First, I must start by saying that this is my 17th and my cruise partner's (my daughter, Michelle's) 32nd cruise, all on Royal Caribbean, so we do know of what we speak. Now to business. Of all the cruises that we have been on, this one is the first that left us with the desire to say "This was not a very good cruise". Now, having said that, let me begin the review. I flew to San Juan from Indianapolis on Saturday which was the departure day while Chelle flew in from San Diego the day before. In both cases air travel, while not getting any better, is not getting any worse either. I got all of my baggage in SJ, hopped into a govt. controlled cab and was at the port in about 20 minutes, where I met Chelle in front of the terminal about 2;00 pm, and was aboard the ship in 10 minutes, really easy check-in even without our Diamond and Diamond plus priorities. We took our hand luggage to our cabin and set off to find if any of our crew-friends from previous cruises were aboard. The 10:00 pm sailaway was ok, it was kind of nice to watch the lights of SJ drift past, but the sailaway started without a band playing on the pool deck. There were quite a few people out there and plenty of bar service but the assigned band, Clave, decided to take a break about 10 minutes before sailaway and it was necessary for the cruise directors staff to hunt them up and get them playing. Note to staff, the caribbean steel drum band would have been a much better band for this event. Alas, by the time the band was found, and had taken their places and started playing, lots of the crowd had gone looking for something more entertaining. Still and all, it was a warm, pleasant, evening and the start of a cruise vacation, so let it begin.
The Serenade, like our favorite ship, the Radiance,is still the most beautiful ships afloat. From top to bottom, the Radiance class ships' clean lines and huge amounts of glass are far and away the pride of Royal Caribbeans fleet. They are the ideal size, seems like there are just enough passengers for the ship. Even on Sea days, you don't realize just how many people you are sailing with. There doesn't seem to be too many people at any one venue at any time. The only time there is any crowding at all is at lunchtime in the Windjammer. Speaking of the venues, The cruise directors staff, from Carly B. to Frankie,the Activities Manager, to all of the staff, are one of the best that we have ever had. They are so much fun to be around. And all of the many events went off on schedule and seemed to run so smoothly. The production shows were excellent, the Singers and Dancers were brilliant,(Hi, Nick,Jay and all the rest) The Drifters were good, The Nelson Brothers were excellent, and Karen, the comedienne was really funny. The housekeeping staff as usual are overworked, the RCI work schedule of giving more cabins to less stewards are ensuring that the cabins get cleaned but the stewards no longer have the time or the opportunity to stop by the cabin on check-in day and introduce themselves like they used to. The Bar service was excellent, as usual, The Schooner Bar is always the most popular. Probably because it is open the most hours. Also because of the great staff in there. Hugo, John, Leticia, and Rowena are great. A lot of good service and a lot of fun to be around. Also A quick note to RCI, Sundays are Pro Football days in America, You might want to think about opening the Bar in the Sports Bar before 5:00 pm. There were a lot of people shuttling drinks between the sports bar and the schooner bar during the afternoon game. Also replacing the popcorn machine in the sports bar would be nice too.
Now, the Food...Breakfast in the Windjammer was ok, the egg station was always crowded but that's breakfast. We did not eat in the Dining Room, this was one of the few cruises we have done, that we did not, but the nights we had thought of going to the Dining Room were the nights that we decided to do Portofino's and Chops. The Murder Mystery in Portofino's is always fun and a great meal, and we decided to go to Chops on Thanksgiving itself. I have been accused on this board of not having any taste, but last thursday night, I had one of the best steaks in Chops I have ever had in my life. The staff in both Portofino's and Chops are the best on the ship. The Seaview is always good, both quick and tasty. The Milk Shakes,even though they are made of a base mix and ice, are unusually thick and tasty. The pizza, etc. in the Solarium are pretty good. This being Thanksgiving week, there were a lot of kids on the ship, so the pizza bar got a pretty good workout, as did the ice cream stations in the Windjammer. One quick note here, Parents, before you take your kids to anyplace that has buffet lines, make a point of telling them how to fill their plates without contaminating all of the food on the buffet, ie, You do not pick up food with your fingers, taste it, and then put it back. I don't know how many times I observed this very thing happen. Now the bad, The windjammer has a major problem. The food is boring, with the same thing almost every meal. Roast Beef every night carved, with the exception of Thanksgiving night when it was Turkey, of course. Beef strips every night, except one night when they added 2 ladles of sour cream and called it Beef Stroganoff. The manager has evidently been ordering the same thing every week and the chefs prepare what they have. The service is nonexistent. This is the first RCI ship that I have ever been on where you could sit in the Windjammer for more than 5 minutes without someone stopping to ask you if you needed a refill of your drink or if they could get you anything. On this ship you could sit for 25-30 minutes without being spoken to. With the exception of Robertas and Adina, no one even cared. A quick note here also, a shouting argument between a dining officer and one of the service people that lasted at least 10 minutes(and I do mean shouting) is not something that should be done in front of guests. Seems like a very unhappy staff over all, and it should be noted that this problem starts at the top. I complained about the service on the third day, and while I did get better service from the people that were aware that I had complained, the rest of the staff doesn't seem to care. Please keep in mind that this was my 8th cruise on a Radiance class ship and I have seen much better. I never did see the Windjammer Manager, His picture was posted on the board with the rest of the food staff, but he evidently is too busy to check his station to see if there is a problem or not. I'm not gonna keep on beating a dead horse here, but if RCI is still monitoring these reviews, take note! Disembarkation was smooth, and uneventful and we were off the ship and at the Airport for our flights home with plenty of time to spare. Overall, Both my daughter and I consider this a good cruise, but sadly, not up to Royal Caribbeans standards.