72 Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Romantic Cruise Reviews

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
This was our 2nd time on Serenade of the Sea. We sailed her in 2005 with fond memories. We arrived at 11am and our luggage was taken in the right hand line asap ($5 tip). We then got in the left hand line and at 11:30 promptly, they were ... Read More
This was our 2nd time on Serenade of the Sea. We sailed her in 2005 with fond memories. We arrived at 11am and our luggage was taken in the right hand line asap ($5 tip). We then got in the left hand line and at 11:30 promptly, they were letting us on. Embarkation was a breeze and by 11:40am we were in the Windjammer eating wonderful food. We proceeded to the dining staff to change our seating to a private table for two, early seating as I had requested. I thought this may prove difficult. With quiet efficiency and a smile we were given a table for two, #418 by a window with a beautiful view without any problem what so ever! Next, our room was ready at 1pm and our luggage was there waiting for us. There was not one person on this ship that didn't greet you with a smile and a heartfelt salutation. Having worked for tips in our youth, both my husband and I are "extra tippers". Our Room Stewart Luis was given a little extra most mornings for his towel art. Muster was a thing of beauty! No more long, drawn out over heated meetings under the life boats. 8pm we were called to the Theatre with no need to carry life jackets. 2 crew members demonstrated how to use them while instructions were spoken over the PA system in English and then in Spanish. By 8:20pm we were on our way to enjoy the ship. Helen from St Vincent was our Waitress. I have never had a more professional server with a warm and thoughtful personality. Assistant Waiter Daniel from Romania was a excellent. They were a team that flowed smooth like a well oiled machine. My husband always orders multiple appetizers and dinners so we had them working hard for us but it always seemed easy because they were so good. They earned their extra tips every night. The food was exquisite. Being a great cook (so say'ith King Scott ) and after 10 cruises I feel qualified to say this. The head waiter Constantine, was everywhere and was always visable...24/7 I saw him often and he genuinely cared for the happiness of every traveler during any meal. I never saw a Head Waiter like him...he worked always, stopping at table after table, night and day to ensure we were pleased. The last crew member that shook Scott's hand and said goodbye before debarkation was...Constantine! While Eggs Benedict were not on the main dining room breakfast menu you can order it. Room service in the morning did not have smoked salmon but it was served both in the Windjammer and formal Dining. The Seaview Cafe in the rear of deck 12 was Scott's favorite for chowder, sandwiches and snacks. It was only slightly difficult with so many ports the hours were not always convenient to us. We recommend the Cuban sandwich and the chowder. The onion rings were not good this time. The Captain's "Welcome Aboard" party was at 7:30pm on day 2 for everyone with free champagne and horderves serves. We played backgammon while everyone made speeches and enjoyed the night. We get room service every morning with coffee and tea. I should have asked if salmon was available for room service! The nice part was they would call you on the room phone to tell you they were on the way...very nice touch as on other cruise we were awakened and had to scramble for clothes and tip. The "Welcome Back" party for previous RC guests was very nice. We had too many complimentary drinks...again playing backgammon and had a ball! The Solarium pool area for adults only was very nice a I remembered but it smelled way to strongly of chlorine so we never stayed in that room after the 1st day. The main pool was very nice and the 2 hot tubs there were hotter than in the Solarium which was very nice. We played mini golf often and it was nicer than the last cruises we were on (not Royal Caribbean). We also never had a problem getting a chair. The last day at sea was hard for some people but we are early risers and brought dominoes and card and found a table with 2 chairs and spent a lovely day on deck 11. Although it was the smoking side and we don't, we were at the end by the Windjammer with open windows for a smoke-free breeze. The Schooner Bar was a stop for us most nights. They always had something going on across from the bar like trivia and Brian the bartender was extra personable. The Casino was usually pretty empty but we did play Caribbean Stud a few times when table play was $3. When they raised the prices we would not play. They would do better to have lower starting prices. Then maybe it would fill up. Debarkation was also very easy. As we had a 5:45pm fight, we took our time and had a nice breakfast in the Windjammer. Then we went back to the room to shower. After that we sat by the Champagne Bar and read books while sipping coffee. At 10am a staff member said we could leave when we wanted. We showed our ship card and went down to the luggage and had a cab all within 5 to 10 minutes. SAN JUAN We flew from Boston to San Juan on Jet Blue...great nonstop flight at a very low price, arriving at 5am. I had contacted The Sheraton Hotel & Casino Convention Center after checking many other hotels, to ask if we could check our luggage for a few hours. All the others wanted a full night cost just to check the luggage. The Casino Host sent us Player Card #'s and said we were more than welcome. We tipped the Bell Captain $5 in and $4 out. We played pennies and left $50 up! The cab there was $19 and $12 from the hotel to the cruise ship. We went back to the Sheraton after debarkation for more fun as we had a 5:45pm Jet Blue flight home. The Sheraton in Old San Juan would not hold luggage so don't go to the wrong one! TORTOLA This was our first time to Tortola. We went for a cab at 9am to Brewers bay for some snorkeling as we carry our own equipment. The cabs wanted $8pp each way and wanted to wait for a full van of 12-14. After 6 people and 5 minutes or so, I said they were going to lose our fare if they didn't take us asap as we would go back to the ship and lay by the pool. The others agreed...so off we went. The only drawback to Brewers Bay was one captive Bar with firm prices..$3 any beer and $5 for rum drink. The beach chairs were $5 each and slightly beat. It was a cloudy morning so the water was cool and rains did come so we stayed on the deck and sipped beers and met Jenny and Tim. They were on a 10 day cruise on Norwegian Jewel out of NY. We had a great time talking and laughing and having rum drinks! Jenny_Penny gave me instructions on how to get on Cruisecritic.com roll call. They were a fun couple with grand plans for their future. There were lots of chickens and roosters running around the island. Pelicans were swimming along the beach and the bay was full of fish but due to weather we declined snorkeling. We headed back to the ship at 1pm for lunch. I will reserve my opinion until the next time I try Tortola. ST MAARTEN - ST MARTIN This was our 5th time in St Maarten. In the past we have rented scooters twice, an ATV once and a car once. We drove around the whole island, both French and Dutch, went to Orient Beach ($25 for 2 chairs & 1 umbrella) and Pinel Island (in 2008 was $5, in was 2010 $10) ferry each way for snorkeling. Both scooters had major problems like no shocks and no mirrors, the ATV broke down and the car had a tire slashed...but we always had a fun adventure! By the way...the car was the cheapest and we put the spare on and refused to pay for a new tire. This trip we decided to get the unlimited water taxi for $6 each. This takes you from the cruise port to the beach, "The Boardwalk" in Philipsburg. We walked 2 minutes to 99 Front St to "Caribbean Paradise" store and bought 750ml Absolute Vodka $7.99, a beach towel $5 and a T-shirt $4 and cold beer from a back cooler for $1. This store never pressured you...just walk around and browse peacefully. They also sell trinkets, watches and leather handbags, all at great prices. Next, Scott remembered a place on the beach that he really liked last year so we went in search. We found it...Lizzy's, with the best deal in the Caribbean. It hosts a very large covered open porch with a gorgeous view of the ships and the ocean. We got 2 great chairs, a big new umbrella, a water bed float, 2 beers and shots of rum punch with free WiFi for $10 total!!! The beach was beautiful. I was glad I had flip-flops as the sand closest to the road/bars had some broken shells. Everyone at Lizzy's was warm and friendly. They had nice oldies music playing all day and Scott went back to the ship midday for lunch and brought me back a sandwich and fruit. I would say for a perfect island stop at low cost, this is the way to go. The beach and town hawkers were too plentiful but just say "No Thank You" and they walk away. Aloe massages are $30 but I agreed only to $20 for 20-30 minutes of back, neck and head massage...wow! Thank you to Sherine...she was fabulous. ST KITTS - ST NEVIS This was our 2nd time to St Kitts as last January we came. We remembered a quiet, less inhabited beach on South Friar's Bay. The place we had been to midway up the beach was destroyed in the hurricane and they rebuilt by too much coral and had no umbrellas to speak of. The van had taken us at $4 pp after too much trouble waiting, to "The Shipwreck" on the far left of South Friar's. They were the only place with a coral & sea urchin free swim beach, a float to swim out to and a rope designating where the coral started for snorkeling. Their beach chairs with a fabulous thatched umbrella structure were 2 chairs & umbrella for $10 Beers were an ice cold bucket of 6 $15 or $3 each. I recommend the Pirates Punch $4 was strong and tasty. They rent snorkel equipment but we had our own. For total privacy, walk north on the beach an you would be alone. St Nevis, her sister island is visible to the south and breath taking...it looks like it is lost in the clouds. There are mongoose and monkeys running up by the road for entertainment. Amanda and Kim from the US were our friendly bartenders. 20 minute leg and foot massages were available on the beach for $20. The Hawkers were not too bad. www.shipwreckbeachbarandgrill.webs.com We were treated 5 star. Cabs back were plentiful. I might suggest gathering a group of 6 - 8 beforehand for a van so you don't have to haggle. I started the day quite irritated and ended in total relaxation. DOMINICA This was the first time we visited Dominica, NOT to be confused with Dominica Republic. I had booked an excursion online with funrivertours.com and the cost for 2 was $104.50 for 4.75 hrs of fun. Upon leaving the ship I was very uncomfortable to start. The area you cross to has way too many cabbies that are like vultures trying to grab you. We were early for our 11am pickup time so we tried to walk up and down the street. Scott was less bothered as he said a polite "no thank you, we have a tour booked" worked easily but had to be said too often. We went directly across and slightly left to the Emporium that RC recommended and bought a large bottle of spring water for $2 ($3.99 + tip on board) and a local beer, Kabuli for $2 also. The tour conformation email told to look for a guide holding a "Fun River Tours" sign...it said "Fun Sun" so I was confused to start. Everything worked out wonderful. There were 4 of us with our driver Peter and our tour guide, Danny Eusebe (ijahdan@gmail.com , a local singing artist. We drove @ 30 minutes or less and met the river guides and a group of @ 30 on the RC excursion. Vests and helmets were mandatory to tube ride the river. We brought our own snorkel vests and they were accepted. We were given a tube and off we went. The young men who ran this were fantastic. All but 1 of them would head down river to possible trouble spots to help all the people who needed it. It was slow at points and very invigorating white water at other time while riding through rain forests and lush cliffs. We never fell out but some did and no one got hurt and everyone loved it! I tipped the guys $5 from the two of us and we parted ways with the large group. We next went to Trafalgar Falls for a 10 minute walk up to dual falls, shooting out of the mountain. One was ariver falls and one was a lake falls. The photo shoot was great. Next, we were taken to Papillote Rain Forest Restaurant for a free drink, either rum, beer or soft drink. There was a natural hot mineral pool for swimming. We bought 2 music CD's that Danny had made for $10. We tipped him and out driver and went back to the ship by 4pm for a 4:30 all aboard time. What an absolutely great tour. BARBADOS This was our 2nd time in Barbados but I wasn't impressed the first time. We booked a Turtle & Shipwreck Snorkeling tour with www.westwater-adventures-barbados.com/tours.html . The cost of $84.93 total for 2 went through Alcatraz Media, Inc. in Georgia on my charge card. All emails were helpful and I called Alcatraz to change our start time from 9am to 11am after the conformation email stated "due to road work we must meet at Folkestone Marine Park. After checking, I was informed that the cab cost was $25 each way...I was very upset. After investigating, I found the buses are government run public transportation. We left the cruise ship and walked about 5 minutes past the vans and cabs, past the Pelican Craft Center on your left (a large complex of stores and restaurants) to the bus terminal, also on the left. It was $1 each way and we asked the bus driver to put us off at Folkestone. It was a breeze! We arrived early at 10am as we didn't know how the travel would be. Monica, the owner met us. She called in the "Shamon Two" glass bottom boat, driven by Kendrick. He took us at her behest to the shipwreck and coral reef for a private snorkel trip while awaiting the other 8 people. The "Shamon Two" had an upper deck for a magnificent view that we used on the trip back. Once at the man-made sunken ship, Kendrick breaded the water after we got in. There were dozens of fish by the ship. We headed to the coral ad told that we be careful not to step on or injure the coral reef. We found it best by the shipwreck. After awhile, we got back in the boat. I had 2 plastic fish charts in our snorkel equipment...I gave one to Kendrick and he was like a kid at Xmas! Back to shore his brother Michael brought the remaining tour members and we headed to feed and swim with the large sea turtles. Leave you flippers in the boat so as not to injure them and almost all of us ran our hands down the top shell of the ancient sea critters. They do not bite and it was very safe. We went back to the shore to pick up more people before Hendrick headed back to the shipwreck. We were told we could stay on but now we were thirsty and wanted R&R on the beach so we gave Kendrick $5 tip and got off the best boat excursion ever! Michael took us back to Monica and we asked about beverages. The beverage stand was not open yet so she had Michael go to a store and he came back with 4 Banks beers...their local brew. He opened them without an opener, using each bottle on the next...the last one was tricky..he tapped an open cover slightly and used that to open the 4th. We were duly impressed. I tried to tip him but he declined. It was a great day in paradise. I would highly recommend this tour group!!! We walked out of Folkestone Park, crossed the road and walked 1 block up to the bus stop. Put your hand up for the blue bus, not the yellow we were told. Tell the driver if you want to get off in town or go back to the ship as we did. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This was our 2nd time on Serenade of the Sea. We sailed her in 2005 with fond memories. We arrived at 11am and our luggage was taken in the right hand line asap ($5 tip). We then got in the left hand line and at 11:30 promptly, they were ... Read More
This was our 2nd time on Serenade of the Sea. We sailed her in 2005 with fond memories. We arrived at 11am and our luggage was taken in the right hand line asap ($5 tip). We then got in the left hand line and at 11:30 promptly, they were letting us on. Embarkation was a breeze and by 11:40am we were in the Windjammer eating wonderful food. We proceeded to the dining staff to change our seating to a private table for two, early seating as I had requested. I thought this may prove difficult. With quiet efficiency and a smile we were given a table for two, #418 by a window with a beautiful view without any problem what so ever! Next, our room was ready at 1pm and our luggage was there waiting for us. There was not one person on this ship that didn't greet you with a smile and a heartfelt salutation. Having worked for tips in our youth, both my husband and I are "extra tippers". Our Room Stewart Luis was given a little extra most mornings for his towel art. Muster was a thing of beauty! No more long, drawn out over heated meetings under the life boats. 8pm we were called to the Theatre with no need to carry life jackets. 2 crew members demonstrated how to use them while instructions were spoken over the PA system in English and then in Spanish. By 8:20pm we were on our way to enjoy the ship. Helen from St Vincent was our Waitress. I have never had a more professional server with a warm and thoughtful personality. Assistant Waiter Daniel from Romania was a excellent. They were a team that worked smoothly like a well oiled machine. My husband always orders multiple appetizers and dinners so we had them working hard for us but it always seemed easy because they were so good. They earned their extra tips every night. The food was exquisite. Being a great cook, or so I have been told, and after 10 cruises I feel qualified to say this. Constantine, the Head Waiter of was always visible...24/7, and he genuinely cared for the happiness of every traveler during any meal. I never saw a Head Waiter like him...he worked always, stopping at table after table, night and day to ensure we were pleased. The last crew member that shook Scott's hand and said goodbye before debarkation was...Constantine! While Eggs Benedict were not on the main dining room breakfast menu you can order it. Room service in the morning did not have smoked salmon but it was served both in the Windjammer and formal Dining. The Seaview Cafe in the rear of deck 12 was Scott's favorite for chowder, sandwiches and snacks. It was only slightly difficult with so many ports the hours were not always convenient to us. We recommend the Cuban sandwich and the chowder. The onion rings were not good this time. The Captain's "Welcome Aboard" party was at 7:30pm on day 2 for everyone with free champagne and horderves serves. We played backgammon while everyone made speeches and enjoyed the night. We get room service every morning with coffee and tea. I should have asked if salmon was available for room service! The nice part was they would call you on the room phone to tell you they were on the way...very nice touch as on other cruise we were awakened and had to scramble for clothes and tip. The "Welcome Back" party for previous RC guests was very nice. We had too many complimentary drinks...again playing backgammon and had a ball! The Solarium pool area for adults only was very nice a I remembered but it smelled way to strongly of chlorine so we never stayed in that room after the 1st day. The main pool was very nice and the 2 hot tubs there were hotter than in the Solarium which was very nice. We played mini golf often and it was nicer than the last cruises we were on (not Royal Caribbean). We also never had a problem getting a chair. The last day at sea was hard for some people but we are early risers and brought dominoes and card and found a table with 2 chairs and spent a lovely day on deck 11. Although it was the smoking side and we don't, we were at the end by the Windjammer with open windows for a smoke-free breeze. The Schooner Bar was a stop for us most nights. They always had something going on across from the bar like trivia and Brian the bartender was extra personable. The Casino was usually pretty empty but we did play Caribbean Stud a few times when table play was $3. When they raised the prices we would not play. They would do better to have lower starting prices. Then maybe it would fill up. Debarkation was also very easy. As we had a 5:45pm fight, we took our time and had a nice breakfast in the Windjammer. Then we went back to the room to shower. After that we sat by the Champagne Bar and read books while sipping coffee. At 10am a staff member said we could leave when we wanted. We showed our ship card and went down to the luggage and had a cab all within 5 to 10 minutes. SAN JUAN We flew from Boston to San Juan on Jet Blue...great nonstop flight at a very low price, arriving at 5am. I had contacted The Sheraton Hotel & Casino Convention Center after checking many other hotels, to ask if we could check our luggage for a few hours. All the others wanted a full night cost just to check the luggage. The Casino Host sent us Player Card #'s and said we were more than welcome. We tipped the Bell Captain $5 in and $4 out. We played pennies and left $50 up! The cab there was $19 and $12 from the hotel to the cruise ship. We went back to the Sheraton after debarkation for more fun as we had a 5:45pm Jet Blue flight home. The Sheraton in Old San Juan would not hold luggage so don't go to the wrong one! TORTOLA This was our first time to Tortola. We went for a cab at 9am to Brewers bay for some snorkeling as we carry our own equipment. The cabs wanted $8pp each way and wanted to wait for a full van of 12-14. After 6 people and 5 minutes or so, I said they were going to lose our fare if they didn't take us asap as we would go back to the ship and lay by the pool. The others agreed...so off we went. The only drawback to Brewers Bay was one captive Bar with firm prices..$3 any beer and $5 for rum drink. The chairs for the beach were $5 each and slightly beat. It was a cloudy morning so the water was cool and rains did come so we stayed on the deck and sipped beers and met Jenny and Tim. They were on a 10day cruise on Norwegian Jewel out of NY. We had a great time talking and laughing and having rum drinks! Jenny_Penny gave me instructions on how to get on Cruisecritic.com roll call. They were a fun couple with grand plans for their future. There were lots of chickens and roosters running around the island. Pelicans were swimming along the beach and the bay was full of fish but due to weather we declined snorkeling. We headed back to the ship at 1pm for lunch. I will reserve my opinion until the next time I try Tortola. ST MAARTEN - ST MARTIN This was our 5th time in St Maarten. In the past we have rented scooters twice, an ATV once and a car once. We drove around the whole island, both French and Dutch, went to Orient Beach ($25 for 2 chairs & 1 umbrella) and Pinel Island (in 2008 was $5, in was 2010 $10) ferry each way for snorkeling. Both scooters had major problems like no shocks and no mirrors, the ATV broke down and the car had a tire slashed...but we always had a fun adventure! By the way...the car was the cheapest and we put the spare on and refused to pay for a new tire. This trip we decided to get the unlimited water taxi for $6 each. This takes you from the cruise port to the beach, "The Boardwalk" in Philipsburg. We walked 2 minutes to 99 Front St to "Caribbean Paradise" store and bought 750ml Absolute Vodka $7.99, a beach towel $5 and a T-shirt $4 and cold beer from a back cooler for $1. This store never pressured you...just walk around and browse peacefully. They also sell trinkets, watches and leather handbags, all at great prices. Next, Scott remembered a place on the beach that he really liked last year so we went in search. We found it...Lizzy's, with the best deal in the Caribbean. It hosts a very large covered open porch with a gorgeous view of the ships and the ocean. We got 2 great chairs, a big new umbrella, a water bed float, 2 beers and shots of rum punch with free WiFi for $10 total!!! The beach was beautiful. I was glad I had flip-flops as the sand closest to the road/bars had some broken shells. Everyone at Lizzy's was warm and friendly. They had nice oldies music playing all day and Scott went back to the ship midday for lunch and brought me back a sandwich and fruit. I would say for a perfect island stop at low cost, this is the way to go. The beach and town hawkers were too plentiful but just say "No Thank You" and they walk away. Aloe massages are $30 but I agreed only to $20 for 20-30 minutes of back, neck and head massage...wow! Thank you to Sherine...she was fabulous. ST KITTS - ST NEVIS This was our 2nd time to St Kitts as last January we came. We remembered a quiet, less inhabited beach on South Friar's Bay. The place we had been to midway up the beach was destroyed in the hurricane and they rebuilt by too much coral and had no umbrellas to speak of. The van had taken us at $4 pp after too much trouble waiting, to "The Shipwreck" on the far left of South Friar's. They were the only place with a coral & sea urchin free swim beach, a float to swim out to and a rope designating where the coral started for snorkeling. Their beach chairs with a fabulous thatched umbrella structure were 2 chairs & umbrella for $10 Beers were an ice cold bucket of 6 $15 or $3 each. I recommend the Pirates Punch $4 was strong and tasty. They rent snorkel equipment but we had our own. For total privacy, walk north on the beach an you would be alone. St Nevis, her sister island is visible to the south and breath taking...it looks like it is lost in the clouds. There are mongoose and monkeys running up by the road for entertainment. Amanda and Kim from the US were our friendly bartenders. 20 minute leg and foot massages were available on the beach for $20. The Hawkers were not too bad. www.shipwreckbeachbarandgrill.webs.com We were treated 5 star . Cabs back were plentiful. I might suggest gathering a group of 6 - 8 beforehand for a van so you don't have to haggle. I started quite irritated and ended in total relaxation. DOMINICA This was the first time we visited Dominica, NOT to be confused with Dominica Republic. I had booked an excursion online with funrivertours.com and the cost for 2 was $104.50 for 4.75 hrs of fun. Upon leaving the ship I was very uncomfortable to start. The area you cross to has way too many cabbies that are like vultures trying to grab you. We were early for our 11am pickup time so we tried to walk up and down the street. Scott was less bothered as he said a polite "no thank you, we have a tour booked" worked easily but had to be said too often. We went directly across and slightly left to the Emporium that RC recommended and bought a large bottle of spring water for $2 ($3.99 + tip on board) and a local beer, Kabuli for $2 also. The tour conformation email told to look for a guide holding a "Fun River Tours" sign...it said "Fun Sun" so I was confused to start. Everything worked out wonderful. There were 4 of us with our driver Peter and our tour guide, Danny Eusebe (ijahdan@gmail.com , a local singing artist. We drove @ 30 minutes or less and met the river guides and a group of @ 30 on the RC excursion. Vests and helmets were mandatory to tube ride the river. We brought our own snorkel vests and they were accepted. We were given a tube and off we went. The young men who ran this were fantastic. All but 1 of them would head down river to possible trouble spots to help all the people who needed it. It was slow at points and very invigorating white water at other time while riding through rain forests and lush cliffs. We never fell out but some did and no one got hurt and everyone loved it! I tipped the guys $5 from the two of us and we parted ways with the large group. We next went to Trafalgar Falls for a 10 minute walk up to dual falls, shooting out of the mountain. One was ariver falls and one was a lake falls. The photo shoot was great. Next, we were taken to Papillote Rain Forest Restaurant for a free drink, either rum, beer or soft drink. There was a natural hot mineral pool for swimming. We bought 2 music CD's that Danny had made for $10. We tipped him and out driver and went back to the ship by 4pm for a 4:30 all aboard time. What an absolutely great tour. BARBADOS This was our 2nd time in Barbados but I don't think I was impressed the first time. We booked a Turtle & Shipwreck Snorkeling tour with www.westwater-adventures-barbados.com/tours.html . The cost of $84.93 total for 2 went through Alcatraz Media, Inc. in Georgia on my charge card. All emails were helpful and I called Alcatraz to change our start time from 9am to 11am after the conformation email stated "due to road work we must meet at Folkestone Marine Park. After checking, I was informed that the cab cost was $25 each way...I was very upset. After investigating, I found the buses are government run public transportation. We left the cruise ship and walked about 5 minutes past the vans and cabs, past the Pelican Craft Center on your left (a large complex of stores and restaurants) to the bus terminal, also on the left. It was $1 each way and we asked the bus driver to put us off at Folkestone. It was a breeze! We arrived early at 10am as we didn't know how the travel would be. Monica, the owner met us. She called in the "Shamon Two" glass bottom boat, driven by Kendrick. He took us at her behest to the shipwreck and coral reef for a private snorkel trip while awaiting the other 8 people. The boat had an upper deck for a magnificent view that we used on the trip back. Once at the man-made sunken ship, Kendrick breaded the water after we got in. There were dozens of fish by the ship. We headed to the coral ad told that we be careful not to step on or injure the coral reef. We found it best by the shipwreck. After awhile, we got back in the boat. I had 2 plastic fish charts in our snorkel equipment...I gave one to Kendrick and he was like a kid at Xmas! Back to shore his brother Michael brought the remaining tour members and we headed to feed and swim with the large sea turtles. Leave you flippers in the boat so as not to injure them and almost all of us ran our hands down the top shell of the ancient sea critters. They do not bite and it was very safe. We went back to the shore to pick up more people before Hendrick headed back to the shipwreck. We were told we could stay on but now we were thirsty and wanted R&R on the beach so we gave Kendrick $5 tip and got off the best boat excursion ever! Michael took us back to Monica and we asked about beverages. The beverage stand was not open yet so she had Michael go to a store and he came back with 4 Banks beers...their local brew. He opened them without an opener, using each bottle on the next...the last one was tricky..he tapped an open cover slightly and used that to open the 4th. We were duly impressed. I tried to tip him but he declined. It was a great day in paradise. I would highly recommend this tour group!!! We walked out of Folkestone Park, crossed the road and walked 1 block up to the bus stop. Put your hand up for the blue bus, not the yellow we were told. Tell the driver if you want to get off in town or go back to the ship as we did. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
I Arrived in San Juan at about 1:30pm the day before the cruise. After getting luggage went and got a taxi (There is an over abundance of taxi's) to the hotel and arrived at the hotel at about 2:45pm. The taxi fair to the hotel ... Read More
I Arrived in San Juan at about 1:30pm the day before the cruise. After getting luggage went and got a taxi (There is an over abundance of taxi's) to the hotel and arrived at the hotel at about 2:45pm. The taxi fair to the hotel Courtyard Marriot Miramar was $16.00. It took longer than usual to get to the hotel as the traffic was heavy due to recent heavy rains that had streets flooded, but our driver knew some great short cuts off the main roads to get us there quicker. The normal time with normal traffic would only be about 15 minutes. The Courtyard Marriot Miramar (3 star) has a lot of mixed reviews, so I did not know what to really expect when I booked it. I booked it for the price ($129.00 with no resort fees). The hotel turned out to be great! Friendly staff, easy check in, very clean inside and out. Our room on the 11th floor had plenty of room, very clean and a very good view. It was located in the convention district and within a two blocks there were 3 restaurants, A Japanese Sushi Bar, a fast food taco place (Like Taco Bell), a Subway, a Supermarket, Domino's Pizza, 2 Pharmacy's and a U.S. Post Office. Contrary to reviews that I have read, the area was very safe day and night, and only saw one vagrant on the streets (I saw more in old San Juan than I saw here). The restaurant in the Hotel was expensive so we never ate in there. Went down the street and ate in one of the restaurants to eat authentic Puerto Rican food and it was very good and very reasonably priced. We also ate breakfast there the morning of the cruise (Ham & Cheese Omelet with toast and coffee for $4.50). Bought some snacks at the supermarket and the prices there were comparable with the prices in mainland United States Supermarkets. This hotel is not hotel to be at however, if you want to be at the beach (Not within close walking distance) or if you are looking for a lot of entertainment (None at the hotel or in the vicinity). I was mainly looking for a hotel to rest my head overnight without spending a lot of money, that was close to the pier and close to Old San Juan. At 3:30pm we were ready to go off to Old San Juan. If you decide to go in a Taxi (They are lined up outside the hotel day and night), it will cost you $14.00. We went by bus, which the stop is one block up the street for 75 cents (Must have exact change). The ride by taxi is approximately 15 minutes or 20 minutes by bus due to stops for passengers along the route. After arriving in Old San Juan we walked around for a bit until the heat became a bit much and we wanted to get into some air conditioning. We were meeting with people for a Meet & Greet from our Roll Call from Cruise Critic at Mojito's Restaurant, but the 1st people from the Roll Call that had arrived Friday found out that it closed for vacation. They put a sign on the door to let everyone know that the plans had changed to meet at Senior Frogs instead. The Meet and Greet was great, There was about 28 people that showed up and we had a good time getting to know each other. It was like getting together with old friends even though it was the 1st time that anybody had met each other. Day 0 Sunday - Embarkation Day: Checked out of the hotel at 11:00am (Smooth), got a taxi to the Pan Am pier ($14.00 - 10 minute ride), and there she was…. The Serenade Of The Seas! When we arrived at 11:15am there was people already lined up. We checked our luggage right at curbside and got in line. The doors opened at noon and we processed and was on the ship in about 20 minutes (We travel with passports and I cannot tell you if it was any faster with passports as compared to DL/BC's and didn't really care - I just wanted to get on board). We went right to the spa to get a massage reservation, but they had a table set up and was able to do it as soon as we got off the elevator by the Windjammer. There was a very friendly and comical person who greeted you at the entrance to the Windjammer that was there every day. She was always able to make you smile and laugh. We ate lunch and the food offered was pretty good. We are not 5 star restaurant gourmet dinners and do the occasional buffet restaurants. The offerings in the Windjammer were as good as anything I have eaten in any buffet restaurant so we had no complaints and by 1:00 the rooms were ready. Got to the room (9580 - Balcony on the hump) and everything that I had pre ordered was there waiting. My DW did not know about the things I had ordered as it was a surprise. I had ordered one of the romance packages and a wine and fruit tray and anniversary decorations. In spite of what I had read on here, the decorations were just as advertised on the website. Our State room attendant (Denardo) was at the room within 5 minutes of our arrival to introduce himself and to set the start of what would turn out to be a very pleasant experience for the entire week. We did the prepaid gratuities and he was one of the persons that we tipped extra in cash to at the end of the cruise. We then went on our exploration of the ship to check things out. Serenade is a beautiful ship. Glass to look out over the ocean everywhere including the centrum elevators. Following is pictures of our exploration: Went to the solarium and bought a beer package ($39.00 for 9 beers with a insulated carrying case, then refills were $28.00 if I remember correctly) then sat and chilled for a bit with a couple from our roll call. Our Roll Call did a Meet and Greet at 4:00 with everybody that was at Senior Frogs in San Juan and the rest who was not there until embarkation day up at the Sky Bar above the pool area. It started getting close to dinner time (Early Seating), so we went back to the room to see if our luggage had arrived yet, but it had not. At 6:00 we went to be seated for dinner. The dress on embarkation day is whatever you have on, due to many people not having luggage to arrive yet. We were escorted to our table (460), which was a table for 4. We greeted by our Waiter for the week (Filton who received the other extra cash gratuity) and our assistant waiter (Francisco) as well as our table mates. Dinner was great (Don’t remember what we had each night). Now about the MDR dining experience….. Although I said we don’t eat in fine dining gourmet restaurants, I mean we don’t all the time, but do on occasions. If you are looking for that kind of dining you might be setting you expectations too high. I believe that the chefs on board do a hell of a job to provide a quality menu to give you a gourmet type meal experience each night. I applaud them for their efforts to feed over 2000 people nightly. I would love to see a 5 star gourmet restaurant do that and still maintain the same quality. After dinner we returned back to our room about 7:40 and our luggage had finally arrived. The luggage by the way is left “Inside” your room. A little after 8:00pm there was the call for muster (No life vest required) and at 8:30pm sharp we were pulling away from the pier and on our way! The 1st day is the Sea Day is the 1st formal night. Here is the real deal about dress on formal night as well as dress in the MDR on other nights aboard The Serenade of the Seas. 1st we like to dress for formal nights as part of our overall cruise experience. I brought one suit along with two shirts and two ties to have a different look at both formal nights. You saw various types of dress for men and women on this night from formal wear, suit and ties, pants suits, gowns short evening wear for women, as well as sports jackets and slacks, shirts and slacks or smart casual. We did not see anybody being questioned or put out because of what they were wearing. On the other nights we saw various types of dress also, even some with shorts on. Did not see tank tops or flip flops, but it appeared that anything else was acceptable. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
This was our first cruise so we had no idea what to expect. We flew into San Juan and rented a car (white mustang convertible) from Enterprise. They picked us up at the airport and took us off site to rent the car. My dh and I do not ... Read More
This was our first cruise so we had no idea what to expect. We flew into San Juan and rented a car (white mustang convertible) from Enterprise. They picked us up at the airport and took us off site to rent the car. My dh and I do not speak Spanish (despite many years of it in school) and our directions that we were given from the car rental to our hotel we were less then perfect. We got lost on some major highway and didn't even know the difference between North, East, West and South. Apparently when you enter Old San Juan and try to make it to the Sheraton (NOT in Old San Juan) it's pretty tricky. Once we figured it out we did great and really enjoyed exploring Old San Juan. This is a beautiful little old town with forts, beaches and great shops all within walking distance of each other (except the beach). I never once felt unsafe and I am a bit nervous.The Sheraton was very nice, with a beautiful infinity pool on the roof. It did close very early, in my opinion. We no sooner felt like we got there and they were closing. I think it was like 8 at night. We could hear the Coqui frogs chirping in the background. The food at the hotel was pricey but good. There really are no restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. If you want to stay in Old San Juan, you want the other Sheraton. The parking was pricey there too. Overall it was a very nice hotel, with a very upscale feeling. Room was comfortable and new and we had a great view of the pool, and pier. Our disembarkation was quick and painless. We actually left on Halloween night and something major was going on in Old San Juan with helicopters and police activity. We did not leavce port on time but we didn't mind. My first impression of the ship's decor was a bit tacky but I have never been on a cruise before. By the end of the trip I grew to appreciate the style. I LOVED how the elevators were all glass and so was the outside of the ship by the elevator. So as we were going up and down the elevators we looked out onto the blue ocean.Our first Port of Call was supposed to be Aruba but there was a hurricane so we went to Barbados. It was beautiful there as we went to "The Boatyard" beach. This was recommended to us by our waiters. We were so concerned about not knowing where we were going but it was great. Had no problem getting a taxi/shuttle to The Boatyard, paid our nominal fee for the beach and enjoyed ourselves for the day. Beautiful water, and soft sand. There were some locals trying to sell us goods but the people at the Boatyard really looked over us and made sure they didn't linger too long. We bought a necklace and earrings from a local man. Our way back to the boat was not so nice. In fact it kinda put a damper on our perfect day at the beach. The taxi driver took the long way back to the boat, due to an incredible amount of traffic so the detour took us through back roads and I was scared! We were so glad to back on the boat.Dinner was amazing and our waiters were TOP NOTCH! Seriously, above and beyond all expectations we ever had. WE actually wrote Royal Caribbean headquarters, praising them for our two waiters. We made sure we got their names and proper spelling before we left the ship.The shows were pretty good. The one guy that did the lasso show was hysterical... my face hurt from laughing so hard. The other comedian was really good too. The only shows we didn't care for were the in house entertainment shows. But there were only 2 of them and they weren't horrible just not our taste. The next port was Antigua and we booked an excursion of kayaking and snorkeling. It was another wonderful day. It poured while we snorkeled and we didn't even care. The kayaking was fun, we picked up a few really large starfish right off the mangrove roots. Our tour guides were great and fun and the more we interacted with them the more fun it was. I got to hold a sea cucumber too (yuck) but it was so fun. One of our favorite things was going to bed after a great meal, fun entertainment and waking up in a different place. Looking out over our balcony at a new port each morning was truly wonderful. The later in the night entertainment they has was good too. We played the Quest game, I highly recommend going to this and taking part in the game. It was so much fun... I could not believe I saw my husband participating in this funny game. Very out of character for him, but we did win. We played pool on the self leveling pool tables. Went to the newlywed game and roared laughing.Next port was St. Maarten and that was not such a good day. My husband did the scuba diving which was horrible for him and truly ruined his day. The seas were so rough they should have cancelled, but it's all about money so they didn't. He got so sea sick and was even sick while under the water. *side note on this... my husband used to LIVE on a sail boat and has built boats, spent MUCH of life on boats and does NOT get sea sick... just to show how bad it was* He went to the front desk to complain about this VERY expensive excursion and was pretty much told there wasn't much to be done about this. That they would submit a complaint but all he received for his horrible day was a letter in the mail a few weeks later saying they were sorry he didn't enjoy the excursion. That was probably our most disappointing thing on the whole trip and the only thing we found that Royal Caribbean did not do well.The shopping was ok at St. Maarten alot of shops, no bathrooms to be found but McDonald's. I didn't not enjoy that port much but I never ventured off the beach/shopping area and my dh's experience put a damper.St.Thomas was AMAZING!! We didn't book and excursion, got off found a driver who filled up his open air van/truck and gave us the tour of a lifetime. All over the island, stopping at shops and then asking us where we wanted to go. We picked the beach and were dropped off at Sapphire Beach where you can rent snorkel equipment for a cheap price. The beach has a bathroom (nothing special) but we had a chair and a fresh shower for when we were done. The fish were as soon as we put our face in the water. We snorkeled so far out and truly had the time of our life. This was my favorite stop and I want so badly to go back for a week sometime. We have 4 children and have been married for 15 years, this was our first long trip without the children and we actually forgot we had kids a few times. It was an amazing vacation and one we are so glad we did. We were very pleased with Royal Caribbean's food, entertainment, staff and room. The cruise director was tolerable in my opinion but maybe that is the way they all are. I do not have anything to compare him to. We liked our cruise so much we booked another cruise, this time we are taking all 4 kids. Two cruises in one year! Thank you Royal Caribbean! Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
My wife and I took the Serenade of the Seas' southern Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. I did a few short (Catalina/Ensenada) cruises many years ago, this was my wife's first cruise. Overall, it was a great experience and we ... Read More
My wife and I took the Serenade of the Seas' southern Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. I did a few short (Catalina/Ensenada) cruises many years ago, this was my wife's first cruise. Overall, it was a great experience and we would recommend this ship and cruise. POSITIVES: -The balcony stateroom was fine. The layout of the stateroom and bathroom is "cozy" but well designed and there is plenty of storage, even though we had a lot of luggage. The balcony is a good size but annoyingly there were only 2 regular chairs and no lounge chairs. My wife loved to sit out here and that was a negative. Also, the beds weren't the most comfortable and were "short sheeted" on the first night. -The dining room experience was fantastic. Great service, great food and food selection. My wife is Celiac and needs a gluten free (no wheat, rye, or barley) diet. We had noted this when booking, and the dining staff were well informed and accommodated her wonderfully. She got gluten free bread each night, and was able to review the following night's menu to make her selection early. The cooks would modify certain dishes and desserts (within reason) to be gluten free. Beyond that, the overall quality of the food and service was excellent as noted. We did the "My Time" dining and sat by ourselves, since we're not especially social and just enjoyed the time to ourselves at the end of a long day. -The overall appearance and facilities of the ship were definitely up to expectations. We especially liked the pools and jacuzzis. Annoyingly, though, they closed several of them for cleaning the last few nights, which is when we used them. Also, the indoor pool in the Solarium is not heated, which was OK with me but not with my wife. Also note that both "adult" pools are deep even at the "shallow" end (5'5") and are not suitable for non-swimmers. -The ports were great and varied, which is the main thing that attracted us to this particular cruise in the first place. NEGATIVES: Nothing that spoiled the overall experience but there were a few. -The "Explorations" desk was undermanned, not open very often, and disorganized. RCL obviously wants you to use their interactive TV to book the excursions but we had questions and were frustrated trying to get answers. -The Windjammer buffet is good and varied for regular guests but my wife definitely struggled with gluten-free choices for lunch. As noted above, we were impressed with the care and concern RCL takes to special dietary needs in the dining room and were disappointed this didn't carry over to the Windjammer. Having symbols to indicate gluten-free, vegetarian, etc. choices on the labels doesn't seem too difficult a concept to implement, but we had to ask a lot of questions to find safe choices for lunch. -The onboard activities were very underwhelming. Towel folding demonstrations, bingo, sales pitches, geriatric 50s do-wop groups and an embarrassingly bad lounge singer seemed to be the order of the day. We had enough fun with the shore excursions and pool facilities that this wasn't that big an issue, but c'mon RCL. Throw us 40 and 30 somethings a bone here. -I occasionally noted an unpleasant odor in the bathroom and in our hall, maybe from cleaning products? All in all it's a good ship with a good itinerary and made for a really wonderful week. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Background: DH and I are in our mid 20's with no children.We were cruising for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We prefer smaller ships with fewer people. We don't need all the bells and whistles of the ship, as we prefer to ... Read More
Background: DH and I are in our mid 20's with no children.We were cruising for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We prefer smaller ships with fewer people. We don't need all the bells and whistles of the ship, as we prefer to cruise for the destinations. This was our 4th and 5th cruise on Royal Caribbean, and the hubby has also cruised princess. This was our second time on the Serenade. We had booked Cabin 8592 on deck 8, an E1 balcony on the "hump" for both weeks of the Back to Back. Travel day down: We flew out of Grand Rapids, MI very early on Saturday. Our flights went smoothly, and as soon as the wheels touched down in San Juan, we were to our gate, received our luggage, and took a cab to our hotel in less than 45 minutes! It was the smoothest travel we have ever encountered. It was $19 for the cab to our hotel, plus $1 for each bag. Hotel: We spent Saturday night in Old San Juan at the SOFO Casablanca Hotel. For only $103, the location cannot be beat. We were within walking distance to everything in Old San Juan. The room was clean, but very small. There were few amenities, and the hotel was very noisy. My suggestions would be for the hotel to put some kind of shower rack in the shower, and provide better television service (only 5 or 10 channels). I would not want to spend more than one night in this hotel, but for a pre-cruise stay, it was okay. In the future, we will bid for one of the chain hotels on a travel site. Old San Juan: We spent Saturday night walking around Old San Juan. We walked the long path around El Morro, and had dinner at Senior Frogs. There were no cruise ships in port on Saturday. On Sunday morning, we made our way to La Bombonera for a wonderful pastry breakfast and fresh squeezed orange juice. We walked down to take pictures of the Serenade in port (other side of the pier). After that, we walked to El Morro for a tour. We were surprised to find that there was no admission fee the day we were there, so we enjoyed a free tour. The fort provides great views and amazing places for pictures. After touring the fort, we took a trolley to San Cristobal and also toured there for free. A short walk back to our hotel, and we had a cab waiting for us to take us to the cruise ship pier. Embarkation and First Day: We arrived at the cruise pier around 11:30 am. We handed over our luggage and were through check-in and eating lunch in the Windjammer by 12:00 pm. We checked on our table for two in the main dining room, and found it to be perfect. We made reservations in Chops for later that week, and headed to our room at 1:00 pm. Since we had been on the Serenade last year, we knew our way around and did not have to do much touring of the ship. After depositing our bags in the room, we headed to the Solarium to relax. There were some crew members who had family members on board, and some of their children were being loud swimming in the adult only pool. The pool attendant quickly resolved the problem once guest started to arrive on board. Our luggage arrived to our room around 4:00 pm, the earliest we have ever received it! We took some time to unpack and settle in to what would become home for the next two weeks. Our cabin attendant was Lizza, and she was great. Except for the 1st nights of each week, we had towel animals and great service. The muster drill began at 8:00 pm, but most people headed to their muster stations around 7:45 because there was an announcement made prior. No lifejackets were required, and the drill was over at 8:15 pm. Even though we were on a back to back, we were required to do the muster drill both weeks. Not a problem, as it was only 30 minutes of our vacation time! After muster, we headed to dinner. Our wait staff the first week was superb. Moses was our head waiter, Aysun from Turkey was our waiter, and Antonio was our assistant waiter. Antonio wowed us with his magic tricks each night, and Aysun was the sweetest person on board. We are still keeping in touch through e-mail! Dinner service was as fast or slow as we wanted, since we had a table for two. We tend to linger and enjoy our meals while getting to know the staff. After dinner, we decided to relax on our balcony until heading to bed. We did not attend the Welcome Aboard Show. Day At Sea: Our next day was our only sea day for the first week. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer, and DH was thrilled to be eating his "cruise doughnuts". He made sure to have one every single day! We spent the morning relaxing in the Solarium, napping in our room, and just enjoying our vacation. We had the meet and mingle that morning, but most people missed it because they did not expect it to be that early in the trip, and it was difficult to see the cards in your room. It was typical with raffle prizes, Q&A with the cruise director (Dennis, who is not too cheesy but very funny), and some cheese and fruit platters. We had arranged an informal meet and mingle in the Schooner bar that afternoon, and several people who missed the morning meeting showed up. We had a great time getting to know each other. That night was formal night, and most people in the main dining room were dressed appropriately. We had already seen the Royal Caribbean Production shows last year (They did not change from March 2009), so we felt no pressure to attend. Barbados: Our ship docked in Barbados bright and early, and we were the only ship in port. We had booked a private tour with Shasa to go out on a 12 person catamaran for 5 hours. There were several other Cruise Critic members also booked on this tour. We were met by our driver right along side the other cruise tours, and drive to a resort beach about 20 minutes away. It rained a little bit on the drive over, but not enough to be of concern. The rain had stopped by the time we reached the beach, and Jason was waiting for us with his boat. There were 11 of us on the tour, and the catamaran was large enough that we did not feel crowded. Our first stop was to swim with the sea turtles. We were here about 45 minutes. The turtles were very friendly and you could touch them. We took lots of pictures, which I hope to be able to post at another point. Our next stop was at a small reef, the water was clear, and we saw lots of colorful fish. We were only on the reef for about 20-30 minutes, and I would have preferred a longer stop there. Our last stop was at a beach for lunch. We had a wonderful spread of flying fish, BBQ chicken, salad, macaroni and cheese, and garlic bread. The rum punch was flowing and we enjoyed a leisurely sail back to the ship. We made it back to the ship around 3:00, and had plenty of time to shop if we desired. We stopped at the stores in the large mall area in front of the ship to purchase several of my favorite items from Barbados. I prefer the essence bottles (Vanilla, Lemon, Almond, Banana, etc..) to be purchased here, as I believe the quality is very good. We then headed back to the ship to shower, relax, and enjoy a snack. Our wait staff once again was amazing at dinner. The food was very good as well, although by the end of the 2nd week we were ready for something different. The menu did not change between the two weeks. St. Lucia: Our arrival into St. Lucia was met with a beautiful sunrise. We were so glad to be the only ship in port, as our last cruise stop in St. Lucia was with 5 other ships, and it was extremely difficult to enjoy the beautiful island with that many tourists filling the sights. Since we had a bad experience last time with Cosol, we decided to book something that involved snorkeling and not being on the island. We booked the early excursion, marine park snorkel tour through Royal Caribbean. We were taken with about 25 other people on a very large catamaran around the Southwest side of the island. The snorkeling was just okay, but would have been better if it had not rained the day before. We met some very fun people, and enjoyed the boat ride back chatting with them. The best part of the tour was that we pulled into the famous Margoit Bay, where Dr. Doolittle was filmed. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of this area and envied all the people who get to wake up to that sight every morning. Our tour ended around 12:30, and we headed back to the room to shower and then eat lunch in the WindJammer. We had booked Chops for the night, and had an earlier dinner at 7:00. The service was superb, and my filet cooked to perfection. The dessert of Mississippi Mud Cake was amazing, and I still dream of it! We did however miss our main dining room wait staff that night! Antigua: On Antigua, we decided to visit StingRay city though the cruise line. The tour was very good, for a ship based excursion. The Rays were very friendly, and you could feed or hold them. There was also an area to snorkel, and we saw a Barracuda that did not appear to be bothered by snorkelers. Toward the end of the tour, it was starting to storm pretty heavily, with lots of lightening. We made it back to the beach area for rum punch and a shower. You could purchase pictures that the guides took if you desired. There were caged birds, monkeys, and lizards to look at (for free). On the way back to the ship, we heard that the pier area had received over 5 inches of rain in an hour and some very gusty winds. We missed that entirely! That afternoon, we relaxed in the Solarium, read our books, and played Trivia in the Schooner Bar. Trivia turned out to be one of our favorite activities to do on the ship. We were not very good, and never won anything, but it was amusing. St. Maarten: Having been to St. Maarten numerous times, we have a favorite beach we like to visit. We took a $14 cab ride to Dawn Beach, paid $10 for 2 chairs and an umbrella, and had a wonderful beach day. The beach is usually fairly quiet, although the surf can be quite rough at times. There is a small reef a few hundred feet off of the beach that you can snorkel at. There were a few venders around, but they were not pushy, and if you did not make eye-contact, they left you alone entirely. One of our favorite things about St. Maarten is the GuavaBerry Rum. On our last visit, we did not purchase enough, so we made sure to stock up this time! We had no problem bringing it on the ship, right through security, and up to our room. We did not consume any on the cruise, but packed it well for the return home. This was our second formal night and also the lobster night. Since DH is allergic to seafood, and I prefer fresh lobster to the frozen tails offered on the ship, we were fine ordering something else. We did notice that the wait staff was happy to bring several lobster tails to people who desired more than one. St. Croix: This was my absolute favorite island of the entire two weeks. DH and I immediately fell in love with St. Croix and have vowed to move there someday. We had booked a very early tour with Big Beard's Tours for a snorkel trip out to Buck Island. We took the $12 pp round trip ride from the cruise pier to Christiansted where we met the tour operators. We had to be one of the first one's off of the ship, because our tour left early and the ride over was a little more than 30 minutes. Our driver took us by the oil refinery, and it was amazing to see the industry on the island. Our tour operators were great, and the boat was more than adequate size for the 20 some passengers. I believe it could have held up to 60 people, and there was also plenty of shade. We stopped at Turtle Beach on Buck Island. This was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my entire life. I could have spent all day there. After some beach time and time to swim, we headed to the reef on the other side of the island. The reef and snorkeling quality was the best I have ever seen in the Caribbean. The coral formations were amazing, and the fish were colorful, and everywhere. We had over an hour to snorkel here. We saw Barracuda, turtles, and a lemon shark! I would do this tour again in a heartbeat. After our tour, it was more of the same: relaxing in the Solarium, loosing a few dollars in the Casino, and enjoying our wonderful wait staff at dinner. Most people were busy packing up that night, but we were thrilled to know that we were staying on for another night! We had a meeting for Consecutive Cruisers that night. We were informed of the process that would take place in the morning (I will explain that in my next post), given options to pre-book excursions and specialty dining, as well as make special requests for dining room seating. We of course, requested to be seated in the same section as our wonderful waiter, Aysun, and were thrilled that it was granted to us! We also received free champagne, screwdrivers, and other (limited) beverages during this meeting. San Juan: Turn Around Day Turn around day was super easy for us. Since we had the same cabin both weeks, we did not have to move anything. We received our new SeaPasses the night before, and had to use the old ones until we checked out of the ship. We were given the option of leaving the ship anytime between 8:00 am and 10:00 am, or we could remain on board. Between 10:00 am and 11:30 am, we could not leave or return to the ship (according to customs). We remained on board, and had to present ourselves at the gangway at 10:00am to punch out our old SeaPasses. They asked that we remain in our cabins or a public area between 10:00 am and 11:30 am, as they were testing fire doors, elevators, ect., and did not want us in the way. We were happy to enjoy and have the entire Solarium to ourselves! We were given a continental breakfast in Portofino that morning, so we did not have to fight with all the passengers exiting the ship that morning. Very nice touch! We were also given a 3 course lunch in the Main Dining Room that day. Also nice to be able to avoid the new people getting on the ship and rushing to the WindJammer. That night, they offered a special 2 for 1 deal in Chops, which we took advantage of. Chops is my new favorite specialty restaurant. Most of the turn around day, we enjoyed having the ship to ourselves. We could go in and out of our room as we pleased, as we had an "in transit" pass. We attended the muster drill for the 2nd time, and it was as smooth as the first. Day at Sea: Our next day was our first of two sea days for the second week. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer, and DH was thrilled to continue his "cruise doughnut every day" breakfast! We spent were pretty exhausted at this point, so we spent most of the day napping in our room, enjoying our balcony, reading, and just enjoying the fact that we could take this long of a vacation! We had not reached the numbers to hold a meet and mingle that second week. We had arranged an informal meet and mingle in the Schooner bar that afternoon, and several people showed up. We had a great time getting to know each other. That night was formal night, and most people in the main dining room were dressed appropriately again this week Curacao: We ended up changing our plans at the last minute on Curacao. We had originally planned on going snorkeling with the Dive Bus, but since we were both pretty tired at this point (and had not paid anything), we decided to do some shopping that morning instead. We ended up each buying a pair of Keen water-sandals for our upcoming repelling adventure on Dominica. We then decided to head over to the aquarium. It was a last minute decision, but one I am very glad we made. We paid $20 for a taxi to take us to the aquarium from the cruise pier. It was $18.50 per person for admittance to the aquarium. Once inside, we saw a dolphin show, the sea turtles being fed, and the nurse shark "action show". The highlight of the cruise for me was getting to pet the nurse sharks, feed them, and stick my hand in their gills. It was very exciting for me, because I LOVE Sharks and hope to one day cage dive with Great Whites! The aquarium also offered swimming with the dolphins, and if you are thinking about doing this, I highly recommend doing this with the aquarium and not through the cruise ship. They go to the same location, but it will save you TONS of money if you book independently. Aruba: Let me first say, I love the island of Aruba, but this was our worst excursion experience of the whole cruise. We booked through Jolly Pirates which offers two tours. One, through the cruise line is three hours long with about 50-60 people, and the other is 5 hours long with 50-60 people booked independently and with a lunch served. If I had known that booking on our own for the 5 hour trip would still have as many people on board as the cruise ship line, I would never have booked this trip. There was very loud music playing the whole time, and there was no where to avoid the noise or crowds. Our first stop was to snorkel at the WWII shipwreck the Antilla. The wreck was very cool, but the water was rough, and they did not recommend children or those who are not strong swimmers to get off of the boat. DH and I are very strong swimmers, and we enjoyed diving down to see the wreck up close. Our next spot was a "reef" and I use the term loosely, because it was nothing more than a few rocks. There were some fish there, although not many, and we did see a small turtle. Mostly, we were just glad to get off of the boat and away from some of the people. Our last stop was at a rocky beach area. From here, people could "walk the plank" or swing from the rope swing. Lunch was served on the boat at this stop, and consisted of potato salad, BBQ Chicken leg, BBQ ribs, and a slice of cantaloupe. The food was pretty good, and a nice break from the WindJammer (which was getting kind of redundant by this point in the cruise). The rum punch flowed the entire day (even before snorkeling). If you enjoy this kind of tour, I am sure you would have had a blast. However, based on the type of excursion DH and I enjoy, I should have known better than to book this kind of tour, but live and learn! Day at Sea: Our second day at sea was spent relaxing. We soaked in the best aspects of the ship amd dined in Portofino that night. Since I don't have much to write about for this day, I will share with you some highlights of the ship, food, crew, and other things. 1. The ship is beautiful and very clean and well cared for. You can tell that the staff and crew love that ship, as the captain was always raving about the ship. The carpeting, furnishings, and railings were all in top shape. There was no visible rust. The only complaint I have (so minor) is that the color in the television in our stateroom was going out. I imagine that soon they will be placing flat screens in all of the rooms, so this may not be an issue down the road. 2. The SeaView Cafe was a favorite place for afternoon snacks. This area is hidden behind the WindJammer and up a deck. It was rarely busy and has great sandwiches, chicken fingers, wings, and other great "bar type" food. 3. There was always a quiet area of the ship every day. Most of the time it was in the Vortex Lounge from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. 4. Captain: The captain was very personable. He would give an update twice a day as well as give a fun fact and a fortune cookie reading. The only thing I did not like was that at sail away he did not keep close to the coast for us to enjoy the scenic views of the islands we were leaving. I don't know if this is a personal decision made by the captain or a new rule about being so many miles from shore. On previous cruises, there has always been 45 minutes or so that we cruised along the coast, and I missed that on this cruise. 5. Music and Entertainment: While there were plenty of music and activities on board, it never seemed like people were dancing or participating in many of them (either week, and past cruises). The shows were mediocre, so it is a good thing I don't cruise for the onboard entertainment. They have not changed the production shows at all since our March 2009 cruise on the Serenade, and that was a bit disappointing. Some of the comedians were pretty lame, but we did see the Osmond Brothers, and they were very good. 6. FOOD: This is really the most important thing you have been waiting to hear about right??? Well, the food was good to great. The WindJammer offered many selections for breakfast (pastries, cereal, oatmeal, omelets, fruit, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, etc), and lunch along with a daily pasta bar, pizza options, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salad bar. There was always a variety of meat, potato, and vegetarian dishes. The Main Dining Room offered the exact same menu both weeks. The food was mostly great and the service was excellent. The desserts seemed to improve from our last cruise on the Serenade. Some highlights from the main dining room include: Chilled Fruit Soup, The Asian Style Chicken Soup (AMAZING), The filet of beef, The roasted duck, Parmesan turkey, and warm chocolate cake! 7. Specialty Dining: We dined twice at Chops and once at Portofino. I have to admit, Chops was the best, and well worth the extra money. There was SO much food, it would be impossible to leave hungry. We enjoyed the Cheese and Onion Soup (like French Onion Soup), the Crab Cake, the Filet, and the roasted potatoes with cheese and panchetta. The dessert here was the best. In Portofino we were slightly disappointed. We had eaten there before, and they have since changed the menu. It was not nearly as good as I remembered it. However, the filet was cooked perfectly and very good. I don't like any of the desserts in Portofino, but they were happy to bring me a slice of the Chocolate Mud Cake from Chops. 8. Overall Staff: We had amazing service the entire week. From breakfast to dinner we never had to ask twice for anything. Our room was always very clean with fresh ice twice a day. I cannot say enough how much we enjoyed Aysun as our waiter. It was only her 3rd and 4th week in the Main Dining Room, but she made the cruise really special for us. She was so personable, optimistic, and honest. We looked forward to dinner every night because of her. We even stopped by to chat with her after we ate in the specialty restaurants. She is truly a gem! Dominica: We were all rested up and ready for our adventurous tour on Dominica. Now, what we did is not for the faint of heart! We booked the Extreme Canyoning tour through Coco-Cottages. This tour involved repelling down cliffs and waterfalls through a gorge in the heart of the island. It was intense, but very fun. We did 7-8 repels with the average being about 40 feet and the longest being about 70-80 feet. There were also several places to jump off of the cliffs and waterfalls. This tour included some hiking through the rainforest, which was often treacherous. There was plenty of opportunity to break or sprain your ankle, so this tour is for people in decent to excellent health and physical fitness. Once you take the first step off down the first repel, there is no going back and no way out of the canyon. We had a blast and took lots of pictures, but the pictures in no way do the beauty of the island justice. After our extreme tour, we had our second formal night of the week. This was once again lobster night. St. Thomas: With Hurricane Earl fast approaching, we found out that our Yacht Adventures Tour (through RCCL) was cancelled so the sailboat captain could move his boat into the safety of the mangroves. We had beautiful weather, and you would never have known that there was a storm approaching if not for the concerned look on the faces of the locals. We took a 2 hour island tour with a local cab driver instead. He took us to several scenic overlooks, including some spectacular views of Magens's Bay and the small island owned by Mel Gibson. We were slightly disappointed that our previous snorkel tour was cancelled, as we had done it the previous year and were looking forward to it again. We were invited by our wait staff to tour the galley on this afternoon. We met at the designated time and place with about 20 other cruisers and were given a 1st class tour of the cruise kitchens. They were very clean and incredibly organized. It was amazing to see and hear how much preparation goes into every single element of dining. Did you know that there is one baker and one assistant baker and they make every single roll, bagel, pastry, pie crust, cookie, etc. by scratch every single day??? Over 7000 dinner rolls each day are produced. That is quite amazing. I am so glad this was something I got to experience. Disembarking: The day that we never thought would come had arrived. We were truly glad that we booked our flight out for the 29th, because we were a mere 12 hours ahead of Hurricane Earl. We exited the ship around 9:30, quickly found our luggage, went smoothly through customs, and found a taxi immediately and were whisked to the airport. Our flight did not leave until the early afternoon, so we took our bags through the agriculture check and waited in a very long line to get to the check in area. After about a 45 minute wait, we decided that we had been too blessed on the flight down, and that we were paying for it on the return! Finally, the airline brought people down to operate the check in, and in a short period we were checked in and through security. We found a place to get lunch, purchased lots of duty free alcohol, and waited for our flight to be called. Overall: We really enjoyed this cruise vacation. We love the ship and the itinerary. We have no complaints about anything that possibly could have been controlled. I felt that both of these weeks were "louder" than past cruises. It seemed that the ship was more crowded than in the past, and there were always large groups of people being very loud and rude on board. This is not Royal Caribbean's fault, but it did have us often choosing our cabin over public areas of the ship. The dining room was very loud every night, leaving us feeling like we only had the "romantic dinner" when we booked the specialty restaurants. The announcements were often and annoying as we feel people can read the compass and decide what they want to do. Despite these things, we did not let it ruin our vacation. However, we feel that Royal Caribbean is beginning to market itself as a family line, and that is not our desire when taking a vacation. We are going to give Celebrity a try for our next cruise. This is a personal choice for our vacation needs. Royal Caribbean has served us well over the years, but we feel that we are no longer in their desired demographic, so we are moving on to something that will fit us better. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Royal Caribbean. Both of our experiences with Royal Caribbean have just been amazing. The other line we have cruised with was Princess and it was way below par for us. It's more of an older person ... Read More
This was our 3rd cruise, 2nd with Royal Caribbean. Both of our experiences with Royal Caribbean have just been amazing. The other line we have cruised with was Princess and it was way below par for us. It's more of an older person cruise with nothing to do really. We sailed out of San Juan, PR on 5/16/10. We visited Curacao, Aruba, Dominica, and St. Thomas. All the ports were amazing. We had great weather and just great activities. The ship activities were wonderful as always. The ship has two pool tables that move with the ship to keep the balls from moving. It does make it a little difficult to shoot sometimes but it's still a blast. The games and shows that the ship did were really good. Shows were good but they are about the same with every cruise we've been on. The games and activities are always entertaining. Anybody that cruises with Royal Caribbean has to play the quest. It's usually in the later days of the cruise so look for it. It is a blast to play. The food on the ship was better than expected. Was a little surprised with how some of the food locations worked but it's understandable and we were able to adapt to it. Let me explain: the Windjammer (buffet) wasn't open all the time like I thought it was on our first cruise with Royal Caribbean. It closed at 9PM at night and from then on, you had to go to the SeaView Cafe (on the back of the ship, not easily found) to get food and it was only certain foods that you could order. Not convenient at all. Breakfast was the same thing every morning. You have your breads: muffins, donuts, pastries, ect..., fruits, cereal, sausage, bacon, omelets, and some other stuff. Again, same thing every day in the Windjammer. The Main Dinning Hall, we never got a chance to go to so we could eat breakfast there. Lunch in the Windjammer was basically the same food as well. Hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, sandwhiches, soups, and just your basic lunch foods. Not sure about the Main Dinning Hall on this one either. Dinner: Windjammer: changed items each night with similar items to the Main Dinning Hall. Main Dinning Hall: just amazing food all the way around. Everything we had was amazing. Would advise everybody to do the Main Dinning Hall for dinner. Well worth it. Really enjoyed laying out on the main pool deck with this cruise. We got up with the best bar service attendant. His name was Gener. If anybody is going on this ship anytime soon, look for Gener and tell him Chad, Dorothy, and Rick recommended him to you all. He's just amazing. Do have to say that I wasn't pleased with some of the other staff on board though. The other 2 cruises we took, even Princess, the staff would go out of their way to make sure everything was right for you and they wouldn't get in your way or anything. They were wonderful. This cruise was a little different with a lot of them. Serveral times crew was moving something or just walking and they wouldn't stop for you or anything. I know that sounds bad on my part with being so picky but I guess we just got spoiled on our other cruises. For those of you that are beer and cocktail drinkers. Domestic Beers: 4.25 can get a beer bucket on them (6 beers) for the price of 5. Imported Beers: 4.75 and up. Cocktails: 6.25. All and all, the cruise was just amazing for us. We really enjoyed the islands that we went too as well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Background Information My wife and I planned this cruise in celebration of our anniversary. It was my wife's first cruise, and for me, it seemed like my first even though I had taken the Carnival Jubilee when I was a teenager in 1990. ... Read More
Background Information My wife and I planned this cruise in celebration of our anniversary. It was my wife's first cruise, and for me, it seemed like my first even though I had taken the Carnival Jubilee when I was a teenager in 1990. We had considered going directly to an island to stay at a resort or going to Hawaii, but we decided on the cruise for several reasons: 1)Always wanted to take a cruise - Other relatives had rave reviews of cruises 2)Visit many different islands rather than having to choose one sight unseen 3)Variety of activities on ship and in ports We choose the Serenade of the Seas and the Eastern/Southern Caribbean route because of the variety of the different ports and the great reviews of this ship class. Travel To Port of Embarkation To get to San Juan, we flew direct from Dallas on American Airlines. We toured El Morro and Old San Juan the morning before we left on the cruise. It was a great way to start the vacation. Hotel Info at Port of Embarkation We arrived in San Juan the night before embarkation and stayed at the Doubletree San Juan since we had hotel points. The hotel was very nice and clean. There was a 24-hour Grocery Store across the street that allowed us to stock up prior to leaving with water, juice and snacks. However, the location otherwise was not very close to anything. The Condado beach area was about a 15-20 minute walk away, but otherwise, you need a taxi to the airport or Old San Juan for any other activities. A bus did stop across the street, but the front desk staff warned you might have to wait a while at the stop. To get to the Pan American Pier, we took a taxi. Ship Info The Serenade of the Seas was big enough you had plenty to do but at the same time not so large you could find yourself lost. The front staircase had people artwork on each level, and the main staircase near the centrum had flowers on different artwork. We took advantage of all three pools (even going down the kid's slide!), climbed on the Rock Climbing Wall, played miniature golf at midnight, and enjoyed the view from almost every deck at some point. The pools are salt water and seemed to be much more salty than backyard pools on land that are salt water. For me, it was not as refreshing as I would have liked in the hot sun. Activities Onboard, we took part in a couple of activities during the week when we were not in port. They had a "midnight" buffet at 11:30 p.m. one evening to celebrate the opening of the pool after it was freshly painted. We attended the Captain's Talk on the day at sea. It was an interesting and informative discussion by the captain, first engineer, and hotel director. After the Captain's Talk, the cruise director and executive sous chief held a cooking demonstration to make a Black Forest cake. One person from the audience got to help what ended up being a comedy cooking show! We also attended one of the art auctions, but I felt like it was a waste of time. The auctioneer definitely took his time talking about rare and expensive art pieces in hopes someone would purchase them. If you are in the market for art, it might be worth your time. Service In all areas of the ship, we felt like we had great service. Our Main Dining Room Staff came to know us by name and knew what we liked to drink each night. Our room steward always efficiently had our room made-up anytime we left it. Other waiters and service personnel on the ship were attentive and courteous at all times. Port & Shore Excursions On 4 of the 5 ports, we took part in excursions. Three of those excursions were booked through the cruise line with the one remaining excursion booked through a private company. My port reviews will have more details, but overall, we were pleased with the excursions and the efficiency of getting to and from the sites. Stateroom We were in 7158, an E-class balcony stateroom. It was a great location far enough away from the main stairs that we never heard any external noise. From what we could tell, several of the E balconies on level 7 are bigger than other balconies because of their position above the Schooner Bar/Portofino/Chops. On the deck plans, you will see balconies 7152 to 7170 and 7652 to 7670 extend farther then the midship balconies. This gave us about 4 extra feet. Dining We ate all dinner meals in the Main Dining Room at the 8:30 p.m. seating. We normally eat much earlier, but this was a great seating time for us. Returning from the ports in the late afternoon, we were able to do short activities, attend an early show at 7 p.m., and just relax before having to get ready for dinner. All of our meals were very good with great variety - at least 8 different entrEe choices across 2 different menus. We sat directly in the center of the main dining room on the lower level at a table of 6. We enjoyed our tablemates and like talking to them about their adventures at the end of each day. For breakfast and lunch, we typically ate at the Windjammer Cafe. We enjoyed the variety of menu items on the buffet as we could always find something good. They have plenty of fresh fruit in addition to desserts! Entertainment On our cruise, there was a variety of entertainment: comedian (2 nights), Broadway style shows (2 nights), Motown group, Latin Dancing Group, and a musician/impersonator. The onboard orchestra was featured in nearly all the shows, and they were very good. Most of the shows were entertaining, but when the show was late (i.e. 10:30 p.m. after dinner), it was hard to stay awake in a dark, slightly rocking theater. The Cruise Director also put together the Love & Marriage show we attended. It was very funny and worth the time (though don't bring the young kids). Disembarkation Our last morning on the ship was very smooth. I got up at 5 a.m. to watch the ship enter San Juan Harbor. It was very pretty in the calm of the predawn, and I think I was the only one up on the front of the ship besides the captain and crew! We were docking by about 6 a.m. Since we had a late flight out of San Juan, we were one of the last groups to disembark about 9:15 a.m. We checked out of the ship one last time with the swipe of our SetSail pass and then down the gangway to retrieve our luggage and then out through Customs. It took no more than 5 minutes. Summary We thoroughly enjoyed our first cruise together, and we definitely think we picked the best ship and itinerary for us. I would highly recommend the Serenade of the Seas for any couple looking for a great getaway and trip to the Eastern/Southern Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
A group of 6 of us cruised the Southern Caribbean (Tortola, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia & Grenada) route on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas. Four of us are have cruised Southern Caribbean before and two were new to both the ... Read More
A group of 6 of us cruised the Southern Caribbean (Tortola, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia & Grenada) route on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas. Four of us are have cruised Southern Caribbean before and two were new to both the itinerary and ship. The cruise was fantastic and we all had a great time! Pre/Post-Cruise: We flew in a day early to avoid the stress of just making it to the ship on time We stayed at the Caribe Hilton, enjoyed their beautiful grounds, comfortable rooms, and proximity to the bus stop to get to Old San Juan. Had some great food at La Bombonera, Parrot Club, and El Patio de Sam. Had a less than stellar dining experience at Budatai. We wandered around the colorful ballast-stone streets, enjoying the Spanish Colonial style architecture and the combination of history and Caribbean charm. We've been to San Juan several times and never get tired if it! Embarkation: We got to the Pan Am Pier in the mid afternoon for a quick and easy embarkation. Lines were short and everyone was friendly. Except... being solicited for tips from the porters who I watched slam the luggage around. I have read about the porter/tip issue, but never encountered it at the Pan American Pier. Each year we have been happy to tip, but once solicited, we were much less eager to pull out the wallet. We still tipped, but... Once on the ship, all was well. We checked out our rooms, dumped our carry-ons, and headed for the Windjammer. Nothing like a good afternoon gorging before dinner! The rest of the evening was spent checking out the ship until the muster drill which, sans life jackets, was a breeze. Ship: The Serenade is a beautiful and elegant ship. It feels spacious and never too crowded. The ship is well-appointed with many unique lounges and other various common rooms. We enjoyed spending some time in the Safari Lounge, with its vibrant colors and comfortable seating. We also love the Concierge Lounge, partly for the bottomless supply of espresso drinks and evening snacks, but also for the great view and relaxed atmosphere. As for dining spaces, the Reflections dining room is very classy and the Windjammer is never too crowded to find seating. Chops and Portofino are both beautiful as well. Finally, the fitness center has plenty of equipment to accommodate the active (though it can be a bit hard to find in the dark when you are still groggy at 6am!). Overall, we love, love, love the Serenade! Staterooms: We all had grand suites and found them to be completely comfortable and in great repair. The balconies are large enough to relax and have a nice sized table with a couple of chairs. There was no lounge chair, but our stateroom attendant was nice enough to bring one when we asked. Great for napping in the late afternoon! The suites have more than enough storage space and the larger bathrooms are a plus. Staff: Our concierge was Gershwin and he was terrific! We were more than a little sad not to see Kenneth BooDoo this year (he left for vacation the week we sailed) but we were perfectly happy getting to know Gershwin and Ligia. They are both very accommodating and full of good conversation. Ligia was especially wonderful, always circulating and ready with another drink before we even finished the first. She is full of energy despite the fact that she had already worked all day in the casino and then late night at the cigar bar. We hope to see them both again on future cruises. The cruise director, Dennis, was very personable and funny. We met him in San Juan before the cruise and he always made a point of saying hi when we saw him on board. Our stateroom attendant, Putu, was very nice, though we rarely saw him. Food: For dinner, we had late seating in the dining room at table 445. Our head waiter was Monty, who we saw once every night or two. He was very nice, but not as involved as some of the head waiters we have had in the past. Our waiter Ergun was very nice and accommodating. His assistant Li was wonderful, very helpful and always smiling. The food was good-to-great, depending on what was ordered. The Vidalia onion tart was delicious (as always), the artichoke dip was very tasty, and we were never disappointed with the soups. Our wait staff was always kind enough to bring us a curry dish to share at the beginning of the meal, which we really enjoyed. We had one dinner in the Windjammer, which was good. A lot of the food was the same as the dining room menu and we were able to make our own pizza-YUM! Breakfasts were either in the Windjammer or Concierge lounge, both of which were good. I am typically fine with the continental breakfast at the CL, but I got sucked into the Windjammer a few times to make French toast sandwiches with cream cheese and strawberry topping. Mmm... Most of our lunches were off the ship, but we enjoyed late afternoon snacks in the Windjammer. Gotta love the soft serve and toffee cookies! Entertainment: We are usually too tired to go to shows, but we made an effort to join in the fun on this cruise. We saw the impressionist and a comedian, who were both very entertaining. We also saw the RC Singers and Dancers in Vibeology. This show was entertaining and timed well, as we had fun watching, but were ready for it to be over at the end of the hour. We also went to the C&A cocktail and captain's receptions. These were nice, but we probably didn't need to go to all three. Quest was a riot as always, but seemed much more crowded than when we watched on the Adventure. The space was smaller and there were many more groups participating. Crowded or not, the antics were hilarious! Finally, though we did not participate, I believe they had some activity in the Centrum on Valentine's Day. There were also a lot of decorations in that area, as well as a Valentine's cake in the windjammer. It was a nice touch. Ports: We booked our own excursions for most of the ports. Here is a brief description of each: In Tortola, we booked with Patouche Charters for a day sail to the Virgin Gorda Baths. The Baths were red flagged due to weather, but we had a great day of sailing, snorkeling, and relaxing anyway. The only complaint would be that the boat ran out of beer toward the end of the day (not a huge deal, but an inconvenience for the avid beer drinker or extra parched) and the restaurant where we had lunch was out of buns (so no burgers or burger-like sandwiches). Lucky for us, we ordered and enjoyed the roti, a curry chicken sort of burrito. And when it comes down to it, buns or no buns, the restaurant was not out of painkillers and painkillers = gooooooooood... In St. Maarten we rented a minivan and made our way around the island. Found a nice little stop for pictures, shopping and a drink. I can't remember the name of the place, but there was a little stand to buy the flavored rums and the owner's tips all go toward animal rescue. Good stop! We also stopped for delicious crepes at the Deli Spoon in Marigot, and at Orient Beach for a leisurely beach stroll. Our last and favorite stop was Maho Beach for some swimming under the arriving planes. Back to the pier for a bucket of beers. Ahhh, love St. Maarten! Antigua: We walked to the bus station and took the #22 to Valley Church Beach. We were impressed with the bus system last year, but this time we were stuck waiting nearly 45 minutes for the bus to leave, as they won't go without a full load. There just may be a taxi ride in our next Antigua trip! Beers are pretty pricey at the beach bars here so we bought 2 6-packs of local beer and some ice, and just brought a cooler. Much cheaper!! We ate lunch at The Nest, where the coconut shrimp was good, but pricey. It was also really crowded because of a ship excursion, but we were able to get a table after a while and we got to enjoy the entertainment that was set aside for the excursion. After getting back to the pier, we walked to the old church a few blocks up and looked around. Very cool old churchyard. St. Lucia is a gorgeous island. We booked COSOL tours for the 2nd year and we were able to get COSOL himself as our driver. Unbelievably good food, tasty rum punch, refreshing Piton beer, great snorkeling, and beautiful views everywhere! This is an island and a tour that can't be beat!!! As we left the island, we parked ourselves at the helipad to watch as the captain did a 360 for everyone to see the Pitons. The Pitons were gorgeous, there was a steel band playing, the sunset was amazing, and... the captain (or maybe other crew member) blew the horn when everyone gave the trucker honking gesture. Are you kidding me? Does it get any cooler than that?!?! We booked the Mandoo Tour in Grenada. The tour was very informative and the island is beautiful with so much greenery, flowers, and spices! We loved seeing the Mona Monkeys at the Grand Etang stop, and Mandoo held bananas on our shoulders so the monkeys would crawl up to get them. What a cool experience! This tour was a good one to take, as Mandoo is very passionate about the politics and the welfare of his island. However, for this same reason, the tour is not as fun and carefree as some others we have taken on different islands. We are glad we had this experience, but would probably not rebook for a second time. Sea Day: we were really thankful for a relaxing day after such a busy 5 days prior. We had a late breakfast and then found some nice space to pull up deck chairs near the pool. Enjoyed a couple of overpriced (but oh so good) poolside drinks--specifically the lava flow and the cocoloco. This was the first cocoloco any of us have had and it was mighty tasty! Sadly, our sunshine soaking time was cut short, but for a great reason: we were able to go on a bridge tour, which was very informative and interesting. Our last to-do was finding an opening to see the loyalty ambassador. They were completely booked and there was a line every time we walked by. Amazingly, we finally caught them in a freak moment of availability and made an open booking, which was a great deal for only $100 down pp and no regulations on when to book. Disembarkation: Getting off of the ship was great. We were signed up for the earliest departure, but we were running a bit late so we missed it by about 30 minutes. The result: walked right off by ourselves and found our luggage all alone because everyone else had already claimed their bags. No searching, no hassle. Wonderful! We got through customs quickly and were on our way... Overall: This was a wonderful cruise experience, great enough to have us clawing at the door of the loyalty ambassador (even though we all agreed we would not rebook again, no matter how much fun we had ;) ! If this was not our 3rd So Caribbean cruise in as many years, we probably would have rebooked the exact same cruise again instead of an open booking! Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
This was my sixth cruise and my wife's 8th in 7 years together. Why we tried everyone else before going with RCCL is a mystery. It was the best overall experience we have ever had. After deciding that we never need to go with Princess ... Read More
This was my sixth cruise and my wife's 8th in 7 years together. Why we tried everyone else before going with RCCL is a mystery. It was the best overall experience we have ever had. After deciding that we never need to go with Princess again (horrific service), Norwegian (dining room food a combination of inedible and portions designed for children or supermodels),or Carnival (twice for me, four times for the wife. I never had a problem, but my wife was on the Destiny 3 weeks earlier. See any post on the Destiny and you will understand),we will definitely cruise RCCL again. It was the best balance of service, food quality, entertainment, and overall value that we have found so far. This ship was very nice and easy to get around. It never seemed crowded and some of the staff commented that they even prefer these somewhat smaller ships and would need to be forced to take a position on the newest and largest ships. The outside cabin was adequate. It was nicely decorated and had plenty of drawer and shelf space despite the wife's many many shoes. The staff was very attentive. Our room steward must have been listening for the doors to any of his cabins open and was always poking his head into the hallway as we headed out to see if we needed anything. He quickly figured out our routine and there was always fresh ice in the room. The dining room staff too was very attentive, though we needed to ask for a wine list each evening. This was out first time cruising as just a couple in a while and we quickly made friends with those seated with us. This added to the enjoyment of our meals even more. The food in the dining room was very good, as were the portions. I only asked for additional appetizers or entrees if I could not make up my mind (as opposed to the Norwegian Dawn last year). There was at least one evening when the menu selection did nothing for us, so we went to Chops. The food at Chops was outstanding as was the service. The waiter ensured that what we ordered was really what we wanted (like the wife ordering the small fillet vs the bigger one. We are paying the same price either way...and she was going to order fish originally). We ate at the Windjammer often as the dining room is not open for lunch on port days. The food was always fresh and varied from day to day. Our normal routine had us in there around 4PM since we chose the later dinner seating and typically got back on the ship at about that time. We did have a few minor complaints with the food, but nothing serious. Once the Windjammer closes you can no longer find lemonade or iced tea. Your choices at that point (after 9 PM I believe) are ice water or pay for something at the bar. Additionally, after dieting for months leading up to the trip we were looking forward to eggs Benedict in the dining room for breakfast, a guilty pleasure for both of us. The first morning the hollandaise sauce was very citrusy. We tried it again a few days later and had the same opinion. But like I said, not a deal breaker. The itinerary for this cruise was incredible. In fact, we chose this cruise only 6 weeks before departure largely because of the itinerary. On 3 of the 5 port days, we were the only ship in port. The other 2 days we were 1 of 2. Nothing was ever crowded. We can't wait for our next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
My wife and I just returned from a 7 day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. I wanted to share some hints to others that may make their cruise a bit more enjoyable, and share some things I could have lived without. ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a 7 day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. I wanted to share some hints to others that may make their cruise a bit more enjoyable, and share some things I could have lived without. First the good. The Serenade of the Seas is a clean, beautiful, well kept ship. On-board activities were awesome. The food was fantastic. 99.9% of all personnel were very friendly. So lets address the .1% who were not. During one of our few trips to the formal dining room (which I despise), we attempted to use RCCL's "My Time Dining". We ended up in a line of passengers, and were asked to step aside to wait for a table. Another couple were then allowed to go before us to the table we were waiting for (an obvious lack of communication between the host and hostess). My wife was unhappy with the event and after airing her concerns over the event, she was told she was being rude. Then, while video taping and creating some memories around the ship, I specifically asked if I may video tape in a specific area of the ship, and was told yes by a crew member. Upon entering the area (a public area), I was seen with my camcorder by other crew members and even waved at. Then, at my suprise and displeasure I was approached by a gentlemen with a mob boss attitude and told to stop recording (which I did). I explained I had been told it was okay. He then questioned me as to who had given me permission (as if I was lying). So in a response to our treatment, let me now suggest the following ways the budget concious can save money, and keep it out of RCCL's hands: Do like we did, and book your excursions through independant operators on the islands. Spend your money locally while there. Eat in the Windjammer whenever you want, and save the money you would blow on gratuities for people you will never use the services of (head waiter, waiter). Also, precruise gratuity payments will stick you with possibly giving people money you'll never use. Use the local taxis instead of RCCL buses between the airport and the cruise terminal (both ways). Experience the locals and save 50%. Take lots of cash for cabs and tipping on the islands, and avoid the $6 fee at the ATM on the ship. Learn the exchange rate between Euros and the Dollar, and the East Caribbean Dollar and the U.S. Dollar. Don't waste your money and baggage space on formal clothing, a tux rental, or the formal night pics. Simply buy ONE of the boatload of pics they'll shoot of you when you get off in each port. Don't waste your money on the soda package. Tea, water, lemonade and coffee are free. There are only two outlets in each room. So if you have low wattage chargers for phones, camera batteries, a three way can come in handy (NO HAIRDRYERS or IRONS). Be smart, be safe. You will have almost no cell phone service, and the public computers are cheaper than the wi-fi service in the rooms. You will be thirsty ALOT. And the water in the cabin fridge is $3.95 a bottle. Pack a couple of bottles of water in your luggage and refill them with glasses of water from the Windjammer, and the ice bucket in your room. Ignore the boarding time in your cruise documents. They were boarding when we arrived at 3pm. Last but not least, liquor is high, beer is cheaper. Have fun! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
First Alaska cruise, previously with RCCL to Eastern, Western & Southern Caribbean.  Traveling with another couple, flew into Vancouver on Friday so we could do some site seeing on Friday.  Vancouver is a great city, glad we took the ... Read More
First Alaska cruise, previously with RCCL to Eastern, Western & Southern Caribbean.  Traveling with another couple, flew into Vancouver on Friday so we could do some site seeing on Friday.  Vancouver is a great city, glad we took the time to at least get a taste of its beauty.  Took a four hour guided bus tour around most of the major tourist sites via tour arranged by hotel. Stayed at the Marriott Pinnacle downtown, great location and close the water.  Great service and food at the hotel but also good eateries in the area.  We like to get on the ship as soon as possible and hotel was only ten minutes by taxi away from ship.  No issues getting on the ship, very smooth operation.  Got luggage within a couple of hours of getting on board.  Last sailing was on Adventure of the Seas so was not expecting as much from the Serenade of the Seas... but I was very much surprised.  I really liked the layout of the ship, the lounges and common areas were better than the Adventure of the Seas to me.  We frequented the Champagne Lounge most often as they offered the Chilean wine that my wife liked and the bartender was excellent.  Also would recommend the Schooner Bar and the Hollywood Odyssey/Cigar Bar. Lot of activities to do and would recommend the Production Show, as well the activities in the Safari Bar.  The casino is a reasonable size and I made my donation as usual.  As for the dining room, we found the food to be good.  We went to the Portofino Italian restaurant twice and would highly recommend it.  We did the Mystery Dinner one evening, which was a lot of fun and then one other evening.  You could not beat the food or service.  Well worth the extra money. As for ports and excursions, Icy Strait Point was as expected, purpose built RCCL layover.  We got off the ship and walked into town.. about 15 minutes plus.  Nothing of real interest there.  The most enjoyable part of that stop over was watching the whales from the ship.  They put on a real show for us, so glad we didn't pay for whale watching excursion. Going into Tracy Arm Fjord and seeing the glacier was amazing.  The ship was within 100 feet of glacier.  Cruise director and his staff were in the water and even brought up chunk of glacier onto deck.. I think it was craved into ice scripture that evening. At Skagway we took the White Pass Summit train excursion via RCCL and would recommend it.  Great way to see the scenery and learn some of the local history.  Train was comfortable and even got to see a bear off the side of the tracks.  Also, good little cafe just outside the port, first one as you go out, not the second.  Fish and chips was good as well as the chowder. Also a nice little downtown area within walking distance. Juneau is a good port, to bad we only had from 7 to 3 to see it.  Had previously booked via TEMSCO Helicopter Inc. a helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier.  First time in helicopter and first time walking on glacier, what a great time.  This group does a good job and has "experts" on the glacier to talk about it.  Got some amazing pictures. Took advantage of the time not in port and enjoyed the ship, even read a book.  We got back into Vancouver around 6:30 on Saturday morning.  Since we were staying over in Vancouver until Sunday morning, we hand carried off our luggage so were quick off the ship and were at the Marriott Pinnacle by 8:00. Spent the rest of the site seeing.  We rented a car and went to Lyon Canyon Park, then drove to Whistler Mountain.  This the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, nice drive. Great vacation, good time had by all. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
From the first time I heard from Ian at Royal Caribbean to ask me if I needed assistance (I think I had reserved the same cruise about three times on line by accident!), I knew planning this cruise was going to be a success. Now I know ... Read More
From the first time I heard from Ian at Royal Caribbean to ask me if I needed assistance (I think I had reserved the same cruise about three times on line by accident!), I knew planning this cruise was going to be a success. Now I know that actually talking to Royal Caribbean's vacation planner is the way to go!! He really helped make sure every detail was taken care of including my request for a table for two. Much to our delight, it was windowside with a fantastic view where we enjoyed the sunset every evening with our cocktails and dinner. We took the same cruise two years ago and loved every minute of it so decided to do it again. When we boarded the ship last Saturday and went exploring, we could not believe we had actually spend 7 days on the same ship and missed so much!! This cruise was even better. Although the islands we visited were the main reason we chose this cruise, the ship itself and the staff really were as much fun as any island!! The Junior Suite stateroom with the balcony was breathtaking; the food was delicious in every restaurant we visited - at least five of them!! We played pool on a Gyro pool table - only place I ever saw that!! Royal Caribbean certainly has a perfect game plan - getting on the ship took only minutes and every moment was handled with perfection. We have only been home 48 hours we are already looking forward to our next cruise - this time we want to go to Europe and cruise for more than 7 days - it was just like the blink of an eye. Our favorite island was St. Maarten where my husband bought me sapphire earrings two years ago. This year he bought me a sapphire and diamond ring to go with the earrings - I'm thinking of changing the name from St. Maarten to Sapphire Island! The zip line excursion that includes the tram was the highlight of all excursions. I could do the whole trip again today!! If you can go - GO!!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean and we thought it was about as good as it can get. Both the ship and the itinerary were top notch and we are already going through withdrawal! Flight & Car Rental: We flew in on a ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Royal Caribbean and we thought it was about as good as it can get. Both the ship and the itinerary were top notch and we are already going through withdrawal! Flight & Car Rental: We flew in on a red eye Thursday night from LAX. The flight was a nonstop, which was so much nicer than our previous experience of connecting at Miami at 5am and wandering half asleep until our connection! Our luggage came in on the carousel fairly quickly and we were out of the airport and at Hertz by about 10:00. Renting the car was quick and the drive from the airport to the Caribe Hilton was easy. Our Hotel: We stayed at the Caribe Hilton, which is about 20 minutes from the airport, 5 minutes from the Pan Am Pier and about 10 minutes to Old San Juan. This was our 4th time staying at the Caribe and we really enjoy this hotel. The grounds are beautiful and the property was built around a historical landmark, Fort San Geronimo. There is a private beach and a little pond area with free roaming swans, ducks, geese, peacocks and coy fish. There are also a cockatoo and macaw near the lobby area—they are interesting to watch. In addition to the nice grounds, there are several options for dining. Finally, the Caribe has a delicious piña colada in the Caribe Terrace Bar. Ask Victor or Rafael for a piña colada with Don Q rum—YUM! We have stayed in every section of the hotel and this time we were put in the Lagoon Villas. I have to say we were not that impressed with these rooms because of the location; they were pretty far from the rest of the grounds and getting to/from the villas can get confusing. We really like the executive tower rooms, but it seems they are no longer available. A nice alternative is an ocean view room in the garden wing. Be sure to ask for a renovated room!! Pre-Cruise Day One: Since we arrived at the hotel well before check in, we dropped off our luggage, changed clothes and drove to Old San Juan. We found parking and made our way to La Bombonera (on Calle San Francisco) for a delicious breakfast of cafe con leche and mallorcas with ham, cheese & egg. After a great meal, we drove to the El Yunque rainforest where we hiked around for a while. When we got back to the hotel, we dropped off the rental and checked into our rooms. We then headed off to dinner at the Parrot Club, where we had some of the best mojitos ever along with tasty food. The churrasco steak and pinchos de pollo (bbq chicken) were awesome! Day Two: Old San Juan: We checked out of the hotel around 10:30 and left our bags with the hotel porters so we could spend some more time wandering around before heading to the pier. We took the bus (only 75 cents pp) and headed straight for La Bombonera for lunch. We tried the shrimp asopao and the Cuban sandwich. The sandwich was delicious and the asopao was good, though it would be better at night or in colder weather. After eating, we wandered toward pier 2 where we caught the ferry (only 50 cents) to Cataño for the Bacardi tour. The tour is very interesting and informative with a couple of free drink tickets. And the best part is that it is free; all we had to pay was the ferry and cab fare (about $6 pp). Around 3:30 we went back to the hotel. Embarkation: Finally at about 4:00 or so, we decided to make our way to the Pan Am pier. There was a small line, but it moved quickly. We used the suite/C&A check-in, but it didn't really matter since all of the lines seemed to be moving rather quickly. We found our rooms, took some pictures and then bee-lined to the Windjammer for a snack. I went straight for the honey-stung chicken I always read about, but didn't really understand the appeal. After eating, we headed to the concierge lounge to meet the concierge (Kenneth Boodoo) and relax for a while. Then we were off to the muster drill, which was quick and easy. Ship: We thought the Serenade was absolutely beautiful! We were initially a little concerned to book a ship without all the bells and whistles we knew from the Adventure, but we were not disappointed at all. We thought the ship was elegant, spacious and comfortable. In no way did we miss the Promenade or Johnny Rockets or anything else offered on the Voyager Class. In fact, we've already booked another cruise on the Serenade! Specifically, we really liked the solarium and the Safari Lounge. The Hollywood Lounge had a fun look to it (though we left it to the smokers!) and we liked the theater's fun, tropical theme. We also really appreciated the self-leveling pool tables and they were surprisingly not too crowded to play a game here and there. Stateroom: We stayed on deck ten in a grand suite, #1050. It was a nice and spacious room with a good size balcony. We really enjoyed being able to sit on the balcony and watch as we came into port. Our cabin steward, Ed Buenaventura, was extremely nice and efficient. Our room was always taken care of and we had some great towel animals to greet us each evening. He was also very amiable when we would bump into him in the hall. All in all, this GS seemed nicer than the one we had on the Adventure. The size and layout were about the same, but the dEcor seemed a bit nicer this time. Our friends were in stateroom 9260 on the aft. They thought their room was very comfortable and the deep balcony was just the place for nice afternoon naps. Maria, their stateroom attendant, was efficient and nice. The only complaint about this room was that some of the drawers stuck to the extent that they were very difficult to open. Otherwise, their room was comfortable and in good repair. Concierge: Kenneth was the BEST! We had a really good time talking with him and he was very helpful. As for the concierge lounge, I have to say that before this cruise I didn't really understand the draw of it, even though we have had access to one before. However, on this trip, we thoroughly enjoyed all of the time we spent in the CL. We grabbed wonderful cappuccinos each morning and enjoyed drinks most evenings. Sachin was always quick to top off a glass and make sure we were taken care of. Another perk was great conversations with new friends and with Kenneth. Dining Room: We tried My Time Dining and our experience was very positive. The only hitch we noticed was some first night chaos at the doors when the 2nd seating diners tried to find their tables and the my time dining people waited to be seated. We had dinner each night anywhere between 7:30 and 8:00 and we were seated with the same wait staff each time. Our head waiter, Soni, was very personable and always came by to ask about out meal. Our waiter was Rajiv and our assistant waiter was Kevin. They were both very accommodating and we enjoyed their service as well as their friendly banter. Christine (possibly another head) would also pop over to say hello every now and then—she was hilarious! Some of our favorite things were the Vidalia onion tart, pumpkin soup, lobster ravioli, and some curry chicken that Soni Rajiv brought for us to try. We also enjoyed having lunch in the main dining room on our sea day. Windjammer: We went to the Windjammer most mornings and most afternoons. We were very impressed with the layout of it, as it was very easy to navigate and there were very few lines. We were almost always able to find a table by a window and the outdoor seating was a treat. The food was typical for a buffet, but we did think it was a bit better than the Windjammer food we had on the Adventure. Some favorites were the Thai coconut soup, Greek salad, cookies and the soft serve. We also enjoyed all of our breakfasts. Seaview Cafe: We had one afternoon snack at the Seaview cafe and we really liked the look of the cafe as well as the idea of made-to-order food. We ordered a Cuban sandwich, wings & feathers and the fish & chips. The food was fine, but nothing special. We probably would have gone back if we'd had more than one sea day. Portofino: We had Monday night dinner at Portofino and it was wonderful! The service was a bit slow, as it was crowded, but our waitress (El Mira) was delightful and the food was stellar. The steaks were great and we were able to get the seafood skewers made to order (minus the salmon). We especially liked the risotto and the tiramisu. Chops: We went to Chops on our last night and the food/service were terrific! The mushroom soup was delicious and the steaks were very good. The only minor issue was that one filet and one rib eye were cooked more than requested; however, they still tasted good. We really liked the sauce selection for the steaks: peppercorn, bEarnaise and chimichurri. The peppercorn was mild, but good; the bEarnaise was tasty; and the chimichurri was spicy with a good flavor. With dinner we enjoyed a Napa Valley Syrah. I believe the name of the wine was Liberty Bell. As for desserts, the cheesecake was excellent and the mudpie was good, but a bit of a chocolate overload. Solarium Cafe: The pizza was good, but oh man, those freshly prepared crepes were DELICIOUS! Our only suggestion would be the addition of whipped cream as a topping, but that sure didn't stop us from enjoying them! Entertainment: We were pretty tired most nights after busy port days and late dinners, so we did not go to any shows. I am not sure this fits into the entertainment category, but we went to the Crown and Anchor cocktail shindig and enjoyed ourselves. We also went to the Captain's cocktail party on Friday and we really enjoyed talking to the captain and cruise director. St. Thomas: Our day in St. Thomas was fantastic! For the second year in a row, we booked a 6-hour sail on the Rumbaba and it was a phenomenal experience. It was just the four of us and of course Captain Bobby and his first mate Karen. If you ever go to St. Thomas, you should look into Rumbaba. We sailed, enjoyed good company, excellent food and snorkeling at Hawk's Nest (around St. John). We have yet to see the actual island of St. Thomas, but if we go back, we would book with Rumbaba again in a heartbeat!!! St. Maarten: We rented a jeep from Hertz and enjoyed a day driving around the island. The driving can be confusing, but basically, there is one main road that will take you around the whole island; once you figure that out, you are good to go! We made our first stop at Orient Beach, where we took a walk along the beach, enjoying some of the sights and avoiding others! We had a quick beer break to beat the heat and then we were back on the road. We then stopped in Marigot for a while. Parking is a challenge, but we miraculously found a street side spot that was available. From there we walked to a Creperie called The Deli Spoon, where we ordered a couple of crepes and some water. It was actually a great deal for 2 crepes (1 sweet and 1 savory) and a drink for only 11 EUR, plenty to share between two people. After crepes, we decided it was time to make our way to our final destination: Maho Beach, which was AMAZING! The beach itself is beautiful and we made it just in time for a commercial jet (looked like a 747) to land. We left around 3:00 to try and beat traffic (no such luck) and then took advantage of a good bucket o' beer deal at the pier. We love St. Martin and are excited to go back on our next cruise. Antigua: We decided to take advantage of one of Antigua's 366 beaches so we walked to the bus station and got a cheap ride to Turner's Beach. The beach was beautiful and the water was refreshing. We got a couple of $5 chairs and relaxed in the shade of a free palapa. Our only complaint was that the beers were a whopping $4 each with no deals. Sheesh! I should note that we thought Darkwood Beach (which we read a lot about on CC) was beautiful, but we did not notice any umbrellas... St. Lucia: There is not much to say about St. Lucia except that it is a beautiful island and COSOL tours is a must! Our driver, Cantius Jean Baptiste (just goes by Baptist), was entertaining and informative. We loved the food—be sure to go hungry—and snorkeling at Jalousie was really nice. The day was rainy, but it did not put a damper on all of the fun we had. My only advice: do not drink too much toward the end of the day or your bladder will not appreciate the long ride back!!! Barbados: We walked from the cruise terminal toward downtown Bridgetown. We thought the area across the bridge was pretty nice and the market area was interesting, but Bridgetown didn't really appeal to us much otherwise. After walking a while, we stopped to try a Banks beer and some macaroni pie (yum!) and then walked back to the cruise ship terminal where we found a cab to take us to the Malibu Rum Distillery. There, we paid about $15 pp for the tour, a free drink, and beach chairs for the day. The tour was interesting and we enjoyed some beach time. A side note: we had thought about going to The Boatyard rather than Malibu, but we heard later that it was completely packed with no chairs left or anything. So if you are planning on going to the Boatyard, go early! Friday Sea Day: Our sea day was pretty relaxing. We spent the morning wandering around and then had a great lunch in the main dining room. After lunch we had the best treat ever: we were able to go on a tour of the bridge with about 10 other guests. This was VERY cool! We were extremely impressed and appreciative of this opportunity! We ended up shopping a bit, started our packing, and then off to the concierge lounge for one last chance to visit with Kenneth and our new friends. Finally we had a delicious dinner at Chops and then went back to finish packing up everything. The last night of the cruise is like a Sunday night before school. How sad that the fun is almost over! Disembarkation: This was a breeze! We went to the concierge lounge for a small breakfast and ended up just waiting there until disembarkation. Kenneth walked us and another couple down to the exit and that was that! Post-Cruise: We didn't go home until Sunday so we were able to spend the day in Old San Juan again. We had breakfast at La Bombonera again, browsed some shops for last minute gifts, and then retreated to the Caribe Hilton to soak up the last of the Caribbean sun and pina coladas we will get for a year. We went over to Condado for dinner at Cafe del Angels (delicious authentic criolla cuisine) and then we walked back to the hotel. Flight Home: I have heard that SJU is a zoo on Sundays, but we figured we would be getting there before any of the cruisers so it would not be bad. Oh. My. Goodness. WRONG! We arrived at the airport two hours before the flight, got through agriculture and check-in easily within 15 minutes, but only had about 10 minutes before boarding by the time we got out of the security line. This was seriously the worst security line I have ever waited in. First of all, they only had three belts and metal detectors running, even though there were more that could have been opened. Then, it seems that every time they searched a bag they actually stopped sending anything/anyone else through until they finished going through that bag. Really?! Is that the most efficient method they could come up with??? We've departed from SJU two times before this and never had this issue, so we are thinking this is either a new system or just a fluke. The flight itself seemed like an eternity and the flight attendants were easily the rudest and most apathetic people I have ever encountered working on a plane. They honestly seemed to be working really hard to avoid doing any extra drink service or trash pick up. AND they ran out of food on a 7 hour flight. By the time they got to row 22 they were out of chips and they also ran out of sandwiches before they got to the back of the plane. I must have missed the sign that said "Bring your own food or starve!" The only perk is that they showed about 4 or 5 movies in a row, so we were not as bored as we could have been. When we got into LAX, a good amount of luggage was missing, including one of our friend's bags. Luckily, they found his suitcase, but some others from our flight were not so lucky. Boy, what a good reminder of why we hate traveling on American Airlines! All in all, this was a stellar trip and we would do it all again (minus the last day of travel) in a heartbeat! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Embarkation was a breeze. We had all of our paperwork ready and were on the ship within an hour of getting off of our plane. We dropped off our carry-on's and took a brief tour of the ship. We were very impressed by the ... Read More
Embarkation was a breeze. We had all of our paperwork ready and were on the ship within an hour of getting off of our plane. We dropped off our carry-on's and took a brief tour of the ship. We were very impressed by the cleanliness of the ship and the friendliness of the staff. We then headed to the Windjammer for lunch and were pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of food. After lunch we changed into our swimwear and headed to the upper pool deck for sun and drinks. The service was terrific. As has been stated many times before..the drinks aren't cheap!! I like to drink Corona and after tip it comes to around $5 per 12oz bottle. Domestic beers are a bit less pricey. We ate in the dining room every night except for one. The service was excellent and the food was good. Not great, but good. We had the 830 seating and many times we were quite hungry before then. On two occasions, we headed to the windjammer for a Sushi appetizer to hold off the hunger. Since this cruise only had one at sea day, we spent the majority of the day on excursions. We would come back, eat a late lunch and head to the pool deck or solarium. The at sea day was somewhat of a problem if you wanted to have a lounge chair. Although they ask you not to and post signs forbidding it...people simply do not care and will 'save' lounge chairs with towels/books for hours on end. At around 10am I got one of the last loungers available and it was at the Rock Climbing Wall! There were some very upset people re: saved lounge chairs. We attended the Beatles show and it was terrific. We did not go to any other shows, although we watched a few on the TV. The comedian was pretty lame, in our opinion. Disembarkation was very simple. We had a 10:00am flight, so we were in the 'early' group to disembark. We had prepaid our transfers, which means the luggage gets piled in large trucks which follow the bus to the airport. Unfortunately, our luggage was at the front and it took 20 minutes or so to get it off the truck. Next time, I will not utilize the transfers, but will instead take a cab. The other mistake I made in booking with RCI was letting them book my flights. The price I paid for airline tickets was far more than it should have been and on my return flight from Atlanta, they stuck me with a 3.5 hour layover when there was another flight available (and nearly empty). All in all, it was a great cruise and we had an excellent time. Other than a couple of disembarkation details, it was almost perfect. The only other negative I can think of is there was a slight sewage smell in many of the halls. Oh, did I mention the weather? In 7 days we saw a total of about 10 minutes of rain! Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
We decided to fly into San Juan a day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn. We got a discounted rate through my husband's work so it worked out well. We walked down to the beach, had dinner at the hotel and went to bed early so we ... Read More
We decided to fly into San Juan a day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn. We got a discounted rate through my husband's work so it worked out well. We walked down to the beach, had dinner at the hotel and went to bed early so we were well rested for the cruise. Next time we probably would stay in Old San Juan so we could see some of the city but we have no complaints about where we stayed. Getting to the pier was easy and embarkation was fairly simple as well. We got there probably a little before noon and there was a small line but it went fairly quickly. Once we were aboard the ship we decided to start exploring so we walked around and got our bearings and then had lunch at the Windjammer. The ship is really a great ship. There is so much to do on the ship but it doesn't feel like it is too large or crowded at times. The only day it seemed a bit crowded was the day at sea by the main pool. Our room was ready by 1 or 2pm I want to say but cannot remember exactly. Our state room attendant, Anthony, was great. We asked for more towels and washcloths the first day and he made sure we had more every day after that. I just love coming back to our room and having it all clean...I just wish that would happen at home! The state room attendant is probably my favorite person on board because I get a week without having to clean. :) The room itself was a nice setup. The balcony was really spacious and we loved having that. We had one on our first cruise and now can never not have one. Spoiled ourselves. The shower was a lot nicer on this ship versus the last cruise through Carnival...it was tight but not too bad unless you dropped something and the water pressure and temperature were so nice. Food - All of the food on the ship was excellent. There were a few dishes we tried at dinner that weren't our favorites but they were something we would not normally order if we were to go out to dinner at home. It was a lot of fun trying new and different things though. We had a great wait staff at dinner. Marvin, our waiter, Baldwin, our assistant waiter, and Coronado, our head waiter were all fantastic. We had excellent service and had a really great time talking to them about themselves and their experiences on the ship. We had planned to go to Chop's or Portofino's for dinner but never made it since we enjoyed the food so much in the main dining area. For lunch we mostly hit up the Seaview Cafe or the little food station in Solarium. Both were really good. The Windjammer had a really great selection as well. We probably had lunch there a few times and breakfast there once. A majority of the mornings we opted to have room service for breakfast and ate on our balcony. I loved that. We did have breakfast in the main dining area on the day at sea and the day of disembarkation. The banana pancakes and French toast were amazing! Another area we enjoyed was Latte-tudes. Great lattes! That was a nice treat since I was missing my daily latte from Starbucks. :) We opted to get a wine package and I am glad we did. We like having wine with dinner and on a few occasions we took the bottle (usually the second bottle...) back with us to our room so we could bring it with us the next night for pre-dinner drinks at the Champagne Bar. Spa - We took a tour of the spa when we got there and I set up some appointments right away. We also bought passes to the thermal suite for the week. We loved using that! The thermal suite is an area where there are heated ceramic loungers, dry sauna, steam sauna, aromatherapy room and showers. It was really nice and relaxing. The only thing that was a little disappointing was that the aromatherapy room did not seem to be working a couple times when we were in the suite. I also had a "Happy Hour" treatment, which consisted of a mini-facial, scalp massage, partial body massage and champagne. Very nice! I had an oxygen facial, which was nice as well but I broke out...I usually do from facials so that is not anything new. I also had an acupuncture session and that was fabulous! I was extremely skeptical before having it done but the problem areas I indicated felt so much better afterwards. I will be finding an acupuncturist around home now. Excursions - For the most part we had decided we wanted to keep everything simple and relaxing so we did not go on a lot of excursions. In St. Thomas we took the sky ride to Paradise Point. The views up there were spectacular! Well worth the money. At St. Maarten we decided to just get off the ship and walk the pier and shopping area right next to the pier. Antigua was the only disappointment we really had during our vacation. We had booked the Grand Pineapple East Tour with a day pass to the resort through Serenity. The tour guide was supposed to meet us with a sign in a designated area but we had problems locating him. After about 20 people coming up to us asking us if we wanted taxis or tours and feeling really uncomfortable we finally found him. Once we met up with him he told us that another couple had booked the excursion as well but had canceled so we could still go if we wanted to but it would be $30 more per person for the taxi. Uh, no thanks. The tour was already costing us $150 so that was just too much in our opinion and we were a little ticked off at that point. The whole situation just rubbed us the wrong way. We decided to grab a taxi to Runaway Beach instead and had a nice time relaxing there. It didn't ruin our day in Antigua, lemons into lemonade and all that, but I will definitely not be booking anything through Serenity again. In St. Lucia we did a tour through Cosol Tours and that was great! Highly recommended. We ended up having Cosol as our guide and he really made sure everyone was having a great time. It was raining on and off all day but we ended up still having a great time. It was kind of funny because Cosol was more worried about the fact that it was raining than anyone on the tour was. He kept saying how he wish he could control the weather but couldn't. It was a great way to get a feel for the different parts of the island and the culture. At our stop in Barbados we chose to walk into town and had some drinks at a cafe and that was it. Other Observations - Since we wanted the vacation to be mostly relaxing we spent a lot of time just lounging in the Solarium or by the main pool. We got in a lot of reading and a lot of napping so that was fantastic. We also spent quite a bit of time on our balcony watching the world go by. We did spend some time in the casino and had a few good nights at the craps table but they giveth, they taketh away so we ended up about even by the time we left. It was a lot of fun though. We would hit the Champagne Bar or Schooner Bar for drinks before dinner. After the week was over we realized that we had not gone to any of the shows, the gym, rock climbing wall and a few other areas. Oh well! We still had an excellent time and we would not change any of our relaxing time for anything else. Both my husband and I would highly recommend this ship and itinerary to anyone. We had a fantastic week and were so glad that we were able to take the week to see a few places and still have plenty of time to just relax. We are definitely hooked now to Royal Caribbean. We just thought the atmosphere of the ship suited us to a tee and the people on the ship were quite a nice mix with people of all ages. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Embarkation: Since we didn't arrive until about 7:30 p.m., embarkation was a breeze. We were the only people checking in at that time. Cabin: I got a great rate on a guaranteed balcony cabin. The RCCL cabins are small, but the ... Read More
Embarkation: Since we didn't arrive until about 7:30 p.m., embarkation was a breeze. We were the only people checking in at that time. Cabin: I got a great rate on a guaranteed balcony cabin. The RCCL cabins are small, but the only real complaint I had was the size of the showers. I am not a large person and even I felt claustrophobic. Forget about the contortions necessary to shave one's legs! The cabin was clean and well appointed. Unlike Carnival, RCCL does not supply any toiletry items other than shampoo in the shower. Our cabin steward Liland was fantastic. Ship: Awesome ship with lots of glass. I have sailed Carnival many times and think RCCL ships have a much classier appearance. Plenty of chairs on the decks and lots for everyone to do. Dining: We ate in the Windjammer the first evening as our bags didn't arrive in time and my husband had worn jeans (I later found out that they do allow jeans in the dining room on the first night). Two of the three meals we ate in the Windjammer were very good with numerous options. We ate in the main dining room only twice and both meals were very satisfactory. Two nights we ate in the specialty restaurants: Portofino and Chops. They were excellent and I highly recommend spending the extra money if you can afford it. Staff in these restaurants was exemplary, too. We had signed up for the late seating, but next time we plan to do the My Time Dining. Seems like it would be a better fit for us. Ports and Excursions: I had hooked up with some people from the roll call for several private excursions. In St. Thomas, 4 of us went on the Rumbaba sailing and snorkeling charter in St. John and enjoyed a wonderful lunch with a choice of mahi, tuna or filet. Everyone loved their selections. It was a wonderful time. We took Herod's Land and Sea Tour in St. Lucia. Herod is a very nice young man who actually took us to "Mama's House" for a buffet luncheon on her veranda with a view of a piton! We had a nice tour of the island complete with fresh bananas at the plantation, freshly baked casaba bread and a visit to the volcano. After lunch we boarded a boat and went to a beach between the pitons for snorkeling which was very good, but you had to swim out a ways to see the bigger fish. The boat trip back to our ship was a bit hairy as it poured the entire time, but, overall, it was a fantastic tour. In Antigua, four of us went with another group on Gordon's Island Tour which was extremely informative and a good way to see the island. We went on the Silvermoon catamaran in Barbados, swam with turtles and snorkeled. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see too many turtles as there were quite a few boats there at the time, but it was still fun. Lunch was a buffet featuring flying fish which I had always wanted to try. It was another awesome day. We chose to take a taxi to Orient Beach in St. Maarten. Great, inexpensive day. The taxi was $14 (we waited for another couple and that cut the price by $4), two chairs and an umbrella for $10 and a bucket of beer for $9. Can't beat that! Other than Hawaii, this was my favorite cruise because of the ports involved. Each of the islands has something special to offer! Roll Call: Although I use CruiseCritic.com a lot and have cruised many times, this was the first time I had joined a roll call and I'm so glad I did! What a fun group of people I met. It was nice to have others on board with whom to chat and to have a group with whom to hang out on deck during our day at sea (my husband is not a sun person!). It was so much fun that I'm looking forward to getting together with this group (and any others who might join us) next year on the AOS. Shows: We are not big show people, but we did see the Elton John impersonator who was very good. I heard others complaining that the shows were not that good, but I've come to expect that on cruise ships. We did spend a good bit of time in the casino, but it wasn't very good to us! Many from the CruiseCritic.com group had a blast at the Quest which is a fun audience participation game. Disembarkation: Since our flight wasn't until the afternoon (and our airline wasn't one that will take the bags directly from the ship and hold them at the airport) we chose to do a walking tour of Old San Juan through RCCL. We were the first group off the ship and, once through customs (which was a breeze), RCCL handled the transfer of our luggage to the airport while we boarded a bus for the tour. Our guide, Virginia, was very informative and toured us through the fort, convents, and a cathedral. Once at the airport, we retrieved our bags, scanned them through the agricultural checkpoint, and then checked our luggage and received our boarding passes. The procedure went very smoothly overall. Our flight home was non-eventful. Next time we leave out of San Juan, I would definitely plan to arrive a day prior to the cruise. All things considered, the Serenade is a beautiful ship and I would highly recommend this itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Serenade of the Seas 2/28/09-3/07/09 This was my second cruise with Royal Caribbean, the first being on the Adventure. This was my husband's third, his first was on the Radiance, then the Adventure. We flew down to San Juan a day ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas 2/28/09-3/07/09 This was my second cruise with Royal Caribbean, the first being on the Adventure. This was my husband's third, his first was on the Radiance, then the Adventure. We flew down to San Juan a day early and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. We had no travel problems what so ever! The San Juan Airport has improved tremendously in the last few years. I was impressed. All of our luggage made it, and we easily found a taxi to our hotel. Saturday The next day we walked out to the ocean and enjoyed breakfast before heading to the ship. We arrived at the port at almost exactly 11:00 am. There was quite a long line waiting to get on the ship. I think all of us Cruise Critic members were a little over anxious. We were allowed on the ship at 11:30, and after ten minutes were enjoying lunch in the Windjammer. Our rooms were ready shortly after 1:00, just as promised. There were pool towels in our room. We had an E1 balcony on deck 7 near the front of the ship. It was wonderful, with a larger extended balcony. We met with our Cruise Critic meet and mingle group at 5:00, for drinks in the Schooner Bar. We organized this ourselves, as our meet and mingle was not until Tuesday and we wanted to get to know each other earlier in the sailing. We had first seating in the MDR. Our wait staff was the best I have ever had! Our head waiter was Emilie from Romania. She was incredibly friendly and came by to chat every night. Our waiter was Ronaldo from the Philippines. He was very friendly and always made sure everything was in order at our table. Our assistant waiter was Clovis from Brazil. He was so much fun. He kept teasing my parents, especially my dad. He made dinner very entertaining every night! They were all amazing. Muster was at 8:00, and only lasted 15 minutes. It went very smoothly and was painless. The ship sailed shortly after 10:00. We went to bed shortly after, seeing as how we were exhausted. The welcome aboard show was this night. We did not go and were glad. We found out that mostly the girl who does the guided shopping just got up and talked about Diamonds International. The drink of the day was Bahama Mama. The Portofino Wine and Dine dinner was this night. Sunday-St Thomas We arrived in port a little before 7:00 am. Our ship was the only one in port. It made it extra special to not have a million people to walk over in the shops. We enjoyed breakfast in the Windjammer, and then went out to wander the shops. We booked the Sail and Snorkel Adventure through Royal Caribbean. My parents, DH and myself, and one other couple went out with Captain Kevin on a sailboat. We sailed to Buck Island, about an hour out from St. Thomas. From there we snorkeled for about an hour. There were turtles everywhere! We saw some great fish. We sailed back to the ship and enjoyed some STRONG rum punch and crackers and cheese. It was an excellent tour. I enjoyed having very few people around. The snorkeling was very good, and Kevin was a wonderful guide. Formal night was Sunday. Most people were dressed up. Men were in suits and ties. I did not see too many tux's this night. The food in the dining room was very good. The escargot was excellent. The show that night was the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers stage show "From Stage to Screen". It was very good. I was not too impressed with two of the singers. I have heard better singers in my church congregation! The dancers were pretty good. I don't really go on a cruise for the entertainment, so it did not take away from the cruising experience in any way. The casino was smoke free on this night. We took advantage of this. It was quite pleasant to not have to smell the smoke while we played the slots. The battle of the sexes game show was this night. We did not go. The drink of the day was "Yellow Bird". It was very good. Monday-St. Maarten We decided to have a low key day on St. Maarten. We shopped in the morning, then took a cab to Dawn Beach. The rates were regulated, so for the four of us it cost $7 each, both way. The beach was beautiful, and not very crowded. We were once again the only ship in port, so that also helped keep the crowds down. We paid $10 for 2 chairs and 1 umbrella for the whole day. There was a restaurant and some hotels on this beach. The food was REALLY expensive ($18 for a sandwich!), but they were running Coors Light bottled beer for $1. We snorkeled from the beach, and it was actually quite good. With the exception of some pretty good chop, the snorkeling was quite enjoyable. Our driver picked us up at 3:30, and we headed back to the ship. It was casual night for dinner, and most people were in nice clothes. I did not see too many people in jeans or shorts. The show was an Elton John tribute act. We heard it was good, but we did not go. The drink of the day was "Caribbean Sunset" Tuesday-Antigua We woke up early, ate a protein rich breakfast at the WindJammer and headed out to meet the Adventure Antigua boat for Eli's Eco Tour. This was the highlight of the trip. The tour was full, but the boat was not crowded. We picked up one other couple from Sandals and headed out. We were told about the smaller islands, some of the resorts, and the military base. Then we went to Bird Island for a nature hike, some swimming or snorkeling, and lunch. The BBQ chicken was really good. I loved the sauce. The food over all was very good. After a few hours at this island, we moved to the other side at Hell's Gate. We got to climb through the cave and up to the top. If you go on this tour, you will want good shoes with tread and a WATERPROOF camera. Otherwise, you won't be able to take pictures from above the gate. It was wonderful! Finally, they took us to a really big snorkel area. There were some of the biggest fans at this location. The coral was really pretty. There were lots of fish, and we saw a very large turtle. Our tour ended back at the ship. We arrived around 4:00. There was one other ship, The Vision, in port on this day, and another came in just before dinner. We did not do any shopping. The island was beautiful, from what we could see at it. Dinner in the MDR was very good once again. The Drink of the Day was a margarita. The show was the Love and Marriage Game Show. There was only one seating, and it was at 10:45. We did not go, but watched it played on our TV in the cabin over and over during the week. There was a midnight buffet by the pool this night, with dancing. It was not nearly as elaborate as the buffets in the past. Wednesday St. Lucia We woke up to see 5 ships in port!! It was a really busy port day, and probably the least enjoyable of all of our days. We had booked the Cosol tour, but because we were tendered, we had to cut the regular tour short. We still had to pay full price. The tour would have been good, but there were just TOO many people and too many vans. Our Driver, Mustin was polite and informative. He did his best to drive through all the traffic. We had 10 in our van, which was fine, but at every stop, there were people crawling all over each other. We stopped at a banana plantation, and it was just okay. We basically stopped on the side of the road, took a picture, and ate a banana. We then stopped for brunch, which was rum punch, beer, and samples of fruit and fish and bread. Nothing to write home about. Our van decided to cut out the beach tour, and we went to a waterfall (small and crowded) and a "volcano" which looked like a trash dump and smelled worse. The best part of the tour was the St. Lucia Moonshine. I had high expectations for this tour after reading all of the reviews on Cruise Critic. I was disappointed. I think it would have been much more enjoyable if there were half as many people on the tour, and only 2-3 ships in port. Cosol should consider this when booking. I know he makes more money when he has more people, but the experience is not nearly as enjoyable with so many people. DH and I dined at Portofino's this night. The food was everything I hoped it would be. I had the Carpaccio and it was excellent. The ribbon mushroom pasta is now my new favorite food, and my Filet was prepared perfectly. It was tender and full of flavor. I had the dessert sampler, and was not impressed with any of the desserts. It could have been that I was so full that I just could not enjoy it, but I really did not like any of four samples offered. The show this night was a comedian, Etta May. She was very funny, and had the audience cracking up. The drink of the day was the Mai Tai Thursday Barbados DH and I had originally wanted to do a zipline tour in St. Lucia, but since we had decided to go with the Cosol tour, we moved it to Barbados. This tour was booked through Royal Caribbean. The bus ride there was a bit of an adventure, we were probably safer on the tour than on that bus! The people running the zip line were extremely friendly. They were informative and always made sure we were safe. It was evident that safety was their number one priority. I was impressed. We had a lot of fun, although the zips were not very long. We did our last minute shopping here in Barbados. We started to notice lots of cleaning and the hand sanitizer stations were out all over the ship. We had to use them when boarding and before entry into any food venue. Our last formal night was this night. Almost everyone was dressed up. I saw many more men in tux's this night. Lobster was served, and it was very good. You could have as many as you wanted. My dad had two and the prime rib. The show was Royal Caribbean's stage show, Vibeology. It was a journey through popular music including Elvis, Beatles, Cher, Janet Jackson, and more. It was pretty good, but once again, the singing was just okay. Quest was later that night. We did not go, but heard it was a riot. The drink of the day was the "Rum Runner" Friday-At Sea The ship did not at all feel crowded on this day. The pool chairs were taken around the pool by 10:00, but the staff did an excellent job of moving people's stuff if it had sat there for longer than 30 minutes. There were signs out reminding people not to save chairs, and there was a note about it in the compass. We had a little bit of rain throughout the afternoon, which also put an end to the chair hogs!! The belly flop contest was really fun to watch. Dinner was casual, as most people were packing up. I won $40 in the casino that night in the slots! The show was a Comedian, Miguel Washington. He was excellent. Best show of the week. The drink of the day was "Blue Seas" Saturday-Back at San Juan The only time the ship felt crowded all week, with everyone trying to eat breakfast in the Windjammer at the same time. We booked the Baccardi Rum tour, so we were among the first off of the ship. We quickly found our luggage, cleared customs in less than 10 minutes, dropped off our luggage with our tour group, and got on the van. We were actually early, so our driver took us to the capital and around the fort so we could take pictures! Bonus tour! The rum tour was okay, nothing super special. We got 2 tickets for drinks. We did not buy any rum at the distillery, but did in the San Juan airport once we were through security. It was super cheap. We were allowed to carry it on the plane in the sealed bag they gave us. Overall: Main Dining Room: Very good. Starters and main course were great. The desserts were not all good, but maybe I should have just gotten something else. The service was outstanding. Windjammer: Good food, but not a lot of selection variation between the days. Service was good. Seaview Cafe: Excellent onion rings, brownies, wings, and Reuben sandwiches. Cabin Attendant: Very friendly and super sweet. I wish I could remember her name! We always had ice, and had towel animals after the 2nd night to the end of the cruise. Cruise Director: Dennis was very nice, friendly, funny, and not overly cheesy. Ship: Beautiful! My favorite ship in the fleet. Great size. It never really felt crowded. There was so much to do. The pool tables are really fun to play on and even fun to watch. There were plenty of activities for us, but we did not stay up long enough for most of the late night activities. The solarium was our favorite place to sit in the afternoons and read a book and relax. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
I flew from Atlanta to San Juan and after a repair was made to the right engine on my Delta flight, we arrived 1 1/2 hours late but safe. A taxi ride to the Pan American pier and a 15 minute embarkation, creation of Sea Passes to board the ... Read More
I flew from Atlanta to San Juan and after a repair was made to the right engine on my Delta flight, we arrived 1 1/2 hours late but safe. A taxi ride to the Pan American pier and a 15 minute embarkation, creation of Sea Passes to board the ship and we were off to the Windjammer for lunch. There were ample choices, great tasting snacks and free lemonade that hit the spot. There were great desserts as well. I then went off to my Junior Suite 1038 and it was nearly 300 sq feet and very comfortable. There was a noticeable odor in the hallway and in my bathroom as others have posted before. This was brought to management's attention and it took 3 days to eradicate but they did apologize and offer a credit for future travel. The first night was casual and we ate in the Reflections and met a younger couple from Reston,Va who were extremely pleased as well with the dinner offerings. There were excellent appetizers, main courses and desserts. We are big restaurant goers in atlanta and the choices and quality and taste were excellent. Anyone that complains really is being too damn picky. The first port was St Thomas and we took a ferry to St John to visit Trunk Bay was amazing. We had to taxi over to ferry and while this was a bit annoying, it was a nice beach with beautiful sand and clear water.... The second day we went to St Maarten and taxied over to Orient Beach. There were so many choices where to sit, get chairs and umbrellas and it rained on and off a few times, but it was a pretty beach. Some Nudity and certainly some people should have never removed their closes.... The 3rd day we went to Antiqua and visited Runaway Beach that was really nice, very close and had great drinks...Have an Antiqua Smile.... The 4th day we went to St Lucia, visited the Pitons and Anse Chastanet, the beach is not very nice even though the snorkeling was ok. The beach bar was a rip off...T Shirts were $45 and burgers were $18....They need a reality check at this island.... The 5th day we went to Barbados and the shopping downtown was great and the walk to the Boatyard beach was 10 minutes...It was a very nice beach that was for mostly young people with great bar and great prices on drinks food towels chairs etc.... The 6th day we were at sea and the only time that the boat appeared crowded with 2000 guests....It was still a very pleasant day at sea with great weather Summary: The food, service and casino were all a great deal of fun and an excellent experience. I am already planning for my next RCL cruise....I think once they figure out how to clean their waste system on the boat more effectively, this boat gets 5 1/2 starts vs the 4 1/2 that I give it now Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Unknown to me until after sail-away, my now-fiancE had planned this vacation as a proposal-and-engagement cruise. Our relationship began on the Jewel of the Seas, another Radiance-class ship, in March 2007 so it was very sentimental. :) By ... Read More
Unknown to me until after sail-away, my now-fiancE had planned this vacation as a proposal-and-engagement cruise. Our relationship began on the Jewel of the Seas, another Radiance-class ship, in March 2007 so it was very sentimental. :) By sheer coincidence we also had the same cruise director, Marc Walker, so it was fun to get a chance to tell him the story at the Meet & Mingle. We flew into San Juan the night before the cruise and spent the night at the Radisson Condado. We had credit card reward points to use so the stay was free. The hotel was nothing special but neither was it problematic in any way; in the end, it was a perfectly decent place to spend the night and the cab for both of us to the pier was simple and reasonable. Embarkation went smoothly; we arrived early, around 11:45, and we were picking out seats in the Windjammer about ten minutes after the cab driver dropped us off at the pier. Our room took until 1:30 to be ready and even then we kept crossing paths with the cabin steward as we went in and out in the afternoon, but I understand how quickly they have to do a ton of work on embarkation day so it wasn't really a big deal. Our luggage arrived around 4:00. We were in aft cabin 9256, one of the 8 corner-aft cabins that Radiance-class ships have. The balconies are large enough for two loungers, two normal chairs, a couple of small tables, and some room left over. (They are also large enough for a romantic night-time proposal!) The walk to the nearest stair / elevator, at the Centrum, can be fairly aggravating if you have to do it several times in a row ("oops, I forgot my...") but in a general sort of sense wasn't an issue at all. I would like very much to luck into having one of those cabins again! (In our case, it happened to open up 2 months before sailing and we managed to grab it.) The ship itself was beautiful and well-maintained, as we expected. The service from our poor room steward was a little mixed, but it's not his fault we kept a very odd schedule for most of the cruise and were extremely difficult to work around some days, I'm sure. Our waiter and assistant waiter were professional and competent, but for the first time ever I *really* liked our head waiter. He was outgoing, full of smiles, and brought us a celebratory cake. (Anyone bringing cake gains my favor, hehe!) The dining room food was very good; not superbly excellent, but quite good. Chops and Portofino, on the other hand, were astounding as always and well, WELL worth the money. The entertainment was mixed. We left one "impressionist's" show after about 10 minutes, since every singer he was imitating sounded just like him, only in a funny hat, but the production shows were great. (We also won a private backstage tour and Q&A in the Make-a-Wish auction, and that was actually fascinating. The singers and dancers were very friendly!) The comedians were all very funny, surprisingly good, and the last night's duo were fun enough to watch. The ports were mixed, but varied from "nice enough" to "utterly amazing," as described below. The only excursion not described below was our disembarkation excursion when we returned to San Juan. We did the walking tour of Old San Juan and for anyone who likes cities and history, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Old San Juan is beautiful and fascinating. Overall, I had the time of my life on this cruise. Our travel went smoothly, our ports were beautiful, the weather was fine, the ship was great. Royal Caribbean is now 2 for 2 in my book, and we're looking forward to planning the honeymoon! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
I hope I remember everything I want to say. :) I absolutely loved our end of May Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruise. :) It was my in-laws 25th anniversary and so they, their 4 kids and their two daughter-in-laws (including me) the 8 of us went ... Read More
I hope I remember everything I want to say. :) I absolutely loved our end of May Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruise. :) It was my in-laws 25th anniversary and so they, their 4 kids and their two daughter-in-laws (including me) the 8 of us went together. :) Dining: I gained 10 pounds!!!! That should speak for itself! :) hehe. ugh, the food was much too fantastic. very yummy. And even better than the food! (if you can imagine that) was the fantastic service. Our head waiter was a bit too proud of himself, but our Waiter Freddy Gonsalves and his assistant waiter Liodela were just so absolutely wonderful :) They did everything in their power to take care of our requests and never made us feel guilty for having asked for anything! :) They are the best! :) The windjammer was yummy too! :) It was warm enough that we would sit outside but you do need a lite jacket at the end of May in Alaska. We did not use the Portofino or the Chops Grille. Wy pay $25 per person more when you have just as excellent food and service for FREE in the Dining room and Windjammer :) And the room service was very nice. They were a little abrupt over the phone when we would call in, which was probably from under-staffing. Put a few more people working for room service and they'd have it down :) If you don't like to wait, go to the windjammer and yes ;) you are allowed to take the food back to your room. :) If you want he full wonderful dining experience, go to the dining room but it does take longer. We had the 6 pm seating. We would come at 6 and order, bread and drinks are served. Appetizers began at 6:30, Main courses 6:45, desserts about 7:15 p The Ship: BEAUTIFUL!!! :) All the glass.. especially the glass elevators... just beautiful :) 10 story lobby. beautiful art all over the ship :) My husband enjoyed the Shipshape center :) Putt putt and dodge ball were fun too (we are in our 20's :D) and the VIEW: :) To DIE FOR! :) I'd say the view ... all that water and mountains.. even better than any port of call! :) Ports of call 1st: Icy Strait Point: If your heart can handle it :) try the Ziprider! :) I loved it! I'd describe as a swing but much faster :) and only in one direction lol :) Lots of history in the museum and things to buy that you can't get on board such as AFFORDABLE sunglasses lol...(stuff in the onboard shops is very expensive unless you wait for days when they have stuff on sale like normally their watches are from $50 to $500 but they had ONE day when they had $15 watches.) 2nd: Hubbard Glacier: unfortunately the fog decided to be lazy and didn't clear up but for an hour... so never got to see that collapsing glacier event thing :( But that's not the cruise lines fault they can't control the weather :( 3rd: Skagway: Very nice town :) You have to do a bit of walking in order to get all around and see all the different stores but it was concentrated enough ... that I don't think we walked more than 3 miles the entire day all together. We did take the train through the mountains :) Very very pretty :) Especially Inspiration Point :) You are allowed to stand up and walk outside while the train is moving to take pictures... my husband spent nearly the entire time outside :) We were supposed to go on the 8 am train but the train in front of us was disable on the track and so they moved us to the 4:30 p train... which I think was probably better than the 8 am :) the train was back by 7:30 and out boat left at 8 pm phew some of us were worried that the train would have troubles and the boat would leave without us but the train people assured us that the boat does not leave without the 50 people on the train... it would wait for us if anything happened :) YAYE! :) 4th: Juneau: Hehe I got lazy. Stayed inside and slept and went up top and viewed the town... very big compared to the others... very sprawling. Days at sea: beautiful... open ocean was all you could see... it was like looking into eternity :) Believe it or not I did come back with a tan!! :) yaye! :) WEDDING VOW RENEWAL!!! :) well, not for me :) For my in-laws :) The Cruise Programs Administrator Kelly Tucker was absolutely wonderful. We are supposed to plan before you get on the ship but it didn't occur to us to throw a surprise vow renewal for Ma and Pa Simpson until we were already on the ship. of the 6 kids I was elected to see if we could get it worked out and when I met up with Kelly... she just treated me like I mattered like even though we were doing things out of order and other people had signed up before me to have their weddings or vow renewals down that I, the late bird, mattered just as much as them! :) I did not expect that :) She was just absolutely wonderful and took care of our every need and request :) Just absolutely WOW :) Between Freddy and Kelly... I just felt so loved and cared for and like family on Serenade :) I couldn't thank them enough for all their hard work and effort and time and patience :) The Rooms: I was told that cruise ship rooms and tinier than you could ever imagine so I went in with the expectation of some 4 x 10 room, a twin bed, and one of those trailer showers that sits right over the toilet... it was actually bigger than I thought! :) We had an inside room and I would call it very spacious - the bathrooms too :) But you have to walk in with the expectation of smallest tiniest box in the world and then when it ends up better than the smallest thing you can imagine, then you will be able to enjoy it :) Our room had a ton of mirrors all over which helped add to its spacious feel :) I like the movies (Wild Hogs, Harry potter, star dust, ratatouille, etc) (and ya there is actually a cinema theatre :D )and programs on TV that taught about the different ports and amenities. If you get easily nauseous, get an inside stateroom cuz its in the center of the ship and therefore rocks less... you can barely feel it on a bad day if you stay in bed. Balcony rooms or rooms at the ends of the boat can definitely feel it when the water gets choppy. Stateroom attendant: QUICK! :) I thought she did a good job but I also don't have very high standards lol :) We would be gone for 2 seconds and come back and the room had already been cleaned. Very quick! :) My mother-in-law commented on how she thought boats were supposed be cleaner or shinier and that most everything seemed to have a filmy layer on it and therefore less shiny. I reminded her that of the high prevention measures they are taking because of the Norwalk virus and so they have to use bleach on nearly every surface (including shiny ones) and bleach can leave a filmy residue especially when used as often as they were required to use it... so you will have a less shiny ship but its worth it to not get a gastrointestinal virus that keeps you hugging the commode for the rest of the cruise. :) (And NO the ship did NOT ever smell like bleach thank good ness cuz that is a horrible smell to live with) Money money money: Everything is very expensive so wait for a sale, the have a ton of them and that is when to buy stuff... spa too what is $200 one day is $89 the next ... seriously lol :) I regret not having taken part in some of the sales especially the art sales and raffles but I will know better for next time! :) The DOWN SIDE: Oh poo I hate this part.... at least I don't have a ton to say :) Bar: My family and I don't drink alcohol and apparently alcoholics are great tippers cuz when we would go to a bar to order virgin drinks, the bar attendants would barely acknowledge us in comparison to the drunk tippers on the other side of the bar. :( I must say though that the drinks were very good :) Plus the drunks were hilarious to watch... so it made for a good show lol. Guest Services: Very abrupt... but again, just understaffed, there were too many things they had to deal with and not enough people to do it so that had to get through the line of people as quickly as possible. Nausea: It is a ship. It does move. :) lol. Bring Nausea medicine just incase.... I never used any, but my in-laws did. Anyway enough with that!!! :) More upsides! :) Do as many poses as you can with the photographers :) Posing is free and they are set up most evenings to take you picture for formal nights of casual or ports :) Then you have a big selection to pick from :) The photos are very professional but you don't have to pay a sitting fee like with other professional photographers AND the photo prints are less expensive... more so than say Wal-Mart but much better quality. $20 for 8 x 10 full plus $10 more if you'd like another 8x10 with wallets and 4x6's in it. So 1 8x10 2 4x6 and some wallets for $30 :) Our local professional costs $27 just for one 8x10 besides the $100 for an hour of posing :) Free posing and cheap high quality prints :) Moral: GET YOUR PICS DONE! :) Its worth it! :) If you are going and you happened to bump into Freddy Gonsalves or Kelly Tucker, let them know the Simpsons said hi (yep they memorized our names, ain't that something :))... Enjoy yourselves on the Serenade! :) I know you will! :) Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Serenade of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 5.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.9
Enrichment 1.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

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