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William S.

Age: 60

Occupation:Executive Administrator/City of Louisville, KY

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Serenade of the Seas

Sailing Date: October 17th, 2005

Itinerary: Panama Canal Repositioning Cruise

The Serenade of the Seas arrived in the port of San Diego on Monday, October 17, 2005 for a 12 day cruise through the Panama Canal to begin its Winter cruising from San Juan, Puerto Rico after concluding its Summer sailing to Alaska.

This was Serenade’s annual repositioning to the Caribbean. We arrived in San Diego on Saturday so we could spend some time visiting there. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the Bay, which is right across the street from the cruise ship terminal. The Holiday Inn provides a shuttle from the airport to the hotel saving the cab fare. We had not been to San Diego before and it is truly a beautiful city. There is so much to see and do there that two days is not nearly enough time. However, we did take the two-hour harbor cruise. Be sure to also do the Old Town Trolley Tour. That is a great way to see much of the city and you are able to get off at any stop, stay as long as you want to look around and re-board another trolley that comes by about every half hour.

Be sure to take a stroll through the Seaport Village, lots of quaint shops and restaurants there. Don’t miss taking a self-guided tour on the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit Balboa Park or the Zoo.

Our cruise itinerary was as follows:

Oct. 17, Mon. Depart San Diego 8:00 PM
Oct. 18 & 19, Tue./Wed. At Sea
Oct. 20, Thu. Acapulco 5:00 PM/2:00 AM
Oct. 21, Fri. Depart Acapulco At Sea
Oct. 22, Sat. At Sea
Oct. 23, Sun. Costa Rica 7:00 AM/7:00 PM
Oct. 24, Mon. At Sea
Oct. 25, Tue. Panama Canal 6:00 AM/4:00 PM
Oct. 25, Tue. Cristobal Pier 6:00 PM/11:00 PM
Oct. 26, Wed. At Sea
Oct. 27, Thu. Aruba 9:00 AM/1:00 AM
Oct. 28, Fri. Depart Aruba At Sea
Oct. 29, Sat San Juan, PR 8:00 AM (Disembark)

Quickly, I’ll go through what we did in each port. In Acapulco we went to see the cliff divers. We did the lights and land tour. It was very nice. However, those who went on the dinner cruise and dive tour had a rough time. We could see the boat out in the bay. The water in the bay was very rough and the boat was spinning and rocking. Many visitors got sick and the rough water limited their view of the divers. Because of the bad experience the tour operator refunded everyone’s money. That was nice.

In Puntarenas, Costa Rica we decided on the river rafting tour. What a great time we had. The river is a class I / II so it is not very rough and is great fun for all ages. We saw much wildlife along the way and even though it rained part of the time this is one tour you don’t have to worry about the weather because everyone gets wet. Afterwards they served us a wonderful lunch of stake, fish or chicken. I highly recommend this tour.

Of course, going through the Panama Canal was the highlight of the trip for all aboard. I had been through the canal before back in the late 60’s when I was in the US Navy. My advise to those who want to take a Panama Canal Cruise don’t go on a cruise that departs and returns to the same cruise port. Those cruises only take you through the Caribbean side of the canal and back out. My opinion is that if you don’t go through the entire canal you haven’t seen the Panama Canal. One other note of advice, I would recommend that you get a balcony cabin. All those that had an inside cabin had to be topside to view the trip through the canal. There were several periods of heavy rain that forced most of those on the outside decks to retreat to public locations within the ship.

Ah Aruba! This is one our favorite ports. We’ve been to Aruba several times both on a cruise and spending weeks at a time there. Therefore, we had nothing special planned when we arrived in Aruba. However, there are lots and lots of great things to do there. If you have not been to Aruba before my recommendations besides spending some time in downtown Oranjestad is to take the jeep tour of the island or rent one and go on your own. The windward side (North side) of the island is a sight to behold. That side of the island it is completely opposite from the developed tourist side. In Palm Beach (High Rise Hotels) area there is a walkway that starts behind the Wyndham Hotel that continues all the way up Palm Beach. It is a nice walk to be able to see all the beautiful High Rise hotel properties along the way. Also most of the hotels offer casinos if you’re into that form of entertainment. After all, Aruba is known as the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. Then walk back on the street side to view the beautiful entrances to the hotels. If you wish you can catch a public bus to the High Rise hotels across the street from the Cruise Ship Terminal and ride for $1.25 per person.

Last but not least, we enjoyed the seven days at sea on this cruise. It broke up the cruise very nicely. We were able to relax around the pools and the ship in between making stops at the various port-of-call.

And finally the ship. We have been on other RCI cruise ships as well as a couple of other cruise lines in the past and I can say that we enjoyed each of them. However, I can honestly say the staff on the Serenade of the Seas thus far has been the best of all. Everyone one was exceptionally friendly. Even the maintenance people in their blue overalls would always smile and wish you a good morning/afternoon as they passed you. Our cabin was beautiful as well. Since this was a 12-day cruise we opted for a Grand Suite (#1530) on deck 10. We were glad we did. The food was better then average depending on what you like. We really enjoyed our one night in Chops for a great stake dinner. It was well worth the additional $20 per person. I suppose the only thing that we noticed that we found somewhat annoying was Kirk the Cruise and Entertainment Director. Not that he didn’t do a good job most of the time but he always seemed in a rush before, during and after some of the onboard activities. He never acted as if he had time to talk or any desire to mingle with the guests.

Well that about sums it up. Weather you take a 7-day or longer cruise on the Serenade of the Seas I don’t think the ship or its staff will disappoint you. Happy Cruising!!!!

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