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

Fun Christmas Cruise; Ship & Crew Were Just OK

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by benjyjim

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2014
  • Destination: the Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Large Ocean View Stateroom

We just returned from an extended-family (11 of us - 3 brothers in early 40's with 4 kids, 7 adults) Christmas cruise on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas.

We had 2 in their 60's, 4 in early 40's, 4 kids aged 8-14.

(Side note: suggestion: bring walkie talkies ($50 amazon for 3) if you have a group esp with kids and want to stay connected so you can find each other for meals or other times on board)

I have been on a half dozen cruises, most with Carnival, one Norwegian. Overall, I hoped for an experience a slight cut above Carnival and from the crew and ship perspective it fell short of that. From a fellow passenger perspective, it generally delivered - the people seemed a little more well behaved and more well heeled and they felt like the kind of people we'd hang out with around our home community gym or youth sporting events, etc. We come from a nice middle-class suburb full of professionals who expect their kids to achieve and have manners and it felt like others on board were of like mind.

In Summary: I won't go out of my way to get on this boat again - I'd look for a newer ship with more of the recent 'wow' factors if I can. I'm at heart a pragmatist looking for a deal and a time and a port I can make work to get away - so I may not be able to find something that fits what I want - and any cruise beats staying home in Ohio! All in all, we had a great time because it was a warm Christmas away with lots of family and more than enough good stuff to outweigh the more average/mediocre stuff (entertainment, ship in general, food in general---all good, just not fantastic).

Vessel

Our ship is not one of the newest and best but it was pretty good. It was in good repair. It doesn't have a big 'wow' factor but it's got all the basic stuff you might expect: pools (open/adult), areas to lay out, main theater, buffet, snack bar, casino, shops, and public areas. In addition, there's a climbing wall, putt-putt, movie theater and game area (pool tables & game tables). Always some place to go to get away from crowds and noise if you wanted.

Service

Stateroom service was perfect - never an issue. Main dining service was adequate - we were breaking in a new assistant waiter which was not a big deal, we had some small hiccups with dinner service but issues were usually addressed. Unlike our other experiences, it was not always easy / convenient to flag down someone by the pool or to get a drink at the bars which were often busy. I ordered a beer my first night at dinner and then never saw the guy from the bar again at dinner--we mostly brought our wine to dinner and maybe that kept him away but I thought it was strange.

Staff

The staff didn't seem to have the best morale and most cheery dispositions. Sometimes, they were just doing their jobs and that was that. The cruise director seemed OK - not super cheery but usually pretty energetic and enthusiastic when on stage. Felt overall like a notch down from Carnival & Norwegian where the crew seemed more happy and enthusiastic and the cruise director had a lighter touch and was more humorous. In the casino, some of the dealers were fun and personable and others varied: humorless/poor english/just doing their job.

Food

The main dining food and buffet and snacks were OK. My socks were not knocked off most of the time. It was good, just not great or super memorable. Some dishes hit the mark and others missed theirs. We were always able to order flexibly - e.g. 2 starters or if we didn't like what we got they were replaced. My family has a mix of high expectations and anything-is-OK, so those with high expectations tended to disparage the service and/or food pretty regularly.

Entertainment

The talent and the shows were average at best. Some of the acts were enjoyable. I felt like Carnival and Norwegian again exceeded what we saw. Options were generally limited to a few things each night in the main theater plus a bonus in the main atrium or side bar (Safari club) -- Carnival had a comedy club with nightly acts to boot... And the entertainers were decent but again not superb. Seemed like we barely saw the main troupe doing singing and dancing at all except for the last night - in fairness, we did not go to all acts - but when we saw them, they were good. The backup band seemed really good - they sat behind the main acts and played the music in support of the shows. The main comedy act around midweek was just raunchy and poorly done. Mildly funny at best and I was perhaps most disappointed with that.

Room - more with my deck plan portion, but good marks here all around - we had four beds - 2 bunks that came down and 2 on the floor - they were all separated and I don't think we could push the 2 lower beds together though we didn't try. Couch, flat TV, closets bath and storage areas -- all very serviceable and proportional. We had a very large porthole/oceanview. Felt like the room was a smidge larger than similar rooms we've had on other ships though we book all kinds of rooms from interior to balcony - we did like this one. It was well kept and the steward did the typical ninja routine where he snuck in and out practically unnoticed when we were away and took care of everything well.

Fitness center

Decent equipment it looked like - I only did treadmill but was very unhappy to find myself staring out a window that looked to the ocean from ground level but when I got up on the treadmill, I looked down at the ground and could not see out to the sea... I was up near the ceiling and the window stopped - so I was bummed to be so close to having a view but in reality not having one. I did not find a place to get a drink in the fitness area either !?

Kid programs

My 14 year old was happy to participate an come and go - didn't say much which meant he had a fine time and I know he found friends to hang with. My 11 y/o was not super satisfied- something not to his liking happened where the attendants didn't treat him fairly and he was done with the place. He was perfectly happy to roam the ship with his cousins so this was not much of a surprise nor a letdown - he's not a little kid and not yet a teenager so he's in a tough spot to please - the check in was fine but my impression was that the program wasn't stellar - either the folks had a bad day or the program didn't knock his socks off.

Excursions and Misc.

We only booked one excursion - we did it on board - for some inexplicable reason, it was cancelled - we had a hard time tendering in at Grand Cayman due to the port authority's whims and maybe that's why - we did not know of the cancellation until we got off. Then we booked basically the same thing for a lot less. (Stingray & snorkel - US$40 as soon as you walk off, which was almost the same thing we wanted to pay $115 for... which is why we almost never book excursions from the boat.) Verdict for stingrays: Do It Yourself when you get off. Warning: Cayman is expensive: we had a light lunch near the tender port (not inside the arrivals holing pen area) - 5 alcobevs, 4 kids drinks, 5 starters = US$190 - ouch!

While I'm at it:

Falmouth: we did Dunn's River Falls. We got a driver from the port for the day $35pp (5 of us). paid admission $20 pp. Stopped for lunch $35 for all of us at Scotchies, which was very good, esp. 200 jamaican for red stripes (under US$2). This same excursion was about $90pp from the boat.

Cozumel: Chankanaab park - $25 one way cab for 6, $21 admission. Then we sprang for the dolphin/manatee encounter which my wife expertly negotiated for $70 pp. The photos are where they really nail you - $194 for the digital DVD of all pics, also negotiated down by wife to $127 (all US$). Excursion from boat was like $120pp I think. Verdict: expensive either way if you do Chankanaab dolphins - not much difference there.

Finally: the logistics of the boat overall were good:

Onboarding and off-boarding were very smooth (we carried our own luggage off, and strangely we did not get our luggage when we got on until we told our steward we didn't get it yet - and we studiously avoided "high times" for getting on and off whenever possible). Main buffet dining was well organized to avoid lines and hassle. I did not like the lack of drink stands - instead we had to queue up to get coffee or OJ in the main buffet dining. Other ships have better coffee e.g. brewed on demand - I'm no snob but I love that strong fresh euro-brew from the German 'WM' machines I've seen elsewhere. I prefer do it myself service of drinks. There were like 10 water/ice machines that never worked on board but had permanent signs 'temporarily out of service'.

I didn't have to wait at guest services any meaningful time though I visited about 5 times for misc stuff.


benjyjim's Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Service
Cabin
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Cabin Review

Large Ocean View Stateroom
Cabin G 4032

good marks here all around - we had four beds - 2 bunks that came down and 2 on the floor - they were all separated and I don't think we could push the 2 lower beds together though we didn't try. Couch, flat TV, closets bath and storage areas -- all very serviceable and proportional. We had a very large porthole/oceanview. Felt like the room was a smidge larger than similar rooms we've had on other ships though we book all kinds of rooms from interior to balcony - we did like this one.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Cozumel

Cozumel: Chankanaab park - $25 one way cab for 6, $21 admission. Then we sprang for the dolphin/manatee encounter which my wife expertly negotiated for $70 pp. The photos are where they really nail you - $194 for the digital DVD of all pics, also negotiated down by wife to $127 (all US$). Excursion from boat was like $120pp I think. Verdict: expensive either way if you do Chankanaab dolphins - not much difference there.

Chankanaab National Park Tour

Cozumel: Chankanaab park - $25 one way cab for 6, $21 admission. Then we sprang for the dolphin/manatee encounter which my wife expertly negotiated for $70 pp. The photos are where they really nail you - $194 for the digital DVD of all pics, also negotiated down by wife to $127 (all US$). Excursion from boat was like $120pp I think. Verdict: expensive either way if you do Chankanaab dolphins - not much difference there. This was pretty special, once-in-a-lifetime thing to get so up close and personal with the dolphin. The manatee was cool, though brief. The rest of the park feels like a massive tourist trap - parts were cool, parts were forgettable - I would not go out of my way to get there other than for the dolphins.Whoever owns that place makes a LOT of cash!!

View All 256 Chankanaab National Park Tour Reviews
Dunn's River Falls

Falmouth: we did Dunn's River Falls. We got a driver from the port for the day $35pp (5 of us). paid admission $20 pp. Stopped for lunch $35 for all of us at Scotchies, which was very good, esp. 200 jamaican for red stripes (under US$2). This same excursion was about $90pp from the boat.Climbing the falls was special. The stuff around the falls I could have done with out - felt cheesy and crowded - shopping and entertainment both.

View All 256 Dunn's River Falls Reviews
Stingray Swim

We only booked one excursion - we did it on board - for some inexplicable reason, it was cancelled - we had a hard time tendering in at Grand Cayman due to the port authority's whims and maybe that's why - we did not know of the cancellation until we got off. Then we booked basically the same thing for a lot less. (Stingray & snorkel - US$40 as soon as you walk off, which was almost the same thing we wanted to pay $115 for... which is why we almost never book excursions from the boat.) Verdict for stingrays: Do It Yourself when you get off. Swimming with the stingrays was special - definitely a thing to do here. The snorkeling was also very good (right near the rays). Warning: Cayman generally is expensive: we had a light lunch near the tender port (not inside the arrivals holing pen area) - 5 alcobevs, 4 kids drinks, 5 starters = US$190 - ouch!

View All 795 Stingray Swim Reviews

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benjyjim
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