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Cruise Ship Review
Viking Serenade
By
Steve J. Garrod

Viking Serenade 4 Night Baja Mexico Cruise August 1997

Viking Serenade

I, along with a friend of mine, took the August 11th sailing on board RCI's Viking Serenade. This was my 11th cruise and I have sailed on many of RCI's ships before so I was eager to discover the Viking Serenade and all she has to offer vacationers on the West Coast. On this cruise, it seemed as if we were some of the cruisers who flew the furthest for this particular cruise! (Chicago)

The Viking Serenade, as one sees her today, is much different than she has been in years past. She (then M/S Stardancer) was acquired by RCI from the former Admiral Cruises, completely reconstructed, and re-launched as the M/S Viking Serenade. Some of the most noticeable differences that were added are the Viking Crown Lounge, the newer, sleeker bow, and a duck-tail stern. Two decks of porthole cabins were added in place of car transport decks as well. Most of the interior of the ship has also been either completely rebuilt or refurbished.

Prior to our cruise aboard the Viking Serenade, my friend and I enjoyed two nights in San Pedro, California. This was a lovely area to enjoy the water, shopping, and the view of the Port of Los Angeles. We had the opportunity to view the M/S Jubilee and M/S Crystal Symphony leave on their 7-Night voyages prior to ours, as well.

Embarkation went very smoothly and I was completely amazed at how well things went. Being former RCI cruisers (Crown & Anchor Society members) we were able to upgrade from Club Deck to Star Deck quite flawlessly. Our cabin, however, (number 9528) had an obstructed view due to a lifeboat. The cabin itself, though, was tastefully decorated and very well maintained. I barely noticed any wear and tear in the cabin itself, even though the color scheme in the washroom seemed a bit out-of-date (possibly from the Stardancer).

Passengers generally board on Main Deck outside of the Aida Dining Room and are courteously escorted to their cabins by one of the crew members. The main entrance was adequately lit but very classy (following Royal Caribbean's traditional décor). Main Deck (as well as "A" Deck and "B" Deck) primarily consists of cabins, save for the medical facilities and the conference center. Pacific Deck is generally the same except for the Magic Flute Dining Room. The Magic Flute Dining Room is one of the public areas on the ship that seemed to maintain the original design from the Stardancer. The predominant color scheme in this dining room was natural colors, primarily beige. The dining room is lined with graciously appointed windows on both the starboard and port sides which, on this cruise, offered fantastic views of the water and sunsets. I could not have asked for better scenery while dining.

The food was, as usual, excellent. I was amazed by the number of options and combinations offered which can easily accommodate a wide variety of tastes. I happened to select the vegetarian entrees three out of four nights and was thoroughly pleased. The dining room service was, however, average. Service does vary from server to server, though, and may not have been the case for any of the other stations in the dining room. My friend and I had to skip dessert twice to ensure a good seat for the shows because of a delayed serving time of our entrée. After a terrific meal, however, we would just dash from the Magic Flute to one deck above right to the Hello Dolly Lounge on Cabaret Deck.

The Hello Dolly Lounge is layed out very similarly to other RCI ships with a one-deck show lounge (i.e. former Nordic Prince and Sun Viking). This lounge, however, seemed to offer great sight lines from virtually every corner of the lounge. Some of the entertainment included on the August 11th sailing was a welcome aboard show, a comedian, singer, and farewell spectacular. The highlight of the week, though, was "Burning Beat" presented by the Anita Mann Singers and Dancers. The show consisted of tunes and dances from throughout the most popular years of music, guaranteed to appeal to many. For example, I myself was pulled from the front row to share in "The Twist" with the singers and dancers. Enough cannot be said about the energy and enthusiasm radiated by these talented performers. Our Cruise Director, Laurie Rizzo, always concluded the evening with what was in store for the rest of the evening.

 

Right outside the Hello Dolly Lounge is the photo gallery. I was very much impressed by the number of photos taken for a four-night cruise and by the excellent variety offered. On the same deck, Cabaret Deck, are the Schooner Bar and the Casino Royale. These public areas are designed much in the same fashion as on other ships. The Schooner Bar does not seem to carry the same rustic scent in her as on other ships - it was barely noticeable.

One deck above, Club Deck, is where the Serenade Boutiques are located. The shops are very diverse, offering a duty free store, a fine gifts shop, a perfumerie, and also the logo shop. Down the port side of the ship was the entire logo shop and the starboard, the finer gift shops. Further aft on Club Deck is the Bali H'ai Lounge. On my voyage, this lounge offered many of the late night spectaculars such as popular singers from the main shows, "The Not-So-Newlywed Game", and the 50's and 60's passenger participation show. My friend stole the show here by winning the hula hoop contest. The Bali Ha'I itself is designed in cool colors such as light greens combined with light beiges. The dance floor lies to the port side aft while the circular seating arrangement surrounds it.

The promenade (which is not full-circuit) is also on Club Deck and offers very comfortable deck chairs to sit and watch the stars and enjoy the fresh air. On my cruise, we were able to sit and also watch the M/S Holiday sail with us back to Los Angeles. One deck above, Star Deck, are more cabins which also accommodate the aft verandahs and the Royal Suite (which I toured and was very impressed with).

Perhaps one of the most frequented decks on this ship was the Sun Deck. Aft on Sun Deck is the Windjammer Café, which offers outdoor and indoor breakfasts, lunches, and afternoon teas. The food here is average but offers splendid views of the sea and the port of call for the day. The décor in the Windjammer Café is very similar to that of the M/S Nordic Empress and Grandeur of the Seas. Forward of the Windjammer Café on both port and starboard sides are the lounges which accommodate the younger passengers - the playroom and the teen disco. There is an intimate card room forward of the playroom which proved very popular to game lovers and readers. The Ship Shape Center was very popular, as on most RCI cruises. I was quite disappointed to find out that the weight equipment was moved to crew decks to make room for more aerobic machinery. The aerobics classes were also held in this area with magnificent views of the sea. Between the card room and work out areas are the hair salon, sauna rooms, barber, and massage areas.

Forward on this deck is the ship's pool and Sunshine Bar. This area accommodated the pool games and horse races as well. I was surprised to find that my lifeboat station was actually next to the pool itself and not situated near lifeboats. We were also informed that life rafts would have been used for that station instead where, I believe, all new RCI ships accommodate most all passengers on lifeboats.

The only public room above this deck is the Viking Crown Lounge. The Viking Crown is beautifully decorated in cool sea colors such as all shades of blues and grays. The aft section of the Viking Crown is strikingly similar to the Sovereign-Class ships offering a pleasant sitting area and great views of the sea. The forward section of the Viking Crown Lounge houses the ship's discotheque. This disco literally came alive after 11:30 p.m. and jammed until nearly 3:30 a.m. There is beautiful skylighting and a very spacious bar area. Against the smokestack inside the disco is a fluorescent lighting wall which adds excitement to the disco scene.

Overall Comments:

Even though the ship is a classic, my friend and I found the corridors and stairwells to be extremely confusing and misleading. We had never seen so many corridors that lead to nowhere and stairwells that go to only certain decks and not others. However, by the end of the cruise we were very well accustomed to the ship's design.

The forward outdoor deck areas are very spacious and offer many deck chairs and walking areas to enjoy the scenery, fresh air, and night sky. Passengers will barely feel any "motion in the ocean" as the ship barely travels. Traveling to Catalina Island and San Diego, we literally were stopped in the water at many points. The last evening, however, we cruised the whole night and felt only minimal rolling and pitching.

I absolutely loved Catalina Island and San Diego and recommend them to anyone. I also recommend the San Diego and LaJolla tours - they were not only breathtakingly beautiful but also very informative. Ensenada was great as well but one must take a bus to get to the more exciting sights of interest. My friend and I wound up enjoying local shopping and some of the clubs.

Final Words:

I highly recommend this cruise for anyone looking for an exciting four nights at sea to enjoy a typical cruise atmosphere. This is a wonderful cruise to take to get a taste of cruising as well. I, however, loved sailing aboard her because I got to finally see this classic beauty, have some great fun with my friend, and meet some terrific crew members. I have certainly taken home many, many memories that will not fade for a long time.


Steve Garrod has been a dedicated follower of The SeaLetter for over a year and a half now. He has sailed on 11 cruises and hopes to work on a cruise ship in less than one year. Steve is now in his senior year of college as a marketing major with minors in Spanish, French, and German. He is very passionate about his interests and love of cruising. Steve can be reached for questions or comment at: Z944558@rice.farm.niu.edu.


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