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Cruise Ratings
Sail Date: May 2011
Over all, Horrible crew, Very poor service, at times confrontational. Smell of sewage overwhelming in both of the rooms we booked. Ship in poor condition overall. RC should have never let passengers on board. Expect a 2 star experience at ... Read More
Over all, Horrible crew, Very poor service, at times confrontational. Smell of sewage overwhelming in both of the rooms we booked. Ship in poor condition overall. RC should have never let passengers on board. Expect a 2 star experience at best. Will never sail with RC again! Read on for the details. This was a repositioning trip where the ship went to dry dock for refurbishing. embarkation process was fine. The first negative experience was when we got to our rooms. The smell of raw sewage from the bathroom was overwhelming. and there was some damage to the decor. Good sized room though. Our next bad experience was our first night for the early seating dinner. We booked our cruise on-line and requested a private table for our family of five which included two small children. We were seated at a large table with two other couples. I asked for the table we reserved, but was harshly told this is all they had and to check back the next day to make arrangements. Went back the next day and spoke with the daytime attendee at host stand to get the table we pre-reserved for our family. He rudely told us he could not help us and I must speak with the restaurant manager, but he would be unavailable until dinner service. When we arrived that evening they kept me and my children waiting for several minutes while they walked the dining room asking people to move. I saw how unprofessional it all was and just wanted to eat and get out at that point and asked to be seated at our original table. They insisted on keeping up the ridiculous effort of asking people to move. I had to tell the hosts several times that our original table would be fine just to get some food for our kids. Needless to say we spent the rest of the dinners at a shared table. Never got what we reserved, and no crew member seemed to care at all. The food on board was marginal to say the best. poor quality of the ingredients and poor preparation. I swear one nights soup choice was rotten. Did have a good server assistant, server was ok, Head waiter was horrible, unhelpful and rude. Found myself eating salad and pizza for the majority of the trip, not fantastic, but I knew what I was in for. One of the worst experiences was when I witnessed an older lady (70's) order a mint julip next to me at the Schooner Bar. She told the bartender that her drink was terrible. He began to yell at her and belittle her saying he did not make that drink and she should apologize to him for blaming him for a sub-par drink. The lady was in tears and actually apologized to him. I guess they fixed her drink, she took it and left as did we. UNBELIEVABLE! I wrote to Royal Caribbean to tell of these and other negative experiences we had. I got a pretty insincere sounding apology letter was expecting more of a reaction to how bad our crew was and the poor conditions of the ship. I guess the poor service of Royal Caribbean flows from the top down. Needless to say I will Never sail with RC again. I hope this review makes one think twice about booking with them. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a ... Read More
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a repositioning cruise or just normal operating procedure for RC. Repositioning cruises are the best deal - and if you are budget conscious or just like to get the best deal for your money, this is the way to go!  Serenade of the Seas was a great ship for Alaska - with so many places to sit and watch the scenery without freezing or being outside. Mother nature was the real hero on this cruise - once we departed Seattle, we had sunshine EVERY day - a more beautiful experience could not be had. Even the captain had to comment on the amazing weather.  Overall my husband and I found the food wait service & food quality of both the main dining restaurant, Reflections, and the self-service restaurant, Windjammer, up to our discriminating standards and what we would expect of a decent cruise line.  We were disappointed with the wine selection, however and five days into the cruise, there was yet to be an offering of an identifiable chocolate dessert at dinner!  I made this complaint to our waiter and he personally took it as his mission to bring me a chocolate dessert each evening from that point on  (and from where it came I have no idea - don't ask don't tell) - no matter if I ordered a different selection - my table mates were jealous! We spent the extra $54.00 pp dining charge to experience Portofino's special Wine course dinner as a celebration of experiencing Hubbard glacier that day, and unfortunately, the wine selection from Italy was once again very disappointing, although the special menu, service, food quality & taste was excellent.  Overall cabin service was excellent - the steward met us on the first day and asked us our preferences for delivery of ice to the room, etc. She was very attentive and surprised us on occasion with towel animals on our bed... I gather this is a RC tradition as they offered a class on creating towel animals on one of the sea days.  Three areas I was really disappointed with in comparison to other cruise lines I have used was the entertainment, port talks, and disembarkation procedures.  Given this was a 14 day cruise and a natural paradise, we had a lot of port days, eight in total not counting the disembarkation in Vancouver.    There was a single port and shopping talk for Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan - and it basically amounted to just a sales pitch - make that a sales push - to buy from the stores like Diamond International and others they had listed in the port guide.  Never a mention of the ports - in fact the gentleman leading the talk told us to look up the port info in the books in our cabin (which by the way only had the Caribbean ports listed - not Alaska or Canada). Everyone I spoke to thought this was a waste of time and many walked out of the lecture. RC even had a naturalist on board, and while the lectures were interesting - the facilities in Safari Club were not conducive to accommodating the people interested and seeing the slide presentation.  The lecture on glaciers was in the Tropical theater and was a much better environment to listen and see the slides.  As far as the entertainment goes, overall I could only give it at best a fair rating. There were only 2 production shows for the 14 days, the shows were good but the quality of the singing was just OK.  All the other evenings were solo performers, including Marty Allen - yes - he's still around at 86 years old.  The entertainment for the first 7 days was all solo performers - I guess that was to give a break to the production singers and dancers or they were new and learning the shows ... not sure which.  Also - the shows would sometimes be late - after the second seating at 10:30 pm or before at 7:00 pm  ... not sure why that was the case.  The cruise director was OK - he seemed to get involved in a lot of details and he never introduced his cruise staff onto the stage until the last day of the cruise.  Regarding general disembarkation procedures, they had a lot of trouble with the first tender operations in Hoonah or Icy Straight Point - it was extraordinarily time consuming - but they did seem to get their act together for the second port we tendered to - Sitka.   The final disembarkation was a mess. We had early flights and should have left the ship at 8:05 am - We did not leave until 9:30.  We waited for the PURPLE tagged luggage call, holed up in the Safari Club. The team there did not know what was going on and while there were departure colors called that were due to leave after us, they kept telling us that we could not leave since our luggage would not be in the customs hall... Well, we got so frustrated after waiting so long, that we left anyway - and lo and behold, ALL the PURPLE tagged luggage was there - the lounge people obviously missed the call to send us out.  Luckily we had decided to take a taxi and got to the airport in time for our flight back to the US.   As you can surmise, we prefer to make our own travel arrangements being seasoned travelers.  It saves us a lot of money. For example - the cost of the taxi to Vancouver's airport from the port was $36 CAD.  RC charges $36 per person USD to get to the airport.  We also found it best to set up our own port excursions if you want to save money, with the exception of Icy Straight Point, there were plenty of tour companies available as soon as you arrived at both Alaskan and Canadian ports.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a ... Read More
Since I have never experienced a repositioning cruise before, nor ever cruised with Royal Caribbean, I hope I am not unduly unfair to Royal Caribbean in the following comments, as I am not sure if this is the result of it being a repositioning cruise or just normal operating procedure for RC. Repositioning cruises are the best deal - and if you are budget conscious or just like to get the best deal for your money, this is the way to go!  Serenade of the Seas was a great ship for Alaska - with so many places to sit and watch the scenery without freezing or being outside. Mother nature was the real hero on this cruise - once we departed Seattle, we had sunshine EVERY day - a more beautiful experience could not be had. Even the captain had to comment on the amazing weather.  Overall my husband and I found the food wait service & food quality of both the main dining restaurant, Reflections, and the self-service restaurant, Windjammer, up to our discriminating standards and what we would expect of a decent cruise line.  We were disappointed with the wine selection, however and five days into the cruise, there was yet to be an offering of an identifiable chocolate dessert at dinner!  I made this complaint to our waiter and he personally took it as his mission to bring me a chocolate dessert each evening from that point on  (and from where it came I have no idea - don't ask don't tell) - no matter if I ordered a different selection - my table mates were jealous! We spent the extra $54.00 pp dining charge to experience Portofino's special Wine course dinner as a celebration of experiencing Hubbard glacier that day, and unfortunately, the wine selection from Italy was once again very disappointing, although the special menu, service, food quality & taste was excellent.  Overall cabin service was excellent - the steward met us on the first day and asked us our preferences for delivery of ice to the room, etc. She was very attentive and surprised us on occasion with towel animals on our bed... I gather this is a RC tradition as they offered a class on creating towel animals on one of the sea days.   Three areas I was really disappointed with in comparison to other cruise lines I have used was the entertainment, port talks, and disembarkation procedures.  Given this was a 14 day cruise and a natural paradise, we had a lot of port days, eight in total not counting the disembarkation in Vancouver.    There was a single port and shopping talk for Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan - and it basically amounted to just a sales pitch - make that a sales push - to buy from the stores like Diamond International and others they had listed in the port guide.  Never a mention of the ports - in fact the gentleman leading the talk told us to look up the port info in the books in our cabin (which by the way only had the Caribbean ports listed - not Alaska or Canada). Everyone I spoke to thought this was a waste of time and many walked out of the lecture. RC even had a naturalist on board, and while the lectures were interesting - the facilities in Safari Club were not conducive to accommodating the people interested and seeing the slide presentation.  The lecture on glaciers was in the Tropical theater and was a much better environment to listen and see the slides.  As far as the entertainment goes, overall I could only give it at best a fair rating. There were only 2 production shows for the 14 days, the shows were good but the quality of the singing was just OK.  All the other evenings were solo performers, including Marty Allen - yes - he's still around at 86 years old.  The entertainment for the first 7 days was all solo performers - I guess that was to give a break to the production singers and dancers or they were new and learning the shows ... not sure which.  Also - the shows would sometimes be late - after the second seating at 10:30 pm or before at 7:00 pm  ... not sure why that was the case.  The cruise director was OK - he seemed to get involved in a lot of details and he never introduced his cruise staff onto the stage until the last day of the cruise.  Regarding general disembarkation procedures, they had a lot of trouble with the first tender operations in Hoonah or Icy Straight Point - it was extraordinarily time consuming - but they did seem to get their act together for the second port we tendered to - Sitka.   The final disembarkation was a mess. We had early flights and should have left the ship at 8:05 am - We did not leave until 9:30.  We waited for the PURPLE tagged luggage call, holed up in the Safari Club. The team there did not know what was going on and while there were departure colors called that were due to leave after us, they kept telling us that we could not leave since our luggage would not be in the customs hall... Well, we got so frustrated after waiting so long, that we left anyway - and lo and behold, ALL the PURPLE tagged luggage was there - the lounge people obviously missed the call to send us out.  Luckily we had decided to take a taxi and got to the airport in time for our flight back to the US.   As you can surmise, we prefer to make our own travel arrangements being seasoned travelers.  It saves us a lot of money. For example - the cost of the taxi to Vancouver's airport from the port was $36 CAD.  RC charges $36 per person USD to get to the airport.  We also found it best to set up our own port excursions if you want to save money, with the exception of Icy Straight Point, there were plenty of tour companies available as soon as you arrived at both Alaskan and Canadian ports.   07-May-2009: Ketchikan This was actually the first Alaska port we sailed into on this repositioning cruise. We docked by 7 AM and departed Ketchikan by 3 PM - enough time if you decide on a self-tour option. Waking up to the picturesque town right there in front of us was pretty neat.  The RC staff really pushed buying your excursion before you left the ship, but honestly, the prices were much cheaper by 25 - 50% if you bought your tour off the ship in the visitor's bureau.  As soon as you reached port there were plenty of tour companies right in the bureau, including many options to get to Misty Fjords - the must do tour from the accounts of people we spoke to who paid up to $300 per person fee for the float plane experience.  We chose to be economical on this Alaska trip - so we took advantage of local transport and our own two feet to tour Ketchikan.   Saxman village - the place where all the historical totem's are and which still houses local native artisans that carve totems - is an easy 2.5 mile walk on a paved walking path along the water.  On the way, we discovered a drive-thru espresso convenience store, which was perfect since we were craving a good cup of coffee - we walked up to it and the folks there made a great latte.    When we got to Saxman Village, there was a $3 charge each for access to the grounds, contrary to info we read about in the 2009 Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call book. We went into the gift shop and the gentleman behind the counter was kind enough to lend us a handout about the historical purpose and meaning for each of the totems.  We took the city bus back into town, leaves every 30 minutes- for a nominal charge and then walked around Creek Street and took the Funicular up to the Cape Fox lodge for some beautiful views of the snowy mountains. We then trekked down to the town following some of the paved paths, including the married man's path along the creek.  Since we were there in early May, no salmon were running - but I can imagine how cool it will be in the summer to see the place brimming with the fish.  We sampled some amazing jam in one of the stores - a fruit I never heard of - Salmon Berry - looks like a yellow-orange raspberry.  We bought the jam - and an Ulu knife - best prices for the Ulu knives were found in Ketchikan - with quite a variety of wood handles to choose from.  For the photography enthusiast - the town was a delight to photograph and the walk to Saxman Village also offered some beautiful sites.   08-May-2009: Juneau -  Our key interest in Juneau was to hike the trails near Mendenhall Glacier and catch the sites in that area, and we did!  WOW!  We took advantage again of the local shuttle bus service for $7 per person one way - so it gave us the time to do what we wanted for as long as we wanted.  Where the bus drops you off is a set of trails, a Creek trail and the Moraine Ecology Trail.  We were the only two people to get off the bus and take the trail right there and to our amazing luck, we encountered a young black bear within 40 feet of the trail head!  It was really exciting and we took a ton of pictures until he moseyed away following the creek under the trail ramp. The ecology trail is a very easy hike - but since we were early in the season, there was a lot of snow on parts of the trail, luckily our hiking boots are water proof. The cool part was seeing the animal tracks and skat evidence that was so visible in the snow and sound of silence, that is until we encountered a robin attacking a Bluejay. We came upon the front of glacier from the lakeside then walked the lake bed to the visitor center and the falls, and we also followed a piece of the East Glacier loop that was not closed.  We took advantage of the visitor center to watch the films and exhibits, speak with the rangers, use the restroom facilities, and see a family of mountain goats through their telescopes. There was a charge to the center - $4 per person.  We were going to take the Mt. Robert's tramway to get a better sense of the scenery from the mountaintop - at a cost of $27 each - but decided not to - as it just seemed to be a very high cost.  Instead we went and had a beer at the Red Dog saloon, a well deserved rest for our weary feet from all the hiking and walking in the town that day. 09-May-2009: Skagway -  - This was one of two ports where we selected an excursion in advance through the ship.  Since we like to be active when we vacation, there was a hike that let us experience the White Pass & Yukon Railroad for a 20 minute train ride to the Denver trailhead.  The hike was supposed to be about 3.5 miles round trip, but given it was a tour off the ship, there were persons unable to trek the terrain very swiftly, rated as moderate, since we had to be back at the trailhead within three hours to catch the train back. In fact, two people wore sneakers which were pretty slippery given the terrain and misty conditions.  The trail was interesting and well groomed - the guide knew his flora and fauna and told some fun stories on the way. The trail took us through the temperate rain forest with some old growth forest. We ended up hiking about 2 miles round trip - a little disappointing to my husband and me. The tour operator, Packer Expeditions associated with a retail store in town - The Mountain Shop, was great and split us in two groups after a while so we could move at a faster pace.  Even so, we did not hike as much as we would have liked, since we have to get back down the mountain to meet the train.  I would definitely try this again, perhaps organizing a private hike with others I know that would "keep up". When we returned to Skagway, we learned of some other hikes in town, so we had a quick snack in town and went on the trails that started off second street by the train tracks.  The visitor center in town had trail maps and the staff were very helpful. We ran into a lot of employees from the ship on the lower lake trail. It was a beautiful day, the sun was full out and the long range pictures of the snow-covered mountains were just spectacular.  The lake was crusted over with an ice layer that was melting with the intense sunlight. As the wind blew, and broke up the ice layer, it sounded like glass chimes tinkling in the wind. Very peaceful!  10-May-2009: Icy Straight Point -  The real name of this town is Hoonah - In reality - this is a created "port" for cruise lines to make money by selling  Zip lining tours - while zip lining is fun - on this cruise so early in the season,  they really were not ready for us - the cruise lines overbooked the time slots - the retrieval system for the lines was not operating. People got really annoyed waiting - we did not book this tour but wanted to try it - and we did watch people come down the lines screaming... it was hilarious to watch. Hoonah is a mile, easy walk from the port - not much to the town BUT we encountered bald eagles en mass near the little Lutheran church on the harbor side of the main street. The eagles were feeding and hanging out in the trees - some spectacular photo opportunities.  One of our table mates that evening told us they chartered a float plane ride from one of the few shops in Hoonah that had tours advertised on their storefront window and that it was an incredible experience.  We were jealous!  At this port you must tender in, and again - the excursions are limited, the only tour worth taking is the ZipLine (unless you can make your own arrangements in advance) - the other tours offered at the cruise facility generally got a thumbs down from the people we spoke with that went thru the cruise line.   There are some lovely walks along the nature trails and the beach trail at the facility. All are paved trails except if you go to the rocky beach area with plenty of benches and places to rest or contemplate.  12-May-2009: Sitka  We tendered into Sitka without any particular plans for the day. As we arrived at the pier, another ship, the Carnival Spirit was visible, and many tour operators were meeting passengers as we disembarked the tenders.  Unfortunately, Sitka was a short day - we had to be back at the tenders by 3 PM, so that limited what you could do as far as tours if you scheduled them yourself.   We ended up having quite the full day.  It started when we decided to join a party of 4 to charter our own private whale watch tour. Captain Rich and his dog Eva were great. We were lucky to see gray whales in the waters off Sitka and lots of cormorants, sea lions, sea otters and a small rock outcropping filled with at least 50 Bald eagles nesting... that was incredible.  The captain poked around the waters to get us the best vantage point possible for the wildlife. It was a three hour tour, cost us $120 per person and it was well worth it as there were only 6 of us on the boat.    After returning to the marina, Captain Rich recommended some places to walk to, the fish hatchery, and the Sitka National historic park. This park is the site of a memorial to the Russians who died fighting during the Tlingit-Russian confiict.  The park was filled with birds singing and was really peaceful. The paths were easy to follow and offered many options to enjoy the park.  There was a visitor center there, and we took advantage of the restroom facilities, but did not enter the center.  My only regret is that we did not have more time there, once we got back to the tender port at about 2:30 PM we had to stand and wait in line a long time to leave.  We were finally on the tender at 3PM. . Some people did see sea otters off a drainage ditch on the way to Hoonah (we did not) but we did see plenty of interesting sea birds (apart from the amazing bald eagles) and sea lions in the water.  15-May-2009: Victoria -  - SAVE all your whale watching excursion $$ for Victoria - AMAZING!  There are resident pods of Orca's (Killer Whales) there and plenty of opportunity to take all kinds of excursions. While I made our excursion plans from the ship's excursion desk, in town there were tens of whale watching companies that were much cheaper (plus you can pay in Canadian $$ and get the advantage right now of the positive exchange rate).  Royal Caribbean charged $118 US per person with the Whale Watch operator picking us up in their busses at the pier - but we found plenty of 3 hour tours with the local operators off the main marina & pier in town for $90 Canadian. That was a short 15-20 minute walk from where we were docked.  The operator we used had two naturalists on board, students completing their degrees or recently completed.  They pointed out a lot of the sites, wildlife, etc and were very knowledgeable about Orca's.  We encountered Orca's almost immediately once out in the open water and we actually exhibited some tail slap behavior and some breaching. Unfortunately, we were a bit too far for any interesting photographs, however the captain did well by us by inching closer and anticipating where the whales would go.  The most spectacular moment was when we encountered the clustering of the entire whale pod, about 25 or so whales in the J-pod, as they began entering their resting state. The naturalist told us that Orca's rest about 10% f the time, and cluster together to protect each other. As they are resting they rise above and fall below the surface of the water together. It was amazing to see and it also happened that the captain guessed right on where to move the boat, allowing the whales came within 20 feet of our boat as they passed down the channel in behind us. This action resulted in some great photos of the whales.  Read Less
Sail Date: May 2009
This was a 14 day, 12  port trip from San Francisco up to Hubbard Glacier in Alaska and then ending in Vancouver.  We have been on two Alaska cruises before, each of seven days and one with the additional seven day land tour.  This ... Read More
This was a 14 day, 12  port trip from San Francisco up to Hubbard Glacier in Alaska and then ending in Vancouver.  We have been on two Alaska cruises before, each of seven days and one with the additional seven day land tour.  This Serenade of the Seas cruise brought us to several ports that we had never travelled such as Astoria OR, Sitka, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, and Prince Rupert BC.I cannot say enough about the friendliness and professionalism of the staff members on Serenade of the Seas.  It was evident to us that their training was excellent.  We did not meet any unhappy crew members.  Captain Michael Claveau was also very approachable, friendly, and easy to understand.  The ship was clean and the food was delicious.  We had Corona for our cabin member, Hazel for our waiter, and Andre for assistant waiter.  In addition to keping our cabin clean and orderly, Corona gave us great tips about the ports and reminders to bring a jacket, passport, umbrella, other things that we needed in port.  Our female waiter, Hazel was quite entertaining and animated.  She provided good advice and explanation of the dishes. All staff members we met were EXCELLENT and were truly interested in assisting us to have a great cruise.  Cruise Director Keith Williams went above and beyond as he jumped into the water in Hubbard Glacier for our amuzement.  He seemed to be everywhere interjecting fun and passion into the passengers' cruise experience.  Many kudos and thanks to all the staff.The Seaview Cafe was a little hard to find the first couple of times we visited, although it was a real treat.  The food was good and the staff was terrific.  They really made us feel welcomed, especially AnneMarie.  The Portofino restaurant was a terrific and a truly delicious experience.  It included dishes that we have never tried before.  Had we gone to Portofino our first week, we probably would have gone again the second week -  it was that good.  It was definitely worth the extra $20.  During our first week we went to Chops, which was similar to any upscale steak restaurant such as Ruth Chris's.  We had the filet minon which was delicious and very tender.We don't know how they do it, but there was never any long lines on the ship.  Apparently, RCL has learned how to manage large groups of people.  We tendered at two ports and even that was orderly and quickly handled with RCL engaging adequate tenders to handle the waiting passengers.The week before our cruise, we were genuinely concerned due to the threat of swine flu and that the Serenade of the Seas was visiting three Mexico ports prior to our cruise. I contacted Royal Caribbean by phone about my concerns and to find out what precautions would be taken.  While I was not completely relieved, customer service staff explained what steps were being taken at that time.  I continued to check daily with Royal Carbbean's website and other press to stay updated.  I was happy to hear that the ship was diverted from its third Mexican port before picking us up in San Francisco, although I had hoped that they would cancel all Mexican ports.  Had we known of any illness on the ship before our cruise especially with staff members, we would have cancelled our cruise.  Despite all precautions the cruise line took, it was reported to us that two staff Serenade of the Seas members tested positive for flu symptoms, were isolated and treated with Tamilfu until they were recovered during our cruise.  The fact that they were ill was not revealed to us until May 10, over a week into our cruise, after the staff members were fully recovered. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2009
  This was our first Alaska cruise and after being on the Serenade of the Seas, it will not be our last. We are not sure if the ship is that smooth, or the captain is that good. Probably both. I would think we were in port still and look ... Read More
  This was our first Alaska cruise and after being on the Serenade of the Seas, it will not be our last. We are not sure if the ship is that smooth, or the captain is that good. Probably both. I would think we were in port still and look up to discover we had set sail already. We have been on approx. 18 cruises, by  all different lines and this ship wowed us totally.  Our cabin was the best handicapped room we have had so far. The door opened without any help from anybodyall I had to do was push a button. That made it so easy to be independent on my buggy. The cabin was well appointed and very comfortable. I had room to recharge my moblilty buggy each night in the room. The shower had a seat and was well set up for handicapped use.     I had very little trouble getting anywhere on the Serenade.  Mayber getting out on deck 12 to go to the Seaview for a bite to eat was a little bit of a challenge, but I did it and alone several times.   The staff is Royal as I expect on RCCL. We had a cabin crawl and allowed the use of our cabin as an example of a handicapped room. Our room stewart made a monkey for me at my request and added an elephant for good measure. I felt special and that's one reason I love to cruise. The staff always make you feel so good.   Now for the only slight disappointment of the cruise. The menu was without imagination and became boring. Most items I ordered were prepared and presented in a somewhat lack luster way.  The curry dishes were very tasty but caused discomfort long into the night. I had to stop ordering them.  But the main problem in the food department-BEEFnot of good quality. I feel RCCL could save money by purchasing good beef and cooking it correctly and serving smaller portions. If somebody wants more, they will ask. I saw so much food sent back for various reasons, but mostly it was tough, dry, and tasteless. AND I eat my beef rare so it will not be tough,dry or tasteless. But with the exception of the prime rib-I could not eat the beef dishes. The duck was always great , as was the lobster. The Windjammer buffet was like most buffets with both good and bad selections.  That strawberry soft serve ice cream is a sin! I'll miss it until my December cruise on the Voyager.   The entertainment this trip was lacking but that is just my opinion and most people didn't seem to mind.   Being handicapped kept us from doing some tours that were said to be too hard for us. Whale watching was the only one I wish we had done in Victoria. I heard it was fabulous. Oh well, next time.   To summerize If you haven't been to Alaska but are thinking about it GO. The most beautiful scenary and what a great ship to see it from. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
I. Background Information We're a couple in our 30's and travelled on Serenade of the Seas, 14 - night Alaska cruise in May 2008. This is our 2nd time on Royal Caribbean cruise line, but our 7th cruise overall with other ... Read More
I. Background Information We're a couple in our 30's and travelled on Serenade of the Seas, 14 - night Alaska cruise in May 2008. This is our 2nd time on Royal Caribbean cruise line, but our 7th cruise overall with other cruiselines combined. The cruise ship left from San Francisco & ended in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. II. Hotel Information. We stayed at a small boutique hotel, named the Grant Hotel right on the edge of San Francisco's Chinatown. The cost was very affordable, UNDER $85 per night, & we had a nice, quiet room, as we were one of the first to check in. The hotel even offered FREE use of their 2 Apple computers for FREE internet access, and could even print-out pages too, at a nominal charge. The hotel was also adjacent to the San Francisco Trolley cars. I enjoyed our stay at the Grant Hotel, and would certainly stay there again in the future. III. Ship Information. The Serenade of the Seas is 5 years old when we sailed on it in May 2008. It has a passenger capacity of 2,501 passengers, and has a size of 90,090 gross tonnage -- a large-sized ship. The ship was in very decent condition, even having not been refurbished nor remodeled yet. Most ships get refurbished around 6 years old, after entering service. In my opinion, this ship was among the top 2 prettiest ships I've been on, in my last 7 cruises. The open - air atrium which was multi-tiered by many levels gave nice acoustics when the musicians performed daily at the base of the ship's atrium. As you'll know, there are glass elevators near the ship's centrum for which you can overlook the seas on the outer centrum elevators. This gives a unique experience. Serenade of the Seas is the NEWEST of the Radiance class ships of Royal Caribbean. IV. Stateroom The stateroom we were in, was an interior stateroom cabin. All the furnishings worked without any problems. Good water pressure; toilets always flushed without any problems for the duration of the cruise. (I cannot say that about all my previous cruises!) There was an issue I had about some kind of metal plate BETWEEN our cabin and another cabin. It vibrated when we had rolling seas. There was nothing I, nor any staff member could do to fix this, as it was in the walls, between staterooms. It was thankfully not ringing all the time, but only in the most rolling seas. A word of caution to those who are considering to purchase a SUITE stateroom: I visited a suite stateroom while onboard the ship. If you are TALL, you won't be able to fit yourself in to the shower tub, STANDING UP, as it's designed for short people. You step up into the tub, and you'll have a difficult time fitting in, unless you take a bath, seated in the tub. I just remembered that thought -- so a word of caution to you. V. Dining As long as I stayed in the main, formal dining room, the food was good to great, in relative comparison to some other cruises that I've taken. Now in the Windjammer buffet, the breakfasts in the morning were somewhat disappointing with particular regards to the french toast and waffle pieces. Every morning I checked, they were HARD as ROCKS!! No joke here! The other food items were in okay condition at the Windjammer buffet, but I'm a french toast/waffles kinda guy, and I'm disappointed about the rock-hard quality. See, this is the price a person pays when going up to a buffet. Food items sit around, get hard or get cold, if no one is selecting such items. This is why I stick to the formal, main dining rooms when I can. When I have early morning tour excursions, it forces me upstairs to the Windjammer, as I have to get a quick bite to eat. Otherwise, the food in the main, formal dining rooms was really good to great during the dinner time hours. I mostly went with the chef recommendations selection annotated on the menu, and was NOT disappointed. 2 years ago when I was on the Empress of the Seas, my first Royal Caribbean cruise, the desserts back then were lacking in flavor & selection. Royal Caribbean has now addressed that issue 2 years later, and the desserts have been improved drastically, and am nicely satisfied. Another important side note: I was always happy to make a trip to the Seaview Cafe. Now, this cafe is difficult to find for a newcomer, as it's kind of hidden away on the starboard side. But, I liked going there late at night around 10 pm to Midnight. Service was the best in there, and the food was pretty good too. Then the Solarium had a late night menu as well up to 2 AM. It's so refreshing to know that there's food available late at night, consistently, every night. I can't say that about my last Holland America cruise when everything was shut-down. So between the Solarium late night menu AND the Seaview Cafe, this provided an inviting visit to either one at nighttime. This was a nice highlight of the cruise. VI. Activities. There was the usual bingo & art auctions, as well as some seminars held during the daytime, a couple of which did cost extra money. I attended a FREE seminar in the fitness room that discussed how to increase your metabolism. I found it interesting enough to stay for the entire 45 minutes. I also attended "The Quest", an adult scavenger hunt which became pretty wild, as expected! It was held late at night, for adults only, near the last night of the cruise. There were also trivia games that were held daily. Otherwise, in other areas during the day, the daytime activities came up a bit short, if you did not care for the aforementioned activities listed above. This is due to the fact that this was a cold-climate cruise going to Alaska, so not any pool activities could be offered outside, and few outdoor activities could be held on deck as the temperatures were in the 40's. A nice touch, though, was that this particular ship DID HAVE a movie theatre onboard, with stadium style seating. So this addressed a few of the daytime activities to keep some occupied while at sea. Again, because this was a cold climate cruise to Alaska, this meant there was only one pool & one hot tub that were in a climate-controlled area called the Solarium, which has a covered top and insulated indoor pool. I did brave the elements and went to the 2 outside hot tubs as the one and only inside hot tub was swarmed with guests. The evening shows were pretty good, though. There was a heavy emphasis on singing entertainment. I would have enjoyed it better, if they would put a few more comedians out there on stage and a little less singing. However, the juggling show & one of the elder lady singer's incorporated some comedy in to their routines, so overall the evening shows were satisfactory to my liking. There were only 2 production shows throughout the entire 14 - night cruise. VII. Service. Service was pretty good the entire cruise, and I have no complaints really at all that I can recall. In my past previous cruises I've not been able to say that! Now, that's saying something for a 14 - night cruise! The purser's desk / guest services / answered my questions, accurately, the dining room wait staff was excellent, I thought, and so too was the stateroom steward, too. Our head waiter gave nightly briefings to us at the end of each dinner seating, telling us the following day's dining room hours and the time we'd be at port for the next day, so it was nice to be briefed at the end of each dinner. VIII. Tour Excursions. There was a bump in the road with 1 of my tour excursions which was ship-sponsored. It was at Icy Strait Point, (Hoonah, Alaska). It was the Spasski River Valley Wildlife & Bear Search. This particular tour excursion I do NOT recommend. In fact, I pushed hard to get my money back. The tour operator even admitted to us that they do NOT see any bears where they took us to, in the month of May. I do not know about the other months, but May they don't see any. (Then don't offer that tour in May, is my take on that.) The wildlife was very few and far between, with a few deer here and there, & only one of them seen up close. This tour was a major disappointment. As for the other tours throughout this 14 - night cruise, I must say overall, these tours are the most expensive tours (that are ship-sponsored) I've seen in my 7 cruises that I've done. I understand from others that the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Watch was successful in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, but the cost of $199 just to see bears??? That to me is outrageously overpriced. The guests must be paying for liability insurance that the tour operator passes down to its guests. Well let me get in to the other tours for Alaska. -- Juneau, Alaska -- In Juneau, we did 2 ship-sponsored tours. The first was the Mendenhall Glacier & Salmon Bake. I was VERY SATISFIED with this tour excursion, except that I'd recommend other guests go to the Mendenhall Glacier on their own time & will, so you can spend as much time as you'd like. There is a wonderful waterfall next to the Mendenhall Glacier to walk out to, but we didn't get to do it because of time restraints from our tour operator. I very thoroughly enjoyed the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. The food was EXCELLENT!! The ambience was even BETTER!!! This is still in Juneau. It's nestled in a wooded area with covered tents. This location ALSO has a really gorgeous waterfall behind the salmon bake eating area. Great photos are there for you to take advantage of....seriously!! Go do this one as I highly recommend this salmon bake, which is also sponsored by the ship. The other tour we did in Juneau is the Mt. Roberts Tramway. Again, I highly recommend going on this skyride. Fantastic views & photo opportunities await your arrival!! If we had a sunny day, it would have been even MORE FANTASTIC!!! The scenery is just stunning. Shopping opportunities are superb right at the dock, in walking distance. It's shop after shop after shop, all within walking distance and good prices too, at the Alaska Shirt Company. I very much enjoyed my time in Juneau. -- Skagway, Alaska -- In Skagway, we did another 2 tour excursions, both sponsored by the ship. The first one was the Musher's Camp & Sled Dog Experience. What a most UNIQUE experience, I must say. I'd recommend this tour, just for the unique experience. You get to visit some baby Alaskan Huskies and pet a young Alaskan Husky as well in addition to your sled dog experience. We were whisked away on a 6-seater cart with wheels, since there's no snow on the ground. We had 16 Alaskan Huskies pulling us, at a much faster speed than I thought. I'd estimate somewhere around 25 mph to 30 mph! The musher will even stop to take pictures of you seated in the 6-seater cart, with the dogs in the foreground. The 2nd tour we selected was the White Pass Scenic Railtour. You climb from the base where the cruise ship is at, up a couple thousand feet high with the train. Along the way, you'll see waterfalls, and some snow pack (in May). If you go late in the season, you'll have a lot less snow. Here's the wonderful thing about the train. No matter what side you are seated on, (either left or right), you will be able to get to see the OTHER side, as you come back down on the same track as you went up, and you will flip sides with your counterpart on the other side of you, so that everyone gets to see BOTH sides of the train. How clever is that? And the seat backs switch so that you're always facing forward. By the time we reached the summit, it turned in to a winter wonderland of snow and snow-packed blue ice, too! Then reaching back down to the bottom where we returned to, it's all absence of snow. -- Icy Strait Point, Alaska -- Okay for this particular port of call, we chose the Spasski River Valley Wildlife & Bear Search. And regrettably we chose this one. This tour was an absolute disaster! I'm not going to sugar-coat it, but I have only a couple photos to my name here from this tour, and it's only at the dock. I do NOT recommend this tour. The tour operator even told me that NONE of the previous tours during the morning we were there ever got to see any bear at all. Choose another tour other than this one. I'd recommend doing a whale watch tour at this port of call, as I spoke to others, and they had success seeing whales. In fact, even some of the ship's staff told me that there were 2 whale sightings near the harbor that could be seen from the ship early in the morning while we were anchored near the pier. -- Hubbard Glacier -- Hubbard Glacier was a spectacular scene, and I enjoyed this view very much. In fact, I got to see and hear the calving, or breaking-off of ice falling into the water. It sounds like thunder, with an ice dust plume left behind. It's totally cool to see & hear such a phenomenon! Come prepared, bundled up, as it was 36 degrees F/ 2 degrees Celsius out on the decks in May 2008. The captain circled for a few hours so that all the ship's guests could see in every angle and every direction. This is a scene you don't want to miss. Be sure you get up early enough to allow at least 1 hour's worth of time to view this spectacular scene. Again, if it was sunny, it would have been even more spectacular!! As a reminder, this is not a port of call where you get off at; instead, it's just a viewing area where you stay onboard the ship. -- Sitka, Alaska -- Here in Sitka, Alaska, we booked only 1 tour, and it was NOT a ship sponsored tour. I forget who the tour operator was, because I just followed a recommended tour operator by our Cruise Critic forum board buddies. There really was NO tour that appealed to me by the ship's sponsored tour offerings. Anyway, we did get to see a couple of bald eagles in the trees and in motion. We seen some totem poles and we were also taken to a brown bear's artificially created habitat. The bears were in motion constantly and you could see 2 brown bears interact with each other, & playing with each other too. This was really neat to see this!! We were rained upon during the afternoon in Sitka, but still, shops were again within walking distance here and just brought an umbrella. I recommend a golf umbrella because of the wind-blown rain. -- Ketchikan, Alaska -- In Ketchikan, Alaska we went attended 2 tours at this port. One was the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. At this show, you observe 2 different teams compete with each other, grouped in pairs, so a total of 4 people altogether competing with each other, & usually they're speed races. The guests sit in a covered & heated area of stands in the event the elements bring about rain or chilly conditions. There's sawing competitions, running across water logs, and trying to spin another partner off a log to fall in to water. This was a fairly decent show, and there's souvenir merchandise to buy in their store, if you'd care to do so. The other 2nd tour we went on was the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary. Again, there was no bear to be found, but there were bear's dens and bear prints on trees marking their territories to see, along the 15 - 20 minute forest trail you walk through. We did come across reindeer, several of them up close, (in captivity), an old saw mill, owl, bald eagle, too. Then you get to witness a totem pole under construction, and see and smell the differences between yellow cedar and red cedar wood. Near the end of this tour there is a gift shop, with complimentary hot chocolate or coffee & some cookies. Due to the variety of these things, I'd say this is a recommendable tour excursion, but don't count on seeing bear. We did get to witness the Zipline or Ziprider excursions of folks sailing high above us, too. -- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -- Here in Vancouver, we chose the Capilano Suspension Bridge and City Tour. The Capilano Suspension Bridge park was a very nice scenic area. The tour operator also takes you through Stanley Park, and makes a stop for you to photograph the skyline of Vancouver and a number of totem poles within Stanley Park. My favorite part of this tour was the Capilano Suspension Bridge park, whereby you can take a number of trails to keep you busy for a couple of hours. I'd like to go back, as I didn't see even half of them, but did get to see and walk through the suspension bridge. It's somewhere around 400 ft long & suspended about 250 above the ground. -- Victoria, British Columbia, Canada -- At Victoria, British Columbia, we decided on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. We visited Craigdarroch Castle, the Parliament Buildings, and went inside both locations. Then we visited the Empress Hotel, and walked down from there in to the many shopping locations downwind from the Empress Hotel. We went to the petting zoo, and seen baby billy goats, and peacock spreading its feathers, among other characters. We enjoyed the view from atop the 2nd deck of the double decker bus. It took us in to the Chinatown district too. This is a great selection if you have lots of time here in the port of Victoria to do, as you do have to allow time for the next busses to arrive each time you get off, sometimes as much as 30 minutes to 45 minutes, but we accomplished a lot in this port of call. -- Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada -- The big deal here in Prince Rupert is the Khuytzemateen Grizzly Bear Watch. However, we chose the Canadian River Float, going down a lazy river, with all kinds of mountain backdrop scenes everywhere and seen a beaver dam. These scenes made for GREAT photo opportunities as we had a completely sunny day. The drive to the Canadian River float was as eye-opening drive with lots of mountain scenes. At the end of the tour we had complementary hot chocolate along with cookies, too. As for the ports of Seattle and Astoria, we did these ports on our own and did not purchase any tour excursions, as it was unnecessary. Everything in-town was within walking distance. I felt that the cost for Mt. St. Helens was extremely overpriced, especially in consideration that you're not taken to the volcano itself, and too, because it's dormant. I didn't go to the Boeing factory in Everett, because the tour said that cameras were not allowed, so I left that tour alone. IX. Entertainment. Frequently, there are musicians performing in the ship's centrum. The acoustics are such that you can hear the music from decks 3 up through decks 9, immediately near the centrum, so you'll always have musical entertainment going on. There wasn't a dull moment. The lounges / bars have music going all the time during the times listed in your daily planner of activities. The Vortex is a very large lounge with dance floor as well, and that's on the top deck -- I think deck 13, with scenic views over the ocean. They play disco up there during late night hours. As for the evening shows, we had evening shows in the Tropical Theatre at the ship's forward section every night except 1 night. As said before, a lot of shows had singing artists, one was a pianist, another juggling act, a magician, a comedian on the very 1st night, 2 production shows for the 14 night cruise, and a couple of impressionists as well. To add to this, you have a movie theatre with stadium seating that seats about 50. However, NO popcorn, so don't get too excited. Oh, and bring in your oxygen mask, too, as there's a strong smell of smoke in the theatre. This is because the casino is right next door to it. I could manage without one, but I think the smoke odor could be offensive to several folks who aren't used to second-hand smoke. X. Tendering, Embarkation & getting OUR suitcases. Okay, here's where the messy part comes in of the cruising experience. If it weren't for these areas of embarkation, not getting our suitcases until 10 PM at night, tendering in Sitka, and the one terrible (ship-sponsored) tour excursion in Icy Strait Point, I'd have OTHERWISE awarded my cruising experience on Serenade of the Seas a 5 - star rating --- the 1st of its kind that I would have awarded ANY of my 7 cruise experiences! Now that's saying a lot gang -- IT REALLY IS!! But because of these several problems, I'm going to have to take points away here, and lower it to a 4 - star rating. This is my 2nd cruise with Royal Caribbean, but on both cruises -- this one included -- there's something about Royal Caribbean in that they just cannot expedite the boarding process. We waited 1 1/2 hours to get boarded, and we did NOT come early, either. This extremely lengthy boarding process happened to us in our very 1st Royal Caribbean cruise too back in 2006 with Empress of the Seas. To complicate matters FURTHER.... we both did not get our 2nd suitcases until 10 PM at night! This is the 1st cruise of my 7 cruises that I had to come to the main formal dining room in shorts, BECAUSE I was not given my 2nd suitcase in a timely fashion. This was not confined to a single, personalized situation. The VAST majority of people I ran in to did not get their suitcase either!! WoW! Tendering in Sitka, Alaska was also a problem, and mismanaged poorly. We had to wait about 1 hour to 75 minutes before getting back to the ship, because RCCL decided to only tender out of one bay. They should have used 2 bays, one forward and one aft, so this was poorly mismanaged costing us precious time that we could have otherwise spent visiting Sitka. Alright, I've already discussed the mishap on the ship-sponsored Icy Strait Point tour. XI. Summary. In this 14 - night Alaska cruise, I have deduced a selection of a 4 - Star rating overall for my shipping experience on the Serenade of the Seas. This ties my highest rating of the Crown Princess cruiseship which I also awarded a 4 - star rating in the year 2006. My lowest rating I've given in the past 4 years has been a 3 - Star rating, for reference. On Serenade of the Seas, points are awarded for the service, (overall), less the suitcase mishandling situation at the start. Points are strongly awarded for the main, formal dining room quality of food, and quality of service. Points are also awarded for cabin stateroom service, utilities in the stateroom in good, proper working order, along with evening entertainment & afternoon musicians' entertainment. And finally points are awarded for the beauty of the ship, too. Points are subtracted for the widespread mishandling of the suitcases at the start of the cruise, and for the unusually lengthy embarkation process (1 1/2 hours for us). Points are also subtracted for the ship-sponsored tour excursion in Icy Strait Point, and for the mismanagement of the tendering processes in Sitka, Alaska, which could have been addressed properly by opening a 2nd tendering bay in the aft/stern. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
As a first time cruiser, I agonized over which cruise to take, which ship, which itinerary - all of it. I knew I wanted to go to Alaska, and I had a relatively narrow window for my departure time - early May. After many hours spent on ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I agonized over which cruise to take, which ship, which itinerary - all of it. I knew I wanted to go to Alaska, and I had a relatively narrow window for my departure time - early May. After many hours spent on Cruise Critic reading both CC and member reviews, I honed my choices down to two: Norwegian sailing out of Seattle for a 7-day cruise, or Royal Caribbean sailing out of San Francisco on a 14-day cruise. What ultimately decided me on Royal Caribbean was convenience, cost, and reviews of the ship - the Serenade of the Seas. As I live in the SF Bay area, getting to the ship would be no problem. And it was only a few hundred dollars more for a 14-day cruise than for Norwegian's 7-day cruise. Also, I had heard that the bathrooms on Norwegian are even tinier than those on RCCL. Embarkation Day The literature I received made it clear that I shouldn't arrive at the pier before 1 PM, but I was too excited to wait. I got there at 10:30 AM. I was able to quickly get my luggage taken by a porter, and went to look for the line. At 10:30, it was already substantial. As I am partially disabled (I walk with a cane due to bad arthritis), I was allowed to go into the terminal and sit down rather than wait standing up. Good thing too, as no one was allowed on the ship until after 1 PM. We later discovered that the ship was undergoing a deep clean due to an outbreak of the Norwalk virus on the previous leg of its journey from the Caribbean to its summer home in Alaska. But more on the virus later. Finally, I was in, and based on what I had read on CC, my first action as to go directly to Chops and Portofino, the 'specialty' restaurants on board, and make my reservations. I needn't have rushed - reservations were generally available throughout the cruise. Then it was up to the Windjammer buffet for lunch, as we were told we couldn't get into our cabins until 2 PM. I had been upgraded from an oceanview to a balcony cabin, and boy was I happy. The cabin was not large, but it was perfect for a single traveler. Frankly I don't know how they could expect more than 2 people to share those cabins - balcony or otherwise - , but there was a pull down bunk bed above the regular bed in case. The bathroom was indeed small, but I was able to navigate it with no real problems - even the shower. To be honest, though, most often I used the showers in the Shipshape Spa, which were not only larger, but had better water pressure. The balcony was very nice - large enough for two or even three people to sit comfortably, and despite the often cold Alaska weather, I made good use of it. That first afternoon at 3 PM, we had an informal 'Meet & Mingle' in the Safari Lounge, organized by members of the Cruise Critic Roll call page for this sailing. As we had been chatting online for months, we felt like we already knew a lot about each other, and it was a merry gathering. The 'official' CC M&M was held the next day, and people who had been to these before said that it was very well attended. About 100 people showed up. The Ship Having never cruised before, I really have nothing to compare this ship to, but I know what I like. Serenade of the Seas is beautiful. Lots of glass everywhere - you can see outside from almost anywhere on the ship, which I'm told is unusual. The big 10-story Centrum makes it feel like a luxury hotel. Glass elevators add to the effect. Probably my favorite area of the ship was the Schooner Bar/Safari Lounge area. Both of these are on Deck 6 Aft, and no expense has been spared on rich woods, brass, and elegant furniture. The Schooner Bar is where I spent many happy hours playing (and winning) trivia contests, with my newfound friends from all over the US and the world. The Safari Lounge has a nice dance floor, and comfortable furniture with big windows looking aft for an incredible view. the only downside of this area is the seating in the Schooner bar - the chairs are very uncomfortable with no back support. Chops and Portofino are in this area as well, but more on that later. The main dining room, 'Reflections' is a two-level affair, very elegant. I signed up for My time dining, which worked well for me, although it really isn't 'anytime' dining. You have a choice of 15-minute intervals between 6 and 6:45 PM, or 8 and 8:45 PM. Once I showed up at 7 PM and it was no problem. My time dining has a reserved area upstairs on Deck 5. It doesn't have the opulence of being in the downstairs area with the dramatic two story columns, but it was more than fine. And the service was excellent. I want to call out Ernest, our head waiter, and Christine, our hostess, for their superb and friendly service. Unbelievably, they remembered my and all the other guests names every night, and always provided great service with a smile. The Windjammer buffet, up on Deck 11 also looked nice, again with windows everywhere, and with inside, outside and in-between dining areas. the main problem with Windjammer was that it tended to fill up, and there was almost always a scramble to find an empty table. Perhaps on a warmer weather cruise that problem may not exist, but in Alaska, eating outside was rarely an option. Seaview Cafe up on 12 was small, but friendly. The big drawback here was that you needed to go outside to get to it - no inside access. And as it's main purpose is late night goodies, it was just too dang cold to get there most nights. But I did make it up there twice, and was served good food with very friendly service. Try the Cuban Pork sandwich - very tasty, but ask for the mustard on the side - they tend to lay it on really thick. The main pool was never used - too cold, but the Solarium pool and hot tub, which is covered, was always in use. Comfortable lounge chairs in this area, and usually no problem finding an open one. One small thing to note: the hot tub is not very hot - more like a warm tub. the Solarium pool was small but serviceable, and not too cold. On rough weather days, it became something of a wave pool - it was a bit dangerous getting in and out of it, but boy was it fun. The gym, up on 12, is spacious, with plenty of everyone's favorite equipment. But here's one area where some improvement is needed. the gym opens at 6 AM, but the changing rooms and showers in the Spa right below it only open at 8 AM, so if you want to work out then take a shower early, you're out of luck. Well, sort of: I and others simply went down the stairs and availed ourselves of the showers even though they weren't officially open. the spa itself is quite nice. I didn't use any of the special services or rooms, but I made liberal use of the steam room and showers. Hint: there's a nice comfortable and quiet spot right at the very end of the spa where they serve tea and fruit and ice water. Other impressions of the ship: Casino was larger than i expected. the slots are very stingy aboard this ship - avoid them! I mainly stuck to the single-deck blackjack table, and didn't do too badly. One problem - the smoke from the casino and the adjacent sports bar drifts out to the forward elevators, so that when those elevator doors open, you're blasted with secondhand smoke. Nasty. The theater was very nice, with comfortable seats, spread out over three decks (4,5 &6). Shows were OK, but generally one or two levels below your average Vegas show. Favorite show: the jugglers/comedians. Least favorite: the tribute to Broadway, and any other show that uses the backing band. The band, while excellent, tends to be turned up way way too loud. I had to leave on a couple of occasions. The Food Sort and simple - the food in the dining room and Seaview was quite good. If you didn't like the main selection, you could always ask for an alternative - something there to satisfy everybody. And of course you could ask for as much as you wanted. One of my table-mates routinely asked for (and ate!) 2 or 3 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 3 or 4 desserts! And he was thin as a rail. Grrrrrrrrr. Chops and Portofino were also quite good. Worth the extra money. One piece of advice: Order the Filet at Chops. Do not pass go, do not order any other main dish, order the Filet! Windjammer was less good, but there was enough variety to satisfy all tastes. I especially liked their desserts, and in the morning you can get egg dishes and omelettes made to order. The Crew Mostly a wonderful crew, with great service. Highlights: Elvis and Brian on the cruise director's staff. Elvis was a hoot, and Brian - well, on the day we disembarked, there was quite a hassle getting transfers to the Vancouver airport - no one knew what was going on, or what to do. One female member of the cruise director's staff was out there being openly nasty to folks who were just asking what line to stand on. But Brian was a trooper - always a smile, always ready to help - he ferried folks in wheelchairs and stayed with them until they got on the right buses, etc., and went back for more. Now that's a dedicated crew member - one who doesn't forget you the moment the cruise is over. Again, dining staff were great - what a tough job they have! Excursions and ports Not going to go into that in any detail - you can get that from other reviews, but in general: Juneau was my favorite port, and my favorite excursion was the Taku Glacier Lodge and Salmon feast excursion. Icy Strait Point - the Whale watching excursion was great, but if you don't have an excursion, don't bother getting off the ship. The tenders are a pain, and there's nothing to see. Skagway - White Pass rail excursion was nice Sitka - somewhat of a disappointment. Again, the tender situation was a mess. Hubbard Glacier visit was awesome - cold, but awesome. Last note: the only reason to go to the talks they have about the ports is to get the local map. Otherwise, it's a nonstop sales pitch for the innumerable jewelry stores that have infested all the ports of call. 5 years ago, none of those existed in Alaska. now they're everywhere, and the ship promotes them ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Why Not a '10'? So I loved the ship, I loved the itinerary, I loved the people, the food was good. Why not a '10? Simple. Royal Caribbean, in their less-than-infinite wisdom, has decided to pipe in Top-40 hits in every lounge and in the Windjammer and Seaview ALL THE TIME, and loud. Now let's face it, your average RCCL cruiser is not in that 18-25 age group. In fact, on this cruise, the average age was probably well above 45. yet we were subjected day and night to top 40 crap. Worst was in the mornings at Windjammer, when all we really wanted was a little peace to eat our breakfast, but no - speakers every 5 feet or so blasted lite hip hop and other 'adult contemporary hits' right over our heads. I complained, but I was told that RCCL provides the feed, and ships are required to broadcast it. An ongoing irritation, that detracted from the great time I had. even in the 'quiet zone' they piped that crap in, until I found out by accident how to turn it off in the Vortex lounge (Clue: in the closet behind the piano!) for some peace and quiet at last. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
We always look for great deal when selecting our cruise and the Ultimate Alaska Cruise on Serenade of the Seas on 5-3-08 was the ticket! We did Alaska last year and wanted to see more. The ports were all great and we actually had good ... Read More
We always look for great deal when selecting our cruise and the Ultimate Alaska Cruise on Serenade of the Seas on 5-3-08 was the ticket! We did Alaska last year and wanted to see more. The ports were all great and we actually had good weather for most of the trip. We usually take 7 day trips and this was our second 2 week cruise. For us, 2 weeks is the best since it seems you just get to know the ship in a week and on a 7 day your getting off when it is time to get off the ship. Embarkation Day Since the ship came in "sick" the crew had to do a complete deep clean. We finally started boarding around 2PM. The ship had to do a deep clean of the kitchen storage areas and that delayed loading the supplies for our cruise. We left several hours late which gave us dinner with a very nice view of the San Francisco bay. The CC group on board was great. it was fun to meet so many people that were all on the board for the cruise. The CC group made the cruise seem more friendly and it was nice to see new friends around the ship and in ports. Ports of call Astoria, Oregon was first. This was our first time there and it was a very charming stop. Nice town with quite a bit to see and do without taking an excursion. One fee for the bus took you from the pier into town and let you ride their busses and trolley all you wanted. Several nice micro-breweries in town kept our interest! Seattle: We docked at Pier 66 which was outstanding. walking distance to Pikes Market and downtown. Easy to see alot of the city without going on an excursion again. We like walking and this suited us fine. We have been to Seattle frequently so it was nice to just walk around and sightsee downtown. Again, nice microbrewery at Pikes Market. Victoria: here we decided to walk to town from the pier. We have taken the bus before and it is fine, but we realized what we missed. Taking the walk along the waterfront was great and we saw some nice areas down by Fisherman Wharf there. The walk was only 15 or 20 min and relaxing. We enjoyed walking around town, seeing the shops. Then we did our own pub crawl. lots of unique spots around town. Again we found several good micro-breweries. North to Alaska and those ports get reviewed frequently. My advice, stay away from the jewelry stores, the cruise lines all seem to push these way too much. The train in Skagway is a great trip. Eagles were flying everywhere in Sitka and Icy Straight Point (I got to go to the Office there!) Hubbard Glacier: Very impressive. The captain got to within 1 1/2 miles of the Glacier and did 3 360 degree turns so everyone got great views. We enjoyed the view mostly from our balcony. That made the balcony well worth the price! The ship put several people on an island as we approached the Glacier (unbeknown to the guests). On the way out of the Glacier one of them had put on a bear suit. The cruise director pointed out a bear and for several minutes we all bought into the sighting. Then the bear stood up and started waiving a flag! It was memorable. The Ship Serenade is an impressive ship. All the glass and appointments are outstanding. The lounges and bars were spacious and comfortable. Not being smokers, we avoided the casino and pit stop bar. They have a nice cinema on the ship. We did my time dining and it was great. We are early diners and we always had a table for 2. It was like going out to dinner on a date every night. Great quality time there. The Windjammer is very nice also. Breakfast was the same thing every day. More variety (like specialty omelets or different breakfast choices) on occasion would have been nice. The show lounge was large and rarely full. We found seats almost anytime we arrived. The book shops were ok, pretty standard cruise shopping. Nothing unusual there. The Odyssey Lounge on deck 13 was the nicest view and best place to read a book. The hot tubs in the common areas were not hot but warm. When it is 40 to 50 out a hot tub needs to be hot! The crew In a word - Outstanding! From the room attendant to the dining room staff, everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there. As a matter of fact, many staff were on their 2nd or 3rd or more contracts on the same ship. Serenade has been voted best ship in the RCL fleet on several occasions. Entertainment: For a 2week cruise the entertainment was less than we expected. Only 2 production shows, probably because the ship usually only does 1 week cruises. Since when did the Newlywed/not so newlywed show become a main show for a night? I think that the cruise lines are cutting back on shows. A great Mowtown group 1 night was enjoyable but not expected. The daily planned had "Vibeology" listed as the main show. Overall this was a very enjoyable and relaxing cruise. We enjoyed our first RCL experience and will look forward to cruising on them again. We have learned that we prefer the larger ships. More to do and see and you can always find places to be alone if you want to. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Just myself 27 and hubby 29, 2nd cruise. Stayed in interior cabin on deck 3. We flew into San Francisco a few days before our cruise departure. First time to San Francisco, stayed in Fishermans Wharf area. We stayed at the Best Western ... Read More
Just myself 27 and hubby 29, 2nd cruise. Stayed in interior cabin on deck 3. We flew into San Francisco a few days before our cruise departure. First time to San Francisco, stayed in Fishermans Wharf area. We stayed at the Best Western Tuscan Inn, walking distance to cruise terminal. Hotel offers free delivery of luggage to cruise ship. We got in line before 2pm, lines were very long and took quite sometime. This could be better, it took us a little over 2 hrs to get on ship. We had enough time to eat at the Windjammer before safety procedures. We felt like the youngest couple on ship, it seemed over 95% of people were over 60 years of age. Many being from other countries like Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Austria. Rarely ever saw young couples or children. Shipped left late, not all supplies had been delivered on time by 5pm. It was a beautiful site to leave San Francisco, especially going under the Golden Gate Bridge. The next day the sea was very rough all day on Sunday. Many had to take pills, including myself. Stayed in cabin all day and did not eat, waves were 15 - 21 feet high and the ship was rocking. We stayed in the 3 deck which was perfect, the lower and more middle you are on the ship the less movement. Our cabin was perfect size and our Steward Marshall from Costa Rica was very friendly and did his best. Our refrigerator kept items cool, not cold. Our TV kept playing the same shows and episodes over and over. We always ate breakfast at the Windjammer. The fruit was excellent, very tasty (watermelon, melon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, pineapple, prunes). My hubby always enjoyed an omelette or eggs to his taste. The coffee always tasted burnt and the orange juice was always room temperature. The food was always the same but good. An assortment of pastries, scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, sometimes ham or turkey, pre-frozen pancakes, pre-frozen french toast, assortment of cereals. Windjammer very crowded in the morning and lunch time, people would not leave after eating but sit and read. Multiple times we shared table with strangers. Lunch was good too. Again the fruit was just wonderful, I believe I was told allot was picked up in Seattle. We mainly ate personal size pizzas, the crust was there for you to add your own toppings and you take to cook to run thru oven. Places we ported at. San Francisco, CA - Love it, had the best clam chowder ever. Took City Tour, we both enjoyed it very much. Astoria, OR - small but beautiful sites from top of hill. Ate great Italian food downtown. Seattle, WA - Visited Pike Market, ate great fruit. Took city tour on bus. Victoria, BC - Beautiful, many flowers, took city tour (expensive place) Spent some time in park with water and flowers. Prince Rupert, BC - Small, not much, took small tour, mountains surrounding place our gorgeous. Juneau, AK - Favorite Alaskan port - Did majority of shopping at Alaska T-Shirt Company, very reasonable prices, gifts for everyone. Took cable gondola up the mountain, $49 for both, but worth it. Also took tour to Mendenhall Glacier, $7 for each person each way, total $28. We walked all the way to the Glacier and waterfall and got great pics. Skagway, AK - Tour to the Summit, did not take train, very expensive. With bus tour its small, with about 6-7 people and it stops constantly on the way up to the Summit for pics, very informative and it was snowing. Sitka, AK - Small, did not do much, raining and foggy, seemed like a pretty place, could not see volcano. Icy Strait Point, AK - Not much there, nearest town is Hoonah, but we had a whale watch excursion we booked on cruise $270 total. We saw many whales, weather was cold and icy, but worth it. Hubbard Glacier, AK - Cruised and ship made circles for a few hrs to see Hubbard Glacier. Never seen anything like it. Ketchikan, AK - Did a little more shopping, city buses were free to ride and took advantage of that. Vancouver, BC - Stayed here for a few days and rented a car and drove to Whistler, the ride to Whistler was spectacular, tons of waterfalls. Overall we had a wonderful time on the Serenade of the Seas, the ship is gorgeous, lots of glass. Entertainment was okay, only went to 4 of the 14 shows. We mainly went to Trivia at the Schooner Bar on deck 6. Karaoke a few times, same people kept singing same songs. Went to dinner 4 of the 14 times, our dinner time was too late for us, 8:30, we mainly ate at 6:30 at the Windjammer. Crew is very friendly wherever you go. It did bother us wherever we went they want to take pics or make you buy drinks. There is a Seattle's Best Coffee on deck 5. Internet is 59 cents a minute. No public laundry facility, for a 14 day cruise that's not good. It was too cold in AK to use outside facilities. Disembarkation was a little confusing but went faster than we thought. We would cruise on Serenade of the Seas again, just a shorter cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
This was my 14th cruise on RCCL. Reason for this one was, to once sail out of San Francisco which was really wonderful. We had the best cabin, an aft Junior Suite on deck 10, next to the corner Grand Suite. Loved it. Our room steward was ... Read More
This was my 14th cruise on RCCL. Reason for this one was, to once sail out of San Francisco which was really wonderful. We had the best cabin, an aft Junior Suite on deck 10, next to the corner Grand Suite. Loved it. Our room steward was probably the best we ever had. Concierge service was equally excellent due to the fact that the "cocktail hour" each night was held on deck 13 in the viking crown lounge/disco due to the many diamond members on this cruise. Free drinks and the view - what more can you ask for... Maritza the concierge was wonderful and she made up for the poor finger food they served each night (the exact same every night!). Ports were good, overall a really nice trip, just to short for my taste as I like 12 nights or longer. Now on to the "not so good". First of all the food. The buffet was extremely boring with the same food every day. Bland, often warm instead of hot and almost no variety from day to day. Dining room experience was not much better due to different facts though. The food itself was OK, much much better than in the Windjammer (buffet), but - please RCCL , I hope someone reads this, it is definitely time to change the menus!!!! How can a cruise line, that pretends and promotes to serve excellent food ( yes I know it is not a 5 star cruise line but still not one of the cheap ones either ), keep the same menus and thus serve the same food for 7 years and longer? This is how you get rid of your loyal customers. Very simple. I also cannot believe they still do the Italian night the way they do it. It was nice and somewhat funny the first 5 times but that was years ago. Please come up with something new. I feel sorry for both, dining room staff and customers... Besides, and this is maybe even my biggest criticism, it does not look any funny with the all Asian/Indian waiters anymore, "singing" O Sole Mio... It looks cheap and stupid these days. What happened to the good old days, when the staff came from all over the world? These days, especially true on the Serenade and the Freedom ( at least this is where I experienced it ) they all come from the Philippines and India. No offense, but sorry , they don´t ( or should say didn´t ) do it right. They don´t have the slightest feeling for providing good service and for being somewhat charming. They are often pushy, don´t listen and have no table manners, this experiencing especially with the Filipinos. Again, no offense, just my experience. I know they are cheaper and especially Eastern Europeans get better jobs somewhere else these days but RCCL must know that it will not pay off in the long run if they continue that. My next cruise is on Celebrity and if I experience the same with them I will move on to another cruise line, despite my status with RCCL and Celebrity, simply because it takes away a lot of what a cruise means to me. Interesting though, I was on a short cruise 3 weeks later, this time on the Jewel of the Seas, leaving from Hamburg, Germany. It was a completely different experience, almost like being on a different cruise line. Happy staff from all over the world, lot´s of eastern Europeans, South Africans, a good mix of Indians and Asians but not as many, people from the Islands, from New Zealand and Australia. The atmosphere was completely different. Everybody was in a good mood. Service was great everywhere and from everyone and that does include the Indians and Asians this time, even in the windjammer it was very good and noticeable. When asking the staff, why it was so different on all other ships now, those that do not tour Europe, I was told that hiring mostly Asians is today´s trend, simply because they save money that way... Now figure, obviously Americans don´t seem to mind that or even notice that change or trend, but in Europe they don´t do it that way simply to keep up the good service and please the European customer... That´s at least my conclusion... Says a lot... So, in the future, if you want the good old RCCL experience, make sure you sail in Europe! So these are my biggest complaints. Please change menus (and the themes), yes that does include the specialty restaurants (!!!), and please go back to dining room and wait staff from all over the world, not only from Asia! I hope nobody feels offended by my criticism. It has nothing to do with general attitude towards people from certain countries or areas of the world. Not at all. I respect every human being, no matter where they are from. But when it comes to good service, especially when I pay a lot of money for it, I expect something else, and certainly not what I experienced with RCCL lately (except on the Jewel). However, I am looking forward to the Millenium doing transatlantic in December. Read Less
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