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We just got back from the Serenade repositioning cruise, San Juan to San Diego, April 24 to May 8. What a great experience. It was our 15th cruise with RCI and ranks as one of the best.
We did a pre-cruise stay in San Juan at the El Convento Hotel. What a great experience, unlike any other hotel we?ve ever stayed at. In San Juan we had dinner at The Parrot Club, a definite 9+, and also at Jirabisco?s, about a 7. We took a full day tour out to El Junque with a local tour agency, Native Tours. Our driver was Manuel and he was a great guide, funny and informed.
Embarkation was a breeze. We hardly stopped walking after getting out of the taxi handing off our luggage. The ship was beautiful, our third cruise on a Radiance class ship. Service. The service on board was absolutely phenomenal. I?ve never met so many pleasant people in my life. Everyone was upbeat, smiling and just downright nice. We had read complaints on CC that RCI service was slipping, don?t believe it. Our room was always made up and ready by 9:00 am, at least on sea days. Rodney, our steward was always around and we saw him every single day, no exceptions.
Dining room service was also top class. Michael and Esky were kept busy, but were very efficient and never missed a beat. We had 14 bottles of wine over the course of the two weeks. We always had at least two bottles open and we never had to wait for service. Kerstin, the Head Waiter, was the busiest, most active and personable Head Waiter we have had, she was an absolute 10. Windjammer and bar service were equally as good. Food. The food varied, some nights were very good, others were not as good. I believe food is very subjective and so this is just my personal viewpoint. The osso bucco was very good, as was the tenderloin and prime rib. The rib eye steak was not that appetizing. Still for 14 days we ate very well and very varied. One thing was consistently good was the presentation, always so well done. We enjoyed the Windjammer food and we were pleasantly surprised by the variation and choice available. We dined at Chops and Portofinos and would give both of them a definite 10.
Dress Code. This was a very well dressed cruise. Almost all the people we saw followed or even exceeded the suggested dress code. There were three formal nights and at second seating the vast majority of men were in either a tux or suit. We had three ?smart casual? nights and again there were a lot of men in suits or jackets, lots of ties. We saw only one person wearing shorts in the dining room in the evening.
Ports of Call. We visited St Thomas, Aruba, Puntarenas, Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo. In St Thomas, we shopped in the morning and took a round the island tour with a guy we found down town. $20 pp for a three hour tour. We bought some perfume, but the prices were the same as at home.
In Aruba, we rented a Jeep for $85 between four of us. We had a really fun day, got lost once but made it to all the sights, lighthouse, Natural Bridge, Natural Pool (we couldn?t get down because of a breakdown on the ?road?), the gold mine etc, and spent some time on Baby Beach. Ended up in Carlos and Charlie?s, after we had returned the Jeep.
In Puntarenas, we took a ship?s excursion, the Aerial Tram. It was well organized and a very interesting experience.
It was our first visit to Huatulco and we got a local taxi to drive us around and see the sights. Not a lot to see outside the city except lots of landscaping and construction for the hotels being built. In the city the shopping was low key, the cathedral beautiful and the beer really cold. Huatulco was very clean, no trash anywhere.
In Acapulco we had arranged a private tour for four of us, through Roberto of the ACA. Check him out on the CC Ports of Call Board, he?s very good. He arranged for a Suburban for us and we had a great tour around Acapulco with Oscar as our driver and guide. It was the most enjoyable Acapulco tour that we have ever done.
In Cabo we walked around town, finished our shopping and had lunch at the Shrimp Factory.
The passage through the Canal was as interesting as ever, Gatun Lake was beautiful and it was a very relaxing day.
Debarkation was a breeze. We basically just walked off the ship. We filled out our Customs forms and handed them in at Guest Relations. When we were ready to leave the ship, we walked down to the luggage area, picked up our luggage and walked out of the terminal. No Customs and no Immigration!!! That was a definite first.
All in all, it was a great cruise. We had great table mates and we met some really great people.