A general review of Serenade of the Seas
Before embarkation, I had read so much about the Serenade. I heard she was beautiful, I heard she had a facelift and I'd heard various other rumors about what this lady would be like before I had an opportunity to actually meet her in person.
The Serenade does not disappoint in person and her recent time in dry dock has been worthwhile. I've had the pleasure of enjoying six cruises, three of which were on the Royal Caribbean, and this ship may be one of the best looking. The centrum is small and the common areas have limited space, but it can all be overlooked for those taking a port intensive journey.
The staff has yet to disappoint on this trip and with all previous sailings. I have always enjoyed Princess Cruises, but Royal Caribbean has a certain charm when it comes to room service and dining room staff. People say good morning and try to thank you by name as if it's obligatory. Even if the kind gestures are a job requirement, I think it's nice to be thanked by name every so often.
This is my first Mediterranean cruise and have previously sailed for the Caribbean itineraries. One cruise, four countries with few sea days was a selling point for me. It's economical when you figure the cost of of hotel, food, etc. Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, I mean, wow.
The food is pretty good and I'm sure the cruise newbies would find it more than acceptable. For those of us who've had a little experience under our life vests- you're just not wowed and I want to be wowed. There are now three courses rather than four, although feel free to order another course without additional charge. You already know that lobster is now $34 on formal nights and is no longer part of the all inclusive deals that we have grown accustomed to. Grr. There are fewer dinner options on the menu and I felt that the selection was not outstanding. Some nights I left part of my food on the plate, skipped dessert (!), or headed to the buffet. On all previous cruises, I have always had the dining room breakfast, lunch and dinner when possible, because it was always a notch above the buffet.
We took an excursion to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast through Royal Caribbean and I have no complaints. The tour guide was a spunky Italian woman who had the gift of gab and somehow managed to talk for 9 hours. She was informative and entertaining the entire time and she helped to make the experience unforgettable. Love her.
The buffet was better than I expected and was not the chaotic tornado that others have portrayed it in their reviews. I found it disappointing that the buffet consisted of some similar food items that were in the dining room...the night after they were served. I've read every possible review before coming onboard and I'm pleased to say that I generally enjoyed everything that I ate at the Windjammer.
The ports of call were great, but the actual ports were the cost effective choice for the cruise; basically expect to cough up a little more cash. In Ravenna, you are more or less dependent on RCI for their $14 shuttle if you want to sightsee. In Civitavecchia you have to take a ~50 min train to get into Rome (and possibly metro) depending on what your plans are. It seems that they chose the more industrial ports because RCI is not charged as much to dock there.
The other problem is the day of the week that we visit various ports. The Accademia (Statue of David) is closed on Mondays, most shops in Ravenna are closed on Sundays or everything else closes early, several things were closed in Cannes and Antibes (also on a Sunday.) I know that Europe spends their Sundays a little differently than folks in the states, I just wish that the sea days were planned around these (not necessarily practical.) I felt like a lot of this was also based on economics. I'm sure that cruise ships are not lining up near Florence when the Accademia is open, because it's a major point of interest and probably a little more money. The rumor onboard today is that are last port, Dubrovnik, closes many shops on Mondays too.
There are so many nationalities onboard the Serenade and there are several languages spoken. The one prevailing complaint that we seem to be united on: RCI knows how to nickel and dime you. Everything, everything, everything is a charge. It would take up too much space to write all the examples here, but it's annoying. The charges are not always obvious until the last minute. For example, you get into Ravenna and you find out that the downtown area is nearly 10 miles away and you can either cough up more ca$h for a taxi or pay the cruise $14.
Despite the aforementioned gripes, I have enjoyed this trip thoroughly and have made it a point to enjoy it to the fullest. This is a trip that I'll remember for the rest of my days and I have no regrets. While I enjoyed it, I have doubts on whether or not I'll return to RCI. I feel like I'm sailing the waters from inside a shark that's eating my hard earned cash. My first cruise was on RCI and it will always be my favorite. Enchantment of the Seas was my least favorite and now, the Serenade, was nice for a price. For now, it looks like we'll be parting ways, but at least I have my memories.