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bobmacliberty

Serenade - Living the Suite Life and Big vs. Small

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We recently returned from a 5 day cruise on the Serenade of the Seas. This cruise was a first for us in a couple of ways. This was the first cruise where we sailed in a full suite (GS 1534). We typically sail in a balcony but loved our JS on Freedom last fall, and decided to give a GS a shot. This was also our first cruise on a ship smaller than Voyager class. I’ll try to focus this trip report on these 2 aspects of the cruise…what did we think of the suite experience and was it worth it, and how did we like the “smaller” ship compared to the bigger ships?

 

This was mostly a mid-winter get away cruise to warm weather. We had 2 stops…Costa Maya and Cozumel. I took a few pictures (OK…a lot of pictures) and will share them as well. We also did the All Access Tour which I’ll review in detail. I have a few pictures of the ship as well, but won't post a lot of ship pictures as many others have already done so.

 

Quick background. DW and I are 50 somethings. This was our 7th cruise with Royal and 8th cruise overall. We are Platinum and therefore don’t have access to Diamond and up benefits, which will come into play when I discuss the suite experience. Our first 6 cruises included our 2 daughters, who are now both away at College. Our last 2 cruises have been just us, so we’ve reinvested some of the savings of 2 vs. 4 people into better cabins for us. :D

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Pre-Cruise

The ship sailed from Port Everglades on Feb 16. We spent the pre-cruise night in the Embassy Suites on 17th. I chose this hotel because we had stayed there before, it’s a good location, we generally like the Embassy Suites amenities, and I used Hilton points. The hotel seems to have gone downhill a bit since we last stayed there in 2011. It’s still a perfectly OK place, but check in was a mess, even though I had checked in online ahead of time. The room was also showing signs of wear. The free cooked to order breakfast was good but like many Embassy Suites, it was more crowded than the Windjammer.

 

We chose to skip the Manager’s cocktail reception and instead Uber to the beach area for drinks/dinner (about $8 each way). We really liked the beach feel there, with lots of people and lots of open air restaurants/bars on the street. We may choose to stay in that area the next time we cruise out of Port Everglades, although I do remember the hotels there being quite a bit more expensive.

 

We had the Uber driver drop us in front of the Boccaccino Café and Pizzeria, where we had chosen to eat. It was still a little bit early, so we walked north on S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd and took in the sights. We stopped at a place called Spazio and sat at an outdoor table for a drink and an appetizer (excellent Ceviche). I was impressed by the quality of sand volleyball happening across the street. Oh, to be young again. We also watched Independence of the Seas sail away.

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Indy headed out to sea

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We checked out a few stores and eventually worked our way back to Boccaccino where we again sat outside. DW and I shared excellent crab cakes and a pizza.

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We made it back to the Embassy Suites with about 5 minutes left in the cocktail reception. It looked like a bomb had exploded with empty glasses, plates, and napkins as far as the eye could see. We got one more drink, choosing between a couple of cheap wines for DW, and either Bud or Bud Light for me. Bud Light it is. The bartender was well trained as she gave us each 2 glasses without asking.

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The Suite Life - Boarding

 

As I said previously, this was our first experience in a full suite. I wanted to take advantage of as many suite amenities as we could, starting with the boarding experience. I wanted to get to the ship a little before11:00. Why not sit in the suite waiting area rather than in the hotel? We checked out around 10:15 and again grabbed an Uber. Side note…Uber worked great while in Fort Lauderdale. There always seemed to be several cars within less than a mile of wherever we were, and it never took more than a couple of minutes to be picked up.

 

We arrived at Terminal 18 around 10:30. There was a big sign above one set of doors announcing the Suites entrance, but it wasn’t open yet. Oh well, we can wait in the short security line with the commoners. Once through security, we walked straight to the Suites check-in area. Everyone else also walked straight to a check-in counter since it was not crowded that early. As we wrapped up our check-in, boarding had started (about 10:45). By the time we made it upstairs, we were walking straight onto the ship. I glanced at the very nice looking suite waiting area as we walked by. Too early to use the Suite entrance through security, and too late to use the Suite waiting area. Yes…I realize that I’m complaining about going from the street to the ship in about 15 minutes.

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The Suite Life - Boarding

 

 

 

As I said previously, this was our first experience in a full suite. I wanted to take advantage of as many suite amenities as we could, starting with the boarding experience. I wanted to get to the ship a little before11:00. Why not sit in the suite waiting area rather than in the hotel? We checked out around 10:15 and again grabbed an Uber. Side note…Uber worked great while in Fort Lauderdale. There always seemed to be several cars within less than a mile of wherever we were, and it never took more than a couple of minutes to be picked up.

 

 

 

We arrived at Terminal 18 around 10:30. There was a big sign above one set of doors announcing the Suites entrance, but it wasn’t open yet. Oh well, we can wait in the short security line with the commoners. Once through security, we walked straight to the Suites check-in area. Everyone else also walked straight to a check-in counter since it was not crowded that early. As we wrapped up our check-in, boarding had started (about 10:45). By the time we made it upstairs, we were walking straight onto the ship. I glanced at the very nice looking suite waiting area as we walked by. Too early to use the Suite entrance through security, and too late to use the Suite waiting area. Yes…I realize that I’m complaining about going from the street to the ship in about 15 minutes.

 

 

 

I’m looking forward to reading about the ship and going from large to smaller. Last spring we went from Royal Princess to Coral Princess and loved it. Our last two RCI cruises have been on Oasis, so this will also be a size adjustment.

 

 

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The Suite Life - The Cabin

 

We sailed in a Junior Suite during our last cruise and really liked the added space, closet, bathroom, etc. We were looking forward to experiencing a Grand Suite. At 1:00, the cabins were open and we made our way to Suite 1534 on deck 10. The first impression of our cabin was indeed impressive. It was very large, with more storage space than we could possibly have used...even on a much longer cruise. The bathroom has 2 sinks and a large counter top area for misc. bathroom items. Lots of closet space and drawer space. A comfortable seating area and a large balcony. The bed was comfortable. If you can’t enjoy this room, you shouldn’t be cruising on Royal. Before our luggage arrived and our belongings exploded around the room, I took a video of the room:

 

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I do have a couple of minor nit-picks about the room. It was a fairly large step up to get into the tub (shower is in the tub, not separate). Not a problem for me but DW, who is shorter, had to be very careful...especially when things were wet. This could be a problem for people who are less mobile/agile. I also didn't like the very large overhang above the balcony. It extended out more than twice the width of the balcony itself and completely blocked any sun from hitting the balcony (see the last few seconds in the video above). That could be an advantage for some, but we hoped to be able to enjoy the balcony in the sun more. Finally, we did hear noises from the Solarium one deck above as chairs and tables were moved. Not enough to be bothersome, but occasionally noticeable.

 

Overall though, the pluses FAR outweighed the few minuses. As I said, if you can't enjoy this cabin...

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I’m looking forward to reading about the ship and going from large to smaller. Last spring we went from Royal Princess to Coral Princess and loved it. Our last two RCI cruises have been on Oasis, so this will also be a size adjustment.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

I hope to be as unbiased as possible in talking about ship size. I'll get to that after discussing the suite experience. Spoiler alert...the Allure is still our favorite ship so far.

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The Suite Life - The Concierge Lounge

 

One of the top 2 things that we enjoyed about being in a suite, other than the cabin itself, was the Concierge Club/Lounge. The CL was very nice with a decent sized area for seating indoors and a few tables outdoors. There was a food area for breakfast items and happy hour hors d'ouevres (mix of hot, cold, and sweets) plus a nice coffee machine for espressos, cappuccinos, etc, There is also a bar area with about 10 bar stools and a few cocktail tables. I've heard people talk about how much they like the lounge (other than the crowds) but I never quite understood why (other than the free drinks). We used the lounge for coffee during the day and for happy hour each evening. On this cruise, happy hour was from 4:30-8:00. The Concierge on the cruise was Willie, and he was always friendly and helpful. The bartenders were Kenton and Anebel, and they were both great. They both quickly learned what we liked to drink, kept our glasses full, and were great to talk to.

 

On the first night in the lounge we met several couples and really enjoyed talking to them each night (even though one of them was a Michigan fan ;p). We met more people every night, all with interesting stories to tell. Everyone that we talked to was friendly...even the Pinnacles. :D We got there a little late one evening and one of the couples had saved seats for us. DW and I are still relatively new to cruising, and still get off the ship in every port. The people that we talked to had all been to every Caribbean port so many times, that they rarely get off the ship anymore. They just sit by the pool or find a quiet place to read. That concept is still a little foreign to me but maybe when I've cruised as much as they have, I'll think the same way. One couple currently has 20 cruises booked...also a concept that is foreign to me.

 

I think that everyone we met was either D+ or Pinnacle, who have access to both the CL and the Diamond Lounge. I don't think we actually met other people staying in a suite. When I asked why they used the CL rather than the DL, they said that they preferred the CL to the DL on the Serenade. I could not access the DL with my gold card (I tried), so I can't compare the two. From the outside, the DL still looks a little like a temporary structure with the wall that they built to separate part of the original Viking Crown lounge area into the DL. I'd guess that the bar inside the DL was therefore not as nice as the bar that was designed into the CL from day one. Maybe others who have access to both can chime in with their preferences on Serenade and why.

 

We enjoyed wine, beer, bottled water, and simple mixed drinks during the week. We were able to take drinks with us when we left for dinner or for a show. I did watch Kenton and Anebel make more complicated Long Island Iced Teas and martinis (lots of Chocolate Martinis), but no blended drinks. The CL was relatively quiet on this cruise. There were almost always seats available. Maybe if it were more crowded they wouldn't be willing to spend more time on more complicated drinks??

 

Kenton did tell us that there were fewer than normal D+/Pinnacles on this particular cruise. This was originally a 10 day cruise, as the Serenade usually alternates between 11 day and 10 day cruises. The originally 10 day cruise was cancelled and became the 5 day cruise that we were on, with a 5 day charter cruise right after us. We were told that many experienced cruisers do B2Bs (or B2B2Bs) on the Serenade with the 11 and 10 nighters, so switching to a shorter 5 day cruise may have caused many of them to reschedule.

 

Kenton did tell us that we had 3 drinks loaded onto our seapass cards to use at any bar, including the MDR but not room service, during happy hour. I think he may have assumed that we were Diamond or higher. We tried getting one of those drinks during dinner in the MDR but were told that benefit does not apply to suite guests. Diamonds and up get that benefit, but suite guests only get free drinks in the CL.

 

The Concierge Lounge was definitely an enjoyable suite benefit.

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The Solarium

 

I've used a lot of words with not too many pictures in my last few posts...boring. I'll take a break from talking about the Suite Life and post some pictures of the Solarium. On boarding day, we hung out there after eating lunch and while waiting for our cabin to be available. With time on my hands and a camera over my shoulder, I took a bunch of Solarium pictures.

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I have mixed feelings on the Solarium. I like the way it looks, and I like the option to open/close the roof. It’s great having the Park Café right there and we enjoyed lunch in the Park Café a couple of times. Overall though, there was not nearly enough lounge chair seating. That's often the case in a Solarium but where lounge chairs could have been, there were round tables and chairs instead. The bar was small and often had a long line with one bartender working. I’m also not a fan of salt water pools. My biggest issue however is that it was beastly hot. Several passengers asked to open the roof one afternoon but we were told that we were getting ready to get underway in a couple of hours and the roof couldn’t be opened. I guess the name Solarium has a more literal meaning on Serenade.

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Concierge lounge sounds like the one on brilliance which we really liked, I prefer suite perks on some of the larger ships with reserved pool seating , did you do suite breakfast in specialty ?

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Benefits I really enjoy are the Suites/Pinacles get together with the ships Officers, usually held on the first sea day and private breakfasts in a specialty restaurant.

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Didnt realize that D+ still have access to the CL on Serenade. Good for us as we will be on her in June.

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Didnt realize that D+ still have access to the CL on Serenade. Good for us as we will be on her in June.

 

 

Hi, Yes, we were on Radiance and had access to the CL, although we spent more time in the DL with our Diamond friends, as far as I know, it's only the ships with a suite lounge that D+ are not allowed in unless they are travelling in a suite.

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We were on the Serenade last May for B2B for Norwegian Fjords and Baltic cruises (shameless plug for my trip report here). We stayed in steerage class (low deck insides) and I couldn't recommend it (particularly for the 2nd cruise, cabin 3639).

 

Needless to say, the Solarium roof stayed closed for good reason on those cruises (highs in the 50's on most days).

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The Suite Life - Specialty Breakfast

 

Some of you mentioned special breakfasts for suites. This was our other most favorite perk, along with the CL. Chops was open for breakfast at 7:30 on port days and 8:00 on sea days. Breakfast was excellent. Although the menu was the same each day, there was enough variety and everything was cooked to order (using real eggs!). I had a ham/mushroom/cheese omelet with bacon, sausage, and hash browns most mornings but also enjoyed Eggs Benedict the morning of departure day. They have coffee/espresso, a selection of fresh pastries, toast, and fresh squeezed orange juice. All in the very nice Chops setting with table clothes and excellent service. My only complaint would be that the hash browns seemed like frozen patty squares.

 

Chops was never crowded when we had breakfast. All but one morning, we sat next to the window with a nice view. Within a day or 2, the servers knew us and what we liked. It's definitely a pampered feeling.

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Hi, Yes, we were on Radiance and had access to the CL, although we spent more time in the DL with our Diamond friends, as far as I know, it's only the ships with a suite lounge that D+ are not allowed in unless they are travelling in a suite.

 

I think this is correct. There was talk during happy hour about how D+ may no longer be allowed in CLs either at some point, as the CLs get very crowded.

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The Suite Life - Other Benefits

 

We took advantage of reserved theater seats most evenings. The first 2 rows of the balcony are reserved for suites. The 3rd row of the balcony is reserved for Pinnacles. There was typically someone standing near the seats checking that you indeed had a gold card. The reserved balcony seats were a double benefit for us as we left a couple of shows early (I'll discuss more later) and we could sneak out without being seen or bothering anyone.

 

We used the suite reserved lounge chairs once. They're in an awkward location. You go all the way forward on deck 12 and then down some stairs to a small area in the front of the ship on deck 11. We got to the pool a little late on the first sea day and couldn't find a chair anywhere (literally). We went down to the suite deck and there was almost no one there. There was a little breeze and we could move between sun and shade as needed. If you like peace and quiet, it's great. If you like access to a pool, a bar, and a bathroom...not so much. We tried again on our second sea day but it was way too windy at the front of the ship.

 

We didn't need to ask Willie the Concierge for much, so I can't comment on how well that works. We had My Time Dining with 7:15 reservations. We typically like to eat earlier than that and I thought about asking Willie to move our reservation time up, but we never had a problem being seated for dinner whenever we showed up. We did ask Willie about getting a Bridge tour. I don't know if this is typically a suite benefit or reserved for D+/P, but figured it didn't hurt to ask. Willie smoothly found a solution by talking us into taking the All Access Tour (for a fee). He did need to pull some strings to get us added to the tour as it was already booked.

 

Debarkation as very easy. We received the "VIP" red tags for our luggage, and our bags were waiting for us in a separate section in the terminal. Very easy. Unfortunately, we were not able to take advantage of the luggage valet option as we were told this is only available on cruises that are 7 days or longer.

 

We had 2 robes hanging in the closet. We wore them all over the ship (kidding :p). I never took mine off the hanger. DW did wear hers in the cabin while doing her hair and make-up after showering and before dressing.

I don't know if this is a suite benefit, but we were treated very well in the MDR. As I said earlier, we arrived anytime between 6:45 and 7:15 and were always seated immediately. Others groups with and without reservations sometimes had to wait to be seated. It may just have been that we were the only people assigned to our 2 top and it was always available, but it felt like we had slipped a subtle tip to the Maitre D' and were given special treatment.

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The Suite Life - Summary

 

How can you not enjoy staying in a suite? The real question is whether it's worth the extra cost. Obviously, that's a highly subjective question based on many personal considerations. For us, we may not get a GS again (see below for Oasis class) and will "settle" for a JS. We really don't need the GS space but it would be hard to go back to a balcony. The JS seems like a good compromise...assuming that prices are not exorbitant. We would miss the CL and breakfast, but we typically buy the drink package so the free drinks during happy hour don't add much. It's the social aspects of the CL that we would miss. We have one cruise left though before we will become Diamond, and we will be able to take advantage of the DL at that point.

 

However, we're excited to try Harmony next. Even the smaller ship enthusiasts in the CL were impressed by Harmony. We may try a Harmony GS to take advantage of Coastal Kitchen all day and the better suite amenities on Oasis Class.

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Really enjoying reading your very nice review! Those grand suites certainly will spoil you!

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Do they still leave little treats every afternoon in the suites? I seem to remember getting chocolate covered strawberries and specialty cookies!

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The Suite Life - Summary

 

How can you not enjoy staying in a suite? The real question is whether it's worth the extra cost. Obviously, that's a highly subjective question based on many personal considerations. For us, we may not get a GS again (see below for Oasis class) and will "settle" for a JS. We really don't need the GS space but it would be hard to go back to a balcony. The JS seems like a good compromise...assuming that prices are not exorbitant. We would miss the CL and breakfast, but we typically buy the drink package so the free drinks during happy hour don't add much. It's the social aspects of the CL that we would miss. We have one cruise left though before we will become Diamond, and we will be able to take advantage of the DL at that point.

 

However, we're excited to try Harmony next. Even the smaller ship enthusiasts in the CL were impressed by Harmony. We may try a Harmony GS to take advantage of Coastal Kitchen all day and the better suite amenities on Oasis Class.

CK breakfast and lunch are often better than the dinners. Free internet is nice as well

 

Sent from my HTC One_M8 using Forums mobile app

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Unfortunately, free internet is only available on Oasis (and probably Oasis class ships).

Thought it was good on Quantum ships as well.

 

Free for PC on every ship. 😁

 

Sent from my HTC One_M8 using Forums mobile app

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