Do not recommend RCL to anyone!
Serenade of the Seas Cruise Review to Europe - Northern Europe
Sail Date: July 26, 2015
Ship: Serenade of the Seas
Cabin Type: Balcony
Cabin Number: 7654
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 2 years ago
My 14 night Baltic cruise during the summer of 2015 with Royal Caribbean on the Serenade Seas was two different experiences. The Ports of Call and the ship herself were a 5 Star experience. Royal Caribbean as a company provided a 1 Star Experience…WOW!
The ship has a capacity of 2,500 passengers and 900 crew. This was my 2nd Cruise after my Mediterranean cruise on a competitor’s ship with 4,000 passengers. You could regularly see late at night teams keeping the ship clean and in good repair. This team is top notch! We had our luggage within an hour of checking into our room. One night we had to call to have the balcony cleaned thanks to shipmates from above and they came with a team and address the issue. There were teams providing upkeep constantly. The areas were well maintained except they closed the hot tubs early…ohh…and the spa never picked up after the towels. But great experience.
We choose this cruise as no one had a better itinerary (3 days in St. Petersburg with only 1 day at sea). It was also nice as we ventured into some rarely visited port towns that made the trip extra special (i.e. Berlin, Klaipeda, Frederica, Riga, Helsinki, etc.). Regarding Russia: you have 2 travel options a) Russia Travel Visa or b) Tourist Visa. If you’re in Russia for less than 72 hours and are with a guide you can avoid the expensive and long government Visa.
We went to Moscow through a boat excursion for under $600. That included a bus to the airport, a 1 ½ hour flight to Moscow, tickets for the Kremlin, and beautiful 5 Star Russian Restaurant (Salmon Roe, Blintz, Beef Stroganoff, Vodka, & Wine). We also did the Folkloric, which was a show with a Russian Army choir of 30 that would switch with a high energy dance troop of 30. The other 2 days in St. Petersburg we purchased a private guide and Mercedes SUV driver (SPB Tour Company) for a very reasonable price. We basically did the 2 day deluxe tour (which they try to keep the groups under 20). The Kremlin I heard is not open on Thursday and SPB has certain schedules which is also why the private tour makes sense.
Now about my 1 Star Royal Caribbean Experience. It began at the website (did you know the call center rep and the customer can’t be logged in at the same time?) At port, the check-in was a 1 ½ line! At the registration desk, the 30 page packet they had me print apparently didn’t include the Credit Card Authorization I did online (who knows where that information is). They literally had a table with 8 employees that would connect the credit card authorization to another stack of paper to later be manually processed. My access card didn’t work for 2 days and all our receipts where tri-level carbon receipts.
Security thereafter continued to be an issue. Each day imagine going to the airport for 20 minutes! Then once you get past security your next 14 night once in a lifetime experience…you get nothing! This is where the crew of less than 900 is unable to WoW! There were never officers or entertainers welcoming you back on board.
Dining on the ship was poor…but depending on the kitchen you dine from. The Specialty Kitchen does Chops, Giovanni’s, Chef’s Table, Murder Mystery and the At Sea Lobster Mimosa Brunch we did. Those meals were all delicious and great experience. Our intimate Chef’s Table with our friends from Australia, Arizona, Illinois, Mexico City, Florida and staff of 3 was well worth the experience! The meals were delicious and worth it (although buy on the boat as they don’t regularly sell out and they always have a deal). The other kitchen does room service, the main dining room and the buffet. The main dining room is very good…and a toss up to which is better from the specialty. Room Service, the buffet, and that “café” are garbage…garbage…garbage! Most frustrating is the Café! The menu never changes, quality is same as a 7/11 deli, and never enough places for people to regretfully try this horrible food. The challenge is you get onto the boat from a day of sights around 4…but dinner reservations are not until 8. There are no food options other than this deli or crappy room service.
Entertainment was also poor. They did bring in this headliner act from Russia that did all these cirque di sole items close to the end. The other days were no good. Day 1: Elton John. Day 2: Queen Tribute: Day 3: BMX Bike Stunts Day 5: (Day at Seas) Cruise directors trip to Mount Kilimanjaro. Also, the TV gave out very valuable port information (after you visited the port L) lol…I made none of this up my friends! Then in the Centrium they are supposed to have this big show. I asked 5 different crew members when was the show…no one knew and each told me a different answer. 5 different answers…you can bet at least 1 of them lied to me. I believed the 5th version that the rig was broken for 2 months and it was unsafe…until there was a random show that we stumbled into returning from port one day (wasn’t listed in the guide). We tired Izumi and were hoping to make the later showing….but it took 40 minutes to serve raw sushi (12 crew eating in the dining room of a late port with only 6 guests).
The only WOW moment I experienced was with the F&B director that left a bottle of Merlot in our room. Otherwise, I feel there is not enough crew in entertainment hospitality. The Excursion Desk was only open from 8 to 9. This was a challenge when you were in port from 8 to 7 and didn’t realize you needed to talk to someone until 10.
My experience with a competitor is that the caliber of food might be meh…but at least it’s decent. I recognize the entertainment experience is different on each ship but this experience was beyond bad (and I blame the cruise director for that). Overall, I had a wonderful vacation and I wouldn’t have changed a thing…except for everything to have been managed by a better company.