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Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,679 Reviews

Not as family friendly as expected

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by Erica1NT

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2013
  • Destination: the Bahamas

We chose this cruise line because we had heard that Royal Caribbean is one of the most family-friendly cruise lines. And looking at the ship's offerings, there certainly seemed to be a lot for kids to do. Our primary disappointment, therefore, was that there was pretty much nothing for our not-fully-potty-trained 3-year old to do on board the ship -- at least, nothing more than a totally non-family oriented ship would offer. And I should add that "fully potty trained", per their definition, means that the child is not only out of diapers, but is able to go to the bathroom by himself unaccompanied by an adult. I personally do not know many 3 or even 4 year olds that are able to venture into an unfamiliar bathroom by themselves to do their business. This was particularly annoying to us since we had called the cruise line in advance and spent almost an hour on the phone with a customer service representative explaining our situation and concerns (because it seemed that there was an infant room that would be too young for him, and the 3-5 year old room required being fully potty trained) and being reassured that accommodations would be made once we were on board the ship. As instructed by the person on the phone, we spoke to the staff at the Adventure Ocean youth program. They offered no solutions or options for us other than to hang out with our 3 year old in the infant room (which, not surprisingly, had no age-appropriate toys or activities for him). We explained that our son still wears a pull-up to avoid accidents (I mean, wouldn't you rather the kid pee in their diapers than in their pants??) and that he lets us know when he has to go, but needs to be accompanied to the bathroom, so we offered to stay in or right outside the 3-5 year old play space so that in the event he has to go to the bathroom, we would remove him from the play space and take him back to our room. To our utter shock, they said no!!!! And since the kids pool likewise prohibits swim diapers, there was absolutely nothing on the ship for our 3-year old to do except for the miniature golf course that sits atop the ship where it is very windy and there is no protection from the sun. We did that once with him and got about halfway through the course before we could no longer stand the wind and blazing sun. The rest of the cruise was spent entertaining him with the few toys that we brought (we would have packed more if we'd known he would not be welcome in the 3-5 year old play room) and the adult activities on the ship that had some appeal to him (such as the few and far between live music and performances that were not going on during his afternoon nap or bedtime). We literally found ourselves sometimes opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator just to have an "activity" for him. And we were far from the only family in this conundrum. We met plenty of other parents with 3 and 4 year olds who were "in the same boat" so to speak. And we met others who decided (and I don't fault them in the least) to be dishonest about their child's level of potty training and, sure enough, their kids had "accidents" while in the 3-5 year old room. The ship claims that it is some sort of public health issue that they don't allow diapers, but it seems to me like far less of a health issue to have a kid have an accident in a diaper than all over his clothes. However, the staff let those kids who'd had accidents back into the 3-5 year old room, but our child was not welcome because we don't like the idea of him accidentally peeing in his pants.

Other than the wholly unhelpful Adventure Ocean kids staff, the rest of the staff on board was exceptionally friendly and accommodating. In particular, the various waiters and state room attendants that we encountered were outstanding. Other positive aspects included the cleanliness of the ship and the pool areas (which I was able to use when my husband stayed with our son during nap time). The food was OK -- best in the dining room, the other open venues were only so-so, and we did not try any of the specialty dining venues. The live music was quite good. Our son fell in love with D'version so we made a point of going to every performance of theirs that we could.

There were supposed to be 3 port stops, but we were not able to do the Coco Cay stop, which is the one we were most looking forward to because it was the only early morning stop (our son gets up very early and naps in the afternoon) and was on the beach, so after days of wandering aimlessly around the ship it would have been a hugely appreciated time to spend on the beach and the only opportunity for my son to go swimming, but that stop was canceled due to the weather. The other two stops were basically tourist shopping ports that held no interest for us and were too late in the day anyway because of our son's sleep schedule.

So, overall, the cruise was a huge disappointment, mainly because our son was not welcomed in the 3-5 year old room or the pool and there was nothing else for him to do. If they had just had some sort of play space (like with age-appropriate toys and a jungle gym type of thing so that he could burn off some energy) we would have been SO much happier.

Erica1NT's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

The cabin was very small but it was comfortable and had everything we needed. Luckily our parents were staying in one of the very large rooms so we were able to store our car seat in their room. Otherwise it would have been in the middle of our floor. The shower pressure was great and I liked that it had a european shower head, which I used to bathe our son.

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