My wife and two teenage girls started by driving from Long Island to Baltimore the day before departure. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Glen Burnie. The hotel offered a "stay & cruise" package which included a room, hot breakfast, parking for up to 12 days and a shuttle transfer to and from the ship.
Embarkation. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 10:30A thinking we might board at 11:30A after reading several posters saying they were on board by that time. No such luck! We were one of the first families to arrive. Checked baggage went from the van into the cart. Within 15 minutes we cleared screening and check in. We were escorted into a seated waiting area were we sat for the next 2 1/2 hours. we boarded around 1:30P.
The Ship. I was worried about the decor after several posters described the interior as dark and concerns about the "risque" art work. I found the interior to be very nice with lots of interesting art work. And yes, there was the statue of David in all his glory, Bare breasts and what appeared to be a woman...well, I'll just say it's art! Other then that, the ship was spotless and there was always crew cleaning, dusting, mopping and scrubbing. They work hard and the ship shines because of it.
Cabin. We had extended balcony Cabins 8228 and 8230. It was a nice location since it was only one flight up to the Serenity pool area and Mermaids grill. There were no issues with being on the deck below Lido deck. Maybe two or three times heard a food cart rolling above but nothing more a brief muffled sound. The beds were comfortable and the shower hot with very good water pressure.
Dining. We ate breakfast and lunch at the Mermaid Grill which is the ships buffet option. There was always a wide selection of hot and cold foods as well as complementary juices, ice tea, lemonade, teas and coffee. The 24 hour pizza cafe was good with several varieties available. The deli was open until 11:00P with several grilled and cold sandwich options. The arugula, tomato and fresh mozzarella panini was a hit with the kids. The MDR was maybe just above average, nothing outstanding. There were five new appetizer and entree selections every evening along with five appetizers and entrees that stayed the same. The portions on some appetizers were small, so I usually ordered two. Entree and dessert portions were perfect. I liked the prime rib, any soup selection and the bitter & blanc dessert the best.
Entertainment. The Cruise Director Troy was hilarious. The five stage song and dance shows excellent with the dancers and singers giving it all they had. There were 4 comedians that performed family and adult only shows. The acts were funny and the club filled up fast for each performance. The ivory piano bar was a lot of fun with nightly sing along.
Serenity adult Pool Area. This area located on the aft end of Lido deck was quiet as there were no children allowed. There was a bar and very nice covered seating area with comfortable outdoor couches and chairs. There were about 80 padded pool loungers with pillows. two double hammocks, very warm heated pool and small spa tub that held only 6 people. My gripe with Serenity was that all the pool chairs were occupied by 9:00A on sea days and no one moved until the late afternoon. There were plenty of deck chairs on the Sun and Sky decks but they were not padded and had no pillows. My other gripe was with the heated spa. It seemed that the same 6 people once in stayed in for hours at a time giving no one else an opportunity to enjoy the spa. this happened all the time, port days, sea days and cold days.
Debarkation. Most passengers choose to walk off during self assist debarkation. They debarked by deck starting around 9:30A and called the relaxed debarkation (passengers who checked their luggage) around 11:00A. once called, I was off the ship. cleared customs and retrieved my bags within 15 minutes. The process was very organized.
All in all, my family had a great time. Although the first two sea days were windy and cold, I enjoyed exploring the ship and par taking in the indoor activities.