Two years ago, we found ourselves cruising the Baltic on the Serenade. During that sailing, they began advertising for their fall crossing from Copenhagen to Boston. It looked intriguing, so we kept our eyes peeled for future crossings. ... Read More
Two years ago, we found ourselves cruising the Baltic on the Serenade. During that sailing, they began advertising for their fall crossing from Copenhagen to Boston. It looked intriguing, so we kept our eyes peeled for future crossings. Cut to 2017, and they released our itinerary with the addition of Greenland! We jumped at the chance to book it, and we were not disappointed!
What was originally a family cruise turned into a mother/daughter trip. While we had already spent time in Copenhagen for our Baltic cruise, we knew we wanted to spend more time this year, since it's such a great city. We spent three days exploring prior to embarkation and stayed at The Square Hotel, right across from City Hall and down the street from Tivoli. We couldn't have asked for a better location. The actual port for embarkation is Oceankaj, which is a ways away from the city center. I believe our taxi cost about 260DKK.
Embarkation in Copenhagen is a breeze. Disembarkation in Boston is not. We'll get to that later.
THE SHIP: We've been sailing on Radiance class ships for the past three years, so upon embarking, we already knew the lay of the land onboard. The only difference we noticed was our room. We stayed in a junior suite, and during it's quick dry dock in 2017, they switched out the sagging sofa bed for a nice, large gray couch. Since our third guest canceled, we never got to test out the sofa bed, but anything would have been better than the old one from two years ago. Our stateroom was 1570, which was great, since there's a lot of annoyance with being below the pool and Windjammer deck. We lucked out and found that our room was below a carpeted section of the Windjammer, so we had no noise above us. There's a little wear and tear on the ship, parts of the deck railing were chipping off and our bathroom sink had a few cracks. But overall, the ship looks to be in good condition, and it's always reassuring when you constantly see staff members cleaning all areas of the ship.
FOOD: It was average. We typically buy some kind of dining package to avoid the formal nights, so we had a few meals in Chops Grill and Giovanni's Table. Both restaurants were the best meals we had onboard. Our waiters in the MDR were great, but the food was average. We found the MDR menu didn't change much, so after 16 days, we were ready for food off the ship.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES: They had a number of enrichment lectures throughout the cruise which always seemed to be packed. The nightly entertainment was normal, after three straight years of European cruises, we had seen over half the acts already. The one unique thing with this cruise was the Blue Nose Ceremony, which has to do with crossing the Arctic Circle. But everyone was involved, including the Captain. We took part in progressive trivia on sea days, which was excellent. Additionally, the crew hosted Master Sea Chef with a number of staff members. It was a huge hit and I hope they continue the tradition on crossings.
SERVICE: Overall, the staff was great. The cruise director, Jamie, was fantastic and was seen quite frequently around the ship. Captain Aris was also seen quite a bit. The activities staff were great, especially Diego, who made countless trivia games knowledgeable and fun. We've become accustomed to being greeted by every employee as you pass by and this cruise was no exception. Maybe it was the fact that it was a 16 night cruise, or maybe it was because we were making history with Royal, or just being on a smaller ship, but we did feel like a big family by the end of the cruise.
PORTS & SHORE EXCURSIONS: I'll break it down by port.
SKAGEN - it was pouring rain shortly after we arrived, so we stayed onboard. However on a nicer day, it a great opportunity to go to the northern most point in Denmark and see where the North and Baltic Seas meet.
STAVANGER - originally the itinerary had us going to Bergen, so when it changed, we were a little disappointed. However Stavanger was quaint and beautiful. We booked a fjord tour independently with Rodne and it was worth all the money. Luckily for us, they boarded the fjord tour directly behind the Serenade, so it was a short walk for us.
LERWICK - we tendered here and just walked around the city. It was a cute Scottish town with incredibly friendly people.
AKUREYRI - this was our first experience with Iceland and it did not disappoint! From the sail in (you sail into a long fjord to get to the city) to the view from the port, we were in awe. We booked an independent tour with Fab Travel and did a day tour of Lake Myvatn. Again, it was well worth the money. Our guides were knowledgeable and it was nice having a smaller bus to tour with.
REYKJAVIK - we stayed overnight in port, allowing for two tours. Reykjavik was the only time we booked tours with Royal. The first night we went to the Blue Lagoon for a night swim. Maybe it's considered too touristy, or too expensive, or both, but for the rest of the cruise, the people we spoke to raved about their time at the lagoon. It's big enough to not feel crowded - especially at night. And overall, it was just a relaxing and wonderful time. After the highs of seeing the beauty of Akureyri, the lagoon seemed to add to the magic of the country. The next morning, we (and basically the whole ship) did the Golden Circle tour. The sites were crowded (it was also on a Sunday), but it didn't take anything away from it.
PRINS CHRISTIAN SUND - we just sailed through the sound for about six hours on a sunny day. We were lucky enough to have a geologist onboard who made sporadic announcements to give people information about what we were sailing by. Initially, we were slated for a 7-8 hour tour through the sound, but we were working to beat a storm front.
QAQORTOQ - being the first Royal ship to sail here, there wasn't a whole lot of information regarding the city beforehand. There were only a few excursions offered and they were incredibly expensive. Most passengers just wandered around the town for a little while, so hopefully next year there will be more options for cruisers. It was just the small price to pay for being the first cruise for the company to port here.
SYDNEY - there were a number of excursion options in Sydney, but since we spent the bulk of our money on Icelandic excursions, we just walked around the city.
HALIFAX - again, Royal offered a lot of diverse excursions for passengers, but we opted to take a walk along the boardwalk. It was a Sunday, so it was a bustling city with families out and about. We did a quick tour of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and found some food along the waterfront. Overall, Halifax was a gorgeous coastal city and we'd love to go back.
The only issue we found with the excursions we booked with Royal was that they were extremely disorganized. Our Blue Lagoon tour met on the pier, but there was no shore excursion employee around to check tickets and to point people onto their respective buses. While the tour operators tried to fix the issues, the missing shore excursion employee showed up and stood to the side, not bothering to help. The following morning we had to report to the theater to get our stickers, which was a normal occurrence. However, unlike every other excursion that met in the theater in the past, the staff had people lining up around deck five and giving stickers at the entrance to the theater rather than down by the stage. Overall, it seemed like Royal was extremely disorganized with tours, which wasn't the case when we sailed on the Serenade two years prior. The excursions themselves were excellent, but the organization needed some help.
DISEMBARKATION: Understandably, the US does a thorough inspection on a ship that comes in from Europe. But it definitely delayed the start of disembarkation. We elected to do the express walk off with our bags as usual, but in the end we were getting off the ship with groups 1-3. The start of disembarkation was slated to be 7AM, so we went down at 6:30 to sit around. Except everyone was already lined up, and the doors didn't open until about 7:30. The first ones off the ship had to have come down before 6AM to stand in line. Immigration was held in the dining room and we were promptly led off the ship. Pro tip: Use Uber or Lyft. Boston has limited taxis at the port. By the time we got to the taxi line, there were about 7 families in front of us and two taxis that were full. The port employees even suggested using Uber. There were 50 or more people in line after us, and only a handful of us elected to get out of line and order an Uber. In the end, it took 20-25 minutes from the time we ordered a car to being dropped off at the airport.
Overall, the cruise was excellent. Even though I'm a little tired of the Radiance class at this point, the itinerary was always the reason behind booking this sailing. The fact that the crew was so wonderful seemed to be icing on the cake. The balance between sea days and ports was perfect and made the cruise fly by.
While I don't have any future sailings booked on the Radiance class, I will always look at the Serenade with fond memories and appreciate that it took me across the world with an amazing crew and incredible passengers. Read Less