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

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After a very early wake-up call, I readied myself for a full day of Dubrovnik, one of my most anticipated ports of call. This morning I can definitely see much better where we are docked. While some smaller cruise ships are able to dock very close to the old city and take a short tender close to the Ploce Gate, larger ships are docked at the Gruz Cruise Terminal that needs about a 1omin cab ride (or over 1/2 hour walk) to the Pile Gate of the Old Town. Here is the Gruz cruise terminal from deck 12 aft







So wanting to get a good early start to my day, I headed off the ship at 7:30am. After a quick taxi ride I was again at the Pile Gate as I was last night





I wish to point out here that it is true that the local Croatian currency, Kuna, is the preferred currency. While the taxi takes Euro, the bars and many specialty stores take only Kuna. I also payed Kuna for the walk on the wall as I did not want to chance credit card issues (ie. bad connection) as they do not accept Euro. Right in front of you as you enter the gate is an ATM on the side with an English option, so super easy to use a bank card and take out Kuna.


In you go through the gate, and you can view where you are and where you need to go.




Immediately inside the gate you are at the start of the main street, The Stradun, And right in front of you is the the Onophrian Fountain. There's plenty of web info if you google.





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My planning of this day was to taxi from the ship directly to the cable car before any crowds were to gather. After the night before seeing that the walk from one gate to the other was maybe 10 minutes, I decided instead to get dropped off at the Pile Gate and walk to the Cable Car (about 2-3min up from the Ploce Gate).


As I entered the Pile Gate with the Fountain and Stradun in front of me, I looked to my left and noticed that a gentleman was just opening a small gate at some stairs... looking up, that was obviously the entry to the old walls and there were only 4 other people there ready to go, so I made the quick decision to enter the walls now instead of the cable car. It was 8am on the nose. I paid Kuna and up I went





At the top I immediately knew that I would be rewarded that morning with just a beautiful walk around the city walls with a ton of iconic and gorgeous photos as my memory of my walk





The wall is quite high up. I noted after on my way down several people not fit huffing and puffing getting up the stairs. Once on top and at the wall, it's relatively level and easy walk. Below is the Onophrian Fountain and a shot down the Stradun in the early morning light... with barely anyone there (yet!)







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At the first corner of the wall you get your first really superb views of the ocean and Fort Lovrijenac (I'll be heading there later in the day). I took my time here as I just wished to soak in the views both over the ocean and back into the Old Town. Amazing to think that the homes immediately below me were bombed a short 20 years ago during the Serbian Wars









There's a lot of detail to see if you take your time at various view points. The archways, architecture, the wall itself, etc... just beautiful! And just up from the gated archway is the famous Buza Bar where you can jump off the rocks for a swim and climb back up to your table for your drink. Of course this early in the morning the bar was closed and nobody there





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As mentioned, looking down into the town as you walk the wall you see many things of interest from locals, the "backyards" of homes, street life, and this... a set for The Games of Thrones! They had a couple of sets on the go throughout the city that day







The views of the harbour from the wall are just gorgeous! Note the smaller Costa and MSC ship anchored in the Bay... they are about to tender in a few thousand people in the next couple of hours!!!!!!





You can see just peaking over the rooftop two yellow tenders from those ships. Also you can see at the bottom right 4 people on the street below... to the left of them is the Ploce Gate (and Revelin Night Club) and to the right is the entry back onto the main street of Old Town, The Stradun. At that point below is another entry up to the wall, so if you wish to view Old Town and only do part of the wall depending on your mobility or fitness, this is definitely the side of the wall with the best views and interest.







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Moving away from the Ploce Gate to the final corner of the wall and it's highest viewpoint is the Minceta Tower, made more famous by The Games of Thrones. But before you get to the Tower, the views back to the Old Town are simply stunning







The Minceta Tower provides the best vantage point and photos of the entire wall and I'm so glad I saved it for last!







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Yup, these are not internet file photos... I was actually there!







After hanging out for a few minutes soaking up the incredible view and implanting it into my memories of one of my favorite sites ever, I made my way down. A short stroll from this tower is the entrance/exit from which I had started. I took a couple of final shots the Stradun without the low morning sun shining directly into the lens. This was an incredible start to the day... and it was only about 10am.







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Hey Hoopster,


I am also currently writing a review of our 12 night Serenade trip which is dragging on for much longer than I had originally hoped ( although not as long as Cool Girls :D ).



Catherine :)


Haha!!! I'm just glad I'm not the only one who takes forever to write my reviews. I wish I could have the time to do it as quickly as Hoopster and SmileyPerry (both current reviews which I love!!!).... but at least some folks are still hanging in there with me (and you).


Now, back to Hoopster...:D



Edited by kirian

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I know you were disappointed to miss Split :(, but if you had to have a substitute, the Capt getting you into Dubrovnik for an overnight stay is a pretty darn fabulous substitute. I have spent considerable time in Dubrovnik (while spending a summer in Bosnia during grad school) as well as a stay overnight in Split during a land tour and I can tell you, although Split is very nice, Dubrovnik is simply AMAZING. IMO, you got the better end of the stick :D (again, not saying Split isn't great... I just think Dubrovnik is just a hair more fabulous).



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Haha!!! I'm just glad I'm not the only one who takes forever to write my reviews. I wish I could have the time to do it as quickly as Hoopster and SmileyPerry (both current reviews which I love!!!).... but at least some folks are still hanging in there with me (and you).


Now, back to Hoopster...:D




The two of you are the queens of suspense ! Seriously, though, I kind of like that you're dragging it out a bit. Allows us to savor the journey just a bit more...reminds me of the old days when we had to wait for once a week when out favorite tv shows were on.


I love the fast pace of hoopster and smileyperry, too, of course, so it is nice to have both.


Now, with Stef...are we ever going to find out what happened in Dublin?? :)


Sorry Hoopster...just some gal chat invading your review. Carry on.



Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

Edited by windjamming

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As I came down from the walls, the streets were really starting to get filled up with tourists. There were 6 ships in town, with Serenade being the biggest. Nonetheless, looking at the ships pre-cruise I figured there'd be over 10,000 cruisers. I decided once off the wall I'd head straight for the cable car to beat any huge crowds. I couldn't have been more wrong!


It only took 5 minutes to get to the opening of the harbour by the Ploce Gate where the tenders were arriving from the Costa & MSC ship, and it was wall to wall people everywhere. In fact, just 1/2 hour prior as I passed the wall by the Ploce Gate in previous photos there was already a good line-up up to the wall. Getting through the crowds I got out of the Ploce Gate and onto the main street where it did not seem busy at all. Here's a photo from the street looking into the Old Town wall just passed Ploce





From this point it's only a block walk or so up stairs (or a side street sidewalk) up to the cable car. When I got there I was floored!!! The line-up was massive, and I can only guess by cruise groups from the ship. Listening to a tour guide just beside me, she was mentioning to her group that this was the longest line-up she'd seen in a year which will delay other parts of their site seeing.





Obviously my entire pre-cruise plan of coming here first with 6 ships in town was 100% correct and I didn't follow my plan! Grrrr. I decided to wait out the line as going back through Old Town and then coming back later in the afternoon would perhaps produce a bigger line... also wrong! Coming down from the hill the line-up looked really short, so likely the huge line-up was strictly due to ship tours all running at the same time. With the cable car maybe fitting 30-40 people, I figured I was maybe standing in a 1 hour line-up so I stayed put... it was an hour 15 minutes.


Having said that, the rewards on the way up and at the top were sooooooo worth the wait!









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IMO, you got the better end of the stick :D (again, not saying Split isn't great... I just think Dubrovnik is just a hair more fabulous).



Hey Cool Girl, thx for the above! Ya, I figured Dubrovnik was THE place to visit in Croatia at all costs, so you've re-enforced that :). Personally I wasn't upset as many others when the announcement came on, and that day turned out to be as good as any sea day on other other ship in the Caribbean for example. Actually really needed that "day off" from all the touring


Sorry Hoopster...just some gal chat invading your review. Carry on.


Hahaha!! No worries.

I have to split (no pun intended) these posts up now as I'm in between a few 12 hour days of work not leaving me time to finish this as quickly as when I started this review, plus I've started to research and prepare stuff for Quantum that I haven't done as I'm within 2 months of that cruise now WOW :eek:

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To say that the view and scenery up here is beautiful is an understatement,





From this spot in front of the cross I spent some time soaking it all on and taking several photos. I thought these close ups of Old Town where I had just come were super interesting looking down from above. Note the amount of people now in the city.







My 2nd favorite photo of this entire trip was taken at this moment. When you get up and off the cable car, there are several viewing platforms and areas. Turning back away from the viewing area at the cross, instead of going back up the stairs to the building housing the cable car DO NOT MISS the short walk up the back road towards the cell tower that leads to the War Museum, but more so keep going behind the museum on the rougher gravel foot path. There you will find the old goat trail that leads down the mountain if you plan to hike down, and also a further gravel'ish path onto the meadows beyond. There's no fencing, signs, nothing... but the rewards of the views are memorable for life.





I gingerly made my way out on the rough rock and several "bunkers" likely left over from the wars, and took a seat on the rocks right at the cliff to enjoy this outrageously gorgeous view and enjoy some peace away from everyone. And I snapped my favorite photo, luckily with the lighting/clouds/shadows ending up just perfect. This is what I sat and viewed for those 10-15 minutes... peaceful and surreal.



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Your review is amazing and the photos are just breathtaking. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I will never get to those places, but sure am enjoying it through your review and pictures.



Thanks again. :D



Gwen :)

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We were on the September 29th sailing of the Serenade. Reading your review is allowing me to relive this wonderful experience. I'll be watching for the final installments! Thanks for taking the time to share your photos and adventures!

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Retracing my steps from the above viewspot back to the base of the Fort you will easily see the signs pointing to the entry of the Homeland War Museum







In reading reviews and thoughts on the CC boards, as well as Tripadvisor etc, it was mentioned by many that you should have a peak at the war museum at the top of Mt. Srd while your there, especially for the small cost (I believe a ridiculously inexpensive 10 Kuna)....


Personally I feel this is a must see, as much as visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York. This has to be one of the biggest historical events of this nation, and you are standing right there where it all happened. The museum is small and easy to navigate through the old fort with fantastic displays. Many visitors were stuck on the 15 min video playing in one room explaining the war with various real life footage of the time.









The various wall diagrams and sets explain how the war progressed from 1991 through to 1995. I had no clue but even the Old Town had been bombed and damaged. The picture and map below clearly shows and explains with images of that time the areas that were damaged, etc. There were many exhibits like this, just excellently done imo. I only spent maybe 15-20 in this part of the museum and I wish now I didn't have to wait 1 hour 15 for the cable car as I would've spent more time here... I suggest at least 45min-hour of time if you visit this excellent museum



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Here are some better shots of the displays and and excellent example of one of the halls you enter to view... some halls have more in them than others, this one was empty of visitors at the time so made a great picture memory







At the front entrance, there were a set of unmarked no-signage stairs right in the middle of the room. After visiting each hall, and then going back to the exit, I had originally thought that those stairs were off limits, or closed off somehow as there was nobody paying attention to them. Walking by them to the exit, there were no ropes, no gates, nothing. I shrugged my shoulders and started climbing up them.


This area of the fort is very raw, there's no explanations here. There's boarded up doors and the few windows you can look through there's really nothing but empty dirty floors. So up I went the second set of stairs as per the picture below





And at the top you are rewarded with this. Note there are no ropes, chains, fencing here.... be careful!!!





For reference, the building in the center ahead is the Cable Car building. If you were to turn around 180 degress to face the opposite way, you would see the meadow/fields where I took my "favorite" photos a few posts ago.



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I could not resist but to spend a little more time up here, this view and scenery is simply one of a kind, you just cannot turn away. So obviously I just had to snap a couple of more shots!! Is this not amazing or what? Imagine what this is like actually being there in person.... unreal







It was time to head down. After all it's only early afternoon (can you believe what I've seen already?!?) and I still had to walk around & visit Old Town before going back to the ship.





And here we're at the level of the cable car landing. This picture below shows the Terrace of the cafe up there. If you have any time at all, have lunch or a snack break up there. Note there are several tables perched right on the cliff on the right.


Another note is the hillside immediately in the foreground, basically same level as the cruise ships. Many years ago that entire hillside was supposedly filled with landmines from the war and a company had removed them a few years ago. I believe they said it was 3 years ago, a lightning strike hit the hillside and "found" a lost landmine.... obviously the explosion scared the heck out of many people. So now there are questions as to if there are any others out there that are still buried and hiding. Yikes!!





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The line-up, trip down the cable car, and the walk from the Cable Car house back to the Ploce Gate took a total of maybe 20-25 minutes... yep, that easy. The line-up to get on the cable car to go up Mt. Srd was now down to maybe 50 people (prob max 5 minutes!)


Old Town is really easy to navigate. There is no possible way you can get lost and you will always make your way back to The Stradun which leads to the 2 main gates on either side, so very easy to figure out. Old Town is also small, so I feel that you do not need to spend a whole day there unless you're shopping in every store, eating lunch, etc.


Here's the main square at the end of the Stradun just inside the Ploce Gate. There was a very large open market going on. This is also the area of the great open air cafe where we had our evening beers the night before. If you were to blow up this pic, note the heavy crowd leading out to the gate... those were the lines of hundreds of people trying to get on the tenders to the MSC and Costa ships which were leaving early.







Having just seen Rome, Venice, Malta, etc and the various iconic churches/Basilicas in those cities, these churches paled in comparison in grandeur and history. I peaked in a couple of them but they did not interest me enough. I wished to continue my adventure into the side streets away from the tourist areas.





Only 3-4 small "blocks" in, there's almost no one left walking with you. I did see a couple of locals walking so I followed their footsteps from afar to get a peek of the local life. I have several cool shots of the homes and streets. Here are just a couple... the first is truly a residential street/path and not an entry to a castle at all. The beauty as you walk is outstanding. Within 10 minutes you're at the top end of the Ancient Wall and of course that's the dead end. Turning back you come back down to the Stradun and main area of the Old Town. I feel that a max 2 1/2 - 3 hours at both the Ancient Wall and Old Town is all you need, leaving the entire rest of the day for something else (ie. a ship excursion, Cable Car, or???)





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One block up from the Stradun is what I would consider the 2nd largest "street" in the Old Town with several shops, a few churches to visit, etc. It runs perpendicular to the Stradun so easy to get in and out of. I did go through the entire length of this street and bought a couple of souvenirs here as they were very reasonable priced for a tourist type area, and ended up right back at the main square by the Ploce Gate. It was still packed with people!





It was about 90 min from all aboard, and after only about a 3 1/2 hour night's sleep and already seeing so much during this incredible day, I thought I would slowly make may way back through the Pile gate and catch a taxi back to the ship a little early so that I can chill out before sailaway. So bidding a fond farewell to Old Town, I took this last shot back at The Stradun before I headed through the gate and out of Old Town. Until we meet again Old Town!





As I came out of the gate, I realized that I "missed" something ... I get a glimpse of the "other" fort outside of the Old Town that I had taken pictures of while walking around the wall. Looking at my watch I said the heck with going back to the ship early... I wanted to see this fort as well! It is not marked well, so look closely, but just down a path from the main street and shops, you'll see this sign





The base of the fort is also the staging area for the kayaking excursions. Good friends K&J from the ship did a kayak trip and totally loved it! Note the crystal clear blue water. The views from the water must have been amazing.





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I am really glad I detoured to visit this fort for a short time.... the views here are as stunning as they have been this entire day! And now I get to look back at Old Town & Mt Srd.





This fort is not large and easy to go through. Up the stairs you go and the rewards of the views are there for you to enjoy









But alas! It was time to get out of there and to a taxi back to the ship. This fort only needs a max of 1/2 hour visit plus the time to navigate up and down the stairs to the main road outside of the Ploce Gate. This being my last picture of the day as my camera battery died... Goodbye for now Dubrovnik. I really need to come back and visit you again someday.



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Getting back to the ship before all aboard time, I had more than enough time to get to my cabin to charge my camera a bit and also get a little rest before heading up to top deck for sailaway. As you know, I like taking pictures of the other ships in port with us and I had missed the sailaway of the Regent Seven seas mariner just a few minutes before as it was too far away to get a decent picture by the time I got up to top deck. But I did get a couple of pictures of the P&O Oriana as we pulled away from our final port of call for this entire cruise









I was hoping as we pulled away from Gruz Terminal that we would curl around and be able to sail by the Old Town for some final views, but that didn't happen as the Serenade pulled farther away from land.







And as we headed further out into the Adriatic Sea, the Regent Seven Seas Mariner had slowed right down as we passed right beside her, so I was able to get a shot of her after all



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Tonight's dinner, shows & entertainment, and late night activities were awesome and made for a super fun night!!











After dinner our regular group made our way down to the theatre to watch the 3 girl group "Supreme Dream Girls" who specialized in Motown. Wow were they hot.... and they're singing was pretty good too lol! In all seriousness they truly were awesome and excellent polished entertainers. After this headliner, we made our way directly to the Centrum to watch the Aquatronica Centrum Aerial Show. We wanted to try a different viewpoint so we went to the railings of deck 6 about 15 minutes prior to the show... the railings and all seating on most decks were full in a other 5 minutes so I'm glad we did that.





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You'd figure that on my 21st RCL cruise, and therefore also about to experience my 21st 70's night. that I'd be pretty bored or not expecting much... well this was the best 70's night ever on any RCL ship. What a blast!


So once the Aerial act cleaned up, the 70's music in the Centrum began very quickly as DJ Phil was already ready to go after the aerial act. A few of my friends were prepared and had 70'ish clothing on so I had mentioned I should've thought about this and brought something myself... and it dawned on me that my light gray dress slacks (almost white) with my cuff linked large collar white dress shirt I wore for formal (of course un-buttoned very low) may likely look very "John Travolta'ish". A couple of my friends dared me to go slick my hair and come on back dressed up... so the hell with it, I did!


Sorry, I won't provide a pic lol, but all I can say is that I walked into the Centrum with that John Travolta swagger walk (google Saturday Night Fever), my friends and several other cruisers were laughing out loud, pointing lol. Damn funny. I was having a ball making an a$$ out of myself trying to talk like Travolta on Welcome Back Kotter: "Don't touch ma hay" (Don't touch my hair lol!!!). I actually think a few cruisers thought I was part of the activity staff.


No joke, I think DJ Phil saw this right away and quickly dubbed in a new song as I was walking around: "Stayin Alive" Hahaha... that was my que. I know the Hustle line-dance so started that up. 30 seconds later had about 25 people on the floor following along, minute later full floor, Fun as hell. We all clapped as the song ended and many continued dancing to the DJ music.


Within a couple more songs, the party started. That's Mercedes on stage with Patricio in the forefront within the crowd. The staff were totally awesome this night within the crowd involving everyone.






And yes, the Macho Men were out in full force with the "WE---WANT---YOU!!!" four corner salute. That's Tino in the cop uni and again Patricio as the construction worker





Party atmosphere all around, the release of confetti made for a gorgeous shot of the Centrum





The 70's party continued in the Centrum for a good hour. The dance floor did not empty one single bit, great cruisers and great crowd again tonight. A funny moment was when Ahmed made his way into one of the Centrum elevators and to put on a show to those of us on the dance floor







The releasing of the balloons for a couple of songs and punching them up in the air as they bounced around over the crowd marked the end of the Centrum party, but it definitely continued up in Vortex. The entire staff went up there and the dance floor was packed there too. Of course a dance "circle" was formed where people entered the circle for 20-30sec to dance off and show their moves, and also an impromptu mini-ladies night where a few of the Macho Men got some of the other cruiser men to start strip teasing a bit lol. Obviously this ended up to be one of the later nights. It was awesome to be with all my friends and have fun, we shut Vortex Down after 3am as they turned up the lights with last call announced.





What a day... I was pooped! Our final day of this cruise, a sea day, is to be tomorrow and a "sleep-in" was in order. Truthfully I couldn't remember putting my head down on the pillow that night. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Today is the final day of the cruise and it's at sea... no tours, no commitments, no nothing! A much needed day of enjoying the ship and friends on board before our arrival at Civitavecchia the next day. After a great sleep, a great final workout and regular breakfast out on deck 11 aft I walked around for a bit out in the sun as we approached the Strait of Messina. I wanted to enjoy the transit through the strait from the Helipad so made my way up there. Land was still quite far off, but before we turned northward through the strait I took a shout of Etna way off in the distance (left) overtop of the Helipad





We had another Flash Mob rehersal at 11am so I left for that. By the time practice was over and I made my way back up top deck, we had passed Castemola/Taormina as I was hoping to get some pictures as we sailed passed. We were now pretty much even with Messina at this point, so I took a picture of the HAL ship passing by us with the large radio towers which mark the end of the strait





It was time for the International Parade of Flags by the crew in the Centrum. Since they started doing this on the ships I've quite enjoyed it. Here's Cheif Engineer Carlo Romano and activity staff Emanuella whooping it up with the Italian flag





And of course Capt. Anders with the Norweigian flag





Although Libyan, Ahmed was out there with the Spanish flag alongside Mercedes





And when the guest relations officers were announced/introduced I took this shot with CL Mario at the far left



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