Viking Serenade
San Diego, Catalina, Ensenada
Group Cruise 6/17/00

Our local chapter of the Order of Eastern Star chose the Viking Serenade for their first group cruise. Accordingly 27 of us set off for this trip.

We drove the 5 hours from our house to the World Cruise Center in San Pedro. The exit is well marked and you follow the signs to your ship's berth, drop off your bags and tip the porters a few bucks, then take the car around to the parking lot and take the shuttle bus back. We arrived about 1:00 pm and embarkation was well underway and we moved through the line and onto the ship with little problem. We were disappointed that no-one was assigned to escort us to our cabin, but with little trouble we found our cabin and dropped off our luggage and went up to the embarkation buffet, which we found to be lavish and delicious as were all the buffets on the trip. After that we signed up for shore excursions (a must-do early, as they close for San Diego at 5:30pm.)

We went down to dinner where we found all the members of our group seated at two tables for eight and two tables for six all together. This was very nice and allowed a lot of good fellowship during the cruise. Our waiter was Adem from Turkey and our asst. waiter was Alfonso from Italy. The good service started immediately and continued throughout the whole cruise. It was in every way up to the outstanding standards we have come to expect of RCI.

The food was absolutely wonderful at every meal. There has been no slackening of quality of food whatsoever and everything was perfectly done and beautifully presented. The only disappointment was that there was no lobster or caviar on the menu during the 4 days.

The next day was San Diego. We got up and went to the Windjammer for the buffet breakfast which was lavish and delicious. All the ingredients of a classic American breakfast were there from cereal to pancakes. Eggs were limited to scrambled eggs and pre-made omelettes at the buffet. (Eggs to order were available in the dining room). The juice was some of the best I have had afloat ... so often ship's juices taste weak and reconstituted.

We took the ship's tour to the San Diego Zoo which is a truly great place to visit (Renée had never been there). We took the bus ride around the zoo, and then visited the baby panda. After walking around the zoo for some time, we got on the bus and came back to the ship in time for the buffet lunch.

The afternoon was a lazy time around the ship, and then we got into our formal clothes, had our group picture taken, and went down to dinner.

The show that night was a comedian, and also the ship's dancers. Entertainment during the trip was spotty, not up to the flashy Carnival or Princess shows, but it was always professional and made a nice finish to the evening. We dropped a few quarters in the casino and went to bed.

The next morning the ship was in Catalina. We had an afternoon tour so spent a lazy morning on the ship, had an early lunch at the buffet and went ashore. We wandered through the tourist district for a while, and then took the "semi submersible" boat. This is almost exactly like the submarines at Disneyland, with the bottom of the boat extending down into the water and lined with windows. We saw lots of fish, including many of the beautiful Garibaldis, a bright golden fish which is the state fish of California. After the tour, I went back to the ship while Renée rented a golf cart and toodled around the island for an hour ($30 an hour to rent the cart!)

Another good dinner this night. I am the seafood fan, and Renée is the red meat eater, and we both found items to our taste on the menu every night. I had shrimp, scallops, mahi mahi and salmon, and Renée had prime rib and steak every night! By sharing comments with our table mates (and tastes!) we found that almost everything on the menu was delicious of its type. This night was the only night that a midnight buffet was offered, but we went to bed before midnight!

The third day was in Ensenada. As we had been here before and seen all the local tourist attractions, I just stayed on the ship and made it as a day at sea. Renée went ashore for a few hours of shopping. We met for lunch in the dining room, which was very nice. I think I prefer the dining room lunches, Renée prefers the buffets usually. You couldn't go wrong with either one.

Leaving Ensenada, we ensconced ourselves in the Schooner Bar which had become our favorites, enjoyed the hot hors d'ouevres, and were very excited to see a herd of dolphins swimming with the bow waves of the ship, jumping in and out of the water. There must have been 30 or more dolphins, and we heard there were some on the other side of the ship also.

Arriving in San Pedro the next morning, we found that breakfast was in two sittings in the dining room with no buffet available. We found breakfast in the dining room very good. One of our table mates was finally able to have the eggs Benedict she had been looking forward to. After breakfast we sat in the Schooner bar and waited for our tag color to be called. Disembarking began about 9:30 and our tag was called about 10:00. We went down, picked up our bags, breezed through customs, took the shuttle to the car and were on our way home by 10:45.

It was a wonderful trip. The only objection I might make is to having every day in port and no relaxing days at sea. Traveling with a group is fun because you are always running into a member of your group to share a shore excursion, shopping trip or just drinks with. Royal Caribbean remains one of our very favorite cruise lines.

Mike Hall
thehalls@elite.net For more information, e-mail thehalls@elite.net.

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