This article is about 10 Things You Need To Know about a MS Serenade European River Cruise.
Sliding quietly along European rivers aboard a luxurious floating hotel is fast becoming a mainstream vacation choice. Every year increasing numbers of travellers are tempted to try river cruising. They are drawn to it by the stories and images of this leisurely, but immersive way, of exploring the treasures of the countries of Europe scattered along these winding watery paths. With more people than ever stepping onto river cruise ships, there has been a steady flow of new ships and new river cruise lines to satisfy this expanding demand. One recent entrant is Titan Travel. After years of selling other river cruising products they have created their own – initially with the MS Serenade 1 ship.
In this article I share 10 things you need to know before considering if they are right for your first (or next!) European river cruise.
#1: Designed for the needs of UK Travellers
The established river cruise lines set up and evolved to meet the needs and expectations of existing river cruisers. Many, like Uniworld and Viking, appeal and cater extremely well to American travellers while others, like CroisiEurope, offer a uniquely continental European and multi-lingual experience for predominantly French travellers.
The MS Serenade river cruise has been designed firmly with the United Kingdom traveller in mind. The entire experience is rooted in, and reflects, their expectations. There are British Cruise Directors, tea and coffee making facilities in the cabins, menus have been crafted to reflect the region while incorporating British standards and slant – while even the on-board materials use British English.
#2: Exclusive charter by and only sold by Titan Travel
Titan Travel chartered the entire ship, and guests will all be coming on board on a Titan tour. They are a large UK-based operator of escorted tours and claim “three times as many itineraries as other escorted tour operators, visiting 97 counties and every continent”.
Some of the features that they have included as part of the cruise packages include:
- Flights join cruises from regional airports, and so travellers shouldn’t have to go via London airports.
- If they cut fares to other travellers after anyone has booked they will reduce their fare accordingly. However, if they increase them there is no surcharge.
- Each cruise is hosted and run by a Titan Cruise Director and Managers. They are the face of the cruise to passengers and will be British, although the rest of crew from the company that owns the ship are a mix of European nationalities.
#3: MS Serenade Facilities and Features
MS Serenade 1 was built in 2005, originally to cater for Japanese guests, and was refurbished in 2017 to Titan specifications to meet the needs of their British clientele. The main changes were to the public rooms.
Features on the ship include:
- Four decks: Sun, Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven.
- Capacity for 136 passengers and 42 crew members.
- Sun Deck has large open spaces to sit and a glass-sided observation lounge.
- Chopin Deck has some cabins, the large Panorama Lounge, which is a quiet place to relax in the day, venue for port talks, evening drinks and entertainment and hosts the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell parties. The main reception and Titan Cruise Team desk is also here.
- Mozart Deck has more cabins and the restaurant, where all meals are served.
- Beethoven deck, which is largely below the water line, has the last set of cabins and the small fitness room and sauna.
#4: Large cabins with baths (unusual for river cruise ships)
The ship has 68 outside cabins and two suites across those three decks. The two suites are at the rear of the ship on the Chopin deck. There are three broad classes of cabins, all of similar size and layout. The Chopin Superior and Mozart Superior both have Juliet-style balconies, the suites have private balconies while the Beethoven ones have smaller windows just above the waterline.
They have twin beds that can be set in double or twin configuration, minibar, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe and every cabin has both a shower and bath. This is unusual on river cruise ships that tend to only have showers as standard to save on space. This was, for me, a real plus for the ship.
There is only one cabin suitable for wheelchair travellers.
Watch my video tour ad review of the MS Serenade Cabins: https://youtu.be/Tz7nu0U14WE
#5: Four-star quality and service
The cruise is at a four-star level and price. It is not as luxurious as the more premium five- and six-star lines and has facilities and service to match. I would describe it as comfortable and not luxurious, and you should not expect five-star touches like high thread linen, big super fluffy towels, designer-brand toiletries, plush robes and slippers or flowers and fruit in the room. However, you will find comfortable beds and linen, good choice and quality of food and drink. Service is attentive and helpful.
If you are looking for good quality at a reasonable price, and do not want to stretch to five-star prices and experience, then you will be satisfied.
#6: All-inclusive fares
River cruises tend to have all-inclusive fares. However in my experience, every line has a slightly different approach to what is (and is not) included. In the case of the Titan MS Serenade fares the following is included:
- Transfers, including the Titan VIP Door-to-Door pick up to and from home. You are also met at the airport and guided through the check in process, taken to the ship on arrival and even your bags are taken from the coach to your cabin.
- Food (all meals, afternoon tea and late night snacks).
- Drinks with lunch and dinner. This includes beer, soft drinks and choice of a red or white wine. Bottled water is provided in the room and usually also when heading out on tour. Drinks are included at the Captain’s Parties.
- Some excursions. The number varies by cruise but averages about 3 per seven days.
- Wi-Fi. Although it is only available in the Panorama lounge and Reception area and not in the cabins. Of course the signal varies based on place on the river and can be quite variable.
- Use of VOX portable headsets out on excursions to hear the guide. The use of these is standard across most river cruises.
The following is not included:
- Drinks out of meal times, including the minibar in your cabin.
- Optional excursions, which range from around 20 Euros for a basic walking tour and upwards.
- Gratuities for the crew, Titan Cruise Managers and tour guides. The recommended level is around 6 Euros per person per day for the crew, a few Euros per day for the cruise team and a Euro or two for tour guides.
#7: Ship sails itineraries on number of European rivers
The cruises focus on the Rhine, Danube and Main and Dutch Waterways. These run in the river cruising season from March to October. They also run Christmas Market cruises from late November into December.
#8: Meals served in Restaurant on Mozart deck
It is open-seated dining for all meals, which means you can change who you sit with as you wish. Breakfast is a buffet, with a cooking station serving eggs and omelets made to order. Lunch has some buffet options along with a menu with choices, while the evening meal consists of four-courses.
Afternoon tea is served daily around 4pm in the Panorama Lounge, as well as late night snacks. There is no room service.
The dress code is smart casual and relaxed. You are encouraged, but not required, to dress smartly for the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell parties. Many gentlemen will wear jackets for these while the women smart cocktail dresses.
I recommend packing layers to cope with variable European weather along with good walking shoes, as the tours are mostly walking based. Also bring something for wet weather. All cabins have umbrellas if you do forget.
You need to have Euro adaptors for your electrical items as all the plugs in the cabin only take European-style two-pin plugs.
It is almost impossible to get motion sick on the river so no need to pack remedies for that eventually. However, as there is no medical centre bring your favourite treatments for other eventualities along with your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) to be able to use European healthcare if you are a EU citizen.
#10: Passenger Mix
It is likely that everyone on the cruise will be from the United Kingdom, due to the nature of how the ship and cruises are targeted and sold.
Like most river cruises, you should expect the average passenger age to be 50s plus, with a good attendance by those in their 60s and 70s. However beyond age, river cruising and this trip will appeal to travellers who like to avoid the hassle associated with planning, booking and making decisions when on vacation as everything is arranged and set. All you need to do is decide which cruise you want and then every detail of your trip is arranged and organized. Each day you are told what is happening and where to be.
You should be fairly active and fit with an interest in European culture, history and arts. The tours involve a fair amount of walking, usually on cobblestones and up and down steps through old towns, cathedrals and castles. It is not ideal for people with accessibility issues.
If you are looking for a river cruise experience surrounded by UK travellers that offers a comfortable and good value-for-money option to other lines then I recommend taking a closer look at the MS Serenade.
Video: 10 things you need to know about MS Serenade
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UtwA12Wdjj8
Disclaimer: I travelled as a guest of Titan Travel in a short pre-season cruise on the MS Serenade from Cologne to Amsterdam staying in a Chopin Superior Cabin.
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