This was my first cruise with Royal Caribbean and only my second cruise overall. My first cruise was a 3-nighter with Norwegian to the Bahamas. Embarkation was from San Juan, PR. Having vacationed in Puerto Rico before, I could have arrived in San Juan a week earlier and stayed a week afterwards had I not employment responsibilities. I love San Juan and I hope to return to Puerto Rico soon to explore other parts of this beautiful and welcoming island.
I escaped two monster blizzards coming through the mid-Atlantic with hours to spare. Actually pulled my flight up by a day to make sure I made the boat.
Embarkation was quick and easy, though once you step foot on to the ship, it was a bit of a uninstructed free-for-all if you're unfamiliar with RC ship layouts.
The Serenade of the Seas was a very nice boat. Quite large with two pools - one indoor, one outdoor and two hot tubs. There is a pool bar and a second tier sundeck and bar. I think these features are fairly standard. The ship was always very clean, very tidy, and staff walking around straightening, picking up and neating up all the time. One curious thing was that maintenance people were always around. Either painting, making small repairs - they weren't intrusive at all but they were always appearing places.
There is a 9-hole mini-golf and a rock climbing wall. There is a basketball court and a generously sized kids' play / pool area. The gym was stocked with LifeFitness gear and flat screen TVs.
The Casino got friendlier as the trip progressed. The slot machines were paying out and the dealers were very good about teaching me Craps and playing well with me at the Blackjack table. Roulette was not my friend at this location.
Other than that, there were the usual shops, art auctions, bars, cafes... The cruise was definitely catered to an older age group than myself (50 - 100's?) but this was expected. I just wanted a warm-weather getaway at an inexpensive daily rate which this was exactly that. I did one excursion - after all, if you've swam with one turtle, you've seen them, same for stingrays, dolphins, waterfalls, "hikes" through rainforest trails .... I was looking for lazy.
Service was excellent overall. From pool staff, restaurant service, table-side coffee service, drink service - there was always someone nearby. Cruise director Dennis was a little chatty for me, but he is a social event coordinator so I guess he has to be. Production shows were good but a little cheezy. Norwegian's was definitely better. Acts were so-so. We had Merril Osmond on and a comedian from Toronto who told the same jokes as all the other ship comedians. The ship photographers may as well have been paparazzi. They were overbearing and intrusive.
I will probably not sail with Royal Carribean again. Will go back to Norwegian where there is a generally younger crowd and I really like the free-style dining they offer. This Royal cruise had two formal nights.
Food was decent. Nothing to write home about. Again - Norwegian specialty restaurant food was far better, but you are paying a little extra for the restaurants.