Number of Cruises: 10
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Serenade of the Seas
Sailing Date: February 18th, 2006
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
This was at least my 10th cruise, my
wife’s second and the first time for our 7 year old son.
Our choices were limited for the busy February winter vacation week (we live in New England) and we wanted to do the Southern Caribbean. My wife and I had been on Navigator of the Seas two years prior and I had been on Majesty and Sovereign as well. Our choice came down to Serenade of the Seas or a Carnival ship and the decision was pretty easy…Royal Caribbean is a big giant step above any Carnival ship.
Getting there: We were on a charter flight that Royal Caribbean had arranged. Every passenger on this flight was headed to a cruise ship. We were told at check in to eat ahead of time because there would be no food served. We actually got served a full chicken parmesan meal. The meal wasn’t very good, but we did get food. When we arrived the flight attendant also told us all we had to do was identify our bags on carrousel #2 and then they would be taken to the ship for us. Actually our bags were on carrousel #1 and we had to take our bags with us to a waiting truck outside. The Royal Caribbean staff at the airport in San Juan was disorganized and there were no lines for anyone to wait in. It was just one big mass of humanity. We didn’t get on board the ship till 8:00 pm; too late for dinner but right on time for the muster drill.
Our room (cabin 8527): This was the first time since I was a child that we stayed in an inside cabin. We did this to try and save a little money. We will never make this mistake again. Always go with an outside cabin and one with a balcony is a major plus. Our tiny little inside cabin was not clean, the toilet did not work all the time, not enough storage space and the color on the TV was all messed up (everyone was green, even The Simpsons). Aside from these items the real reason to never get an inside cabin is this: On our first morning we were woken up in the middle of the night by our room steward, or so we thought. When I finally got out of bed to answer the door our room steward, who was very nice and very friendly, asked if everything was ok with us and whether or not we were going to go to lunch. When I looked at my watch it was already passed 11:00 am. The inside cabins are so dark and have no windows. You feel like you are in a cave all the time. It feels like 3:00 AM all the time when the lights are off. With an outside room you will at least get a window and your eyes can see the sun come up and your body can adjust to the fact that it is soon time to get up. After this we slept with the bathroom light on and the bathroom door slightly ajar so we wouldn’t over sleep every day.
The Kids Club was very good and our son loved to go there. In fact, we had a hard time dragging him away from there a few times. The counselors all seem to enjoy playing with and entertaining the kids. The only negative we had on them is they are all very young (probably don’t have children of their own) and don’t have a lot of experience dealing with difficult kids and difficult situations. If kids got into pushing/hitting fights, didn’t listen to them or fought over toys, the parents got written warnings about “your child’s bad behavior”. Three written warnings and your child would not be allowed back. One other minor nuisance about the Kids Club is the location. The only way to get in or out is to walk through the arcade. Imagine picking up a tired youngster late at night and walking them through the arcade. The kicking and screaming of “I just want to play one game” gets tired really fast.
If you have ever been on a cruise before you have probably gotten a towel animal left on your bed by your room steward. This was my wife’s second cruise and we had gotten a towel animal every night on Navigator. Well now that we had our son with us we expected the same thing. It wasn’t until the evening of day 3 that the first towel animal showed up. My wife was actually getting mad that it hadn’t happened prior to this.
One other final note about our cabin; this cabin was toward the front of the ship. The closer your room is to the front of a ship and the higher the deck number the more you feel the ups, downs and sways of the ship. My wife was a little sea sick the first few days, but found some Dramamine to take and settled down after that. I would suggest an outside cabin toward the rear of the ship. Also the Serenade of the Seas is a bit smaller then some of the newer ships and small ships are also bad for feeling the ship moving around.
Barbados. St. Thomas is the place you want to do all your expensive shopping, but we had been there so many times before and we had nothing to shop for, so we just hung out on the ship at this port. The only time we got off was to do the Screamin Eagle excursion. This is a jet boat that goes very fast, you get very wet, it takes about 45 minutes and you also get very cold. I had more fun then my wife and son (they were too busy shivering and freezing) so we probably will never do this again. But it was fun…one time.
St. Maarten had the best beach. I think it was Orient Beach, but I’m not 100% sure on that. You will get harassed by the locals trying to sell you stuff. St. Johns/Antigua had a nice beach too (Dicken’s) but the locals harassing you hear was the worst I have ever seen. You will get bothered every 5 minutes by the locals trying to sell you something on this beach.
At St. Lucia we went on a pirate excursion. I think it was called the Pirates of the Caribbean Adventure. You get to sail on the pirate ship Unicorn (which was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie) to a private beach area for a treasure hunt. This was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend this excursion. The complimentary rum punch was excellent.
In Barbados we did the Atlantis submarine adventure. Our son was a little freaked out about going on a sub under water. We are not really sure why, but he pitched a big fit about not wanting to go on the sub. He eventually got on board and loved it. He wanted to do it again. This was our first time going on one of these subs (they are in every port in the Caribbean) and it was a lot of fun.
The entertainment on board was better then I had expected. There was a performance by a former lead singer of the 80’s rock band Foreigner and a very good magic show too.
Other items and notes about the ship I would like to tell you about. This ship was only 3 years old when we sailed on her, but she looks much worse for wear and tear. The hours of the rock climbing wall and kid’s pool slide were limited. They need to expand the hours on both of these. None of the hot tubs have jets, which in our opinion is a must. The hot tub in the Solarium is very disappointing. The staff in the Spa needs to tone down the hard sell. After every massage (my wife and I both had two each) we got the hard sell to buy there very over priced lotions and oils. If you are smart you will never buy any of this stuff. Also I got shorted by 10 minutes on one of my hour long massages. The onboard photographer (male) was not experienced, too slow and didn’t know how to handle kids during the formal photo opportunities before dinner.
Overall we had a great time and generally the entire staff, especially our wait staff in the dining room, was very friendly.
My only comment about the food is this; we liked it. Every person has different tastes and different foods they like and dislike. A flavor I may love is a flavor you may hate. So don’t take anyone opinion about food too seriously, except your own of course.
We are still big fans of Royal Caribbean ships and we plan on going on the Freedom of the Seas in 2007. We will likely never go on this ship again, and we will certainly never stay in an inside cabin again either.