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

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


Ah... you too?!? I have sooooo many places to see in this world' date=' not enough money and especially time at this point. There are not many world class cities and places that I've seen in one day from a cruise where I've said I [u']really[/u] need to go back and spend a week, but I gotta tell ya that a week on the Croatian Coast driving up and down, including Kotor, I think has entered into my must do bucket-list. :)


I think an awesome non-cruise itinerary would be 3-4 days on the Amalfi Coast, short flight over to Malta for another 2-3 days, Another short flight over to Croatia for a week, and then end with a couple of days in Venice... {sigh}... lol :D

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I woke up startled to flashing lights and loud cracks & bangs, I quickly pulled open my drapes to see multiple lightning strikes what seemed like directly outside the ship on the water and the fully illuminated mountains of the shore for the millisecond that the lightning flashed. BANG! BANG! BANG! No exaggeration, lightning every 5-10 seconds apart, that quick. The thunder was also alarming! I looked down at my watch.... 2:30am. I looked back outside, the rain was driving sideways.


Was I ever bummed!!!!!!! I immediately thought that with sail-in happening at approx 6am that there would be no way we'd be going into the fjord to Kotor. I looked out my window for another couple of minutes stunned at how close the land looked when the lightning flashed. I really regret not being more awake... I wish I had thought about going up top deck to take pictures but I didn't.


Turning off the light and laying back down to try to sleep, I felt my head rolling one way on the pillow and then the other as the ship rolled in this storm. This went on for a minute, and then my head rolled and pushed against my pillow in one direction and stayed there!!!!!!!


That totally freaked me out and I shot up again. I looked out the window at the lightning.... we were still moving really fast it seemed, I stayed seated up for at least a minute, thinking I would hear an alarm or announcement, but nothing came. The ship did not list back in the other direction at all. Staying up another couple of minutes sitting in bed.... listening.... feeling any motion..... nothing. Well, I decided to try to sleep as I'd be up soon and in fact I did doze off almost right away.


Capt. Anders announced the next day that we had hit large waves and a really big storm for a short period of time, but also we got hit with 80 knot crosswinds coming off the mountains!! This wind, maybe not at this speed, might be somewhat normal on the Adriatic coastline as it also affected our tenders in Kotor and Split (I'll be getting to that). In fact my CC friend Kerbear had told me that she was woken as well and had to walk "uphill" to the bathroom from the bed. Obviously the 80 knot winds pushed the massive Serenade over just a little bit as she continued to sail and didn't allow her to right herself right away. I had never experienced that, very "interesting" feeling to be sure.


I had set my alarm for 5:45am and I was up top deck by 6am. Taking photographs with a handheld point-and-shhot in this light is close to impossible so some of my photos of the coastline this early in the sail-in aren't very good, but this one below is the first one I took. It was pretty chilly out, definitely needed my jacket.




As I headed up front, I took pictures as we past Perast and the "Our Lady of the Rocks" church on the island (again, my night shots did not turn out well). The morning light was starting to come through, and this first decent shot as Serenade navigates through the fjord shows the loungers below on the deck 11 suite-only area and how they were pushed around in the storm even though they were all tied up





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As the morning light grew, I was able to take better shots (and video). As we made our way around the final corner. Kotor was directly aheed at the end of the inlet.






I had researched what I had wanted to do on this day, and THE must do activity I really wanted to experience was the climb up the 1308 steps to the old fort at the top of the walled city perched on the mountain side. Below is a close-up of the church at the approx 1/3 mark.






I made it to Kotor!!!



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This was an expected tender port. Pre cruise I had read several reports half saying the tenders were easy with no issues and the other 1/2 saying there were problems. This is where I decided to book a RCL excursion which would guarantee me a tender seat in case there were any issues. It's here that I'll note we were told later in the afternoon that the tender operation was stopped for a bout 1/2 hour around 9:30-10 as the winds picked up, then subsided.


My plan was to do the excursion, advertised as 4hrs to Perast and then a Kotor Old Town walking Tour, and then walk up the famous wall in the afternoon on my own and hang out in Old Town more unitl all-aboard time. They had started early-bird tenders, as they did in Corfu the day before.






We gathered in the Tropicale Theatre, and as I should've known per previous experiences, you can show up 1/2 later than the posted time on your ticket and still be ok. We sat there for a little while before being called to the tender. The tenders for excursions were being loaded from the front of the ship, so we were herded down to deck 2 and escorted through the I-5 corridor staff area where normally no passengers are allowed








Finally loaded on the tender, we were on our way and it was a short 5-6 minute ride to the pier.



Edited by Hoopster95

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This was a great excursion with a great guide.... my only RCL excursion on my last Navigator sailing was also a 10/10. So I have to give props to RCL I guess for screening their tour providers or demanding quality lately (or I just plain got lucky!) compared to previous experiences over the years. We were loaded onto the coach and on our way very quickly. Almost always taking photos out the window of a bus do not do justice of view, but this 20 minute ride along the coastline was totally beautiful




Those circular nets in the bay are for mussels... the are hundreds of them!






We arrived at Perast and the driver dropped us off close to the main area where the boats do tours over to the "Our Lady of the Rocks" church. Here's our first look at Perast






And we all hop into the tour boat for our first part of the excursion



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Other than reading reviews pre-cruise, I had no idea of what I would see in Kotor, nor did I have a good grasp of the history. The guide was great all along, and had a really good sense of humor as well. I had read a little bit and seen photos of this little church out in the middle of nowhere, and now I was there.








Our Lady of the Rocks is one of the two islets off the coast of Perast in Bay of Kotor. According to legend, the islet was made over the centuries by local seamen who kept an ancient oath after finding the icon of Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid a rock in the Bay. Over time, the islet gradually emerged from the sea. The custom of throwing rocks into the sea is still alive and every year on July 22 local residents take their boats and throw rocks into the sea.


The first known church was built on the islet in 1452. It was taken over by Roman Catholics and in 1632 the present Church of Our Lady of the Rocks was built. The church contains 68 paintings by Tripo Kokolja, a famous 17th-century baroque artist from Perast. His most important painting, ten meters long, is "The Death of the Virgin".







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We continued from the main church into the side area which contain many artifacts from the 17th & 18th centuries from the sailors and residents of the time. There was also a museum area, gift shop and an outside terrace. All in all we spent maybe 45 minutes there which was just perfect timing.








It was now time to load up back on the boat so I took one of my final shots of the outside of the church, and away we went back to Perast






And here's the gorgeous pier area where these boats deliver you over to the island.



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Perast is small, but beautiful. It has maybe a 3 block waterfront "promenade" with several eateries/cafes. The buildings are gorgeous, as is the main church and bell tower. This excursion had set up a 20 minute stop at a local cafe on the promenade called "Armonia" where we were offered a complimentary cappuccino or other beverage.




We sat and chatted with each other. Here's my view from my seat




As we sat, the Seabourn Spirit was coming around the corner and into the fjord




We continued our walk through the town and towards the main square. I also wandered a little further ahead and into the residential area and the guide spoke into the audio speakers we had... I was able to go about a block away and still hear. I also climbed the stairs up the hill to view more residential areas and noted that the bell tower was unfortunately closed. The guide gave us approximately 40 minutes of free time at this point to visit the museum in the church or continue to explore other areas of Perast.







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In the 5 minutes I had returned down to the guide to listen to her last bot of historical narration, and turn back to go explore more of the town, I noticed the the Bell Tower door was now open. So I made a bee-line to check out if it was climbable.... and for 1 euro it was... no brainer! What a cool tower. GThe steps were steep and there were several areas where you had to bend down in order to get under the structure and continue up the stairs....







.... and the view up top was to die for!







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I hung out up at the Bell Tower at least 20 minutes, it was just too good to leave. I found it strange that none of the other 40 or so cruisers on the bus had made there way up, so I really hope they get a chance to view this review and see these images.






With 15 minutes until we were to meet at the bus up at the parking area, I made my way down the 100 or so steps of the tower down to the main square. To the credit of all of the cruisers I had enjoyed this excursion so far, we did not have to wait for anyone as the bus was ready to go right on time. Enjoying the amazing view, I shot these on our way back through the window of the bus




That's the Seabourn Spirit in the foreground, and if you're to zoom in you would be able to see the Serenade far off in the distance just to the right of the Spirit way up at the end of the Bay.



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This is a really nice Old Town, much nicer than Corfu with more history. Here's the main gate to Old Town, and you can see a visitor center just to the left. If you were to turn 180 degrees from this vantage point you would see the main road and tender pier across the way... very very close to everything if you are considering a DIY day in this port.








Upon entering the gate, you enter the main and largest open square in Old Town. It really is beautiful here, and from most areas you have a great view of the mountains behind you






There are plenty of "palaces" here Old Town with various histories. They are open to the public for a nominal fee. These palaces didn't look like the "palaces" you think of like in a Disney movie, but make part of the architecture of the buildings within Old Town. One of these palaces is huge, comprising about 1 block square... you wouldn't know from the outside unless you were told.



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We continued our tour, winding our way through the streets. The guide gave us the history as we walked and then allowed us to wander around on our own at our leisure. The main Old Town area is approximately 4 blocks square so very easy to get around and see most everything.






We made basically a perfect square and returned right back to the main gate from the other direction. It was here the guide bid her farewell and we were left on our own. During the tour, I had asked her where to go to fond the path up the hill to the fort, so I took note and retraced my steps, taking the following shots of a typical walkway in the Old Town and the 2nd main square






From the church area above, I was pointed by the guide to a walkway on the left. It was another typical walkway, unmarked. I made my way through and walked a little bit (maybe a minute) and came to a marked gate (see the right side on the wall) to the pathway up the hill. Adrenaline pumping, I made my way through!



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Here is the signage marking the path beginning. Just up from the arch gate is the booth taking 3euro entry fee.






The first viewpoint up just a few steps and just over the roof tops gave me the chills, and I knew the next 1 1/2 would be one of more memorable special times of this entire trip




I began my journey up the 1308 steps. Having hiked before, I find it right away to be more difficult on the quads to take the steps rather than walk normally heel/toe up the uneven rocks, you just have to be careful with your step. I've read reviews that some people took over an hour to get up to the top, so I was determined not to use up my camera battery on lower photos but to get up to the top and then make my way down at a more leisurely pace.




A third of the way up is a church with an incredible view. I could not resist the risk of using up more camera battery power here....





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I'm really stoked now as I can't believe the beauty I was witnessing of the surrounding mountains, the bay, just everything! I wanted to spend a good amount of time at the top simply enjoying my time up there with no rush, so I was more determined now to make it up in good time.




There are many picture postcard type of view spots of the fort structure and old wall itself, with plenty of porticos, lookout "windows", cannon turrets, etc. Doesn't matter where you turn it's beautiful no matter which way you look.






Making your way up the steps, through the fort structure, up all those loose rocks and uneven steps, I finally made it to the top in about 35 minutes!





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Need I say more?....













I have a "signature" photo for each one of my cruises that is pretty much the best photo I took, and also defines my favorite activity or place ... this is the one, which I also provided at the beginning of this review



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I spent a good hour up there, just sitting and looking out, people watching, and climbing in & out of all the stairs and crevices of the fort to see what else I can find. But with all aboard time quickly approaching I felt that I needed to start making my way down. I took more photos on the way down than up as my camera battery had been getting too low earlier and I wanted to ensure I had enough power at the very top. These photos you can really see the height and steepness of the wall and pathway up the hill. There were a whole lot of people huffing and puffing bent over on their knees at various spots... unfortunately this climb is impossible for anyone with mobility problems or with the inability to navigate over extremely uneven terrain.










Again, 1/3 of the way up at the church




And now almost all the way down, just a few steps to go, with the Serenade peaking over the rooftops on the top right.



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It was about an hour before all aboard, so making my way past the entrance of the path....




...I headed to the beginning of Old Town at the main Square. From here there's also access to the old wall at the front of the Old Town itself. So I headed up there to explore and to get a viewpoint. Here's a shot down the side of the wall separating the Old Town from the newer area with the moat in between




Here here are two shots from the wall looking away from the mountains overtop the main gate of Old Town looking over at the pier. I like the shot of the flags with the white UNESCO flag clearly seen




And here you can see that the Seabourn Spirit has moved from it's earlier anchoring site up the bay and is now just pulling in and docked on the pier.




Back to the tender pier we go, and with all aboard quickly approaching, the tender line was again long... and again like Corfu the day before, the line at first seemed ridiculously long but very quickly shortened as the tenders do take a lot of people.





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Getting back on board, I immediately went to my cabin to chill a little before sailaway and plug in my dead camera! I picked up the Compass and remembered that the 3rd and final Thriller practice was today, and pretty much right after sailaway... a real tall order to miss being up on the helipad for the next hour as we made our way out of the fjord, but I decided I was "all-in" for Thriller and I wouldn't miss it. I made my way to the helipad to take some final pictures as Capt Anders fired up Serenade to leave Kotor.






Here's a zoom of the wall and Old Fort I had climbed just a short couple of hours before... great memory!




Good bye for now Kotor... I want to come back some day for sure!





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We practiced Thriller for a good hour to finalize what we learned and all went our separate ways for dinner. With Thriller to be performed in the Centrum at 8pm, we were to meet at 7:30 to put on 'scary clothing' and make-up. I rushed through dinner and excused myself from the table... I told waiter Danny that I had to go for Thriller and I think he didn't believe me... he was out there in the hallway outside the MDR to see me walk by, laughing at me lol!! We all got together in the RC Online area where Deb was handing out white and black make-up as well as "bloody" rags for clothing.








And here I am




Of course I had to head out in the hallway and scare a few of my friends from behind! We got into character as we walked around the elevator area to the other side in order to get into place, funny, lots of fellow cruisers wanted to jump in front of us to get pictures with us. I did not get a video of this and was hoping that one of the cruisers dancing her partner had video'd the event, but I haven't seen an email from her yet. I was told we did pretty good, so I'd love to see the video and there was a big crowd lined up on all the decks.





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As soon as Thriller was over, a few more people wanted to chat and have pictures, and RCL singers Whitney & Ryan performed a short set to amp everyone up for the upcoming White Night Party. They sang various songs of each decade from the 60's through to the 90's. I quickly cleaned up in my stateroom and headed tro meet up with my friends in the Tropicale Theatre where well known popular Italian singer Marco Romano performed.... he was incredible! Friend R told me later that activity staff Emanuella (an Italian) is friends with him and was instrumental in getting Marco to perform for the first time on a cruise ship. Definitely top-notch.










Once the show ended, it was time to gather in the centrum for the White Party. It was well attended and a really good time. This was well attended and really great time




Vortex started early this evening as they continued the White Night immediately up there. With Venice sail-in not until approx 1pm next day this turned out to be a very busy, very fun and late night up at Vortex. Finally in the early hours it was time for shut-eye so I left Vortex. Still reliving the awesome day I just had and looking over some of my photos on my camera, I was ready for a well deserved sleep. Nite nite zzzzzzzzzzzz

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Great review and pictures! Thanks so much -- I know a tremendous amount of time and effort went into this!

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Thx Cindy... very much appreciated.


Opening up my email this morning my CC pal & ex-colleague Marlene emailed me. I had forgotten that we hijacked one of the professional photographers that we passed by during the Thriller performance and had a photo shot of us... She bought and scanned it over to me. Pretty funny looking at nicely dressed photos of everyone else in the photo shop and then coming across this one mixed in :D




Lol!! I forgot to mention that Kotor evening was formal night, so we were dressed appropriately for MDR :rolleyes::p

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Fantastic!!! Love the thriller photos, looks like so much fun. I really liked the pictures from your tour and journey up to the old fort.


Looking forward to the rest :)

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Not having to be top side until this afternoon for sail-in to Venice, I was able to sleep in and look forward to a great workout. After my Machiatto, morning chat with CL Mario, and my usual breakfast up at Windjammer aft deck 11, I was ready for an easy morning... except we were told by Deb yesterday during our Thriller rehearsal to look out for Flash Mob practice today before Venice. Looking at the Compass it started at 11am. We practiced for close to an hour with only 12 participants showing up, and most of the "regulars" from Thriller.


Once done with Flash Mob, I grabbed my camera and went top deck. I wanted to pick a perfect spot for picture taking whereby I was viewing forward but could also have side starboard side views when we pass by St. Mark's square. After checking out various spots while no one was standing at the railings I picked the very forward starboard corner of deck 12, immediately beside the water fountain outside of the gym. Here I would have a great unobstructed view forward on approach and also starboard side... 10 feet back from this point or forward as the railing corners around to the top of the bridge and I would lose quite a bit of ability to take great shots.


First shot of the day is below... I found it interesting how much air traffic was flying above us with all the entrails left as proof. This continued right through to Venice




At the above point, we were just starting to make out Venice in the very distance, so instead of walking the ship and checking things out I just decided to chill out there for the next hour and a half and watch the entire sail-in unfold in front of me.


The ship sailed north, a very distant Venice on the port side as we passed, and then we came to a series of buoy markers the ship had to follow. The "Pilota" also appeared around this time. Capt Anders announced we had probably about a 30 minute sail into the breakwater and then another 30 min past St. Mark's and into the port. I was ready!!! Here we are approaching first land.




The above photo shows where they are building the new locks that will act as a dyke so to speak. The word is they will also try to decrease the amount of cruise traffic into Venice by limiting the size of ships allowed. Here's a close-up as we passed one side of the locks... they really don't know if/when this will be completed.




The bigger news is they are preparing a southern entry into the cruise port of Venice whereby you would never see St Marks or the Canal ever again by cruise ship... you'd miss it outright. This may happen within the next few years. If you are planning a visit ti Venice by cruise ship as a bucket list item, put it on your plate soon!






As we inch closer, one of the tugs meets up with us. None of the cruise ships are allowed past this point without a tug tied to rope in front, and another tug at back... just in case a ship loses power or who knows what they would be there to prevent the incredible damage (and likely loss of life) this ship of ship would do if it were to plow into land



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