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  #1  
Old August 26th, 2013, 07:08 AM
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Default Serenade of the Seas - Venice Itinerary Review (Aug 11, 2013)

Hello all, we just got back from the Serenade - Venice itinerary, and it was fabulous! With Kreuzfahrtneuling's kind encouragement, I am starting my first picture review. (In the meantime, please go read her very entertaining review on this very same itinerary, 2 cruises before ours. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1890431.)

Some background

I cruise with my parents. They are senior folks, still active in daily life but prefer a more leisurely pace when traveling. This review will point out specific items about the cruise and ports that might be of interest to those who are of similar mind. While we may not have been the first off the ship and last onboard, we still found something to do in every port that was interesting, not too physically intensive, and gave ample time for rest between ports. We've also been fortunate enough to cruise the Mediterranean twice already, so in the repeat ports, we were able to explore some of less popular regions.

So why do the Mediterranean again? We had originally booked a Norwegian fjords cruise for late August, but while the itinerary was amazing, it was only 7 days. Flying to Europe for just a week seemed like a drag.

Then, like a sign from the cruising gods, Middle Aged Drama Queen's review of her Serenade cruise from last year popped up on the CC boards. I had somehow missed it when she first posted it, and her enthusiasm and joie de vivre were infectious. A Mediterranean cruise hadn't even occurred to me - we'd just been there 2 years ago - but why not? Looking at her pictures of sunny, warm climes and historical sites piqued my interest, and when I saw the Serenade's Venice itinerary, it sounded like a perfect idea.

We finalized the cruise booking in May, which left little time to plan but still a lot of time for excitement. Most of my focus was on finding excursions that would be suitable for 2 seniors.

This review will take a while to finish, as I'll be posting in bits and pieces while trying to adjust back to everyday life (ick). Definitely feel free to ask questions, though. I'll be back later tonight for our first installment.

All aboard!

Last edited by windjamming; August 26th, 2013 at 07:12 AM.
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  #2  
Old August 26th, 2013, 07:35 AM
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Kreuzfahrtneuling Kreuzfahrtneuling is offline
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Hi Windjamming,

Jippieeee, you started it! Another review of our cruise itinerary! I'm so stoked! Thanks for the nice words in the beginning---I'm flattered. I'm glad if I could help getting you hyped to do this review! And what a great start... I can't wait for the next posts! I'm definitely following this one!

Stef
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http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1851484
my first attempt of a day to day cruise review (Adventure of the Seas Aug 2012)-- enjoy

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1890431
Pictoral Review --Serenade of the Seas --July 2013-- 12 day Med cruise

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2094891
Pictoral review -- MSC Magnifica -- August 2014 -- 12 day British Isles cruise




past cruises:
2012 -- Adventure of the Seas
2013 -- Serenade of the Seas
2014 -- MSC Magnifica
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  #3  
Old August 26th, 2013, 08:09 AM
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Hurray another one - looking forward to reading this. We're on the same cruise in just over a week
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  #4  
Old August 26th, 2013, 08:30 AM
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Good start, look forward to the rest!
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  #5  
Old August 26th, 2013, 08:55 AM
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So excited for another review!! We're doing the same cruise in October so looking for all the info we can get!
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Old August 26th, 2013, 08:57 AM
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Looking forward to it!
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Upcoming:

RCCL - Adventure of the Seas - December 21, 2014 - Christmas Cruise!

Sailed!!
RCCL - Serenade of the Seas - October 10, 2013 - 12 Night Mediterranean Greek Isles!
RCCL - Majesty of the Seas - February 25, 2013
RCCL - Voyager of the Seas - March 24, 2012
RCCL - Enchantment of the Seas - April 2, 2011
RCCL - Serenade of the Seas - September 12, 2010
Princess - Crown Princess - January 2009
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  #7  
Old August 26th, 2013, 11:22 AM
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So happy you let Stef talk you into... err, encouraged.... you to write this review

I read Middle Aged Drama Queen's review from last year and I am an avid follow of Stef's review... and now, I am following yours. Can't wait to see what sort of adventures you encountered along the way

Melissa
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  #8  
Old August 26th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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Hi Windjamming

We were on the same cruise as Stef and found this review from hers.

Looking forward to your perspective on the same itinerary

Carol
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Apr 2011 RCI Independence: Paris,
Aug 2011 RCI Vision: Baltics,
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July 2012 RCI Adventure: Western Med,
Oct 2012 RCI Freedom: Eastern Caribbean,
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  #9  
Old August 26th, 2013, 04:41 PM
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Hi....have subscribed !!!....cant wait to read your review !
We are doing the same cruise in Oct so hope to pick up some tips.

Sandra x

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  #10  
Old August 27th, 2013, 02:55 AM
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can't wait! I hate to be patient! Pleeaasse more!
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http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1851484
my first attempt of a day to day cruise review (Adventure of the Seas Aug 2012)-- enjoy

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1890431
Pictoral Review --Serenade of the Seas --July 2013-- 12 day Med cruise

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2094891
Pictoral review -- MSC Magnifica -- August 2014 -- 12 day British Isles cruise




past cruises:
2012 -- Adventure of the Seas
2013 -- Serenade of the Seas
2014 -- MSC Magnifica

Last edited by Kreuzfahrtneuling; August 27th, 2013 at 02:57 AM.
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  #11  
Old August 27th, 2013, 06:00 AM
9200083 9200083 is offline
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Thank you and looking forward to your report. We are taking our 80 year old plus parents in October and wondering even though they are quite active for their age if it will be too much for them.
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  #12  
Old August 27th, 2013, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kreuzfahrtneuling View Post
can't wait! I hate to be patient! Pleeaasse more!
Sorry! I conked out last night right after getting home from work. Stupid jet lag! I then woke up at 1:30am but managed to toss and turn until about 4:30am so I guess we should claim that as a partial victory. (But why am I so hungry at 5am?!)

Finishing up my first installment now - then need to remember how to post photos and should have something up in a half hour.
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  #13  
Old August 27th, 2013, 06:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 9200083 View Post
Thank you and looking forward to your report. We are taking our 80 year old plus parents in October and wondering even though they are quite active for their age if it will be too much for them.
I think it will be great! A lot will depend on how you plan your days. For us, I made sure we had plenty of down time and didn't pack our days too tightly. For many of the excursions there is very little walking, and RCI does a good job of making sure there are opportunities for everyone on these cruises.
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  #14  
Old August 27th, 2013, 06:41 AM
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Thanks all for your kind words and encouragement!

Because we built in a good amount of downtime during the cruise, rather than posting a day by day recap, I'll be reviewing the ports and then the ship's dining, activities, and services.

PREP

As mentioned earlier, we only finalized our cruise booking in May, so we did not have a lot of time to prepare. In addition to reading up on CC reviews, I bought Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports book, which was tremendously helpful in reading about highlights that can be achieved in a day, bathroom locations, and port services. Amazon has it for about $18. Tip: It is a big tome, but you can cut the book apart so that you don't have to bring all of Greece's pages with you while touring Italy. He even recommends it in the book!

Prior to the trip we purchased travel insurance from TravelGuard. Fortunately, we did not need to use their policy, but that also contributed to peace of mind while traveling.

PORTS

In the last 2 Mediterranean cruises, we were determined to see as many highlights as possible and did full day tours, sometimes leaving as early as 7 and then going to 6 or 7. Although very enjoyable - and worth it - it was very exhausting and, truth be told, we were at times grumpy. Grumpy family members = not fun times.

This time, I was determined to avoid "mal de too much". For each of the ports, we'd do a half-day excursion, and then have free time in the morning or afternoon to do whatever - explore the city or just chill out on the ship. I planned for afternoon excursions for our first 2 ports so we could sleep in due to jet lag, but we'll see later that even the best laid plans sometimes don't go as expected - but it all still works out!

We bought all of our excursions through the ship. While pricier than DIY or outside private excursions, for me, it was about peace of mind while traveling with my parents. I also liked that RCI had recommendations on the level of difficulty (mild, moderate, strenuous) and number of meters/steps required. This allowed me to plan out the days better. Note: I found that they tended to be very conservative in their estimates.

Pre-Boarding

Because of work, we flew in on the red-eye on the day of the cruise and booked the ship's transfers. In the name of comfort, we splurged and upgraded our seats, which made a huge difference! We all got a solid few hours of sleep, and we started the day feeling decently rested and fed. On our last Mediterranean cruise, we flew the red eye into Rome in coach, and we were zombies that whole day! On that cruise, we also decided to do the city tour combined with transfer, which turned into a nap on the bus. While we would have loved a Barcelona city tour, we thought about our Rome experience and nixed it. (In hindsight, though, we probably could have done it given that we'd had some good sleep). So, for older travelers, my recommendation is that if you splurge on something, do it on an upgraded flight. It really makes a difference.

Our direct flight from Newark landed early, and we had gone through immigration and picked up our luggage by 9am. Upon exiting customs, we were greeted by a small, friendly army of Royal Caribbean reps who took our luggage and told us that the transfer would leave at 10am.

The Barcelona arrivals area is clean and very busy! There would be 4 ships departing that day - the Liberty of the Seas, Norwegian Epic, Crystal Symphony, and us - so perhaps that was the reason. In the arrivals area there is even signage for cruisers (see upper left corner thing hanging off the ceiling):



The transfer was somewhat uneventful. They left, as planned, at 10am, and we were checked in and on the ship by 11 or 11:30. We were docked in the berth furthest from the port gate, and it was a sight to drive past 3 ships to get to ours!

Nothing really else to report for pre-boarding, but I'll leave a teaser for what we awoke to the next morning:



And I promise the next posts will have more pictures.

Last edited by windjamming; August 27th, 2013 at 06:59 AM.
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  #15  
Old August 27th, 2013, 10:24 AM
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Hi Windjamming,

I am doing this itinerary with my elderly parents next week - I can't wait at this stage.

We have our flights and transfers booked through RC and will be arriving in BCN on the morning of the cruise.

I have heard that RC do the 'check in' and seapass card etc at the airport. I'm wondering if this was the case for you and your family?
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Carnival Conquest 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Sept 2014
Serenade of the Seas 12 Night Mediterranean & Venice Cruise Sept 2013 Video
Navigator of the Seas 7 Night Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Sept 2011
[font=Comic Sans MS]Liberty of the Seas 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Sept 2010
Navigator of the Seas 5 Night Mediterranean Cruise June 2008

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  #16  
Old August 27th, 2013, 09:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oregand View Post
Hi Windjamming,

I am doing this itinerary with my elderly parents next week - I can't wait at this stage.

We have our flights and transfers booked through RC and will be arriving in BCN on the morning of the cruise.

I have heard that RC do the 'check in' and seapass card etc at the airport. I'm wondering if this was the case for you and your family?
Hi oregand, you are in for a treat!

I didn't know about airport checkin for the cruise, and the RCI reps in the arrivals area never mentioned anything either. I'd definitely be interested to know if this was possible!

Have a great time!!!
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  #17  
Old August 27th, 2013, 10:20 PM
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Monte Carlo

After a night of tossing and turning and not really falling asleep until 4, I opened my eyes at 9:30, and we were in Monte Carlo!! Life is GOOD.

Monte Carlo was our only tender port, but, oh my, it was THE tender port. We were in the same harbor as gazillion dollar yachts, neighbors with Monaco royalty, and faced a picture perfect view of the French Riviera. Life is really GOOD.

Hello, Monégasques!



After a leisurely brunch, we made our way onshore. Today's excursion was "Scenic French Riviera", due to leave at 1:15pm and last 4 hours. It was categorized as "Mild" difficulty, and the description specifically noted that it was recommended for guests with walking difficulties. (This was the only tour where we met onshore, instead of somewhere on the ship.)

Before the excursion, we had a little bit of time to walk around, so we walked past the Monaco Yacht Club and found some neat statues.



This is the parking lot near the tender port. There is a unisex bathroom (not 5 star but will do the job) and a very small gift shop. There is a covered area (not pictured) with some benches where you can wait for the excursion. From here there are also steps and a path up to Monaco-ville, or the Old Town, where the Prince's Palace and Cathedral are:



The coach tour stopped at various picture taking points in Monaco and the French Riviera. We saw this:



And this:



Dear readers, of course, I show this for review completeness purposes only. (Don't worry, I also have a picture of a pretty lady cop later on in Tarquinia. For review completeness only, of course.)

We then made our way to Èze (pronounced "Ez"), where we had about an hour to wander around. I don't seem to have taken out my camera, but imagine a picturesque village with some cafes, cute shops, and hilly paths. If steps aren't your thing, you can totally stay on level ground. We went up one of the paths and bought some gifts at the Fragonard shop for friends at home. Beautiful soaps starting at 4 or 5 EUR, and they smell great!

I think it was also in Èze (or perhaps at one of our picture taking stops before Èze) that they gave us a bathroom stop. Cost was 0.50 EUR.

On our way back, we drove through Nice, where we saw this guy just strolling home with his art:



We got back to the ship at around 5:30 and promptly went up to the Park Cafe for some well needed snacks!

I will rate each port using a 3-part system:

Port: Is the port itself easy to get around?
Content: Did the port and/or excursion go to interesting places and have things to see?
Comfort: Adequate facilities?
Difficulty: A lot of walking?
Presentation - Was the tour good. Did it make us like the port more or less? Was it as promised.

Ratings will be:

Excellent - Much more than expected
Fair - Not bad, not good
Poor - Will never want to see/do this again

Excursion: Scenic French Riviera
Port: Excellent
Content: Excellent
Presentation: Excellent

Next port, we begin our visit to Italy, take 3 different modes of transportation, and get a surprise freebie!
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  #18  
Old August 28th, 2013, 05:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by windjamming View Post
Hi oregand, you are in for a treat!

I didn't know about airport checkin for the cruise, and the RCI reps in the arrivals area never mentioned anything either. I'd definitely be interested to know if this was possible!

Have a great time!!!
I will let you know.

Enjoying the review, thanks for taking the time.
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Carnival Conquest 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Sept 2014
Serenade of the Seas 12 Night Mediterranean & Venice Cruise Sept 2013 Video
Navigator of the Seas 7 Night Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Sept 2011
[font=Comic Sans MS]Liberty of the Seas 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Sept 2010
Navigator of the Seas 5 Night Mediterranean Cruise June 2008

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  #19  
Old August 28th, 2013, 05:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by windjamming View Post
I will rate each port using a 3-part system:

Port: Is the port itself easy to get around?
Content: Did the port and/or excursion go to interesting places and have things to see?
Comfort: Adequate facilities?
Difficulty: A lot of walking?
Presentation - Was the tour good. Did it make us like the port more or less? Was it as promised.

Ratings will be:

Excellent - Much more than expected
Fair - Not bad, not good
Poor - Will never want to see/do this again

Excursion: Scenic French Riviera
Port: Excellent
Content: Excellent
Presentation: Excellent
Oops, re-reading this, a rating system doesn't really make sense for the ports and excursions on this itinerary. I'd borrowed it from our Jewel Tampa to San Juan repositioning cruise, which had ports which were more homogenous. Each of the ports in this cruise were much more unique and difficult to compare vs one another.

Instead, I'll just do a quick summary of the excursion and add on any bits and pieces about the port that might be of interest.

Summary

Port: Monte Carlo

Excursion: Scenic French Riviera

- As promised, not much walking at all. Outside of some (optional) stops off the bus for photos, there is an hour free time in Èze. Plenty of cafes and places to stay on level ground there, but there are also hilly paths to explore.

- More active cruisers will find this tour boring, but it's perfect for anyone who may be a little jet lagged and looking for something more comfortable to start the cruise. People of all ages were on the tour.

- One bathroom break - be sure to bring some EUR change. Cost 0.50 EUR.

- If your cruise tenders in from Monte Carlo, there is not much to do around the port itself unless you want to walk a ways. I don't recall any shuttle service from the ship.

- One of the most breathtakingly beautiful ports!!!

Last edited by windjamming; August 28th, 2013 at 05:54 AM.
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  #20  
Old August 28th, 2013, 10:12 AM
Tink78 Tink78 is offline
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Hi how do you subscribe? I am doing this cruise next year cant wait!
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