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Justin

Age: 22

Occupation:Travel Agent

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Serenade of the Seas

Sailing Date: October 28th, 2003

Itinerary: Cruise To Nowhere

I was invited to take part in a travel industry only preview of the Serenade Of The Seas that sailed out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a 2 day Cruise to Nowhere before she relocates to San Juan for the season. After just getting off this morning I've had time to think about the great stuff on board, and the not so great stuff.

This was my first time cruising with Royal Caribbean, as I've previously done Carnival and Princess. I was very impressed with some of the aspects of the ship when comparing it to the other two.

Embarkation
Embarkation was a breeze, we just arrived, parked, got on a trolley, and checked in, which only took a minute. It was probably easier than normal though because it was all travel. Once on the ship we got to admire the immense lobby and great lobby bar. Though the lobby bar did get very crowded at times (the entire cruise was open bar, and I'm sure RCL lost a LOT of money on this, as people drank a whole lot in just two days). The ship itself was very very nice. I especially liked the movie theater, sports bar, stain glass decorated Casino Royale, Tropical Theater, and mini-golf course/rock climbing wall area. The high point though absolutely had to be the Solarium, which was incredible! Absolutely stunning set up, with vines and jungle like atmosphere all around you.

I also liked that the lifejacket muster drill took place before the ship sailed, unlike Carnival, which waits until the ship leaves port.

Dining
My travel company had a cocktail party in the karaoke bar, which was really nice, and then dinner in Chops and Portofino. We had a standardized menu in both though, not the regular Chops/Portofino fare. We got to choose between Cajun Salmon and Veal chops and dessert was either Tiramisu or Raspberry Cheesecake. Everyone at my table had the Salmon, which was great and the Tiramisu was some of the best I've ever eaten. Lunch at the windjammer was the normal Buffet stuff, which was ok, not great. Windjammer lunch was better day one than two.

Day two we had dinner in the Reflections dining room, which is very nice. Good decor, and good service. (We had Juanito from I can't remember where) The menu was a little disappointing choice wise however. Beef tenderloins, sesame Salmon, Vegetable pastry puff, Duck Alaronge, or some chicken thing...Had the duck (very very very good, definitely recommended), Lobster bisque (kinda plain, little spicy), and for desert Strawberry Cheesecake (little dry, heard the cheesecake in chops was fantastic though.) I missed the midnight buffet, and lunch and breakfast in the dining room. Omelettes in the windjammer for breakfast were quite tasty however.

Entertainment
Caught the shows both nights...First night saw a juggler comedian, and a comedian juggler...the first performer (Chris Matthews I THINK...Don't quote me on that) was hilarious, and the second performer Chris Bliss was not too funny. His grand finale interpretive juggling act was cool though. Cruise director Alan was very good from what I saw, which wasn't much, but I'm sure on a normal length cruise you would see more of him. Second nights show "Vibeology" was phenomenal, with dancing and singing to rearranged pop music... Even had some fireworks! Nobody missed a beat either, the show was flawless and cool. Pretty innovative for a cruise ship I thought. There was no pre-show entertainment in the form of bingo or anything though, which again might be due to the length of the cruise. After dinner entertainment included Karaoke on the lounge next to the schooner Bar which is always funny, and dance club Vortex at the top of the ship, which was really cool. The DJ wasn't too great, but the bar was neat, because it spun! I also checked out the arcade a few times, which had some pretty good games and air hockey (if you check out the Time Crisis 2 machine in the arcade and look at the high scores, I hit number one and three, initials JAK!)

Final Thoughts
The ship itself was really nice, though I do like ships better with a more promenade like area. Everything here was more spread out by decks. The food choices weren't very good, but what I had was pretty good. The pizza place has some interesting choices (I tried smoked salmon pizza), and is located right in the Solarium. You'll never go thirsty on this ship either with its 11 bars, and coffee bar. I also liked how there was internet access in three separate areas on the ship, so you could usually find a computer free. It was strange cruising without one child on board, but the kids and teen rooms (teen room especially) were very nice, and the children's pool was really cool and imaginative. I'd definitely book people on this beautiful ship, but I'd probably try out a Voyager class ship before I'd do Radiance Class again. Seems like there's more to do on Voyager Class ships. As a note, they did inform us that after RCL accepts shipment of the last Radiance ship, Jewel of the Seas next year, they are taking a break from shipbuilding for about a year before they unveil the new ULTRA-VOYAGER class...Can't wait for that one! No other details now, but I figure to top what they already have they might be shooting for 200,000 tons. If anyone has any questions about the Serenade or other cruises, feel free to E-mail me!

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