Serenade of the Seas 15 Day Circle Hawaii Cruise October 5, 2007 By Host Joe
This was our second time on Serenade, with the first being when she was only a few months old. This was our 25th cruise overall, with several of them being on RCCL. Embarkation We had arrived in San Diego a few days early and on the morning of embarkation joined our friends who were staying at the Holiday Inn across the street. Shortly before Noon we walked our luggage over. There was a moderate line but not bad. There seemed to be a lot of confusion due to the Carnival cruise that was loading at the same time, and for some reason there were a lot of tempers flaring. I never figured it out as we were inside and in the check-in process within a few minutes. Check-in was smooth, and we were on the ship just a few minutes before 1pm. The Ship We felt the ship was in beautiful condition. There were a few minor signs of wear, which is to be expected of any ship but all in all she is in gorgeous shape. The Radiance class of ships is our favorite for design. We had stateroom 8590, which is an E3 balcony on the "hump". The cabin was nice and in perfect shape. The balcony on this particular cabin is pie shaped and rather small. I knew this when we booked, but it was the only hump cabin available even though I booked this cruise within a couple of days of the itinerary opening. Weather The seas were fairly calm overall, with no major motion at any point. The weather within a day or so from the coast of California tends to be cooler and a bit overcast. Once you are within a couple days either way of Hawaii it is sunning weather and we enjoyed lying out on the decks! Once in Hawaii we had beautiful temps in the 80's and had mostly sunny skies, perfect!
Dining The windjammer always offered up a nice selection of breakfast and lunch entree's that were fresh and hot. We were pleased with the windjammer all of the time. For a nice change we went to the Solarium cafe a couple of times for lunch where they make crepes to order, and they were awesome. We had a couple of lunches at the Seaview Cafe as well, and that was a good choice for diner style food. For dinner we had late seating on the upper level. Our waiter Enver, assistant waiter, Omar along with our head waiter, Ercan were all very good. We were traveling with 3 friends so we had a table for 5. We all felt that the appetizers, soups and salads were all very good and of good quality. The entree's were very hit and miss, which was a disappointment. We experienced several meals that were way below RCCL standards of the past, both in quality and preparation. In addition, the selections seemed to be much more limited than what we have seen in the past. For an example there were two people at our table who ordered chicken parmesan one night. It arrived all dried out, with the tomato sauce evaporated and glue like with the chicken dry and rubbery. It was obviously prepared hours before hand. We did think that the lobster night was excellent. The desserts were very disappointing much of the time with major inconsistencies. I ordered cheesecake several times, and one time it would come out like a good, thick cheesecake (as cheesecake should be!) and the next time it would be like jello fluff that was tasteless and unmemorable. We let our headwaiter know each time we had bad entree's and he did all that he could do that was within his control. I am not sure if this is a new direction for RCCL with food, or if this was an isolated incident with the current Serenade staff. We are on Brilliance of the Seas in a few weeks so we will see if we find the same experiences there when it comes to the entree and dessert in the dining room. One evening we went to Portofino's and all 5 of us had a wonderful meal! I ordered the filet, and it was one of the best I have had. All of our courses were wonderful and the service was fantastic. We were all very pleased and enjoyed our evening completely. A few nights later we went to Chops and had the opposite experience. After the soup our wait staff started clearing all of our salad forks and laying down our steak knives. We quickly asked about our salads and our wait staff acted surprised.. oops, they forgot the salad course. They quickly brought back our salad forks and bread followed by the salads we had all ordered. Soon after came our steaks. My partner and I ordered the full size filet mignon. His was full sized and mine was a tiny petit filet. I asked about that as they served it, and was told that it was the full sized filet. When we went to take our first bite, 3 of our steaks were COLD! Two of us opted to send them back, which obviously caused some issues between the chefs, wait staff and dining room manager that we could see in the distance. About 20 minutes later our two steaks arrived, hot and fresh. The others at our table had been done with their meal about 5 minutes. Overall it was a disappointing experience. I had expected that the dining manager would offer us a second take on another night or something, but she really did not care and it showed.
Concierge Lounge We are Diamond members. For this cruise they closed down the Viking Crown area in the evenings and turned it into the Concierge Lounge due to the large amount of Diamond and Diamond Plus members aboard. Maritza was the Concierge and she does a wonderful job. She introduced herself on the first night and made sure to call us by our names and talk with us every evening. She was always there asking if there was anything that she could do for us, which was very nice. The open bar in the evenings for us was a very nice perk and the bartenders, Bernabe and Joey were fantastic. They knew what we drank after the first couple of nights and as we walked up to the bar they had our drinks waiting! Ports This was our third time in Hawaii so we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. In Kona we did an afternoon of snorkeling on the Body Glove which we had booked on our own and had a nice time. In Maui we rented a car for both days. Note that Thrifty does not offer shuttle service to Lahaina passengers and their only location is at the airport which a long way away. We ended up canceling our Thrifty reservation after waiting for a shuttle for almost an hour and finding out that they do not come to Lahaina! Luckily Hertz had cars available. We went to the Old Lahaina Lua which we booked on our own and had a very nice evening. You have to pay to park your car overnight in one of many little lots, and it basically cost $25. On day two in Maui we did the road to Hana, which was very beautiful but a long day. In Hilo we drove our rental car to Volcano National Park, drove around the crater and then drove down the Chain of Craters road and enjoyed the many views. This day was a true highlight! Our final port was on Oahu, where we drove around the island for the day, which again was very beautiful. On our return trip there was a medical evacuation. We had left Oahu as scheduled at 2 a.m. At 6 p.m. the next day we noticed that we were completely turning around and heading back to Hawaii. Sure enough, a few minutes later the Captain announced that we had to head back towards the coast of Hawaii for an evacuation. We were going to meet the Coast Guard helicopter at 6 a.m. for the evacuation when were 70 miles from shore. We met the helicopter as scheduled and all went well. The captain announced that we would be arriving late due to the evacuation and estimated a 1 p.m. arrival instead of 7 a.m. There were many people that had to reschedule their flights due to the change. Another example of why you need a good travel insurance policy! When we arrived in San Diego, the Captain announced that we had actually set a record for the highest maintained speed for the RCCL fleet of 24.1 knots! We had flights out the following day, so we were fine. We always fly in at least a day early and leave the day after we return just for this reason whenever possible. We ended up leaving the ship around 3 p.m. Summary Overall, this was a fantastic cruise and we would do it again! We love Hawaii, and especially all of the relaxing days at sea. The ship and its staff were fantastic and once again we love the Radiance class of RCCL. Our sincere hope was that our dining issues were an isolated issue and we look forward to next RCCL cruise.