My friend Rachael and I spent our spring break aboard Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas on a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise. It was Rachael’s first cruise experience and I was more than happy to show her the ropes; I am the daughter of a cruising expert after all! We took advantage of Royal Caribbean’s online cruise planner and filled our all of our information prior to our vacation. 3 suitcases, 3 Lilly tote bags, and a 1 hour drive from Long Beach to New Orleans, we started spring break 2015. We called our vacation “Holiday in the Sun”.
After driving around New Orleans and missing our turn several times, we finally made it to the luggage drop off and were then directed to the parking lot. We had to pay for parking in advance, so there went $120 of our spending money. New Orleans’ cruise terminal was small, compared to the ones I am used to going through in Florida, and less organized than most. We stood in line for over an hour waiting to check in, but enjoyed people watching those we would be sharing a boat with for the next week. Our fellow cruisers were primarily much older or small children. We were a lone wolf pack of college kids, and not complaining.
Sea Pass in hand, Rachael and I boarded the ship and took a lap around to check it out. While passing by the Internet café, we found an Internet package for only $200 (after my gold crown and anchor discount) that would allow 2 devices to use Internet the whole time we were onboard. Being the social media addicts we are, Rachael and I shed a few tears that we were not going to have to be MIA during our vacation and could live Tweet/Snap/Instagram our trip. Serenade of the Seas was the first cruise I have been on where Wi-Fi was available everywhere. We did not have to sit at a designated Wi-Fi hotspot, which was a huge plus.
Our ocean view room had more than enough storage and a nice vanity we would be grateful for when it came time for doing our hair throughout the week. Our room attendant, Livia Licio, was delightful! She was incredibly sweet and would check in with us every day to see what all we had been up to. While unpacking, we picked up our first Cruise Compass and began planning our evening activities.
Our first stop of the night was Rita’s Cantina, the Mexican pay restaurant onboard, to enjoy 2-1 margaritas. The Cantina was located at the back of the ship, behind the Windjammer buffet, and was decorated with lights that continuously changed colors. The staff was incredibly attentive and extremely friendly; they became our friends since there was no one our own age.
We ended up dining at Rita’s 3 nights during our vacation and loved every single visit. I had chicken quesadillas every time (I am a creature of habit as well as a picky eater) and they did not disappoint. I was happy to pay the $8 here instead of eating the buffet. Another pay restaurant that we enjoyed while on board was Izumi, offering Asian cuisine. I got to cook my dinner on the hot stone, which was very cool. Our dinner was always delicious and the staff was wonderful (Thanks Mirval and Tughan)!
After dinner, we stopped by the casino so I could put $20 in a slot machine. This became a nightly routine for us: me sitting in front of the “Texas Tea” machine engrossed in playing the bonus games and Rachael sitting on her phone praying that my $20 would go fast. I was disappointed, however, that I did not know I could earn casino points by inserting my Sea Pass into the machine while playing. Had I known this from the start, I could have had enough casino points to earn a Casino Royale t-shirt; I’m still bitter.
In between our casino fix and the nightly show, we stopped at the Crown & Castle Pub to hear music by Zachary Coombs. He was awesome! He sang crowd favorites yet managed to not sing the same songs every night. Rachael and I are big fan of crowd sing along songs, such as Dixieland Delight and Sweet Home Alabama, and we were so excited to learn a new one called “Who the F*** is Alice”. Look it up on YouTube if you have not heart it. We are hoping to bring it to Oxford, MS next football season.
For the most part, the nightly shows were very enjoyable. I was dreading the Jersey Boy’s show but ended up loving The Unexpected Boys! They were incredibly entertaining and so much fun. “Vibeology” was Royal Caribbean’s signature show but I thought it missed the mark. They were supposed to sing songs that the audience could connect with, sing along, and enjoy; but it did not deliver. I thought the song choices were awful and the costumes were way too much. “Stage to Screen” was much better, which included songs from Broadway shows that have also been movies. I thought they did an excellent job with “Hairspray”!
Our first two days were spent at sea; but due to the weather, we did not get to work on our tans. Instead we played Bingo, got a massage at the spa, saw “Casablanca” at the theater, and read in the solarium (the lounge chairs are padded and the room is warm which makes for a perfect napping location).
Falmouth, Jamaica was the first port we visited, and did not even have to leave. It was a really nice cruise port complete with shopping, dining, and a Margaritaville. Rachael and I spent our day buying most of our souvenirs and by the pool at Margaritaville. There was a great DJ that played music for the entire restaurant and although our food was pricy, we were glad to have a meal off of the boat for the first time in three days.
Rachael and I spent our time in Grand Cayman at Seven Mile Beach. The water was beautiful and we had a great time playing with the selfie stick. We went to the part of the beach where you pay a $2 entry fee, but have access to restrooms, a restaurant, and lounge chairs. The weather was beautiful and we were glad to have gotten there relatively early as the beach filled up around noon. We had pizza for lunch at “Breezes By the Bay” and it was delicious! We had a great day in George Town, Grand Cayman!
The last port we visited was Cozumel, Mexico. We shopped along the water, on a shopping strip that seemed to last forever. We ate lunch at Senor Frog’s primarily because they had a menu in English. The people of Cozumel were by far the pushiest and try to sell you everything; two things that I am not a fan of. The best part of our day was visiting the Mayan Fiesta Rum Cake Co. and spending way too much money on cakes to take back home.
A Holiday in the Sun Farewell
Royal Caribbean is one of my favorite cruise lines but I have to say this was not the best Royal Caribbean trip I have been on. The food at the pay restaurants was wonderful, but the rest was lacking. The Windjammer did not offer the wide buffet variety I was expecting and after their dinner ended, there were no real food options. Luckily we brought some snacks with us or we would have been SOL after the nightly shows. In addition, the activities were not nearly as plentiful as on other ships. We often found ourselves watching “Nancy Grace Mysteries” on repeat in our stateroom as opposed to partaking in the cruise’s activities. The same movies and TV shows played every day we were onboard. It would have been nice to have a bigger movie and TV selection to choose from, especially due to the weather.
Serenade of the Seas provided the perfect location for Rachael and I to spend our spring break. There was all day entertainment and we also got to spend some time in the Caribbean. This smaller Royal Caribbean ship was great for Rachael’s first cruise. Hopefully there will be many more cruising vacations in our future!
This article was written by my daughter, Taylor Pittman, a recent graduate of Ole Miss who resides in Jackson, Mississippi. Yes, I am one proud mama.
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