This was our ninth cruise.after 1 on Holland America, 6 on Carnival, and 1 on the now out-of-commission SS Independence. We booked the 11-15-03 RCCL Serenade Southern Caribbean cruise and airfare through our local travel agent. Booking the airfare through RCCL provided luggage pick-up from the airport at San Juan to the ship. We avoided dealing with the hassle of checking the luggage before boarding the ship.
We love the ship.lots of glass, wonderful elevators, and everything so clean and new. We ate in the dining room a few times, but were not pleased by the service or food. The first day the waiter was the best, asking how the food was, etc. After that first night, you couldn't find him after he brought the entrees. He got some orders mixed up, and if you order steak, you are taking your chance of how you like it. Medium was well done, and very tough and dry. Someone else told us he ordered medium and got a very bloody steak. We started going to the Windjammer café, and were very pleased. They had people refilling your drinks, greeted your arrival, and were more pleasant all around. Had the usual carving stations, pasta, roast beef, and even an oriental one. In the mornings they had the omelet station. One night they came around with hors' d'oeuvres. They never rushed you there, but in the main dining room, they did, especially on the night when they did that silly dance. They even took our plates away before we were finished eating.
Don't bother going to the midnight buffet. It was very unorganized with people grabbing all the chocolate strawberries and other goodies like it was their last meal. We went once to the alternative dining restaurant, the Portofino. There we received excellent service and food.
Several times our room steward did not replace used towels or the empty facial tissue box. The first day she promised to remove everything from the refrigerator as we requested, but failed to do so. We have had better steward service on most of our other cruises. We were pleased with the breakfast room service. In the mornings, we received a call right before our breakfasts were delivered.
The entertainment was pretty good. We liked the magician and juggler the best. The stage shows and comedians were like many that we have seen on other cruise ships. The showroom was the best for not having any columns in the way of your sight lines. Most of the chairs had drink holders and were very comfortable.
We had heard that there were a lot of stores on RCCL ships and were surprised that there were only a few. The merchandise selection was not interesting to us at all. We enjoyed the beautiful Solarium. However, on one of our visits there, we endured the typical experience of one inconsiderate family who insisted on staying right by the Jacuzzi for a half hour with a crying toddler.
The little movie theater was cool. Their stadium seating was great, with a great view of the movies. Now if they could just get some movies we like (less violent and more upbeat) it would be perfect. We saw part of "The Core", "Frida", and "The Hours". The TV had your usual shipboard info channel, shopping channel, recap of the prior day's activities, and a few movie channels (some were in Spanish and German). You could also check on all of your prior day's charges on your card. The stock tracker didn't work, though.
The casino was fun and they did have a non-smoking area. Plenty of slots and blackjack tables. They even came around offering little desserts like chocolate-covered strawberries, which was a nice touch. If you needed more cash, you could charge it without a fee like that we have been charged on some other ships.
Right in front of the shops they have a place that has pastries and coffee drinks. If you order a coffee drink, you can get it in a travel mug and keep the mug. People were ordering just to get the different color mugs. The guy who worked there did card tricks for us.
Embarkation and debarkation were very organized and went quickly. No passengers were blocking the stairwells, like we have seen on the debarkation on most of our prior cruises.
All things considered, we may cruise with RCCL again.