Serenade of the Seas Review – What We Loved (and Didn’t)
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This cruise was my first time sailing to Alaska. Read my thoughts and experience below in our Serenade of the Seas review.
Product Brand: Royal Caribbean
Serenade of the Seas doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the newest cruise ships, but that doesn’t mean you should rule it out.
This cruise was my first on a Radiance class ship and my first time sailing to Alaska. We had an excellent time, and I’ll share my thoughts and experience below in our Serenade of the Seas reviews.
Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas is a mid-sized ship and the third in the Radiance class.
They are smaller than the preceding Voyager-class ships as they are built for cruising colder, more remote destinations.
The size and design of the cruise ship make it ideal for Alaska cruises. Serenade of the Seas doesn’t have all the thrills and amenities of larger vessels, providing a laid-back, more intimate cruising experience.
Here are some Serenade of the Seas stats:
We embarked on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas from Vancouver cruise port in British Columbia, Canada. We arrived in Vancouver the day before our cruise and spent the day touring the city.
If I could do it again, I would fly into Vancouver a few days earlier. Vancouver is a beautiful city with lots to do, and I wish we had more time to explore the local parks, cafes, shops, and neighboring towns.
We spent the night at the Days Inn by Wyndham, one of our recommended best hotels near Vancouver Cruise Port.
The embarkation process was fast and easy. We sailed with a group of 13 and didn’t have any hiccups embarking on the cruise ship.
Booking a 12:00 pm embarkation got us on the ship as soon as possible. We arrived at the cruise port early, and the cruise line representatives allowed us to proceed through the check-in.
Somehow we ended up on Serenade of the Seas at 11:30 am, a full 30 minutes before our scheduled embarkation time – I’m not complaining.
We accessed our cabins at 1:30 pm but didn’t receive our luggage until 3:00 pm. Others in our group didn’t receive their luggage until after 5:00 pm.
Luggage delivery is always delayed, and the timing is a bit random. I always pack my first-day essentials in a carry-on bag, so I don’t spend the first day waiting for my luggage to arrive.
If I have any complaints about the embarkation, it’s our first step on the cruise.
Unlike other cruise ships where you embark through the ship’s atrium, on Serenade of the Seas, we were brought aboard and paraded through the Shops of the Centrum.
Crew members lined the narrow hallway with aggressive sales pitches, selling drink packages, specialty dining packages, jewelry, photo opportunities, and souvenirs.
Although I love Royal Caribbean, I don’t appreciate how I sometimes feel nickel and dimed.
And the first steps on board were very over the top.
Fortunately, the ship made a great first impression after making our way through the shopping area. Though the sales pitches continued during our lunch in the Windjammer.
After embarking on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, we headed to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. This vacation was our first Royal Caribbean cruise since the pandemic, and on first impressions, the buffet food was much better than previous sailings – already a great start to our cruise.
After lunch, we began exploring the ship.
One reason we like to embark early is to eat lunch before it gets too crowded and explore the ship at our own pace.
During our sailing, Serenade of the Seas was 20 years old. But for an old ship, it was in excellent condition.
The ship is well-maintained with classic decor and plenty to see and do.
The ship’s 9-story atrium, or Centrum, is a lively place. There’s always live music, dance classes, and even an egg drop challenge (which we miserable failed.)
One of the best features of Serenade of the Seas is the expansive windows in public spaces. The windows allow natural sunlight to fill the atrium and provide many quiet areas to relax with a view – a major plus for cruising scenic destinations like Alaska.
Another unique feature of the Radiance class vessels is their elevator configuration.
Unlike most cruise ships which place the elevators in the center of the vessel, Serenade of the Seas’ elevators is located on the vessel’s starboard side.
The elevators have glass walls that provide an ocean view. It’s a welcomed feature when sailing to scenic destinations. Even when taking the elevator, we were treated to incredible views of the Alaskan wilderness.
Another small touch is the “day mat” in the elevators. Each morning, crew members change the welcome mat in the elevator, telling guests the current day of the week.
It’s a small but generous touch, as I often lose track of time when on vacation.
The entertainment on the cruise ship was exactly what you’d expect from a Royal Caribbean cruise. Serenade of the Seas doesn’t have an Aquatheatre or high-tech two70, but it excels at providing traditional family fun.
I loved the abundance of live music around the ship.
Although our ship sailed near full capacity, we never felt crowded. Even on sea days, the ship’s public areas felt comfortable to navigate, aside from the occasional big event in the Centrum.
On this cruise, we were able to complete our muster drill on our phones by watching a few short videos and visiting our muster station before the sail away. The virtual muster drill was more convenient and faster than the traditional drills. It’s one post-covid change I hope continues on future cruises.
We initially booked an interior stateroom on Serenade of the Seas but tried our luck bidding for an upgrade through Royal Caribbean’s Royal Up.
Sailing to Alaska, we knew we wanted an ocean view or balcony stateroom to enjoy the scenery from our cabin. As luck would have it, we received an email three days before our cruise that we’d been upgraded to an oceanview stateroom.
Our oceanview cabin was located on deck 4. It was a pretty standard cabin compared to other Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Our stateroom was spacious and provided more than enough storage for the two of us.
The cabin decor is warm and cozy but a tad outdated.
When we walked in, we noticed that our cabin configuration was for two single beds instead of a Queen. When our cabin steward came by to introduce himself, he offered to arrange the beds into a Queen configuration before we could mention it to him.
If there’s one thing Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas provides, it’s excellent service.
Our cabin had a Queen-sized bed, a loveseat (not a sofa bed), two Pullman beds (which remained closed), a large closet, and a desk.
The cabin only has one plug, so if you want to charge multiple electronics, pack a non-surge power bar.
We found the bathroom in our cabin very tiny – a common problem among Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
Although there’s enough space to do what we need to, I can’t help but feel claustrophobic in the uncomfortably small showers. But I did appreciate the sliding glass doors on the shower, compared to the usual curtain.
Every stateroom has an in-cabin safe. The safe is small, but there’s enough room to store passports, wallets, money, jewelry, and other essentials.
I accidentally locked us out of the safe, but our cabin attendant had someone from security unlock it for us promptly.
After upgrading to an oceanview cabin, we were excited to relax in our stateroom with a view of the Alaskan landscape through a large porthole. Unfortunately, the porthole in our cabin was cloudy, and we could only make out the shapes of mountains.
Despite not getting the view we hoped for, the natural sunlight in the morning was a major advantage over interior cabins.
The Serenade of the Seas pool deck is smaller than other cruise ships. The small pool deck wasn’t an issue considering we sailed in a colder climate. The pool deck was empty most of the time.
You’d have to be pretty adventurous to use the outdoor pool in the Alaskan climate.
The pool deck is home to an outdoor pool, pool bar, sky bar, and two whirlpool hot tubs.
We did venture into the outdoor hot tubs when the Solarium filled up.
The adults-only Solarium was our pool of choice on this sailing. The enclosed pool room is a major plus when sailing in colder climates.
The Solarium has a retractable roof, but it remained closed throughout the cruise. We could swim and relax in the hot tubs no matter how cold the weather was outside.
However, the Solarium fills up fast, especially on sea days. You might not be able to find a lounger when the pool deck gets crowded. And it’s difficult to find room in the Solarium’s sole hot tub.
The fitness center and Vitality Spa are located next to the Solarium.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size and offering of the gym. The fitness center has dumbells, cable machines, cardio equipment, and over a dozen weight machines.
The center of the gym was a wood floor used for stretching or fitness classes. Some fitness classes had an extra cost of $20, but there were several free classes and seminars.
The gym features panoramic glass windows, so you’ll never miss a sightseeing opportunity, even while working out.
The cruise ship gym can get busy during the day, so it’s best to go in the early morning or evening for lower crowds.
The Vitality Spa is open from 8 am to 9 pm and offers facials, massages, manicures, pedicures, and acupuncture.
Spa treatments are not included with your cruise fare and are more costly than on land.
Despite the crazy prices, we both booked 50-minute hot stone massages and had an incredibly relaxing experience. The 50-minute session cost $155 each. The spa also offered 75-minute sessions for $199.
Serenade of the Seas offers a wide range of fun activities for guests of all ages. Despite not offering as many high thrills as the Oasis or Quantum class, Serenade of the Seas excels at offering traditional family-friendly fun.
You can find the rock climbing wall on the sports deck of Serenade of the Seas. The rock climbing wall has various courses of varying difficulty, as noted by the rock colors.
The wall is free to use when open, and there’s no reservation required. The rock wall was closed on windy and rainy days, but there were several climbing opportunities during good weather.
The climbing wall, sports deck, and mini golf course are perfect activities for active cruisers and friendly competition.
The sport’s deck is also home to a splash pad for kids, complete with a small waterside.
The cruise ship has an indoor cinema playing new releases and classics. The small cinema offered several movies throughout the day throughout the sailing.
If you missed a movie because of another activity, you could guarantee it would play again later in the cruise.
The Safari Club is located on Deck 6 behind the Schooner bar. We were amazed to see two pool tables at the entrance. The tables use advanced gyrostabilizers to keep the balls still even during the rockiest sea days.
Just beyond the pool tables is the Safari Club. The club is home to several activities throughout the day, including; bingo, karaoke, silent discos, live game shows, and more.
If you’re competitive and love games, you’ll want to keep an eye on the cruise compass for events in the Safari Club.
During the day, guests can find live music throughout the cruise ship. There’s a good mix of genres, from jazz to cover bands, to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
The evening shows change between different itineraries with the usual opening and closing show, two musical performances featuring Royal Caribbean’s singers and dancers, and a couple of guest performers.
We found the evening shows entertaining but not exceptional, but maybe we’ve just been spoiled on bigger Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
Our sailing had two comedian guest performers. One excellent comedian performed two shows, a regular evening show and a late-night, adults-only comedy show.
Of course, there’s the popular Love and Marriage Game Show; the cruise lines take on the Newlywed Game television series.
The Love and Marriage Game Show is always fun, and this was the first cruise we can remember where the contestants were asked completely new questions compared to our previous cruises.
The party on Serenade of the Seas lasts late into the night. After the evening shows, there’s dancing, singing, parties, and more throughout the cruise ship. Of course, there’s the cruise ship’s Casino Royale for those feeling lucky.
We traveled on Serenade of the Seas as a group of 13, including an 8 and 16-year-old. Royal Caribbean offers one of the best children’s programs in the cruise industry, so we weren’t worried about the kids in our group.
The eight-year-old enrolled in Adventure Ocean as an “Explorer,” the cruise line’s name for children in the 6 to 8 age group. And the sixteen-year-old made new lifelong friends in the teen program.
Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean divides kids into different age groups, including:
The cruise line’s children’s programming provides age-appropriate games and activities while allowing kids to choose the activities that interest them.
Activities include traditional games like dodgeball, video arcade games, board games, books, puzzles, science experiments, and more. Many educational activities are also available.
Trained professionals staff the kid’s program, so you know your child receives expert care.
Adventure Ocean is complimentary for all passengers except children enrolled in the Royal Nursery (6 to 36 months of age).
Royal Babies and Tots Nursery runs from 9 am until midnight at $6/hour per child from 9 am to 6 pm and $8/hour per child from 6 pm to midnight. The nursery is excellent for parents who need time to relax by the pool, spend the day in port, or catch a show in the Royal Theatre.
There’s no shortage of bars and lounges on Serenade of the Seas. Whether you’re looking for a tropical cocktail by the pool or a martini while you enjoy the evening show, there’s no shortage of places to grab a drink.
Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas has the following bars:
Each bar has a unique atmosphere and decor. The nautical Schooner Bar offers a classic atmosphere for enjoying a Regular Old Fashioned, while the Pool Bar offers more tropical drinks, even with the cool Alaskan weather.
By far, my favorite bar on Serenade of the Seas is the Viking Crown Lounge.
Viking Crown Lounge doesn’t serve the best drinks or have the liveliest atmosphere. Instead, the bar offers the best view from anywhere on the ship.
Every Royal Caribbean cruise ship features a Viking Crown Lounge, often the quietest place on the ship. Very few passengers venture to the top deck, and the bar is rarely open.
But for a scenic cruise like Alaska, Viking Crown Lounge provides the best vantage point to admire the sweeping mountain landscape and look for wildlife. Thanks to its position on the top deck, you can simultaneously see out over the port and starboard sides, providing a better chance to see whales from the cruise ship.
We saw a few whales from the ship, and both times we spotted them, we were sitting in the Viking Lounge.
Food is a make-it-or-break-it factor for me. And the food selection on Serenade of the Seas was great.
Serenade of the Seas provides several dining venues, including complimentary and specialty restaurants.
While the food at Royal Caribbean has always been good, I found a significant improvement in the food quality this time.
The Windjammer is Royal Caribbean’s buffet, with a wide selection of food. Even picky eaters will find something they enjoy. Some of the stations change throughout the cruise, so you won’t get bored with the food.
We primarily ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and lunch and dinner in the Reflections main dining room. We found the Windjammer’s breakfast to be equally fresh and enjoyable as the main dining room, but with a larger selection.
The buffet had a large selection of delicious food – always a challenge while trying to eat healthy on the cruise ship.
We were happy to find that the food quality was a step up from previous Royal Caribbean cruises. Not that the food previously was bad, but the dishes seemed to have much more flavor.
While eating lunch in the Windjammer on embarkation day, we were approached by several pushy crew members trying to convince us to book specialty restaurants, purchase drink packages, and other upsells.
I found the sales pitches to be a bit much, especially since we were trying to enjoy a nice meal.
Thankfully, the sales pitches only stopped after the first day.
We ate dinner in the main dining room during the early seating. The dishes in the main dining room always had excellent presentation and fantastic taste.
Our servers were excellent and took the time to introduce themselves and share some fun facts about the port we would visit the next day. The service in the main dining room was quick – even for our large group.
And I can’t stop praising the dessert. The crème brûlée, cheesecake, and baked Alaska were too good to choose a favorite.
Our cruise had two formal nights, allowing us to dress up and create an elegant night.
The next night, we booked dinner reservations at Izumi to celebrate. Izumi is a Japanese sushi restaurant located on deck 12.
The restaurant is reasonably priced, offering a flat $34.99 per person rate or a la carte menu. I had high hopes after so much pressuring by crew members to eat at the specialty restaurants, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The restaurant served decent-sized portions, and the sushi was much better than we could have expected. The dessert consisted of Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream, which was to die for.
The free beverage options are quite limited. Royal Caribbean offers complimentary water, drip coffee, tea, and fruit punch. If you want a better selection of beverages, you should upgrade to a soda or deluxe drink package or bring some water flavoring.
You can purchase individual drinks, but the prices for alcoholic drinks are expensive compared to what you’d find back home.
But if the drink package isn’t worth it, you can save money by bringing your own bottles of wine on the cruise ship. I wouldn’t drink enough to make the drink package worth it, but we could bring two 750ml bottles of wine, which lasted most of the ship.