This was our third cruise on RCI and our first on Serenade of the Seas. Everything wasn't perfect, but I didn't expect it to be. All in all a very nice ship and the staff clearly went out of their way to tend to our every need. That was a big plus.
Checking in was as smooth as silk. Took a cab from the San Juan airport; cost $25 with 3 bags and took about half hour to get to the Pan American dock. Since we've cruised with RCI before, we were Gold status and had a separate line that really started thing off right (only 1 guy ahead of us). The regular line wasn't too long, but had about 20 people waiting. Lots of paperwork that should be filled out BEFORE you get there cause trying to do it there at the last minute really holds things up.
Our room was 1006, a deluxe oceanview balcony (E1)located on the 10th floor. The room was a bit small and my hubby and I bumped into each other quite a bit. Small bathroom too but that's to be expected. If you've never been on a cruise ship, be prepared for the loudest flushing toilets EVER! Small balcony, but the privacy and access to fresh air was priceless. The room location was all the way forward and Windjammer, the main casual dining room on the 11th floor, was at the back of the ship. Lots of walking but since we were only one floor below it, we never had to wait for the elevator. Also, this location means it's really quiet most of the time; no one walking past your room at all hours of the night. We were just below the spa but some nights we heard a couple of loud bangs just above us, like weights being dropped. Annoying but only for a second or two.
The food in the Windjammer was pretty darned good. I was lured into eating lots of "bad" things daily, like bacon, sausages and pastries because they were just so...available! The selections were typical cruise fare, but the meat was never dry, veggies never soggy or wilted and everything was seasoned very nicely (not too salty, not too sweet). The chefs did a phenomenal job. Same for the formal dining room, Reflections. The food served here was excellent, upscale restaurant quality and plenty of it. The wait staff was great; served everyone quickly and watched carefully to make sure our glasses were always filled and our plates removed in a timely fashion. They spoke several languages and always had helpful information about the upcoming ports and excursions. Our table mates were fun, fun, fun and hailed from Canada (French) and Puerto Rico (Spanish). Dinner was never boring and we really loved meeting them for dinner every night.
The excursions on the islands were pretty good. We did the Hotwire Pitons Zip line by the sea in St. Lucia and had a fantastic time. Book your excursions before you get to the ship if you can. The more popular ones are sometimes gone well in advance. My husband did the two tank dive in St. Croix and said it was awesome. We also did the Carib Cats Sail and Snorkel in Grenada. Nice crew, fun trip, crappy boat. The Catamaran Sail, Snorkel and Beach Cruise in Antigua was great fun too. The boat was much nicer and the crew showed everyone such a good time (the rum punch was flowing like water). A few people selling stuff on the beach, but very good natured when we told them we didn't have any money. Very friendly people.
Had THE BEST MASSAGE EVER at the spa by a woman named Nancy. They had a 75 minutes special, where you got a head, neck, back and foot massage, skin brushing and facial for a VERY reasonable rate. She didn't do a hard sell on the products which was also nice. The spa always seemed to be pretty empty but it shouldn't have been. I didn't use the gym, but it seemed to have everything the average exercise guy or girl would want.
Went to the casino a couple of times. The video poker machines were sort of working (i.e. wouldn't accept dollar bills, had lines running across the screens, etc.). I had fun and won some money, but it was just ok.
The only thing that was just a little lacking on this cruise was the entertainment. The shows we went to were good. The Cruise Director was an Australian gentleman who was very funny and kept things moving. The comedian, John Wing, was hysterical and the magician, Martin Lewis, was also very good and family friendly. The Vortex disco didn't seem to have any current music until after 11pm, when all the fogies go to bed - LOL. The movie theater didn't do first run movies (everything showing there was also showing on tv in the room!). Not that you need a lot of entertainment when you're in ports, but the day at sea was pretty boring. After sunning for a while there really didn't seem to be anything else to do if you weren't into playing family night type games. The adult game Quest is a MUST DO. It's the funniest, craziest game out there and you just have to do it once. Bring a video recorder - you'll be glad you did.
All in all, I really liked this cruise and the ship, but for the money I prefer the very large Oasis Class ships. There are more dining choices, more activities (zip lines, surfing, ice skating, mini golf), better high quality shows with known entertainers, and bigger pool areas. This was a nice ship and if you get a great deal you won't be disappointed, but if I do another cruise, it would be on one of the mega ships. I like lots of variety and this one was a little limited.