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bobmacliberty

Serenade - Living the Suite Life and Big vs. Small

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I think all ships should have coastal kitchen, I believe all celebrity ships have suite restaurants. Voyager and Freedom needs them

We will have to start adding that suggestion to our post cruise survey comments

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Big Ship vs. Small Ship

 

The disclaimers...First, I wouldn't exactly call Serenade small, but it's the smallest Royal ship we've been on. We've only cruised Oasis Class once (Allure her inaugural season). All other cruises have been Freedom and Voyager class. Allure has been our favorite cruise so far. Our kids were 16 and 13 at the time and there was so much for everyone to do (even without water slides). We were without kids this cruise but I was still worried that Serenade wouldn't have enough to do. Spoiler Alert...we still prefer the bigger ships.

 

For Serenade, the ship itself was fine and had a few things that we preferred over other classes. We liked the Windjammer layout and especially the outdoor seating. Schooner Bar is large compared to other ships we've been on, although much less used. There never seemed to be a large crowd when we walked through, and we only stopped there once for a drink. The piano player didn't impress and we moved on. The entry way to the Schooner Bar (and Chops, Giovanni's, Star Lounge, etc.) seemed like a big waste of space. I'm surprised they haven't squeezed in an extra couple of staterooms or a specialty restaurant in that space.

 

We participated in a couple of events in the Star Lounge. It seemed about the same as the Star Lounge/Imperial Lounge/etc. on other ships, but seemed to be used more. I think that's because there are more venues in the larger ships to spread out. We didn't stay up for Quest this time so I can't compare Quest in the Star Lounge vs. Quest in Studio B. I think I'd prefer Studio B, but I've heard others say that Quest in the Star Lounge is a more intimate experience.

 

I liked the way the Centrum looks, and it's kind of interesting to watch the happenings below from one of the upper balconies. Minor point, but I like the theater seats that are permanently in the "down" position rather than the ones where you flip down the seat. I think that gave more legroom.

 

Service in the MDR was outstanding. Our waiter, Robert, was highly efficient. He made an attempt at some small talk and was pleasant enough, but his real strength was in remembering everything we liked/wanted, bringing out the food at just the right time, and always seeming to be available if we needed him for something. Our assistant waiter, Karina, was very personable. She was great to talk to. She did her job very well also, but her strength was interacting with the guests. They made a perfect combination. The first night, we asked if savory bites were available, as there were none in the bread basket on the table. They immediately brought out a plateful, and had a plate waiting for us each night. Special service because we had gold cards, or just good Serenade service?

 

We didn't eat in any specialty restaurants but the MDR was fine. DW's meal was lukewarm one evening but otherwise the food was good enough. I don't know if food quality is a big vs. small ship thing, but I would think it is easier to cook for fewer people.

 

No lines to speak of, other than a few nights in MTD. As I noted previously, we never needed to wait for a table. Lounge chairs on sea days were impossible to find mid-morning, as seems to be true on any ship. Serenade had more than her share of chair hogs and no one was enforcing the 30 minute rule. That also seems to be true on most ships.

 

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Big Ship vs. Small Ship - Continued

 

Now for the negatives. We boarded deck 5 port side in the forward elevator lobby. Zero Wow factor. In fact, we initially couldn't figure out where to go. Hallway doors were closed. We walked past the elevators and started wandering through the art gallery and the centrum shops with everything closed. We eventually emerged in the Centrum. That great feeling that you get when you fist see the Royal Promenade?...zip, nothing, nada.

 

We also never quite got used to the layout of the Serenade. The other ships seem to be more symmetrical around the center of the ship. Elevators, bathrooms, walkways, are all spaced around the centerline. On Serenade, the Centrum elevators and the deck 4 MDR entrance are only on the port side. The "entrance" to all of the deck 6 aft areas (Schooner Bar, Chops, Giovanni's, Star Lounge) is on the starboard side. That's not really a negative...more just a difference that gave Serenade less of a familiar feel to us. I did like the fact that the Centrum elevators looked out at the water.

 

Our biggest complaint was the entertainment. The production shows seemed to be lacking. While some people are foodies, we're "dancies". Our daughter did competitive dance for many years and still dances on the UK dance team. I'd say that I know more about arabesques, kip-ups, aerials, and turns in second than any other dad, but that would be unfair to all of the other dance dads that sat through competitions with me. Any other dance dads know what I'm talking about? I learned over the many (many) years of watching competitions what's good and what's not good. The Serenade productions shows were not good. The dancers just could not seem to get in sync and even seemed to miss moves in the choreography at times. Two of the singers also seemed to struggle. We ended up walking out of one of the shows to find something else to do. Maybe we're expecting too much.

 

We enjoyed the comedian in the welcome show, but the impressionist singer headliner was not good either. He was too Vegasy for us and other than his Johnny Cash songs, didn't really sound like the original artist. We've seen Scott Record, another impressionist singer, on 2 other cruises and he was significantly better. Between the Serenade singers/dancers and the guest performers, we were left with the belief that Serenade (and all smaller ships??) get the leftover picks when it comes to entertainment talent. Makes sense to me that they would put their best talent on their newest ships. We struggled to find too many other things to do at night. There just didn't seem to be as much happening. Most nights, we headed back to our stateroom by 9:30 or 10:00 at the latest.

 

I've been told that service is better on the smaller ships. We did have great service in the CL and the MDR, but I don't know how much that was the smaller ship vs. the gold card. I'm sure it helped that the CL was not crowded. Bar service was pretty slow overall but again, that seems to be common now across all ships.

 

One of the bigger selling points of the smaller ships is the connection to the water...more outward focused than inward focused. I can see this with the glass by the Centrum elevators and in other parts of the ship, but it wasn't something that we really noticed. We missed the Royal Promenade, especially at night.

 

Serenade was far from a bad experience. We really enjoyed our cruise and it was a nice winter get away. All other things being equal, we'll choose the larger ships over the smaller ships in the future. I'd have no problem though sailing on a smaller ship again with interesting itineraries/ports that the large ships can't handle.

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Thank you for your review! Timely for us as we have just sailed on Oasis in a GS and will be in a GS on Brilliance in September for 16 nights. Our first two GS experiences. Good to see a savory bite again !

 

 

mac_tlc

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Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I will be in a GS in May on Radiance so it is nice to see what kind of experience you had on her sister ship.

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I’ve been cruising in Grand Suites for the past couple of years (10 cruises) and have never been invited to a free lunch in Chops. What am I missing?

 

These lunch’s were on liberty and navigator , brilliance did not have them, on know they started in 2015 concierge told us this was the first voyage that had it , but it was not that special, our cruise on navigator right after thanksgiving went upscale, I think this had something to do with chops lunch which I think is new.

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Busy bars

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Dancers getting the crowd pumped up

 

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Allison, the Activities Director. She did great. Much more visible than the CD Carly B

 

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Caribbean Princess still cruising with us the first night?? Hard to tell

 

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First sea day with Allure and Norwegian Getaway heading back to Florida

 

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Costa Maya with a Native Choice excursion to Chocchhoben ruins. Very overcast when we arrived, but cleared up later in the day.

 

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Native Choice meeting location, about a 15 minute walk from the ship.

 

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Nice sized vans/mini-buses. Ours held 17 people

 

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Each van has a driver and a guide. The 50 minute drive there went quickly as our guide Hugo provided a lot of background info while we traveled. Our driver Edgar was extra cautious. Don't know if that's typical for Native Choice or a change after the recent tragedy with a different company.

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Hugo providing more info at the site

 

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We were surprised by the amount of info on local floral and fauna that Hugo shared.

 

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First temple at the site. Mayans did not build temples as burial sites. They built them to connect the earth (evil) with the sky (good). Most current day religions separate good from evil (e.g. heaven and hell). Mayans believed in many gods, and thought that their gods had a mix of both good and evil. The rain god for example would be good when he provide rain for crops to grow. He'd be evil when he caused floods. They didn't try to separate good from evil but rather connect them.

 

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Walking to the back side of the first temple

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Back side of the first temple

 

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One of the ceremonial areas in the temple. Most ceremonies were at the top of the temple

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Mayans were one of the initial civilizations that invented chewing gum. They used chicle, a natural gum from trees. You can squeeze these little balls to extract the chicle. It's the white stuff coming out.

 

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We next walked through a living area with foundations of what were houses. It's easy to see how dense the jungle is in this area, and how these ruins could have been lost for many years.

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More flora

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A killer tree (don't recall the real name). If you look closely, you'll see that a tree started growing on another tree and eventually surrounded it. Ultimately, the host tree on the inside will die.

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There is a small snack shop, bathrooms, and a gift shop area at the entrance to the ruins. We didn't spend much time there, maybe 10-15 minutes, before getting back in the van.

 

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We also stopped at a nearby town on the way back to buy some fresh pineapple. Tasty. We left the port at 9:00, had a little more than 2 hours at the ruins, and were back to the port a little after 1:00. We had the option of being dropped at the port (which turned out to be closer to the Native Choice building than the port entrance) or the beach area. No one chose the beach option.

 

The port area is quite large with a lot of shops, restaurants, bars, as well as a pool, small beach area, and dolphin attraction.

 

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For Cozumel, we went to Nachi Cocom. We get there right after it opened at 9:00 and had our choice of locations. Pics of the beach before the crowds got there.

 

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We'll definitely go to Nachi Cocom again. It wasn't quite as relaxing as we had hoped as there was a group of families with teenagers (about 50 people total) that sat right next to us. They weren't as much of a disruption as I feared, but they were noticeable. Luck of the draw I guess. They paid just like we did.

 

Docked next to the Riviera in Conzumel.

 

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Edited by bobmacliberty

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Finally, the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer (5 day charter) was right after our cruise. We didn't know this was happening or we may have done a B2B (although I think the cruise sells out well in advance). The had already started decorating the ship as we were disembarking.

 

A different look at the day of the week sign in the elevators

 

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Final thoughts...

 

We ran into a couple of things that were a little annoying because this was a 5 day cruise. No lobster on formal night, and no luggage valet service available. Both were blamed on a "less than full week" cruise. I don't know why being 5 days rather than 7 days would affect either, but that was the case.

 

Overall though, we had a great cruise. Loved our suite experience, especially the CL and Chops for breakfast. Enjoyed our Mayan ruins tour in Costa Maya and Nachi Cocom in Cozumel. Enjoyed relaxing and reading during sea days. We didn't find as many evening options as we would have liked, but that probably saved us from drinking more than we should have and allowed us to get more sleep. As noted previously, all things being equal, we'll sail on larger ships in the future. Smaller ships are still on our radar for the right itinerary. I'm off to look for a Harmony cruise. :D:cool:

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Thanks so much for your report! We have this exact room booked on 3/19.....looking forward to Chops breakfast and CL, although there will be a lot more people sharing the space!

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So where is the CL located? I dont see it on the deck plans.

Thanks.

 

quote=bobmacliberty;55385926]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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