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This was our second cruise, after a 17-day PanCan aboard the Island Princess last Feb. We chose this cruise based on itinerary, as it was the only one in our time frame going to Klaipeda (where I have family roots) and Visby (an interesting and unusual destination). I didn't expect RCL to surpass Princess, but I thought it might be a reasonable equivalent. Not exactly. The good: our deluxe balcony cabin was surprisingly spacious, with abundant storage set up in clever ways. The transporter-pod shower was fine. Lots of counter space in the bathroom a definite plus. No problem with the bed. Didn't use the balcony much, but when we did it was satisfying. One note, though: although this was a covered balcony, there isn't much privacy. People above us and to the right (forward) could look down and see us. This was a comparatively far-forward cabin, but the Baltic was like glass throughout, and we experienced very little ship movement (too little, maybe? Rocking motion at night is very soothing). Actually less upselling and promotion than on Princess. Almot no photographers in our faces, not even on formal nights. You actually had to work to get your picture taken on this ship. Far less nattering about art, jewelry sales, etc. I adored the covered-pool area: warm, warm, warm, even on cool and rainy days. Best kept secret: no-charge steam and sauna in the locker rooms. Intensely relaxing, even though a certain group of pax basically took over the area, using up all the towels and clogging the toilets while speaking no English. Oh well. Didn't use the main pool area at all. Embarkation and disembarkation were handled well and happened quickly. Liked the fitness room (sea view!) but didnt't have much time to go there. Cruise director Topi was adorable. Loved his Finnish accent. We took one ship's tour, to Berlin. Run with German efficiency, including a pretty good box lunch. Didn't feel rushed or herded. Bonus: it rained coming back to the ship, and as we got off the bus there was a lovely rainbow. RCL can't take credit for that, though. The bad: only one sea day. Not much of a "cruise", in fact, since every day except that one involved rushing to get off the ship, rushing to see the port (with or without an excursion), rushing back to eat, and then more or less collapsing, since there wasn't much to do on the ship at night. This was not a classic relaxation cruise, by any means. Returning to the ship on port days was an ordeal. Only one gangway open on most days, and with Baltic weather (cold, wind, occasional rain) this was not pleasant. i really felt for those with mobility or health problems who were constrained to stand out there for what felt like hours. Library a total joke. Two glass-fronted cabinets filled with forgotten paperbacks. No atlas, nothing specific to ports. Sad. The entertainment: two stars at best. I enjoyed the Queen tribute band and the gypsy-style violinists. The final production show ("Broadway to Movie") was good -- the rest were high-school-level, with only one standout performer, an African-American woman who was a veritable Aretha. The dancers were meh, and that's actually a bit of an overstatement. Most of the singers were barely there, and some were consistently offkey. Minimal effort put into sets and atmosphere. House band not half as good as on Princess. Idiotic games and overamplied noise in the Centrum -- if you had to speak to someone in Guest Services, you had to shout to be heard. Poorly designed. Food: didn't care for the Windjammer design. Some items I could never seem to find. The going-down-the-line system on Princess actually worked better for us. No or very sporadic coffee service: part of what made going to the buffet a competitive sport was the fact that you had to leave your seat whenever you wanted coffee or a refill. This led to greater crowding, jostling, and wet liquid on one's toes. For dinner, we had fixed early dining. Our tablemates were all Canadians, except for us: nice people, but we didn't have a lot in common with most of them. The ten-top table meant that we hardly got a chance to speak to some folks at all. On two nights there was nothing I wanted to eat (and I am not a picky eater). I actually sent back a turkey dinner, as it looked like something in a homeless peoples' cafeteria. Didn't like the "premium" dinners offered at an extra charge every night: tacky! Didn't go to the specialty restaurants, so can't comment. Ice cream was ice milk -- horrible letdown. Desseerts were pedestrian overall. All in all, no excitement at mealtimes. The subjective: We contemplated switching to My Time Dining after the first night, because even though our tablemates were only a few years older than us (and we are both on Medicare), it felt like dining with one's parents. When everyone but you agrees the Olive Garden is the ultimate in Italian food, there is a problem. We adjusted, however, and made friends elsewhere. Nothing to do. No karaoke, except for very late at night. Trivia was mostly focused on music that was not our style (Abba, Michael Jackson). Movies not interesting or scheduled at impossible times (when you've been hustling through St Petersburg all day, and have another port the next day, a 10 pm movie isn't realistic). TV programming ridiculously bad. Ship information channel offered very little information, and what there was came coated with a silly oldies soundtrack. Also didn't care for the sappy, and repititious, pop hits played in the Windjammer. Very low cultural threshhold. No enrichment of any kind, other than shopping talks, and we skipped those. Caveats: this particular sailing had a very international crowd, with a large Latin American contingent, plenty of Aussies, and many others from various parts of the world. This no doubt influenced the atmosphere, as RCL was trying to offer something for everyone. Itinerary: Visby was beautiful, the first sunny day of the cruise. A small town overrun with tourists, but enjoyable. Amazing medieval architecture and magnificent gardens. Our day in Klaipeda was dedicated to personal quests, so not applicable to the general public. Helsinki was large, confusing, and a bit down at the heels. I plan on writing separate port reviews for St. Petersburg and Moscow. Tallinn was cute but not altogether necessary. We loved Stockholm, and one of my favorite memories of this cruise was sitting out on our balcony the night before disembarkation, enjoying the view and the sunshine at 10 pm. Service: our steward was inexperienced and mostly invisible. He showed up on the last day, very concerned about our feedback. I asked him to empty the minibar on the first day, but he "forgot" for three days until I reminded him. Waiters were fine. In general, I felt that staff was working hard to show they cared, but it didn't come naturally to them. All told, I'm glad we went, and it was a lot of cruise/ports for the money. I would suggest to other cruisers, however, that taking a slightly longer cruise with more breathing space between ports would be a more enjoyable experience. Would I sail RCl again? Yeah, probably, for the right ports and the right price. However, food and ambience were charmless and generic. I think there are better choices.

Floating Bus Tour

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by SeaMystique

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Trip Details
This was our second cruise, after a 17-day PanCan aboard the Island Princess last Feb. We chose this cruise based on itinerary, as it was the only one in our time frame going to Klaipeda (where I have family roots) and Visby (an interesting and unusual destination). I didn't expect RCL to surpass Princess, but I thought it might be a reasonable equivalent.

Not exactly.

The good: our deluxe balcony cabin was surprisingly spacious, with abundant storage set up in clever ways. The transporter-pod shower was fine. Lots of counter space in the bathroom a definite plus. No problem with the bed. Didn't use the balcony much, but when we did it was satisfying. One note, though: although this was a covered balcony, there isn't much privacy. People above us and to the right (forward) could look down and see us. This was a comparatively far-forward cabin, but the Baltic was like glass throughout, and we experienced very little ship movement (too little, maybe? Rocking motion at night is very soothing).

Actually less upselling and promotion than on Princess. Almot no photographers in our faces, not even on formal nights. You actually had to work to get your picture taken on this ship. Far less nattering about art, jewelry sales, etc.

I adored the covered-pool area: warm, warm, warm, even on cool and rainy days. Best kept secret: no-charge steam and sauna in the locker rooms. Intensely relaxing, even though a certain group of pax basically took over the area, using up all the towels and clogging the toilets while speaking no English. Oh well. Didn't use the main pool area at all.

Embarkation and disembarkation were handled well and happened quickly.

Liked the fitness room (sea view!) but didnt't have much time to go there.

Cruise director Topi was adorable. Loved his Finnish accent.

We took one ship's tour, to Berlin. Run with German efficiency, including a pretty good box lunch. Didn't feel rushed or herded. Bonus: it rained coming back to the ship, and as we got off the bus there was a lovely rainbow. RCL can't take credit for that, though.

The bad: only one sea day. Not much of a "cruise", in fact, since every day except that one involved rushing to get off the ship, rushing to see the port (with or without an excursion), rushing back to eat, and then more or less collapsing, since there wasn't much to do on the ship at night. This was not a classic relaxation cruise, by any means.

Returning to the ship on port days was an ordeal. Only one gangway open on most days, and with Baltic weather (cold, wind, occasional rain) this was not pleasant. i really felt for those with mobility or health problems who were constrained to stand out there for what felt like hours.

Library a total joke. Two glass-fronted cabinets filled with forgotten paperbacks. No atlas, nothing specific to ports. Sad.

The entertainment: two stars at best. I enjoyed the Queen tribute band and the gypsy-style violinists. The final production show ("Broadway to Movie") was good -- the rest were high-school-level, with only one standout performer, an African-American woman who was a veritable Aretha. The dancers were meh, and that's actually a bit of an overstatement. Most of the singers were barely there, and some were consistently offkey. Minimal effort put into sets and atmosphere. House band not half as good as on Princess. Idiotic games and overamplied noise in the Centrum -- if you had to speak to someone in Guest Services, you had to shout to be heard. Poorly designed.

Food: didn't care for the Windjammer design. Some items I could never seem to find. The going-down-the-line system on Princess actually worked better for us. No or very sporadic coffee service: part of what made going to the buffet a competitive sport was the fact that you had to leave your seat whenever you wanted coffee or a refill. This led to greater crowding, jostling, and wet liquid on one's toes. For dinner, we had fixed early dining. Our tablemates were all Canadians, except for us: nice people, but we didn't have a lot in common with most of them. The ten-top table meant that we hardly got a chance to speak to some folks at all. On two nights there was nothing I wanted to eat (and I am not a picky eater). I actually sent back a turkey dinner, as it looked like something in a homeless peoples' cafeteria. Didn't like the "premium" dinners offered at an extra charge every night: tacky! Didn't go to the specialty restaurants, so can't comment. Ice cream was ice milk -- horrible letdown. Desseerts were pedestrian overall. All in all, no excitement at mealtimes.

The subjective: We contemplated switching to My Time Dining after the first night, because even though our tablemates were only a few years older than us (and we are both on Medicare), it felt like dining with one's parents. When everyone but you agrees the Olive Garden is the ultimate in Italian food, there is a problem. We adjusted, however, and made friends elsewhere.

Nothing to do. No karaoke, except for very late at night. Trivia was mostly focused on music that was not our style (Abba, Michael Jackson). Movies not interesting or scheduled at impossible times (when you've been hustling through St Petersburg all day, and have another port the next day, a 10 pm movie isn't realistic). TV programming ridiculously bad. Ship information channel offered very little information, and what there was came coated with a silly oldies soundtrack.

Also didn't care for the sappy, and repititious, pop hits played in the Windjammer. Very low cultural threshhold. No enrichment of any kind, other than shopping talks, and we skipped those.

Caveats: this particular sailing had a very international crowd, with a large Latin American contingent, plenty of Aussies, and many others from various parts of the world. This no doubt influenced the atmosphere, as RCL was trying to offer something for everyone.

Itinerary: Visby was beautiful, the first sunny day of the cruise. A small town overrun with tourists, but enjoyable. Amazing medieval architecture and magnificent gardens. Our day in Klaipeda was dedicated to personal quests, so not applicable to the general public. Helsinki was large, confusing, and a bit down at the heels. I plan on writing separate port reviews for St. Petersburg and Moscow. Tallinn was cute but not altogether necessary. We loved Stockholm, and one of my favorite memories of this cruise was sitting out on our balcony the night before disembarkation, enjoying the view and the sunshine at 10 pm.

Service: our steward was inexperienced and mostly invisible. He showed up on the last day, very concerned about our feedback. I asked him to empty the minibar on the first day, but he "forgot" for three days until I reminded him. Waiters were fine. In general, I felt that staff was working hard to show they cared, but it didn't come naturally to them.

All told, I'm glad we went, and it was a lot of cruise/ports for the money. I would suggest to other cruisers, however, that taking a slightly longer cruise with more breathing space between ports would be a more enjoyable experience.

Would I sail RCl again? Yeah, probably, for the right ports and the right price. However, food and ambience were charmless and generic. I think there are better choices.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 9036
Large, as large as our minisuite on Princess. Comfortable. Plenty of storage space. Lots of counter space in bathroom. Not always as clean as it should have been, but never a problem.
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