Prior to the cruise I had linked up with others via the Roll Call. As a solo traveller this was a way of getting to know others prior to sailing. We met at the Sky Bar on sailaway and often met up during the cruise, either on various excursions or around the ship.
I had been staying with family who are based in Dubai so had already done a lot of sightseeing in Dubai. I made my own way to the port and embarkation went very smoothly. I was in my cabin by 1 pm and luggage arrived shortly afterwards. My cabin steward, Clinton, was there to greet me and throughout the cruise he kept the cabin spotless. He was efficient, friendly and always had a cheery greeting. The balcony cabin (D9062)on Deck 9 was spacious with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space. The shower was a good size and the water always hot. The balcony had two comfy chairs but the round table was a bit small.
DINING - When I booked the trip I requested My Time Dining and this was confirmed and gratutities taken at the time. However, my SeaPass Card showed I had been put on 2nd sitting. Apparently My Time Dining was overbooked and a lot were not given the seating they had requested. I was unable to change to even the 1st sitting. Found the late dinner meant it was not always possible to see and do all I wanted to of an evening but I did manage to fill my evenings with an early show, pre-dinner drink and fun in one of the many bars afterwards. The food was very good with plenty of choice to suit all tastes. It was nicely cooked and well presented. My table waiters (Table 492) were efficient, curteous and made the dining experience most enjoyable.
The Windjammer Buffet served good food but it got so crowded. I tended to have a relaxed breakfast in the Reflections Dining Room and did have Room Service on a couple of days. This was delivered at the requested time and is free of charge (plus a tip if you wish to the person who brings it). Lunch would be either in the Windjammer Buffet or at the Park Cafe which served delicious snacks and salads.
I did eat at the Chops Grill one evening and this was such good value - the best steak I have ever tasted.
BARS - Each Bar had something different to offer. The Centrum had a small dance floor and the group the Boogies certainly got your feet tapping. My favourites were the Schooner Bar, Safari Club and the Crown & Castle Pub.
The bars around the pool areas were good and the staff very attentive.
ENTERTAINMENT - This was not as good as on some cruise lines I have been on. However the YMCA NIght was superb; the Beatles - A Musical Celebration was fantastic with everyone singing along and even dancing in the aisles of the theatre. The Arabian Night around the pool was great fun. The highlight for me though was Jonathan Ansell (exG4)whose performance of classical, show music and rock could only be described as magical. He remained on board ship for a couple of days and even entered into the fun of the Belly Flop competition at the Main Pool. Needless to say when the judges realised who Jonathan From England was he scored perfect sixes and was awarded the Gold Medal. He was a very likeable person and did not fail to say hello if he met you around the ship.
DRINKS - Prices were outrageous and I feel a 15% surcharge on all drinks is disgraceful. I am glad that I orderd a water package and the Soda Package. With the prices so high for wines and spirits I tended to stick with the cocktail of the day and was content with my Soda Package option.
FACILITIES ON BOARD - The main pool could get crowded but the Solarium Pool (Adults Only) was much more relaxing. The water slide and children's pool area was nicely set out. I found no problem in finding a sun-lounger even on the day at sea. I did treat myself to a spa treatment (Seaweed Wrap with full body and head massage) This lasted 90 mins and was sheer bliss and I thought a reasonable price as spas at sea go.
The rock climbing wall was impressive but having a problem with arthritis I was not tempted to try it. It was fun to watch others though. I instead had a leisurely game of golf and shuffleboard with some new friends - we had quite a few laughs going round the golf course - not as easy as it looks!
I did visit the Casino and had a few goes on the 25c slot machines but did not win very much. Glad I made sure I had Dollars to hand because if you get dollars from the cashier and put it on your SeaPass, RCI will charge you 3%!
There are some things I can give a miss - Can never understand the need for Art Auctions on board and the discount sessions in the ships shops did not impress and I found the photographer's prices far too high. I managed to get some good pictures taken by other passengers so saved a lot there.
There was so much to see and do on board throughout the day with something to suit all preferences. It was often difficult to fit everything in.
SHORE EXCURSIONS - I opted for the ships excursions because as a solo traveller I did not want to venture out alone and the prices I felt were very reasonable. In Abu Dhabi I took the City Tour and Grand Mosque tour - absolutely wonderful; in Fujairah I did the East Coast Tour which was enjoyable but not that wonderful - a lot of on and off the coach for short periods. In all a little rushed but it was interesting nontheless. In Muscat I did the Mystical Muscat and this was very good indeed. Excursions were well organised and the guides very knowledgeable.
GRATUITIES - As mentioned earlier my tips were deducted from the beginning as I had requested My Time Dining. However as I did not get my requested dining option I decided to ask for a refund of my pre-paid tips and requested I be allowed to tip those of my own choosing . The Purser's Desk was very obliging, there was no hassle and the money is to be re-imbursed. I then handed out tips to those I considered had earned them e.g. cabin steward, dining room waiters and certain bar staff.
Serenade of the Seas is a lovely ship.It is spotlessly clean and the decor is well thought out. I can understand why people keep returning to RCI as their standards are so high
This was my first cruise with RCI and although I feel I had a good deal on this cruise I will have to carefully look at their prices on future cruises because the single supplements tend to be quite hefty. I would however recommend RCI.