Embark on a Cruise from Tampa: Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas Ep.1

Onboard the Serenade of the Seas: Our First Cruise Experience Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

Welcome to our recount of our recent five-night cruise on the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. Unlike our many previous cruises, this one was a little different. It was our first time cruising on this ship, our first departure from Tampa, and astonishingly, it was our first cruise since the world stood still because of Covid-19. In this multi-part series, we want to share our entire cruise experience from embarkation, sail away, to onboard activities, entertainment, dining, cabin experience, and the ups and downs we encountered along the way. But before all of this, let’s start with the prerequisite of the journey; the Covid-19 testing.

Covid-19 Testing: The First Step of the Preparations

Given the ongoing pandemic situation, Royal Caribbean has the requirement for all adult passengers to produce a negative test taken within two days before embarkation. So, first things first, we got tested for Covid-19 at home using test kits provided by the Royal Caribbean, who did a great job of making the process as painless as possible. It’s a simple, well-explained three-step process: order the test kit, take the test virtually guided by a live individual, and wait for the result. Both of our tests came back negative, and we were finally ready to start our sea journey.

Embarkation Day: Record-Breaking Speed and Customer Service Excellence

One of the most significant concerns ahead of our cruise was the fluid situation around the pandemic. However, to our pleasant surprise, the check-in process was smooth and efficient, taking us only around 20 minutes from the port’s entry point to the cruise ship. All we had to do was provide proof of vaccination, negative test results, passport, and complete the necessary information in the Royal Caribbean app. We also noted several improvements, such as the app-based muster station process, eliminating the need to huddle together with other passengers during the safety briefing. This not only saved us time but also allayed any potential health concerns

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First Impressions of the Serenade of the Seas

On first observation, the ship felt a lot less crowded than usual. The staff informed us that it was indeed sailing with only half its passenger capacity. While initially sounding a bit off-putting, this actually made our cruise much more enjoyable. The ship felt spacious, and the service, as a result, was very personalized. To our great delight, we were upgraded to a room with a private balcony even though we had paid for an interior stateroom, due to the ship’s flexibility from the reduced passenger load.

The Sail Away: A Spectacular Experience of the Skyway Bridge

The captain synchronized our sailaway timing perfectly to sunset, providing an astonishing backdrop as we passed under the famous Skyway Bridge. This bridge, connecting Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, is an iconic sight. However, it is not tall enough for the newly-built mega-ships to pass, making our experience even more precious considering it may be one of the last such sightings possible on a cruise ship.

About the Tampa Port and the Skyway Bridge

Currently, two Royal Caribbean ships, along with one Celebrity, one Norwegian, and one Carnival ship cruise out of Tampa Port, making it smaller in terms of cruise traffic compared to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral. That being said, being Florida’s biggest port, Tampa spans over 5,000 acres handling over 37 million tons of cargo annually.

The Iconic Skyway Bridge

Officially named the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, this bridge is familiarly known as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge or simply the Skyway. Costing around $244 million, the Skyway was completed in 1987, stretching over 4.1 miles in length. It is a spectacular sight, especially when illuminated by the $15.6 million lighting system installed in 2017. Seeing this marvel from our cruise was indeed a fantastic experience, adding an unforgettable touch to our journey.

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Looking forward to More of the Cruise Experience

This account of our first day on the Serenade of the Seas is only the beginning of our journey. Keep coming back for more of our cruise experience aboard the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas in the upcoming weeks. And remember, cruise experiences post-Covid may be slightly different, but they can still be just as delightful and enjoyable!