This was a 12-day re-positioning cruise from Boston, Massachusetts to Fort Lauderdale Florida with calls at St. Maarten, Antigua, Barbados, Aruba and Curacao. (See photo feature).
Serenade of the Seas is a Radiance class ship built by Meyer Werft in Germany. Her sister ships are: Radiance of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas. At approximately, 95,000 gross tons, these ships are smaller than the most recent Royal Caribbean ships. While they are very much Royal Caribbean, it is a different version of Royal than on most of the newer ships.
On this cruise in particular, the cruise experience was Royal Caribbean for adults. The emphasis was not on “Wow factor” features but rather on a relaxed cruise experience with good companionship and service in an elegant environment. In many ways, it is cruising the way it used to be.
As often is the case on longer cruises, most of the passengers were mature. There were only a handful of children. This follows from the fact that young families, especially in North America, do not have the vacation time to take a long cruise. In addition, this cruise took place while the schools were in session in the United States and parents are reluctant to take their children out of school for a long period.
The vast majority of the passengers were repeat passengers with Royal. Indeed, most were in the upper tiers of Royal's Crown and Anchor loyalty program. It follows that there must be something about Serenade that experienced travelers find attractive.
Because the Radiance class ships are powerful and fast they can reach a variety of ports in a relatively short space of time. Indeed, on this cruise, the ship not only got out of the cold northern waters quickly but visited ports in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Furthermore, as a result of their size and maneuverability very few ports are closed to them.
The size also makes it very easy to get around on these ships. You can quickly get to any point on the ship. There is also good passenger flow, it does not feel crowded.
Serenade is also pleasantly decorated. The builders made substantial use of glass and so there is natural light in the public areas. The décor is lively but not shock and awe. She has a nice contemporary art collection.
The ship does not lack features. There are three specialty restaurants: Chops Grill (steakhouse); Izumi (Asian fusion) and Giovanni's Table (Italian). In addition, there is a separate dedicated room for the Chef's Table experience. Serenade also has a condensed version of the Park Cafe, which originated on the Oasis-class ships.
There are two pools, one of which has a retractable roof. For those who are so inclined, there is also a rock climbing wall and various sports features.
A nice feature is the small cinema which shows recent films. Of course, there is also a full size theater where the ship's production cast and visiting entertainers perform.
There are also a variety of bars and lounges, including one of the last Concierge Clubs in the Royal fleet, as well as a casino.
In short, there is much to like about Serenade's hardware. However, the factor that seemed to have attracted most of the people that we spoke with is the attitude of the crew. Of course, in every crew you may run into someone who is having a bad day. However, as a generalization, the crew on Serenade were friendly and dedicated to providing good service.
For dinner in the main dining room, Sereanade offers traditional two-seating dining and a flexible dining system. On the traditional system, each guest has an assigned table at either the early (5:30) or the late (8:00) seating. For the flexible system, guests can come any time the restaurant is open but they are not guaranteed the same table each night. The traditional dining was on the main floor of the main dining room and the flexible system on the balcony overlooking the main floor.
On this voyage, we selected the flexible system. We went to the dining room relatively late each evening. The staff made considerable effort to ensure that the same team served us each night. Most of the time, we ended up at the same table but on some nights we had another table in the same area. On several nights, the same couple sat at the table next to us and there was good conversation across the tables.
The team serving us were very good. They were genuinely friendly and focused on making sure that we enjoyed our food.
The food at dinner was very good. Several times, we sampled several of the dishes and we were never disappointed.
For breakfast and lunch (sea days only), the main dining room is open seating. We did not find the service as good when we went there for lunch. Also, the food was disappointing. As a result, for lunch, we ended up having sandwiches from the Park Cafe or a salad from the Windjammer buffet restaurant.
We had breakfast in the Concierge Club, which is open to suites guests and Pinancle and Diamond Plus members of the Crown and Anchor program. It had a nice buffet spread of baked goods, yogurts, cereals, fruit and various other items. These made for an enjoyable light breakfast.
The entertainment we enjoyed the most was the visiting entertainers. We especially liked Boston stand-up comedian Don Gavin and comedy-magician Matt Barker.
Towards the end of the cruise, Britain's Finest performed a tribute to the Beatles. This filled the theater to capacity for both performances. Of course, none of the tribute bands can match the real thing. However, this band was good enough to evoke the memory, which is what the crowd came for.
On this cruise, there were more sea days than port days. Long, restful days with balmy Caribbean breezes blowing into the cabin through the balcony door. No wonder experienced cruisers like sea days.
The first port of call was St. Maarten. This port was devastated by the hurricanes of a few years ago. Substantial progress in re-building has been made on the Dutch side of the island. The damage is still more visible on the French side.
Antigua was not affected by the hurricanes. Inasmuch as Serenade was the only ship in port, it seemed strangely deserted. It is still a pretty island.
Aruba remains much the same. We walked around Orangestad and by Queen Wilimena Park, we saw a colony of iguanas and a sea turtle swimming just off shore. We also spoke with some people who were off Crown Princess, which was docked immediately in front of Serenade.
Curcaco was our favorite port. Wilhelmstad is a unique mixture of European and African cultures. Dutch colonial architecture painted in bright Caribbean colors. Consequently, it is an interesting place to walk around with museums and historical sites. It is also nice just to sit by the Swinging Bridge and watch the world go by.
Above: Serenade by the Riff Fort in Curacao.
Above: Some of the dinners served during the cruise.
Above: A balcony stateroom.
Below: The balcony.
Cruise ship review - - Royal Caribbean International - - Serenade of the Seas - - Caribbean 2019