CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews


Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Serenade of the Seas Alaska June 11, 2006 First, the good things: 1. We enjoyed our week-the scenery is spectacular, and we found the ports interesting, especially Skagway. We took the train ride and got to see a portion of the actual Trail of '98, which was a real thrill for Al. As suggested, we bought tickets off the ship, but paid $104.00 each, which we think is the same as on the ship. In town, we happened upon a tour being given by a National Park Service person, and tagged along. She was very good, and took us to several places. We enjoyed the Red Onion Saloon - had a beer and listened to the live honky-tonk piano. 2. We also enjoyed the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau - sawdust floor, Wyatt Earp's gun, and live honky-tonk. 3. In Ketchikan, it was drizzly and cool, but we enjoyed strolling along Creek Street, stopped for a beer, and bought a necklace with a gold nugget in it. 4. The entertainment on the ship was good - we enjoyed it all - Las Vegas style, comedian (really good!) and magic show. The cruise director was excellent. 5. We were really lucky with our table in the dining room - it was on the upper level by the window, a table for 4, which was the number in our party. 6. We had a nice meal at Portofino, but ended up paying $75.00, so cancelled our reservation at Chops. 7. The ship is very grand/beautiful. We had never seen such a high atrium before - very impressive!. Al managed to find a grand piano that wasn't locked (in the Viking Crown Lounge), so played it early each morning, after a run on the deck. 8. The indoor pool was lovely - Al swam 20 lengths each morning (about 8 strokes/length). 9. Al attended 2 lectures-one on Alaska, and one on the Gold Rush-and found both interesting. 10. We tended to gravitate to the Schooner Bar more than to any other bar. 11. We (Al & Paula) were pleased with our cabin steward; he kept us in orange juice. He seemed to have a 6th sense for when we were not in the cabin. Bob & Pat's steward was not as friendly. 12. Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth. Some other comments:

A. The dining room experience was disappointing when compared to our time on the Grand Princess and Sun Princess. The food was good, but the classy touches were missing:

  1. We were offered a choice of breads at the beginning of the meal, but it was never re-offered.
  2. On formal night, the menu did not appear to be any more special (Alaska King Crab was not served on this Alaska cruise!) than on any other night. They did serve lobster, but it wasn't the same as East Coast lobster. Also, the waiters did not wear jackets on formal night, just a different colour vest. Our waiter had a safety pin on his vest in place of a missing button. Do they think people don't notice these things?!
  3. After taking our orders, our waiter held out his hand for us to hand him back the menus, rather than picking them up himself.
  4. The butter patties were pre-packaged, still in their wrappers; they should have been unwrapped, and on ice.
  5. We got tired of being herded into a certain area and seated with strangers at breakfast, so switched to the buffet for that meal. We were pleased with the buffet.
  6. From the start, we suspected that the juices were being watered down; this was confirmed one morning when Al was at the drinks station of the buffet to get a coffee; an attendant was holding a 2-liter orange juice carton, and a half-full pitcher of orange juice was beside him. He ran water in to the carton - Al thought he was rinsing it for recycling, (naive guy that he is!) He poured the water into the pitcher of juice, right in front of passengers!! Very, very annoying!
  7. Regarding the Grand Gala Buffet - it was spectacular, with many ice sculptures, but why does it have to be at midnight? We stayed up to see and photograph it, but didn't have anything to eat. We just weren't hungry. Could it not be done at the regular evening mealtimes, instead of so late?

B. Our cabins were the smallest we have experienced, except on the Norway; disappointing, but I guess you could say we got used to it. The beds appeared to be king size-not really necessary in a cabin that size. The large balcony (Category E1)was nice, but the extra width is not private; the partition at the outer portion is only waist-high, making it easy for people to see into the adjacent balcony. Another time, we would go for the regular size, where the high partition extends all the way out to the rail.

C. We were late arriving at Hubbard Glacier because of having to go at reduced speed. The Westerdam got in ahead of us, and positioned directly in front of the middle of the glacier. It sat there for about an hour, then turned around to put its other side to the glacier, but did not move forward or back. Meanwhile, we sat further back from the glacier the whole time. We learned later, from our Captain, that he had asked the Westerdam captain if he would move his ship so we could go in close to the glacier. The Westerdam captain refused to move! So we left without getting really close, but we were close enough that it was still interesting and enjoyable. So much for professionsal courtesy among cruise ship captains, and so much for any possibility of Al/Paula/Bob/Pat ever booking on Holland America!

D. There were no self-serve laundry facilities, as on Sun Princess, and no irons or ironing boards in the rooms, making one feel that they just want to make more money by forcing people to use their laundry service ($3.00 for one underwear item).

In summary, we feel that the standards have slipped a bit since we cruised 6 years ago. It's mass production now, and maybe Princess is the same. We are now thinking that to get a class act, we would have to go on something like Crystal.

It's unlikely that we would book Royal Caribbean again. I've read that Celebrity is classier than the others - maybe we'll try that.

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