94 Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Alaska Cruise Reviews

I needed to balance all of the positive reviews. I was suprised with this ship's second place rating overall. My wife and I decided after sailing on her to never sail on RCCL again. Here's why. Dining: The main room was just ... Read More
I needed to balance all of the positive reviews. I was suprised with this ship's second place rating overall. My wife and I decided after sailing on her to never sail on RCCL again. Here's why. Dining: The main room was just okay with not enough choices and choices of limited quality. Even our waiter agreed. Portofino: It is a six course Italian meal. But I wanted something else. Sorry. You can't have anything else. Chops: We loved chops previously. This time, disappointing quality. Imagine a petite filet where they cut the full size one to make it half as thick. What? That's right. Our impression was that money is now being spent on the upscale ships of the corporation and taking it from Royal Caribbean ships. Funny story. We had a (Seinfeld reference) dining scheduling nazi. No. You can't have that time. You must have this time. I push a little. Okay, you can have that time. Weird. Cabins: Nice Service: Nice Excursions: Nice Entertainment: Fabulous It really was just the dining experience. We opt now for only Holland (Best standard food we've found) and NCL (yes, you really can have it your way). Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We traveled on The Serenade on the repo cruise to Alaska and the West Coast, departing Vancouver on September 19, 2009. Arrival into Vancouver was uneventful, until Immigration. There were over one thousand passengers in the arrival ... Read More
We traveled on The Serenade on the repo cruise to Alaska and the West Coast, departing Vancouver on September 19, 2009. Arrival into Vancouver was uneventful, until Immigration. There were over one thousand passengers in the arrival terminal, and -four- immigration agents. It took over 2-1/2 hours to get through immigration, then another half-hour to finally find our bags that were in several big piles. Hope Vancouver gets its act together before the Olympics! Vancouver is an absolutely gorgeous city - we also took the train to Whittier, site of the ski events for the 2010 Olympics.......another beautiful town. If in Vancouver, look into The Whistler Mountaineer....well worth the trip. Now, to The Serenade.......oh, so much to say. Embarkation was effortless......we received a most friendly and warm welcome. Upon entering the ship the first thing Rick remarked was....."the ship is so clean". And, she is. We had a Grand Suite on Deck 10, port side. The cabin was very tastefully furnished; bed comfortable; cabin steward of the highest caliber. Very nice indeed. The Serenade is in fantastic condition, and the crew works tirelessly keeping her that way. Everything is in working order. The ship invites you in and wraps herself around you. The Centrum, going 13 decks high is just spectacular and adds much spaciousness. Dining was very good. In the Windjammer there was the usual fare for breakfast and lunch - the salads were exceptional. The dining room was wonderful for dinner, with a great variety of dinners. The waitstaff was second to none in service and friendliness, and the meals were presented tastefully and were delicious. Overall, our experience on The Serenade was second to none.....the ship and her crew were, in a word, outstanding. We even had the honor to be one of the few invited to a private chat with The Captain; a very nice experience indeed. Alaska was its usual wonderful self. From Tracy Arm to Ketchikan we met many wonderful people and had some fantastic experiences. Yes, we had rain the entire time in Alaska, and more than half the ship came down with colds! The Tlingit people in Icy Strait Point/Hoonah were some of the warmest and welcoming people one could encounter. Skagway was very crowded, with three ships in, and it was the last day of the season. We highly recommend the White Pass railroad excursion, going to Caribou Crossing, Yukon, Canada. We saw numerous whales and other wildlife, right from the deck of The Serenade. Seattle - we visited the usual sites from Pikes Market to The Space Needle - in Seattle Gray Line is absolutely terrible, so don't book a shore excursion using them. Our driver on the city tour said little or nothing the entire tour. Very disappointing, although seeing the city was great nonetheless. Ah, Astoria.....lovely city; not too much to do, and the people welcomed us warmly. And, yes, we had SNOW SQUALLS the afternoon in Astoria. What to say about San Francisco - we sailed under The Golden Gate Bridge at 6:27 a.m. and what an absolute thrill....something I always wanted to do and will always remember. The decks were packed with folks that just wanted to savor the experience. We did dim sum; rode the cable cars; street cars and had a fantastic time. The only downside to the entire trip was the concierge assigned to the suites. Quite frankly he was totally worthless. He totally dropped the ball on Rick's Birthday celebration, and was totally rude and nasty. Despite his unprofessionalism the cruise was a wonderful experience. The Serenade came highly recommended to us, and we would highly recommend a cruise on her. She will be repositioned to San Juan starting in November for Caribbean cruises. RCL did a great job with The Serenade of the Seas. She is a clean, modern ship with an outstanding crew. The entertainment was also outstanding. The Serenade's own singers and dancers were some of the best we've seen. The crew talent show blew everyone away. Haven't heard Memories(from cats) done on a piano so spectacularly in a very long time. This was our first cruise on a RCL ship; it certainly will not be our last. Total satisfaction, except as noted above. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Seattle - In a word; GORGEOUS. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast called the Shafer Bailie Mansion on Capitol Hill and it was lovely. One block away from Volunteer Park, walking distance to quaint shops and several restaurants. We ate ... Read More
Seattle - In a word; GORGEOUS. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast called the Shafer Bailie Mansion on Capitol Hill and it was lovely. One block away from Volunteer Park, walking distance to quaint shops and several restaurants. We ate at the Coastal Kitchen which was fabulous. We discovered on the trip from the airport to our B&B that Seattle is not the best of cities to drive in and is far better suited for walking. We actually walked the almost 3 miles from Capitol Hill to the Space Needle and took a bus back. (The bus dropped us off a block from our B&B for a whopping $1.75 apiece) Drive to Vancouver - Played tourist at Pike Place Market and could have stayed there all day. Enjoyed a chamber of commerce day in Seattle with weather in the 70s and not a cloud in the sky! We drove to Vancouver via Chuckanut Drive. Beautifully scenic. We stopped to have lunch at the Peace Arch Park in Blaine which is a beautiful little town and the port of entry into Canada. Endured a horrible traffic jam getting into Vancouver (Labor Day traffic and evidently the wrong time of day to arrive; between 4:30-5:30 p.m.) and discovered the hard way that there's only one gas station in Vancouver. Checked into the Sheraton Wall Centre, (a beautiful, centrally located property) gladly dumped the rental and begin walking. Vancouver is another city that is ideal for walking. Cruise Day 1 - Ballantyne Pier/Boarding the Serenade - The pier is not the most scenic but pretty darned functional. About a 7-10 minute cab ride from the Sheraton Wall Centre. Once there, we were checked in and on the ship before noon. (We left the hotel around 11:15 or so) We were on the "pop out" (mid ship) portion of the ship and while we had some smokers that sometimes interfered with our balcony time, the location was absolutely perfect. I'd recommend this location (Cabin 7602) to anyone. It's prime real estate right above the Champagne Bar which is generally one of our favorite spots on any RCL ship. This Champagne Bar was smokier than most and we were quite pleased to discover that the Schooner Bar (adjacent to the Champagne Bar) which is usually a fog bank of smoke on other RCL ships was practically smoke-free. We'd taken too long to decide on one of the tours we wanted and bought it via our TV once we arrived in our room. We also stopped at the dining room to sign up for My Time Dining (MTD). (We enjoyed the flexibility of MTD but I'm not sure we'd do it again as we ended up at a table for 2 every time.) We split our time between the dining room and the Windjammer for dinner. Day 2 - Sea Day - Had our Mix and Mingle (M&M) on the ship. We began our progressive trivia contest with a couple of folks we'd met on the cruise critic board/M&M. It was great to finally meet everyone in person. Huge sale on board. Every Alaska souvie you could imagine on sale for 50-75% off. There's an incentive to an end-of-season cruise! We did our part to help rid the ship of its inventory. Day 3 - Icy Strait Point/Hoonah - You have to tender here; maybe 100 yards! We'd scheduled a Bike Ride/Ziprider tour. Bike ride was a lot shorter than advertised but our guides were great. Had about 15 minutes to shop before the bike ride. Forty-minute drive up to the Ziprider on a zig zag road in a bus. No guard rails but beautiful views below. Looking back, it was the bus ride that was scary. The Ziprider was exhilarating! A note to those doing the ziprider- there are 2 porta-potties, a small pavilion (with a campfire) and NO FOOD at the wait station for the ziprider. We had to wait almost 4 hours to board the zip and hadn't eaten since breakfast. After some debate as to whether or not we'd even get to go on the ziprider due to delays we were on our way. And, while it was truly unfortunate that we had to wait so long, the Ziprider is awesome! Gratefully this was an RCL excursion. Our delay made the ship late by about 30 minutes and after our complaint to the shore excursion desk, I'm happy to report that RCL did the right thing by us before our cruise was over. Day 3 - Tracy Arm Fjord - Glacier - Absolutely beautiful glacier and the route to it is breathtaking. Waterfalls everywhere! Kudos to the captain (or whomever "drives" the ship) for some pretty amazing pivoting/maneuvering. Paid for a spin class in the gym and got our money's worth! Had brunch in Portofino's with a view of the glacier as our backdrop. Kept kicking backside at our progressive trivia . . . Day 4 - Skagway - We did the train/hike combo which I highly recommend. (The ship uses Packer Expeditions and their guides were great.) Drizzly and maybe 55 degrees here. Hiked about 4-5 miles total along the river. It was absolutely beautiful. We rented a car to drive to Emerald Lake upon returning from our hike. Breathtaking scenery on the way to the Yukon where we discovered that signs of any kind are few and far between. We sped past Emerald Lake without realizing it and saw 20 extra miles of bonus scenery. We see- what has now been identified as a coyote- in a National Geographic moment as he caught and played with a mouse before ultimately making it a mid-afternoon snack. And while Mr. Coyote was aware we were there, he was totally unimpressed with our paparazzi-esque attack as we photographed and filmed from every possible angle. Day 5 - Juneau - We were greeted by a light but persistent rain that never let up. The ship had made an announcement that all helicopter tours booked through the ship had been grounded. I'd booked ours independently and we were a go. I'm glad we got to go but visibility was poor and it was sleeting heavily on the glacier. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. (Hello! I was on a GLACIER!) Returned to the ship after making our last souvie purchases in Juneau. Onboard, the Captain announces that we'll have rough seas on the way back . . . Day 6 - Sea day - The Captain was right. We wondered why there were so few people at the Vortex as we're dancing our backsides off to 80s music and getting a LOT of help on our dance moves from Mother Nature. Evidently the rough seas didn't sit too well with a lot of folks . . . many of whom chose to be cabin-bound rather than boogie. (It DID get pretty rough!) Earlier that day our team ties for first in progressive trivia and we're the proud owners of gold medals and other fabulous prizes! Day 7 - Debarkation - We opt to get off the ship early as we could (barely!) carry our own bags. Dressed and down for breakfast by 6:00 a.m., at the Tropical Theatre by 7:15. Off the ship by 7:45, through customs, in a cab, and on the way to the Pacific Palisades Hotel before 8:00 a.m.! Make it there by 8:15, drop off our bags off with the bellman and begin enjoying Vancouver. The Pacific Palisades is a lovely hotel located right on Robson Street and our room was larger (and much prettier!)than my first apartment! It's a beautiful property within walking distance of everything. We walked to the ferry and toured Granville Island in the morning and rented bikes on Denman Street and circled Stanley Park (twice!)on a glorious Saturday afternoon. We had an absolutely wonderful time aboard a beautiful ship, enjoyed fabulous ports, participated in some amazing excursions, met some great folks, and can't wait to get back! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We waited many years before booking an Alaska cruise. After all, the whole idea is to enjoy the water, the tropical climate, and the exotic islands. Well...been there and done that enough times that it was time for a new adventure. We were ... Read More
We waited many years before booking an Alaska cruise. After all, the whole idea is to enjoy the water, the tropical climate, and the exotic islands. Well...been there and done that enough times that it was time for a new adventure. We were thrilled with the change in climate after 5 months of the Florida summer and we did not miss the pool during the day. The cruise started in Vancouver and we flew in a day early so we could see a little of the city and allow a buffer against delayed flights and the possibility of misdirected luggage. Everything went off without a hitch with travel and we were very lucky to make our way through the airport and immigration/customs without a hitch. We were through in about 30 minutes but once aboard heard the horror story from the day before when it took 2 hours. We stayed at Sutton Place in the heart of downtown and walked everywhere. The area was "alive" with both visitors and downtown workers. It was a pleasure to walk around with great restaurants and shops. We walked about 15 minutes to Stanley Park and rented bikes near the park entrance and rode the seawall around the park. It's a great park with great views and the weather was ideal.Vancouver has a large Chinese population and the largest Chinatown in North America so we found a great restaurant on Robson and met a few of our CC buddies for dinner. Then we people watched our way back up Robson to have ice cream and go back to the hotel. The next morning we spent a couple more hours walking around downtown before the 10 minute taxi ride to the pier. Princess and Celebrity sailed out of the downtown pier while RCCL is a bit removed but not a big deal. Check in was quick and efficient at about 11:30 and we were off to the Windjammer for lunch. We arranged a pre meet and mingle in the Schooner Bar at 3 PM, prior to muster, and got a head start meeting the people that were on the thread for the past 15 months. No life jackets for the muster drill were needed and as fate would have it our muster station was the Schooner bar. Sail away was beautiful and we passed under the Lions Gate Bridge and out to sea right behind the Ruby Princess. The first day was at sea and everyone settled into their routine for meals and activity. Lots of readers, plenty of ship activity with trivia games, card playing, bingo, casino, etc. This was also the first formal night. We were out in the open ocean so the ship had some movement but not too extreme. The highlight of day 3 was Tracy Arm Fjord. The crew navigated us up the fjord and we saw our first glimpse of glacial ice. We wound our way to the end of the fjord and were awed by the massive glacier. It stands hundreds of feet high and wide just dwarfing the ship. We put a boat in the water to scout out the larger chunks and kudos to the captain and crew for being able to manuever us in close. Hundreds of people were out on the forward decks taking pictures and taking in the natural beauty of the cascading waterfalls and sheer granite walls. The fjord was created by glaciation so the walls were high and the water was very deep. We spent a good part of the day sailing in and out before moving on toward our first port stop. Our next 5 days were port days and we zigzagged around the inside passage to stop at each one. The month of September starts the rainy season and we didn't see the sun for the whole time we were in Alaska. There were layers of clouds everywhere and some places it rained most of the time but we had done enough research to forsee this and had our rain gear ready. Believe me, it didn't slow anything down. There is very little variation in the temperature from day to night. Mostly in the low 50's during the day and high 40's at night. We slept with the sliding door to the balcony open several nights. The second week sailing down the west coast we had mostly excellent weather. Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego are just great cities and we had perfect weather in all three. The day sailing the inside route from Ketchican to Seattle was perfect sunny and cool weather. Astoria was a mix of clouds and sun with a great maritime museum. We went to a fort where the Lewis and Clark expedition ended. The biggest surprise was learning about the size and scope of the Columbia River. Growing up on the east coast we had no idea how important a river it is. We travelled with friends about half an hour down the coast to Seaside and had a great lunch along the beach promenade. The waves just pound the shoreline and sailing out of the Columbia River into the ocean is one of the trickiest navigations in the world of cruising. It was very impressive as the ship navigated the bar with the surf and waves crashing to either side. The open ocean was a bit rough between Astoria and San Francisco but the sun was out and the temperatures warmed up and we had a nice sea day. San Fran started with a pre dawn sail in under the Golden Gate bridge. Many of us were up and on deck for the 5:30 am sail in. We were very fortunate that it was crystal clear for arrival, all day, and for sail away at 11 PM. There was a major crowd on deck for sailaway and everyone was watching as we went back under the Golden Gate and out to sea to San Diego. San Diego disembarcation was just as smooth as check in. We waited in the dining room waiting area for C&A Diamond/Platinum until they announced our turn and off we went. Our luggage was quickly found and we breezed through customs and hopped a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton on Harbor Island and were right next to the airport for our next day departure. We had a perfect weather day and went to Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo for the day. We joined our Cruise Critic friends for dinner on the water and watched Serenade sail back out on her next voyage. We are veteran RCCL cruisers and we can not say too much for how excellent everything was. The ship was great with tons of glass for viewing, excellent public rooms, and super well maintained all around. The ship was spotless and well maintained and the staff was "the best"! The food was great in Chops, Portofino, and the Seaview Cafe. We ate at Portofino, Chops three times,and Seaview for lunch three or four times. One of our Chops visits was a Champagne brunch and I highly recommend it. It got us an invitation for a galley tour later in the cruise. The Windjammer food was the best we have experienced and the same for the dining room. We had several occasions to see our headwaiter in the Windjammer in the morning as well as the Chops manager. There is never an idle moment for these hard working people. Our dining room assistant waiter was also on duty in the Windjammer and he doted on our every need while we were there. They were so good that I wrote a letter to RCCL customer service for special recognition. Dennis Charles, our CD, was great as well. I looked forward to seeing him around the ship and his staff did a great job. The RCCL singers and dancers put on great shows and the guest entertainers were good as well. I would not hesitate to book another cruise on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My wife, my parents and I took a much needed holiday to Alaska, spending a couple of nights pre-cruise at the Delta Suites Vancouver. The hotel was nice and my first experience with Priceline. I'll do that again. On Saturday we ... Read More
My wife, my parents and I took a much needed holiday to Alaska, spending a couple of nights pre-cruise at the Delta Suites Vancouver. The hotel was nice and my first experience with Priceline. I'll do that again. On Saturday we made our way to the pier, and had a decent embarkation. Once on board, we found the Windjammer and had a little lunch. It was better than most we've had on Royal, and continued to be so throughout the cruise. I had a few problems right away. Got to our cabin, and it was filthy. Garbage on the floor and urine in the toilet. I was disgusted. For a balcony cabin, it was tiny. We called it our MRI room. We went over to check on my parents. They had a blacony cabin of the same category. It was approximately 4 feet longer than ours, and that made a huge difference. It had a couch instead of a chair, extra corner shelves, and a privacy curtain that went all the way across the cabin. Ours went half way. Is their such a thing as "partial" privacy? The ship was beautiful and well maintainted. Both Chops and Portofino were great. The Cruise Director was irritating, but just our opinion. The new DIamond lounge was the worst. We tried it a couple of times, and gave up. Alaska was beautiful! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was our fourth cruise but our first with RCI. We had tagged the cruise on to the end of our cross-Canada trip and were flying home straight after the cruise. Check in was brilliant. We were 35 minutes from leaving our Vancouver hotel ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise but our first with RCI. We had tagged the cruise on to the end of our cross-Canada trip and were flying home straight after the cruise. Check in was brilliant. We were 35 minutes from leaving our Vancouver hotel by taxi to actually stepping onto the ship. They could not process us quickly enough!! Even getting through US immigration was a breeze. We could not have our cabin until 13.00 so we went for lunch in the Windjammer restaurant and thought this was very good. Whilst there we found out about a wine promotion they were running for the duration of the cruise. Basically you signed up for a set number of bottles (eg 7 - one per night, or 5 if you preferred) and then paid up front but with a discount of around 25% on the normal bottle price if you chose it at the table each evening. We thought this a deal (and it was too, with decent wines and a good choice!!!). On arriving at our cabin on Deck 9 at 13.00, one of our 3 checked bags was waiting outside the door. However, the other 2 did not arrive until around 18.00 which was a bit of a pain. I know they have thousands of bags to deliver but when 3 are checked in all at once it is a mystery why there is 5 hours between them arriving at the cabin. Our cabin had a balcony which was of a good size with 2 chairs and a table.The interior of the cabin was long and narrow in design but the best use was made of every inch of space. There was masses of shelf space, including drawers but hanging space was a bit tight. We had one big bed which was actually very comfortable. The temperature in the cabin was easy to control and was efficient. There were plenty of mirrors, TV, efficient hair drier and a good sized safe. The shower room was very small but everything was there and easily to hand. We had a problem with flushing the toilet on the first evening and had to ask twice for this to be rectified. When it was everything was fine. We chose to dine at first sitting for dinner in Reflections restaurant. We did not go there on the first night as all our luggage had not arrived in time for us to get changed so we went to the Windjammer. My husband had the Indian curry and declared it to be rather bland. Otherwise we thought the choice very good and what I had was fine. The first morning we decided to have breakfast in the Reflections restaurant. You do not sit at your assigned table but are placed anywhere. We were on a table for 12 and it took ages to have the meal so we decided to use the Windjammer for breakfast in future. Actually this was very good with plenty of choice although it could be tricky getting a seat at times. We soon found our way around the ship and thought it a nice size and we really liked the Vortex lounge where you could relax in comfy armchairs and look straight out of the windows at the direction of travel. There was lots of excitement when we saw the first whales!! Our ports of call were 1. Icy Strait Point - a haunting place which is basically a couple shacks in the middle of nowhere. You are tendered in from the ship. 2. Skagway. We did the Yukon exploration by coach and train. A long day but very interesting. 3. Juneau. We did a whale watching tour followed by a trip to Mendenhall Glacier. The whale watching was brilliant and at one time we were literally surrounded by whales. The highlight of the trip was the cruise up Tracy Arm Fjord to the Sawyer Glacier. Amazing, just amazing. And congratulations to the ship's Captain for getting us so close to the glacier and the waterfalls. Brilliant. There were 2 formal dress nights on the trip. We like formal nights and so had gone prepared. Around 98% of the female passengers made a good effort to dress appropriately but around 98% of the male passengers made no such effort. Some looked as if they were just about to go and do the weekly shop rather than escort their partner who had taken the trouble to dress nicely. Come on guys you can do better than that. Other nights were casual or smart casual - quite difficult to tell the difference. We thought the food overall on the ship was very good - excellent in some cases and a definite notch or two up on P&O, for quality, presentation and service. We ate one night in Chops Grille and this was one of the best meals we have had anywhere in the world. Seriously good. The wine deal we had signed up for worked well until the last night when someone had made a mistake in recording what we had consumed sometime in the week and it seemed as if we had already had our 7 bottles when in fact we had had only 6. This could, and should, have been sorted out in double quick time by the head waiter but, no, I had to provide proof of what we had had each evening - they also had their own copies. Fortunately I had kept our receipts. We were not amused by this. It was sorted out but left a bit of a bad taste. That apart, the service from the ship's staff was excellent, especially Sammy, our table waiter. The main problem is that you are not allowed to use a travelling iron and there are no facilities to do some ironing to get creases out of packed clothes unless you are willing to let the ship do this for a cost. Fortunately I had taken a travelling steamer which helped to get rid of most of the creases in the clothes in one case which had been packed for nearly 3 weeks!! But beware, people who had travelling irons in their checked bags had the irons confiscated to be collected when leaving the ship back in Vancouver. The procedure for leaving the ship was efficient and we soon found our cases and got a taxi to the airport. Overall,we thoroughly enjoyed our week on the ship. We had met some nice people and seen some wonderful things. The ship was nice and we would have no hesitation in travelling with RCI again if all their ships are on a par with Serenade. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas - Aug. 29 thru Sept. 5th - Vancouver Started the trip from Houston to Seattle via SW airlines on a Thursday, giving us a few days in Seattle for sightseeing (no good air prices to Vancouver from Houston so we flew to Seattle ). Always love SW, no charge for bags and employee's are always friendly. A flight attendant that lives in Seattle gave us a list of restaurants for us to try. On our first evening we ate close to the hotel at Adobe (similar to Chipotle's). Good nights sleep at the Sheraton downtown, Priceline $90. On Friday we headed for Top Pot doughnuts near 3rd/Bell for the best doughnuts in town, we were not disappointed. Next Pikes Market, what wonderful produce and floral arrangements....cheap $5-$10 for a beautiful bunch of flowers. Ate lunch at the market in the square at the end of the market, lots of street performers and colorful singers to keep you entertained. We took the monorail to the space needle and a trip to the top to enjoy a 360 view of Seattle , $16ea. but a beautiful view. We took in a Seattle Mariners game Friday evening, beautiful stadium and the smell of garlic fries is still with me. On Saturday morning we took a cab $7 to the Amtrak station for an early train to Vancouver BC. If you've never taken a train it's definitely the way to go, lots of time to think and get your thoughts together while enjoying the beautiful trip from Seattle to Vancouver ($35pp one way). The train ride was a little late getting into Vancouver due to a couple in Bellingham Wa . Trying to run for the train, NOTE never run for a train arrive early this attempt delayed us 20min. No worries though we were not due to be on board ship till noon at the earliest. Vancouver....customs was a breeze off the train, a $25US taxi ride to the pier most of which was in line at the Balentyne cruise ship terminal, remember Vancouver has two piers Canada Place (new) and Balentyne (old)...NOTE, get the taxi driver to pull to the side and let you off if you have no trouble walking, only 100 yards and it'll save you $10 off the fare at the peak time. Vancouver drop off at the pier is one of the strangest I've ever seen, they make the taxis and buses back in slowing the process immensely. The process of boarding ran smoothly and very quickly compared to other ports we'd sailed from. Naturally we headed for the windjammer dining room since it had been hours since we'd eaten and we needed to get in shape for the week ahead. I'm sorry if you're looking for a long evaluation of the food on Serenade of the Seas, we ate all our meals at the windjammer neglecting the main dining room (Reflections). We've had a couple of bad experiences on the last several cruises with dining mates and waiters, so we've chosen to avoid the main dining rooms, besides they take too long and you spend too much of your vacation waiting on waiters. The food in the windjammer is of good quality and varies every day, lots of good salads and fruit, they can keep the sushi. The staff there is always happy to see someone and you can get lots of good conversations and information from this staff with a little friendly effort on your part. Serenade of the Seas ratings; Cruise director.....A Cruise Staff.........A Cabin Att............A+ Dining...............B Entertainment......B Tendering...........A Only one small problem kept arising and RCI is not at fault. There were just too many unsupervised children running the ship at all times. One even wandered into the casino into the area even adults are not allowed...behind the dealers. At dinner and breakfast we were always trying to find a quiet place to eat and it would never fail here's mom dad and little Johnny noise maker choosing to sit next to us. It would be ok if the parents instilled a little discipline in the kids teaching them how to act in public. Better get off this! First Day - At sea Tons of whales to watch for, the little ones are really fast and exciting to see for the first time. Second Day - Tracy Arm Fiord We got lucky today, sunshine weather and we got to see both sides of the Sawyer glacier thanks to our great captain. The second side which very few ships get to go to we actually saw the glacier cave in causing a charter boat to scurry away at the site, don't blame them. Third day - Icy Strait Point I have to admit, I was not sure going in what to expect from ISP, but we enjoyed a good hike to the town and another later in the day around the beach/zip liner area. NOTE...tours were not considered great and overpriced, the area's just getting started as a tourist destination, the people are very friendly though. Fourth Day - Skagway We took the train ride up to the mountain pass and back, for those that have never been before or never been to like Colorado or Utah train rides it is a good tour. For those that have been on tours like Salida Colorado , you can use the time for other things. We ate lunch back on the ship and went on an excursion booked a hike/float trip outside the ship through southwest tours a local agency in Skagway for $85pp, considerably less than the ship's price and we got a private float/hike. On the hike portion is where we got the thrill of a lifetime, not my wife's version. While hiking and observing nature we stumbled onto a brown bear eating salmon, we surprised him and he definitely surprised us. Our guide handled it coolly but did as she said pull her bear spray and pin out for the first time ever. This was her first real encounter for the year and the years almost over. We waited and made noise thinking that the bear had moved on we proceeded only to find he hadn't, we just kept making noise and got the heck out of there. We took the float portion back to near Skagway and a trip back to the ship with a story of a lifetime. Fifth Day - Juneau We took a float plane rid on Wings Air that was just great, you got to see plenty of the glaciers and wildlife areas around Juneau and the employees were great. I'd like to thank the 3 helicopter agencies in Juneau that charge 1.5 times the normal rate for a ride on their copters for turning me down. For those that don't know the chopper agencies all charge 1.5 times the price for someone over 250lbs or more, I'm a weightlifter in great shape for my age but 5lbs over their max allotment and not willing to diet on a cruise. I wrote e-mails to all 3 agency's and got a response from only one. They stand hard; even though my wife only weighs 100lbs they wouldn't budge on me or combine our weights like agencies did in Hawaii earlier this year. Anyway thanks, I had a great time on the floatplane and saved $$$. The Sixth Day - at sea Nice relaxing day to do all the things we wanted but didn't have the time to do, I love sea days. Packed late in the afternoon and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Seventh Day - Debarkation We left the ship at 7:30am for an early departure just as scheduled. Took Quickshuttle $35pp (bus service) back to Seattle for an early flight out the next morning. QS was a good experience, the driver makes stops so sitting for 3-4 hrs was not a hassle. The trip through customs went a little slower because we had New Zelanders on the bus entering the USA for the first time. Stayed ay Hilton Airport for the final night, eat out before you settle in for the evening. Delivery fees to the hotel and prices in general in Seattle are murder as far as eating goes. Great ship, great crew, great trip.... Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
My husband and I were extremely excited to take our first ever cruise. I had heard many good comments from friends etc about RCL, and comments here on CC were also pretty favorable. We arrived in Vancouver the evening of July 31 and ... Read More
My husband and I were extremely excited to take our first ever cruise. I had heard many good comments from friends etc about RCL, and comments here on CC were also pretty favorable. We arrived in Vancouver the evening of July 31 and stayed the night at a downtown hotel. Took a cab the next morning to the Ballentyne Pier and we were there shortly after 12 noon. The lineups to go through security, then US Customs all moved very smoothly, as well as the registration lineup. I think I counted 13 or 14 cruise line reps doing the passenger registrations. We weren't even on the ship when we encountered our first photo session. Arrival on the ship itself also proceeded smoothly. We had arrived before 1pm and the cabin hallways weren't open yet to passengers, so we headed up to the Windjammer for lunch. Wasn't terribly impressed with the food - it seemed rather ordinary and a little bland. We learned that day to avoid the iced tea - canadian iced tea is very different from US iced tea! We were very pleased with our stateroom and all the storage available - lots of cupboards and drawers. I had read on CC to take a power bar and I'm glad that I did. We had to get an extension cord from Guest Services for my husband's breathing machine and they were most accomodating. Our luggage arrived before 4 pm, then we attended the muster drill, then headed up to Deck 12 to watch the departure. It was very thrilling for me to be finally sailing away! Eventually the ship's horn was blasted as we left the Vancouver harbor and that was also exciting for me too - having seen it all in the movies! Day 2 was the open sea and it was a bit rough that day, but not enough to cause any ill feelings. We just "rolled" with it ! We kept ourselves busy exploring the ship, eating, drinking and just enjoying the experience. Dinner at Reflections was a great experience every evening - our waiter and assistant waiter and the bar waiter were all excellent! Day 3 - Monday saw us in Icy Strait Point. Weather was very smoky and hazy from the BC forest fires. We enjoyed the walk around town - didn't book an excursion as the port is very tiny - you can walk it all in 15 min. Nearly lost my camera's memory card when it fell out of the camera bag, through the slats in the dock, down into the brush below on the shore! We eventually found our way down to the spot and fortunately found the card... phew! Day 4 was Tracy Fjord Glacier and the Sawyer Glacier. The weather was fantastic and Captain Stig managed to get us in to see the Sawyer Glacier. We found out later that we were the FIRST SHIP ever to get in to see the glacier - usually the fjord is totally blocked by ice. But because of the warm weather , the Captain was able to make it. Something about the ship's thrusters being able to spin the ship 360 degrees also made it possible. Day 5 was Skagway and shopping. If you plan to buy diamonds, be sure you attend the ship's seminat about port shopping. If you go to Diamonds International, don't be afraid to haggle for the best price and ask to deal directly with a manager. We finally got a good price on a loose diamond. It's a cute town - lots of history there. We did an excursion to the Klondike Summit, Yukon Suspension bridge, then panning for gold - our driver was Audrey and she was fantastic! Weather was still very pleasant - still the smokey haze though. Day 6 was Juneau. We did the Glacier Gardens ( a great experience and beautiful to see), Mendenhall Glacier and McCauley Salmon hatchery - all very interesting. Weather was cloudier and still hazy but no rain! We weren't in Juneau as long as the ship only has a small window of time to leave the port due to the tides. Leaving even 2 minutes late can make for a tricky departure. Day 7 was at sea and we managed to keep ourselves occupied with bingo, various bits of entertainment etc. Tips - be sure you do your checkout Friday evening as Sat morning is a gong show! Watch your room account carefully on the TV channel and make sure there are no duplicate charges as I had heard of that happening more than once. Take a power bar as there is a big lack of outlets in the room. The ship's cruise directors were a great, fun bunch! Dennis Charles is the director and he's very talented! Overall we had a great experience for our first time cruise. So much, that we booked a second cruise for March 2011, on the new Oasis of the Seas to the western caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Let me just say that we loved everything about this cruise except for the cuisine. My wife and I are in our thirty's, from the south and were traveling as part of a manufacturers incentive program with aprox. 80 people from all ... Read More
Let me just say that we loved everything about this cruise except for the cuisine. My wife and I are in our thirty's, from the south and were traveling as part of a manufacturers incentive program with aprox. 80 people from all around the U.S.A. most of which we have never meet. Our travel day started at 2:30am EST Saturday the 8th of August leaving our home for the two hour drive to the airport for a 6:00am departure. Two flights and 2400 miles later we arrived in Vancouver at 12:15pm PST, the Vancouver airport was easy to navigate using the "USDirect" signs and the added convenience of Royal Caribbean's transfer program made going through customs and the 45 minute drive to the pier painless. We had a very short 35 minute layover in Detroit and I was worried about our luggage making the boat and since we were letting R.C. transfer our luggage the added worry of not being able to see our bags (which is clearly marked in all of your cruise documents) until they were delivered to our stateroom was a bit nerve racking but it worked like clockwork. Our bags showed up one by one and the last of four arrived about 6:00. What to wear seemed to be the biggest concern for my wife and I leading up to our cruise. Two people for this cruise should be able to pack every thing they need in two medium size suitcases and a garment bag. 1 suit with two dress shirts and two ties is the extent of the formal wear for any man. 3 pairs shorts, 3 pairs pants (khakis or blue jeans) half a dozen polo shirts, a few t-shirts, a swimsuit and enough under garments for the week is all you need. Really. As far as what a women should bring? You'll have to ask my wife. Our room was great, very clean with just the slightest beginnings of wear showing, Our stateroom attendant Marcelino was FANTASTIC!! He made our stay better and we made sure to show him our appreciation. On the first day we noticed that our refrigerator was not working, we called our stateroom attendant and he was there before I had stood up all the way, he, with my permission, removed the faulty unit and brought us different one as soon as they had one ready for us. The showers are very small but have great pressure and will get as hot as you need it too. The bed is better than a cot with nice linens and decent pillows. The love seat is just big enough for two people to sit but not really large enough to eat at. I will never cruise in a room without a balcony again, it really does make for a much more relaxed experience and would be well worth the money to me. I am the worst kind of smoker, an ex-smoker, I have not had a cigarette in two years and was worried that I would be inundated with smoke. This was not the case at all, the only place where it was an issue for me was in the casino which I spent very little time. One thing that R.C. does which really is nice, on Formal nights the casino is non-smoking, it seems that they have really thought this whole smoking thing through and are changing with the demand for more smoke free areas. The boat is great, we have only been on one prior cruise (the Carnival Holiday in'05) and know that that old tug is a far cry from the Serenade and I'm sure there are even nicer boats out there. After the Holiday experience we swore of cruising all together and figured a boat is a boat is a boat. Wrong! It really does make a huge difference, my wife who is prone to motion sickness was only ill for about 5 hours on the first morning because of 12'seas after that it was smooth sailing so to speak. The boat seemed very well kept, there was some maintenance going on but it was my no means an inconvenience to us. After a day or two the boat seemed easy enough to navigate and getting from one place to another was easy as long as you avoided the elevators during peak times. The company we were traveling with threw two cocktail receptions, both we very nice with hot hour d'oeuvres and a bar service with beer, wine, champagne and some cocktails. The R.C. staff was very professional at both events and made for very nice affairs. Speaking of cocktails, we were surprised at the very fair price of cocktails aboard the ship, Crown and ginger - Absolute and tonics both ran about $5.75ea and were pours like I do at home or better. I managed to keep my tilt on for most of the cruise for less then I had budgeted. We toured the spa and it was very attractive with what looked like clean and modern facilities, my wife did go for a polish change one afternoon which she had no problems scheduling at the last minute but that was the extent of our experience with the spa. The food. If you are familiar with Ryan's or The Golden Corral then you will know what to expect in the Windjammer, the dinning room was not much better but at least the service was nice. We went to Portofino's for dinner one night, my wife enjoyed her Halibut but my veal was, for lack of a better word, blah. I understand what a feat it is to pull off 19,000 meals a day on a boat but I really think it could have been better. Just my opinion but I thought the Carnival boat was leaps and bounds better as far as food goes then the R.C. ship. Tracy Arm Fjord. WOW!! I can not tell you how beautiful this was, the best way I can describe it is imagine if emerald green water flowed through the Rocky Mountains... with icebergs. For part of the day we sat all alone (which was nice) in the Safari Room which is on the very back of the boat watching as the icebergs hit us then rolled in to the wake of the ship. Very Cool. We saw two of the shows, the first was an English comedian that was brilliant and had everybody talking the next day, I am so glad I went to see him. The second was a musical number that my wife really enjoyed, I am not a big fan of musicals (hate is not to strong of a word in this case) so I will keep my opinions to myself. If you get a chance and are interested in the workings of the ship I suggest the Captians talk on the last morning of the cruise in the theater, it was fun and informative. Capt. Stig is quite witty and is not afraid to tell you about his family's profession as he was growing up. All in all we had a fantastic time and saw things we would never had seen if not on the boat, if you ever thought about an Alaskan cruise and you are okay with mediocre food then this is the cruise for you. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Serenade of the Seas is a great ship for going to Alaska. There are windows everywhere to take in the magnificent view. It was a fairly easy process getting on the ship. Once onboard we noticed how clean the ship was. The service ... Read More
Serenade of the Seas is a great ship for going to Alaska. There are windows everywhere to take in the magnificent view. It was a fairly easy process getting on the ship. Once onboard we noticed how clean the ship was. The service there was extraordinary. Our cabin was just the right size with a balcony. We had a cabin by the elevators which was great for easy access to all parts of the ship. The bars, and lounges were nice. The pit stop hardly had anyone there so it was a good place for me to just relax. The entertainment was decent except they could have done a better job with the decor. We didn't use the outside pool and mainly used the pool in the solarium. We did not understand why the outside pool was heated and the pool in the solarium was not. It was a nice place to relax. The spa was very good. We used the thermal suite a few days. Everytime we went there it was empty and you can just relax and enjoy the scenery. We had a couples massage and it was very good. Our food experience: In the main dining room,the food and service was excellent. the windjammer was just ok. It was served buffet style. The seaview cafe is a good alternative. The food there was good. The other problem we had with the windjammer was finding a place to sit and eat. Most of the days we got breakfeast and brought it to our cabin to eat on our balcony. We ate a Portofinos one night and the food there was excellent. Overall we had a great experience with this ship. Plenty of time to relax and take in the sights. We will definetly plan another trip to Alaska but we never go back on the same ship twice. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of ... Read More
Serenade's Alaskan cruise was spectacular. This was the first cruise my husband and I have taken without kids (both are grown now). We were originally planning a northbound cruise, but opted instead for the round trip out of Vancouver, BC. This turned out to be a great choice, as it gave us plenty of opportunities to see the beautiful landscapes of Alaskan shorelines. Embarkation was a breeze. We actually arrived in Vancouver early on the day of sailing, so we checked all of our luggage in with RCCL's airport transfer point, then jumped on the newly-opened Skytrain into downtown Vancouver for a bit of sight-seeing before boarding the ship. RCCL's port was a short taxi ride from downtown Vancouver, and once arriving there, it took only a few minutes to get through registration and onboard. We had booked our excursions online prior to the sailing date, so we had the afternoon free to explore the ship, get a workout in, and get to meet fellow passengers. We did manage to change from late to early dining, as "My Time" dining slots were all full. The ship is magnificent. There were a few places that were under repair, but other than that, everything was in great shape! This was our second cruise with RCCL, the first being on the Navigator of the Seas, so we found the ship a bit smaller, but still plenty to do and easy to find your way around. The staff was terrific. The Cruise Director, Dennis, was so full of energy and vivacious, we really enjoyed him. The dining room staff was always on top of things (our waiter & asst. were Melroy & Melissa). Our cabin steward, Rommel, was the best! Unfortunately, his contract is up and he & his wife are heading home to the Philippines, but you may see them again next year! We had heard that the prior sailings had been plagued by rain, but had beautiful weather all week. In fact, on the day we sailed Tracy Arm Fjord, the weather was so great that we were able to sail up a usually-closed arm and see both sides of Sawyer Glacier...an opportunity which the Captain said he had only been able to do only 3 times on the Serenade. It was magnificent! To see a ship this size navigate through that narrow fjord makes you marvel at the technology of cruise ships and the expertise of the crew! The glacier was an amazing site, as well as Icy Falls. Our ports were Icy Strait Point, Skagway and Juneau. We hired a private charter in ISP to go whale watching (Dream Fish Alaska). This was a great adventure, being on a small fishing boat rather than a big, crowded tour boat. Frank, our captain, was able to get us up close and personal to several humpback whales, despite a thick fog. This was Frank's last season in ISP, however. If interested in a similar excursion, check out F.I.S.H.E.S. Whatever you do, definitely try some halibut pizza while in Hoonah...it's the best! (And sidenote...Frank may be leaving ISP, but is moving to eastern Washington, so if you have a trip planned there and want a hunting/fishing guide, try to find Frank Byrd!) Didn't do any excursions in Skagway, although everyone said the White Pass Railway was well worth it. We shopped around and hiked up to Lower Dewey Lake. It's an easy uphill hike to the lake, with 3 other trails available even farther up the mountain. If you are an avid hiker, make sure to do the trek around the lakes, as they provide more technical terrain. Juneau was our best excursion choice. We booked a helicopter glacier trek through the cruiseline. This was a 30 minute helicopter ride up onto the flow line of Mendenhall Glacier, followed by a 2 hour trek on the glacier itself. You cannot imagine how amazing this was...words cannot describe it! To be on a glacier, see how blue the ice is, and experience it first hand, is something everyone needs to put on their bucket list of things to do. The company was North Star Trekking, our guide was Amanda, and all were first rate! The only negative we would have from the entire cruise would be a lack of variety in the food. They offered the same choices for room service daily (we ate breakfast via room service),and had the same selections available in Windjammer for lunch each day. It would have been nice to see some other options available. All in all, it was a great cruise, a fantastic choice for a vacation, and worth every penny. Note: The Serenade will not be returning to Alaska, but I'm sure any other RCCL cruise would be just as great! Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Traveled aboard the Serenade July 4-11, 2009.  Along with me, came my husband, 10 year old son and 16 year old brother in law.  I was the only previous cruiser- everyone else was a first timer.  Traveled to Vancouver by air and stayed ... Read More
Traveled aboard the Serenade July 4-11, 2009.  Along with me, came my husband, 10 year old son and 16 year old brother in law.  I was the only previous cruiser- everyone else was a first timer.  Traveled to Vancouver by air and stayed at Pan Pacific at Canada Place.  Got that room on Hotwire for $90 and was upgraded to a suite for free when we got there.  Boarded ship next day.  Ballayntine Pier is about a 5-10 minute ride from Canada Place.  We arrived around 10:30 and had no problems getting in security, then on to check in.  Had done everything online and check in took less than 5 minutes.  It's not the most attractive terminal/embarkation facility ever- but RCCL had it running smoothly and efficiently.  We boarded in the third group- early around 11:30 am.The ship itself is extremely beautiful and we loved all the open spaces- glass elevators and public areas.  We found it to be very clean and maintained well.  By the end of the second day, we all had a good lay of the ship and could find our way around without deck plans and directions for the most part.  Plenty of places to just relax if you wanted to read or sit and watch the spectacular scenery going by. Mini golf was fun and rock wall awesome.  I also loved the Solarium pool- they did open it up to families for about 4/5 hours a day- which I liked.With regards to food, we found it to be generally very good.  My husband and I dined at Chops Grille once- and that by far, was the best meal on the cruise- service impeccable and professional.  Worth the service charge.  We ate in the main dining room on 2 other occasions- using the My Time Flexible Dining program which generally worked very well.  Once we did wait about 15 minutes for a table- but other than that, were usually seated right away.  Service in the dining room was excellent- particularly from head servers.  Energentic, friendly and attentive.  Food in main dining room was good.  Windjammer Cafe (buffet) was occasionally hit or miss but for the most part very good food.  Their salads were the best I have ever had on any cruise, as were the desserts- most of the time, they were to die for, regardless of where they were served.Stateroom:  We had a balcony "hump" cabin.  Furnishings and linens were very pretty and comfortable.  At first, we thought we would never survive in it- but there is good storage space and utilizing all of it, including space under the bed- the four of us managed extremely well.  Beds were comfortable and both my brother in law and son- had no issues with the fold out or the bunk.  Our stateroom attendant was by far the most attentive and kindest I have ever had on any cruise, including Disney Cruise Line.  His name was Marcilano.  If you sail with this ship- I hope you are lucky enough to have him tend to you and your cabin.  I couldn't say enough good things about him.  The shower was the best I ever had on any cruise ship.  My husband is a big guy and he had no complaints whatsoever- showers were hot and water pressure fantastic. Entertainment: Someone posted that the cruise director, Mike, reminded them of Tom Green- and boy, was that ever spot on.  He was hilarious.  Cruise activities were fairly good- could have used a little more variety though.  My son and BIL were in different age groups and didn't want to be split up so they didn't use their age level programming at all. There was only one meet and greet with the Captain during the whole week- and the picture opportunity only lasted 15 minutes.  They do a fabulous Q and A with the Captain though and backstage digital photo tour the last day at sea- which we loved.  The other members of the cruise entertainment staff were funny and engaging.  Activities manager Andy was very friendly also.  We saw 2 stage shows: one was Jonathan Clark- musical impressionist and comedian- very good.  Also saw Vibeology- pretty good as well. 2 of the singers- Jay and Shvonne- did their own R and B matinee show on the last day- they were fantastic. Ports:  We did all RCCL excursions.  Whale watching in Icy Strait.  It was fine and we did see several humpbacks- but the boat was big and it was crammed in outdoor viewing areas.  If I were to do it again, I would book a private charter.  In Skagway, we did the Sled Dog Camp.  It was unseasonably warm so they cancelled the cart pull as the heat was too much for the dogs.  They showed us other stuff instead- like harnessing and such.  We loved the dogs, hearing the musher talk about the races and seeing puppies but not doing the cart race was a bummer.  In fairness, we received notice of that before hand from the camp and RCCL.  In Juneau, we did the Salmon Hatchery and Mendenhall Glacier.  Interesting and Mendenhall was fabulous.   We were able to go to Tracy Arm Fjord- a venture the entire crew, including our captain was thrilled about- and he did an amazing job - got us 8/10 of a mile from Sawyer Glacier.  The most amazing scenery ever.  Unforgettable. The only tender was at Icy Strait Point, and that was handled smoothly and efficiently, with tours going out first in order of the time they were to meet.   Generally, Skagway and Juneau's downtown areas were sort of boring to us - the streets were lined with the typical jewelry and souvenir stores.  Had I known we wouldn't find much other than that, I would have booked us on two excursions a day.  Getting out to outlying areas offered us chances to see more landscapes and animals- including bald eagles- which is what the trip really, for us, was all about.  Service in general was excellent.  There were a few crew members who I found to be not very friendly, but for the most part we came across folks that were very friendly, helpful and kind.  Guest Relations staff in particular were quick and efficient in answering questions and concerns.  Our arrival back into Vancouver was delayed due to currents in tight straights that necessitated us going slower- and we got plenty of notice of that- I think 3 days notice, so we were able to get express departure way in advance, not to miss our flights.   The captain made informative and fun announcements at least once, sometimes twice daily, telling us about weather conditions, routes and other info when necessary.Disembarking was even easier then embarking- we had express departure and by the time we got to our assigned area to wait- they were already offloading passengers and we literally walked out the door with no waiting whatsoever.  There were plenty of staff members to guide us through Customs and out of the pier to transportation to the airport.On a scale of 1-5, I would give the Serenade a 4- 4 1/2.  Wouldn't hesitate to return to this ship again and I definitely will cruise with RCCL again, based on this cruise.  We had a fabulous time and loved our time onboard.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Reading all reviews below, it seems like I was on different ship... Anyway I'm not that kind of person that only see negatives, but that's exactly what I want to highlight in this review. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my ... Read More
Reading all reviews below, it seems like I was on different ship... Anyway I'm not that kind of person that only see negatives, but that's exactly what I want to highlight in this review. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my cruise a lot, but comparing to other 5 cruises that I took previously (this one was first on Royal Caribbean) I would say it was towards the bottom of the list. Did I become too picky? Maybe. But here are my impressions...   Alaska cruise- Serenade of the Seas. July 18- July 25 Vancouver round trip.   We arrived to Vancouver from NY on the morning of the day of the cruise. The first surprise that we had - we were stopped by RC representatives as soon as we exited the plane with the question: did you put your cruise tags on your luggage? -Yes we did.- They say that in this case your luggage will go to the ship directly so we do not have to go to baggage area. Convenient? Yes - for elderly people definitely or if you know about this in advance! In our case - we did not! We actually wanted to take something out of our luggage before going to the port! No luck. We've been told that our luggage will not even be in the luggage aria - from the plane it will go straight to the ship. OK, we said, that's fine, but I would still appreciate that if I would be informed in advance regarding such things - so we would have a choice! Next thing they said that we can use they bus shuttle service to go to the ship and we would avoid the customs all together. The price is $79 for two people (twice the price of the taxi). We agreed, even though originally we wanted to take the taxi, but without the luggage we wanted to get on the ship ASAP and decided to save time on customs. We got on the ship around 11:15AM. By 4PM we still did not receive our bags!. To tell you that we were concerned - that would be huge understatement! We did know what to think. Did RC picked up the luggage in the airport? Was it even reached Vancouver? (you know, luggage can get lost during air travel) On the front desk they said that there is no way to verify if our bags are on the ship.. And it could take up to 9 PM to get our bags! Finally by 4:15 we got the first suitcase, but still no trace of the second one. We ask our cabin attendant to check and around 6PM (after the ship left Vancouver) we got a phone call from security office to come and pick it up! The reason why it was there? They founds through X-ray machine a manicure scissors, but since they are not allowed to open and verify it they asked me to open and show them scissors and only after that I was allowed to take my bag to the cabin. There were about 150-200 bags held in security office and passengers that I saw there had exactly the same problem! (manicure scissors or someone had an iron) As you can imagine after all that, we were not in the mood for anything on that day...   Regarding the food.... In the restaurant it was good. Better than it was on Norwegian cruise we took last year. But in their Windjammer cafe - not good at all! First, there was almost no variety neither during breakfast or lunch!. The pastries were the same all seven days! (all 4 of them). Breakfast was also exactly the same (common, you CAN have different things even for breakfast) And what's up with Indian food? Is this the most favorite food of the captain? Why have it every day and dedicate the entire area (cart) out of 4 available to the Indian section? We are in Alaska not in South Pacific; I would think Russian food would be more appropriate. Or at least change it to different ethnic food like they do on Princess (or at least that's was the case 3 years ago).   Regarding the ship (remember this is negative review only, so I will only describe things that I did not like) For Alaska cruise, I would consider it a small ship. The problem is the combination of the weather and itinerary. We spent total 3 days in sea (including visit to the glacier). Weather was pretty cold so spending significant time on the deck is impossible. I'm not even talking the pool area. So everyone had to find something to do inside the ship. Apparently there is not enough room! You have Casino, shops, lounge on the back of the ship and the central area by the elevators. Most of the people were either in shops or in that central area. Again, if I said that it was crowded - it would be an understatement. Especially when they have a band playing near the Information desk, it was almost impossible get trough. Also because of the weather, finding a table in Windjammer cafe was very very difficult (nobody wanted to sit outside). They even have to announce repeatedly to vacate the tables once you are done eating.  You got 20 minutes to eat your breakfast or lunch - like in McDonalds.   Prices and other charges. It looks like with every cruise we take, photos cost more and more. It is up to 19.95 now. And teenagers that make them have no idea about the composition. They got pretty good DSLRs cameras but most of them do not even know how to use it properly! I noticed that most of them use their cameras on "Auto" setting! Regarding drinks. Near the glacier, when it was really cold and windy, they were selling a hot chocolate in souvenir glass for $8.95...... To get a hot chocolate in the regular cup - you need to go down to deck 5  to Seattle cafe. It used to be when cappuccino and espresso were part of free beverages - not anymore - even during dinner in the restaurant.   Ports. For some reason our ship was docked in the farthest point of the terminal in Skagway and Juneau. There were few other ships in the port but for some reason the worst available dock was given to Serenade of the Seas. Could it be that Royal Caribbean is regarded as second rated company? Or this is the cheapest dock in the port? And in Juneau they even charge you extra $3 to get you into town....   Embarkation.  Long an unorganized. We were given 9:10AM time. Or color was called at 10:40AM. And for some reason they do not make announcements on the radio. You must be in your designated are along with other people.... Why? I'm not even saying about another huge line to get through the customs once you get off the ship. May be it is Canada issue and not Royal Caribbean..     Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy my trip a lot. Especially that Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I will definitely visit it again (probably not on Royal Caribbean). I just wanted to highlight only negative things as they might be helpful for people who are looking and comparing different Alaskan cruises.   Thanks and Regards,   DG Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our trip to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas was a very wonderful experience.  Here is an overview of the trip:   Embarkation- Three groups of two flew into Vancouver from Edmonton, Calgary & Toronto the day of departure.  We ... Read More
Our trip to Alaska on Serenade of the Seas was a very wonderful experience.  Here is an overview of the trip:   Embarkation- Three groups of two flew into Vancouver from Edmonton, Calgary & Toronto the day of departure.  We took a limo ($110 with tip-cheaper than two cabs) to the pier, arriving just before 11 AM.  We were at the front of the check in line and made it through check in and US customs and were the first on the ship by about 11:40 and dining in the Windjammer by noon. We had great weather by comparative standards for Alaska.  The two sea days travelling up and down the coast were cloudy with fog and cool, but we had lots to do on the ship that it didn't matter.  The first two days in Alaska at Icy Strait and Tracy Arm fjord were beautiful with sunny skies all day and temps about mid 70's.  Skagway and Juneau were cloudy with temps in the mid 60's, but with no rain. At our stop in Icy Strait, we took a private whale watching tour with Glacier Wind Charters.  We had the whole day and boat to six of us.  There were numerous viewings of humpback whales and it was painful to leave so that we had a bit of time back at the port prior to the ship departing.  Also saw lots of bald eagles, sea lions, porpoises and a grizzly bear.  I would strongly recommend this excursion rather than the ship's tours...it is more personal and cheaper. Our day cruising up the Tracy Arm fjord was magical.  The captain made a decision to go up Endicott Arm as the ice conditions were better than in Tracy Arm.  The three hour trip up the fjord was great with ice flows dotted with seals and magnificent waterfalls cascading down the shear granite cliffs.  When we got to the end of the fjord, the captain pushed the ship through about a half mile of solid ice to get to open water within about a mile of the glacier.  It was an incredible site as he rotated the ship twice so all could see the end of the glacier.  Calving was taking place intermittently and looked like bombs going off as the ice fell into the water.  We got to see the scenery again as we took the three hour trek back out of the fjord. In Skagway, we did another private tour through Chilkoot Charters.  While most people in Skagway want to see the White Pass via the train, this tour split the trip between a bus and the train.  We took the bus up the mountain and the train back down.  It provided two perspectives of the valley and pass.  The bus allowed us to stop at various locations while travelling up the mountain to view the valley and wildlife, which was not possible on the train.  That said, the train ride was incredible and I would suggest taking it down as you get a better perspective of the valley.  Again, this tour was more personable, at least on the bus, and permitted more sight seeing than going on the train both ways.  It was also cheaper than the train up and down via the cruise ship excursions.  We were back in lots of time to do some shopping in the town before catching the ship again. In Juneau we did not book any tours and kept this as our shopping day as our port time was short.  There are lots of shops in Juneau varying from the typical big city stores with merchandise with Alaska logos to the small shops selling more unique wares native to Alaska. The ship was in wonderful shape and the crew was great.  We had no problems what so ever and I will leave the major comments on the ship to the other plentiful reviews on this and other sites.  The food in main dining room & Windjammer was outstanding, although seemed like there was less choice than the Voyager and Freedom class ships we have previously sailed.  Chops was just out of this world as we have come to expect and well worth a night and the $25 pp cover charge.  The RCCL productions shows were well performed, but didn't pique our interest as much as previous shows.  The other headline entertainers were great and brought the house down.  The regular shows- Love & Marriage, The Quest, Serenade Feud, etc were all good for a laugh.  There was a show band, Casablanca, playing Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, etc that was outstanding and got rave reviews. Debarkation- This was well organized by RCCL.  We went to the theater at our appointed time (9 AM) and 10 minutes later we were leaving the ship.  It took about 30 minutes to get through Canadian customs.  It would have been faster, but many of the non-Canadians did not have the customs forms completed properly and this took time as they got to the front of the line.  The biggest jamb was after luggage collection.  There is restricted access for cabs and limos at Ballantyne pier and this created huge lines and wait times.  It took us almost an hour of waiting to get the pre-booked limo back to the airport.  Others were there longer and in a snarlier mood.  Make sure you plan accordingly to either get off the ship early or book your flights with enough time to get to the airport.  We had three flights at 1 PM and finally got there about 11:30, just in time for a quick bite (after Windjammer withdrawal) and to catch our flights. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Day 1So here we go... Me my partner and neighbor book this cruise kind of last minute (less than 60 days out) so we utilized RCI's travel arrangements. The good on this was that the airline prices were comparable at the time to ... Read More
Day 1So here we go... Me my partner and neighbor book this cruise kind of last minute (less than 60 days out) so we utilized RCI's travel arrangements. The good on this was that the airline prices were comparable at the time to booking the flight myself. The bad we did not get non stop flights and I hate flying and they still get you for a luggage fee...After a slight flight delay from Phoenix to San Francisco (we flew United all the way) we made our connection to Vancouver (now when I found out our flight was delayed for up to 4 hours I did call RCI to inform them and get direction in case we missed our flight they were not much help although I don't know what I would have expected).After arriving into Vancouver clearing immigration we found that one of our bags was missing we went to the united desk (boy 1 guy for a ton of flights and was he swamped) and found out the bag had been scanned into Vancouver so the bag was somewhere. after about an hour and a half  some kids just happened to look behind the curtains where the luggage belts comes into the terminal and saw our lost piece of luggage (long story short if you cant find you luggage and it says it has arrived look behind the curtain).With delays and finally catching the transfer bus to the ship we made it through US Immigrations and made it onboard by about 4:30 pm. Set sail was great.Now don't get me wrong I am not complaining I know these are the hazards of flying I just wanted to share so if others run into these kinds of situations they have some options.Day 2 Sailing by the Isle of Vancouver we had about a 1 hour delay as the Canadian Coast Guard had to come and evacuate a medical emergency we heard that the person was fine but it was in the best interest of the passenger to be taken to a medical facility immediately. Other then that the sailing was uneventful and the weather was great. Dinner was formal so it was the Windjammer for us.Day 3Icy Straights Point, weather wise this was our worst weather day in port that being said it was not cold just mostly overcast with a few sprinkles. This for us was a leisurely day we did not have any tours planned so we waited for the mad rush to leave the ship and then we took the tender to shore to look around. ISP itself was ok they had some shops and museums with some interesting information not only about ISP but Alaska in general. The big thing to do in ISP seems to be the zip line (I know they have other tours but lets be honest I think more did the zip line then anything else). I did see a whale and a bald eagle from the ship so that alone to me was worth the stop.Day 4Tracy Arm Fjord Sawyer Glacier, this was fabulous the trip through the fjord in a ship as big as the Serenade was awe inspiring and the weather just made it more so. Besides seeing whales seals and other wild life on the way in and out of the fjord Captain Stieg made some stops to allow us to photograph and just take in the beauty of the area and many natural falls. I understand that he is one of the few captains that do this and the views he gave us were to die for. When we reached the glacier all I could do was marvel at its massiveness, we saw it calve a couple of times but over all it was just a sight to behold. On the way out again we stopped and spun to allow everyone to see some of the falls and other site around the ship.Day 5Skagway, other then the glacier and fjord this was defiantly the high light of our trip. We decided to do the White Pass railroad trip in the club car (this gave us a Champaign or sparkling cider toast at the summit, a tour guide in our car and a number commemorative keepsake). Again the weather was great (ok really hot according to the locals I talked to) we got of the ship around 11 am so we could walk around town (if you are going to go back and forth to the town and ship through the day buy the all day pass for $5 its $2 each way). The town was nice it has a lot of restored and new buildings that make the town look like it did in its glory days. We walked up and down the main street careful to avoid all the shopping traps (OMG Diamond International is taking over the world along with Del Sol) but did enjoy the little hiking/walking trails and all the historic markers throughout the town. After our walk and site seeing we returned to the Serenade for lunch and to relax before our train trip. Our tour tickets told us to be at the end of the pier at 4 pm so we exited the ship and took the shuttle to the end of the pier. around 4:14 or so some tour guides came by and told us the train would be along shortly (the train drives up next to the ships) at about 4:30 or so the train pulled in and unloaded its passengers then the engine disconnected and moved to the other end of the train (notice I did not use from or back because the engine will run from both ends during your trip) hooked up and we were ready for boarding. All of the train cars have a designation for ship and tour type so you will be directed as to which car you will ride in. After a brief stop at the railroad excursion center (to pick up last minute riders) we were off for our train ride 20 miles or so up the mountain. Inside the town/city limits you are not allowed to stand outside on the rail car platforms but once we were out of Skagway I was out taking some pictures and soaking up the fresh air. The general tour narrator was giving out general information and our car guide gave us a lot more detail and answered any question we might have had. Another nice thing about paying the extra for this ride was the fact that the car was not overly full (I don't think we had more then 20 folks in our car) thus allowing us to move around freely and use the outside platforms to take pictures. The scenery was awesome and the ride was enjoyable (this may have been a result of the great weather but I am sure the trip is always great) and our guide was great. On the way up and down we crossed many bridges and 2 tunnels we also got to see another train about 20 minutes behind us moving to the top of the pass. When we reached the summit the engine de-coupled and changed positions so it could bring us back down the mountain. After our toast and the train that was behind us passed beside us on the side tracks we started our journey back down the mountain again the views were awesome. After returning to the port we got off the train and headed back to the ship (although the tour was listed at like 2 and a half to 3 hours I think we were close to 3 1/2).Day 6Juneau, Juneau seems to be a good jumping off place for other tours and the great weather probably helped. The town itself was not that interesting but it was very clean. I believe that because of all the ship traffic to Juneau that most ships only stay about half a day (which was fine with me) we got off ship rode into town walked around and were back on ship before lunch time. I am sure that Juneau has a lot to offer for the shopping crowd but that's not me so I came, I saw, I didn't bother with the T shirt.Day 7At sea, I need a day to rest, this was the second day of misty foggy weather (but hey its no like I'm going ashore so) and the sea's seemed a little choppy. All the ship stuff was happening like the last chance auction the jackpot bingo all the last minute sales but I expected it and I enjoyed people watching.So here are some other items that may interest you. If you are eligible for a handicapped cabin you will not be disappointed. The facilities in the cabin were great there was enough room for a wheel chair or even a scooter if you needed on. The bathroom shower was spacious and even had a pull down seat. They also provide a phone and an assistance chord in the bathroom and next to the bed. They have a text capable phone in the room also.The food is about what I have come to expect from RCI, I will say the quality has slipped a little from my first cruise in 2003 but with the economy it is not unexpected.The service as always was first rate, our cabin steward figured out our schedule (which was like no schedule) and always had our room ready. Our waiter and assistant waiter were great and always had the diet coke ready for my table mates.The ship is still a beautiful lady the size is great and her up keep is maintained well. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We chose Royal Caribbean's 'Serenade of the Seas', sailing from Vancouver, as there was a special offer available. This avoided entering the USA at an airport, with all the associated infamous problems with US immigration ... Read More
We chose Royal Caribbean's 'Serenade of the Seas', sailing from Vancouver, as there was a special offer available. This avoided entering the USA at an airport, with all the associated infamous problems with US immigration staff. Having spoken to passengers from Princess, Celebrity and Holland America, in different ports of call, we could have had a better cruise for little or no extra cost. Almost certainly we would have had better value for money. Cabin size seemed small compared with what one would find for the same price on other lines. Sound proofing was fine and we didn't hear noise from our neighbours at all. We took a length of string so that we could wash our socks and knickers and hang them on our balcony to dry. Royal Caribbean always seemed to go for the cheap option: they use Ballantyne Pier (in the bonded commercial docks) rather than the newer, more stylish, centrally located and better Canada Place Cruise Terminal; at ports of call they berth out of town and leave early (presumably to save money again); they charge for things that other lines offer for free. Our cruise price included a $50 per head on board credit. However, when we went to pay our bill, the pursers denied all knowledge of it saying, "Miami have no record of it. You'll have to sort it out with your travel agency on your return." This appears to be down to Royal Caribbean in the UK not communicating with Royal Caribbean HQ and was not the fault of staff in our travel agency. Living in south Wales, we found it to be cheaper, and easier, to fly to Vancouver from Cardiff via Amsterdam than to travel all the way to a London airport with all the crowds, hassle and stress involved. The aeroplanes were comfortable and on time. Travel time, from leaving our house to touchdown in Vancouver, was less than it would have been had we flown from Heathrow. Looking online for an hotel we booked the Holiday Inn Express on East Hastings Street for our overnight stay. It was considerably cheaper than those in the centre of town. As others have said in their reviews, the hotel offers more than adequate accommodation. They offer to pick one up from the airport for a very reasonable fee (much less than taxi or coach transfers). They also offer a free shuttle to Ballantyne Pier (for Royal Caribbean) or to Canada Place (for the other cruise lines). To ensure that you can avail yourself of the transfers, make sure that you have a confirmed booking for them from the hotel before you leave home. Their response to e-mails was the worst aspect of the booking and we had to telephone them to confirm our airport transfer. Others have moaned about the (included) breakfast but we found it quite satisfactory. However, the breakfast room is small and was at times rather crowded. If you decide to stay there, tell them that you will have flown from Europe and would appreciate a high floor room facing away from the street so that you can sleep soundly. We were on the top storey. The transfer to Ballantyne Quay took only a few minutes and although officially, check-in started at noon, we arrived before this time to find that they had already begun the process. Having read other reviews, we were concerned about the long waiting times and attitude of the US border officers. We found both the Canadian staff and US border officials were friendly. If you arrive early, you may find, like us, that you will be aboard within an hour. Once aboard, we were surprised by the number of children around. We found out that mid June is too late to avoid school children; they break up that week in some parts of the USA so there were lots on board. The first or second week of June is better if you want to avoid all the youngsters. Dining As on other Royal Caribbean ships, breakfasting in the dining room can be a rather protracted affair, especially if you share a table with others. However, it is the only place that one can order, my favourite, eggs Benedict. If you can do without them, you are better off taking a buffet breakfast in the Windjammer where you can have as much as you like in whatever order you like. Their porridge was acceptable but their croissants were not up to the calibre of European ones. If you want to dine as a couple, rather than be forced to share a table with up to eight others, book "Anytime Dining". Those who really did not want to share a table were able to ensure that they always had a table for two by booking for the opening time of the restaurant. With "Anytime Dining" you are not guaranteed to have the same waiting staff for every meal. However, if you book your dining time (up to two days in advance) you will be with the same waiters. A big advantage of "Anytime Dining" is that one is seated on deck 5 'upstairs' in the restaurant with a greater chance of a window table than in the main dining room on deck 4. Food was OK but only three courses were listed in the restaurant even for formal meals. More savvy passengers were able to turn their meals into five or more courses by asking for both soup and a salad starter, having fish and meat for the main course and having two sweets. Waiters, who were universally excellent, had no problems with these requests and willingly complied. If you do ask for two dishes from the same course make it quite clear which you want first otherwise you could end up with the meat before the fish or a salad before the soup. What was "Dress Code" for evening meals is now merely "suggested attire" and basically anything goes. For the formal meals a DJ was not really necessary. The ratio of formally dressed diners was quite high by modern standards but most men were in suit and tie rather than 'black tie'. An excellent compromise might be a black blazer with bow tie, cummerbund and black trousers if you want to look more formal than in a suit. They sell water on the ship for day trips but you can fill your own bottle for free by picking up beakers of water in the Windjammer cafeteria and emptying them into your bottle. Some staff will even fill your bottle for you at the drinks station. They sell a package of fizzy drinks on board. You pay a fee and have all your soft drinks for free but lemonade is freely available anyway. We even witnessed one couple taking the lemonade to use as tonic substitute for their G&T. The chocolates on the pillow each night have gone in yet another penny pinching move so if you want to have chocolates with your after dinner coffee you'll have to bring your own. Ports of Call At no port did we take a ship's excursion. Although the calibre of some was good, they were pricey and often did not give one enough time at a location so we decided to plough our own furrow. At Icy Straight Point there is not much to do except savour the beautiful local scenery. Our walk through the woods under the grey skies was very atmospheric. Even in this remote place many of our fellow passengers were more interested in looking at the jewellery on sale than exploring away from the settlement. At least the money spent at this port of call goes to locals and contributes to arresting local depopulation by giving them a source of income. Tracey Arm Fjord, is not technically a port of call as we did not berth anywhere. The ship took us to within a few metres of the glacier, sailing through the ice floes, with the sea lions lazing the day away on them. As is standard practice, here the ship slowly rotated within its own length offering views of the glacier calving every few minutes. As others have reported, it is very cold (below 10 degrees) and we were pleased that we had learned from those reviews and wore hats, gloves and layers of clothing. In Skagway, as in all ports of call, the cost of the ship's excursions was steep. A great alternative is to choose a trip from Dyea Dave. Look up his web site and do a price comparison. His trips are in minibuses as opposed to big coaches so the service is much more personal AND cheaper and we saw far more than those on the ship's trips. If you want to stop to take a photograph you have only to ask. We were able to see both golden and bald eagles and stopped at the roadside to see a black bear less than 10 metres away grazing quite unperturbed by our presence. At the end of the journey, at our request, we were dropped in the middle of Skagway. It was only then that payment was made for the day. Travellers' cheques or cash were accepted. The town was quaint with wooden pavements with low kerbs. It was small enough to stroll around easily. In Juneau there were four cruise ships visiting. The Serenade of the Seas was berthed furthest from the town centre. The other three were either in the town centre or adjacent to it. Their passengers simply walked off their ships and into the main shopping area. Most passengers from the Serenade of the Seas who were not booked on a ship's excursion paid for a shuttle bus to take them into town, over a kilometre or so away. There was no queue for the bus into town but for the return trip, it was long. Again ship excursions were expensive. The one to Mendenhall Glacier, which interested us, allowed insufficient time to wander and take in all that was there. Having read reviews on this site before we left, we simply went to one of the kiosks at the base of the cable car (called a 'Tramway' by locals) and paid $7 each way to the glacier and $3 each to enter the visitor centre (well worth it). The buses left every half hour and we were able to spend three unhurried hours there in pleasant temperatures of 21 degrees or so. If you don't walk to the Nugget Falls for a close up of the glacier and the waterfall you can cover everything in two hours. Unlike the other shipping lines, we had to be back on board at 14.30 in order to sail away earlier than Princess, HAL and Celebrity. "Is this to reduce port fees?" many passengers wondered. Re-reading this it seems as if we had a terrible cruise. This is not the case. We did all that we had hoped to and saw all the sights that we wanted, including a glacier calving, hump back whales, orca, sea lions, seals and sea otters, all from the decks of the ship. The crew members we met were exemplary and the trips we undertook were first class. It's just that Royal Caribbean seem to be suffering from a touch of "ha'p'orth of tar" syndrome. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We were happy to embark on our second cruise of the year, we are young 40-somethings with a 9 and 12 year old. We booked excursions pre cruise, and tried to select active ones to burn some energy. We flew from Chicago to Vancouver the day ... Read More
We were happy to embark on our second cruise of the year, we are young 40-somethings with a 9 and 12 year old. We booked excursions pre cruise, and tried to select active ones to burn some energy. We flew from Chicago to Vancouver the day before, and stayed at the Westin BayShore, ate an early dinner on the water across from the hotel, and enjoyed the beautiful indoor pool/jacuzzi and gym. Being on EST we were  up early, took part in the breakfast, walked Stanley Park, and took a swim/gym break before heading to the port at 11 ish. Taxis are Prius here and it is a struggle with 4 large suitcases and carryon backpacks but we did it.Serenade is gorgeous. I was nervous that it would be too small after taking our last several cruises on Independence, Liberty, Adventure. I should not have worried, the ship was perfect, the children had the layout on the first few days and our 12 year old was able to navigate herself,with a walkie talkie, when we let her. She enjoyed the 12+ teen group. Our 9 year old did not seem to miss the flow rider, he enjoyed the children's activities as well. We did not let him wander alone, though.My favorite things, the elevators with glass views of the scenery, the Champagne lounge for predinner drinks (soda for the children, champagne for me, beer for DH), the vortex in the eve, the platinum parties, our lovely table mates from the Great State of Texas with good Diamond Plus travel tips.We were those kooks in the hot tub when everyone else had on jackets. Children were allowed in the Solarium pool from 1-3 pm, we took advantage of that most days. Someone tried to put their swimmie diaper baby in the hot tub, it was stated on the prohibited list, they claimed not to understand english and gave the attendant a hard time. Yucky doody diaper in the hot tub. We skipped the hot tub that day. The hot tub did get very crowded in the Solarium, the outdoor hot tub was less crowded, as was the pool bar. We played minigolf, triviva, wii bowling, family wii, childrens talent show. We spent one eve at chops with our well behaved children, and one at portofino, we wish the main dining room had crystal wine glasses and such attentive service. Oh well, we shall have to return to the chops and portofino, for the filet mignon and seafood skewer and attractive desserts, as well as french press coffee and window view of the Inside Passage.I decided to skip the spa and concentrate on the fitness center this cruise, so I did spinning class, personal training, and a circuit training class. I enjoyed this very much. I also bought the week long sauna pass, but only ended up going 3 times, and once couln't get a heated lounger. Should have just bought "a la carte" pass, sometimes the steamroom had an odd odor.We had connecting balcony cabins, which afforded us great balcony views, lots of room for the 4 of us, and most importantly 2 bathrooms, and 2 tvs. Our room attendant was great. Our waitress was good, our ass't waitress was funny, giving me pepper when I told her 3 times, "no pepper, please". The maitre d' did see this and woke her up from her reverie.All in all, I would do it again in a minute!! The production shows were great, I agree with a previous poster, impressions and comedy singers don't impress me as much. We tried to keep the excursions to a reasonable cost and did not do heli tours. There is a reason to go back next time!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My husband and I are in our mid-30's. It's our 4th cruise, our 2nd RCI cruise and our 1st trip to Alaska. We treated ourselves to an aft balcony on deck 7 and while we certainly would have enjoyed the cruise without it, it just ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-30's. It's our 4th cruise, our 2nd RCI cruise and our 1st trip to Alaska. We treated ourselves to an aft balcony on deck 7 and while we certainly would have enjoyed the cruise without it, it just made the cruise that little bit better that was so worth it.In brief, the ship was fantastic with so much glass we could always see outside and enjoy the unbelievable views no matter where we were. Alaska was so much better than I even imagined - if you're thinking about Alaska, just do it. Without writing pages and pages...Embarkation was fast and efficient though getting through customs was a bit of a chore. The service was exceptional throughout the cruise. We never had a bad experience or even an average experience. All staff were so friendly and made a point of saying hello and asking how our cruise was going. In the dining room the assistant waiter Freddy kept our wine glass constantly refilled without us even noticing. The waiter Myla was so friendly and efficient and at the end of each meal would give us highlights of the next day's dinner's and our dining options. The head waiter even came over every night to personally ensure we were having a good experience. I was really impressed with all the dining staff and the dining room food was the consistently best food I've yet had on a cruise. Of course buffet of their staff on Serenade of the Seas.Great cabin on deck seven aft, right in the middle.  Decent size with lots of storage space for 2 people.  Wonderful spot for Alaska because you can see everything from the back and especially in Tracy Arm there is no wind so even though it is cold at the the top its nice on the balcony and you can order some nosh from room service and enjoy hot chocolate right on the balcony viewing the glacier.  Just above Safari Lounge but only noisy one day during karaoke for about 30 mins around 5pm.  No engine noise but there is vibration from the engines when the ship is at top speed (which only happens on the first and last day).  No hallway noise and dead quiet but quite a walk to the elevators/stairs which are mid-ship.  There is a crew space where they collect and wash dishes right across the hall but I never heard them. The cruise director Mike was great (is it just me or does he look a lot like Tom Green?) and very funny. I would also say the entertainment staff and daytime activities was some of the best and most varied we've seen. Everything from trivia games (lots of them actually), dance classes, naturalist lectures, games, language classes, mixology, wine tasting and on and on. Lots to do during the day if you can tear yourself away from the amazing views.The evening entertainment was good but not as good as experiences on Princess and Carnival. First of all, we have late seating and I really don't like having to be ready for the pre-dinner show at 7pm. Of course we could just miss it but I really enjoy the shows. The 3 production shows were good. The had guest entertainers, a comedy magician who was good but we've seen better, a comedy musical impressionist who was a better singer/musician then comedian or impressionist, and an Olympic gymnast who was very good. They were all fine and an entertaining way to spend 45 minutes but I would have preferred a good magician/illusionist (skip the comedy), a good musician/singer (skip the comedy and impressions) and a good comedian. Do as the gymnast and stick to a strength rather than try to be everything to everyone. Anyway, since that's my biggest criticism it was obviously an excellent cruise. A couple of other small points so I won't seem that I'm mindlessly loving everything, I wish Serenade had a Crow's Nest for a quiet read, the Vortex is similar but the music playing was loud and not conducive to relaxation plus the smoke from the night before was disgusting and kept me away. Also a piano bar would have been a nice addition. There is a piano in the Schooner Bar which could be used for singalongs but we didn't see it used for that which is a shame.The weather was fantastic by the way and really added to the experience. No rain the whole time and sunny for most of the trip, at least in the afternoons. Icy Strait Point - Rating: 5We booked through Glacier Wind Charters to go on a 4 hour whale watching tour. The boat was very nice and there were only 6 of us all together. Captain Shaun took us out and the scenery was beautiful. It would have been a great day even if we hadn't seen any whales but we did. We saw perhaps 20 humpback whales, sea otters and a bear and its cub on the shore. I can't say enough good things about the experience. It was cool but not cold and the sun came out for awhile which was beautiful. We noticed the boat for the cruise and there was well over 100 people which must have made it hard to actually see anything so I felt we made the right choice. Endicott Arm Fjord - Rating: 5+Not a port but a destination for sure. We were supposed to go to Tracy Arm Fjord but it was iced in so we could have only got about 1/3 of the way so I'm glad we went to Endicott Arm. I was afraid it would be disappointing since I had really been looking forward to Tracy Arm but Endicott was spectacular. There were fantastic views everywhere and we got all the way in so we were so close to the glacier (I think Dowes Glacier but I could be wrong) and just spun around 2 or 3 times. It was pretty full in the front both on the helipad and all the decks but we got a goodish spot for viewing. Then when we got there we went down to our balcony, ordered room service and enjoyed the view while drinking hot chocolate with Bailey's. It was much warmer there then on the helipad so were were in light sweaters and very comfortable in the sun. Plus we got to watch the glacier and the views while we left Endicott Arm. Skagway - Rating: 5Great port. It was clouded over in the morning and the mountain tops were fogged which I suspected would happen when I booked our train ride. So we spend the morning hiking around the area and had a picnic lunch, then came back to the ship in the early afternoon and took the 4:30 train trip. The sun was out by noon and it was spectacular weather for hiking (it was actually quite hot by early afternoon and pool weather) so we were glad we layered. And the lighting was perfect for the train ride. The train was actually even better than I had expected. We got on the left side going up but actually spent most of the time on the viewing platform between cars which I would highly recommend to anyone taking the train. The views were spectacular and the staff were excellent. There was a really good commentary over the speakers which could be heard in all the cars and the staff were across the board very friendly and helpful (with the exception of the sales agent at the downtown Skagway office who I strongly suspect was high as she couldn't manage to string together a single sentence). Juneau - Rating: 5Took the ship excursion Photo Safari by Land and Sea run by Gastineau Guiding. I was very nervous as I am not a tour person, more of a DIY person but it sounded really good. And it was very good. The tour guide George was really knowledgeable both about Skagway, the wildlife and photography. We drove to Aucke (sp?) Bay where we saw tons of bald eagles before boating an odd speedboat with inflatable sides. Anyway it was very fast (but mostly smooth) and no bathroom on board so we had a bio break before boarding. Saw some seals and bald eagles then we went to a spot with tons of sea lions all on a rock. George was great about giving us tips on how to take the best pictures and how to set our cameras for the shot. Took many pics then we were on our way again and did see two humpback whales and later saw a buoy with a bald eagle at the top and 3 cows and 1 male sea lion at the bottom - so cool! Then we returned to Aucke Bay and took the mini-bus to Mendenhall Glacier. Took some pictures there and continued on to a nice hike along one of the trails around Mendenhall. Then we returned to the ship. The tour was a great 'sampler pack' of Juneau and packed a lot into about 4 hours. The only way to have improved the experience would have been to have another hour or two for a slightly more in-depth experience but that's just me.All together, a great ship, a great destination, great ports, great staff and great food all made for a perfect vacation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We flew to Vancouver from Los Angeles the night before the cruise.  We stayed one night at the Days Inn downtown, clean but very small, but for one short night it was fine.Pre-cruise we took a 3.5 hour city tour with Land Sea tours.  ... Read More
We flew to Vancouver from Los Angeles the night before the cruise.  We stayed one night at the Days Inn downtown, clean but very small, but for one short night it was fine.Pre-cruise we took a 3.5 hour city tour with Land Sea tours.  They picked us up in the hotel lobby and took all our luggage on the van.  They then switched us onto another van and we were a little worried whether they would get all of our luggage, they did, everything was fine.  The tour was very good, we saw and learned a lot. We went through Stanley Park with a stop at the totem poles and a stop to look at Lion's Gate bridge.  We also had a short stop in Granville Market which was a pretty cool place, one could spend several hours there and not be bored.  We then went to the observation tower and had a short walk through gas town.  The tour dropped us at Ballentyne Pier. People were friendly in Vancouver in the hotels and restaurants, even on the street when we needed advice about public transport.  I would love to go back and spend more time in this beautiful city.Embarkation was delayed, so large crowds gathered, but they had the lines arranged very efficiently.  The back up was due to the previous cruise being delayed because the tide was too high and they had to wait for it to go down so they could get under Lion's Gate Bridge!  We waited in line for about 45 minutes and then we were getting onboard the ship.  The cabin was ready so we were able to drop our carry on luggage there, then we headed to the Windjammer for the welcome aboard lunch.  As usual, the food in the buffet was spotty, some is delicious, other things not so good.  One reason why my DH and I love RCL is their ships are so beautiful and the Serenade is no exception.  I really enjoyed the glass elevators, what a view.  In fact, the views are great everywhere.  The decor and artwork on the ship was wonderful from the whimsical statues on the pool and golf decks, to the more classical pieces. It is in wonderful shape. We had an Ocean View quad room, two beds pull out from the ceiling.  The room was well laid out and we had plenty of room.  Having a window at ocean level was kind of cool.  Our fellow cruisers ranged from babies to elderly folks.  Lots of multi-generational family groups.  As usual, Adventure Ocean was pretty wonderful and our 11 and 9 YO sons enjoyed that.  They spent less time there than usual because they are old enough now to go on excursions and Alaska is the place to do that (more on ports later). Not too many rude passengers, some bad habits/behavior at the buffet, but that is becoming normal and a reason I try to avoid the buffet.Our cabin steward was very efficient and pleasant to us.  She took pride in her job and asked us many times if everything was good, it was.  Our wait staff in the dining room was the same, not overly friendly, but efficient and pleasant.The captain was Canadian and on our cruise the last day was Canada day.  They decorated the ship with flags and red and white.  The many Canadians onboard wore appropriate patriotic t-shirts.  The day we docked was the 4th of July and again they decorated.  It was a little strange to be in Canada on the 4th..Glacier, we went to Dawes glacier and the captain got the ship up close to it.  It was fun to see the floating ice on the way there and how it increased as we got closer to the glacier.  Got some amazing photos up on deck.  It was cold up there but not as bad as on our whale watching tour.The rest of the cruise we had warm and sunny weather.  The kids were finally able to rock climb and mini golf.  So a very complete cruise.Entertainment:  A comedian that was not that funny.  Magician who was really good and did a close up magic show in one of the lounges on the last day.  One guy did singing impersonations, he was really good and funny.  Cruise director was a young man, he was good, funny.  Entertainment was not that great compared with some other RCL cruises, perhaps this is where the cruise line is cutting back?Disembarkation was fast, we are Diamond members and were in the customs line by 8:15.  Customs line was long probably took .5 hour.Spent one final day in Vancouver.  Stayed at the Pan Pacific an amazing hotel.  Took public transportation to Grouse Mountain, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The view from the tram was wonderful. Then took public transport to do some shopping on Robson.  The weather was about 80 that day.  Ended the day by walking to the Spaghetti Factory in gas town, dined al fresco, good food, reasonable prices, excellent service, highly recommende.  Did a little souviner shopping, the kids got one of the Olympic mascot fuzzy creatures.An excellent cruise and vacation, all the preplanning really paid off. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This ship, with all her glass, is a perfect choice for an Alaska cruise.Just as lovely as her sister, Jewel, and just the right size for me.We had very full port days and there were enough options on sea days to keep all three of us busy ... Read More
This ship, with all her glass, is a perfect choice for an Alaska cruise.Just as lovely as her sister, Jewel, and just the right size for me.We had very full port days and there were enough options on sea days to keep all three of us busy and happy.  I was smiling all week - every time I looked out and saw those snow-capped mountains, I couldn't help but grin.I started my vacation a week before the cruise, flying into Seattle on Sunday.  Stayed at the Moore Hotel, which is very convenient to the Pike Place Market and Waterfront areas.  On Wednesday morning, boarded Amtrak's Cascades for an incredibly scenic and relaxing journey to Vancouver.  We stayed at the Best Western Downtown Vancouver, which is near the Granville Bridge, as one member of our group travels to Vancouver frequently and was able to arrange a group rate for us.  The hotel has a shuttle and took us to the restaurant we chose for our Friday night dinner as well as to the cruise port the next morning.Embarkation was rather quick, no snags, except that the markings for the different priority boarding groups could've been marked more clearly.Rahul was the oh-so-gracious host of the Concierge Lounge, and there were enough eligible persons that on several nights we spilled out into the seating area directly outside the lounge.  Rahul and his assistant made sure that those outside were well cared-for as well.We had Main Seating for dinner; our waiter Erdun and his assistant Carl were wonderfully attentive despite a group at a nearby table who never showed up before 6:45 PM, causing our waitstaff to go all the way up to the MTD kitchen on deck 5 to fetch their food (and we know procedure to be a fact due to a question discreetly posed during a galley tour).  I must say, however, that there seemed to be more singing by the waitstaff than I remembered from other RCCL cruises, and this is something I can live without.  I'd rather have a little more dignity, quiet, and table service.  Erdun was spared most of the time by having to travel for That Table's food.GS1600 is the corner at the stern of the ship.  It has an atypical layout, with a little hallway leading in from the door - kind of wasted space.  It was my first balcony and my first suite.One of my roommates had traveled in suites before and said that we had less closet space than other GSs - which was important as we had three women in the cabin.  We felt that we were definitely short on storage space; we ended up using the bar to store clothes!When the beds are separated into twins, the left bed gets banged into whenever the right set of drawers in the vanity are opened.  The drawers are very hard to open - the pulls are very odd and hard to hold on to, I would imagine that someone with arthritis would have quite a bit of difficulty with them.The balcony had two lounges, two chairs, and a small square table, and still plenty of room to move around.This cabin is directly below the outdoor area of the Windjammer, and you *can* hear chairs moving around up there.  You can also hear people chatting, and once we got some debris from a careless diner (empty sugar packet).Our cabin attendant, Jorge, was from Costa Rica.  He cheerfully complied with the few requests we made of him (lots of towels, repair of a balcony chair).  And when he came to the cabin one morning to find us searching for a lost earring, he dropped to his knees beside us to help look, and when we gave up the search, promised not to vacuum till he found it.  We got back to the cabin that evening to find the earring on a piece of notepaper with a big smiley face on it!For entertainment, the cruise director Mike has a great love of game shows, which were a lot of fun.  Plenty of trivia games to keep our group happy.  We also had an impressionist (Bryan G), a magician (I didn't attend), and Olympic gold medal gymnast Lance Ringnald (who was very entertaining) as well as the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers, who did a great job as always.  Another highlight of the entertainment was the Crew Talent Show, which spotlighted musical talents as well as dancing.  There was a waiter from the Far East in his native costume - a cultural experience that I would not have otherwise experienced.  And the finale, "Fountains", is not to be missed (sit in the front row if you can!)During June (we left 30 May, so much of the cruise was in June), the ship is running various fundraisers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, including a Polar Bear Plunge, a live auction for various shipboard experiences, and a silent auction.  I was the winning bidder on two packages in the silent auction; my only comment would be that the Photo Studio staff needs to be better informed about the packages offered (or the documentation given to the winning bidder needs to be more specific).  It was nice to see efforts being made for this worthy cause.Disembarkation was a breeze.  It was nice to sit in Portofino (the disembarkation day location of concierge services) and have a leisurely breakfast, then move down to the upper level of the MDR and be ushered off in an orderly fashion.And if you're wondering about the title of my review.... two groups of Cruise Critic friends happened to pick the same cruise for their next joint adventure (there is some overlap between the two groups):  the crew of the Mustard of the Seas (from the Floataway Lounge), and one of the NUTZ groups. 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Sail Date May 2009
This is a review of our trip to Seattle, Vancouver and Alaska. Sailed on the Serenade of the Seas. May 20, 2009 - May 30, 2009.Some background information about us. My wife and I, plus another couple. All of us are in our 50s. We have all ... Read More
This is a review of our trip to Seattle, Vancouver and Alaska. Sailed on the Serenade of the Seas. May 20, 2009 - May 30, 2009.Some background information about us. My wife and I, plus another couple. All of us are in our 50s. We have all cruised many times and our 2nd time to Alaska, first time to Alaska for our friends.Part One-the land portion.Flew into Seattle on Wed 5/20. Stayed at the Comfort Suites on Roy Street.OK hotel for the price. Included very good breakfast. Rooms were clean and neat, the location was a little out of the way, but we had a rental car.After dropping off the luggage (lots) we walked over to the monorail (from the city center to downtown). Grabbed something to eat and started to explore. We walked to Pikes market to see them throw some fish. Didn't happen as it was late afternoon, but when we asked one of the fish guys he said sure. He then reached down and tossed a large fish at my friend, he caught it. Turned out to be a big pillow. LOLWe then went down to the waterfront and took a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Got some great skyline photos from the boat. Walked around a bit and returned. Then it was off to the Underground tour. It was interesting, but a bit long.We then walked back to the waterfront and had dinner. Back to the hotel and sleep (we had been up about 22 hours by now). Thurs 5/21- Drove to Mount Rainier, about 2 hours. It was early in the season and only Paradise point was open. They were still working on the roads. It was a beautiful day, sunny in the 70's. The mountain is amazing to see. Took lots of pictures, it also had lots of snow. A funny side story, we wanted to go to Reflection Lake for the photo sites. The road was not open yet. The Park Ranger said they were working on it and should be open by noon. So we hung out played in the snow and went back to check, (Not yet). We went to get something to eat. Checked again, the Ranger had not gotten the word yet. Then he adds, "you know you can't see the lake, Right". What? OH the lake has 13 feet of snow on it just like here. He couldn't have told us that and hour ago. LOLWhen we got back, we went to a pub for dinner, then to the Space Needle. Took the ride up, great view of the city with Mount Rainier in the background. Watched the sunset and called it a night.Friday 5/22- we drove to Vancouver via route I5 taking the Chuckanut drive detour. Nice drive with snow caped mountains in the distance. Crossing the border was not a problem, took about 15 minutes. Checked in at the Executive Hotel Vintage Park on Howe Street.Only the bottom floors are for the hotel, top floors are condos. The room was nicely decorated but small. (How small was it). Had more room in the minivan. But we only had to sleep one night there so we toughed it out. Then we went to get something to eat, (you can see we are getting in shape to cruise). We drove all around Stanley Park. Watched the Century Millennium sail under the Lion Gate Bridge. It was cool knowing we were going to do the same tomorrow. Went back to the hotel to get rid of the car. Walked to the downtown area for dinner. Then just went back to the hotel and played cards for a while. Another funny story- there was a ledge outside of our windows. At about 5:00AM on Saturday there was this screeching noise (woke me up). When I looked out the window, there was seagull on the ledge making all kinds of noise. (I hadn't requested a wake up call). When we told the girl at the front desk about it, she acted like this never happened before. We got a laugh out of the innocent act. Sat. 5/23- since we were awake (thanks to the bird) we went to Tim Hortons for breakfast. We drove the van to the Ballantyne pier to drop off the bags and wives (I think I said that right). LOL.  It was about 10:45 AM when we went in search of a gas station to fill the van up. This took longer than we expected. Finally returned the van and the rental company took us back to the pier. I was about 12:15 now. Did the usual waiting to check in and security line. Then the Photographer trap and on we went.Note: We had 3 days of bright sunshine and low 70's, we thought it rained a lot in the northwest (must have been mistaken).Part Two-the Serenade of the Seas.Sat 5/23- we stayed in cabin 1104 and our friends in 1102 AFT. Great cabins and we love the AFT. We boarded the ship at 1:00PM. Went directly to our cabins, dropped off carry on bags and went to lunch (thank goodness). Then we checked our dinner table (table for 6), not happy so went to change it. Not a problem, they put us at a table for 11. As it turned out 4 people never show up so it turned into a very large table for 7. Then went to the Spa to check it out. Now it was time for muster drill. Finally sail away. We were to meet some of the Cruise Critic members by the Sky bar. Not many showed up, but met a few. Went under the bridge and out to sea. It was very windy and cold. Time to get ready for pre dinner drinks and dinner. We went to the Concierge Club, for drinks nice room with windows but limited seating. They have these large bulky chairs that take up too much room. But the room was not very crowded all week. On Sunday we had our Meet & Mingle party, we got there a little late so we didn't get to speak with too many people. Did the usual raffles of RCCL logo items and snacks. From here on I will group things by activity.Food- was much better than our last few RCCL cruises. In both the dinning room and the Windjammer. Our waiter (Bernardo) and assistant (Alfonso) were excellent. Also go to the Seaview cafe, excellent food cooked fresh so it is nice and hot. It is a good alternative for lunch. The main dinning room is very pretty but a bit noisy. We had a very nice time with our new friends all week.Ship- it is a beautiful ship in great condition. Our stateroom attendant (Selwyn) did a wonderful job. From the first day, he greeted each of us by name and we saw him all the time in the hall. We love the Radiance class of ships. Entertainment- the singers and dancers were good, seen one seen them all. The comedian was entertaining and the headline show was Lenny Welch. He put on a great show, he can still sing and dance. The Cruise director was Mike Szwajkowsli, he was much better that I thought he was going to be at first. Casino-it was okay, usually could get a seat at the tables. They have one table for Texas hold-em. Just 7 players can fit at the table. We didn't have many players on this cruise and had to wait for many of the regulars to show up. Played with 4-5 players many times. Blackjack was the usual, up and down. One night they had double odds at the crap table.Bingo, we went to the win-a -cruise and the final jackpot. Didn't win anything at either. The price to play gets pretty steep.Spa- Dear wife loves going to the spa, she booked a combo massage & facial. Again it is a little expensive but worth it. They finish with the usual sales pitch to buy all kinds of things but not too pushy.Ports of Call and Excursions. Icy Strait- We booked a whale watching tour with Dream Fish Alaska. They were very nice, picked us up at the ship. A five minute drive to the dock and away we went. The boat was very clean with a cabin large enough for the four of us to sit inside. There was also an open area in back. Margie (van driver and wife) and Captain Frank did an excellent job. We kept moving around to see the whales, and other wildlife. They packed some water, soda, crackers and homemade Salmon dip, yum. The tour was about 3 hours. Note: the weather started out nice and warm. At the start we were wearing just sweatshirts. By the end we all had on out winter coats, gloves and hats. Tracy Arm- (NOT)- Tracy arm had too much ice, so we went to Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm Fjord. It was amazing how close the captain brought the ship. We were there about an hour, and he just kept rotating the ship so all side could see. I went down to the promenade and just kept walking around and around to keep the glacier in sight. Took a few pictures (duh). Saw it calve a few times. The ship lowered one of the small rescue boats with the cruise director and a few of the crew into the water. They had on dry suits and went into the water. They put a chunk of ice into a net and had it hauled onto the ship, then they climbed into an iceberg. It was just beautiful sailing into and out of the fjord. Just as the ship started to sail away the sky opened up and it pored the rest of the day.Skagway-we did the White Pass and Yukon tour, booked through the RCCL. It was the eight hour tour which started by coach up to Carcross. Then back to Frasier to catch the railroad back to Skagway. The weather was drizzling and foggy when we left. But it stopped and got a bit better as the day went on. After a few photo stops (also a bear on the side of the road eating). We went to Caribou Crossing for lunch, Bar-B-Q chicken, rolls, baked potato and donuts. When we were leaving the driver asks us "do we want to go right to Emerald Lake or left straight to town". If you haven't seen Emerald Lake there is no describing it. The colors are unreal. So I yelled from the back of the bus "go right to the lake". I think everyone thought I was nuts, this was one of the reasons I took this tour in the first place. After we stopped here, I think everyone agreed it was the right decision. Back on the bus the driver then told us "I have good news and bad". The good news, we are going to spend more time with each other. The bad news, there has been a rockslide and the train tracks are damaged and we will not be able to return via the train. Bummer. Overall the tour was good but a little disappointing as we talked our friends into this mainly for Emerald Lake (which we almost missed) and the train ride back. I must say that RCCL was very generous in it's handling of this, as it wasn't their fault (partial refund). Juneau- we booked the Helicopter Dog Sled to Mendenhall glacier directly with Temsco.We got really lucky here, as they had snow the day before and had to cancel all tours. The day of our tour they cancelled the first two tours due to fog. But we were able to go. On our first trip to Alaska we got fogged out of this tour and I have been hearing about it for five years. So we finally got there. It was really fun. The people there are crazy, they stay in the camp for six days then go to town to shower and sleep in a real bed. Then every three weeks they get a week off. There were 240 dogs there and they are waiting for 60 more. They have a photographer there that takes your picture as you ride by ($20.00 for a 4X6 photo). They will also take your picture with your camera, no problems. This is a very expensive tour and now having done it once I don't think we will do it again. But for a once in a lifetime event, it was way cool.In conclusion, this trip went off without a hitch and the weather cooperated as much as possible. I do plenty of research before hand so we know what to see and do. Saves a lot of time when you get there. We love cruising and RCCL, we will be back in the Caribbean next May. But another trip to Alaska will happen down the road, as it is just an amazing place. Mark & Jackie Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
As you can see from my ratings and the title, this cruise was Awesome!  This has been our 5th cruise, first with Royal C, and by far the best.  The food was incredible in the main dining room, service was top notch.  The roasted lamb ... Read More
As you can see from my ratings and the title, this cruise was Awesome!  This has been our 5th cruise, first with Royal C, and by far the best.  The food was incredible in the main dining room, service was top notch.  The roasted lamb was the best thing I had on the cruise the last night.  We ate one night in Chops which was good (had steak) but was no better in quality that what we had in the main dinner providing you don't order a steak in the main dining room.  I had ordered steak one evening in the main dining room and it was tough so I sent it back and Vipin brought me whatever I wanted.   However, the service and ambiance in Chops was stellar, including witnessing some whales doing their whale thing.  A wonderful sight.We had a balcony cabin.  The room was well appointed with a nice bed, a sofa, a TV, and a very nice balcony with two chairs and a small table.  There was ample storage for all our clothing and stuff.  The bathroom, albeit small, was functional and served its purpose for all bathroom needs including showering.  I had read where the showers were incredibly small and tight but I had no issues and found it very usable.  The water quickly came to temperature.  Our cabin steward, George, was incredibly efficient.  We rarely saw him but he always seemed to know when we had vacated the cabin and seemed to get all his work done in no time.  We had very nice views from our balcony.  Although we were on the bow of the ship to observe the glacier, we went to the cabin as the ship was departing Tracy Arm and still had wonderful views of the glacier there. I thought the shows, and we attended them all except one I thing, were exceptional.  Mike, the cruise director, was very funny.  Chad, the magician, was excellent and hilarious.  We saw two of his shows and I also participated in his close-up show.  Still not sure how he knew the word I picked out of the book.  I can't remember ever laughing so hard as when we saw the premier of Fountains.  Indescribably funny.I will describe our three excursions in the section on ports in this review.  But be it known, THEY WERE GREAT!  Tracy Arm is not considered a port but we went to the glacier there which was beautiful.  The captain brought the ship very close, as close as the law would allow.  Some of the crew jumped into the icy water to retrieve a chunk of floating ice and bring aboard and turn into an ice sculpture.My only complaints are the smoking smell that reeks out of the casino and permeates into the other decks.  A better ventilation system could help or less people smoking.  On the plus side, it was so bad in the casino that I did not stay there long enough to lose much money.  My other complaint is the short time we spent in Juneau.  We went on the whale watching excursion which was inspiring and wonderful but did not have the time to actually spend any time in the town.  If I had a third complaint would be the slowness of the elevators and my fellow passengers would stack up in front of them.  Unfortunately since they were so slow, many of my fellow passengers did not follow elevator etiquette and allow riders to get off first and barging in front of others who had waiting for an elevator much longer than they had.Even with those few complaints, it was a stupendous cruise which we would do again in a heartbeat.  However, a 14 night Hawaii comes before I am ready book Alaska again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
First Alaska cruise, previously with RCCL to Eastern, Western & Southern Caribbean.  Traveling with another couple, flew into Vancouver on Friday so we could do some site seeing on Friday.  Vancouver is a great city, glad we took the ... Read More
First Alaska cruise, previously with RCCL to Eastern, Western & Southern Caribbean.  Traveling with another couple, flew into Vancouver on Friday so we could do some site seeing on Friday.  Vancouver is a great city, glad we took the time to at least get a taste of its beauty.  Took a four hour guided bus tour around most of the major tourist sites via tour arranged by hotel. Stayed at the Marriott Pinnacle downtown, great location and close the water.  Great service and food at the hotel but also good eateries in the area.  We like to get on the ship as soon as possible and hotel was only ten minutes by taxi away from ship.  No issues getting on the ship, very smooth operation.  Got luggage within a couple of hours of getting on board.  Last sailing was on Adventure of the Seas so was not expecting as much from the Serenade of the Seas... but I was very much surprised.  I really liked the layout of the ship, the lounges and common areas were better than the Adventure of the Seas to me.  We frequented the Champagne Lounge most often as they offered the Chilean wine that my wife liked and the bartender was excellent.  Also would recommend the Schooner Bar and the Hollywood Odyssey/Cigar Bar. Lot of activities to do and would recommend the Production Show, as well the activities in the Safari Bar.  The casino is a reasonable size and I made my donation as usual.  As for the dining room, we found the food to be good.  We went to the Portofino Italian restaurant twice and would highly recommend it.  We did the Mystery Dinner one evening, which was a lot of fun and then one other evening.  You could not beat the food or service.  Well worth the extra money. As for ports and excursions, Icy Strait Point was as expected, purpose built RCCL layover.  We got off the ship and walked into town.. about 15 minutes plus.  Nothing of real interest there.  The most enjoyable part of that stop over was watching the whales from the ship.  They put on a real show for us, so glad we didn't pay for whale watching excursion. Going into Tracy Arm Fjord and seeing the glacier was amazing.  The ship was within 100 feet of glacier.  Cruise director and his staff were in the water and even brought up chunk of glacier onto deck.. I think it was craved into ice scripture that evening. At Skagway we took the White Pass Summit train excursion via RCCL and would recommend it.  Great way to see the scenery and learn some of the local history.  Train was comfortable and even got to see a bear off the side of the tracks.  Also, good little cafe just outside the port, first one as you go out, not the second.  Fish and chips was good as well as the chowder. Also a nice little downtown area within walking distance. Juneau is a good port, to bad we only had from 7 to 3 to see it.  Had previously booked via TEMSCO Helicopter Inc. a helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier.  First time in helicopter and first time walking on glacier, what a great time.  This group does a good job and has "experts" on the glacier to talk about it.  Got some amazing pictures. Took advantage of the time not in port and enjoyed the ship, even read a book.  We got back into Vancouver around 6:30 on Saturday morning.  Since we were staying over in Vancouver until Sunday morning, we hand carried off our luggage so were quick off the ship and were at the Marriott Pinnacle by 8:00. Spent the rest of the site seeing.  We rented a car and went to Lyon Canyon Park, then drove to Whistler Mountain.  This the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics, nice drive. Great vacation, good time had by all. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Just back from Alaska, sailed out of Vancouver, roundtrip, 5/23/09, on RCCL Serenade of the Seas. Flew into Seattle, then Amtrak train to Vanc. Ended up switching from Amtrak train to bus for ride home.Pics say a lot, so here's links ... Read More
Just back from Alaska, sailed out of Vancouver, roundtrip, 5/23/09, on RCCL Serenade of the Seas. Flew into Seattle, then Amtrak train to Vanc. Ended up switching from Amtrak train to bus for ride home.Pics say a lot, so here's links to our pics:Denise's pics, one album from start to finish (Seattle to Vancouver, cruise, and back)http://picasaweb.google.com/defitz3/...KDvp7uly-DG-AE#Erika's pics, Skagway, drive to Carcross and Emerald Lake, saddle/paddle at Spirited Adventures:http://picasaweb.google.com/defitz3/...Mzl8afGk7CxjgE#The cruise was good, Alaska is beautiful, the Serenade is a nice ship. The D1 cabin was plenty of space for the 3 of us, although at first we did wish we had a GS (D1 did not include robes, so I guess we got them last time because of being in a GS). I'm not sure if I'm a good person to ask about the food, because we tend to get tired of the ship food by the end of the week as it's much more rich and salty than what we're used to, so we plan to eat off ship while in ports. It's not that the ship food is bad, just seems one meal is very much like the next, and we just don't like the "ambiance" of the Windjammer for lunch/breakfast, esp since this particular cruise had some really pushy, unfriendly passengers on it ... in fact, my DH and I were seated w/ a couple for lunch one day and they wouldn't even acknowledge we were there, no eye contact and def no smile! Overall, the dining room food was good and we had a wonderful server (Hazel) and assistant, but we did really enjoy the food that was served at Portofino's during the murder mystery (Pedro and Bruno are great at Portofino's), but preferred the steak over the shrimp. Note: this passenger group was not like past cruises where everywhere we went we met friendly people and started some lifetime friendships, I'm hoping this is unusual. Although we did meet quite a few very nice people and some we hope to stay in touch with, there was a large number of unfriendly, pushy passengers which had an impact of the feel of things on the ship for us. We know we weren't the only ones who experienced this, someone else we met wondered if it might have something to do w/ the fact there were passengers from 65 different countries so some language and cultural differences. It was strange because I'm a friendly person by nature and can normally strike up a friendly conversation pretty much with anyone, anywhere.Our luggage got lost the first day, so we were a little stressed our first day not knowing if we were going to have to get by w/ just the clothes on our back (RCL offerred us 3 size L tshirts and some almost useless toiletry bags that had 1-use toothpaste the size of a perfume sample). Tracy who is in charge of tracking lost luggage was super nice, the other customer service people I question why they were in their positions as I didn't get the sense the really cared about the customers ... the rest of the staff were wonderful. The good thing about the lost luggage was that we needed a quiet place for some "stress" comfort food ;-) and we found the Seaview Cafe at the far aft of the ship, deck 12 the first night ... great place that felt more like a cafe at home, good food, and good servers. Our luggage showed up at just before midnight, never did find out where it had gone missing to. Lesson learned, go back to making sure I pack some essentials, plus, in a carry-on.Alaska is gorgeous, and this was a beautiful time of the year to go while the snow was still plentiful, and lakes not fully dethawed. I would like to go back to Alaska some day, but not on a cruise. ISP/Hoonah was nice w/ just our ship in port ... lots of whales, even swiming just yards from our ship. We went on a whale watching trip with Teckk Outfitters. The boat only holds 6 passengers, there was just the 3 of us because the other 2 didn't show up. It was great, ended up being a private excursion w/ lots of whales, and very serene. When we got back to port, Keith (owner of Teckk) asked if we'd like to go find some bears. Those of us who'd done whale watching on his 2 boats hopped into his van and off we went. He gave us a tour of Hoonah, and drop us out to a pretty area where he pointed out a couple bears that he calls Jack & Jill. Then he stopped the van and told us he could get the bears to come right to the van, but we needed to promise to stay in the van while he was gone. He grabbed a rifle from the back of the van and disappeared into the bushes. We was gone quite a while, then all of a sudden, here came the 2 bears running up the road w/ him running behind them. Then got right near the van then dashed into the bushes. On the way back to Hoonah, my DH spotted another bigger bear sitting just feet off the road ... Keith hit the brakes and went into reverse so we could all see that bear.The original itinerary was for Tracy Arm and Sawyer glacier, but we went to Endicott Arm Fjord and Dawes Glacier instead. The cruise up the fjord was beautiful. Our Captain was great at maneuvering the ship and got us w/in I believe a few hundred yards of the glacier which was very impressive. There were quite a few seals lounging on the floating glaciers.Skagway we rented a car through Avis and drove a little ways beyond Carcross to do the saddle/paddle with Spirited Adventures ... it was nice to have a purpose and destination for the drive, and there were spectacular views along the way ... saw 2 bears at different locations so pulled up and watched them grazing and looking for bugs under rocks just feet from our car.Juneau: 5 ships were in port, so very crowded. Luckily we avoided the crowds with our heli-glacier excursion. Also found a cute little place called Paradise Bakery Cafe, not a tourist cafe. Then had some spare time so hired a cab w/ a driver who was a Juneau local who took us to some nice uncrowded areas/parks, as well as a little tour of the town, out to Mendenhall, across the bridge, then back to our ship ... it was worth the $55/hour, he was very knowledgeable.While much of the ship entertainment was the standard cruise entertainment, the comedian was good and we also enjoyed the "side" entertainment that included staff karaoke, and games such as weakest link. Cruise Director, Mike, was funny.  Captains reception and Meet and Mingle were both well done, and the Cruise Director, Mike, was very good and we enjoyed his sense of humor. The farewell show was really good too, with a 2 time US Olumpian who was quite funny. We did use some of the spa facilities and treatments, although overpriced, and after a relaxing spa treatment frustrating to be hit up w/ a sales pitch. I can get a great massage from my massage therapist at home for $60, why are ship massages more than twice that?   Paid for a couple spin classes in the gym, good work out but could have used a more motivational instructor ... we'd hoped for Damien who we'd met on our last cruise and was also on this cruise, but unfortunately he didn't do the either of the spin classes we signed up for.  Should have more free full-length exercise classes, paid classes such as yoga, pilates, spin should be less than $12/class - maybe offer a package deal.  With 3 of us attending the classes, it could add up to the cost of a good gym membership at home!Irritating that most the seminars end with a sales pitch too.Miscellaneous notes:We flew in/out from SEA-Tac, then train to Vanc, bus back. Cab from SEA-Tac to downtown was $40 ... return from downtown to SEA-Tac is $32. Really enjoyed Seattle, found it to be clean and friendly. Bus is free in the tourist/downtown area. Pikes was fun to explore, we ate on the 3rd floor of Lowell's which was good, Underground Tour, interesting but could have been done in half the time (maybe 30-45 minutes instead of 1 1/2 hours), we actually really enjoyed dinner at the Space Needle restaraunt. Had heard other people say the food is not worth the price, but since it included the ride up, the pork chops at $36 included the elev ride ($16 value), so priced well at $20 + $16 elev ride ... dinner lasted about 2 1/2 hours and 3 rotations during sunset, then we had addtl time to go out on observation deck (which we all agreed wouldn't have been worth the $16 ride). There's no reason to get to the Amtrak station any earlier than about 6:45am for the train (and we traveled on a sold out train Memorial Day weekend). We got there at about 6:40 and only had a couple people in front of us at luggage ck-in, and were 9th in line for seat assignment (which is just that, you don't pick your seat), and seat assignment doesn't open til 7am. Train ride is scenic and relaxing, do bring a book, ipod and something to keep kids entertained. We saw flocks of Bald Eagles along the shore. Same w/ the bus, no need to get there way ahead of time, it loads 1/2 hour before leaving. We picked up food and drinks to take on the train w/ us ... glad we did as the train food smelled horrible. Cab was easily accessible at both ends.First impression of Vancouver, after being in very clean and friendly Seattle, Vanc from train station to Ballantyne pier is not very clean and not very friendly. Our cab driver would barely answer a question (and I'm very friendly) . Cab driver got on his cell phone w/ what appeared to be a personal call in his native language the majority of the drive ... spoke English well when he got into a verbal confrontation w/ a longshoreman. The longshoreman were grumpy and complaining that they shouldn't be working because it was their lunch time. Embarkation at Ballantyne could use some improvement, learned to keep our passports out and handy since we had to show them at least 4 times from the time we were dropped w/ luggage to when we actually boarded the ship.So this was probably WAY WAY more than you wanted to know ... I can type as fast as I talk, though, so it tends to be easy for me to go long :-) Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas - A FANTASTIC VACATION - Beautiful Ship and Fantastic Crew My sister and I just arrived home to Nova Scotia from a seven day cruise to Icy Strait Point, Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier, Skagway and Juneau. ... Read More
Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas - A FANTASTIC VACATION - Beautiful Ship and Fantastic Crew My sister and I just arrived home to Nova Scotia from a seven day cruise to Icy Strait Point, Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier, Skagway and Juneau. The Alaskan scenery was beyond words, the weather was 100% and the days and nights on the ship were wonderful. We did not want to leave. In fact it was said more than once - "let's stay and go again". Captain Michel Claveau, (a French speaking Canadian from Alberta) and his crew from 52 different world countries did everything possible to make our trip a number one experience. The ship was beautiful and anything you wanted or needed was there, all you had to do was ask. We had fun days in port and wonderful times while sailing. The meals and variety of foods were delicious and displayed with excellence. The wonderful crew had lovely manners and treated us as if we were the only people on board. You were not rushed and while dining you were always greeted by your first name. It was a very friendly atmosphere. During our seven days, there was never a dull moment. The floor shows each evening were super and I considered the shows Las Vegas style. Great music, great dancing and overall entertaining. Our ship's cruise director, Mike Szwajkowski, was top notch. There was also quiet times in the piano bars and dancing until the wee hours of the morning - the cruise/entertainment director offered something for everyone. This was our first experience and it was certainly a great week. We are already planning our next cruise with Royal Caribbean. The crew served us well and we feel it was money well spent. This was a vacation that will be placed on the front page of the memory book - thanks to all the wonderful crew members who always greeted us with a lovely smile and a friendly "good morning". We had such a nice combination of passengers - some almost 90 years of age while others were toddlers. We also had a number of passengers who were physically and mentally challenged and they were treated with the utmost respect. The passengers were Canadian, American, English, Irish, Chinese, Indian, German, Brazilian, French and others from smaller countries around the world... Alaska was beautiful and we would certainly consider going again...still lots more to see. We had an outside cabin with a very large window. The next time we plan to upgrade to a stateroom with a balcony. However our stateroom was more than adequate and to look out each morning and see the sun rising over the ocean was perfect. It was a wonderful time and our thanks go out to Captain Claveau and his crew who worked very hard to make the trip a memorable voyage for everyone aboard.We loved every minute and can't wait for our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Serenade of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 5.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness & Recreation 5.0 N/A
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursions 3.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 1.0 N/A
Service 5.0 4.4
Value for Money 5.0 N/A

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