Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Serenade of the Seas
Sailing Date: August 22nd, 2004
Itinerary: Alaska Inner Passage
We have just returned from the Alaska Inner Passage cruise on the Serenade of the Seas, August 22-29. Before I even start, I would like to say, that before I left, I had read some negative comments about the trip and the ship on this website and other cruise review websites and felt that they were not true at all. This is a great trip!!!!!!!! And a great ship!!!!!!
Our trip was comprised of 3 families (6 adults and 7 kids). The kids were all between 6 and 11 years old and all had a great time. We flew to Vancouver on the Friday before the trip. I have never been to Vancouver and was very impressed, it is a great city. There are mountains and water and all right there. We stayed at the Westin Bayshore which is very nice. It has an indoor pool, which was good for the kids and is adjacent to Stanley Park, which is the equivalent to the Central Park of Vancouver. From the Westin, you can easily walk to Robson and Denman Streets, where there are a lot of restaurants and shopping. We also took the sea ferry and bus trip to Grouse Mountain which was great. They have a neat lumber jack show and other activities at the top of the mountain. You can even see the two orphaned bears that they are training to go back to their natural habitat. After the cruise, we took a day trip to Whistler, which is a 2 hour car ride from Vancouver. Whistler is a great place with a lot of outdoor activities, hiking, biking, luging and a village to walk around (similar to Vail village). We even saw several bears from the gondola as we went up the mountain.
Back to the cruise. I had read other reviews and followed the advice about arriving at the pier early. We left the hotel around 10:15am and arrived at Ballantyne Pier at 10:30am. You will have to wait in some lines, but you will be in the second group to board the ship and you should be on by 12:05pm. The customs officials do not come on until noon and that is when they allow the first group on. The first group will always be the Crown and Anchor member (15 or more cruises). We were in the next group.
TIP: arrive at the pier early. The lunch buffet is ready and you will have a lot of time to explore the ship.
As soon as you walk onto the ship, they will give wristband bracelets to the kids so that they will know where they need to be in case of an emergency. Our group all had cabins on deck 10. The cabins are pretty small, but still nice. We had balconies which was nice, especially for whale watching. The junior suites are a bit larger that the regular balconies and had a nice walk-in closet and a bath tub. They are still a bit tight for a family of 5.
FOOD: we found the food to be very good overall. We had a terrific waiter and assistant waiter (bizu and Neisha) and they took very good care of all of us. We had originally booked reservations at Portofino and Chops, the other restaurants, but ended up canceling because we enjoyed the food and service in the main dining room. The breakfast is better in the main dining room than the buffet (if you are not in a rush) to leave on an excursion. The windjammer buffet is open pretty much all day. You can always stop in for a drink or snack. A few times we took the kids to get dinner at the Windjammer at 6:30, if they did not want to come to the dining room for our 8:30 seating.
SPA: the spa was good, not great. They charge $10 for a lot of the classes, which is annoying and then the instructor has you sign and they want you to add a gratuity to the $10. The spa services were good and it was pretty easy to book appointments. Especially since we were on board right after noon. The best class was the yoga classes. The pilates was a little lame and the spinning was ok.
TIP: Board early and go to spa to book appointments (if you want any). Also, the last day at sea, they had a spa special. You could have 2- 25minute services for $79, a pretty decent value.
Pools: There are several pools on board. 2 out of 3 are salt water. Only the kids pool is fresh water. The kids did enjoy the water slide at the kids pool. They allow the kids to swim in the indoor (adults only) pool in the solarium from 12-4 most days. This is nice on days at sea, especially if the weather is poor. The slide was only open certain hours though.
Rock Wall: get there early, there will be a long line. All the kids did the wall and some of the adults too and enjoyed it.
Game Room: there is a decent game room with air hockey and other games on deck 12 near the kids club. Our kids enjoyed being in there.
Adventure Ocean: is the kids club. It seemed to be a nice program, although our kids thought it was boring and would rather wander around the ship.
Excursions: In Skagway, we had signed up for the Float and Fjord trip. They take you by bus to a place about 30 minutes away, give you a pretty gross lunch and then you take a 1.5 hour float trip through some fjords. The float part was lot of fun. Our guide on the bus was a bit “rough” and was preaching about not eating farm raised salmon the entire time on both bus rides
In Juneau, we did the whale watching trip which was great. We saw some humpback whales as well as a pod of Orca whales. We also were able to see about 100 sea lions lying around on a small island, which was really neat. That was in the morning and in the afternoon, most of our group did the helicopter trip to mendenhall glacier. I did not go on the helicopter trip, but those that did really enjoyed it and seeing the glacier and walking on it.
In Ketchikan, it supposedly rains almost every day. The day we were there was no exception. Most of our group did the back country jeep and canoe trip. They said it was not great. I stayed on the ship and got off and walked around and picked up some souvenirs in the town.
Hubbard Glacier and Misty Fjords are both spectacular experiences. You do not want to miss being out on the deck to see them the entire time the ship is there. There are many great places to see the glacier and the fjords from. Seeing the ice calving on the glacier is amazing.
-The ship is a beautiful ship! Lots of glass and very modern.
-The bingo was a rip-off ($35 for 5 games)
-the soda club was a rip off too (just drink water and/or iced tea)
-definitely do a whale watching trip and a helicopter ride to the glacier
-be out on deck to see the hubbard glacier and misty fjords (they are just awesome)