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Hoopster95

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

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Enjoying the latest installments of your review. Your bakery experience sounds awesome! I would have been freaked out had my tour guide left me at the curb saying something about he "hopes it works . . ." Lol!

 

As an aside, you mentioned the great food - do you happen to have any photos of the menus and/or know if they change when Serenade comes back to do the Caribbean this winter?

 

Thx for the kind words Lemonade. I'm not a foodie so I didn't take any pictures of the menus themselves. I can tell you that over the 12 days the MDR did not repeat once which surprised me (on my TAs they were repeated a couple of years ago)

 

I think the menus will be the same when Serenade is back in NOLA as they were the standard RCL named menus that were established about a year ago throughout the fleet... ie. "Sage","Pomodoro" etc.... There were several dishes that I had not experienced (maybe just not remembered) from previous cruises so I tried quite a few new tastes. As mentioned, best MDR food in the last couple of years which includes Oasis, Rhapsody, Vision & Navigator. Also never once in the 12 days did the food come cold or very late... could be the awesome waiter & asst we had? head waiter planning? The kitchen itself?? Prob a combination of everyone to make this ship's experience the best in a long time for me.

 

I think Bob (Clarea) had posted at one time a link to the menus. Bib, you around?? By all means throw a post out on this thread if you have the menus handy.

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i'm speechless. This review is amazing.

 

Lol!... love your "location" in your profile :D:D

Thank you for the kind words.

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I wish to start my Malta segment of this review by giving a shout out to Joan of Tours by Joan, and her husband Chris of TouringMalta....

 

I planned and organized a group tour for this awesome island. In my planning and research, it became very clear that Joan had been and continues to receive 5 star ratings on Tripadvisor and everywhere else I looked. Being only 2 1/2 months out from arrival, I thought I wouldn't have a hope to book her, but I emailed regardless. She did not email me back....

 

She phoned me!!!.... yes, all the way from Malta! Major props. She explained that she had been booked long ago (I figured that) but if it was ok if I was passed along to her husband Chris, and to do it quickly as with 3 ships in port it was extremely busy for them. Of course I agreed.

 

Chris was on it right away, and provided a detailed email itinerary that I can tweek and with pricing. The guide they provided, Rose, was excellent as was the driver for the day in our minivan of 9. Chris himself phoned Rose that afternoon during our tour and asked to speak with me, asking if all was good and settling as to whether I would pay cash or credit. Excellent and personal service, and very good by email. I actually saw Joan leaving Haqar-Qim as we were entering but I didn't say anything as she was with her tour I believe.

 

Bottom line... the reviews didn't lie. We had a great day, excellently planned, and incredibly good value. Do not hesitate to contact Joan early in the game... don't wait to book them.

 

Here's Rose at the Haqar-Qim Temple site

 

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Thank you Joan, Chris & Rose for an excellent day in Malta! :D

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Lol!... love your "location" in your profile :D:D

Thank you for the kind words.

 

Ha, thanks. I wish I was at a Solarium Bar right now.

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Great review and really appreciate your in depth photo tour. Thanks.

Edited by Moltar

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After somewhat a late night I nevertheless set my alarm early for 6am and got ready for the morning. Our private tour was to begin almost right away once the ship docked, and thus after watching sail-in I figured I wouldn't have time to shower/change/etc. So having gotten ready for the day, I headed up to the CL and my ritual double shot Macchiato and good morning greeting with Mario. I had decided that I would witness sail-in from top deck forward, and hopefully sailaway from the helipad to experience a different view and angle of the buildings, so off I went to the forward deck 12.

 

Take a look at the image below.... we enter the harbour through the breakwater at the Ricasoli Fortification. On the left in my pictures to come you will see the three cities of Kalkara, Vittoriosa and Senglea. The main attraction, Valetta, is on the right and we dick basically where the word "Grand" is of Grand Harbour

 

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My pictures (nor video) of sail-in to this port do not do the actual real-life experience any justice whatsoever. Just utterly beautiful.

 

And now in real time from deck 12 of the Serenade as we sail in!!

 

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Wikipedia's page on Malta is actually extremely good

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta

 

"Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, is a southern European island country comprising an archipelago of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is also, at 0.8 km2, the smallest capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.

 

Malta's location as a naval base has given it great strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British, have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone"

 

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For me, the #1 attraction to Radiance class ships is the aft outdoor seating of the Windjammer. I had breakfast there 11 out of 12 days... after that awesome sail-in, I surely needed food for a long day of adventure on our tour before the ship is cleared. So off I went to the back of the ship, filled up my plate, and grabbed one of the surprisingly empty tables out back.

 

Just beautiful being able to stare back at the port from where we had just sailed in... way off in the distance in the morning light I noticed another ship coming in after us. I always find it interesting to look at and photo other ships as they sail by.

 

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This was the Braemar - Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.

 

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After somewhat a late night I nevertheless set my alarm early for 6am and got ready for the morning. Our private tour was to begin almost right away once the ship docked, and thus after watching sail-in I figured I wouldn't have time to shower/change/etc. So having gotten ready for the day, I headed up to the CL and my ritual double shot Macchiato and good morning greeting with Mario. I had decided that I would witness sail-in from top deck forward, and hopefully sailaway from the helipad to experience a different view and angle of the buildings, so off I went to the forward deck 12.

 

 

 

Take a look at the image below.... we enter the harbour through the breakwater at the Ricasoli Fortification. On the left in my pictures to come you will see the three cities of Kalkara, Vittoriosa and Senglea. The main attraction, Valetta, is on the right and we dick basically where the word "Grand" is of Grand Harbour

 

 

 

 

You've got an amusing typo in there.... ;)

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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Having finished breakfast, it was time to get off the ship to find our guide. Stepping off the gangway, CC buddies J&K were already out there, the others all gathering I would say within 5 minutes of each other. Rose showed up within 10 minutes after that and led us up to the minivan we had for the day.

 

Valetta is also very easy to do DIY imo. Within a 10min walk of the pier is a very tall elevator that takes you up into the public gardens with amazing views of the port. From here you can walk into the old town part of Valetta and visit Merchant Street, St. John's cathedral, etc. We were driven up there in the van within about 2 minutes to start our tour of the island.

 

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The picture below you can see the Serenade moored on the bottom right so that you can get an idea of scale & size of this port

 

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Today was the celebration of Malta's 50th year of independence! The upper are of this park was busy with workers setting up lights, seating, etc and roping off areas for dignitaries for this celebration happening that evening. This park would be closed very shortly so I am grateful to have had the opportunity early to enjoy the view of the port from here

 

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You've got an amusing typo in there.... ;)

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Damn! Too late to edit :eek::o

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The old town of Valetta is a gorgeous walk full of history and beautiful architecture. Personally I wouldn't want to spend an entire day here where there is so much more to see elsewhere, but if you wanted an easy and simple day to leisurely walk, have lunch, enter shops, etc then this would be a perfect place for you to enjoy the day.

 

At the top main square, with the entry to the park to the right, is the government building. Just beyond to the left of the flags begins old town

 

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There are various museums, churches, etc to visit if you wish, but our alloted time was to stroll through the town to get a feel of it and have a great look at the Knight's of St. John's Cathedral. Below is a view down merchant street... if you were to blow up the picture, you can see many more stores ahead as the foot traffic gets busier. Keep in mind we're still at approx 9-9:30am at this time.

 

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St. James church came into our very shortly after turning in from Merchant Street, and is under construction and was closed at the time. We were told that this paled in comparison to the Cathedral. The facade was a picture depiction of what it actually looked like underneath as the they repaired/cleaned the building

 

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The clocktower is very interesting, and there's several examples of this around Malta. Note the smaller clock faces... the left one shows the date of the month (here it shows the 20th) and the right face shows the actual day Saturday)

 

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The streets are beautiful to walk around and enjoy while Rose continued to narrate as we navigated to the Cathedral. Again very shortly we were at the main entrance of the St. John's Cathedral

 

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Much better than any explanation I can give, with tips/hints/maps of the chirch itself, take a look through the cathedral's website:

http://www.stjohnscocathedral.com/

 

Per wikipedia: St. Johns Co-Cathedral located in Valletta, Malta, was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578, having been commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, known as the Knights of Malta. The church is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe and one of the world's great cathedrals.

 

It definitely is world class... yes, that's all real gold! And the floors in the 2nd image are all tombs of the various knights.

 

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Edited by Hoopster95
spelling

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We spent approx 45min in the cathedral. When we exited it was really getting packed with a long line at the entrance now. The streets were also getting much busier with tourist traffic. You can see here there's plenty of places to stop and shop with the street vendors. Shortly ahead at the end of Republic street we ended our walking tour and jumped into the minivan...

 

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... and within about a short 20 minutes we arrived to the gates of the ancient medieval city of Mdina, the former capital of Malta.

 

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Mdina was a little underwhelming. It's a very nice and clean old town with history, but very bland imo. There were several horse drawn carriage options that I think would be perfect in this setting. Rose led us through this small city easily and relatively quickly as she narrated

 

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It was decided that we would have lunch here in Mdina. There were several options that Rose pointed out, one of them being the recommended "Fontanella" just ahead and around the corner. Our whole group wandered in. Not knowing any better, this place provided an incredible view far off into the distance all the way to Malta, and food... well, check out my pizza. YUM!

 

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Caveat emptor... while 3 of our tables were served quickly and efficiently, the 4th was delayed over 1/2 hour. In fact we were all served and done before their food came! Rose had stepped twice to complain to the staff as we had to get going. They were finally served lunch and shortly thereafter we were on our way again. Rose mentioned that at peak times they can be slow, so if you find this place allow time accordingly.

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Haqar-Qim was an excellent stop!

 

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I would've liked to spend just a little more time there. The Temples are one of the oldest dated structures on earth believed to be built around 3500BC or so. Rose explained that along with other ancient structures on earth, many believe that aliens were involved here!!! The huge stones seemed to have been cut and placed to a precision that humans of that era presumably had no business being able to do!

 

The picture below shows the model of the main site along with the sunlight lines which hit the temple during solstice and change of seasons.

 

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We entered the 3-D theatre for a short movie. Many of these movies in various venues are really hokey, but this presentation was excellent! There was no narration or voice... they showed animation of how man built the temples and what they looked like, and then time lapse through the centuries of how they were eroded and were buried through storms/sand/etc, and finally how they were discovered and excavated.

 

Now knowing and understanding what I was about to see. we headed out to the site and up the hill, reaching the covered megalithic temple complex itself.

 

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We really enjoyed our time there, Rose continued her excellent pace and narration. It was interesting to note the guard there followed us and lingered around continuously... I realized that with all the loose rock all around, anyone trying to take a piece away would not be treated kindly! They were really guarding this site.

 

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Again, keep in mind this place was built by men in the years around 3500BC!! 20 tonnes!!??

 

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We left Haqar-Qim really enjoying that visit as a great surprise we really didn't know all that much about. For many of us the next stop was to be the highlight of our tour, and that was the Blue Grotto boat ride into the caves (youtube Blue Grotto Malta). Unfortunately, the waves and current had this excursion closed for the day so we missed out here big time... a great reason to plan a future trip back to Malta.

 

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We spent about 15min up at the viewpoint looking down onto the grotto from high above. Really a shale as it looked beautiful, and I do remember watching some of the youtube videos.

 

This left our group with about 45-50min of extra time. We had one stop left that we decided could be left out depending on timing, and now of course we added it on at the end of our tour, and that was the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It's interesting to note that I really couldn't find much info on what there is to do or see here, but it seems to be included in any tour I could find on the island.

 

We were dropped off in the parking area right against the water and left to roam around for 45 minutes. It's beautiful there for a nice walk around

 

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Originally, the tour has Marsaxlokk as the place for to stop for lunch, and I couldn't agree more. There are a ton of open air restaurants on the water, and I specifically read one of the "specials" on a board which described a local fish platter for 2 at 8euro per person. This was later in the afternoon, but there was a couple sitting there, and this platter looked awesome and was ginormous full of seafood! So if you are planning lunch for a tour, I truly recommend here especially on a nice sunny day. The view of the boats in the water and surroundings is awesome for a nice lunch.

 

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There's also a flea market set up with many tourist type offerings like hats, trinkets, whathaveyou... some great art and other more local things. There's also a couple of cafe's and as I was heading back through this market area and back to the minivan a few minutes early, I noticed my friends J&M having a beer. J mentioned he tried a local beer at every port... great idea! And he bought me this berry flavored local beer called Cisk. It was actually pretty good and J liked his lime.

 

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After this nice rest, we all gathered as needed right on time at the minivan and were taken back to the pier. Rose, like the last 2 private tours before us, received a handsome tip for yet another excellent tour. I remember thinking at the time "We're only on Day 4!" I couldn't believe everything I've already seen so far.

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Because we were finished about 45min early, I asked if the guide can drop me off back up at the gardens where we were right at the beginning of the morning. I wanted to get more pictures of the harbour in late afternoon sunlight and then I would come down the elevator to the ship. I hadn't mentioned that we had 90 degree weather, so I think most others on the minivan were glad to get back to the ship at that point to freshen up.

 

On the way back up the hill, the road at the top was closed off by police, obviously for the fireworks and dignitary party, but they were allowing foot traffic. So I thanked the guide again and I headed the rest of the way to the park on foot. When I got there, guards were guarding entry and the park was closed! There were several other cruisers up there who were not allowed through to the elevator as well. Unfortunately we had to wind our way down the hill to the pier. Here's a couple of shots of the Serenade as I make my way down.

 

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It was only maybe a 20min walk down and I was up the gangway. Hot and tired I need to get to the stateroom to charge my camera a little bit before sailaway and chill for a bit. I haven't included any pictures recently of my view out my porthole, and here's basically why....

 

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Yep, not much to look at and no privacy with the gangway just to the left of my window. With sailaway about to occur, I headed up to deck 12 to enjoy the view until we actually push out from the pier

 

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And we're finally underway

 

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The Serenade pushed out and needed to spin around in the basin in order to heard out. I quickly made my way down the elevator to deck 5 and out to the Helipad so that I can enjoy a different perspective compared to this morning. Like this morning, my pictures nor video do justice to the sites

 

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And now we clear the breakwater and sail directly away from Malta. It didn't take long for the Serenade to get quite far away. I've been to many ports of call and there are only a handful that I would consider going back on land for several days to spend more time... Malta is one of them. What a great place to visit!

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Dinner again in MDR was really good. Once again Danny and Mary were flawless, as was the food prepared by the kitchen. Great job! Tonight's headliner did not appeal to me, so for a rare evening I did not attend to show after dinner (I learned later that she was awesome). Instead I was coerced by good friends R&C to Rita's Cantina where they serve 2 for 1 Margaritas from 8-10pm. This is prime dinner hour on any evening but there were only 2 other tables being served (out of about 40 tables). This is a real shame as this is prime outdoor seating area sandwiched between the Windjammer and the aft open seating. RCL should really plan something else here as it is cut off and extremely un-used. On a positive note, the Margaritas were strong and delish!

 

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50's & 60's night was also on in full force, so after a great visit at Rita's we made our way down to check things out. Looked like a good time had by all in the Centrum, and this was over around 11pm. Of course being a sea day next day, everyone assumed that the Vortex nightclub may have a chance of being packed this evening... and it was. It was really packed early as the event of the evening was on at 11:45pm, but Vortex was already full by then waiting for this all to get started. It was Ladies Night, and the Activity staff males were all over this one to impress the ladies

 

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Once this "show" was done, the dance floor was packed and it was a really fun night. It stayed full up there easily past 1am. The main group of us who dance all night and hang out closed Vortex down at about 3am... they had to slowly turn the lights up, change the music to slow un-dancable songs to try and sweep us out the door lol! No problem, we were pretty much ready to go and got the hint. Bed time it is.

 

Truthfully, after the last 4 days of nonstop go go go site-seeing & activities, plus a couple of late nights, I was really looking forward to this upcoming sea day! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.........

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