Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Serenade of the Seas
Sailing Date: October 4th, 2003
WHO ARE WE?
Noreen - 35 years old; First Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. I will be the author of the report.
Paul (my husband) - 35 years old; soon to be small business owner.
We have a beautiful Akita named Kiki who cannot join us on our cruise (too bad they don’t allow dogs).
Paul and I went on our first cruise in May 2003 on Voyager of the Seas. Prior to that, I was leery of cruises thinking I’d feel trapped on a boat and bored. I love to be busy all day and our trip on Voyager proved that there are tons of things to do on a cruise. We booked a balcony cabin for that cruise and upgraded at the pier to the owner’s suite. We had a great time and decided we definitely want to cruise again.
Paul is in the process of possibly buying a small business. With that going on, we weren’t planning to take any other vacations this year. Normally, we would do two trips of at least a week in length and several long weekends away.
Driving down the West Side Highway on my way to work every day, I would pass the NY pier and see various cruise ships there. I was always looking to see what ship it was and how they looked; which is probably not the smartest thing to be doing while in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic.
I found out about great deals (Happy Hour Specials) on Serenade of the Seas for prices that were too low to pass up. This is a shorter cruise of 6 days and it leaves out of New York (so we don’t have to worry about air fare). These deals need to be booked within pretty short notice of the ship’s sailing date.
The Serenade Itinerary is as follows:
Saturday – Leave from NY
Sunday – At Sea
Monday – St John’s New Brunswick
Tuesday – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Wednesday – At Sea
Thursday – Return to NY
It also sometimes leaves on Monday and returns on Saturday; then sometimes also has a day shorter cruise leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday. I think the shorter cruise only has one port day.
The Happy Hour specials are as follows for the date we want (10/4/03):
Inside - $299 per person – total of $640.50 including taxes and port charges
Outside - $359 per person – total of $760.50 including taxes and port charges
Balcony - $449 per person – total of $940.50 including taxes and port charges
On Tuesday 9/16/03 I spoke with the Travel with dinner until around 10:30 so we’re going to try the early seating this time.
We live in Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) so will drive into the city for the cruise. Since I drive to work every day (I work downtown) and pay monthly for a parking spot, we will drop the car off at my lot by my office and take a cab up to the pier to get on the ship.
We’ve been reading about all the excursions on line as well as through various cruise review websites. I think we may try going on our own this time. I’d like to see the Reversing Falls in New Brunswick. I’d like to see Peggy’s Cove and the Citadel and the Harbour Hopper in Halifax.
Anyone who has a pet knows how difficult it is to take a vacation and leave their furry family member home. We’re very lucky in that Peter (a friend of ours) loves Kiki as much as we do and when we go away he dog sits / house sits for us. It works out for all of us in that Kiki is happy since she’s in her own home with someone who loves her, we don’t stress over Kiki not being cared for, and Peter gets to spend time with Kiki, have parties at our house, and make some extra money [we wouldn’t ask him to do this for free].
DAY BY DAY
The week before our trip
I was busy at work leading up to the trip.
The day before our trip – Friday 10/3/03
Nothing out of the ordinary – just busy at work.
I worked until about 7:45 (long day since I was there since 7:15 that morning) but I wanted to wrap everything up before leaving.
We left the house approximately 11am. We arranged for our friend Peter to stay at our house while we were gone to dog sit / house sit so we knew Kiki would be in good hands. He loves her as much as we do.
We made good time driving until right before the pier where traffic backed up. Since we booked less than three weeks prior to sailing we did not have official documents, just electronic documents and no luggage tags. We were supposed to pick them up at the pier. When we arrived, Paul mentioned this to the luggage person who pulled us up in their computer, and asked how many tags we needed and gave them to us. Paul stayed at the pier after they took our big suitcase and he took his carryon while I drove downtown to park the car at my lot by my office, then jumped in a cab back to the pier for about $10. I arrived back at the pier at 12:40.
Check in was really quick. There was no line at all. We walked through the queue that was set up (in case there was a line) right to the front and were directed to the check in person. Most of them were free. The check in system seemed much more organized than the Miami pier. We gave our credit card, showed our ID and were given our seapass cards. They were pre-printed so the check in person just pulled them from the bin behind their station. We were ready to board less than 10 minutes from the time I arrived at the pier.
We decided to stop at the pier coordinators desk to inquire about upgrades. This line took about 15 minutes. The woman that we went to had an attitude. The ship was not full. They had upgrades available to a balcony room for $500. We decided it wasn’t worth it. We paid $400 in May to go from a balcony to and Owner’s Suite for a 7 night cruise. I couldn’t see spending $500 to go from an inside to a balcony for only 5 nights. So we kept our inside.
We walked right on the ship, only stopping to take the embarkation photo. There wasn’t a line for this either. Then we were on the ship.
We found our cabin #8573 and went in. I was pleasantly surprised. Although it’s small, it is laid out very well. Every inch of space is well utilized. Paul was not as happy with the room as I was. Mark (our cabin attendant) stopped by and introduced himself. We asked him to empty the refrigerator as we brought our own water and soda. They ship has Evian bottled water which we do not like – we like Poland Spring so we brought our own. We also brought a 12 pack of cans of Coke to have in our room.
I read through the daily compass and found something odd. We need to move our clocks ahead one hour tonight. I found this strange since on prior cruise, we stayed on ship time even when the ports had different times.
We headed up to the Windjammer for lunch then wandered around exploring the ship. It’s beautiful and elegant. As we were walking around, many times there wasn’t any one else around. Our only comparison is Voyager of the Seas. This ship is definitely smaller. We wandered all over the ship, but are having a little trouble finding our way around – we kept running into dead ends. But it’s only our first few hours on board, we’ll find our way around before too much longer.
Muster was at 4:15. It was much more comfortable to be standing on deck in a life preserver in 55 degress rather than the 90 degrees we stood out in Miami on our last cruise. No one seemed to be checking off the cabin numbers of those in attendance. I asked the person who was going to demonstrate how to use the life jackets and he asked our cabin, ran off, then returned. We brought our lifejackets back to the room and continued exploring the ship. There was luggage in front of our room, but it wasn’t ours even though it had luggage tags with our room number. Very odd – we saw Mark in the hallway and told him and he said he’d take care of it.
5pm was sail away. We went out on deck where it was really cold and windy. We sailed past the statue of Liberty. Everyone was outside taking pictures. One couple was very serious about their picture taking and had a tripod and a huge camera.
We have the early seating for dinner this cruise at 6pm. Our luggage still hasn’t shown up so we went to dinner in our casual clothes. It seemed like many others were also dressed very casually at dinner. We are at table 509 which is a small table for 4. We were really worried since it’s only 2 other people and if we don’t like them, we’ll have to change tables. There were several empty/half full tables. Our tablemates showed up – Rachel and Adie from Brooklyn, NY. There are nice and friendly so we were very relieved. They were around our age. The people at the next table was a family of 4 with the parents being around our age and two children.
Our waiter is Alberto and our assistant waiter is Genner – they are both from the Philippines.
For appetizers we both had the Vidalia onion tart. This was good which we knew it would be since we also had it on the Voyager.
Paul had the Tomato Tuscan soup
I had the Spinach salad with Vidalia onion vinaigrette
For our entrees I had the shrimp ravioli and Paul had the Mongolian pork chop
For dessert Paul had Key lime pie and lemon sherbet; I had the low fat cherry apricot compote
For our beverages Paul had iced tea and I had apple juice (with ice).
Many criticize the food, but we were happy with it. The food was good. However, it seems like it’s the same menu that we had on our last cruise.
One thing we noticed, this is definitely an older crowd. I’d say the average age of passenger is in their fifties and many are older than that.
At 7:45pm was the Welcome Aboard Show. There were no seats. We stood for about 15 minutes then left figuring we can see it later on the TV. We saw the cruise director, Allan Brooks, introduce himself and talk about some of the things that would be going on this week.
We went back to our room and our luggage was there so we unpacked to get settled into the room. The big luggage (once unpacked stayed in the corner of the room. The two carryons fit in the closet. I was surprised at how much room there was to put things away. We didn’t even use some of it and we both overpack whenever we go away.
We went to the casino for a little while.
At 10:30 we went up to the Safari club for Karaoke. We ended up talking with the couple at the next table (also about our age) because Paul and John both planned to sing My Way (by Frank Sinatra) so they went up together to sing. Dana came to our table while the guys went to sing. What’s funny is Paul and John both said they were from Brooklyn when asked where they are from. We haven’t lived in Brooklyn in almost 6 years. John has never lived there. Turns out they are from Ridgewood (two towns away from us in NJ). Since they were among the first few singers, they each received a Royal Caribbean key chain and a free bingo card.
At 11:30 we went up to the Vortex (the club) with John and Dana. It was the 70’s show tonight. The Royal Caribbean dancers were there and performed, then people from the cruise director’s staff were dressed up as the Village People and they sang and danced too.
We went to the Casino after the Vortex until they closed at 2am. We were looking for a little snack, but unlike the 24 hour Royal Promenade on the Voyager, there wasn’t anywhere to get a snack now except room service. We didn’t feel like waiting so just went to sleep.
Today is a “Day at Sea”
We slept until about 8:30 (which under the new
ship’s time is 9:30). This is really late for me. I’m a very light sleeper and
the second a bit of light comes in, I’m awake. With the inside room, this wasn’t
an issue and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.
I was worried about showering in the clamshell round shower stalls, but my worries were unfounded. There was plenty of room in the shower. Granted, I did bang my elbows a few times but other than that, it was fine. Paul didn’t find the shower stall as comfortable to use as I did.
We had breakfast at the Windjammer around 10:15. There were no seats inside so we sat outside which was very nice. Breakfast was only served until 10 in the dining room today. We liked the drink stations where you can just stop by and pick up your juice without having to wait for someone to fill the cups for you. Also you can take a few with you to your table so you don’t have to go back for more.
We stopped by Bingo but we weren’t there when it started at 10:30 so we didn’t get cards. We just watched for a few minutes then left. They play Bingo every day so we have time to play another day if we want to.
Paul stopped in the Casino for a little while. I stopped at Guest Relations for our Crown and Anchor coupon book since it wasn’t delivered to our cabin. Many people must have had the same issue since there was a list that people were signing when picking them up. I received two books (one for me and one for Paul). They each had the following coupons: Free Wine Tasting, 5% off in Gift Shop on Logo merchandise, free Bingo jackpot card, buy one get one free cocktail, ?% off spa service, $12 for $10 coin I casino, $5 match play in casino.
We went out to try to climb the rock wall but it was closed due to the wind. We wandered through the shops on board. We stopped at the room and received a notice that we didn’t go to the Muster (which we did) so we stopped back at Guest Relations to tell them. They said not to worry, some people received these notices in error.
At 1:30 I played in the Slot Tournament (this cost $20). I didn’t make it past the first round but it was pretty fun.
At 2 Paul played in the Blackjack Tournament (this cost $20). He didn’t do that great either. He bought in again (another $20) to see if he could do any better, but he didn’t. He still had a good time.
Paul won some money playing real Blackjack instead of the tournament, so he gave me $100 of his winnings which I put on our Seapass account.
We were starting to get hungry but since it’s already 3pm we didn’t want to eat too much since we have dinner at 6. We went to the Seaview Café for a snack. It’s very cute. You order, they give you a number, you find a table, and they will deliver the food to you when it’s ready. We shared an order of fish and chips and nacho chips with guacamole and sour cream. The portions are small so it was the perfect snack.
At 3:30 another round of Bingo was going on so we stopped in there and played the final game only. We didn’t win.
At 4:30 we went back to our room and watched the welcome aboard show on TV.
Tonight is formal night so we got ourselves dressed. Paul wore his suit and I wore a nice pants outfit with a sparkly top. We went down at 5:45 for the formal portraits. We waited about 15 minutes for the first one (with the ship in the background), then figured we’d go to dinner and have the other pictures taken after.
Our assistant waiter remembered our drink preferences and brought Paul iced tea and my apple juice without us asking.
For appetizers I had the escargot and Paul had the shrimp cocktail. We shared
We both had the lobster bisque soup
We skipped the salad
For our entrée Paul had the Duck and the Steak; I had the Vegetable in puff pastry. I didn’t like my vegetable dish so had some of Paul’s steak. After the appetizers, soup, and some tasty dinner rolls, I wasn’t that hungry anyway.
For dessert Paul had the low fat chocolate cake and orange sherbet; I had the strawberry cheesecake.
After dinner, we took the two other formal pictures. One was on the green stairs in the centrum. The other one was in front of this hanging art.
We stopped in the Schooner Bar for Paul to see the football scores.
At 9pm we went to the show “Stage to Screen”. It was crowded again and we couldn’t find two seats together so sat a row apart. The show was very good.
The show ended around 9:45 and we went back to the room to change back into our casual clothes. We headed over to the casino.
At 11pm we went to the Safari Club for Karaoke. Paul sang “My Way” again. We were there until 12:30.
We headed up to the Seaview café for a midnight snack. Paul had the Feathers and Wings (Chicken Fingers and Chicken wings) with fries and a hot dog. I had the Caesar salad. It was very crowded in the Seaview Café at this time.
We went back to the Casino until they closed at 2am, then we went up to bed.
Today we are in St John’s New Brunswick
We received an invitation to a Crown and Anchor party Tuesday at 5:15 in the Safari Club.
We went to the Windjammer for Breakfast at 9:30. It was much less crowded today than yesterday. Breakfast in the dining room was from 7-9 today. The breakfast hours in the dining room are much shorter than those in the Windjammer. Windjammer served breakfast from 7-11.
We were docked at Saint John, New Brunswick so after breakfast we walked off to explore. When exiting the ship, I was given a rose and Paul was given a pin. There were many shops set up right at the pier. It was cool and windy, but bright and sunny out.
We stopped at the tour guide booth to get a local map and get some ideas. We were planning to go to the reversing falls. After speaking with the guide, he basically told us not to waste our time. High tide was at 9:45am so if we went now we wouldn’t see anything except calm water. We took his advice and map and went on the route he suggested.
We walked through Market Square, City Hall, Brunswick Square, City Market, King’s Square, the Old Burial Ground, and Barbours General Store. We took some pictures and bought a few souvenirs. It is a cute quaint town, but we didn’t find that much to do. I’m not a big fan of sightseeing. I don’t mind seeing something, but I don’t need to stand there for much time staring at it. Once I see it, and maybe take a picture or two, I’m ready to move on.
We took some cute pictures when we got back by the ship. I boarded while Paul stayed on the dock. Then he took pictures of me looking out at him. While I was boarding they took someone off the ship on a stretcher. I’m assuming it wasn’t too serious because the patient was yelling at the people pushing her not to let go as they went down the ramp and also at her traveling companion about where some things were in the room. They removed the ramp I boarded from after this lady was taken off so Paul had to get on in a different area. So we met at our room.
We were back on the ship by about 1:30. We took a peek at the dining room menu but decided to head to the Windjammer instead. We had a nice buffet lunch outside. We walked through the solarium after lunch and it was much less crowded than it was yesterday. Maybe later we’ll go swimming. The pool was deeper than we expected – it started at 5’5” and went to 6’?”.
While wandering around the ship we came across the card/game room near the Safari Club. There were a lot of people in here playing. We sat down and played Life. I never played this before and it was fun. We also played a game a checkers. This was a nice way to spend some time. When else would we get a chance to sit and play board games together? When we’re home, we’re always on the go with something to do. We had fun playing.
Around 4pm we went to the Rock Wall. Paul didn’t want to climb but I wanted to give it a try. I was put in my harness and helmet, put on the rock climbing shoes (all this stuff is provided); then started my climb. Paul took a bunch of pictures of me. I didn’t make it to the top, but at least I tried.
At 4:45 we went to Bingo in the Safari Club but we didn’t win anything. We used one of our buy one get one free cocktail cards. I had a Gorilla Fever (banana flavored ice creamy type of drink) and Paul had Captain and Coke.
We went back to our room to change for dinner. The toilet stopped flushing this evening. It was working again by the time we came back from dinner.
Tonight’s dinner was the Italian Feast.
For appetizers we both had the Scallop risotto which was really good
For our entrée I had the Shrimp Scampi and Paul had the lamb and the rigatoni
For dessert I had the angel food cake and Paul had the Tiramisu and Sherbet
At 8 we went to Sports Trivia. Paul had to answer the questions, I’m not a big sports fan.
At 9 was Celebrity Showtime. The celebrity was Bobby Arvon who sang the Happy Days theme song. He’s a singer/pianist/impressionist. It was crowded again and we couldn’t find seats together. I stayed and watched the show while Paul went to the casino. I met Paul in the casino after and we stayed until they closed at around 2am.
Today we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia
We had breakfast around 9:15 in the Windjammer.
9:45 we were off the ship in Halifax. We had to carry our ID as well as our seapass cards in Halifax. There were shops set up right near the pier. At the tourist booth I asked for advice about things to do. I already knew I wanted to do the Harbour Hopper but figured maybe we’d get some other suggestions. Paul wanted to rent a car to drive to Peggy’s Cove. We stopped at the car rental counters but they were sold out (both of them). So we walked down the Boardwalk.
We found the Harbour Hopper place around 10:15 but the 10:30 tour was full. We reserved for 11:30 and wandered around nearby. We went to Nova Scotian Crystal and watched them make vases. We also wandered around in a small mall.
We went on the 11:30 Harbour Hopper tour. This was very fun. It’s an amphibious vehicle that is green and open on top with really big wheels. It starts off giving you a tour of downtown Halifax. Meredith (the tour guide) was very good. We saw the different sites such as the Citadel and the now destroyed public gardens which were damaged during Hurricane Juan two weeks ago. This tour was a good introduction to the area so we’d know where we wanted to wander back to later. After driving around the town, it goes into the water and becomes a boat where we saw other sights we couldn’t see from land. It was very cold on the water. Luckily today I wore a sweatshirt or I would have froze.
The tour was over at 12:45. We took a few more pictures and realized the digital camera suddenly was not working. Not only wasn’t it taking any more pictures but the pictures we’ve already taken were gone. We walked up to the area we passed on the tour where there were a lot of shops and found a Fuji place and bought a disposable camera with flash. We wandered around this main street for a while. We were very upset about the loss of all our pictures. We were going to try to re-take whichever ones we remembered taking around the ship. However, some things we would not be able to re-create (such as the pictures from Saint John). We picked up French fries at Bud the Spud since Meredith (the Harbour Hopper tour guide) raved about them.
We were planning to have lunch at McElvey’s (another recommendation from Meredith) but with trying to find a place to buy a disposable camera and our wandering around Halifax, it was getting late and we didn’t have time to by the time we passed it.
We didn’t find much in the way of souvenirs in Halifax. We did buy the Lobster Chips that I heard about on the Internet.
We were back on the ship by 3:15 (all aboard was 3:30) and we went to Bingo. We used our Crown and Anchor coupon for an extra bingo card.
We tried to retake some of the pictures we remembered. We stopped in the shops again and looked at the ship pictures.
We stopped at Guest Relations to fill out the form to have our gratuities added to our Seapass cards. It came out to $48.75 each.
At 5:15 was the Crown and Anchor get together in the Safari Club. They handed you a glass of champagne as you entered. They came around with various appetizers. The captain spoke about the ship itself and some of the future plans for Royal Caribbean. A few people asked questions.
We went to dinner at 6 – it’s Lobster night.
For appetizers we both had the mushroom with puff pastry
For our entrees we both had Surf and Surf. The menu listed Surf and Turf, but I asked the waiter if I could have Surf and Surf instead and he said yes. I received two lobster tails. Paul asked for and received the same. Paul also ordered the pasta with shrimp.
For dessert I had the Grand Marnier soufflé and Paul had the sherbet.
9pm was the Vibeology Show. This was good, but not as good as the Stage to Screen show – that was the best one so far.
I was cold during the show so after I changed back into my casual clothes/sweatshirt.
At 10:30 we went to the Quest which was held in the Safari Club. We watched but did not participate. It was hilarious.
At 11:30 we went down to the dining room for the viewing and picture taking for the midnight buffet. It’s really an elaborate spread. You aren’t allowed to eat it until 12:30.
Midnight was the late night comedy show with Tim Jones. This was very funny. It wasn’t as crowded as I expected and we had no problem getting seats.
After the comedy show, we spent a little time in the casino. We didn’t want to go to the midnight buffet too early because we heard that the line to get in was huge.
We went down to the Dining Room at 1:15 for the midnight buffet and there was still a line (not that long though). There really wasn’t that much we wanted to pick on. We grabbed two pieces of sushi, a few shrimp and a piece of carrot cake. All the chocolate covered strawberries were long gone. People were loading up their plates like they haven’t eaten in ages. It ended at 1:30 and they dismantled the tables and displays really quickly. By 1:45 everything was gone.
Tonight we had to set our clocks back an hour (we regain the hour we lost the first night).
Today is a “Day at Sea”
We had breakfast in the Windjammer around 10am.
At 10:30 we went to Bingo. We used our second extra Bingo cards from the Crown and Anchor coupon book. Still haven’t won anything but it’s fun anyway.
We stopped at the shops and bought a few souvenirs using our 5% off Crown and Anchor coupon. We also bought some of the pictures taken by the ships photographers as well as another disposable camera.
At 1pm I went to watch the Men’s Sexy Legs competition held in the Safari Club. This was funny.
We took some more pictures around the ship then we went to the casino for a little while.
At 2 we had lunch in the Windjammer.
3pm was the Love and Marriage Show. We went to watch. They were already selling Bingo cards for Bingo at 4pm. Someone has to win the jackpot today. So basically, once you have your seats for Love and Marriage you didn’t have to leave. Love and Marriage was funny. We used our other buy one get one free cocktail cards and had a frozen Peach Daiquiri and a Love Connection (combination of Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and Peach Daiquiri).
Bingo at 4pm was fun but we didn’t win anything. One person won the jackpot of approximately $5,000.
We started doing some packing afterwards. Our vouchers for gratuities were in our room along with the envelopes.
Dinner was at 6pm.
For appetizers we both had the shrimp cocktail and shared the vegetable spring rolls.
We shared a Caesar salad
For our entrees we both had the prime rib and shared an order of turkey
For dessert we both had the banana parfait
I watched the Farewell show at 9pm which had the cruise director, the singers and dancers, and a guest star Reid Belstock. Reid Belstock’s show was physical comedy. He juggled, rode a unicycle and did various physical tricks. We didn’t see much of Allan (the cruise director) during the cruise. He hosted a few events but most times other people from the Cruise Director’s staff did most of the events.
After the show I met Paul in the Casino
Since we are doing express departure (carrying off our own bags) we did not have to leave our suitcases in the hallway before going to bed.
Day to Debark
We had breakfast in the Windjammer around 7:15am. It was pretty crowded, but we found a nice seat outside but under cover as opposed to all the way outside.
They called someone’s name repeatedly for immigration checks, and we were not able to get off until that person appeared.
After breakfast we went back to our room to get our bags. We did the express check out so had all our bags with us and brought them to deck 5 to debark around 8am. By 8:15 we were able to get off. It was a very smooth process and many people chose this option. We handed our immigration form to the person on the pier (they didn’t even ask to see our passports) and we were off and had a number to wait for a cab by 8:30.
It was very smart how they handed you a number for a cab rather than the mayhem that would have ensued if they let people fend for themselves. We were number 113 and they were up to about 85 when we got there. Good thing we carried our own luggage or we would have been much later.
This was the only delay – there weren’t any cabs there. You would think they’d be lined up knowing that the ship came in (and ours wasn’t the only ship docking either). The cabs started trickling in and the line started moving. We were in a cab by about 9am.
We arrived at my parking lot about 15 minutes later but my car wasn’t there. I figured Peter (who was dogsitting/housesitting for us would be at work by now). After a few phone calls, we found out he is on his way and should be here shortly. He arrived about 9:15 and we were on our way. We dropped Peter back off at his office and drove home. We were home by 10:15 to a very excited puppy.
We enjoyed this cruise very much. Sailing out of NY was great. I hope they bring more ships to sail out this way. It was so convenient. I was very pleased with the inside cabin which surprised me since we had an Owner’s Suite on our first cruise. I figured we’d be spoiled for anything less but I found it very comfortable and functional. And a bit of good news – once we got home, Paul was able to recover the pictures taken on the digital camera even though we still don’t know what’s wrong with it. Now we have to decide where to cruise to next…