Tag: Serenade of the Seas (Page 1 of 3)
Our Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was unlike anything else I have ever done before. The scenery was unmatched and the service was spectacular. This trip was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!
Our trip started off on a rough note because embarkation in Vancouver was a nightmare. I should start off by saying there were three ships in port that day and the other two ships were much larger than the Serenade so there were a lot of people leaving Vancouver that day. It took us a full two hours from curb to ship. It took one whole hour just to get to the porters to drop our bags off because there was only one large elevator that went to that level. We saw a lot of people just carry their bags on, but they still had to drag them around the port for an hour. I heard people around me mumbling “never again” to sailing out of Vancouver. One thing that makes it more complicated than most other embarkation ports is that you are in a foreign country sailing into the United States, so you have to go through customs. We met people at dinner one night who have Global Entry and they said that helped shorten the wait some. If you are planning on sailing out of Vancouver, pick the earliest check-in time you can and get there early.
While we had beautiful weather on our port days, every sea day was cold and rainy. We had hoped to play Pickleball as we did on our Caribbean Cruise, but because of the weather, it was never open. We tried to enjoy our balcony, if you wanted to be out there for an extended period of time, you needed to seriously bundle up. On our way back from Alaska, we had the roughest seas I have ever encountered on a cruise. Seriously, they had barf bags placed around the ship for those prone to seasickness. I have to say, I had never seen that before.
The Serenade of the Seas is the smallest ship I’ve ever sailed on. Having sailed on the Explorer of the Seas almost exactly three months prior, I was doing a lot of comparing in my head while onboard. Small ships like the Serenade have their pros and cons, the pros being that they can get into ports where the larger ships don’t fit. The Serenade is actually the ship Royal is using for their World Cruise in 2023. The biggest con, of course, is that there is less to do on board. I don’t know if it was because we were usually the smallest ship in port, but we always ended up at the dock farthest away from town (left).
Since our cruise on the Explorer was when Royal Caribbean was getting back into sailing at almost full capacity, a lot of my complaints from our spring cruise had been resolved. Crew members were no longer serving everything in the buffet and service in the dining room was much smoother. With my time dining, they didn’t try to seat you in the same table every day like they did on the Explorer so we didn’t have to wait as long to eat.
From the sail-away show, I knew the entertainment on this ship was not going to be for me. John, the cruise director came on stage singing Sweet Caroline and had everyone play Simon Says. I felt like I was in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when she goes to her camp in the Catskills (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this show, it takes place in the 1950s. That’s really all you need to know for this reference). Shortly after that, the assistant cruise director came out to sell you Bingo cards. I felt like the youngest person on board by at least 40 years. Royal Caribbean is known for being a family cruise line so I was not expecting this at all.
In my review of the Explorer of the Seas, I was blown away by how many activities were going on around the ship when we were in port each day. That was not the case on the Serenade. We had three sea days on this cruise and I felt like there was nothing to do. Because of the weather, everyone was indoors. There was trivia twice a day that was standing-room only. There was a small movie theater where you wouldn’t get a seat if you didn’t show up half an hour early. There was an enrichment lecture by Canadian Mountie that we went to because…what else was there to do? We did enjoy the production shows and the comedian made us laugh. We kept running into him in port, which was funny.
While this review may seem like it’s full of complaints, I really did enjoy this cruise. I think if I were to sail to Alaska again, I would choose a ship that was purpose-built for Alaska, like the Norwegian Bliss. It has many more indoor areas to get out of the cold, rainy Alaska weather at sea. After this cruise, we are taking a break from Royal Caribbean. We have another cruise booked, this time on Celebrity, which will be interesting.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we begin our journey from Vancouver to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After our long day in Juneau, the next day we visited two ports: Skagway in the morning and Haines in the evening. This was our first time visiting two ports in one day. We had planned to take a dogsledding excursion through the cruise line for Skagway, but we just planned to explore the town of Haines on our own.
Skagway is a town with a lot of history. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, the border between Alaska and Canada was only vaguely defined. When the Canadian government requested a survey in 1871 after being united with British Columbia, the United States thought an examination of the land would be too expensive. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory prospectors began heading to the Last Frontier to make the 500-mile trek in search of their fortunes.
Their journeys began by crossing the mountains over the White Pass or the Chilkoot Trail near Skagway. It is estimated that in the spring of 1898, 1,000 prospectors came through Skagway each week. Of all the people who flooded north in search of gold, no more than 4,000 prospectors found any, and only a few hundred became rich.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad opened in 1900 over one of the routes the prospectors took in search of their fortunes. The railroad still exists today and is a popular shore excursion for travelers visiting Skagway. This summer, because of Canadian border restrictions, the train was turning around before crossing the U.S./Canada border. I think this would be my first choice the next time we find ourselves in Skagway.
Downtown Skagway features about 100 buildings remaining from the Gold Rush days and is the home of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, so of course, we had to stop in and get our National Park Passport stamped and watch the video about the area’s history. Of course, we also stopped at Klondike Doughboy for their famous Alaska Fry Bread.
All-in-all, Skagway was my least favorite port. I know the town is rooted in history, but it felt the most inauthentic of all of our stops. Everything there exists for tourists in a way that was different from Sitka and Juneau (Haines is the other extreme and you can read about that below). When I travel I really look for authentic experiences and that felt hard to find in Skagway.
Haines is just south of Skagway and refers to itself as the adventure gateway to Alaska. Haines is known for its bald eagle preserve and Historic Fort Steward (its not there anymore but you can read a plaque about it). If you haven’t made plans for Haines, there really isn’t much to do there. It felt like they stuck a cruise port in small-town America. We walked around for about an hour and just got back on the ship. One of my biggest regrets about this trip is that we didn’t book the evening canoe safari or another excursion in Haines because this ended up being a wasted stop for us.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week when I recap our dogsled excursion in Skagway! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After returning from our whale-watching excursion, we joined the masses at lunch at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Tracy’s is located right at the cruise ship terminal, right next to where our bus dropped us off. Being right in the middle of the action, of course, the crab comes with a steep price tag but it was absolutely worth it! Tracy’s serves Red King Crab (AKA The Deadliest Catch), but I decided to go with a less expensive snow crab. When I placed our order for one crab shack combo featuring 8 oz of bisque, 4 mini crab cakes, and 14 oz of crab the guy behind the register told me that’s not really enough food for two people so I added the shrimp ceviche. It was 3:00 by now and we were hungry but we could’ve split that and it would have been enough food. With the ceviche, we were stuffed and didn’t end up having dinner until right before the buffet closed that night. If you’re looking for good crab in Juneau and don’t mind paying the tourist prices, look no further than Tracy’s King Crab!
Since our ship didn’t depart for the day until 8, we still had time to explore Juneau after our lunch! We decided to take in the city from above at Mt. Roberts Tramway AKA the Goldbelt Tram. The base of the tram is right at the cruise terminal, on the other side of the parking lot from Tracy’s. I had never ridden in a Tram like that so it was a fun experience! The only downside was that being early June, most of the hiking trails were still snow-covered, so the view was nice, but there wasn’t really much else to do once we got to the top. Once the snow melts, Mt. Roberts is a jumping-off point for several trails varying in length from two to seven miles. Tickets for the tram are $45 for adults so admission could add up quickly for families.
After our journey back down the tramway, we through town to Cope Park where we flew the drone for a little bit before heading back to the ship. We really enjoyed our long day in Juneau! It was nice getting to see so much of the city without a time crunch!
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I recap our day in Skagway and Haines, Alaska! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
After our short time at Mendenhall Glacier, we climbed back on the bus and headed for Auke Bay to catch our whale-watching boat. Once we got to the boat, we sat down on the comfortable, indoor seats as the captain hit the throttle to where the whales hang out.
When booking this trip, I noticed a lot of tour companies advertised that you will get your money back if you don’t see a whale, and now that I’ve been there, I get it. Auke Bay and the Inside Passage is where the humpback whales come in the summer to eat. The naturalist onboard explained that the whales migrate every year from Alaska all the way to Hawaii to mate. But, there is no food for them in Hawaii or along the journey so they have to get all their nutrients for the whole year when they are in Alaska. She estimated there were probably 50 whales in the water around our boat.
If you haven’t been following along on my journey, I should tell you that we left our camera batteries in Vancouver so all of the photos taken on our whale-watching trip were taken with my phone. While I wish I had awesome whale photos, I have to admit that not having my camera really allowed me to live in the moment and enjoy the experience of whale watching. And honestly, I don’t know if my reflexes would’ve been fast enough to see the first glimpse of a whale and move the camera to the exact spot to capture it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t try again.
We booked this excursion through Alaska Tales on Viator and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a whale-watching excursion in Juneau. We had an all-female crew, which is very uncommon, and the boat was much smaller than some of the other ones we saw in the area. When we saw “whale smoke” (what one of the kids on board called when the whale blows air and water above the surface. I liked the phrase so I adopted it) or a glimpse of a whale, the captain would move the boat closer so we could get a better look at it. Not to mention their price was significantly less than we originally payed through the cruiseline.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experience at the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.