During 2011 I booked a number of passengers on the MS Serenade 1, and received some good feedback on the ship, but I hadn't seen her myself. Therefore when I was offered the chance to take my wife on-board for a 2 night taster cruise on the Rhine, I jumped at the opportunity.
We travelled from St Pancras to Brussels on the Eurostar, and then boarded a coach for the transfer to Cologne. The Rhine passes through Cologne city centre, which is where we found the MS Serenade 1 moored, awaiting our arrival.
The red carpet was out on the gangway, and the crew were waiting to greet everyone as we boarded. We went straight to reception for a very quick registration, and we were handed the key, and then a member of the crew escorted us to our cabin. This reception wasn't because we were there as agents, but is normal whenever new passengers arrive.
During our short time on this cruise we had the opportunity to spend time in Cologne, Koblenz and Bonn. One major benefit of river cruising is that the ships generally moor right in the heart of the town or city. This means that you can just walk off the ship and within minutes you can be shopping, sitting in a bar or cafe, or visiting a church or other point of interest, with no need for the hassle or cost of shuttle buses.
At the end of our short but very enjoyable cruise on MS Serenade 1 it was back on the coach to Brussels and then the Eurostar back to St Pancras. While the Eurostar is an option for many of the itineraries operated by MS Serenade 1, flights are available for all of them, with the option of regional flights subject to availability.
Ship Facts & Figures - The MS Serenade 1 is 110m long and 11.4m wide, and carries a maximum of 130 passengers in 65 cabins. There are no single cabins but, subject to availability, cabins can be booked for sole occupancy.
Cabins - All cabins onboard are the same size at 16 square meters, and are equipped with a flat-screen satellite television, telephone, fridge, tea & coffee making facilities, safe and hairdryer, as well as individually controlled air conditioning. The en-suite bathrooms all feature a separate bath and walk-in shower.
The cabins on Chopin and Mozart deck have sliding French windows, also known as a Juliet balcony, whereas the cabins on Beethoven deck have smaller fixed windows. Cabins 333 and 334 at the rear of the ship are Chopin Superior grade, and they each have a balcony which you can sit on. Cabin 226 has been adapted for wheelchair users and has a wet room.
Onboard Facilities - There is a good sized lounge and bar area, with a separate library with tables for playing cards or board games, and also a 24 hour self-serve tea, coffee and iced water station. There is a small gym with 2 exercise bikes, as well as a sauna. There is a lift which covers Mozart and Chopin deck cabins, as well as the restaurant, lounge and bar. To get to the outside sun deck there is a stair-lift available.
Restaurant - Breakfast is open seating and there is a large buffet with a good selection of hot and cold dishes, lunch and dinner are both waiter service meals, with allocated seating. The quality of the food served in the restaurant was very good in my opinion, and we had no complaints at all. Afternoon tea is also served each day in the restaurant, and late night snacks are served in the lounge nightly apart from the night of the Captain's Gala Dinner.
Entertainment - There is a musician who will perform each evening in the lounge, and occasionally local musicians or folklore entertainers will be invited onboard, to give you a taste of the area the ship is in. During the day there are books and board games, as well as the large sundeck, complete with a table tennis table. There is also a choice of movies playing on the television in your cabin. Occasionally there will be onboard lecturers, talking on a variety of different subjects.
Dress Code - Comfortable casual clothing during the day and smart casual in the evening is what people are usually happy with. You may wish to dress up a bit more for the Captain’s Gala Dinner, although it is by no means compulsory.
What is Included? - The price you pay covers return flights or Eurostar from London, transfers to and from the ship, your cabin within the grade booked (for a supplement of £25 per person, you can choose a specific cabin number), all your food and entertainment, as well as tea and coffee 24 hours a day.
Extra costs are your drinks, excursions and gratuities. There is a good selection of reasonably priced beers, wines and spirits to choose from onboard. When it comes to excursions, prices vary depending on the type of tour involved but can vary from around £15 each for a walking tour upwards. For instance, while in Koblenz we went on a two hour walking tour with a very knowledgeable guide, who gave us a great insight into the history of the town. Remember though that the ship moors right in the town centre, so you may choose to just explore on your own. As far as gratuities are concerned, there is a suggested amount of £7 per person per day, to reward the staff onboard, but this is entirely at your discretion. You would place the amount you want to give in an envelope, and post it in the box in reception on the last day of your cruise.
Summary - The MS Serenade 1 is a good quality 4-star floating hotel, and I found the facilities and cleanliness onboard to be first rate, and everything looks new.