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

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Hoopster, you are a machine!


Lol! Goal was to finish Malta tonight. Takes a ton of time and work to do this! 12 day cruise could take me forever if I don't do it this way!!! Just ask Melissa on her "Cool Girl Crazy Mom" thread, she's been at it for 3 months and is maybe half way through... completion eta April 2015 :eek::p (although I think she's feeling the pressure to finish again since I started my review ;))

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Loving your review, getting to do our honeymoon again day by day through your pictures. My husband Dave has already mentioned that we are in a few of your sail away party at the start.

We , like you got to day 4 and had already seen so much and kept saying how much more was to come. The best itinerary, wasn't it?!

Looking forward to the rest of it. Something to look through over breakfast :)

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I am loving this review! Thank you for keeping at it. That way you keep the interest going! :cool: I am very much looking forward to your next installment.

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Lol! Goal was to finish Malta tonight. Takes a ton of time and work to do this! 12 day cruise could take me forever if I don't do it this way!!! Just ask Melissa on her "Cool Girl Crazy Mom" thread, she's been at it for 3 months and is maybe half way through... completion eta April 2015 :p (although I think she's feeling the pressure to finish again since I started my review )


Hey look, a shout out for "Cool Girl and Crazy Mom" on Hoopster's awesome review!!!! I'm honored :D


You are definitely putting the pressure on me, Hoopster, to ramp up my rate of installments given the speed at which you are doing yours (feel free to slow down :p) As you know, I basically put up my new posts on Sunday, but I really should have been able to finish Ravenna in less than 3 weeks (seriously, it was Ravenna!)...haha!!!! I am shooting for a Thanksgiving 2014 completion date, but if I don't speed it up a bit, it certainly will be closer to the April 2015 date you mentioned! Although, considering I plan to include the 4 days we spent in Rome post cruise, we may be looking at an April 2016 date :eek:


On a side note, I am so thoroughly enjoying your review. I have not had the chance to go to Amalfi and such (just Naples and Pompeii, twice), nor Malta, but after your pics of both areas, I now have to put these on my bucket list.


Can't wait for the rest of the review!!!


Melissa aka Cool Girl :cool:

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Well....I've been reading all afternoon! This is great! We've been to some of these places and it's fun to revisit through you. Man.....you cover a lot of territory in a day of touring!! Really enjoying this. Keep going!!! Love the Serenade, by the way!

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As stated different ways by so many others; "Lovely pictures, Hoopster, and wonderful commentary."

We sailed SOS twice in Dec. 2013 and had a great time. The Diamond Lounge host (Alan) was superb. We are scheduled to sail her again in Oct. 2015. Your pictures, in particular, brought my memories to life. Thanks again!



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Finally!!!.... a day of nothing... or whatever you wish to make it at sea. I got the feeling most everyone I spoke to were really looking forward to sleeping in.


I woke just after 8 (that's sleeping in for me) and after a great workout/jog out on deck 12 I got myself ready for a day of no time constraints. While most of the day I was "winging" it The only thing I really had planned was our CC M&M booked for 10:30am up at the Viking Crown. So after my daily Machiatto and "good morning" with Mario up at CL and my breakfast out on back deck Windjammer, I was off to the Viking Crown pretty much right at 10:30. Many were already there, and those from the sailaway get-together were all there. Assistant CD, Patricio, hosted the event and a few prizes were given out... there was no sales pitch or anything like that, just a real nice get together










We mingled for a good 30-40 minutes or so and made our way out for the day. I had checked out the Compass prior to breakfast and at 11:30am was the first practice for Thriller. About 20 showed up, and I'll mention now that at show time there were 12 so a few were overwhelmed... there was a lot of choreography that had to be remembered. Asst activity staff, Deb, hosted and coached us through. I thought it would be great even though most thought they were a little lost and were really uncomfortable. Heck, when the lights lower and we're out there with the music, no one will care too much.




Once this was done, I had my heart set on a day out on pool deck. As mentioned in a previous post, the loungers on deck 12 away from the pool lining all of deck 12 from the Viking Crown aft all the fwd to the Solarium glass were pretty much full! The pool deck loungers and the pool itself was full also... re-enforced to me that this ship has an extremely poor and small pool deck for the number of passengers, definitely not a suitable layout for many sea days in the Caribbean for example... a much better ship for cold weather itineraries as the Solarium is huge and awesome. Nonetheless I parked myself on the edge of the pool which is basically the width of a lounger anyways and made that my area to place my stuff and tan.


By now the activity staff have been getting to know me the last couple of days as I get involved on the dance floor and games when I can, making friends with the staff for the most part when I sail, so when it was announced that the sexy man competition was on in 10 min.... and of course no one was offering to come up.... it was really easy for Tino to find me at my poolside spot and grab me to come up as the 1st contestant. Props to the rest of the guys, we ended up with 10 I think shortly after so it turned out to be lots of fun for everyone I think.




2nd place & a medal for me! lol... A really nice guy from Brazil (or was it Argentina??) won, he was pretty funny. It's hilarious, the rest of the cruise I had people in the elevator and various ship venues say out of the blue "hey, you're the sexy man guy" or "you're the dancing man" lol... great way to make friends when you see them ongoing throughout the ship or out on the ports. I normally get a hat/medal/something on every cruise so this filled my quota to bring at least something back from this ship that I hadn't sailed on before.


2pm was fast approaching and the 2nd Thriller practice came up fast. Headed down there where we had lost a few people from this morning... no worries, the routine got a lot harder though, but we did get through it. This was another 45 minutes or so, and was a little bit of a workout in the end as we repeat over and over again the entire routine and keep adding pieces to it. We finished up and went our separate ways for the rest of the day.


Having had a decently busy morning now, I was truly ready from some chillaxing... up to the pool deck I went for some serious R&R and I wasn't leaving for anything!!! So I missed the oddly timed mid-afternoon Love & Marriage and anything else that was offered in lieu of some serious tanning, enjoying a couple Dos Equis and lounging in the shallow end of the pool with great friends until dinner

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The entertainment offered this evening was great! We finished dinner at about 8:15 so we missed the 1st aerial show, but that was no problem... we headed down to the theatre (row 4 and 5, left aisle center is where about 7-9 of us always met for shows) to watch comedian/magician Neil Austin. I had never seen him before in previous sailings... he was really good! Great show, he had many laughing out loud.


Once the show was over we decided to a decent seat on deck 4 in order to get a good view of the aerial show at the Centrum called "Jack & his Magic Beans"














The Royal Caribbean dancers are the ones doing this show so props to them. This show was short, about 10min, the the amount of stunts were minimal. Decent show nonetheless and interesting to see how they perform in this space.


Tonight was Latin Fiesta night. A few of us headed up to, then more met up later, at the aft Safari Club deck 6.... the dance floor was PACKED for the salsa dance class. It was great to see this venue really full and people truly enjoying themselves trying to learn. What was even better was when the Latin Vibes band began their set for the fiesta itself many of the newcomers to Salsa were still on the floor trying and practicing what they just learned. After a couple of dances we all wanted to head up to Vortex... another great night up there tonight as DJ Phil pumped out the music once again. Now that Vortex had been "discovered" by many last night during the ladies night festivities, there were a whole lot more people up there this evening... great vibe to the venue, which continued for the rest of the cruise pretty much even on port nights. We danced quite late as I was not concerned with the Corfu port of call coming up in the morning... I had no excursion planned nor any set itinerary, I was going to wing it. So off to bed late I went but I still set my wake-up call to get me out of bed.

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Hoopster95, this continues to be an amazing review. We had the pleasure of having Malta on our cruise a few years back (as a last minute replacement for Naples), and I agree - pictures aren't able to do it justice (though, wow, yours are pretty darn close).


It's no wonder you had friends all over the ship - really enjoying your fun, friendly approach to everything! Thanks for taking us along!

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Waking up early, I made may way up for my morning coffee and for the view of sail-in before 8am. The skies were overcast to start the day but became very hot and sunny as the day continued. Here you see the entire old town of the capital Keykra in the center with the Old Fort on the left




While on pool deck yesterday during Capt Anders noon announcement, the Capt informed us that a ferry at Corfu "ran aground" and perhaps caused some damage at the pier we were supposed to dock at. Obviously, this ferry wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, so we were going to unfortunately tender. Mercedes at the show then night before said that if you wished to be an early bird off the ship you can show up between 8-8:45 and walk right onto a tender. Anything 8:45 and after you need a ticket to be picked up at the Safari Lounge as that is when they would be shipping RCL excursions over as a priority. I personally opted to get up and out to shore early.


The tendering process was excellent imo, no hiccups








Keep in mind that these tenders are off of the ship and double up as life boats



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This being a DIY wing-it kind of day, I came off of the tender with two choices in my mind:

  1. rent a car and tour the island (I had a map with me with a couple of places I wanted to see)
  2. or grab the RCL shuttle for $12 return and get dropped off in old town for a solo day around town on foot only


I walked up the pier a bit, and tried to look for the car rental places that were described in reviews I had read prior to leaving home. but I did not easily see them right away, so I made a quick decision to get on the shuttle. If you had not purchased a shuttle ticket on board (by standing in line at the excursion desk for 1/2 hour!!!) there was an RCL rep taking names and cabin numbers right in front of the shuttle bus. Easy peasy. I'm glad I did this as a walk from this tender into old town was surely 1/2 hour plus the distance to get through Old Town and to the Old Fort. I didn't know, but it turned out the shuttle but was maybe 10min total to the drop off point directly in front of the Old Fort.


This map was basically right there in the square in front of you so that you can see where your are at.




I was one of the first off the bus, and there was no one at all at the front gate of the Old Fort, so I decided to make my way into the Old Fort and tour there first before the crowds get there later.




This Old Fort is a definite must-do if you are touring Old Town on foot. A few of the museum pieces are interesting, and the views are amazing. This was my favorite part of this day.






The peak of the Old Fort as you saw from deck 12 of the Serenade in my very first picture for this day is at the top left of the picture below, where the large cross is at the top.





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St George Church above was built in 1840, and if you download and zoom into the placard it has a good description of the history and significance of this church. The cannons are artifacts from the late 1600's to early 1700's and they have several examples






I took my time in this fort to enjoy the site, the architecture, views, etc. You don't need to spend a whole day there at all, but it was nice to have time. I made my up the path & tunnel that leads up to the top, the reward of the view and peak just ahead





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Once at the top, I looked back from where I had come and took this shot. The head of the peninsula to the barracks and second older peak directly center of the photo below is off limits and fenced off. A closer look at the fence shows that it's quite eroded, and there are no railings, stairs that look safe, etc. They have it closed for a reason obviously.


Also in the picture below is a man coming up the stairs... turns out he was the janitor. As he approached me at the top when he was doing his work, he began speaking Greek to me as he thought I looked Greek I guess. I told him I didn't understand and he got it... but he still wanted to talk! So he went on with his talking for about 5 min straight, pointing out at the islands and obviously trying to describe what I was seeing in my view. Pretty funny... I didn't understand a damn thing lol!! But he sure enjoyed himself talking up a storm, and he bid his goodbye, walking back down with garbage bag in hand




The view up here is phenominal. I climbed up on the un-safe, non-railed 5foot width ledge of the fort (which by the way was angled downward at about 10 degrees with likely about a hundred foot drop!!) to sit quietly with no one up there with me and just stare out at this view. It was about 10min before the next human showed up at the top.






I made my way down and to the ocean side of the fort to take a few shots before I left this site to visit Old Town. By this time, I had been at the tender pier at approx 8:30am ... and it was only 10am now! Perfect, still plenty of time to enjoy other things in Old Town.





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The streets in Old Town are not easy to navigate, even with a map. They seem to intersect and go off in strange directions. Having said that, roaming through Old Town is nice. The real problem is that I've already been spoiled by Rome/Amalfi Coast/Malta so this Old Town was relatively "average" in comparison in my view. By this time, many more shuttle buses had arrived, and there were a ton of people entering into the Fort and also heading into Old Town. Many of my Old Town pictures depict much of the same.... the architecture, streets and people seem to blend in my photos so I'll share only a few in order to keep this segment short.






Saint Spyridon church is up ahead on the left in the photo below. There was a lot of activity in front at the entry of the church, and upon getting to the front door there was a service in progress with standing room only. I did not feel it was right to intrude by entering and taking pictures so I did not enter, instead making my way through the streets. If you enjoy shopping and having a relaxing day in a cafe, etc then this place is for you! Tons of little stores with all sorts of stuff available from typical touristy trinkets to great artwork. I also detoured up a couple of blocks away from the main tourist path and viewed around a couple of very residential areas... like the tourist area of Old Town I was a little underwhelmed. I got back to the main path and made it to the main square down at the ocean. The RCL Splendour of the Seas had just docked and cruisers were streaming onto land from this side of the port as this is the dock we were supposed to come off of as well. I was only a few 3 blocks from the New Fort which is where I was heading....





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New Fort was very easy to go through. It's much smaller than the Old Fort and thus a lot less to look at. The view is the main attraction to this site. I spent maybe 40-45 minutes here before making my way down













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Still having a half of a day ahead of me, I had intended to visit Kanoni Beach with the rental car. However in mapping it out and reading reviews, there were a couple of other choices:

  1. walk - supposedly about a 45-50 minute walk from Old Town
  2. bus - public bus #2, which again supposedly was unreliable in Greece

Neither of the above were true!!!


From the New Fort I decided to detour up through the more modern part of town, and found the main road with a huge number of pedestrians, modern shops and cafes called Evgeniou Voulgareous. Following this road brought you to a huge main square and bus station, I veered left to get down to the water onto Leof Alexandras until I got to the water and a distance away south from the Old Fort. I made my way on foot around the seawall to the other side where I took the following pictures, the first one with the Old Fort in the distance across the water






I continued on thinking that by the reviews I had read that maybe I'd have another 20-30 minutes walk... not true. While along the way I viewed a gated/locked archaeological site and a couple of other interesting things, it was primarily a hot sticky over 1 hour walk, unmarked! I asked a couple of people along the way how much farther and they said 10 min... 10 min later I would ask someone else and they would say 10 min! lol!!! I knew I was on the right track as every 15min on the nose that "unreliable" #2 bus passed by me heading the other way into town so I knew it was coming from where I was trying to get to! I finally got there




Kanoni intrigued me as it's at the end of the Corfu airport runway. The far left island is named Pontikonisi (Greek meaning "mouse island"). The white stone staircase of the Pantokrator Monastery that when viewed from distance gives the impression of a (mouse) tail that gave the island its name: Mouse island. Surrounded by trees, in the middle of Mouse Island , is the ancient Byzantine monastery of Pantokrator , dating back to the 12th century.







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If you look closely at the very left of the picture below, there were wedding pictures going on. Supposedly this is a popular wedding locale. The church itself is super small and not much to it, but it was nice enough to visit.






Looking back to where I had come, you can see at the top left the viewing and restaurant/cafe area where I took the first view view shots in the previous post.




Walking back over the floating bridge gets you back to the mainland. Veering right onto the sand there's a very small path that leads you to the actual Kanoni Beach. There seemed to be plenty of loungers and I did not see anyone asking for payment for their use. I'm not sure what the deal was there, but if you need beach time, this area would be perfect for water time, sun tanning, and relative quiet. You can see Corfu Holiday Palace Hotel up above, so I don't know how much control they have of the beach or not.







Edited by Hoopster95
added dialogue

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If you look at my initial overview picture of Kanoni, you can see a "connector" foot bridge from Kanoni over to the other side... it basically leads no where as the other side is primarily residential. I had read about a beach area over there that provides a better view of the air traffic at the airport, but it looked extremely small and dirty, totally not used by anyone. SO I stopped mid-span of this connector and had a seat on the ledge in order to rest my feet for a bit and view some of the planes.






I still had some good time left, so I made my way back up the hill footpath to the cafe/restaurant above with the incredible view. First I sat down with a beer that went down oh so good!... then I couldn't resist some great ice-cream being sold by one of the vendors. This reminded a bit like being in St. Maarten at Maho Beach, except I just down below and now I get to view the plane traffic from above










It was time to go. I had already decided there was no way in hell that I wold walk another hour+ back to the Old Fort to reach the shuttle point. The #2 bus stop was right at the gate to Kanoni, within 10 minutes the bus came. 1.50 euro and about 15min bus ride later pretty much retracing the exact way I had walked, I was dropped off a half block from the shuttle point. The shuttles were super busy! Turned out that some Splendour folks were also given that same shuttle option and the ship was leaving much earlier than Serenade, so there were a few desperate cruisers it seemed. I was told at dinner that later shuttles were announcing only Splendour cruisers get on first else they would miss the ship... not good! I got on the first shuttle that arrived and was back on the tender pier within about 15min after that.

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The tenders were super busy as we were about 1 hour from all-aboard time. While I thought I would have to wait 2 or 3 tenders, the line was deceiving as the tenders hold over a hundred people (I think) if required with seating on top. I had lined up just as a tender was being loaded so obviously missed that one with the line-up, but easily got on the next a couple of minutes later.






SPLENDOUR SITING!!! I have a live picture of all ships in the RCL fleet except for Jewel, Brilliance and Splendour... 1 down, 2 to go. The ship to the left is the ferry that ran aground into the pier. You can barely make out the red floating liner that I think circled the entire ship in case of fuel/oil leak




And the beautiful Serenade as we approach







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As the tender unloaded, those of us on top-deck of the tender had to wait for everyone below to be headed out first, so I was able to snap a couple more photos including this zoom of the Splendour at the pier




I headed to my room to change and chill. I was only there for a few minutes when I finally looked out my porthole window... Splendour had begun it's sailaway! Well, I'm missing this from top deck but it did provide the most interesting photo of the cruise out of this cabin window




I quickly rushed out of my room to head up to deck 12 to view Splendour up close. 1st elevator that showed up fully packed... of course! People were streaming in from the tenders, and an elevator will not be coming anytime soon. I jogged from deck 3 up to 12 double stepping. After the walking day I just had my legs felt like they were going to fall off. But I was thankfully rewarded as Splendour crossed in front of Serenade's bow










Goodbye Splendour... you'll be off to Dubai in 2015! Who knows if she'll see North America anytime soon at all.

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I did not witness our sail away from Corfu as I was preparing for dinner and chilling out in my room for a bit. Nightlife on the compass reverted back to a slower evening with the expectation of a very early sail-in to Kotor tomorrow morning for 7am. Dinner and visiting with table mates tonight ran late until about the 8:15pm mark, so I had missed the Centrum - officer game show, so we headed for the theatre to our normal seats. Tonight was a different show divided up into 3 segments including "The Artistry of Fluorescence" which was really cool. Other than the typical music in the various venues (Schooner Bar piano, Centrum Latin Vibes, etc) Rock-a-Rockie was offered this evening... we opted to listen to the Latin band in the Centrum. We had moved our clocks forward an hour for Corfu and tonight we get to move them an hour back again, so we decided to head up to Vortex to take advantage of that!










And when I got back to my room, Benefacio had placed on my bed during turn down my reminder from RCL that I had reached D+ on this voyage. This is my first pin as I had not been given one previous at other tiers.




Tomorrow is Kotor... what turned out to be my absolute favorite port of call! "What?" you say?!?! "Rome, Venice, Dubrovnik, Malta, Amalfi... and Kotor is your favorite??" Yup... you'll see :D

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Fantastic review I am a cruise newbie first cruise next year Greece and Turkey.Love the photos and thanks for taking time writing the review.

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Oh yay!! Kotor has been my favorite port of call anywhere! Can't wait to see what you did.

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I'm totally enjoying your report because you travel much the way I do! I am in total agreement about engaging private guides in port for the very reasons you experienced...you just can't engage with the guide or the place with 50 people, you spend too much time in bathrooms and herding people and the quality of guides drops quickly when the ship has to engage 10 (or MORE!) of them to "guide" everyone on a ship with 2000 people!


We've sailed Radiance Class and find it a good match for a port intensive cruise!

Enjoying your report.

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Fantastic review I am a cruise newbie first cruise next year Greece and Turkey.Love the photos and thanks for taking time writing the review.


Hey bess128, I sailed 12 day Turkey & Greece 3 years ago... along with this cruise in my top 3 cruises regarding ports of call/itinerary. It is unreal waking up on Mykonos one day, sailing into Santorini the next, etc. You will wonder why you hadn't cruised earlier! You will have a awesome cruise :D:D

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