Today is the first day of our 10-night Southern Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas sponsored by the community’s Travel Club and put together by Klaus and Dorit Dignass of the German Travel Services of Ocala.
I think I slept about 1-1/2 hours and was excited when the alarm finally went off at 5:30am. We woke up to a damp, dreary day. We were up in a flash, dressed and able to enjoy quick cup of coffee before heading off to the community center to meet our bus. No matter how dreary the morning was, I was so excited to be going on this cruise.
We were traveling with at least 90 people, some members of our community and some residents of Ocala and within the larger group we were traveling with our friends Bob, Sandy, Dennis, Connie, Marty and Caryn.
Along with traveling with friends we would also be celebrating a birthday, celebrating an anniversary, rooting for our favorite team in the Super Bowl and celebrating Valentine’s Day. I was also excited that we would be traveling to three new islands this trip. “This is going to be a great trip,” I thought as we climbed into Bob’s car and headed for the community center.
This trip will take us to Tortola, British Virgin Island; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Roseau, Dominica; St. Johns, Antigua and, Philipsburg, St. Maarten. With Randy still dealing with some health issues we decided to sign up for only two excursions and decide as we sail along if we would participate in any others.
We boarded the bus at 7:30am and were off to the pier in Ft. Lauderdale. The first half of our trip down to Ft. Lauderdale was quiet as most people fell asleep or quietly read the newspaper.
The bus ride was comfortable and uneventful. We made one stop at the Ft. Drum Service Plaza for a quick break and grab a little something to eat and drink. Randy and I enjoyed a donut a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Once at the terminal we breezed through registration and boarded the ship around 1pm and went directly to our cabin before making our way to the Windjammer for a quick lunch. We met our friends and made small talk as we ate and made arrangements to meet at the My Time dining area at 6:15pm.
I was very tired so I retreated back to the cabin for a short nap while Randy went up to the pool deck to watch the ship leave port. Bob, Sandy, Dennis and Connie headed that way too and watched as the shoreline disappeared over the horizon.
Usually, Randy and I spend time walking around the ship familiarizing ourselves with the locations of important places like the theatre, dining room, etc. However, we have cruised on two of Serenade’s sister ships and felt a sense of familiarity as soon as we stepped onto the ship. We took a New Year’s cruise on the Jewel of the Seas in 2013 and a trans-Atlantic and Baltic cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas in 2015.
A copy of the Cruise Compass was on our bed as we entered the cabin. As I was looking through the sheaf of papers I noticed a health alert about the Zika virus encouraging passengers to, “Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by remaining in well-screened or air-conditioned areas when possible”. I thought this was very responsible of Royal Caribbean as the health and safety of the passengers and crew is so important for a safe and memorable cruise for everyone. We were aware of this health problem and packed a good supply of insect spray for the trip.
Randy returned to the cabin and we watched from the balcony as the Princess Cruise line’s Royal Princess steadily disappeared into the mist.
All too soon it was time to dress for cocktails and dinner. Connie had made arrangements for the eight of us to have a table together in My Time Dining on deck 5. As it turned out we were escorted to a room on deck 4 just off the main dining room. The room had only four long tables and was just perfect. I happened to look over at a cabinet piled high with board games on the far wall and suddenly realized that the dining room we were sitting in was actually the game room during the day. “Very good use of space,” I thought.
Dinner was good. I chose something new from the menu this evening. I started with the Strawberry, Kiwi and Pineapple Medley drizzled with sweet-tart lime syrup that was both refreshing and delicious. For the first time I chose the slow-roasted beef striploin with rosemary au jus for my entrée. While the striploin was tender it had a little more fat than I am used to. The baked potato was sweet and oh so good. The vegetable combination included snow peas, carrots and onions and it was yummy. I decided to skip dessert this evening.
It was our first evening and dinner took a very long time. Randy and I decided to go back to the cabin to unpack and rest a bit before turning out the lights.
Tomorrow we will be at sea and hopefully enjoying better weather.