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Serenade 3/30/18 10 night Eastern Caribbean


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Day 4 - St Thomas There is no easy way to put this, this post will be photo intensive.  Sorry @Matt, in the immortal words of Roy Sheider's character in Jaws... "We're going to need a bigger boat

IT'S CRUISE DAY!!! Disclaimer - @SaltyNavyCruiser15 started a live blog a few weeks ago but out of respect I'm trying to avoid taking over his post and starting this.  I'm hoping they continue to

Day 8 - St Maarten continued... This afternoon's excursion would be on the catamaran 'Swept Away' which is why this excursion was called "Swept Away Coastal Cruise".  We met on the pier and guest

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Day 4 - St Thomas Departure

I had a 6pm MTD reservation but decided to skip it in favor of the sunset.  Not a bad decision as it turns out.

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It started out pretty great but as the sun went down further it got a bit better.

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Looking back towards St Thomas with the Windjammer Al Fresco seating area:

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At this point the sun was below below the horizon but it begin to illuminate the clouds and I just couldn't stop taking pictures.

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As it became darker the colors became more vibrant.

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Show nearly over, I grabbed one more photo with the deck 12 slide in the foreground.

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These were all taken with an iPhone 8.  I think they turned out okay.

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Day 4 Dinner Menu:

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After missing my reservation on account of the sunset, I headed to the MTD no reservation line at around 7:30pm.  It was pretty busy and they were handing out pagers with a lot of people waiting. 

I decided to make it a Windjammer dinner night and discovered it was Greek night.  As I walked around the WJ food sprang onto my plate.  Before I knew it my plate was full.

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Yum.

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Day 5 - St. Croix

St. Croix is the largest US Virgin Island but not as populous as St. Thomas where the capital of the USVI is located.  I've always liked St. Croix because it isn't the same as St. Thomas.  I like the fact it isn't as commercial and it's more relaxed here. 

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I think it's the lack of a Diamond International store glaring you in the face or being forced to make your way through a maze of stores selling foreign made trinkets which are the exactly the same as the last port that differentiates the St Croix experience. 

Lacking that desire to force people through the maze means that excursions can pickup and drop off right at the ship.

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There is a free pier shuttle bus that just runs up and down the pier.

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Today I needed to get some work done so I just self-explored around the port area.

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Fort Frederick

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It does appear some trees have lost some vegetation but it's starting to come back.

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They had the street blocked off for pedestrian traffic only and some vendors were set up.

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Something that really struck me about the vendors here is how relaxed and easy going they all were.  There was no attempt to entice you or drag you into their tent, no hard sales pitch.  It was very refreshing and very enjoyable to stroll around without any of the usual 'harassment' that occurs in so many ports.  You could approach, look around, say 'good morning' and it was all very pleasant.

Time and again the merchandise was locally crafted and the person who made it was usually right there to talk about it.  Having visited so many other ports I've built up an immunity that usually involves avoiding eye contact, moving quickly, showing no interest and politely repeating 'no thanks' over and over again.  It was so refreshing to not require any of that today. 

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I didn't make it over to the beach area right next to the port but from a distance I could see people using that area.

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This end of the island doesn't show the level of damage from hurricanes although you can see a few blue tarps on some roofs along the coastline.  Talking with some of the vendors they confirmed it was more of a rain event with flooding than it was the wind event that St Thomas and St Johns had to deal with.

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Several miles up the coast I could see more beaches and jet skis playing in the water.

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Sadly I did have to get some work done today but this view is a lot better than my office back home.

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It was a very enjoyable experience and I really got the feeling the locals were all happy to see us and were very welcoming.  I'd like to return one day soon and be able to try some excursions beyond the port area.  It doesn't have the hustle and bustle of St Thomas or many other ports and I think that is a good thing.  I'd like to come back before it becomes too popular with cruise ships and it loses it's slow, relaxed charm.  

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Day 5 Dinner

MDR Menu

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Tonight however I will be in eating in Chops Grille.

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Dinner starts of with some fresh bread, very good.

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I ordered both a Wedge Salad and a Shrimp Cocktail

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Both very good.

Unfortunately this is where service slowed down and I stared at this for 45 minutes:

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Finally my 9 oz. Filet arrived.  It was very good and cooked perfectly.  Sides were Mac & Cheese and Grilled Jumbo Asparagus.

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While the food was great, service was not very good as illustrated by my empty water and wine glass that were never filled or offered to be during my time in Chops Grille.

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This is the first time I didn't tip anything extra in a specialty restaurant.  The food was very good but the service is not what I expect when I am paying for a specialty dining experience.  This marks my fourth visit to Chops over the past few months.  It seems I am either destined to have great service but poor food (Freedom) or great food but poor service (Anthem twice and now Serenade).  

I realize this is the new cruise experience - paying more above the cruise base fare for a better dinner experience but what I'm finding is the value isn't there for me if the food and/or service is sub-par.  I'm considering cancelling my 4 night dining package on Symphony but I'm going to take some time and think about that before I do.  Jamie's on Anthem was twice a great experience  with great food and great service so there is hope and my experience there is the only thing holding me back from giving up on specialty dining.

I try not to post negative reviews like this but I can't in good faith tell people to pay extra for this experience.  If my family was about to sail on Serenade I'd have a hard time recommending Chops Grille.

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Day 6 - Martinique

The morning starts of with our approach to Martinique and a double rainbow.

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We arrived to the pier downtown next to a Seabourne ship.  Martinique is very developed as Caribbean nations go.

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I spotted a ship in the distance and could faintly see a Viking Crown Lounge.

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Jewel of the Seas would be joining us today.  She is a sister ship to Serenade of the Seas.

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Today's excursion will be "Beach and Snorkel" booked through Royal Caribbean.  I'll post photos of that excursion next.

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Day 6 - Martinique

Beach and Snorkel (offered by RC)

The excursion group met in the theater and we were led down the pier to a boarding area right off the pier.  We never had to leave 'security' or use the general pier area for beach ferries that anyone can use.

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Our excursion begins sailing across the bay from Fort-De-France.  Our guide informs us it will be a 40 minute trip to the first stop.

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We arrive at out first snorkel stop. 

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It was formerly a fisherman's village and some of the original small fisherman houses still standing are made of conch shells.

One note about this excursion.  'Beach and Snorkel' isn't so much about beach as it is about snorkel.  While we did get to see a beach, it isn't really a beach excursion.  You could swim in to the beach if you chose to, or snorkel.  This was as close as we got to the beach.  No one chose 'beach'.

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In the middle of this bay it is prime turtle territory and while some people reported seeing them, I ventured towards the edge of the bay where there is more coral hoping for better marine life.

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The water was full of small fish and my pictures are not doing this area justice.

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There was a lot of small marine life to see but it wasn't the best snorkeling I've experienced but heck, its the ocean.  It's not a stocked fishing pond where they can guarantee marine life from day to day.

Closer to land is where I spent most of my time enjoying the coral and marine life in that area.

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In the distance to the right is Fort-De-France and the ship.

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Forty five minutes here before we boarded the boat to head to 'The Bat Cave' 10 minutes away.

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Carved into the rock is a cave loaded with bats.  It's hard to see in this photo but we were able to swim right into the cave and there were hundreds of small bats above us.  The GoPro has a fisheye wide angle lens and it's not the best camera to use to see the bats but it is waterproof so...

You can sort of see them in the fork to the right as small white and dark spots clinging to the rock ceiling.

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They warned us that this area does usually have some jelly fish.  The good news is the small ones with four dark spots don't sting and are very safe.  The other news is that there are sometimes even smaller cousins that can cause a mild sting.

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These were actually quite beautiful and mesmerizing to watch.   They were everywhere around us.  It was very fascinating to watch them and this picture doesn't do them justice.  As suggested the smaller cousins do have a slight sting effect but thankfully it only lasted a minute then was gone. 

To reach the bat cave I jumped off the front of the boat due to a large number of snorkelers aggregating towards the back of the boat.  Apparently a number of them jumped in, felt the tingle of a jelly fish and immediately in mass most of the boat's passengers returned to the safety of the boat.  That's unfortunate because the stings I felt were very slight and quickly went away.  They were not like a jelly fish sting on the Florida coast.  I'd have no issue jumping in again given the opportunity.

Back on board they began serving more than just water and juice now that snorkeling was over.

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Choices were light rum, dark rum, spicy rum and rum punch.  I sampled several and all were good. In fact they tasted like 'more'.

In the distance you can see Serenade and Jewel along the shore as we made our way back across the bay towards Fort-De-France.

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They really should remove 'Beach' from the title of this excursion.  I couldn't see trying to swim to the beach.  Snorkeling was good but not great.  The bat cave was a cool experience and I am glad I did this excursion.

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4 hours ago, twangster said:

Day 5 Dinner

MDR Menu

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Tonight however I will be in eating in Chops Grille.

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Dinner starts of with some fresh bread, very good.

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I ordered both a Wedge Salad and a Shrimp Cocktail

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Both very good.

Unfortunately this is where service slowed down and I stared at this for 45 minutes:

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Finally my 9 oz. Filet arrived.  It was very good and cooked perfectly.  Sides were Mac & Cheese and Grilled Jumbo Asparagus.

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While the food was great, service was not very good as illustrated by my empty water and wine glass that were never filled or offered to be during my time in Chops Grille.

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This is the first time I didn't tip anything extra in a specialty restaurant.  The food was very good but the service is not what I expect when I am paying for a specialty dining experience.  This marks my fourth visit to Chops over the past few months.  It seems I am either destined to have great service but poor food (Freedom) or great food but poor service (Anthem twice and now Serenade).  

I realize this is the new cruise experience - paying more above the cruise base fare for a better dinner experience but what I'm finding is the value isn't there for me if the food and/or service is sub-par.  I'm considering cancelling my 4 night dining package on Symphony but I'm going to take some time and think about that before I do.  Jamie's on Anthem was twice a great experience  with great food and great service so there is hope and my experience there is the only thing holding me back from giving up on specialty dining.

I try not to post negative reviews like this but I can't in good faith tell people to pay extra for this experience.  If my family was about to sail on Serenade I'd have a hard time recommending Chops Grille.

I also ran into this on Brilliance last month.  My waiter pretty much just never came by, I poured my own wine from a bottle I brought (no big deal). The meal took 2.5 hours and I was dining alone, in fact I ordered right when he greeted me.  I ended up skipping dessert because I wanted to leave so bad.  I also didn't add any extra tip.  

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Day 6 Dinner Menu

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My balcony beckoned and while I was writing up this blog a sunset happened right in front of me.  Needless to say I missed my MTD dinner reservation, again.

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Windjammer had Caribbean Night.  Once again I had to fend off food that just jumped onto my plate.  Yum.

After dinner the Royal Caribbean band was playing in the Centrum.    Very good!

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