Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous- Embarkation Day

Anniversary Cruise 2015 
"Let the Party Begin" 

In March 2015 Chris and I took a Bahamas Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas sailing out of New Orleans, LA. This beautiful floating resort took us to the following destinations: 

Key West, FL, USA
Nassau, Bahamas
CoCo Cay (Royal Caribbean's Private Island), Bahamas 

Chris and I have been on 3 other cruises prior to this one; 2 with Carnival and 1 with Royal Caribbean. This cruise was all about "Living it Up" as we celebrated not only our love for each other and our 9 year wedding anniversary but also partying it up with some of the wealthiest and seriously MOST FAMOUS Royal Caribbean cruisers of all time! It was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity and we had the time of our lives.  This will be a multiple entry blog about not only our 7 days at sea, 2 food blogs from each of our perspectives, a cabin crawl post, an updated Shore Excursion rating blog, a wardrobe style post, Galley Tour post, a pictorial review of The Serenade of the Seas and the ever exciting and fun SELFIE Challenge. Thank you SO MUCH to all my followers... without you the blog would not be as popular as it is today! Be sure to stay tuned as the posts come through over the next few days and weeks (Bare with me as this is the 1st time we have cruised DURING the school year... I will try not to leave you hanging, I promise!) 

Our HOME for the next 7 days!

Saturday, March 7, 2015
We had been looking forward to this "during the school year" get-away for over 7 months and the time had to come to make our way to the cruise pier. While this was NOT our 1st cruise by any means it was our 1st time to cruise during the spring months and not the summer. The weather was unusual for New Orleans even in early March with a high of only 55*. This would be the 1st time we wore jeans and hoodies onto a cruise ship and I have to admit... I did not like this part! I guess it is just preparing us for Alaska in 2016! 

I was so nervous about the whole travel situation, my kiddos and the sketchy hotel that I slept MAYBE 2 hours the night before so the first thing I did was go to the breakfast line offered by the hotel to get some much needed COFFEE! That too was well below average and fell right into the low rating level of this hotel (NEVER AGAIN). Both Chris and I got ready quickly and were ready to get on the ship. I was so nervous and shaky that I knew the only thing that would calm me was a prayer... with my daddy! So I called him up and had him calm my nerves by praying for me and the trip. He has done this my entire life as I get nervous about various things and that alone has calmed me down and this too proved to be the case. A prayer with my daddy and I was ready to go! Thank you Daddy... I love you!

We boarded the shuttle bus to the cruise ship terminal around 8:40AM and arrived at the terminal before 9AM. This was nice but it was in fact early and made for a long and anxious waiting process as we waited for the previous week's cruise to disembark. The waiting area we had to sit in only held about 40 people so it became full within about 30 minutes. We were told by a very outspoken worker that around 10AM they would move us into the actual waiting area inside the terminal. Sure enough, at 9:57AM the same lady asked those waiting to form a line. But much to our surprise she came over to us and told us to go to the front of the line because she knew we had been waiting longer than the others. That was incredible and allowed us to check-in, clear security, sit in a priority seating area and get on the ship as the 11th and 12th passengers! We were walking down the gangway and heard that glorious 1st "DING" at 10:53AM, the earliest embarkation time we have ever had!

Waiting in the "priority" GOLD level sitting area.

Our MAGIC card... the 1st DING is the BEST FEELING in the world!

Royal Caribbean usually does not have the staterooms ready until about 1PM but we were carrying most of our luggage on board ourselves so we immediately got on board and went to our deck and found our stateroom open and ready to be lived in so we "illegally" dumped our luggage and then started exploring the ship. The Serenade of the Seas is a GORGEOUS ship and absolutely STUNNING! The RCI Radiance class ships have full glass elevators which allow for continuous viewing of the beautiful sea waters and so much more. While it was a much smaller ship than we are used to it was clearly more radiant and beautiful than the others we have sailed on.

Royal Caribbean changes out the floor in the elevators to show the day!
This REALLY helps keep your days together! 

Our room... Prior to opening the door and finding out how small it really was!

After exploring the ship we went to the Windjammer Buffet on deck 11 around 11:50AM, approximately 20 minutes after it opened. Once again, we were not impressed with the Windjammer and it left much to be desired. We then explored some more since we knew the rooms would not "officially" be ready for nearly an hour. It was here that we found the Schooner Bar and Chef's Table at the very aft of the ship. We met an incredible wait staff named BENTO who took us on a tour of the Chef's Table and explained it to us. He also offered us a 10% coupon if we chose to book the Chef's Table during our cruise. It was an additional cost and not included in the cruise fare so we were hesitant but later decided to give it to each other on our anniversary night! More about this later but it proved to be a GREAT GIFT!

The private ambiance of The Chef's Table! 

I feel like the Captain! 

A traditional picture for us prior to sail away!

Shortly after 1PM we made our way to our tiny, tiny room to put away our luggage and get organized. Luckily, my larger bag was already there but Chris's suitcase and our formal attire garment bag was not. We had an inside stateroom for the 1st time and we were shocked at the size of the room which was 162 sqft including the bathroom. In fact, OUR bathroom at our house is larger than this stateroom. It was hard at first but we made it work and honestly, I would do it again if I had to!

This picture was taken IN the doorway... Hard to really understand the smallness of it!

The small love-seat in the room. (We were told by some frequent Royal cruisers on our Cabin Crawl that our inside was actually quite large)

The desk and vanity area. 

After we got settled and organized we went down to the Shore Excursion desk to book a shore excursion in CoCo Cay with our FREE On-board Credit (OBC). Unfortunately, the snorkeling tour AND kayaking adventures we wanted were already sold out so we opted to take the more expensive Wave Runners Jet Ski tour. After getting these tickets we took them back to the room to find the rest of our luggage. Shortly after this we went on a private tour of the gorgeous spa!

Hot stone chairs within the Vitality Spa!

The Couples Massage room!

We then spent the rest of the afternoon before the mandatory Muster Station Drill walking along deck 5 on the promenade as well as the helicopter pad to chill out... literally! It was still just 52* and we were wearing hoodies and jeans. Again, not my ideal cruising weather BUT it worked. At 3:30PM EXACTLY our Cruise Director, Carly B, called the Muster Station meeting to order. We knew from previous cruises to not rush to this meeting because then you would be shoved to the back so we waited approximately 5 minutes before making our way to our station. Most of the clientele on our ship were the average age of 65-85 so naturally they were on time which made our late arrival PERFECT! We got checked in just as the drill was ending!

Here is my Muster Station... I found it and now I am ready to go!

While walking around we saw the Pilot boat arrive to take us down the river.

On the helicopter pad waiting for the Muster Station drill!

Chris taking a selfie in the Centrum!

We love sailing from New Orleans!

Relaxing on the helicopter pad before we sail away!

We have a STAIRS ONLY theory on these cruises (you have to burn all those calories some how, right?) so we then climbed the 10 flights of stairs to deck 12 to the Sky Bar for our Cruise Critic Sail Away party. This medium size group of people proved to be the best friends we had during the cruise and we met up with them all on multiple occasions. If you cruise frequently, I HIGHLY encourage you to join Cruise Critic (FOR FREE) and join your cruise sail date roll call. You will meet some AMAZING people that I can honestly say will be "Cruising Friends" for life! 

We set sail down the "Mighty Mississippi" River at 4:06PM and began our historical tour of the Big Easy. By the time 5PM rolled around we were already past New Orleans and all of the major historical landmarks so we decided to go get ready for our 5:30PM dinner reservation.

At the Sail-Away party... Ready to be Bahamas Bound!

Overlooking Jackson Square as we sailed down the Mississippi!

Goodbye New Orleans... See you in 7 days!

A Monument commemorating the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812. 

Sailing down the "Mighty Mississippi"... A MUST DO in your lifetime! 

The Carnival Elation was also sailing out of NOLA on March 7 and was following us!

Dinner in the Main Dining Room was about average but the tables were so close together that our "private/ romatic table for 2" that we requested became a party of 6 within minutes. This was my #1 complaint for this cruise. The service was also lacking and we had to rush to the 7:15PM show. This show featured a comedian who was lame but funny. Chris liked him a LOT more than I did.

Us with the Cruise Activities Manager Aysy (I-cee), "From Russia with Love".
She was FANTASTIC all week long! 

Following the show we ventured up to the Solarium, adults only area, on deck 11. We laid out, got some awesome refreshments and stared at the stars before retiring for the evening. Due to Daylight Savings time change we would "Spring Forward" 1 hour on this evening and then lose ANOTHER hour once we crossed over into Eastern Standard Time the following night. The bed was SO MUCH BETTER than that on the Navigator and both of us slept VERY WELL, especially since it was PITCH BLACK in the room. It was a fun-filled and packed Embarkation Day but we couldn't wait for Day 2! 

Next Up... Day 2/ Sea Day #1
Stay Tuned! 

God is Good... ALL the time! 

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