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Just back from 3/27-4/3 Serenade sailing to So. Caribbean
Sailed on the Serenade last week to southern Caribbean. My impressions:
Our flight arrived about 2:30. We booked air and transfers thru RCCL, so our luggage was taken care of. We boarded a van and after a short line wait at the pier to get our Seapasses, we were on the ship at about 4:00. Very easy.
The ship is absolutely beautiful. We went to our cabin, Cat. D. with balcony, Deck 10, near the Centrum elevators....very convenient. Our cabin attendant was nearby and he came to our cabin and gave us the lowdown. He mentioned that our luggage is usually delivered by around 10 PM. As we were wearing shorts, we were concerned about whether we could have dinner in the dining room, but he assured us that the first night was very casual and that what we were wearing would be fine, which we found to be true. As it turned out, our luggage was at our cabin after dinner.
We did main seating, at 6:00. Late seating was 8:30. Our waiter (waitress, in our case) and asst. waiter were very friendly and we really enjoyed them all week. I have read conflicting stories about the food, but I thought it was fine all week...both the selections and the quality. The breads and desserts were particularly good. The Windjammer buffet was terrific.
The ports were great....we booked excursions months ago through RCCL at every port except St. Thomas and they were fun and informative. In St. Thomas, we went on our own over to St. John and went to Trunk Bay for beach swimming and snorkling.....beautiful. Just a heads up- we booked the Surf and Turf excursion in Barbados that was to have included some beach swimming, however the tour itinerary did not include a visit to a beach that you could swim at. There was a beautiful beach at the restaurant where lunch was served, but it was very rocky and the surf was too rough to allow swimming. If you just want to sunbathe on this beach, you would probably have about 45-60 minutes to do so, after a quick bite.
On Friday, the only "sea day", we were taken on a sightseeing tour past Montserrat where we saw the devestating effects of the active volcano that has chased away all but a few thousand residents. Also cruised past St. Kitts, Nevis and Saba...all narrated by the Captain. This was a great opportunity for some great photographs. I came to the conclusion that I do not like "sea days". The sun decks were way too crowded to suit me, although we were able to find some chairs on the aft on deck 12, which turned out to be a great vantage point for the island sightseeing.
We only went to 3 shows.....2 were Broadway type shows by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. I didn't think they were very good, but I generally do not like this type of stuff, so I'm probably not a good reference to go by. The third show was a performance by James Stevens III, a comedian/singer/impressionist, and it was fabulous. If you ever get the opportunity to see this talented young man perform, just do it!
There was plenty to do for our kids.....they do a great job with the program for the younger set. One side note: we had the "opportunity" to see the medical facility first hand (very minor injury to my son) and it is unbelievable......thought we were in a modern hospital.
At cruise end, disembarking was very smooth and transfer to airport was fine. SJU airport was a bit of a zoo, however, with long lines, but we had a late afternoon flight, so we were not rushed to get our flight.
The only thing about the cruise that I might change is our room category, and that is only a "might". As stated, we had a Cat. D stateroom with balcony, and it it turned out to be very cramped for the 4 of us, particularly after it was made up in the evening, with the couch in "bed mode". We were tripping over each other as we were changing after dinner. I learned, during the cruise, that a Cat. FF family stateroom might have served us better and allowed for a bit more room and privacy. However, that category does not have balconies and I REALLY would have missed the balcony, in hindsight. I'm afraid that the suites with balconies would have been a budget buster for us, so next time we'll be faced with a tough decision.
In all, I felt that RCCL and the crew of the Serenade overdelivered in their service and would highly recommend this ship and the itinerary to anyone.
I would be happy to answer any specific questions....ask away!
It rained (stormed, actually) as we set sail and the seas the first night were very rough. It showered at St. Thomas, but no big deal. At St. Maarten, it rained a bit longer, but didn't bother us too much...had to seek shelter from the rain for about a Â½ hour or so. Spit rain again one afternoon, but not enough for me to get up from my chair.
Do you recall the different themes of dining each night: Italian, Caribbean, American?? I'm trying to decide the best night to do Chops?
I think Tuesday was Italian Night, but dress was Caribbean, for some reason. Caribbean food was Wednesday, I think. Friday was prime rib, turkey, etc.
Was the Quest game played?
Yes....I believe Wednesday night.
Was Bingo played only on the sea day or evenings as well?
Offered at various times on various days with various jackpots (is that what a bingo win is called?).
We are on the same cruise! It was our first cruise EVER and it was FABULOUS! Had to keep reminding ourselves we were on a ship on the ocean, not in a 5 star hotel and restaurants! Absolutely gorgeous ship!
We did excursions on each island - our favorites were the Buck Island sailing in St Thomas (private sailboat, 6 people)and the America's Cup race in St Maarten (highly recommend - it was a blast!
Would not recommend the Pirates Ship in St Lucia - crew was not enthusiastic and it was a little boring.
Snorkeling was fun on 2 of our excursions - saw sea turtles, which was cool. Other people we talked to did the StingRay one, which they said was REALLY cool. If you want to see really colorful fish, you will be disappointed snorkeling in the islands.
Shopping was GREAT! Best prices on jewelry was in St Maarten (and believe me, we checked EVERYWHERE!!). Downtown Barbados is busy and dumpy. St Maarten downtown was fun - lots and lots of shops. St Lucia there is not much beyond the shops by the pier, which are fun.
We had a balcony cabin, near the Centrum, Deck 8 - very nice. Only 2 of us in the cabin so spacious.
They were checking for booze on each island, but we packed some in our suitcases and it got on. Another couple bought some in San Juan before they boarded and it got on. Other places I saw it confiscated at almost every port. You get it back at the end of the cruise, but then you are thirsty on your balcony!
I read Cruise Critic lots before we left and found it helpful. Took some of the packing advice, found I didn't need the following:
Alarm clock - the phone in your room had the time, and you can set yourself a wake up call.
Extension cord and extra plug in - there is a plug in the bathroom, only for shaving (my blow dryer would not stay in) and there are 2 single outlets by the desk. I had a digital camera charger that I plugged in after I used the blow dryer, still had one outlet left. So unless you need tons of plugs, skip that.
Over the door shoe holder - bought one but didn't open it, so at least i can get my money back. Plenty of storage for everything. I DID pack extra plastic hangers, which I used, but could have not hung up tank tops, etc.
I used the laundry service on board to press my long evening dress, as it got mangled in transit. It was satin with beads - cost me $4 plus the tip for my stateroom attendant. Cheap. Took along a steamer, didn't have to use it, but loaned it to the other couples we traveled with. I'd bring one, they don't take up much room.
If anyone needs to know anything else, let me know! As I said, I learned a lot from these boards and would be happy to return the favor to anyone else.
I didn't look for Carribbean Hook bracelets, so can't tell you how much they are, although I saw them in the brochures on the ship and thought they looked cool.
St Maarten has lots of the usual souvenier shops, art, of course jewelry, etc. One fun shop is Del Sol, where they have clothes, swimsuits and even finernail polish that turns different colors in the sun (my 14 year old daughter LOVED the stuff I got here there). Bought beach towels that turn into their own beachbags from a lady at one of the first shops off the water taxi landing (not the downtown landing), and they have that Guavaberry Liquor store (I didn't think it was THAT good, so decided not to buy any and have to lug around heavy bottles). But it's unique to only St Maarten I guess.
St Lucia has similar shops right off the pier; banana ketchup (always a fun thing to bring along for someone who is hard to buy for), lots of handmade woven ankle bracelets, beaded bracelets, stuff teens like. Bought several wrap skirt coverups for $10 each at a store called Bagshaws, really cute and colorful.
Didn't try Chops or Portofino. The food and service in the main dining room was EXCELLENT! Be sure and order 2 starters, soups, entrees, or desserts if you can't make up your mind - they are on the small side but also it is sometimes hard to make up your mind, especially on desserts! I always got 2 different starts, especially if it was seafood, and asked for 2 lobster tails instead of the surf and turf steak. Another at our table ordered 3 tails. To be honest, the steak on board is not that great, but Heck, I can get steak at home, so try all of the other interesting things and you won't be disappointed. I guess if you REALLY crave steak, Chops is the place to go though. We felt it was not worth the extra $20 per person and that the food we had was wonderful.
San Juan is also a great place to shop if you have time before or after you set sail. We did it afterwards, took a cab downtown, stored our bags free of charge at a place called Barrachina #5 in Old San Juan (it will be in your Compass) shopped, had lunch at Barrachina (excellent seafood gumbo) and back to the airport for our 4:45 flight. Some people checked in at the airport first, then took a cab to and from downtown, a little spendier that way, 3 ways instead of just 2.
I appreciate the loads of shopping info you shared! Will definitely check some of those places out.
Thanks for the info on the Carribean Hook Bracelet...was that price gold or silver? Did you purchase one?
Chops....actually I'm not that fond of steak myself and will probably order some type of seafood. I just figured Chops would be nice, romantic deviation from the dining room (even though we request a table for 2).
I really enjoy the simple food in life...not a lot of fancy sauces and such. Although I did talk hubby into ordering the escargot one night and I liked the "garlicky butter sauce".
One night all I wanted was a second helping of the glazed carrots. Another night, I sent my pasta back and didn't request anything else. Well, the head waiter came over and INSISTED I eat something....."Whatever you want" were his words...I finally ordered a grilled cheese sandwich!!!
Needless to say, food is not my main objective when cruising. But give me dessert anyday and I'm happy as ever!!!
Serenade (Southern)- April '04
Voyager (Western) - March '03
Explorer (Eastern)- August '02
Sensation (Western)- July '95
Chocolate, we leave in 3 days !!! and have booked my family on the America's Cup excursion Do you think it is too scary for a 12 year old? When did you go shopping in St Maartan. Our America's cup excursion is ssscheduled for 11:45. Thanks!
Your 12 year old will LOVE the America's Cup!!!! The crew will ask you if you want to participate "active, moderate or not at all", and then assign you a task on the boat. WE ran the boat, with the 2 crew and the captain telling us what to do. It was busy and some work involved, but what a cool experience! Near the end, they take a cool picture from another boat of your sailboat that you can purchase. You actually sail in a race against another boat.
We had the 11: 45 excursion also, and so we shopped a little in the AM and a little afterwards. The ship docks at a terminal that has some shops, but for $5 a person there is a water taxi that takes you back and forth to the town, a couple minutes boat ride, unlimited - you get a plastic wristband that shows you paid. Shops open at 8:30 or so? That was my worry too - I would HATE to miss out on shopping!!!! Excellent deals on Carribbean Topaz, unique to the islands, kinda of green/blue/purples, the colors of the water and ski in the Carribbean. We found we had plenty of time to shop.
I had never seen Carribbean Topaz before either. It is a semi=precious stone, so not terribly expensive, like sapphire or even tanzanite, which is beautiful but spendier. I oped for QUANTITY, several slides for my Omega in semi-previous, instead of ONE expensive piece. Next trip I will buy a tanzanite though.
Carribean Topaz actually comes in THREE different colors - the most common is the GREEN one, shades of green/blue/purple, then there is one in yellows/orange, and the other is a very very light shade of aquamarine, kinda looks like a diamond that has a slight tint. I opted for the greens.
Larimar, another stone exclusive to the Carribbean, kinda looks like Turquoise. It is inexpensive, but usually set in silver. However, in Old San Juan, we found a place, Amber Dreams, that has TONS set in gold (I have a gold Omega so that is what I needed ).
My friends told me that I am NOT a good one to shop with cause I ALWAYS TALK THEM INTO BUYING STUFF!! Ha Ha! But they talked me into a fair share of stuff too and I don't regret ONE thing!
Martino...same cruise. We had a cabin on deck 7 with balcony and 4 people, too! This was our 7th cruise and was probably one of the top three. I loved the food station concept in the Windjammer. That comedian on Wed. night, I think was terrific. The captain was awesome. First time we did our own air and couldn't believe how smooth doing our own cab thing was. Got to San Juan at 4:30 off plane and on ship by 5:30. Cost $21 plus tip for 4 of us! Disembarkation was the best yet. Off ship and checked in at United by 9:05. Cab fare the same. Only problem was we didn't get home til 11:30 pm because of 4 hour waits in San Juan and Washington D.C. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are the only two lines I will ever sail. If you haven't done Celebrity, try them sometime. Just a step above!