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SERENADE Sept 17-28,2014 REVIEW w/lots of photos

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Hey CC family :D


I just got home late last night from an incredible bucket list 12-day Adriatic cruise aboard the Serenade:


Sept 17 - Civitavecchia (Rome)

Sept 18 - Salerno (Amalfi Coast & Pompeii)

Sept 19 - Messina (Sicily)

Sept 20 - Valetta (Malta)

Sept 21 - at sea

Sept 22 - Corfu (Greece)

Sept 23 - Kotor (Montenegro)

Sept 24 - Venice

Sept 25 - Venice

Sept 26 - Split (Croatia)

Sept 27 - Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Sept 28 - at sea

Sept 29 - Civitavecchia (Rome)


Between jetlag, a heavy 1st day back at work, and uploading a bazillion photos to photobucket for this review (nowhere close to being finished doing this!) I'll be starting this review hopefully tomorrow. I'll also be including a full day review in Rome pre-cruise. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride!


For now, here's a teaser :)



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I for one will be waiting with anticipation for this review. We love Serende and are sailing on her again in 2016. I have seen some of your other photos posted here on CC so I know it is going to be an awesome review....Thank you :)

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Jen and I were on this cruise for our honeymoon......hard to believe it's over after all that planning!


We too had a fantastic time and I'm looking forward to your review :)

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Look forward to reading your review as I anxiously await our Med cruise. 23 more days until we fly out!



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Man, I hate teasers.:D Looking forward to your review. Thanks for taking the time. Your photo is very pretty.

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Here we go CC family :D ....


There are very very few itineraries that can match this particular cruise for it's quality of ports. Normally, visiting Naples/Malta/Dubrovnik/Venice all in one cruise is pretty much impossible unless you look at some of the itineraries on the more expensive luxury lines.


Having sailed on Navigator in May, and being booked on Quantum in December, I had originally targetted a shorter cruise for Sept but the more I thought about it, the more I re-enforced my personal feeling that life is too short, so I bit the bullet on airfare and the solo rate for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime itinerary. This itinerary amazingly is not being repeated by RCL... it has definitely been the very best port intensive and quality itinerary I have ever sailed.


Allow me to include a few details that might be really important to some of you looking for details on getting to Rome....


I flew British Airways through London Heathrow. Heathrow is a mess imo, and I will always try not to connect through there ever again. I had a 1 1/2 hour connection in the same terminal, and yet just made it to the gate.... terminal 5. The airport is massive, and even though you are in the same terminal you have to take transport within the same terminal to buildings A, B or C and again go through security. The line-ups were extremely long.


Once in Rome Fumincino Airport, getting to your hotel is an extremely simple adventure. This is the very best website I have seen to help travellers with the train system:

www dot roninrome dot com/transportation/cruising-to-rome






Once getting through customs and collecting baggage, the signage to the train and purchasing tickets was very simple. I took the direct Fumincino to Termini Station Leonardo Express train.




Once arriving in Termini at about 9:30pm in the dark, I easily found my hotel about 2 blocks away literally 2-3 minutes from the Termini front door. My choice for hotel was perfect!... I chose it for price, location and Tripadvisor reviews. Super easy to find, 2-3 min walk to the Metro, 25-30min walk to the Colosseum to start my site seeing, and again only 2-3 away to get the train to Civitavecchia on embarkation day. It also provided an excellent morning breakfast. Service was also excellent as was the price. I fully recommend this hotel.






To say I was bagged was an understatement! After a very very long day of travel, I went out to take the few pictures above in and around the hotel to re-trace my steps and went back for a good nights sleep as I had a very important tour booked for first thing in the morning....

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After my 7am wake-up call and a great breakfast, I made my way out of the hotel by about 8am as I wanted to walk rather than take the Metro. Weather was predicted to be clear/sunny with warm temperatures between 75-85 degrees throughout the upcoming cruise and today did not disappoint.... it was a glorious morning!


I had booked the Colosseum Underground & VIP Tour through Dark Rome Tours on-line. This is a must do excursion, not just showing up at the gate and going in yourself. The bottom level of the Colosseum and top tier is limited to this special tour and access is gated/locked, only to be opened at intervals by the Colosseum personnel specifically for the pre-paid tours.


After a decent 25min walk down Via Cavour from the Termini Station, I arrived in front of the Roman Forum and can see the Colosseum only about 2 blocks away.... in awe, I approached






I had about 30min before the start of the tour at our meeting point, so I walked around a bit and took more photos. Note above that there is quite a bit of ongoing cleaning/renovating of the Colosseum and about 15-20% of the structure was behind scaffolding.




The instructions to meet the guide was perfect, and we met right beside the Arch of Constantine (above). We skipped the huge line that was building at the entrance and walked right in... rather than going through the same area as the regular folks, we were escorted through locked gates and outside the back of the building, only to re-enter to a very large platform that extended out into the Colosseum a bit farther which allows for a far better look at the underground level as well as the whole building as a whole. This platform is not accessible unless you are on the tour, and you can see how it extends for viewing from my upcoming photos looking down into the structure.




I took a great video above as we entered, and many of you likely have other pictures of the Colosseum, so I will only try to include images here that maybe most don't have with regard to the "Secret" Tour. After spending about 15 minutes here with a full narration, we were escorted down into the underground area.





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Pictures do not do this area justice as lighting was challenging, especially with a hand-held camera as I had. To think about the lack of light underneath in this ginormous building, the smoke from the torches, the stench from the animals and gladiators/prisoners, the dispair and death that had to have been experienced by many men.... just amazing to think about where I was standing.










We spent about 15 min here as well, with explanations/narration. Note that most of the underground is roped off as you only have access to a small percentage of the underground underneath the platform we were standing on just a few minutes before... still, a great experience!



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Escorted by the Colosseum personnel, we were escorted back up to the main level in the main concourse area, gate securely locked behind us! Up the flight of stairs we went to the second level outside where the regular ticket holders are able to roam where I snapped this shot




We very quickly reached another gated staircase, and again the Colosseum personnel had to provide us access. I can't tell you how many people tried to push their way in with our tour with the unlocked gate but were turned away. So up we went for my very most looked forward to moment of this day








Unfortunately, like the underground, our group was timed for the next group so we were escorted down to the main level and we were able to spend time there as well




But our tour wasn't over!!! Also included was a full tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill so off we went. Below is a panoramic of the view of the Hill and Arch of Constantine from the top level



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The Roman Forum is just awesome. The tour was excellently narrated, I have to give our guide a 10/10 for perfect pace, answering questions, etc. The guided portion was about 30min I believe, and then we were left to explore on our own or go off to do other things. I decided to stay and explore as there was so much to see. Here are just a few pics for you













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I made my way out of the Forum, viewed some of the ruins across the street (Trajan's Column), and made my way to Piazza Venezia to take an iconic picture of the Il Vittoriano building.




To my utter surprise, I could see people walking around the very top of this building! I quickly made my way up to the building to see if I can find out how to get to this viewing area.






There were several uniformed officers around, so I asked one of them how to get access to the roof. He pointed me into the building and easily found the signage leading to the external elevator at the back of the building. I have since learned this access was built in 2007... I had no clue! It was a very pleasant surprise and I spent some time up there enjoying the view







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Believe it or not, all of the above was done before 2pm! Not only was I hungry, but my camera battery was dead. My intention was to go back to my hotel after the tour for a recharge and food, but Il Vittorio delayed me by a good hour. So after another 25-30min walk I was back at my hotel. There are plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating on the sidewalk all over the place, so I enjoyed an excellent meal while the camera recharged.


After lunch, I headed to Termini Station to grab the Metro. The Metro is extremely easy to use and figure out regarding ticketing. It has a language option so just choose English and you can figure it out as if you were in the New York Subway... just put in your money and grab your printed ticket, that easy.


After a 10 min Metro ride and a 10 min walk, I was standing in front of St. Peter's Square. We've all seen professional iconic photos so I won't bother including mine. The line-up for entry into the Basillica was at least an hour long so in 2.6 milliseconds I knew I was not going in! I was there as well as the Sistine/Vatican Museums for a full day 3 years ago with incredible pictures so this was not on my list. Instead, I headed towards Castel Sant'Angelo






The entry into Castel Sant'Angelo I believe was 12 Euro but well worth it, interesting exhibits inside and of course great views at the top level






After spending about an hour here, I made my way out and across the famous Ponte Sant'Angelo (bridge). This building is even more famous in recent years because of Tom Hanks and the movie "Angel and Daemons"





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I had booked a Rome evening walking and site seeing tour, the meeting point being a Taverna close to Piazza de Spagna (The Spanish Steps) which also provided appetizers/tapas and an aperitivo. I made my way on foot along the Tiber River, through the streets and up to the Spanish Steps for pictures... and I was disappointed to see the fountain totally covered up for restoration in a construction zone. This really took away from the ambiance of the area, and with the huge number of people in the square and up the steps, my photos were not the greatest. So I headed to the Taverna to meet up with the other travellers.


Turns out that the guide was almost 1/2 hour late so we just ate all the tapas & chatted with each other. We finally began our walking tour... it was somewhat interesting but was not a highlite, I could have easily walked/Metro to iconic spots around the city in the evening instead and saved myself a good chunk of money, so I don't recommend this tour if you are mobile and a savvy traveller who can get around easily. The tour consisted of 1 1/2 walking tour and 1 hour bus tour to St. Peter's, a hillside viewing spot (which wasn't at all good), and then ending at the Colosseum.


I also knew that Trevi Fountain was under renovation/cleaning as well, but didn't realize the scale. Here are a few pics


Trevi Fountain





The main center fountain and Piazza Navona



St. Peter's Basillica



The Colosseum






It's about 10:30pm... I've been at it since 8am! Yup, busy day seeing everything I can, just the way I like it. But now I'm done and need to get back to the hotel for much needed rest. Rather than walk, the Metro from the Colosseum is only 1.50 Euro and only 2 stops from Termini, so within 15 minutes of taking that last picture I had taken the Metro and was alresady walking down the street from Termini to my hotel. Today was just an awesome start to my trip.


Tomorrow is embarkation day on the Serenade... stay tuned!!!

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Beautiful pic of St. Peter's Basilica at night!!!!


I was on a similar (but not identical) cruise on the Serenade last year. I did the Underground Tour at the Coliseum, but unfortunately, we were unable to actually go to the lowest level the day I was there (they had some "structural" issue the week prior and were shoring things up). So, I really enjoyed your pics from there.


I also loved reading that you enjoyed the Forum. I really think this is an often overlooked marvel of Ancient Rome. My mom and I wandered around there while waiting for our Coliseum tour to start and IMO, I loved it so much more than the Coliseum.


Thanks so much for taking the time to write up your review... I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it!!!



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Enjoying your very informative review. I've been making notes. Thank you.

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I slept like a baby! Yep, that first intense day wiped me out, but I was ready to roll for embarkation day. After another great breakfast I bid my farwell to the excellent maitre'd at the hotel breakfast whom I chatted with a couple of times the last couple of days and made my way two blocks to Termini Station rolling my luggage easily.


I had pre-booked my train tickets on line at the Trenitalia website with no problems on the Intercity, called "IC", train which is a more direct train than the "Regional" trains in that it only stops once on it's way to Civitavecchia (the Regional I believe stops 8 times). Termini is quite easy to figure out.




I arrived at the station at 9am... as you can see above at 9:09am my train showed up on the board at the bottom IC510 to arrive at Civitavecchia at 10:45am. Once the platform was posted, I made my way in.




And here she pulls in




I will now mention that if you are not mobile, have large luggage, and just plain do not like "pains in the a$$" when travelling then taking the train to Civitavecchia should not be your #1 choice. You needed to pick up your luggage about 3feet up onto the train which was difficult for many I witnessed. The train cars are not made for luggage, even big luggage needing to be picked up and lifted over your head and onto racks above you.... remember your luggage can be 45-50lbs. And you cannot leave your luggage in the very thin corriders, very difficult to maneuver around others. And we haven't even talked about arriving in Civitavecchia and walking the extra 1/2 mile to the new shuttle bus location (imagine if raining).


I had a window seat... really not to much to see at all until you get closer to Civitavecchia, so window seat not at all important imho. Once Civitavecchia was announced I got my luggage out early and headed towards the door before others who were struggling got in my way. I was easily out and at the street within 2-3 minutes of getting off the train.




It was right then I made the decision to talk to a bus driver of a local bus parked just to the left of the above picture, basically 30 steps from the station entry. He said his bus wasn't the right one, we had to wait for #10... the fare 0.80 euro (I'm Italian so I translated to others around me as they figured I was getting somewhere with this guy). So while a few others continued onward down the street with luggage etc, me and a few others who either researched or asked me waited at the stop (maybe about 10 of us). Another bus came by but it wasn't #10... We waited about 20min and #10 showed up. Now with about 30 people waiting... most everyone else I noticed I think ended up walking. Note that you cannot pay the driver.... you must purchase a bus ticket inside the train station at the newspaper stand.




The bus ride itself took just under 10min with a couple of local stops. I spoke to one couple from our cruise critic meet & mingle and had they known they definitely would not have walked. There was plenty of space on the local bus for our luggage and all the people, and he dropped us off within the shuttle bus parking lot rather than at the street bus stop (obviously these drivers know). Very easily, with no stress, I was on the RCL shuttle and in a couple of minutes headed for the ship.


The pier reception was extremely streamlined and there weren't many cruisers there yet surprisingly to me. I was off the shuttle and given my seapass card within 15min. So all in, 11euro for the train and 0.80 for the bus, and a total of about 1 1/2 hours from Rome termini to where I am now, I walk out and towards the entrance gangway


"Bong"..."Bong"...."Bong".....Ahhhhhhhhh I'm home!



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Great start. We were on Serenade for a 14 day B2B southern Caribbean and loved every second. Beautiful shop and wonderful staff!

Edited by ciera123

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My ritual on every cruise, and especially on a ship I had never been on (I've never sailed on Serenade) is I walk the entire ship, deck to deck, and take pictures of everything I can when the emptiest. I originally divided out my pictures into sections (ie. Centrum, pool deck, shops, theatre, etc....) but instead I think I'll just post them in order that I took them so that you can travel through the ship with me as I did.


On the larger classes, I usually explore the Promenade and lower decks first. As mentioned there were not many cruisers embarking yet, so this time I decided to take the elevator up to deck 11 right away to do the pool and outside decks while they are still relatively empty. So once I got off at 11, I took my 1st pic looking down onto the Centrum




The Radiance class Solariums are beautiful






Passing through the Solarium I wanted to check out the gym on deck 12 as I do enjoy workouts. The gym layout, the equipment, views, etc are superb. As all the other ships, fitness classes were offered each day, both spinning and body classes (abs, stretch, etc). Access out to the jogging track was easy.







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Sometimes we don't get to see the "boring" areas of the ship and can't remember what it looked like, so this time I wanted to get a few pics of the elevator areas, some artwork between decks, etc so I can remember the colours and style of the ship. Here's the elevator landing and artwork found there between the spa and gym (deck 11 to 12)... some really neat artwork on the ship






I also made a short trip through the spa as well. The steam room/sauna is free, but the thermal steam room on the 'rock' recliners (I forgot what that therapy is called) is pricey I feel. Here's the spa reception




I can't quite remember, but when I asked about the cost I think this was $229 per person for the entire cruise, you can use as often as you like




And for the ladies reading this review...



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Making my way back out of the Vitality Spa, I took another shot looking back towards the Solarium Cafe. Plenty of privacy and relaxation here, and the Solarium was quite busy throughout the cruise even with the great sunny and warm weather we enjoyed.




The Park Cafe is also located here within the Solarium, between the Solarium and the main pool. Offerings here were the exact same as on other classes of ships including breakfast (oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches & burritos, yogurt & fruit,etc), lunch (salads made to order, soups, etc) and snacks served to the late hours (1am'ish). Pizzas were served every second night, other nights were quesidillas.








Out past Park Cafe I went and into the pool deck area. The better pool deck pics are normally taken above on deck 12 so I took this one shot before I continued on with my tour. The pool bar is immediately to the right. There are stairs up to deck 12 on all four corners of the pool deck. The towel sgtation is right behind me in this pic in order to serve both the pool deck and the Solarium.



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