Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by marcogilbert: Great ports of call, but food is average.
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Great ports of call, but food is average.
We are a couple in our 40's and this was our seventh cruise. We have cruised on Celebrity, Disney, NCL and Carnival before but this was our first time with RCI. This cruise was an 12 night cruise with 4 days at sea. The cruise left and return to Barcelona (Spain) and ports included Cannes (France), Livorno (Italy), Civitavecchia (Italy), Piraeus (Greece), kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini (Greece) and Salerno (Italy).
This is a nice ship that is well designed so you are able to find your way around in no time. It is spacious and it never feels crowded in the public areas. The "Centrum" area is an open space in the middle of the ship that goes from deck 4 to deck 11 and it is great because when there is a show or a performance on deck 4 you can gather around this place on almost every deck and enjoy the music and the view. In fact, for the "aerial performance" you will have the best view if you are on deck 7 or 8.
The stateroom is More nice and very functional so it feels bigger than similar staterooms on other ships. They made really good use of the space. Everything was very clean and the service was meeting our expectations.
The evening shows were good and we enjoyed them. There was a good mix of singing, dancing, comedy, tribute, etc…
The ports of call were the main reason we choose that cruise and they were all great. Moreover, we never expected any delay to get off the ship in the morning. In fact, sometime we were even able to get off the ship earlier than the time printed on the daily journal. We only had to tender twice (Cannes and Santorini) which is also a good point.
The ports were all very interesting but my advice would be to book your excursions off-ship because they are a lot cheaper for the same experience. I will review the port individually somewhere else.
The pool area was a nice place to relax but there were a couple of entertainer that should re-evaluate their singing career! We never had any problem to find a chair on this ship. The staff seemed to apply the "no hog chair" policy and most of the passenger did not reserve a chair if they were not there.
There is really really good soft ice cream in the Windjammer restaurant, and you can always find some good refreshment in the "Park Café". They frequently have "Strawberry" and "Mango" no-sugar added water which is very refreshing, one of the best options when you are thirsty. In the morning there is an omelette bar which offers the best choice.
About the main dining room (Reflections), we had a great waiter. After the first night he would bring us our usual drinks as soon as we sat. He was very attentive and always had a great smile to offer. Bravo Mr. Monsef. However, the assistant waiter wasn't so great and borderline rude. I also noticed that they are not too strict on casual nights and you won't have any problem getting in wearing something nice and clean, even if it is not long pants.
The sports area is great. You have a nice climbing wall, a nice miniature golf and a "basketball/volleyball" court that are fun to use. There is also a running track but the people using it were frequently stuck behind other passenger because lengthy part of it was going between two rows of chairs that did not leave much space to walk out of the track.
The specialty drinks are good and it is even better if you check for the frequent specials (2 for 1, happy hour, etc…)
There were also a couple of language classes (Greek, Spanish, Italian) scheduled before the stop where we could use it and I really enjoyed participating in those beginner classes to learn something along the way. Thanks Tino.
Disembarquation went smoothly and rapidly.
Registration was kind of slow, even if most of the counters were open.
The food was really disappointing. The food in the Windjammer buffet at lunch and dinner did not offer much variety and the taste was just average. It was not bad, but it was not very good either. Most of the time there is a "burger/hot dog/pizza" counter but the patties are bring all at the same time in a big plate and they could stay there for a while so they are never really hot, just lukewarm most of the time.
For lunch in the main dining room things were not much better. Most of the time the fish was overcook, and almost cold when we got it. The bread was really good and the presentation of the main course was good, but it definitely lacked flavour. A lot of people were talking about the quality of the food and were surprised that it was not better than that. The deserts were ordinary and the service was rush for the second seating.
About the speciality restaurant (where you have to pay extra $$$) some really liked it, some said that the service is superior but not the food so it was not worth it. There were even some people that found it so good the first time that they decided to return another night only to be disappointed the second time.
Breakfast was a little better in the main dining room with a great "fruit bar" and sometimes really good "eggs Benedictine", but they were not available every day.
We also do not understand how they could be out of some item four days before the end of the cruise. For example they had very good chips (individual bag) in Park Café, but four days before the end of the cruise they did not have any more chips! And if you are looking for a snack after midnight, good luck. You can always use room service but there is an extra charge at night.
Another bad point is the TV service. First of all, the "room service" menu and the "Your account" menu were out of service for about three days. So it was not possible to review our account in our stateroom and if we wanted to order room service we had to do it by phone, but even then it was complicated because the menu is usually available on the TV… No TV, no menu to order from.
The TV schedule was also a little weak. For example over the course of the entire cruise the same two episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" were running over and over. In English, then in French, then in Spanish. And it looked like they only had a couple of episodes of every show. But then again, we are not on a cruise to watch TV so this was a minor problem.
As for the Cinema, there was limited choice (Chicago, Ender's game, 50 First Date, Lego Movie) but it was nice anyway.
We bought the "unlimited soda" package and that was the worst decision we made. For over 100$/pers, we were served fountain soda that was flat 7 out of 10 times. The choices were very very limited and some were really awful (sprite). We were lucky a couple of time when the "fountain" was empty so they would serve us a can (after arguing), but the soda package is definitely not worth it. You will be better to drink the orange/apple juice or the no-sugar added strawberry/mango water in Park Café and buy your soft drink individually when you really crave it. At least you would be able to ask for the good stuff (cans).
The second thing that bothers me is that you have to check your account carefully. We were overcharged three times during our cruise. 1) For an unexplained reason a tip was charged to our account by a bar where we did not even make any purchase! Just the tip, no purchase ?!?!? 2) I was overcharge by over 2$ for a drink in the Safari Club. I had to show the waitress the price in the menu on the table so she would make the correction. 3) My wife was overcharge for a café latte in the Latté-tudes. The price that was charge to her was higher than the price displayed on the blackboard menu.
All those "mistakes" were fixed when we pointed them out, but this was kind of strange and we are wondering how much money is made by RCI with those "mistakes".
We also had a little problem with one of the assistant-waiter that was borderline rude because some of the people at our table had trouble speaking English. He also always seems to be eager to finish his shift so he would rush everything to get rid of us as soon as possible. But this was the behavior of only one person, so I should go over that since the rest of the staff gave us really good service and we appreciated it.
The last thing that is really annoying is the smokers on board. Why do they accommodate so much the smoking crowd? There is a complete side of the outside decks that is reserved for those smokers and this is a real annoyance. The number of smoker on that cruise was lower than I noticed on other cruise (I guess this had something to do with the "age factor" of the passenger) but even then, it does not take many smoker to stink up a place. I think younger people have understood that smoking is out. Just walking on the smoking side of the deck to go from one place to another was bothering enough to avoid it at all price.
If you choose this cruise for the ports of call you will be very satisfy. You just have to know that you won't be served the best of food, but you won't be starving either! I would definitely consider booking another RCI cruise if they offer an interesting itinerary. Less
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Cabin review: Serenade of the Seas 9517
Very nice stateroom. Big and functional. Good use of the space. We had a problem one night around 19h00 when we noticed that all the water provided to the stateroom was a dark-yellow (the shower, the sink, the toilet). We told it to the stateroom attendant and when we came back an hour later the problem was fixed. An officer even came later to see if everything was fine.
Port and Shore Excursions
This is a city that you could visit without spending much.
We got off the ship early and walk along the port counter-clockwise until we saw the pedestrian bridge that allows access to the Metro. Then we bought a daily metro ticket (4 Euro) and we took the Metro.
We got off at station Omonia and switch to the red line that goes to Akropolis (3 stops).
At the Akropolis station we got off and went directly to the "Temple of Zeus - Olympiéon" (walk east) and bought the 12 Euro ticket that gives access to most of the city sights. We visited the Temple of Zeus then walk West toward the Akropolis and visited it too.
The Akropolis is the best place to visit in Athens. There is a lot of history there and the view is to die for.
Exiting the Akropolis you can climb the Mars Rock for a nice view too. Then walk down to the Old Agora and there are a lot of things to see there too.
After that, exiting North, you will be in the Plaka. This is a part of the city that has a lot of small streets filled with restaurant, shops, etc.. And it is very nice to walk there.
We made our way to the Hadrian's Library (more ruins) and then wandered around until it was time to take back the metro (green line) to Piraeus.
So many things to see, so little time !
It is very easy to drop off you luggage early and then take the port shuttle to get to "La Rambla" to have a little taste of Barcelona. The shuttle only cost 3 Euro for unlimited daily usage and if would take you from right off the ship to the South end of the Rambla where the "Colon" monument is located.
You will be able to stroll along for 2-3 hours before returning to the ship and enjoy the little shops, restaurants and markets along the way.
You should spend many days in Barcelona to really have time to see all the wonder of that city.
We tendered to the port and then took a ferry to Ste-Marguerite Island.
The ferry only cost around 11 Euro online and you should allow about 2-3 hours visiting the island.
The view from this island is wonderful and you will be able to visit the prison where the "man in the iron mask" was held. You should also walk "l'allée des Eucalyptus" which is magnificent.
We came back to Cannes around 1PM and then walk up to the Suquet neighborhood. Then we walked down to "La Croisette" and spend the afternoon walking in the sun.
There is not much to do in Cannes, but it is a nice place to visit anyway.
The highlight of the day was definitely the island of Ste-Marguerite.
We already visited Florence/Pise in a previous cruise so this time we decided to go to "Cinque Terre".
We took a shuttle from the port to Piazza Grande (5 Euro for the day) and then took the bus #1 to the train station (Piazza Dante). We then bought our train tickets for "La Spezia" which were 18 Euro for the round trip. The ride is about 50 minutes and do not forget to validate your ticket prior to getting on the train.
In La Spezia we bought the "Cinque Terre Card Treno" that is a daily pass for all Cinque Terre parks and train transportation. The card cost 12 Euro and the ride from La Spezia to the further village (Monterosso) is about 30 minutes.
We started our visit in Monterosso which has a beautiful beach and is very nice. We walk around a little, then headed for the blue trail to reach Vernazza. This trail is about 3km long and it will take you about 2 hours to reach Vernazza. The view is magnificent all the way but be aware that you will have to climb some steep steps and the walk would require some efforts but it is definitely worth it. In fact, you have to climb all the way up the hill that separates Monterosso from Vernazza. But when you reach the point where you can see Vernazza, you will have the best view of the day !
We ate lunch in a small pizzeria of Vernazza and then headed to the pier to take a ferry that took us from Vernazza to Riomaggiore for about 6.5 Euro.
From the ferry you have the best view of Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
In the beginning we wanted to get off in Manarola and walk the "Via dell'Amore" to Riomaggiore, but the time was going fast so we decided to get off in Riomaggiore and just take a quick look at Via dell'Amore.
That was a good decision because the train we planned to took back to La Spezia (a 10 minutes ride) was over 20 minutes late and we almost miss your train from La Spezia to Livorno. So be aware and give yourself plenty of time for thing like this if you plan your visit by yourself.
Cinque Terre is really a beautiful place to visit and we appreciated it very much.
Since we already visited Ephesus, we wanted to try something different.
So we booked a tour for "Priene-Miletos-Didyma" directly with Celsus Travel because it had good reviews online.
The tour cost us about 50 Euro / pers and we really really enjoyed it.
We were picked up at the port and driven to the three site in a Mercedes Mini-van that was very clean and comfortable.
The guide (Yigit Ergen) was wonderful. He was very knowledgeable and he made every minute very interesting.
Priene has a lot to offer.
Miletus has a great Arena with a lot of history too. And the bath are really well conserved.
Didyma has only the "Temple of Apollo", but this is so huge and this make a nice place to end the day.
The only downside is the restaurant where we were taken for lunch. It had a great view but there were a lot of cats in the restaurant. That does not sit well with me.
But I would definitely recommend the PMD tour to anyone else if they could have a great guide like we did.
If you never went in that region Ephesus should still be the first choice to visit, but if you already saw it, PMD is a really nice option.
We got off the boat early and walked to the train station to buy the "BIRG - 5 zones" ticket that would give us unlimited access to train and bus for the day. The ticket cost 12 Euro and it takes about 45 minutes to get from Civitavecchia to the San Pietro Station (add about 20 minutes if you prefer to get off at Termini Station).
There is so much to do in Rome that you will have to make some choices if you are only there for a day.
In San Pietro we visited the Cathedral and went up in the Copola (7 Euro). This is the best view of the city.
Then we took bus #64 to get near the Panthéon (about 450m away). It is easy to find and the facade is wonderful. From there you can easily find the Trevi Fountain and you can even walk to the Spanish Steps. But since we already saw those, we headed back to bus #64 stop to take bus #87 that took us directly to the Colloseum.
If you want to skip the queue you can book a guide outside, but there is another way that we think is even better. Go to line and ask the employe for the audio-guide booth (Dove si trova la cabina di guida audio). He would send you directly inside, no queue at all and you will be able to rent the audio-guide (12 Euro entrance fee + 5.5 Euro for the audio-guide) and you will start your visit immediately! No wait at all.
Keep your ticket because it is also good to visit the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus after the Colloseum.
For me the Colloseum was the highlight of the day.
If you have time you could take bus #118 to visit the St-Callixtus Catacombs (8 Euro).
In our case, we decided that we had enough after Circus Maximus so we took the Metro to get to the Train Station Termini and then took the train back to the ship.
Again one day is not enough to visit Rome, but do it by yourself and you will be able to see much more than if you book a group tour I think.
We took the first tender to the island because we wanted to make most of our day in that little paradise.
We took the cable car to Fira because I do not trust the donkey ride much and the cable car is faster anyway. But some friend use the donkeys and they enjoyed it, so both options are good.
In Fira, we rented a ATV for about 20 Euro for the day and it was a great decision.
It allowed us to go to Oia at the North end of the island which is quite a place with many wonderful photo spots. You can spend all your day there but we limited our time there to be able to see more.
When we left we stopped many time to appreciate the view and take pictures. This is why it was so great to travel by ATV. You can park anywhere and you can really enjoy the sun and the wind while you travel.
Then we drove off to the far South of the island to visit "Red Beach". This is a special place where the sand looks more like "rust" than sand, but it is nice to experience that place.
We finally came back to Fira to wandered around, have a snack (good gelato and pizza), and shop a little.
At the end of the day we walk down the 587 steps back to the tender, looking at the beautiful ocean view, but also looking at our feet to avoid the gifts left by the donkey!
Santorini is a feast for the eyes.
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