Subject: Taking time to give feedback on the product delivered to my wife and I by RCCL on 7 Day Bahamas Cruise on Serenade of the Seas 12/21/2013:
While my wife and I are not retired yet we have enjoyed the cruises we have been able to take during our vacations. Our first such adventure was with RCCL on the Voyager of the Seas for a Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona four years ago. The ship, its crew and the food were all extremely well prepared and we enjoyed our time both on and off the ship.
The following year we took a Celebrity Cruise/Tour of Alaska starting in Fairbanks and ending in Vancouver, BC. The tour section was very well executed and with only some minor bumps in the road we made it to Whittier, AL to board our ship. After viewing the glaciers, driving a jeep into the Yukon, whale watching, salmon fishing and finally a short tour of Vancouver, we thoroughly enjoyed this adventure as well. The food, staff and condition of the ship were superb even though this was one of Princesses smallest ships.
Earlier this year we were able to book a Baltic cruise with Celebrity sailing out of Southampton, GB and hitting seven countries with Saint Petersburg, Russia being the crown jewel of the trip. While the ship was in excellent condition, and the crew were ultimate hosts, an outbreak of virus caused conditions in the restaurants to be altered dramatically to contain any additional spread. Even so the food was excellent in all venues and the entertainment was excellent.
Because our family has grown and scattered we took the opportunity this year to take a Caribbean cruise on RCCL Serenade of the Seas out of our favorite town New Orleans, LA. Getting on board went smoothly except no one at the gang plank or on the ship mentioned to us that we could not take our carry-on bags to our room until 1pm. It was a bad assumption on my part that since we were allowed to board that we could take our luggage to our stateroom and begin to explore the ship. We huddled in the Windjammer Cafeteria with others in the same situation as us. While that was a minor Inconvenience it led to our first discovery that the food in the Windjammer was low quality and everything we tasted was lukewarm or cold. We spoke directly to an officer near the door of the cafeteria and mentioned the food was cold. We didn't mention the quality of the food because it was a loading day and we expected the selection and quality would be somewhat lower. However, even after the officer mentioned that he would inform the chef we have never seen anything above warm come off the lines except made to order of lets and pizzas. The value of the food from our previous voyages was that it was made fresh daily, but clearly a majority of the food served in the cafeteria was what I call portion packed or frozen food heated up and packaged sauces and gravies added to them. The soups were also a disappointment and I saw no one partaking of the broth soups, the cold Mellon soup or the pumpkin cream soup. The only exception was a not very hardy Minestrone soup that was very watery and had very few vegetables. Other glaring examples were the biscuits and cream gravy with pieces of sausage for flavor. The biscuits were consistently hard to cut even with a knife, rather than light and fluffy as most individuals are accustomed to eat. The white gravy resembled a pan that someone had poured milk into, chopped up pieces of sausage and set it on the warming table. Such gravy needs to be thickened such that it would remain on the biscuit, but this version merely ran over the bottom of the entire plate getting everything else on your plate soggy.
We did have My Time dining and we did go to the main dining room on a few occasions as well. Here we had mixed findings. The first time we were at the dining room our meal and service was excellent and the food was nicely cooked and at proper temperature. Other times the food was good but the service was not up to what we had come to expect from RCCL. Slightly rude individuals or small mistakes in the orders were a little annoying but were still workable. Our best meal was served in Chops Specialty Restaurant where the selection was phenomenal, the food was delicious and the service impeccable. The appetizers were some of the best we have come across in hundreds of locations around the world. The steak was perfectly cooked and served with table side choice of four different sauces, each of which was superb in their own way. Desert was a dense mud pie for my wife and a Crème Brule for me. When the Brule came out of the kitchen a la flambé I was extremely impressed once more. The service and the timing were the best we have seen on any cruise line.
The following evening we decided to go to the Dining Room again. We ordered from the menu which spoke of providing a chops quality steak. We have never been in a cruise ship dining room where there was a charge at the end of the meal as if I had gone back to chops specialty restaurant, but that is exactly what occurred. I was not thinking there would be such a charge, and the waiter did not mention to me or to my wife that there was such a section of the menu. Had I wanted to repeat the Chops meal from the night before I would have made a reservation and returned because of the excellent service and food we received. Comparing the two meals, the starters/appetizers were the ones from the standard dining room menu and no crab and shrimp cake or any of the other starters resembled what Chops had offered the night before. Our dining room waiter brought a steak similar to the one from the evening before but it did not come with table side sauce choices and the steak was cooked slightly beyond the mid-rare I ordered. There was no mud cake or flaming Crème Brule to choose from either. The service was much slower and oddly paced which I attributed to the number of patrons our waiter was serving at the same time. I did not argue the bill with the waiter at he time because I did not want to cause a scene at the entrance to the dining room.
Our stateroom and services have been fully up to the standards we have come to expect. Only one minor issue there was that two of our lounge chairs on our veranda are damaged and don't reflect what would have triggered a Repair order or replacement as these could become dangerous.
The entertainment staff has also left a lot to be desired. While I know you hire staff from around the world, when a member of the staff is put in a place where they are managing a trivia tournament or similar game, it would be very nice if that staff read and spoke English well enough so that the players could understand them. We had at least three different staff members consistently running such games and the audience ended up reading the questions or trying somewhat unsuccessfully to decipher the questions. I can tell you that every bartender we met spoke clearer English and could have easily run these games. That is very disconcerting when you have 40 or 50 people scattered around the Schooner Bar all requesting a clearer reading of the question.