Serenade of the Seas
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Sail Date: 12th-24th June 2013
Ship Capacity: 2490
Route:Barcelona-Cannes-Livorno (Florence/Pisa)-Civitavecchia (Rome)-At Sea-At Sea-Piraeus (Athens)-Kusadasi (Ephesus)-Santorini-At Sea- Salerno (Amalfi Coast)-At Sea-Barcelona
Why We Chose This Ship: As this was our first cruise, we did a lot of research prior to booking, in order to find out what the best option would be for us. We eventually chose Royal Caribbean (as they seemed most appealing to young cruisers like ourselves) then set about choosing a ship. Obviously, practicalities came first- we wanted to go in June and do a European route. We were pretty inflexible when it came to these restrictions but Royal Caribbean still offered multiple ships and itineraries to choose from. To us, the best of these itineraries seemed to be the Mediterranean-Greek Isles cruise, which was being undertaken by the Serenade that month. Straight away we liked the ship because of its size- as it was our first cruise we wanted a reasonably small ship, so we could be able to familiarize ourselves with ease while onboard (that’s not to say first time cruisers should avoid the big ships, as Royal Caribbean are great at providing straightforward information while onboard to help you get around). However, while small in comparison to her big sisters, for us the Serenade was perfect in size and was packed with features we knew would to keep us occupied all holiday long. It had been renovated only that year, so many new Royal Caribbean features had been added. Our favourites were the mini golf course, the indoor cinema and outdoor movie screen and the adults only Solarium. Nighttime activities are very important for us, so we also liked that the ship had a large theatre (standard for Royal Caribbean) and a nightclub.
Onboard Activities:So did all these features live up to our expectations? Definitely. Working backwards from the above list, the nightclub, called the Viking Crown Lounge, was a great place to finish off some of our evenings. Housing a resident DJ and playing contemporary music, this venue attracted the younger passengers (me as the legally youngest at 18, going up to around late 30’s), who could make the most of the dance floor or just relax with a drink at the bar or tables circling the room. The Solarium was a particular day time favourite of ours, consisting of a salt water pool that had shallow areas for sitting, two hot tubs and cushioned sun loungers, situated near a bar and the Park Café. The Solarium is covered by a glass ceiling, making it great for at sea days when you want to avoid the breeze or if there’s inclement weather. Luckily, we didn’t have this on our trip, but do note that if the outdoor pool is closed due to weather conditions (very rare in summer we might add) children are then allowed in this usually adults only section.
With so many great places to explore on land, and loads to do on the ship, we didn’t actually have time to use the indoor cinema, but it’s a great place to go if you do have some time to catch up on recently released films. We did love the outdoor movie screen, which had films scheduled in the evening and music videos playing when there wasn’t a live musicians performing. Just a quick note on music (live or not) around the pool- it’s a personal thing, but I really don’t like music too loud in the daytime when trying to relax. So I was really pleased that the volume was kept to a nice level, meaning you could still have a conversation without shouting but there was also a lively feel to sunbathing areas. This was aided by activities around the pool, such as water volleyball or the infamous belly flop competition. There’s absolutely no dragging people kicking and screaming off the sunbed, rather the entertainment team starts the activities and those who want to join in do. The pool is never taken over for too long and there’s always the option of the Solarium if you really want a dip at that moment in time. Also, if you’re a real die-hard, ‘Do Not Disturb’ sunbather, there are plenty of loungers on deck where you can bronze yourself in blissful silence.
Other daytime activities include mini-golf, played on top deck, which we found to be a great, unique experience and a rock climbing wall, which we didn’t actually get a chance to try though there was plenty of availability. For those who want to work their brains rather than bodies, there are quizzes all throughout the day, located in the lounges and bars (we are now the proud owners of Royal Caribbean highlighter pens for our win at the musical theatre quiz). For art lovers, various events take place in the art gallery with many including a glass of champagne, which we found to be a nice little bonus! Activities such as these go on into the evening, plus each night there is a different show in the Tropical theatre, with two performances enabling you to work your dinner around it.
Dining: This leads us nicely onto the subject of food, one of our favourite subjects in fact! The main dining room is called Reflections, an a la carte table service restaurant spread over two floors, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ending up eating here every night as the food was so good, and with the menu changing each day, we never had the same thing twice. We had chosen My Time Dining (which means you can eat at any time between 5-9pm) but as our eating pattern is a bit sporadic, we never reserved a time for our evening meal in advance. Royal Caribbean advises My Time Diners to pre book, but we never had to wait for a table (even at the most popular dining time pre/post theatre show), which was great. Our waiters each night were friendly and attentive, frequently topping up table water and giving advice on dishes when asked. While we obviously cannot cover all the food, here are some of our main points from the main dining room on the Serenade:
· Healthy Option: there seems to be a bit of stereotype of overindulgence on cruises and while you obviously can, Royal Caribbean are great for highlighting low calorie/sugar options for each course
· Red meat: the non-vegetarian half of us was were really pleased with how the steak, lamb etc. was cooked. The quality of meat was also great, with generous serving sizes.
· Sorbet: If you haven’t room for a full desert (or still have room after it!) we highly recommend the sorbet. Our favourite was the ‘Rainbow’ flavour.
· Time: whilst the dining room is obviously the busiest restaurant onboard, we never felt rushed during our evening meal. You are encouraged to take your time, such as by having coffee or tea after dinner (not specialty drinks, so included in your package) and our waiters always took the time to chat with us about our day onboard.
For a more casual dining experience, the Windjammer is an alternative restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet style. We ate breakfast and lunch here most days and were very impressed by the standard of food. It was always well presented and constantly refreshed, you could tell none of the dishes had been sat out for long, as everything was very hot. With all meals, there is a huge amount of choice, with a variety of international dishes to suit everyone’s tastes. For a quick lunch before an activity, we found ‘fast food’ options such as burgers, pizza or hot dogs were great, mainly because they weren’t covered in grease as is standard at fast food places. While busy like the main dining room, we always found a seat with ease; we would go for those right by the window which provided a great view of the port we were about to explore that day.
For snacks, we highly recommend the Park Café, located in the Solarium, which serves hot/cold sandwiches, fruit and small cakes. There is also a salad bar which we absolutely loved as it was so fresh; you choose the ingredients and a chef makes up the salad for you, with a great choice of toppings and dressings. The Park Café also has a juice station, where they alternate daily with drinks such as ice tea, tropical punch and lemonade.
As we had chosen a ‘Guarantee’ stateroom when booking (meaning you select the type of room but not its position on the ship) we did not find out the number of our cabin until close to sailing time. We were happy with this, as the position on the ship is not hugely important to us, and cabins are very similar. We had picked an Ocean View stateroom (a standard cabin with a circular outside view window) and eventually were allocated a cabin on deck three of the ship. Royal Caribbean cabins have great storage space, with a full-length wardrobe and plenty of draws/cupboards for the both of us. The Royal King bed was very comfy, positioned under the window so you could sit on the bed while looking out to sea or port. The bathroom also has lots of storage space, and though no bath it has a decent sized shower. Your stateroom is cleaned everyday, as with a normal hotel, by an attendant who usually introduces themselves to you on the first day. They are available via the phone should you need things like extra towels or ice and often leave towel animals after the nightly turn-down service which we loved! There is also the option of room service, which is available 24 hours a day and only incurs a surcharge (of about $4) when ordered between 12am-5am.
Overall:We had a fantastic time on the Serenade and would highly recommend this ship to both first time and well-experienced cruisers alike. Public areas were always immaculately clean and we were highly impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of staff, especially those at Guest Services. The recent refurbishment had really improved areas such as the Atrium, another place where we enjoyed sitting with a drink and watching live music. The journey itself was very smooth and embarkation/disembarkation was particularly well organised. While one of Royal Caribbean smaller ships, there was always something to do, a variety of dining options and plenty of different space to sit and relax both indoor and outdoor.