Sitting in the courtyard of our hotel on Saturday morning, we marveled at the fact that we had already had an amazing vacation…and there was still a seven day cruise ahead of us. I highly recommend the two vacations in one experience.
Excited to get going, we were out of our hotel by 10:00 and on our way to the port. We got to the port by about 10:15 and, after dropping off our bags, headed through security and check in. It took about 30 minutes to get through the check in process and then all we had to do was wait to board.
We watched as all the suite guests and Royal Caribbean high-rollers boarded, starting at about 11:00. We made our way on to the ship at about 11:20 and heard that sweet, sweet “ding” sound welcoming us aboard the ship which I’d been looking forward to for months.
There was a large knot of people clustered just inside the entrance as we boarded. Upon entering, we were insistently told to stop and wait in line to make dinner reservations, even though we were signed up for My Time Dining. There was a lot of confusion, as people were being told they had to make reservations, even though I knew reservations were not necessary for MTD. It turned out that they were trying to communicate that the dining room would only be taking reservations for that night’s dinner until 3:00, but the message was not very clear.
Having no desire to stand on a long line to make a reservation, we fought our way through the crowd and proceeded to the elevators to take us up to the ship’s buffet for lunch. This being our first time on a Radiance class ship, we marveled at the amazing views provided by the glass elevators.
We got to the buffet around 11:45 and easily found a table. Compared to the buffets we’d experienced on other Royal Caribbean ships, the buffet on Serenade felt less crowded and more open, making it easier to navigate. We never had trouble finding a table there all week.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch while we waited for our staterooms to be ready. Kathleen enjoyed a plate befitting an adult, with various salad and meat dishes, while I kicked off the cruise with the lunch of a ten-year-old: burgers and pizza.
After lunch, it was time to check out our accommodations. We stopped at MIL and FIL’s cabin on deck 4 first. It was a Large ocean-view room. Everything was clean and MIL and FIL were very happy.
We walked down two decks to get to our cabin, number 2022. This was a Large ocean-view stateroom as well, though ours was an accessible stateroom. When we booked the cruise, I had initially intended to bring my Seeing Eye dog with me. Knowing how much space he can take up, I requested an accessible room. When I found a dog-sitter, I had our travel agent contact Royal Caribbean to see if we needed to switch cabins, but we were able to stay in the accessible room, even minus the dog.
The room was definitely spacious, along the lines of 100 more square feet than the standard OV cabin. We definitely enjoyed having the extra space and the much larger shower, though it unfortunately had a curtain rather than a door.
It was while we were getting settled in our cabin when we first heard what would become the theme song of our cruise. The TV was left on and a truly delightful song about washing your hands was playing on a continuous loop. It was incredibly catchy, and Kathleen and I get it randomly stuck in our heads to this day. You can check it out for yourself right here:
With the wash your hands song firmly implanted in our heads, we set off to explore the ship. We walked up deck-by-deck from our cabin on deck two, stopping along the way at the floor of the centrum on deck four, the shopping area (which was closed) on deck five, the Schooner Bar and the Safari Club on deck six, and the pool/solarium areas on deck 11.
Since our feet were still aching from our time in New Orleans, we decided to have a quick rest in the cabin before the muster drill at 3:30. Muster went very smoothly and we were soon in line at the R Bar, waiting to buy our first beverage of the trip to enjoy during sail away.
We were a little taken aback when we picked up the drink menu for the first time, as many of our favorite drinks from our previous Royal Caribbean cruise were nowhere to be found. What’s more, all the prices seemed to be missing, which was inconvenient, to say the least. “Maybe drinks are free now,” we hoped. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
We settled on frozen mojitos and we took them out to the wraparound promenade on deck 5. We walked all the way to the front of the ship and enjoyed sail away from the helipad, complete with beautiful evening views of New Orleans along the mighty Mississippi.
On our last cruise, we enjoyed our first drink at the Viking Crown Lounge (Royal Caribbean’s signature lounge located at the top of each ship) and we wanted to relive that experience on this trip. We got a seat near the windows and watched as night fell over the river.
Quite hungry, we walked down to grab some dinner at the buffet, which started at 6:00 each evening. I had a nice hefty helping of prime rib from the carving station, which was very enjoyable. I also discovered the most delicious cheesy rolls that I’d somehow missed on our last cruise. I made up for that on this trip though, eating at least 4 per night.
After dinner we decided to head down to the welcome show in the Tropical Theater. The Cruise Director was John Blair and he was underwhelming, at best. He came off a bit disingenuous and gameshow host-ish, which was a good thing only when he was hosting the love and marriage show later in the cruise. The music was great and the comedian, Chas Burnett, was excellent.
After the show we headed back up to deck eleven for two-for-one margaritas at Rita’s Cantina. The special was offered every night of the cruise starting at 8:00 and it was one of the best bargains on the ship. I rediscovered my love for the wildberry margarita, many times over.
In addition to his comedy routine, Chas Burnett also played guitar. We took a walk down to the Schooner Bar to enjoy another drink and we listened to his first set. MIL and FIL then headed off to bed, but we wanted to stay up just a little longer. We took a short walk over to the Safari Club to listen to Latin Vibes, a very enjoyable four-piece Latin band. We had one last drink while we enjoyed the music and then we trekked back to our cabin, and bed.
Up next in cruise day 2: our first day at sea.