A year or so ago there was a discussion on Kosher cruising using the regular pre packaged Kosher food and not a Kosherica cruise. I returned 2 weeks ago from a 15 night Transatlantic cruise on the Serenade of the Seas and would like to give a rather detailed update and review of the Kosher meals on this cruise.
Firstly I was the only passenger who ordered Kosher meals so that might have influenced the variety of the pre-packaged meals and service somewhat.
Directly on embarcation I went to the dining room and spoke to the Headwaiter and discussed the procedures for meals. There was no lunch prepared (as I had expected) and was told that they would prepare supper with what they found and that I would get an updated inventory list then.
At supper they gave me a short list of 3 different entrees and said that they would continue looking and two days later they found 8 more types.
Part of the disorganization was due to the fact that they had stuffed the freezers to capacity because of the long cruise and it took them a while to dig through all the cartons in the freezer
In addition to the entrees there was Matzo Ball and Lentil soup, Gefilte fish (served with Moroccan !! sauce which was surprisingly good, but tell them if you want it hot or cold), carrot cake, and apple strudel.
For fish they had Terriyaki Salomon. You could also order double wrapped fresh fish as well as baked potato, sweet potato etc.. For dairy there was cheese lasagna and eggplant parmasan
After about a week they found "Hamburger in a Bun" which was a meat patty cooked inside a closed bun. Very tasty
Everyone has their own level of obseervance but I asked for uncut vegetables such as tomatoes with every meal. The cucumbers were about a foot long and impracticle to eat at one sitting
Meals were served double wrapped with high quality plasticware which made opening the packages relatively easy.
At the Windjammer Buffet, MDR and Park Cafe there were for breakfast, plain bagels, Kellogs cereals and all sorts of Heinz condiments. There was also French Toast and Waffles that had a Hechsher but you had to order it the night before and eat it in the MDR , heated and double wrapped. As it was served in the buffet it would be unacceptable. They also had cinnamon raisen bagels but that came from another supplier in Europe without a Hechsher. The soft serve ice cream did not have a Hechsher while the hard ice cream did.
At the Park Cafe you could also get whole wheat Pita and cut fruit in disposable cups. All other venues have cut fruit with the regular serving dishes and tongs.
The orange and apple juice, ice tea, lemonade and flavored waters all had hechshers and paper cups are available at all the coffee bars. This can be used for drinks, ice cream and cereal, if you are like me and do not use any dishes or cups even for cold items
There is no problem asking the staff at all the venues to check if there is a hechsher. They are used to it and will go look. I found it helpful to give them a card with all the major symbols on it so that they would have something to look for. But just remember suppliers change all the time and what was on this cruise might not be on another cruise or on another ship. You have to check.
Finally the staff. Everyone I came in contact with went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable as possible and as fed as possible. They went that extra mile in looking for additional items, in answering my questions and putting up with the Mishigasim of a strictly Kosher traveller. The food in general was very good, I never felt hungry and in fact I started to skip lunch because I was eating too much.
There were some minor issues which I discussed with the Food and Beverage Manager, who said that they would take it into account in future purchases
My compliments to the entire Serenade and RCCL team and I would have no second thoughts in doing it again. While I am sure that the ambiance and food with Kosherica is better than what I had, there is no way that I could justify adding about $150-200 extra a day for food. But everyone can make their own decision.