We literally just returned from the second sailing aboard the Serenade. We arrived early and because my mom uses a cane, we skipped the lines and were having lunch at the Windjammer by 1 PM. My first impression was good - she is a gorgeous ship! Since she is brand new, everything is fresh and spotless.The atruim and elevators are all glass and the colors soothing. We had a standard outside stateroom which was on the small side with paper-thin walls and a loveseat. The bathroom was compact. There was not enough closet space for longer items. There was a safe, a hairdryer and shampoo dispensar in the shower but that was it.
The gym and spa area were lovely as was the solarium however, it was not a serene place since anyone at the front of the ship had to walk through it to get to the casual restaurant. It was supposed to be an adults only area but in bad weather kids are allowed to use it. So much for tranquility! There was a separate $50 charge to use the thermal therapy facility. The food ranged from good to medicore. The Windjammer Cafe offered standard but limited buffet breakfast foods with two omelette stations one of which had the toast/bagels/english muffins and the other, biscuits, gravy & hard boiled eggs.The lines sometimes got long. I (along with many others)found standing in line for every beverage (which was served from behind a counter) and no table service for re-fills to be very irritating. There are no trays & no one to help you to your table either. We missed lunch each day as we were in port. They have abandoned the usual "High Tea" and replaced it with snacks in the Windjammer which include tacos, scones, pastries, soup and small deli sandwiches. There was no variety to the menu and it got pretty stale by day 4. There is no food poolside. They were unaccomodating with regard to dining changes. There are very few tables for two.The food at dinner was basically good but not memorable and the choices often left our table uninspired. Presentation was lovely and unfortunately, the desserts were usually delicious! There are two alternative restaurants which charge $20 per person.The room service menu is very limited and the wait, very long. We waited an hour for a cheese and cracker plate one afternoon and ended up cancelling a coffee order one morning- we showered & dressed quicker then they were able to deliver a pot of coffee. Be sure to be very specific when you order . One morning we ordered coffee for two and it arrived with only four creamers and no silverware or napkins. Others shared our experience as well.
We didn't purchase tours from the ship so I can't comment on the quality. We did not utilize the children's program but I heard from others that it was very good. We did play miniature golf one day which was fun. There is an arcade with a separate per game charge as well as two ping pong tables (free) and two pool tables. The library is small but well-stocked & open 24 hours a day which was very nice.
Entertainment consisted of two "productions" shows, the second being better than the first, a vocalist who had wonderful stage presence but catered to an older crowd and a husband/wife team who performed a vulgar dance/comedy routine which was idiotic. The disco, clubs and bars were not very crowded and music (except in the disco)usually ended by 1 AM. The musicians were very good, especially the band in the atrium bar area. This was a wonderful meeting place for before and/or after dinner drinks and the two bartenders were great. Drink prices are on the high side compared to other ships I've been on. Since this is a new ship I am trying to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding service but it is hard. This is my 17th cruise and I found the service to be really, really bad. The dining room staff lacked polish and were poorly trained. In fact, they bordered on rude at times. This was especially true when we went to open seating breakfast. We waited 30 minutes for a drink at a bar the first night and there was no one serving near the pool or upper decks. Service, when it was provided was impersonal and disinterested. We saw the cruise director twice in 7 days and hardly ever saw the social staff.
Despite the poor service we had a good time. We were speaking to a member of the staff who said they were trying to create an upscale environment. The beauty of the ship certainly fits in with this goal but they need to re-train their staff, improve the quality and variety of the food and stop nickle and dimeing people. RCCL needs to remember that it is the little touches that make an impression on people and keeps them coming back.The captain is a warm and funny man. I hope as time goes on he will be able to improve on the overall experience.