk back - about ten to fifteen minutes looking out down on the beaches and water. The Hilton Caribe will probably be our hotel of choice in the future when returning to San Juan. It was a little crowded being the Saturday before Easter, but the drinks and service were excellent at the pools. It has a nice beach, and there are plenty of food options in the hotel (including Italian and a Mortons). We choose to return to Old Town for dinner though. We stay in the Hilton Honors tower on the 20th floor with great views. The bathrooms are shower only, but include multiple heads and a sitting area. The beds were very comfortable. We asked the concierge for recommendation on tapas and were sent to Rosa de Triana in Old Town right by the cathedral. We will never be able to go to a tapas place near us again or drink sangria for that matter. Everything was well above what we considered to be good tapas and sangria prior to that. They made their own Sangria and the flavors were a wonderful combination - including cinnamon and pear. We tried various tapas dishes (such as mushroom and snails, crab stuffed peppers, and a mashed plantain and shrimp dish) and the paella. The paella was wonderful but is more than even two people can handle; especially when sampling the other dishes. If you can't eat anywhere else for dinner in San Juan, this is a must hit spot. Recommend a reservation on Friday and Saturday due to the flamenco dancers they have. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed our last night of sleep before an early flight back to Reagan National on US Airways. Smooth return and already looking forward to our next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Hi, Since I am always on this board, my turn to write a review. I have cruised quite a few times with Royal, but never on the Radiance class, and always left from Florida. Since it was just me and my boyfriend, not with our teenage ... Read More
Hi, Since I am always on this board, my turn to write a review. I have cruised quite a few times with Royal, but never on the Radiance class, and always left from Florida. Since it was just me and my boyfriend, not with our teenage son, we figured we would try the Serenade with all the beautiful ports! We flew in SJ 2 days prior, but got to our hotel around midnight (Sheraton Old San Juan, got it for $100 per night on Hotwire) for that price, it was great, but would never pay $250, so noisy... We toured San Juan and then went for diner at El Convento, tapas and sangrias, really good! We boarded the ship around 12:30pm, quite easy, not hectic like Miami. Loved the ship, its decor, its size, and of course, the wonderful staff. The whole week was great, we had balcony 9576, hump cabin, loved the balcony! The food was pretty good, we ate in the dining room 5 nights, and we did Chops and Portofino. Loved Chops, as always, Portofino left to be desired, but we must admit, we were not that hungry. We had breakfast in the Windjamer 4 mornings and dining room the 3 others, prefer the dining room, by far. The service on this ship is really good, you are not even sitting down at the buffet at lunch, they are already there to take your other for drinks. First cruise that the waiters at the pool do not even bother you, they pass, you ask them if you want something. The cruise director was quite good. We would definately cruise on the Serenade again, and highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was me and my boyfriend's second cruise. Our first being a short 3 day Carnival cruise to the Bahamas. We had wanted to try Royal Caribbean just to get a different taste and they did not disappoint. We had a wonderful and very ... Read More
This was me and my boyfriend's second cruise. Our first being a short 3 day Carnival cruise to the Bahamas. We had wanted to try Royal Caribbean just to get a different taste and they did not disappoint. We had a wonderful and very relaxing start to the new year and it was a great way to celebrate our anniversary. Sat Jan 1st - We came into San Juan early. We had already visited San Juan before so we wanted to come in early to have a bit of relaxation before the cruise. We went to old san juan and ate food at Raices (yummy mofongo!) and just walked around. We stayed in the Sheraton by the convention center (a short cab ride to old san juan). The room was very nice. Sunday - Embarkation went extremely smooth. I had printed out our boarding passes and the line wasn't too long. We got there around 2:30 pm. Before we knew it we were on the ship and in our stateroom. We had a balcony stateroom this time (ocean view our first cruise). I suggest to anyone thinking about upgrading to a balcony to do it. Its great to have outdoor space to lounge in and see the ports as we pull in. All staterooms are small so to have outdoor space makes it much more roomy. We explored every inch of the ship on the first day. I loved the size or Serenade. Not too big where I could get lost and not too small where it seems over crowded. Public areas were very clean, food in the dining room was great! I loved the Windjammer. Great buffet! I particularly didn't like the eggs or cornbeef hash but eh, i went and got my omlette made at the omlette station the next day. We also had my time dining where we could eat at our leisure. The wait staff was excellent. The food was great and we could always choose as much as we liked. They remembered our names every night (we had Noel and Made!) and shared great recommendations in the ports. Monday - We pulled into St. Croix around 7 am. We had no excursions planned so we just took a cab to the other side of the island and basically got our own tour with the cab driver. We went to Christiansted where we browsed shops and had lunch. We went to the beach back by the port and wasn't until leaving that we noticed it was closed. (oops) But it was very beautiful. St. Croix was nice but seemed like there was less to do there. That night was the first formal night. We dined at the Illusions dining room. Tuesday - We came into Antigua this day. We had room service so as to not have to get up early to go to the windjammer. It was a very gloomy overcast day. Still warm though. We booked a zip lining excursion. I was nervous but my boy friend is adventurous so he was very excited. We drove about 30 minutes to the rain forest. I was panicking on my first line but by the time I did it twice it was a breeze and very fun! I'd sooo do it again! The sun even came out for a bit. After zip lining we went back to the port, browsed the shops and returned to the ship. I was kinda bummed because Antigua's 366 beaches are supposed to be phenomenal but I guess I'll get to go next time. Back on the ship my boyfriend tried the rock climbing wall and we dined in the Windjammer. We also checked out the show in the Tropical Theatre which were songs from Broadway. I actually enjoyed it. Wednesday - The day we got into St. Lucia was absolutely perfect weather. I love St. Lucia because its where my family is from. But even if that wasn't the case, it was one of the most beautiful islands on this trip. We wanted to go bath in the Soufriere but that excursion was canceled due to damage on the roads from the hurricane not too long ago. So instead we had a catamaran cruise to the Pitons. We passed different sections and then stopped to swim off the boat. The water so clear! After that they served rum punch and sandwiches as we enjoyed the view of pitons as well as dancing on the boat. After the excursion we met up with my father who still lives there. It was great for my bf to finally meet him. We had to be on the boat by 4:30. It was sad to go but we will for sure be back. Back on the ship we had signed up for the Mystery Dinner Theatre in Portofino's Restaurant. It was "smart casual" dress so i wore a nice casual maxi dress and by boyfriend put on a button up shit with jeans. we were given champagne in the safari club and appetizers while the show started. it was a bit cheesy but still fun. were were put in groups in different tables in portofino and were able to question those who we thought was the killer. we got it right! the food was great. small portion but yummy and a bit more classy than the food in the regular dining room. also unlimited wine! it was a great time. after that we also went to the love & marriage game show hosted by our cruise director. one of the couples we dined with in the mystery dinner ended up being in the game show and they won! it was a lot of fun to watch. all in all this was a great day! Thursday - I woke up early and watched the sun rise on St. Kitts. my boyfriends family is from here so we decided to try the essential st, kitts tour which was an excellent choice. the tour took us around the island as well as to the brimestone fort and to this batik place. we even got to step out and take pictures. It was gorgeous. after the tour ended we had some of the best roti i've ever tasted in this place called Circus Grill not too far from the port. Then we took a cab to the nearest beach (frigate bay) and had a great time lounging and having drinks and taking in the sunshine. the water was so clear that we saw a school of fish swim by our feet in the ocean. When we got back to the boat we went to the second formal night and had a great dinner. We rushed a little bit to make it to the 9pm show in the theatre. We had a fun time singing along to some of the pop songs. after that night i was so tired i fell asleep early and woke up around 1 am to find myself alone in the room. my bf had went to the comedy show but i found him on the top deck when i went searching. we went to the vortex night club for a bit for a drink but didn't dance. a lot of the people on the ship seemed to be from puerto rico and a lot of the music they played were catered to them. whcih was not bad but just not our thing. so we decided to change into our bathing suits and go for a late night swim in the solarium. i loved the solarium. feels very tranquil and kids aren't allowed. the jacuzzi was great since we walked a lot that day. Friday - This was sea day. There was several activities going on but we mostly played games in the safari club and I attended bingo (didn't win though, boo!). my bf played the arcades and i went to the spa. they had this special where it was 139 for a full body massage, a facial, feet massage, and head. i came out of the spa feeling very relaxed. it was great and i'd definitely do it again! sea day was a great relaxing day. the last dining day was yummy as well well. and we tipped our waiter and assistant waiter well. Saturday - We ate breakfast around 8:30 am in the Windjammer for the last time. *tear* we were sad to go and were dreading returning back to work and to reality. we were off the ship by 10 am but had a late night flight. so we rented a car and drove around san juan. we eventually decided to go to the el yunque rain forest. it was pretty nice. we hiked the big trail half way and saw great views of pr. but we had to make our way back to catch our 8 pm flight. All in all, this was a great cruise! I would do it again. It seemed like everyone was on their honeymoon on this cruise which was great because it made it even more romantic for my bf and i. The staff was great and always helped us in every question we asked (with a smile). I always anticipated coming back to our stateroom after turn down service to check out the next days port and activities. and of course a towel creation. Compared to Carnival I'd say the fun was more in your face on Carnival (along with cruise photographers). Royal Caribbean had a great balance of fun and relaxation. I still love both cruise lines. My only complaints were that there were no robes in the staterooms and no flat screen tvs. I expected it coming from an older Carnival ship. Also on Carnival it seemed that we never saw the children because camp carnival did a great job keeping them out of public areas they shouldn't have been in. We saw children everywhere on this cruise. Didn't bother me too much, but it did to my bf. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
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

Find a Serenade of the Seas Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click