View Single Post
  #1  
Old April 20th, 2005, 08:28 PM
Ocean Boy's Avatar
Ocean Boy Ocean Boy is offline
10,000+ Club
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Rhode Island, U.S.A.
Posts: 18,233
Default Serenade of the Seas, April 9 sailing, Review

Well, here are my thoughts on the April 9, 2005 Southern Caribbean sailing of Serenade of
the Seas. I hope this provides some help and doesnít bore you. First of all, since this is a
review it means that these are my opinions. If you do not agree with them feel free to say
so but please save the flames for another thread. Also, my previous cruises were on
Celebrityís Horizon to Bermuda, RCIís Explorer of the Seas Western route, and Mariner
of the Seas Eastern route. I may at times compare the four cruises but what I wonít do is
say that one was better, or worse, than the other. They were all very awesome, but very
different, cruises.

ARRIVAL
We flew into San Juan and the weather was great on Saturday with our flights on time and
no connection glitches. We got a great view of the port and my first look at Serenade as
we were coming in for the landing at the airport. So far a good start to a vacation. Then
came San Juan airport. I think dysfunctional describes this place on earth fairly well.
Baggage claim took far longer to get our luggage than I ever would have thought
possible. Once you get it the distance to get out of the building to the transportation area
was ridiculous. Then they had one person at the exit looking at baggage claim checks to
make sure you were not stealing luggage. The disorganization was amazing. It would be fine with
me if I am never at that airport again. We got a cab and the ride to the Pan American pier
took about twenty minutes. I donít know if it just happened to be our timing but check in
took no time at all. We gave our bags to a porter, walked into the terminal, up to a
check-in agent, and were walking onto the ship within fifteen minutes of our arrival at the
port. RCI had its act together big time. We later went into Old San Juan and walked
around for awhile. Sailing took place exactly at 9:50PM. The ship was right on schedule
all week. Do not be late getting back to the ship because if you are she most likely wonít
be there .

THE SHIP
She is, for lack of a better words, beautiful and elegant. And even if she is not as big as the
Voyager sisters she is still big. But it all fits together so well. She looks very proportional
on the outside when you look at her height vs. her length. And she has a very curvature to
her bow that really impressed me. I still think RCI has the best looking ships in the
cruising business. She is incredibly stunning inside. Her Centrum is beautiful. However,
after Explorer and Mariner, the Centrum just doesnít quite give you that ďwowĒ factor
that you get walking into a Voyager class ship. I caution you to not let this first impression
close your mind to what this ship is all about. Great things are to come. Give yourself time
to explore her before passing judgement. She is decorated tastefully and filled with
beautiful art work. Nowhere did I see anything that detracted from the beauty of this ship.
This is in opposition to the forward stairwell on Mariner which is filled with stuff that I
would describe as catastrophic at best and has no place in a ship of her stature. I realize
that art is interpreted differently by each of us but kitchen plates and cups stacked on top
of one another do nothing for me. Neither do kitchen utensils made out of wire, a bucket
of paint with a brush in it, or a bunch of shirt collars. Not to mention the infamous piece of
sheet metal with model cars attached to it. Although with half of the cars broken off it is
more just a piece of sheet metal. Nothing like that will be found on Serenade. It is easy to
find your way around her. I loved exploring her and just roaming around. If you have not
seen the whole ship by the end of the week or do not know your way around her it is only
because you put no effort into it. And you rarely feel as if there are 2500+ other guests on
board with you not to mention her crew. We never felt crowded or stood in line for
anything the entire week. And this applies to the tendering process in St. Lucia also. And
the ship is spotless even with the volume of people aboard. There are no maintenance
issues that I could see what so ever. Sometimes the shopping area can get a little crowded,
especially after the end of the shows in the Tropical theatre as people are funneled through
the shop area. A little advice. If you want to avoid the log jam of people leaving the
Theatre as soon as you exit go outside on deck five and walk the outside of the ship down
to the Centrum entrance. You will avoid the long line of jammed up people and the
outdoor walk is good for you anyway. I went to two different rock climbing sessions. I
went up three times the first session and three the second. I never had to wait. If you want
a deck chair next to the pool you had better get up early especially on sea day. If you are
not fussy about location you can always find a chair somewhere in either the sun or shade,
whichever you prefer.

Once you start exploring Serenade she really starts making up for the initial first
impression very quickly. On deck 6 as you enter her Schooner Bar you start to realize
what this ship is about. Her Schooner Bar will knock your socks off. It is so beautifully
done and outshines Explorerís and Marinerís by a mile. As you walk through you arrive in
the Billiard room and then enter the Safari Club. This entire area of the ship is just
spectacular and a fun place to spend your time in the evenings. The dark woods and carpet
colors all help to create a very soothing atmosphere. The back of the Safari Club is all
picture windows where you can watch the wake of the ship disappear into the horizon.
And speaking of windows, this ship really does have glass everywhere. You can see the
ocean from just about anywhere you are on the ship and this is very different from the
Voyager ships. Her casino is notably smaller than a Voyager casino but it is also much
more classy in the way it is decorated. On deck eleven you will find the most beautiful
Windjammer of all that I have seen so far. Again, dark woods and blue carpeting create a
very soothing atmosphere. And the way it is laid out with various food islands makes lines
pretty much non-existent. Serenade had plenty of outdoor seating and I thought this
would be something that I would really enjoy over the Voyager Windjammers. However,
in reality was so hot in the Southern Caribbean that it was much more comfortable eating
inside with air conditioning therefore making the outdoor seating nice in theory but mostly
unused in reality. Serenadeís adult solarium outshines the Voyager solariums by a mile. It
is in one word- gorgeous. This is especially true at night when it is lit by lights which
change colors. It is a great place to relax. Its roof was kept closed the entire cruise and the
air was kept at a very comfortable temperature.

THE CREW
She has a good crew. They seemed quite friendly. This includes the painters and people
scrubbing the decks. I would say that the crew was comparable to Marinerís crew.
However, there still was no match to the crew that was on Explorer with me. They were
just exceptional. Explorer may have had some unhappy crew members but they and I were
never in the same place at the same time. Horizonís crew was much more aloof and often
would not speak unless spoken to first. Our cabin attendants were awesome. Our cabin
and bathroom were kept spotless. And these two folks were just plain fun to be around.
Meeting up with them in the passageway always lead to a conversation. They were just
great. Tipping them was a joy. The last morning that we were to leave the ship to come
home one of them came up to me and said to stay in the cabin as long as we wanted. It
was no bother to him. Now, could there be any better attitude than that? The caliber of
service was equal on Horizon and Explorer but I canít say that about Mariner or
Serenade, especially when it came to the dining room. In the past our wait staff is what
always made the dining room special to us. I would describe the service this year as
friendly and efficient but also rushed just as it was on Mariner. Waiters were moving
through the dining room much faster than ever before. I still think it is a staffing issue. The
dining room was nowhere near as spectacular as Explorerís or Marinerís and there also
seemed to be more noise. I think that may be from the ceiling being lower. Finally, we
decided we were going to have our dinners in the Windjammer and that turned out to be a
great move. The atmosphere was very low keyed and we had the same waiter every night.
After the first night he knew all of our likes. He even remembered how many half and half
creamers I like with my coffee. We tipped him very well and again it was a joy to do so.
Even the greeter at the door learned my name and addressed me each evening. It seems
odd that it took the Windjammer to provide the level of service that we had become
accustomed to in Horizonís and Explorerís dining rooms.

A word about Serenadeís captain Stig Neilson. To me he is the example of what a shipís
captain should be. He is a bit reserved but very approachable when you see him. On the
last sea day he takes the ship very close to islands that the ship is passing and announces
where you are and gives a history of the island and this included the devastated island of
Monserrat. What an amazing view he gave us of the destruction. As for his departure from
St. Lucia, I will only say that it was spectacular and if you want to know more go for a
cruise on Serenadeís Southern route. I could never explain in words the departure that we
had from that port. I preferred this captain to Marinerís Capt. Johnny. Somehow, his
riding a motor scooter down the Royal Promenade was just a little too showboaty for me.
And his pushing of the book he wrote and selling it in the shipís logo shop all seemed a bit
tacky.

THE CABIN
We had ocean view cabins on the second deck. I am not a balcony fan so you donít have
to worry about competing with me to get one. The cabin was good size with plenty of
room for two people as long as you like each other. It could be converted to a quad cabin
but in that case you had better make sure you are all in love with each other. That would
be too cramped for me. There is plenty of storage space. We moved right in and did not
live out of suite cases. The bathroom is small but big enough to do what you need to in
there. There is not a lot of elbow room in the shower but having a door instead of a
curtain was a real nice feature. The water stayed in the shower and there was no curtain
constantly touching you. It also keeps the mirror from fogging up. It was just like the
ocean view cabins on the Voyager ships with one exception. All the ocean view cabins on
deck two have port holes as opposed to picture windows that the Voyager ships have. If
you want a picture window get a cabin on deck three. I had no knowledge of this until I
arrived in the cabin.

THE FOOD
We had all dinners in the Windjammer except for one and breakfast and lunch in the
Windjammer buffet. The one dinner we had in the dining room was good but I am not a
big fan of fancy food. It was of the same caliber of Horizonís, Explorerís, and Marinerís
dinners. I notices no decline in quality of food though the portions were rather small. That
is no big deal when you are already eating ten times a day. The buffets were consistently
good and also consistently better than Marinerís. There was little day to day variation for
breakfast and lunch but I thought the food was notably better than last year. There was
much more variety on Horizon. But the quality was certainly on par with Horizon and
Explorer. Desserts on Horizon and Explorer were better than on Mariner or Serenade and
there was much more assortment on Horizon. The pizza on the ship is not the best but
there was a notable improvement over Mariner. The solarium pizza shop is open until
3AM for snacks but does not have the variety of the Cafe Promenade on the Voyager
ships. Not that the choices in the Cafe Promenade on Explorer and Mariner were all that
good anyway. However, Explorer would have ice tea and lemonade available and Mariner
had water to drink. Serenade had nothing to drink in the Solarium shop that was without
charge. Johnny Rocketís is replaced with the Seaview Cafe which I really liked and it is
open until 1 - 1:30 Am with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and very good food.

ENTERTAINMENT
The production shows were much better then Marinerís. The RCI singers and dancers
could actually sing and dance. Serenade must have some great electronics in her Theatre
as the sound quality is excellent and there is not really a bad seat in the place. Lines of site
are very good. The other entertainment was also very good. The Diamonds were aboard
and sang their 50ís songs and they were very enjoyable. After last year we were almost
going to skip the shows this year but Iím very glad that we didnít. There, of course, are no
ice shows on the Radiance ships. The ship has a variety of venues from quiet places where
you can be almost alone without retreating to your cabin to lively night life. The style of
music is very different in the various lounges. There is something for everyone. My only
negative comment would be that sometimes the music is mixed too loudly which
sometimes makes it hard to have a conversation and on occasion it is uncomfortably loud.
I walked into the disco one night and right back out as it hurt my ears. I am not hearing
impaired and I intend to keep it that way. Activities such as karyoke are typically held in
the Safari Club. So is Quest. This year I decided to check out Quest for the first time after
reading so much about it. All I am going to say about it is.... donít miss it!

PORTS...I will do this quickly...yeah right.

San Juan. Old San Juan is really a very interesting place to walk through. It is very
picturesque and loaded with history. The old Fort El Morro was very impressive and
worth touring.

St. Thomas. This is a pretty island. We were here last year so this year we took the ferry
over to St. John. It is exactly what they say it is a very unspoiled undeveloped island with
beautiful beaches.

St. Croix. We did stop for a few hours to take on fuel. We took a quick walk through
town. There isnít much more to say about the place.

St. Martin. This is a beautiful island. It is very clean and the people very friendly. We
rented a car and drove around the island even though we had done that last year also. It
was a great day. I really like that island . We did go to Maho beach and get sand blasted
by a few planes once again. If you are the type of person that loves riding roller coasters
you will like this place. Some guy was monitoring the tower on a scanner and letting
everyone know what was going to be landing or taking off. I had seen pictures in the past
but you have to see these planes to believe it.

Antigua. This island is beautiful. We hired a taxi that brought us for an island tour to
Nelsonís Dockyard and Shirley Hights to the rainforest. We very much enjoyed our time
here.

Barbados. We went to see Harrisonís Cave which is spectacular. Bridgetown, where the
ship docks, is a very hot busy city that is not worth spending much time in. The cruise ship
piers are actually inside a working container port. Not the prettiest sight.

St. Lucia. Another pretty Island. We went to the volcano and it was very interesting for
me.

DISEMBARKMENT
This went much smoother then it did at Port Canaveral. When we left the ship and entered
the terminal we found our luggage grouped by colored tags in a huge room. We located
out luggage in just a few minutes and were out of there before you knew it. We got a cab
and went into San Juan again for a few hours before leaving for the airport. No stress at
all. Here is a tip. Get a porter to bring your luggage out. They seem to have their own
customs officer and get through real fast with no line.

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS
I think the Radiance class ships do have some minor design flaws that I will point out.
Firstly, there is something wacky about the Centrum elevator bank. They are spaced too
far apart or some such thing. Often, if your elevator comes and you are at the far end of
the bank it will be gone before you can get to it. Sometimes Iíd run to catch it. I donít
know what older people with mobility problems do. Secondly, the adult solarium has a
very tranquil environment but every time the doors open that separate it from the main
pool all the noise from the games and activities comes rushing in. It is a bit annoying. I
donít remember every hearing sound from the mail pool area on the Voyager ships in the
solarium. Thirdly, the main pool on the ship is too small for the number of passengers
aboard. And fourthly, the area with the shops can become very congested with people.
Maybe it wouldnít have seemed so bad if I hadnít experienced the Royal Promenade. But
after Explorer and Mariner this area of Serenade seemed a bit lacking. Though the shops
themselves had everything that you would find on the larger ships.

This cruise seemed to be more relaxing than our previous cruises even though it was very
port intensive. At first I thought it was possibly the difference between a Radiance and
Voyager ship. But in fact I think it at least in part stems from the fact that we didnít eat in
the dining room so we were not so tied to the clock and could do things aboard ship more
at our leisure.

IN SUMMARY
Serenade is a great ship. My family and I had an incredible week on her though Explorer
is still the love in my life. I was concerned about booking this ship after the Voyager girls
but I truly have no regrets about it. In fact we were in St. Lucia with Adventure and I
never once had the feeling that I wish I had booked her instead of Serenade. I did miss the
Royal Promenade a bit as I knew I would but Serenade has so many other qualities that
make up for it. I canít say that Serenade has made me a convert and that I wonít go back
to a Voyager class ship. But what I can say is that I would have no problem with booking
a Radiance class ship again and in no way was I disappointed to be on Serenade instead of
one of her bigger cousins. Adding up all the plusses and minuses Iíd say that the Voyager
class, and Explorer in particular, is still my favorite but the Radiance class is a very close
second. At the end of the cruise when I was filling out my comment card for the first time
I really could not come up with any constructive criticism to offer so I mostly listed the
names of staff members who really stood out to me. I think that statement says loads
about my level of satisfaction with Serenade.

Finally, I have come to realize something about myself. I am a cruise ship snob. When we
pull into a port of call I need to be on the best ship in the port. Yes, I am a cruise ship
snob. I donít apologize for it and I have no intentions of trying to mend my ways. And I
have never been disappointed riding into port on an RCI ship. And Serenade is no
exception.

Iíd be glad to hear otherís views of what I had to say and be glad to answer questions. I
hope what Iíve had to say is helpful and you were not too bored reading this.. For those of
you who are about to go aboard Serenade...you are about to have an experience of a
lifetime.

Ocean Boy
Reply With Quote