12 Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas Holiday Cruise Reviews

Ship tired rusty dirty carpets and old fashioned in the public areas. The cabins were clean comfy beds and clean linen and towels cabin staff excellent. Bar staff over worked tiered and stretched. Main Dinning room staff ... Read More
Ship tired rusty dirty carpets and old fashioned in the public areas. The cabins were clean comfy beds and clean linen and towels cabin staff excellent. Bar staff over worked tiered and stretched. Main Dinning room staff overworked hence sloppy our table of 8 never got our food together on any courses and 7/10 in was warm to cold! The food was very good when we got it hot we felt sorry for the chefs all there effort ruoined by waiters not getting the food out quick. Also the wine waiters were very slow in the main dinning room. Ship Didn't feel Christmassy only one xmas tree! More effort was made for new year but the music in the main centrum was disastrous slow and boring. Properly our fault for choosing a cruise in the school holidays but was very surprised to find so many un accompanied children approx 8 years upwards charging around playing in the lefts pushing past elderly people being very load and hogging the hot tubs! Cannot understand why the UNDER 18 curfew is 1am yes 1 am! Every day. And New Year's Eve 12 to 17 years olds till 2am! Hence there was sick in the corridors! Many we saw drinking alcohol from the free champagne on New Year's Eve. Lastly royal Caribbean managed to leave 4 of our party of 8 stranded at Miami airport after they cancelled our flights home! Still waiting for an explanation and apologee as there 4 reps in the airport were not willing to assist us - we had to sort out our own flights home and hopefully we can reclaim the fee £1500 per seat back! So cruisers beware. We will never use this company again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
To enjoy a special Christmas and New Years holiday vacation in which I treated my sons and their wives (40 ish adults) I booked this cruise expecting an enjoyable 10 days. I Have been on over 40 cruises to date and previous ones without ... Read More
To enjoy a special Christmas and New Years holiday vacation in which I treated my sons and their wives (40 ish adults) I booked this cruise expecting an enjoyable 10 days. I Have been on over 40 cruises to date and previous ones without the whole family that were outstandingly good, this one was a sad disappointment in so many ways, outstandingly bad. TERRIBLE - food, service, attitude. VERY, VERY short buffet hours yet, 20 minutes before afternoon closing buffet ran out of french fries and hot dogs, and the cook REFUSED TO COOK ANY MORE THAT DAY! At three different meals in the buffet, diet Coke was unavailable because they were out of syrup or was not mixing right, the other fountain in the buffet also was not able to provide diet coke either, no one seemed to be concerned about getting machine fixed. - - We were charged for drinks that were supposed to be included as one of our DIAMOND STATUS drinks between 5pm and 830pm, had to go to the service desk twice to get account corrected. - - In one of the ports, St Martins I believe, the ship blew away from the dock during boarding, fortunately no one was injured but it took 20-30 minutes to get the ship tied up properly and the gangways functional again. - - the bottom of the pool is in absolutely terrible condition, mirrors in the cabin bathrooms are black along the bottoms and sides because of damage or age, wiring on deck five atrium speaker was haphazardly attached to glass and mirrors for 3-4 feet with pieces of black electrical tape - - The dancers in the production shows were good, but the singers and the song selections were poor. - - The orchestra was performing well but sounded poor because the sound-man/sound mixer person hasn't a clue or has a tin ear (get him some training or get someone else) - - the pool attendants were not enforcing the time limit rule on unattended deck chairs, so it was impossible to get one for ourselves - - the teenagers on board were not made to follow the curfew and were out running around all hours disturbing others - - these are the major issues I can recall, but it appears to me it is a top down problem on this ship, or maybe corporate down problem. I do not plan, even though I have diamond status and get some good perks, to ever cruise on Royal Carib. again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
My extended family (10 total, ages from mid-70s to early teens) decided to celebrate the holidays somewhere warm where nobody had to host. Most of us were first-time cruisers, although my parents have taken numerous river cruises on much ... Read More
My extended family (10 total, ages from mid-70s to early teens) decided to celebrate the holidays somewhere warm where nobody had to host. Most of us were first-time cruisers, although my parents have taken numerous river cruises on much smaller ships. We chose this cruise based on a combination of the dates, the ship size, and itinerary. We all arrived the day before departure, staying overnight at the Hilton Riverside. There are easily-found shuttle busses that take you straight there from the airport for $20 each, or of course the taxis become economical for larger parties sharing a ride. This venue turned out to be a lucky choice, as the weather in New Orleans was miserable -- cold and rainy -- but you can navigate from the hotel to the cruise terminal entirely indoors. The worst part of the experience was huddling outdoors just onboard on the ship for our boarding photos! The Serenade was a wonderful ship; it seemed quite large to us (until we docked next to the Oasis of the Seas later on, LOL) but we were navigating it confidently after only a day or so and nothing felt too far away, although the elevators seemed to be crazy busy on embarkation day. I particularly liked deck 6 aft, where the Schooner Bar and Safari club combined to provide a piano bar, pool tables, a great dance floor, and relaxed/quiet ambiance. My nephew lived on the basketball court up on deck 12. ;-) There was often live music in the Centrum too, but its stone floor was brutally hard on our feet. I would not have thought so before experiencing it, but all of us agreed that the days at sea (two at the beginning, and one at the end) were the most relaxing parts of the cruise -- all of the ports were, to varying degrees, rat races that left you either on the run or looking at your watch or trying to catch your breath. The single best thing we did, also by luck, was to schedule our entire party (10) for MyTime dining with a standing reservation at 5:45. We had a large windowside round table, ideally sized for our party, and the best wait staff I have ever experienced in any restaurant anywhere. Each evening, we'd stroll in and sit down and spend a few hours being treated like kings and queens. From my chair I couldn't help notice the queue of would-be diners waiting to be seated -- something we bypassed entirely after the first night. From this, we learned: (a) Choose the MyTime option, which puts you in the more genteel and less cramped tables on deck 5 [vs the cattle-call on deck 4]; (b) Choose an earlier time so you never have to wait on somebody else to free up your table; and (c) Get a standing reservation -- at which point on the first night you can request to have the same table (and waiters) all of the remaining nights. This took some trouble to set up (in advance) -- we were spread across 5 staterooms -- but the results were more than worth it. Aside from dinners, crew service had definite high points and low points. The staff were unfailingly cheerful and polite, but there were a few rough edges. Several of us found that it was nearly impossible to contact a stateroom attendant if you didn't run into them in the passageway -- there's a handy button on the phone in the cabin, but it should be labelled "Ring No Answer" not "Stateroom Attendant". For some reason, our visit to George Town, Grand Cayman, turned into a logistical disaster. We knew we'd be using tenders and that extra time would be required to get onshore, but apparently the presence of several other ships (I counted at least six, including the Serenade, in port that day) totally overwhelmed whatever planning had occurred. At 0800, the stairways were still choked with passengers trying to reach their 0715 excursions and there were no signs of movement anywhere. A little after 0830, I visited the Excursion Desk to express my concern about our 0930 excursion. The representative offered to cancel and refund the excursion, but had nothing even vaguely similar to offer as a substitute. When we grew tired of waiting for ticketed tenders to be announced (apparently they never were), we joined the throng in the stairways and eventually got onshore just in time to make the excursion. Since the Excursion Desk hadn't collected the excursion tickets when I had them cancelled, we proceeded to use them and had a great time. Afterwards, back onboard, I visited the Desk again and had them "uncancel" our tickets, which they did. (Correctly, even.) Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid feeling the day would have worked out better if (a) Royal Caribbean had planned the tendering better [surely they have done this before????] and (b) they had used the tender passes after bothering to hand them out and (c) they had told me "don't worry, sir, you have time to make your excursion" instead of "oh, we'll just cancel and credit you". We gave the Serenade's doctor more of a workout than any of us (or him) probably wanted, but our several encounters were handled with professionalism, courtesy and above all, a sense of comfort. Somewhat to my surprise (first-time cruiser, remember?) I ended up having an interview with him before being allowed to board -- I'd come down with the flu a week previously, but fortunately gotten on Tamiflu right away. (Great stuff, by the way, and heartily endorsed by the doctor.) It makes total sense in hindsight, but he told us that I wouldn't have been allowed aboard if I'd still had a fever -- which thankfully I hadn't for several days previously. All I'd been thinking about had been "I don't want to be sick on my vacation!" but obviously the cruise line is properly worried about all these people crushed together. We used more Purell in a week than I have in probably the rest of my life to this point! Two days in, one of us came down with tonsillitis and headed down to the medical bay. A quick diagnosis and some prescribed antibiotics had him feeling better by the next day, with minimal impact beyond a temporary prohibition on alcoholic beverages. And if that hadn't been enough, on Christmas Eve one of us became inexplicably nauseous, dizzy and weak. We trooped down to medical again (minor glitch -- the wheelchair was too wide to fit through the stateroom door). It wasn't clear if the problem was dehydration or something worse/contagious, but the doctor prescribed drugs for the symptoms and required him to stay in the stateroom until we knew what was happening. In recompense, all of the treatment was provided free, as was room service from a special menu, and he got credit for a future cruise to offset the "missed" day. 24 hours later, all was well. I'd never want anything bad to happen to anybody, but it was reassuring to know the medical staff on the Serenade were ready and equipped to deal with all of our various ailments (and many more besides). Most people probably will never visit deck 2, but it's there if you need it. I've mentioned dinner already, and most of our other meals were eaten at the Windjammer (the buffet on deck 11). I walked by the specialty restaurants several times, but we had such a great time at our table in the main dining room (on deck 5) that I never felt seriously tempted to eat at them. A few times, for a change of pace, we went to the main dining room (on deck 4) for breakfast or lunch, but it wasn't as much fun. The tables were close together, which meant that navigating to the salad bar in the center of the dining room was a serious challenge. The food itself ranged from good to great, and of course there was as much of it as anybody cared to eat. We'd brought a few bottles of special wine with us, which turned out better than planned. We declared it on boarding, but it wasn't taken away from us, and it is unclear if Royal Caribbean was actually enforcing their two-bottle per stateroom limit or not. More to the point, when we brought the bottles to dinner, we never got charged the $25 corking fee, which turned an okay deal into a great one. ;-) The dress code was slightly more casual than the Royal Caribbean guidelines might lead you to believe. There were few tuxedos in evidence on the formal nights, with jackets and ties more common, and the last night ("dressy casual") looked pretty casual to me. We are pretty much "make your own entertainment" types, so we looked in at the movie theatre (without staying), and watched one of the shows without being either thrilled or annoyed. The dancing was better, as both of the bands onboard played danceable music and were happy to take requests. As mentioned earlier, the wooden parquet floor at the Safari Club was far preferable to the tile floor of the Centrum. Disembarkation, which unfortunately came days too soon for us ;-), was a smooth experience although it was disconcerting to say goodbye to our luggage the night before. We watched others wheeling it off themselves, and I'm still of mixed mind which way I'd go if I had it to do over again. Overall, our trip was a wonderful experience and Royal Caribbean hosted a great holiday event. I don't have any other first-hand basis for comparison, but I'd definitely consider RC and the Serenade for a future cruise -- they treated us well, and I don't know that I need to be on a larger (or smaller) ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
I will begin this review by saying we are not fly by night cruisers or first timers – our latest cruise on the Serenade was our fourth RCCL cruise with 5 cruises total under our belts. We have sailed on Oasis – Freedom and twice on the ... Read More
I will begin this review by saying we are not fly by night cruisers or first timers – our latest cruise on the Serenade was our fourth RCCL cruise with 5 cruises total under our belts. We have sailed on Oasis – Freedom and twice on the Radiance Class Ships with RCCL and one Holland cruise comparable to the Voyager Class of RCCL. So here is my review of the Serenade. Our first cruise was on RCCL Jewel of the Seas which was phenomenal however after experiencing the Oasis and Freedom Class ships the Radiance Class Ships didn’t seem to be as exciting. But I would highly recommend Radiance or Voyager class Ships for First or second time cruisers. I will break this review down in segments and give it a 1 -5 Rating (5 Being the Best) Port of Departure New Orleans (Rating 2.5) In my opinion this port is very congested and wildly disorganized we have sailed out of Port Canaveral / Ft Lauderdale and Tampa in the past and if I had to compare I would sum it up like this – The security in New Orleans ports are very laid back, understandably we all complain about the added security measures when traveling but there is peace of mind that comes with it. For example at the Florida terminals the customs and security are checking Ship Reservations / IDS and Passports prior to entering the Ship Dock Area – in New Orleans your first Security check comes inside the building which is fine, but Being ranked #6 among American cruise ports (I) you would think it would be a little more secure. However once you get past all the uncertainty and ciaos things seem to move rather fast The parking areas are scattered around the port so you have a choice to park your car just about anywhere, however you will be walking a great distance to the port or trying to catch a shuttle or cab to the main entrance – which promotes another problem, there is only one lane traffic so if there is a traffic back-up you are paying a cab fee for sitting. My only suggestion is you park your car at the terminal parking area which is adjacent to the port terminal but still a 5-10 min walk depending how far from the door you are. You can leave your bags with a porter before parking but keep in mind whatever luggage your hand carrying on board you will have to walk with through all the security check points and onto the ship. The other down fall of leaving out of New Orleans is that it takes approx. 5 Hours for the ship to get to the Gulf and an additional 4 Hours before Casinos and Stores are open – In our case the Ship left the dock at 4pm and the Casino and stores opened at 10am the next morning, this is just an FYI. This is due in part because ships have to follow duty free laws and duty free generally goes into effect approx. 4 hours off any U.S Mainland. Lastly if you are looking for the cruise port terminal on your GPS – Verify where it is – we typed in Port of New Orleans with the address and it took us to a restaurant on the opposite side of town, so do some research on this one first and please note you are looking for the “Julia Cruise Terminal for RCCL”. Luggage and Room (5.0) Upon boarding we headed to the windjammer for lunch which was open and ready for service – we were told through the grapevine staterooms would not be ready until 1:00pm and luggage to soon follow, so with past experience we figured about 2 – 2:30 but to our surprise the doors opened at 1:05pm and our stateroom was ready and low and behold our luggage was outside the door waiting for us too. So this is an advantage to a smaller vessel for sure. – We actually had time to unpack, get our room situated and get ready for dinner. So this was an absolute plus. Nice Job RCCL Crew State Room (Rating 4.5) We stayed in State Room 4536 which was down the hall from the Centrum and Customer Service desk this room had its pros and cons. The room was quiet and we rarely heard any noise from the Centrum. In fact we heard a lot more noise above us. The noise we heard were kids running around see as we were on Deck 4, I can only assume these were kids running along Deck 5 which is the outside walk way but this was sporadic and didn’t last long maybe 9-10pm if I recall. The Centrum as aforementioned was located down the hall from us although surprisingly you didn’t hear any noise it is the central area for shows and ship gatherings. I can only imagine if you were closer you might hear some noise but I was extremely surprised we didn’t hear anything from our Stateroom that involved the Centrum Activities. However, if and when there was activities in this area the access to your stateroom was compiled with getting through crowds of other passengers or you could walk to the elevators located at the front of the ship and bypass all the extracurricular activities which again was not a big deal just kind of annoying because other guests assumed you were trying to get the front line of the venue and you had to keep expressing to them you wanted to get to your State Room. Hence the reason I rate this a 4 out of 5 Main Dining “My Time Dining” (3.5) We went to our “My Time Dining” our first evening out to meet our waiters and well I was somewhat disappointed. We generally do this so we can meet the waiters and get a feel on the service and activities in the main dining room. We were welcomed by are main waiter and his assistance, the food was ok but the service and wait time was more than I would deem acceptable. I will go on to say that we met another couple on board and even tried a different area of the “my time dining” and the service was no different so I am not exactly sure what the issue was but it was slower than I expected. Overall I have to say we only seen our main waiter one time and for the life of me I can’t remember his name or even remember if we were introduced – However his assistance Moncef was incredible and an asset to RCCL he was always around and always lending a helpful hand to us during dinner / Lunch and Breakfast. Windjammer (4.8) We always enjoy the windjammer – I am not sure if it is the ability to come and go as you please and experience the different types of food or the friendly one on one with the waiters / waitresses but never have a complaint here Windjammer Buffet Food (4.0) I will not sugar coat this – buffet food is buffet food with our many travels on cruise ships and dry land buffets I don’t think I have ever had one better than the other – If you are cruising because you heard the food is out of this world please don’t be naïve – the only difference is there’s more of it and you can have as much as you want. Now with that being said here are a couple things to keep in mind first and foremost the Serenade offers fresh cook specialty meals in the Windjammer every night I am partial to the pasta night as they will make your dish to order – they also had Stir Fry night / Fish Night and Pork night, these dishes were great and freshly made and yes you can go for seconds or thirds. The buffet was not bad it’s all about preference and what you like – for example the pasta sauce is more tomato tasting then what I make at home but it was still enjoyable. So seeing as you can’t please 2500 people take it with stride. I heard a lot of people in the past mention how bland the food is – well again cruisers think about the 2500 people on board, it is easy to add spice / salt or pepper to any dish to exact it the way you like – it’s impossible to take these ingredients out when there is too much for someone to consume. So to error on the side of judgment it is safer for any Chef or Cook to leave the pallet open and keep the spice / salt / pepper etc.. down to a minimum. Over all depending on the food you like I still think that it was pretty good food On Board Live Entertainment Headliners (5.0) The on board entertainment shows were great we seen the Performances by “Finis” a musical genius and impressionist if you ever get an opportunity to see him do it. We also seen “Horizon” a Detroit Michigan based 4 Man Mo-town group – again this was a great show. I can’t speak of the other shows like Love and Marriage etc.. But heard no complaints from anyone on the ship. On board Entertainment / Pool Deck (3.5) I do think that there were enough afternoon festivities on board i.e. trivia games at the lounges etc.. The live band playing on the pool deck was extremely loud – I am no stranger to music as I dabble with playing my drums on occasion and loud music doesn’t bother me however, when you have to literally scream your drink order to the waiter and or scream to talk to other people that are seated inches from you then it’s entirely too loud – that also applied to the late night TV I finally had to tell someone to lower it down – there was only 10 people on the pool deck and I couldn’t hear my self-breathing let alone the conversation at hand in my opinion this was a gross oversight by the Cruise Director and his or her assistance. Being a Christmas cruise we were impressed that the crew celebrated Christmas with a Santa Claus visit for the children that was really nice – and the passenger Christmas sing along was also and additional feature that we enjoyed very much, however we were a little disappointed in the decorating of the ship for Christmas although Hanukah was very noticeable on board, Now please don’t take this the wrong way I am no way saying Hanukah should not be celebrated in fact I am very much happy to see it was, however the vision of Christmas décor was not apparent on the vessel which was more of a surprise than a disappointment. Shops onboard (3.0) The Shops are located on Deck 5 and are pretty standard: liquor, jewelry, Serenade Wear, perfume. The stores were never crowded and much of the logowear went 50% off on the last day of the cruise. These are pretty basic – again being a smaller ship these venues are suitable for their needs. Specialty Restaurants (2.9) The specialty restaurants included Rita’s cantina / Giovannis / Izumi Asian / Chops Grill and Café Latte-tudes which is a coffee house – We visted Rita’s Cantina and although the food was mediocre at best the service was slow and honestly the few dollar cover charge didn’t make for anything spectacular, the Lattitudes specialty coffee is always great to me as I am a big coffee consumer however the wait time was very disappointing – there always seemed to be a long line and only one service employee – definitely something RCCL needs to improve on – this is an additional cost of course but I seen just as many people walk away from the line as there were in line so in essence this was lost revenue for RCCL Staff (5.0) Like any cruise we have ever been on we certainly can identify with specific people and crew members and this cruise was no exception Michael Martin – Our room steward was excellent – always there when we needed him and always smiling and making sure we had everything we needed even when we told him we needed no special treatment he went above and beyond Moncef – Was our dining steward in the Windjammer and Mytime Dining He was beyond his professionalism – smiles and service was beyond our expectations this man is a definite asset to RCCL. He is the nicest person we have met on our cruise endeavors he was very personable and always smiling and even found time to stop us in the windjammer to see how we were doing and if there was anything he could do for us A+++ if any one travels on the Serenade ask for Moncef (He sort of resembles Dwayne Johnson “The Rock”) and is and exceptionally great person to be around. Shusant – The Chef in the Windjammer was always there to greet us in the mornings or afternoons smiling and ensuring our meals were top notch, again an absolute gentlemen and professional. Michael Martin – Our room steward was excellent – always there when we needed him and always smiling and making sure we had everything we needed, We even advised Michael we didn’t need any special treatment we were easy going yet he still went above and beyond. Aninke Van Antwerpen – The guest Services Officer Was beyond our expectations – She is absolutely wonderful – We only visited Guest Services a few times during our cruise but we always waited to ensure she was on duty and we could get her assistance even if it meant waiting longer in line and she would always smile and acknowledge when we were in line. All of these people exceeded our expectations and we hope RCCL will acknowledge their excellent work ethics and customer service – They truly our why we continue to cruise with RCCL Conversely and only to be fair, I will say overall the crew seemed to be over worked and looked extremely tired, rumor was Royal Laid off 300 Employees – Honestly with the type of revenue cruise lines make - I can’t see where cutting jobs adds to customer service. Hopefully this is not true but if it is RCCL may want to reconsider. Serenade Cruise and Activities Director (2.5) Based on other cruise directors onboard RCCL I rate this one a (2 out of 5) – although this may vary from passenger to passenger this is my opinion – It seemed to me that this cruise director (John Blair) had to force himself to smile – acknowledge passengers and or entertain the passengers, Now I don’t mean this is a terrible way – I mean this in a “Not a very personable person / his personality does not fit that of some of the cruise directors we have had on the past” the best being Allan Brooks or Joff Eaton. Now to sum it up, in the mornings when I seen him it appeared to me that he just woke up, dabbed some water on his hair put on the same Serenade of the Seas Sweat Shirt he wore the day before and pranced around the ship (hence the reason why I didn’t purchase one) and he wouldn’t make any eye contact with passengers unless the passengers reacted to him first. Now I am not saying he must engage with all passengers but the reality is, it’s his job to keep the entertainment alive on the ship not when it’s a convenience, and further I found it a little uncouth for him to have to mention in one announcement that his assistance was his wife, in my opinion that was TMI. The only real entertainment I seen from him was during the time he was trying to set up the Charity walk on the pool deck – it was a side show watching him and the others try to arrange tables and chairs during a windy day – again it seemed very unorganized but yet it was entertaining to say the least. The Serenade Ship (4.7) Overall the Serenade is a nice ship – It was well maintained and very clean – the only complaint I have which again is rare – was the crew was Wood Staining the Deck 5 hand rails and failed to put any signs up so passengers including myself would come out and naturally lean or hold onto the rail and yes you guessed it – either their clothes stuck to the rail or the varnish stuck to your skin. As aforementioned although the Serenade is a nice vessel we would be more prone to cruise on the Oasis or Freedom class ships from now on – this is our preference. If you enjoy a more intimate one on one ship and mixing and meeting with other cruise passengers and by far more personable the crew then this is absolutely the ship class for you, as I said we have never had bad experience on RCCL ships with the crew although bigger ships may be a little less personal with the crew members we always find a few stand outs that we get immediately attached too and vice versa. The one huge difference we missed on the Freedom Class Ships that the Radiance Class Ships don’t have is the “Promenade Deck” it makes the ship seem like so much more with a lot more room to move around and more people to meet. Overall I would give this cruise a 4.15 out of 5.0 this does not include the Port of New Orleans as I feel the Cruise Line has no control over this operation   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
We have just returned from our first cruise with RCL which we booked because of the wonderful itinerary.From the moment of boarding we could see that there were very big differences compared to the cruises we'd enjoyed with ... Read More
We have just returned from our first cruise with RCL which we booked because of the wonderful itinerary.From the moment of boarding we could see that there were very big differences compared to the cruises we'd enjoyed with Celebrity:No welcome - No staff member or anyone to welcome us - compared to a drink & smile by Celebrity.We asked one of the entertainment staff to orientate us to where we should go, but they were not very helpful.On entering our stateroom (balcony stateroom) we were not supplied with toiletries other than liquid shampoo in a dispenser & bars of soap. Towels were small & poor quality. Beds were comfortable with lovely sheets & well planned for storage wardrobes.We found the staff excellent, giving us a really good service in all areas of the ship & stateroom of course.We had no hot water several times but inspite of visits from maintence we continued having this problem.The My Time Dining worked very well & throughout the cruise we had excellent service & fairly good vegetarian options. Portions were generous & variety was good.The areas that we noticed the big differences were those of entertainment - there were only two big productions. Both shows were good. Guest performances were by "has beens" or "wanna bees". & many other cruisers felt the same that the shows were poor/average.The last night there was just one performance of a brief & terrible show. We were so disappointed that we had rushed our last evening meal to witness a poor show. We had expected a lot more to end a wonderful holiday but the opposite was the case.The CENTRUM - what a waste of space. There were 3 ariel spectaculars performed here.However, with very little seating available & guests trying to peer from the various balconies on different levels few people were able to see these performances. To add insult to injury during formal evenings the photographs were occupying parts of the area around the Centrum preventing guests right of way causing them to wait & gawk whilst the photographers were taking photos.Several of the Movies that were screened were really not recent - Mama Mia & Skyfall !!!!!On the few sea days, there were no interesting workshops or talks to attend.Overall IMHO I felt that the use of low quality toilet paper, no flowers in public bathrooms, no chocolates on the pillow, no wet towels & cold drinks to greet weary cruisers returning on port days etc etc showed the lack of attention to detail that we so enjoyed on our previous cruise. I am a little reluctant to book RCL in the future although have been told that Oasis Class or other cruise ships are amazing. As we usually chose our cruise because of itinerary, this could be a problem.I like several of the itineries but would not like to sail on Serenade of the Seas again. I would also like to be assured that the entertainment would be much better than it was. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
The Continental hotel on Las Ramblas was clean and very early European. The much advertised free buffet was very disappointing and we avoided it. 6/10 for the view and location. Embarkation on the Serenade was very smooth, however we ... Read More
The Continental hotel on Las Ramblas was clean and very early European. The much advertised free buffet was very disappointing and we avoided it. 6/10 for the view and location. Embarkation on the Serenade was very smooth, however we were greeted, not by a welcoming party but a lady shooing us into a line of "my time diners" insisting we should immediately book our dinner for that night!! Not "welcome aboard, here is a glass of champagne, and have a lovely trip with us". Not welcome aboard, lunch is being served and your cabins will be ready at whatever time". After booking for what we understood was my time, my choice dining, we were met by another employee selling special offers!!!!We felt at a disadvantage and unsure where to go or what to do next. Our cabin was a highlight of the trip and we received the usual high standards we are accustomed to on a cruise. The dining room was very nice and the crew were attentive, the menu was disappointing as there were only 3 courses, not much choice and at our first meal we were offered steak at an extra cost!!. Another diner was demanding and the staff were very patient. Deciding immediately to stick with the buffet restaurant we headed there for lunch the next day. The experience was better as we could choose from a wider range of food, the staff here were exactly as expected, smiling, welcoming and always available to offer help. We continued to eat there every day for every meal. The food was just average and we were not impressed as on previous cruises on Cunard and Princess or Celebrity. The Park restaurant was small with limited range of food and hit and miss opening hours for the salad area. This is not a substitute for midnight buffets on the Cunard line. Mizumi the Japanese restaurant at extra cost was not worth the extra charges, although very busy. We really enjoyed the outdoor cinema, although we only watched it in passing due to the weather. The customer services: First encounter was to find out how I could receive my free glasses for the cocktails I had purchased, they said the bar were out of glasses and they would send them to our room. They did not come until I requested for a third time and we were on our last day. Second encounter was I called and asked for information, but when I was not clear with the answer I went to the desk and requested further information, expecting a patient reply I was surprised at the Gentleman's exasperated outburst that he had already spoken to me on the phone. Neither problems were huge but I dread to think how they would have handled a bigger issue. The ports were great and we made our own excursions for the first time on a cruise. WE seriously encourage people to research and try this alternative as it is much cheaper and not so daunting as you may think. Hop on hop off busses are truly fantastic for getting a feel of an area and you can get off at any place of interest or stay on and see the whole route all together. The little extra charges were very annoying, charge for delivering food to the room, charge for movies on TV, etc., The departure was very smooth. Overall the cruise was acceptable and a fair example of cruising. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We celebrated New Year on Royal before and did not like it at all. So before booking this cruise we thought twice, read allot of reviews and decided to give it another chance. Let me tell you, it was GREAT! I have 1 thing to complain ... Read More
We celebrated New Year on Royal before and did not like it at all. So before booking this cruise we thought twice, read allot of reviews and decided to give it another chance. Let me tell you, it was GREAT! I have 1 thing to complain about- embarkation in Barcelona. There was line of few hundred people and 1 royal rep checking people in. My husband went complaining and finally after over an hour in line more employees showed up and it went somewhat faster. We boarded in December 24th. Ship was very well decorated. Atrium is pretty small and cozy. Dance floor could have been larger to accommodate all the guests. We got to meet our captain...very impressive as she is the first female captain in the history of cruising. Our families are far away and we don't always get to get together for holidays. But on the ship we felt like we were surrounded by family. Christmas dinner was great, party was allot of fun. We were caroling with the crew members. 3 different bands were always playing at different ship areas, so we always had a choice of music. Pianists and guitarist were entertaining at bars. There was always some activities going on...but we preferred to relax in a Jacuzzi or on the deck by the pool. Unfortunately it was pretty cool some days and unlike Holland American, Royal has no blankets at poolside. It would have been really nice to cuddle up in a blanket and relax on the fresh air. Food, I have to say that this is the first ship where my husband did not complain about the food! I noticed smaller portions in the main dining room, which is good...for those of us who does not want to over eat. And for those of us who want more, they can always order another dish. Meets were always very tender, in fact I was wondering how they get that roast beef so tender. I can never do it at home. Menu had great variety of appetizers, main dishes and deserts. We even had very small lobster tails on 1 of the formal nights. Looked more like large shrimp than lobster. Buffets were also pretty nice. Good choice of hot dishes, salads and deserts. Food is actually gotten simpler and more homemade, but quality is very good. Breakfast however kills me every time. Everything is too greasy and fatty: bacon, sausages, eggs... french toast tasted like fried bread, waffles was always dried out on edges..oatmeal like glue....and pretty bad coffee. Same thing every day for 2 weeks really gotten to me. Our waters were very nice and service in the dining room was superb. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants this time...felt there was no need. Head water stopped by our table every evening and we always had nice conversation for few minutes. She always smiled and thanked us for liking the food and service. Our room attendant, Happy (that is his name), was delightful. We hardly ever saw him, but everything was very clean and tidy in our room. He also managed to give us few special things, which was very nice. Almost every night we had new towel pet waiting for us on our bed. We found out that he used to work on Holland American before, where they make towel pets every night. On New Year eve there were several parties. Atrium was packed with passengers from top to bottom and we felt we were on Time Square at midnight. Champagne was flowing and Ken, our cruise director lead the countdown. It was so exciting! At midnight hundreds of balloons drooped from the sealing and people popped them all creating the sound of fireworks. For those who wanted to party all night disco and bars were open. We had a blast. Shows were little boring. Production cast was very good, incredible singers and dancers and it would have been lovely to see something more professional done with that great talent Guest entertainers, however, were pretty bad and theater remained empty for most evenings, sure indicator that it's time to change the acts. I think it would be good to look in to some more interesting choices. I will not be mentioning port of calls this cruise cause we already visited most of them before and for us it was only to relax and not be alone for the holidays. All thought my husband still managed to find couple of excursions to take. And as always ship offered excursions are overpriced, start way too early, take hours away from sightseeing to go to the pearl, glass, rugs and cameo factories. The only advantage is that they are available at the last minute without advanced planning. We always prefer private tours. I know I am being super picky, but to sum it up it was great experience overall. I think the rest of the Royal fleet should learn from Serenade and bump up their rating accordingly. I want to thank everyone on Serenade for a wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We recently completed B2B cruises on the Serenade OTS. We cruised on the Sept 25 and Oct 2 voyages. Without a doubt this was the best Ship Board experience we have ever had on a cruise. We have never had a bad cruise or ever a mediocre ... Read More
We recently completed B2B cruises on the Serenade OTS. We cruised on the Sept 25 and Oct 2 voyages. Without a doubt this was the best Ship Board experience we have ever had on a cruise. We have never had a bad cruise or ever a mediocre cruise but our experience on the Serenade was outstanding. We are diamond + and the only reason I mention this is to show that we do have many cruises to compare against. Food. Best we have had in years. The MDR food was excellent; not a bad or even average meal in the 2 weeks. Even though the menus repeated for both weeks the selections were more than enough for us. We also ate at Chops 3 times and were extremely happy with each meal there. Room. We had JS 1582. It is under the Windjammer and you can, at times, hear carts being moved around the WJ. It didnt bother us at all but if you are bothered by some noise steer clear of this room. Our Cabin Steward was absolutely great. He was very friendly and took great care of us. If we needed something he took care of it and in some cases he anticipated what we would require and it was there before we could ask. Crew. This was the friendliest crew we have ever had. Everyone and I mean everyone went out of their way to be friendly. We had a Galley tour with the Executive Chef and a Bridge Tour hosted by the Captain. Each took over an hour to show us around. We also met Captain Bill Wright in the Concierge Lounge one night. He took 5 minutes of his own time to chat and answer any questions. Entertainment. A problem with cruising a lot is that you see the same shows again and again. We only went to 4 shows during the 2 weeks. We saw 2 jugglers, one very good and the other no so good. As well we went to Dominc Allen (Foreigner singer) who we liked but we left the Coasters show about 3 songs. We sat at the very back of the theatre just in case and it paid off. Ship. Excellent condition. As usual we saw armies of people cleaning, painting, chipping, polishing etc. We are booked on the Serenade for a Trans-Atlantic next April and we couldnt have chosen better. If you want excellent food, a friendly crew and a fun ship to sail consider the Serenade. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We sailed on Oct 29th and beat the snow storm out of New England by flying to Puerto Rico 2 days before the cruise. Late fall and early winter, you never know what to expect so we always travel a day or 2 earlier. The Serenade of the ... Read More
We sailed on Oct 29th and beat the snow storm out of New England by flying to Puerto Rico 2 days before the cruise. Late fall and early winter, you never know what to expect so we always travel a day or 2 earlier. The Serenade of the Seas is a great ship. Not big by todays standards but still big enough. The elevators on the outside of the ship are great, but elevators are limited and you sometimes have to wait. The dining room food and service were very good, The Windjammer was pretty good considering it is a buffet, but enough offerings for everyone. Try the Sea View Cafe on deck 12 for comfort food like hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and chips, Reuben's and such. The eating area behind this place is quiet and peaceful most of the time. The shows were actually pretty good and most of the bands playing around the ship were good. The band playing poolside was just so-so as was the band playing in the centrum on the 4th floor. The ship did a nice Halloween Parade and did a great haunted house for what was available to them. The crew was outstanding as well as the entertainment staff. They know how to get everyone involved. Don't expect to do a lot of shopping on the ship. It is available but limited. The pool deck was always pretty active but if you wanted some quiet time and still wanted by a pool, the Solarium is the place to hang out. Quiet and serene. This may be an older ship and could use some updated, but it is still a beautiful ship. Its size meant we pulled into ports and no need for tenders. If you get the chance to sail on this ship, do it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I booked this cruise for my teen daughter and I last minute. We got a great deal on an Oceanview room. Having only sailed a couple of times years earlier, I didn't appreciate at the time of booking I selected a room on the bottom ... Read More
I booked this cruise for my teen daughter and I last minute. We got a great deal on an Oceanview room. Having only sailed a couple of times years earlier, I didn't appreciate at the time of booking I selected a room on the bottom level. Having read this site a bit more as the date approached, I regretted this and was apprehensive. The upgrade fairy, however, provide us an unbelievable upgrade to the 7th level, mid-ship, room with a balcony. We could not have been happier. Check-in was a breeze (with the exception of the very first impression baggage guy who had his hand out as we approached with our bags advising he worked for tips - this made me anxious of what we were getting into. I'm all about tipping, but don't like to be ordered to do so, it takes away from the service; nothing like that happened again). Our room was great. Our attendant was also great. I had never had a balcony room before, and now we won't go without a balcony. It was so perfect for me to sit out on the balcony in the morning and watch the sunrise as my daughter slept in a bit. The balcony was big enough to even do some a.m. yoga. And we sat outside often. It was private enough that you could throw on a robe after you shower and take in the ocean air -- well worth it! The food was good in my view. It was not to die for, but we were definitely content. We are kinda' foodies at home (we don't frequent fast-food or even nicer chain restaurants much), and we were happy with the offerings. Notably, we are also vegetarian (no meat or fish)and found plenty of selection. Being a bit of bums by the day's end, we skipped the formal dining room a few nights and just hit the buffet. That said, our service in the dining room was phenomenal. I wish I could remember the names of our team - they were beautiful, inside and out! Again, I wish I had posted after the cruise when it was fresh in my head. The islands were great once you got past the locals waiting as you exited the ship. I really, really hate the pressure selling of the locals. I feel like it's a losing battle. Don't get me wrong, I wholly understand their (probable) hardship and dependence, but it seems a little abusive at times. And the children break my heart. I would give them money flat out if I wasn't told it promotes further victimization upon the children who are sent out by rings (anyway, enough about that, bad, sad energy). We did some really fantastic excursions from kayaking to a remote little island, to tubing through the tropical rain forest. To me, that was some of the best stuff. My daughter loved the shows. We love going to Broadway style and Cirque shows locally. These weren't quite to that level, imo, but were certainly entertaining and we didn't miss a show. We don't gamble, so I can't speak to that, and somehow we didn't step foot in a pool. The pools seems to be a bit overpopulated. My daughter was too young for the solarium area, but this year (we're doing a Celebrity cruise) she'll be old enough, so perhaps more pool time, we'll see. I think an annual holiday cruise may be a "tradition" going forward. This one was a couple of weeks before Christmas, but the ship was adorned nicely, and had Elf playing in the movie lounge, so it had a festive feel. This year we're going to be on the ship on Christmas. I'm on the fence about this, but it was necessary due to calendaring on our end (also more expensive though). We went to a game night with other passengers and that was great fun. We met new people and won a hat, lol! It was fun. Considering how long we were on the ship and how much there was to do (which is seemingly considerably less compared to some of the bigger ships)we didn't get to do all that was offered, but it was a wonderful and relaxing time for both! As an aside, my daughter went to the teen thing on the first night. It was a bust and she didn't go back. But she still had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We took the Serenade of the Seas Holiday Cruise from San Juan, PR because: a) it was a cruise covering both Christmas and New Years; b) it was a 10 day cruise with only two days at sea; c) we had never been to any of the destinations to ... Read More
We took the Serenade of the Seas Holiday Cruise from San Juan, PR because: a) it was a cruise covering both Christmas and New Years; b) it was a 10 day cruise with only two days at sea; c) we had never been to any of the destinations to include San Juan on our five previous cruises. We have cruised with Carnival 4 times and Norwegian once. We compared Royal Caribbean to these cruises the whole time since we had not cruised with them before. Royal Caribbean was better than both other companies in almost every aspect. The one place that they were worse than both is the most important in my book... FOOD! I love the food on Carnival, I typically can't decide on what I want at dinner and sometimes order two entrees because they both look so good. This was not the case with Royal Caribbean, in fact the time I ordered two entrees I did so because both looked horrible and I could not decide which would be worth actually eating. There was one night that I left and ordered room service because I only ate the salad as an appetizer. I love desserts as well, especially chocolate, but I was very disappointed on this cruise with the desserts at dinner (the ones at lunch in the buffet were great) I even went four nights without ordering a dessert because none looked good. Keep in mind, I absolutely love the food on Carnival. I won't tell you that they have food comparable to Ruth's Chris or anything, but it is comparable to Chilies or something along those lines on Carnival. It is because of the food and the food alone that I will likely not go back to Royal Caribbean. The service on the Serenade of the Seas was outstanding. On Carnival there was always someone there when you needed them, though they were typically trying to get you to buy something or were not outwardly happy to be there. On Royal Caribbean there were always people there when you needed them, they were not trying to sell you anything most of the time and were continuously asking if you needed anything, if you were having a good day, or if there was any way at all that they could assist you. This was the first time that I have not even considered if I wanted to leave the suggested tip or not. Speaking of tips, I feel bad because I am used to the way that Carnival and Norwegian do their tips, and because of this I ended up not tipping anyone except for the bar staff. On Carnival and Norwegian tips are automatically charged to your account at the end of the cruise for the recommended amount. On Royal Caribbean on the other hand you have to fill out a form stating what you would like to leave for a tip. The form confused me as it simply asks who is traveling with you on the cruise for the purposes of tipping. I did not fill out the form since it was just my wife and me and I figured that Royal Caribbean already had our information (it is much easier for us than for a family with two or three generations there). Well since we did not fill out the form they did not take out the tips, when we asked guest services about it they informed us it was too late to do so. So, I guess this is a positive aspect for Royal Caribbean (not that I did not tip anyone, because this time I believe that they really earned it), you can determine what to tip before they charge you instead of having to dispute the charge on the morning of debarkation. We flew into San Juan a day before the cruise, and thank God we did! We missed our connecting flight due to weather and could not get another flight to San Juan until that night (we got in around 11PM). We stayed at the Conrad Condado Plaza, it is a very nice hotel with a small beach, two pools (one with a swim up bar), a hot tub, a casino, and places to eat. It costs around $20 to get from the airport to here and about the same to get from here to the cruise terminal, even though it is close to 2 miles away. The day of the cruise we decided to just head straight to the boat early. We got there at noon even though our tickets said to come at 2PM. They were already boarding and it took us all of 30 minutes to get from our hotel through the (almost non-existent) line and onto the boat! This was the fastest yet! Roughly 30 min later our rooms were open. With the ship nearly vacant we explored and enjoyed the many Christmas decorations. Our first port of call was St. Maarten. We decided to do all of our excursions through the boat (which we usually don't de as we find them too crowded and too pricey). I will get more into this towards the end. We did the Beach Rendevous at Orient Beach. We chose this excursions because the beach is supposed to be popular, and the snorkeling is supposed to be good. We don't like beaches that are too crowded but beaches that are too secluded don't have much to eat or drink. The excursion was great. The beach was nice, and not too crowded (likely because it was at Christmas). There were maybe 30 people on the excursion, the beach was good and the lunch was good, we were pleasantly surprised! The snorkeling was just ok, not many fish (except for the star fish). After St. Maarten we spent Christmas at Sea. I couldn't find many reviews about Christmas on the boat when I booked, so here is what I encountered for those of you researching. There were so many decorations!!! Everyone on the boat was involved in decorating, and their sections were all unique and labeled as to who decorated. There was Christmas caroling in the atrium, and it was packed full of people! We did not stay up for the midnight service though we had hoped to. The Captain (who is absolutely the best captain we have had!!!) made announcements about reports of santa and reindeer in the sky overhead. Christmas morning they even had Santa giving out gifts to the kids in the Atrium. There was a special Christmas menu, but it was not traditional as I am used to in the South. All together it was a nice way to spend Christmas. Our next port of call was St. Kitts where we did the Beach Extravaganza. Again a very nice beach experience, not too crowded. There were plenty of chairs and the snorkeling was not too bad. I took my own snorkel gear on the cruise to I snorkel almost everywhere (it was not included in these beach breaks). There was no meal included but it was just the right amount of time at the beach! In Antigua we went on the Crusoe Island Escape. Let me tell you, this is a very nice excursion. There were again maybe 30 people on this excursion and we had this little island all to ourselves. We drove about 10 minutes to a beach where we hopped on a boat to go to the island. On the island there were chairs with umbrellas (this was the only one where the umbrellas were included), there was a bar where the drinks were free all day (and they had a good rum punch), the lunch served was nice too. The actual bar building was not exactly beautiful, but it served its purpose. This excursion had snorkel gear included and snorkel tours. The snorkeling here was better than the first two stops. There were larger fish to be found the further out you swam along the reef. The water wasn't too deep but getting back to shore from the end of the reef was a work out, in fact I think I am the only person who did it (until I dragged my wife along too). I would recommend this excursion to anyone. The people were friendly, and since it was an island no one came around trying to sell you anything. In Dominica we did the Downstream River to Ocean Kayak excursion. This is a great excursion, and is easy enough to beginners to enjoy! There are not many rapids, and the ones that there are are not rough at all (though they are fun). Only one kayak flipped over and they just stood up and hopped back in. We kayaked down the river and out into the ocean. At the transition point from the river to the ocean a couple of kayaks flipped in the waves (make sure you take the waves head on) but it was all in good fun. The guides were nice and very fun, they believe that if you are not wet you are not having fun so expect to get splashed! Once in the ocean we paddled out to get a good view of the local village then paddled back to the river's mouth. There was a short break 10-15 minutes at the river's mouth to swim in the ocean or river before paddling back upstream to the point where we met the vans. While this is not the best excursion that I have done in the caribbean, it was a nice kayak excursion. I am slowly getting into kayaking, and I enjoyed this trip. Our next stop was St. Lucia, where we decided to get out of the sun for a little bit. We took the Land and Sea to the Pitons excursion. We lucked out on this one, we got put in the 6 person van instead of one of the 12 person busses, and the van driver was the best tour guide I have had in a long time, the best on this cruise for sure. We drove around the island stopping to take pictures of all of the major sites. Most photo stops were at places where locals were selling trinkets. They were all friendly and took no for an answer the first time. I was pleasantly surprised. After the drive all over the island we went to the botanical gardens and waterfall. This was a nice stop, it was a little crowded but the tour guide was very informative and I learned much more than I expected to (I likely forgot most of it now, but it was nice). We went from there to the Old Mill Restaurant for lunch which was included. The lunch was a little buffet but the food was good. If you like hot sauce try the stuff they have there but use it sparingly! After lunch we loaded a catamaran with the rest of the group and toured the island by water. We had some good views of the Pitons and some of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean (i.e. Jade Mountain). We stopped near one and swam in the waters just off of their beach for 20-30 min. After that we took the boat back to the port, on the way stopping for pictures in popular coves. A nice thing about the Captain on the Serenade of the Seas is that as we left port he took the ship by the pitons so that we could all see them, he did a 360 and gave everyone ample time to get their photos. In Barbados we booked Swim the Turtles, Shipwrecks, Snorkel and Beach excursion. We had high expectations, and we were a little disappointed. While there were only about 30 people on this excursion when everyone was in the same place attempting to see the two sea turtles that were there it got crowded! There were some good views of the turtles as they got up close and personal with everyone. There were plenty of fish at the shipwrecks so they got a little crowded as well. I think the problem was that the guides were feeding the fish so they all congregated in a small area where the food was. After the snorkeling we went to the beach and just hung out. There were no chairs or umbrellas so we hung out in the water. It was nice but nothing special. Our final port of call was Grenada. We took the Shadowfax Champagne Lobster Cruise. Two of the couples on the cruise had done the same excursion a few years before and enjoyed it so much they came back. The seas were VERY rough this day, so rough that the ship could not dock. We had to tender in. This made the excursion very rough as well. While no one got sea sick plenty of people were soaked before getting in the water from the waves. Once we stopped at the reef to snorkel most people got right back on the boat. It was too difficult to swim out and around the reef, the waves were carrying people back as fast or faster than they could swim out. To top it off the water was murky! Now I know, and I hope you do too, that this was simply due to the seas that day and I bet that any other day it would have been great. We then stopped at a small island for lunch and a beach. We shared it with some kayakers but they only stayed about 30 min after we got there. The food was good and there was plenty of wine and rum punch, there was only one glass of Champagne though. On the boat ride back to the pier there was plenty of free alcohol to go around too. The crew was very friendly and helpful. Our final day on the ship was a day at sea, and it was needed after so many ports. It was also a great was to recover from New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve was a big party on the boat too! There were parties all over the place for new years, but the big celebration was in the atrium (on all levels) with free champagne (not very good though), a countdown, and a balloon drop! It was a great way to ring in the new year! I don't recall there being much to do onboard during days at sea (organized at least). But we still enjoyed ourselves. Debarkation was fairly easy though a little confusing compared to Carnival and Norwegian. On Royal Caribbean they announce when you can go to your waiting area to get off, and from there they release everyone by floor or priority. I typically carry off my own luggage so all of the walking with my luggage was a pain. Once we got to go off of the ship (which was fairly quick) no one was checking to see if it was really your turn. If I had known this I would have just gone straight from the room. Once through the cruise terminal we were going to get a taxi to the hotel to drop off our bags with the front desk and then go into town, but as we were leaving there were some tour guides at the cruise terminal that had pretty good deals. We paid $25pp to tour old and new San Juan with San Juan Happy Tours (http://sanjuanhappytours.webs.com/). The price was great and the tour guide was pretty good too. Anyone spending an extra day in San Juan should check these guys out. Here are some tidbits of information from this cruise: The Spa - More expensive than any spa at home, but cheaper than some of the other cruises we have been on (i.e. 75 min hot stone massage $179). If you go to the spa tour though they give you samples of different massages that they give, and man it is nice (I got 30 minutes worth of massages in there!). Most other cruises do specials on spa treatments in port too, but not here! So don't wait it out for the treatment you want to go on sale. Specialty Restaurants - The food was good but the service was poor. In fact the service was better in the main dining room. All in all I would say that if it is not a special occasion it is not worth the money. As I stated earlier, I typically do not take excursions through the ships since they cost more and are crowded. We ended up with a large on board credit with the price guarantee that RCI used to offer. Not only does RCI not offer this any more but they made it very difficult to redeem the onboard credit that they promised. The one thing that I learned here is that if you are not picky about where your cabin is, you can wait until close to the cruise to book with GREAT rates. The price went down over $1100 pp from the time we booked 14 months prior to the cruise. Plan to arrive in San Juan a day before the cruise! We planned on spending the day before the cruise at the beach at our resort, but due to unforeseen flight problems we did not get in until around midnight (instead of around 2:00 pm). If that had been the day of we would have missed the cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
First, a little background about us. My husband and I are in our late 20s and this was our third Caribbean cruise together, second taken over Christmas. Our previous two were both on Carnival ships, so we spent a fair bit of time comparing ... Read More
First, a little background about us. My husband and I are in our late 20s and this was our third Caribbean cruise together, second taken over Christmas. Our previous two were both on Carnival ships, so we spent a fair bit of time comparing the two lines. Regarding the ship itself, we found that decorations less tacky on the Serenade, but longed for the three sets of elevators rather than just two. Our inside cabin suited our needs just fine, but the bed was a little short, particularly since the end was rounded, so my poor husband's feet did hang off at night. The biggest differences that stood out to us in terms of our experience were the food and the service. In terms of food, Carnival's was better without question, especially in the dining room. This time, we found no need to go to the dining room for breakfast, since it served the same thing as the buffet, offered fewer choices and took longer. We did notice that there were almost never lines in the buffet area, so it was easy to get what we wanted quickly in the morning. Throughout the day, you have to be very aware of time. Unlike on Carnival's ships, there were periods where the Windjammer was closed. This meant no access to ice cream, and even worse, from one side of the ship to the other without going up or down. We found this very frustrating. There was always food available, but you had to know what was open when and where (as well as multiple routes for getting there). The Seaview Cafe was nice for a snack when the buffet was closed. We also had some frustrations with bars. We found that different bars were open at various times and we couldn't figure out the schedule, so never developed a personal rapport with any bartender, something we've enjoyed doing in the past. My husband also found it difficult to find milk when he needed it, as only some bars had it. The other food note that stood out from our main dining room experience was due to our dining partners. We had some vegetarians at our table and they felt that the vegetarian options were very limited and rather repetitive, particularly for the main courses. Again, while the food was good, it wasn't great and the quality and consistency of Carnival's was higher, in both of our opinions. We ate at Portofino's one night for the mystery dinner (more on that later), and the steak was divine. It's a shame that the rest of the food on the ship didn't live up to this or anywhere near it. Service, however, was better on the Serenade. I was particularly impressed that I was so often greeted by name (by our stateroom attendant and our waiters), since I have a hyphenated first name which Royal Caribbean's system cannot handle. Although my first name was truncated on all of their official lists, everyone remembered my name as I introduced myself. We felt that our needs were well taken care of and thought it was impressive that even while dining in the Windjammer, waiters would offer to get you drinks, not just clear the tables. We can't decide if we were pleased or disappointed to be in the smaller dining room off of the main dining room for dinner. I wondered what we were missing, particularly when the waiters were singing and dancing. On the other hand, I suspect that it was quieter where we were; you really noticed it when the table beside us didn't have many people. Had we decided to say something, I am sure that our head waiter would have done his best to accommodate us. We have never had as much contact with our Head Waiter as we did on this cruise. He visited the table a couple of times every night, checked in with everybody and followed-up on issues from previous nights (getting kids served quickly, vegetarian options). Our waiter continued with this service-centred attitude. He was friendly but restrained and mindful of what we wanted from one meal to the next. He always brought out extra dishes for us to try and often they related back to what we had liked earlier. Our Assistant Waiter was very kind, but we had some difficulty understanding him due to his accent. This actually stopped my husband from getting a cappuccino he initially ordered, as he couldn't communicate the follow-up information. Outside of dining, service was equally excellent. Our stateroom attendant was very observant and adjusted our turn-down based on what she noticed we had done the previous night - everything from the number of pillows to leaving the sheets untucked. We felt well-tended to throughout the ship. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary, as it stopped at a few ports that we wanted to visit. We do, however, still like to enjoy the ship. On our previous cruises, we particularly enjoyed our days at sea. It seems that the Serenade kept its on-board activities almost as active on days in port as it did for its days at sea. This is a double-edged sword. It meant that there was always lots to do, and that I was actually disappointed to have to miss certain things because we were busy on excursions. However, it also meant that when we were at sea, it felt like there wasn't a whole lot to do. The main entertainment was always left for the evenings. We found the visiting entertainers fantastic (although under-attended). They were mostly singers, which I think kept some people away. The fact that it was a Christmas cruise also may have affected attendance, as people stayed with their large family groupings in the evenings. The ship's orchestra was phenomenal and were the stars of the cruise, I would say. They also had very talented singers in the serenade's performers and the dancers tried, but were a little out-shone. The Cruise Directors' staff activities were hit and miss. Quest was hilarious, as promised, Majority Rules was disappointing and a little boring. We found that whoever was leading the activities made a big difference. We really enjoyed our Cruise and Activity Directors, and found the Morning Show a neat way to feel like we knew them a little better. One of the other staff who often led activities got under our skin a little bit and we found that we had less fun when he was in charge of an activity. One activity that we tried was the Mystery Dinner. It was very entertaining and as I said before, delicious. We really wanted to solve the mystery, so were disappointed that others at our table wasted our precious questioning time being silly, but it seems that that's par for the course when there's limitless wine. The evening was still worth the extra cost, in our opinion. We also enjoyed the parties on board and I was impressed at how well-used the Centrum was, with many couples dancing every night. We also really enjoyed how much it felt like Christmas on the ship. Many times, the director said that he wanted everyone to feel like family and we really did. The carols Christmas Eve and Santa's visit on the 25th felt authentic and memorable. We appreciated that while there were many family events presented, the staff actually were mindful of those of us without children and actually enforced some of the adult-only rules in the Solarium, when teenagers were being too rowdy, and in the nightclubs, even when they got flack from parents (gee, do you think there are rules for a reason?). I also noted that there was less smoking allowed on this ship than our previous travels, which meant that I was more comfortable venturing out to different areas, but it still kept us away from karaoke, the sports bar and some nights at the nightclub. It's hard to adjust to smoke in such situations when it's not allowed where we live. The only other note that we would give Royal Caribbean, would be that the ship turned around to go back to Grenada to get someone off the ship and on an ambulance. There was never any official mention of this on-board. As it happened during our dinner time, many were aware of it (my husband went up on deck to investigate and said there was a large number of people looking to find out what had happened). While we recognize that there must be respect for the family, we would have appreciated getting some official information or at least an acknowledgement, rather than following rumours running rampant around the ship. All in all, we really enjoyed our travels on the Serenade of the Seas and would go again in a heartbeat! Ports of Call Tortola - a visit to the Baths on Virgin Gorda Photographs really don't do the Baths - caves, beach - justice. We highly recommend doing this on your own, rather than going with the cruise line's excursion. Not only do you save a ton of money, but getting to the beach before everyone else gets there is pretty special. We got off the ship around 8:15 and walked over to the ferries. Along the way, several taxi drivers offered us tours. They said that most things in town were closed since it was Sunday, which did seem to be true (so beware if you're visiting on a Sunday and just wanted to shop in town). When we got to the Ferry dock, someone from Speedy's grabbed us a right away to sell us their tickets. So we took the 9:00 ferry across to Virgin Gorda. Once there, we went in the parking lot and followed the other tourists from the ferry into an open-air cab, assuming this was our taxi. We were right! The driver got us up to the entrance and told us that he would be back for us at 12:30 for the 1 pm ferry back to Tortola. We walked down the path to the first beach and carried on to the caves, after changing into our water shoes. The walk down to the beach was pretty easy, but the walk through the boulders was not for those who have difficulty bending. While it wasn't hard, we did find some areas easier with our backpacks off and scraped our backs on some rocks nonetheless. The experience of the walk itself was very cool. I can imagine spending lots of time in there exploring, as there were a few times that we weren't sure which was the "right" way (sometimes there were markings that we could find, other times...not so much). Once we got out, the beach on the other side was such a beautiful surprise. Since we were there rather early, there were only two other families on the beach. The sand was so pristine that it seemed like we'd discovered a deserted island. We did not go snorkeling, but the water was great just for swimming and playing in. Given how few people were around, we felt very safe leaving our stuff on the beach while we were in the water. After about an hour, more people started arriving, as did a couple of boats with more tours, so we decided to head back through the caves and to the first beach. We did have to wait our turn a few times as there were others in the caves, headed the opposite direction, but it was never very long. At the other end, we both decided that we were glad we did things in the order that we did: Our second beach was much nicer than the first, so a welcome surprise after going through the caves. We did some exploring around the first beach and the rocks off to the other side, before heading up for a delicious smoothie at the restaurant (highly recommend them for giving you a bit of energy between breakfast and lunch). We went back to the parking lot around 12:20 to wait for the taxi, and waited. And waited. We did spot a couple of other people waiting as well and headed their way after we saw them asking another taxi driver if he was from Speedy's (he was not, but said that he would drive us if the taxi didn't show up). They told us that the taxi left early, as it was full, but the driver promised to be back. After a few more minutes of anxious waiting, the taxi returned around 12: 45 and delivered us to the ferry in plenty of time. We got back to the ship with no problems, but didn't end up venturing into Tortola again, although there was lots of time - we opted for food and a nap, instead. We typically don't do "beach days", as I get bored of sitting too long. This was a great way to get some beach time in, while also exploring. While I'm sure that we could have spent more time, we didn't feel rushed and were ready to head back when it was time. We would do it again, and highly recommend it as a way to spend the day. Philipsburg, St. Maarten - Rhino Safari We had an excellent experience with this excursion, booked privately (although we noticed that they had several plaques up from Princess as a top low-volume excursion. We took a taxi from port. It was about a 30 minute drive and our driver was fantastic - he gave us all sorts of information about the island. When you arrive, they are all the way at the back of building (by the water - it was a little amazing that it took us a minute to figure that out). We finished paying and were asked to wait on the benches for our guide. We ended up in a group with a family of 4, along with the guide, so 4 boats in all. Before setting out, we left our bags, sandals, etc. in a laundry basket that stays in the main building and were given snorkeling gear to keep in the back of our boats. Note that you are not allowed to wear water shoes that have black soles, so we went barefoot and that was not a problem. There is a compartment at the front of each boat, but that's where they store the gas. After getting a safety briefing and looking at the map to see where we were going, we were off! Our guide said that usually, they run a straight line to the snorkeling site, whereas we stayed a little closer to shore so that we could see the island. I really appreciated this, as I like to see as much as possible during our ever-so-brief visits. I wished that we had learned a little more about what we were seeing, but that's not the kind of tour that we were doing. When we arrived at the snorkeling site, we got our gear on and had about an hour to explore. We were also offered water or pop during this time. Then we headed back the way that we came. All in all, it was a very positive experience for us. The water was quite calm, so we didn't have any of the back issues that some other have expressed, although I still found that the constant bumping made my bladder unhappy. For our return to the ship, our initial taxi driver had suggested that we take a local bus back to the pier, but we were not brave enough for this and just flagged a passing taxi. It was quite interesting to compare what our first driver (Dutch) had to say compared to what our second (French) did, in terms of the differences between the two parts of the island. Later in the cruise, we encountered one of the other couples who had been on this trip with us. It turns out that their experience was not as positive, as they had their son's wallet stolen, with his ID, ship card and $100. They stayed looking for it for a couple of hours, but to no avail. The company actually suggested that we had stolen it, since we left so quickly (we didn't realize that we left quickly, we just left once we were done...it seemed to us that we had taken our time). This couple believes that it actually may have been our guide who was responsible, since he disappeared briefly when we returned. We want to believe that the company had nothing to do with this, as we really enjoyed ourselves, and maybe they blamed us because they really had no idea what happened. While our money wasn't taken (it was in our backpack, hidden by a towel and other things, so while obvious where to find it, would have taken more than a moment), we did think that we should pass along their experience, as well. Again, it was a great excursion, but retro-actively we've been left with a bad taste in our mouths since something was stolen from our group and they tried to blame us for it. St. John's, Antigua - Adventure Antigua (Eli's) Eco-Tour We wanted to do this tour last year when we were in Antigua, but it wasn't running the day that we were there, so we were very excited to get the chance this time. They were very prompt arriving at the dock and we were off with surprisingly few cruisers. I had not anticipated that there would be so many resort visitors on the excursion, but our next stop was Dickinson's Beach, where we collected everybody else. In all, there were about 16 of us, plus the 3 Eco-tour employees. We did get a lot of information about the island, although mostly while the boat was stopped. We got a little "that's a fort, there's a house" while the boat was going, but it was too loud for anything more. Once we stopped, we did get more information about the ecology of the island, particularly where sea and sand (or mangroves) meet. I was expecting to hear even more, given what I've read about this tour, but I cannot complain. I do wonder if we got a little less because of a group of 4 who were on the boat with us. They were staying at one the the resorts and came aboard with their own cooler. They didn't listen to any of the information that was shared and talked through it, so you had to be sure not to be too close to them, so that you could hear. It seemed as though they were not on the tour itself, but just using the boat for the day, as they didn't get off at any of the stops, either. I will admit that these four detracted from the experience for us, but I do not fault the tour for that. Back to the tour itself, then...The stop at Hell's Gate was really fun. We swam up to walk through and across and it was well-worth the scrapes on legs. You really do need water shoes or something to protect your feet here. They do have reef shoes to lend, but bring your own if you have big feet. The trip to Bird Island was similar to what we had last year, so nothing new there for us, but it still has great views. Lunch was very yummy and then we were off for our last snorkeling adventure. This was the best snorkeling we've had. The area was large and active. One couple actually saw a stingray, but we just was a whole lot of different fish (and sea urchins and sponges, etc.). Finally it was time to head back. We were back at the ship with lots of time (I think 3:30? Almost an hour before we expected), and had had a good mix of fun, learning and relaxing. Castries, St. Lucia - Aerial Tram and Canopy excursion (booked through cruise) We booked this through the cruise line since it didn't seem like it would save us any money to do it on our own. It became one of my favourite excursions ever. The only thing that could have improved it was the bus ride to the site. It was totally silent. I'm used to drivers sharing information about their island while we're en route, so was a little disappointed that there was none of that here, and very grateful to have taken Cosol's tour last year. Then, we got to the park. Once there, we were geared up for zip-lining and put into a group of 8. The tram holds 8 plus a guide, so our second guide rode up with another group that had fewer people. Our guide was a wealth of information about the rainforest. He was able to answer all of our questions and we learned a lot. It was also very calming to be climbing up into the trees. At the top, we got out and took a short path to the zip lines. I was concerned that I might suddenly become afraid of heights, but that didn't happen at all. I felt very secure at all times, never too high up, and really enjoyed every one of the ten lines. We got some great video, too. Again, the guides were fun and professional. We both thought that we would take the aerial tram up and then zip down. It turns out that we took the tram up to the zip-lines, zipped down and then had to walk back up the the tram to get down the mountain. That walk was tiring and I was very grateful that we got a bottle of water at the end of it. The tram ride down was also filled with information from our guide and felt entirely different than our ride up, even though we were only a couple of meters higher. It was breathtaking and relaxing, although if I was going to develop a fear of heights, that would be when it would happen. At the bottom, we got our rum punch and had a fair bit of time to look through the gift shop and wait for the other groups to finish. Then back on the bus and towards the ship. This tour had none of the disadvantages that I usually associate with cruise excursions. It seemed to be similarly priced, we were in a small group and it felt very personal. A great trip! St. Georges, Grenada - A&E Best of Nature Tour After having debated long and hard about doing the river tubing, we ended up taking this island tour instead. From what we heard from others, we didn't miss very much, as the ride to the site was longer than the tubing itself and what we had done in Dominica and Belize surpassed what we could have done here. So on to our tour experience. We ended up being the only ones on the tour (although they had told us we could bring others if we wanted), so we were appreciative of getting a private tour at the same cost it would have been had there been more people. Because we left so early, we tended to be the first people at each destination. It seems that the people of Grenada were feeling like tourists were taking a long time to get off the ship, and that many weren't getting off the ships at all when they stopped in Grenada. This seems quite troubling to them since they rely heavily on tourism, especially as they are still recovering from hurricane's from a few years ago. It was a beautiful island and well-worth the visit. We also found that we did most of our gift shopping here, both as we thought they may need it more than the other islands (our guide told us, however, that he considered the island to be mainly middle class, not too much poverty) and because spices suited our wants. Our guide was very personable and answered all of our questions about the island. We felt through most of the tour, he was more like a driver than a guide, as he didn't volunteer much information other than what we asked, and did not accompany us at the various destinations. The stops we made were good, but do bring a few extra dollars, as entrance fees to the national park and fort are not included in the tour price. At the park, we took the path to see the lookout, which was well worth the trip. The information in the house was also very interesting. We didn't get to see the nutmeg factory as it was closed when we went by the first time, and although our driver said we'd see it on our way back, we never did. Our driver said that he had checked that it would be open, but it is possible that it was not, since it was Christmas Eve. Many of the areas we visited were going to close early. The waterfall was pretty, but a very brief stop. Again, it was nice to see it while no one else was there, as it would get crowded very quickly. Our driver was also very good about warning us when locals would be looking for money for various points. We didn't find them aggressive at all, but some others from the ship did. I do not know if this was due to our timing or our driver. The rum distillery was a bit of a disappointment, as we didn't see anything happening. We were told a little about each type of rum and offered samples, but it seemed to be mostly a stop to encourage us to buy something. The fort was lovely and we felt that the extra views it provided was worth the $2 entry, but there's not really a lot in it, so you do go in mostly for the views. There were a couple of information panels, but not nearly what we're used to. Finally, the beach was beautiful and amazingly uncrowded. I can see how the locals would be frustrated by the lack of tourists getting off the ships, because this beach could have accommodated a whole lot more. In all, it was a satisfying way to see several highlights of the island. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Serenade of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 5.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.9
Enrichment 1.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.3

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