Jump to content

Serenade Jan 18-28- 10 days South and Central America


Recommended Posts

Hello again, it's been a while as I last blogged probably in 2019 as a platinum and now am on the cusp of Diamond Plus.

This is our first Radiance Class sailing and will try to touch on the how the sailing is going compared to the topics discussed often in the other sections of the boards.

First off. Embarkation was really tough. The coast guard did a thorough inspection that delayed boarding until after noon. Leaving Tampa was a first for us and parking was right in front of the terminal but the chain link fence was closed due to the inspection. Clearly the size of the terminal with limited seating meant people were kept away. Needless to say, some people were up in arms about the start but hey, glad to know the ship was in top shape!

We had the Key for the first time so we enjoyed the sit down lunch and checked bags. It was all fairly smooth.

We do like big ships but the Radiance class does well for it's size. Absolutely Love the tons of outdoor seating for the Windjammer. We do stay away from indoor crowds and this is a very big plus.  Also the lounges seem larger and more open. 

Dinner is still on the old menu and our personal experience with the food and staff is again top notch.  Unfortunately, there are the biggest lines for My time dining I have seen each of the three days. I am not sure what the issue is but it's impossible to get through the fifth floor entrance without weaving through the multiple lines back past the stair cases. It took a day to figure out that the unstaffed 6th floor entrance was the work around. Still, there is much complaining in the halls.

The bottom line is that staffing seems thin but everyone working is doing their very best. It may be that, as mentioned by the CD, over half the people sailing are top tier status, the most for this ship ever and that may be putting additional strain on staff.

Tomorrow, day 4, is a sea day heading to Colombia. I will catch up on  Grand Cayman and other details. Let me know if you have any questions and I will try to answer them. 

Oh- on Serenade, Starlink has put the zoom in Vroom. Speeds around the ship so far are averaging  25 to 40 meg down loads but right now it's at 87

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's been an interesting sea day. Seas are rough heading to Columbia with steady 30 knot winds. It's just below when things get bad so just being low key was enough to get by.  Good news is that the dining room has settled down by day 3 and felt better paced and much less hectic. Isn't that always the case.  It's definitely the most seasoned crowd on board I have seen so the main dinning room remains packed more than any other of my dozen or so cruises. 2100 on board and so far I may have seen 6-8 kids. There are probably more but it feels like the whole ship is in Solarium mode.

Now let's backtrack to the previous stop in Grand Cayman. We free styled our own excursion and walked to the Museum that is housed in the old court house. It was small but very well done. Well worth it for  $8. Also in walking distance is the legislative building and library. After the walk we took a taxi to the public beach on 7 mile beach. ($6 each way). You can rent chairs with an umbrella for $20 and local food vendors are close by.  Really only beer is available there besides the food. You could walk down either direction and eat and drink at the neighboring hotels.  All in all it was a great sunny day exploring and relaxing on our own time. We did all that by 3pm well ahead of the last 4:15 tender. 

I will take some photos tomorrow as we venture to Cartagena and the hop on hop off bus.  Anyone have any experience with that in this city?

Enjoy life!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is as live as I will post.  The seas are broiling as we are now just sixty miles from Columbia.  Not sick but it's like riding a bucking bronco while try to sleep. The balcony door is creaking and moaning and ship is definitely shuddering every so often.  It's kind of amazing the power of the seas!  Hmm, interesting future name. 😀

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Cartagena Colombia - our first time in South America. Well, a city of 1,000,000 is hard to do in just a half day so we left a lot still to do. We did the hop on hop off bus from RC and it was good for the walking tour of the walked city and an overview of the newer area. The recorder narration on the bus was a bit weak. 

In hindsight, we should have stopped off at the museum on the route as the air conditioning would have been welcome. There also is an impressive 16th century fort but there was zero shade to help with the 90 degree weather.  If you like that type of thing go first thing before the heat sets in.  

Also, the terminal is not walking distance to anything so plan on a taxi or a ship excursion to get you going right off.  Enjoy the photos...






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Panama for the win! Compared to our last stop, our excursion was top notch. Yes, Colon is really just a commercial  port but the whole story behind the Panama canal leaves you with a sense that it all makes sense. Of note is that there is the largest duty free zone in the world. Also of note is that in my opinion it looks like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie with the gates and run down stores and streets. I need to learn more about it as no excursions go there and isn't mentioned at all.

Ok, back to us... We went to Panama City via a bus tour, then had a walking tour of the old city, free time and then back over to the canal visitor center at the locks by Colon. The guide for the 7.5 hour trip, Eduardo, was amazing. The knowledge he shared made the time zip by and we felt that we truly experienced Panama. Yesterday in Cartagena,  we felt that the hop on hop off just let us skim over the area and left us wanting. 

A few thoughts before some photos...

80% of the country only speaks Spanish. We felt bad not being able to respond in any meaningful way with many warm and friendly people. 

Our tour guide worked on Serenade of the Seas years ago and thought he would never see the ship again but then we docked today! He mentioned that his time was under Captain Kate.

Others have said it.  The warm chocolate chip cookie tonight was amazing! Kind of made up for the vegan menu already repeating on day 5 and 6 of a 10 day cruise.  

Enjoy the photos and fire away any questions.  Be well










Link to comment
Share on other sites

Costa Rica, the third new port in a row.

Hello again from Serenade which is again, rocking and rolling more than I have experienced in my dozen plus cruises.  It's the same as when we were heading south now that we are heading north so I assume the strong east southeast wind does not play well with ships. Interesting, sailing from Columbia to Panama and then to Costa Rica was almost straight west which was relatively smooth. 

Now back to the port of the day, Lemon, Costa Rica.  It's a very undeveloped port at area so it's straight to parking lot from the pier. Literally you pass a band and 10 steps more you are at the excursion buses. No running the maze of shops. My party easily boarded the bus to the Rain Forest with the tram ride through the canopy. 

It was a busy day there but very well run. The actual bus trip was a adventure as we gained about 1400 feet with the last 40% on narrow dirt roads.  We passed dozen of kids and even adults, all who smiled and waved at us. The bus goes so navigating the terrain that you could really study how people set up there homes and make a life.

The destination had I testing displays scattered around the vast compound with a focus on frogs, insects, reptiles and butterflies.  The guides were extremely knowledgeable and their mission of saving the biodiversity of the rain forest was ever present. It led to a strong feeling of authenticity of the excursion over visiting a place trying to make a buck.

Ship thoughts for today.

We are trending to the Windjammer for dinner as the Serenade has the amazing outside dining space. The view, fresh air, and laid back feel draws us up there more than on any other ship. 

The pools and bars remain quieter than normal as I continue to chalk that up to an older crowd on the ten day trip.

The spa must also be hurting as there are all around the ship with more unique offers. I personally have never massages offered on the pool deck by the minute. One dollar per minute 🙂

That's it for now. I will rode the waves and motion back to sleep.  Enjoy the photos from the excursion!!











Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Great Sea Day

The issues people had the first couple days have melting away and everyone was vibing and chilling today. Below are the observations in no particular order

First ship I remember that organized a guest choir.  What a great idea and we caught their version of Sweet Caroline in the Centrum. It was wonderful.  

I really am enjoying the Radiance class ship. The aft outside Windjammer dining continues to be our spot. 

There nice spots to layout around both deck 12 and 13 that are quieter than other classes due to less machinery buzz than explorer and freedom classes

Back to the windjammer, dinner seems to have less selections than I remember. Maybe cutbacks or maybe just a smaller ship. 

Rock Climbing - First time I ever did it and with encouragement from the staff, range the bell 32 feet off the floor 🙂

The two production shows where great. I would say the performers where 80% on their first contract. Definitely more than I have seen in the past

We got our first glass block and didn't have to ask.

Day 9 and still waiting for those little dessert bites. It's silly but we love them. 

Hey, no 6 dollars in casino play or bingo deals for diamonds.  Thought that was company wide. Did I miss something in the news about that changing?

Finally, movement in the ocean continued until about 1pm until the ship changed heading and had the wind straight a stern. It's been smooth sailing ever since. Enjoy the photos from around the ship. 





Link to comment
Share on other sites


Freestyle in Cozumel

Having been to Cozumel multiple of times we feel comfortable waiting on the weather to make decisions on what to do. The forecast got better the day before so we decided to beach it.  We like quiet and places that don't have dozens of loungers in a row so we decided to give Playa Palancar a chance based on photos and reviews. 

After a Windjammer breakfast, we sailed next to Adventure of the Seas as the fourth ship in port. A $25 taxi ride got us to a quaint beach club. Palancar is not flashy but solid with space to relax.  $12 for two loungers and umbrella with just a $10 minimum was extremely reasonable.  Service was responsive with no need for us to head to the bar or restaurant. 

Observations -

Love the soft serve ice cream machines in the windjammer as I include them in the dessert mix. Made a number of ice cream sandwiches this cruise. 😀

The headliner was the doo whop group. Alley Cats, 4 guys, was one of the best shows we have seen in years. Their stage banter/comedy along with their singing has the packed crowd entertained

Both ATMs being out of service was unexpected. I just wanted a bit more cash for the day but no luck.

While waiting for clearance to disembark it was heartwarming seeing the crew from our ship and Adventure shot out greetings and love to each other as they had worked together from other contracts.

The late sailing time from a port is always welcome.  8pm sail away was perfect for our last port!

Be well everyone!






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry about the videos. There was no apparent way to delete them unlike hotos that have an X on them.  Now on to day 10...  The Last Sea Day. 

Why is it that no matter how long your cruise is, you hit an amazing groove during the last days and want it to go on and on. This was one of those days.

We slept in a bit and caught my brother and sister in-law at the Windjammer for breakfast.  The French-toast has been a winner this week and a long with eggs and fruit made for satisfy meal.  

Next up was the Captain's Corner Q&A.  The Captain went in record that he loves the small ships because of the variety of ports. He said that he gets bored sailing the same  6 or 7 ports over and over again with the larger ships. He can't wait for the World cruise and the challenge of all the ports during the trip. He also shared that the only pilot that takes full command of the vessel is when traversing the Panama canal.  All other times, ultimately the captain has the final responsibility.

The chief engineer mentioned that Radiance class has the most output of power when compared to weight of all classes of RC ships. He feels it's one reason Serenade was chosen to do the World Tour.  Having completed over 3000 natural miles this cruise I can tell you, we booked it many a see day at 23 knots. It was impressive.

The rest of the day was me getting caught in the cruise food vortex where it seems that food swirls around me like a never ending tornado and also trying a few new things.  Best example was learning the basic steps to the Cha Cha with some of the dancers. Great fun!

Some other observations...

This is our last cruise on the old menu.  As a vegan, the current options have some winners and losers but at least there are two options each night. Heading to the new menu means only one option each night. Looking forward to new dishes but worried about lack of choices especially on 10 day or longer itineraries.

All ten days from Tampa down to Panama at 9 degrees north of the equator had amazing Internet. Maybe 2 minutes of no service but the rest of the time was fast enough for full streaming including my sister in-law having a zoom meeting without a glitch. 

Signed up for the Next Cruise by and decide within two months. It's not a big savings but the low deposit plus an extra hundred or two in a discount is better than not doing it.

Enjoyed the Key and for us, it was worth having some skip the line benefits, meals and internet.

Well, will sign off for tonight as I hear the luggage getting picked up from the hallway. Not the best of sounds I have heard this week!

Be well.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Panama Canal is one of my favorites. Approaching the canal I could see about 60 ships of various types hanging out. Costa Rica is a great county to visit. We climbed an active volcano and roasted marshmallows over lava. Add Puerto Vallarta and San Diego along with  a few other stops over about 2 weeks and its a great time.


Thanks for sharing your photos. Brought back memories of good times.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...