Royal Caribbean International is best known for its large mega-cruise ships. However, the line also has a number of smaller ships. These ships are not mere mini-versions of Royal's giants. Rather, they provide their own unique cruise experiences under the Royal Caribbean umbrella.
“In Royal Caribbean, there is one main product and one philosophy. The core idea and delivery is the same really - - to wow our guests,” explains Ferando Jorge, Hotel Director on Serenade of the Seas.
However, within Royal Caribbean, there are several different cruise experiences. “We have different ships and different classes with different offerings. We have such a large variety [of ships] - - we have ships with Royal Promenades, ships with Centrums, ships with completely different layouts such as the Quantum class.”
“Its a matter of catering to all kinds of tastes. Its about people being able to choose.”
To illustrate, “for some people the ice show is really important, they love the ice show and they love to see it on different ships so they will go toward the ships [that have ice shows]. Every ship has its own little treasures to offer whether onboard or the destinations that they go to.”
“There is a need to create different experiences and different environments for people. Having so many ships and destinations and offering such a wide variety of experiences, people can keep cruising and not feel that they are doing the same thing and that the experience is always the same.”
So where does Serenade of the Seas fit in? Serenade is one of Royal Caribbean's four Radiance class ships. The Radiance class are substantial ships although nowhere near the size of Royal's most recent ships. Nonetheless, Mr. Jorge pointed out, these ships have qualities that attract a loyal following particularly among cruise connoisseurs.
“These are nice ships. I like the size of the ship, I think it is a perfect size ship. I also like the big ships but these are beautifully designed ships. Compared to ships from other companies that have the same tonnage we do, this ship looks more like a massive yacht - - the bow is longer and on the sides it has all these different shapes. Then there's a lot of glass with steel around it. It was a very well-conceived class of ships. They just look very elegant. We have a lot of guests that share that thought about this class of ship. They are just beautiful.”
“We have guests that come on this class of ship who have been on the bigger ships but they just prefer it here. They feel it is more cozy here. They can see the officers more often. They also get to connect better with other guests.”
“This ship, being a smaller ship, can get to places where the other ships can't.” As a result, the Radaince ships tend to do longer itineraries that include both well-known ports and less developed ports that fewer people have visited. This makes the Radiance class popular with seasoned travelers.
“Also these ships have a lot of power. Two different systems - - gas turbines and diesel engines. So these ships are very manuverable. I know a lot of captains who love being on these ships. They call them 'the Ferraris of the sea' because of that.”
There is also the fact that Serenade and her sisters were built by Meyer Werft. “The quality of the ships that come out of that shipyard is definitely very good. And we know it ourselves from maintaining the ships over the years. They are very well-built ships.”
Thus, Serenade of the Seas had a lot going for it from the time it entered service. However, in December 2012, Royal Caribbean spent $29 million to further enhance the ship.
Among the highlights of the revitalization was an increase in the number of and variety of the specialty restaurants. “We had already Chops Grille and we had Portofino, an Italian restaurant. The Portofino was changed to Giovanni's Table, which is a more trattoria, family experience rather than the formal experience that was being offered. We included Izumi. We included the Chef's Table as well.”
“We renewed as well the interior of the ship, we went for a little bit more modern look.” This included changing not just the décor of the ship's central atrium (called the Centrum) but also its facilities so that it could act as an entertainment venue. “We included also our Wow Shows - - amazing shows” featuring aerialists as well as singers and dancers.
“We upgraded the technology. We started having pervasive Wi-Fi. The digital signage [was added] all around the ship.”
As a result of the revitalization, Serenade now has quite a few features previously found only in large ships but within a more intimate environment.
Still, it takes more than good hardware to create a great cruise experience. Consequently, Mr. Jorge spends considerable time observing and studying the way Serenade operates. “Walking around every day, we will find things. If I don't find ten observations in one day, that is not a day. It is part of the business - - continuous improvement of what we do and then tweaking.”
Part of this tweaking is to make sure the product is in tune with the clientele. Serenade ranges the world, sailing the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and even the Persian Gulf in recent years. In each area, the composition of Serenade's passengers was different.
“The most important thing is to undertsand the guest demographic that we have onboard and to provide a [superior] product to them. That goes from food, entertainment and even from the behavior of the crew. How to interact [changes] because it is different to connect with people from different nationalities. There are different etiquettes, different things that people have to pay attention to. So the first thing is to undertsand where we are and who are the people we have sailing and to tweak our product.”
Cruise ship interview - Royal Caribbean International - Serenade of the Seas - Hotel Director