We have recently returned from a week's cruise in the Middle East on board RCI's "Serenade of the Seas".
This was our first cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We booked very early, paid extra for an outside balcony and chose cabin 8102. On our balcony were 2 sunloungers, 2 chairs and 2 tables ... and there was still plenty of space. The cabin itself was compact but there was ample wardrobe space, hangers, cupboards and also a sofa. The shower was always hot with plenty of pressure.
The staff were superb, particularly our waiter (Sandry) and assistant waiter (Ajay) who made our evening 3-course dinner in the Reflections Restaurant even more enjoyable (Table 451). The food was superb and sometimes it was difficult to decide which dish to have. There was also a "healthy option" but we did not select from this menu!
One point to mention is regarding the dress code for dinner. According to the information we were sent prior to the cruise, there were 2 formal nights (tuxedo or suit and tie), 2 smart casual nights (jacket and shirt) and 3 casual nights. However there were no smart casual evenings so my husband had taken a jacket and 2 shirts for no reason! In addition on the formal nights we were disappointed to see that several guests wore casual clothes. Surely if the literature referred to a dress code, and the daily "Cruise Compass" newsletter left in the cabin stated what was required, then it should be enforced? The "Windjammer" self-service restaurant is available to everyone at no extra charge so those guests who did not want to make an effort should have been advised to use that restaurant on formal nights.
Check in was very efficient. We flew overnight from LGW on the Emirates flight and were taken to The Hyatt Hotel for breakfast where we completed the necessary boarding documentation and received our cabin keycards. Mid-morning we were then taken to the ship where we could take advantage of the sunshine relaxing on loungers on the sun decks until our cabin was available. There was no queue to get onto the ship.
Disembarking the ship was even more efficient. Luggage was collected from outside cabins at midnight and guests were advised of the time of their departure and where they should assemble in the morning.
Purchasing drinks packages prior to departing the UK is definitely worth doing as it means you can have some control over the costs involved, paying for these in advance so that it's not such a shock at the end of your cruise! We chose the unlimited soda fountain package and a 7-bottles of wine package (other deals are available). Obviously you can purchase more drinks when on board which will be charged to your cabin. We were also allowed to take 2 bottles of wine on board with us that we had purchased at LGW duty free, but you should declare them before boarding the ship as other drinks might be confiscated.
The ports of call were interesting. We had previously been to the Middle East and visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi but had never been to Muscat in Oman. We therefore decided to do the Mystical Mosque and City tour but booked this independently via our travel agent about 2 months prior to leaving the UK. This meant we had already paid for our trip and it was at a much lower price than if we had booked it direct with RCI. Imagine our surprise to find that we were the only 2 people on this excursion, chauffeur driven in an air conditioned luxury car by our very knowledgeable and helpful guide and we could therefore explore at our own pace.
The mosque was fascinating and definitely worth a visit. However it is only open to the public until 11 a.m. and please note that ladies should wear loose long trousers (or loose long skirts), long sleeves, preferably socks with sandals and a scarf to cover your head when in the mosque itself. Men should not wear shorts.
On board ship there's plenty to do during the day and in the evening but it is up to you whether you wish to join in or just relax. There are numerous bars, lounges and places to sit.
We had a great time and will go on a cruise again in the future.