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We've cruised with RCL before, and with Carnival and NCL, primarily in the Caribbean our of Florida. We've also traveled in Europe before. But this was our first overseas cruise. We found Serenade's Baltic Cruise to be well-organized and efficient -- 5 stars for that -- but other issues, such as cabin odor and quality of food, dragged down that rating. We're not complainers by nature, but for what you're paying, you should not have to deal with a sewer-type odor in the cabin (Deck 3), a toilet that backed-up, a safe who's battery died, and food that's mediocre at best. ^ Likes: (1) The Airport Transfer. We'd always driven or taxied to the port before, but thought the ship's transfer might be more efficient, and it was. After a flight delay, we thought we might have to take a train to the 1st port, but after passing customs at CPH, the RCL stand was plain to see and they whisked us to the new Oceankaj port where the lines were mercifully short. (2) My Time Dining. They made an effort to see us in whatever arrangement we liked and where we liked, and by and large we found our neighbors to be friendly. Service was great; only wish the food was better. (3) Maintenance & Laundry Services. A shame we had to call for cabin repairs, but they were prompt and courteous. Our steward assisted us on laundry day and was helpful. (4) Ports of Call and Excursions. A good selection -- Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Helsinki... Wanted to spend another day in St. Petersburg and dropped Helsinki (kind'a blah) in exchange. Booked independent tours with SPB which were excellent, but even 11-hours in St. Petersburg was not enuff. We had to see the Amber Room at Catherine's Palace, but only got ~ 15 seconds inside. (5) Entertainment. Did not see much, as we were plum tuckered out from the excursions, but what we did see, we thought was well done. v Dislikes: (1) Cabin Odor. We're not complainers by nature, but our cabin, and I'd say. most of Deck 3 had a sewer-type odor which seemed to come and go. Deck 4 and above seemed unaffected. Next time, we're going higher. (2) Food. Did not try specialty dining, but in the main dining room, the food was hit and miss. We're not fussy eaters and will put up with most anything, but we had to send two entrees back. One NY strip was more fat than meat. Often, the buffet was better. (3) Drink Prices. They know you want to drink and they know they have you captive, but $10 for a mixed cocktail, really? I guess I'm used to happy-hour prices at my local pub. Thoughts on Disembarkation: Since Oceankaj is in the middle of nowhere, you can queue for a taxi, walk to a bus stop, do an airport transfer, or book an excursion-type tour which drops somewhere. We elected the tour which dropped us at the train station, one-block from our post-cruise hotel... very convenient. We stayed two nights post-cruise, doing Tivoli Gardens and the hop-on, hop-off bus. Frankly, Serenade would've gotten higher marks from us, if they'd only (1) clean out their pipes, and (2) improve on the food in the main dining room.

RCL Knows How to Cruise, but Serenade falls Short

Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review by Talent312

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We've cruised with RCL before, and with Carnival and NCL, primarily in the Caribbean our of Florida. We've also traveled in Europe before. But this was our first overseas cruise.

We found Serenade's Baltic Cruise to be well-organized and efficient -- 5 stars for that -- but other issues, such as cabin odor and quality of food, dragged down that rating. We're not complainers by nature, but for what you're paying, you should not have to deal with a sewer-type odor in the cabin (Deck 3), a toilet that backed-up, a safe who's battery died, and food that's mediocre at best.

^ Likes:

(1) The Airport Transfer. We'd always driven or taxied to the port before, but thought the ship's transfer might be more efficient, and it was. After a flight delay, we thought we might have to take a train to the 1st port, but after passing customs at CPH, the RCL stand was plain to see and they whisked us to the new Oceankaj port where the lines were mercifully short.

(2) My Time Dining. They made an effort to see us in whatever arrangement we liked and where we liked, and by and large we found our neighbors to be friendly. Service was great; only wish the food was better.

(3) Maintenance & Laundry Services. A shame we had to call for cabin repairs, but they were prompt and courteous. Our steward assisted us on laundry day and was helpful.

(4) Ports of Call and Excursions. A good selection -- Stockholm, Tallinn, St. Petersburg and Helsinki... Wanted to spend another day in St. Petersburg and dropped Helsinki (kind'a blah) in exchange. Booked independent tours with SPB which were excellent, but even 11-hours in St. Petersburg was not enuff. We had to see the Amber Room at Catherine's Palace, but only got ~ 15 seconds inside.

(5) Entertainment. Did not see much, as we were plum tuckered out from the excursions, but what we did see, we thought was well done.

v Dislikes:

(1) Cabin Odor. We're not complainers by nature, but our cabin, and I'd say. most of Deck 3 had a sewer-type odor which seemed to come and go. Deck 4 and above seemed unaffected. Next time, we're going higher.

(2) Food. Did not try specialty dining, but in the main dining room, the food was hit and miss. We're not fussy eaters and will put up with most anything, but we had to send two entrees back. One NY strip was more fat than meat. Often, the buffet was better.

(3) Drink Prices. They know you want to drink and they know they have you captive, but $10 for a mixed cocktail, really? I guess I'm used to happy-hour prices at my local pub.

Thoughts on Disembarkation: Since Oceankaj is in the middle of nowhere, you can queue for a taxi, walk to a bus stop, do an airport transfer, or book an excursion-type tour which drops somewhere. We elected the tour which dropped us at the train station, one-block from our post-cruise hotel... very convenient. We stayed two nights post-cruise, doing Tivoli Gardens and the hop-on, hop-off bus.

Frankly, Serenade would've gotten higher marks from us, if they'd only (1) clean out their pipes, and (2) improve on the food in the main dining room.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • City Tour
    We took a disembarkation-tour as that seemed to be the best way to get to our post-cruise hotel near Central Station. It hit the major highlights with stops at Little Mermaid & Amalienborg. The Guide spoke excellent English. But of course, on a large bus, you do not get much of the local flavor. That we did over the next two days.
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  • City Tour
    Helsinki seemed rather blah and drab to us. The weather was fine and the people were pleasant enuff. It's just that the city had little, other than the market, to hold our interest. Frankly, we would've traded this stop for more time in St. Petersburg.
    View All 181 City Tour Reviews
  • Catherine Palace
    We did an 11-hour see-it-all tours with SPB. It was all excellent. We went from the Hermitage to Peterhof Gardens, Lunch and then to Catherine Palace (and Amber Room) to Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. It was rushed, but our guide was exceptional and we were entranced. Only wish our ship gave us more time.
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  • Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
    We did an 11-hour see-it-all tours with SPB. It was all excellent. We went from the Hermitage to Peterhof Gardens, Lunch and then to Catherine Palace (and Amber Room) to Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. It was rushed, but our guide was exceptional and we were entranced. Only wish our ship gave us more time.
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  • Hermitage Museum
    We did an 11-hour see-it-all tours with SPB. It was all excellent. We went from the Hermitage to Peterhof Gardens, Lunch and then to Catherine Palace (and Amber Room) to Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. It was rushed, but our guide was exceptional and we were entranced. Only wish our ship gave us more time.
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  • Peterhof Palace
    We did an 11-hour see-it-all tours with SPB. It was all excellent. We went from the Hermitage to Peterhof Gardens, Lunch and then to Catherine Palace (and Amber Room) to Church of Savior on Spilled Blood. It was rushed, but our guide was exceptional and we were entranced. Only wish our ship gave us more time.
    View All 214 Peterhof Palace Reviews
  • City Tour
    Booked with SPB and they did an excellent job of showing us the sights. Just wish we'd spent less time in the Vasa Museum (interesting, but not all that) and more time exploring the city. The U.S. has it's own old warship and it still floats -- the U.S. Constitution. But then, that's what we booked. Oh, well.
    View All 131 City Tour Reviews
  • City Tour
    Independent operators can't enter the port, so you have to hoof it quiet a distance to get to the gate, but then some folks choose to just walk into the Old Town on their own. Our bus took us to the hilltop of the Old Town, which we then walked thu, descending to the main square at a leisurely pace. It was a remarkably well-preserved ancient place. After that, we toured the countryside, stopping at Kadriorg Palace and a few others. It was well worth the time and $$ to have a knowledgeable guide telling us about what we were seeing, instead of having to look down at Rick Steve's guidebook.
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