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Copyright © 1995-2004 
Linda Coffman


Mariner of the Seas Cruise ReviewMARINER OF THE SEAS
December 2003
Eastern Caribbean

by Margie Miklas

We just came off the 4th sailing of the new MARINER OF THE SEAS, the Eastern Caribbean itinerary, and both my husband and I agree that this was the best cruise we have ever been on, and this makes cruise #22 for us. Of course being the largest ship afloat, along with Royal Caribbean’s other 4 Voyager-class ships, is part of the reason and also the fact that it is the newest ship sailing.

 

All the staff and crew seemed to go out of their way to be friendly and especially helpful. It was obvious that they were not new employees; in fact most we talked with have had numerous years sailing either on Royal Caribbean or other cruise lines.

 

Embarkation at Port Canaveral was more crowded than we experienced on previous sailings, but when you have 3600 other passengers boarding a ship, it is to be expected. All in all it went fairly smoothly and we were on the ship by 12:30pm. The parking situation leaves something to be desired however and hopefully in the future it will become more efficient. The parking garage is open, although there is still much construction in the area.

 

Our cabin was an inside on the 10th deck and it was plenty big enough for the two of us, including the queen-size bed, 2 nightstands with a drawer in each and a bottom shelf, a small loveseat and table, a desk with 9 drawers and chair. There are also additional cabinets above the desk area and also inside the bathroom. The closets were big, and they had adjustable shelving in them. They were equipped with hangers, although I always bring more. With room to store our 5 pieces of luggage under the bed, the closets and drawers had enough room for all of our things. There is also a safe inside the cabin. The room was equipped with a hairdryer and also a refrigerator. (Note: the refrigerator is stocked with soda and candy for a price. We asked our stateroom attendant to remove these items, which he happily did, and we placed our own supply of soda which we brought along, inside the refrigerator.) I suggest bringing an extension cord and small travel iron for convenience. The bathroom had a shower with a sliding half-moon shape door. I do not know how very large passengers can fit inside; it is not very big. There was a small clothesline inside the shower which came in handy for drying bathing suits or any items which needed to be hand washed and dried. The sink area had a small counter and there was a shelf beneath it for additional storage. There was  a TV with remote; the TV was interactive, including being able to order shore excursions, check your billing statement and view  activities going on throughout the ship, e.g. shows you may have missed.

 

The ship itself is laid out in a very organized fashion and it did not seem difficult to navigate or find your way around. Also, because it is so large and there are so many options for activities, it never really seemed crowded. We never waited in long lines for anything. There are signs with directions and places listed on every deck near the elevators, so you can figure out which way you are going. The three-tier dining room is situated at the rear (aft) of the ship, so you do not end up dealing with portions of decks that are impassable due to the dining room being in the center of the ship. 

 

There is the usual buffet lunch served in the WINDJAMMER CAFÉ on the 11th deck as soon as you board. The food choices were very good as well as the quality. There are several stations, as opposed to one long buffet line, e.g. salads, main entrees, desserts, soups. The station for iced tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water, punch, is manned by crew who serve you your drink of choice. The windjammer was also staffed by crewmembers that found you seating and also offered to get your drinks from the drink station, and sometimes even came around serving cookies.

 

The mandatory lifeboat drill was held in the spacious 3-story dining room and it went very smoothly, not wasting too much of your time, like some we have experienced on previous ships.

 

As for meals, we never made it to the dining room for breakfast or lunch, but had dinner there every night. We had room service twice for breakfast, and that is just great especially if you are relaxing and do not want to get up early while you are on vacation. You tip the person bringing the food and they go away with a smile. It never took more than 20 minutes from the time we ordered either. Lunch we ate usually in the Windjammer and once we ate at Johnny Rockets, which was fun. As soon as you arrive they deliver French fries and onion rings to your table before you even order. They serve hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, etc which are free. However, there is a charge for shakes, soft drinks, and beer. It is very much a 50’s style diner, complete with jukeboxes for a nickel a song, and the waiters even will supply the nickels. Approximately every ten minutes the employees do a little song and dance to tunes such as “Staying Alive” and “YMCA.” It is definitely a fun experience. We went mid-afternoon, but I passed by once at noontime and there was a line to get in outside the diner.

 

The dining rooms are very elaborate, just beautiful with all the crystal chandeliers. The colors are very tasteful and you really feel like you are at a 5-star restaurant. The service was excellent, and the food was OK. There was a nice selection, including surf and turf, which I have not had before on other cruise lines. The waiters entertained about three nights and they seemed to enjoy doing so. There was also soft live music during dinner, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

 

As far as other food goes, there was only one Midnight Buffet and that was the Gala Buffet with elaborate ice sculptures and butter sculptures. They allowed 1 hour for photos and then afterwards the food was served at 1am . I sort of missed the Chocolate Buffet that Royal Caribbean used to have, but there were enough chocolate choices at the dessert table at this event.

 

One of our favorite places was the Café Promenade, located along the Royal Promenade. It is open 24 hours a day and serves pizza, cookies, desserts, fruits, and small specialty sandwiches made on croissant rolls and other types of bread and rolls. All this at no fee. We stopped by almost every day and sometimes we took an extra sandwich to our cabin for later at night. In the mornings they serve a variety of pastries as well. Next to this is a specialty coffee bar that you have to pay for. I noticed that it was never too busy. Alongside of this is Sprinkles which is a self-serve soft ice cream stand, and yes there are different varieties of sprinkles… no charge for this. The Royal Promenade was a fun place to stroll, with the usual array of shops and a few bars. They also held a Caribbean street dance there one night with a steel drum band. There were also several parades, which we never seemed to catch.

 

We really enjoyed the Schooner Bar after dinner. The entertainer was Matt Yee, and his show was a sing-along piano bar style show. The place was always packed and the entire crowd was involved. His tour is over so I do not know who is in that bar now but I understand from his web site that he will be back on Mariner of the Seas from April 18-May 30th.

 

The other show not to be missed is the Ice Show, which is held three nights. You have to get tickets (at no cost) for the show as there are more people who wish to attend than there are seats, so I would advise standing in line for the tickets as soon as you see it listed on the schedule, because they do go fast. It was without question the best show we have ever seen on a cruise ship. The skating compares with the Olympics.

 

The gym on the ship is awesome. There are 20 treadmills, all with a view of the ocean and numerous Stairmasters and every other type of machine you would find in a gym. We were there three different days and never had to wait for a machine. There is also a wonderful spa in that area--I heard it is a mineral water spa. At any rate, it is not crowded, has no children and can hold at least 30 people, although the most that were in it when we were there was 8. It was very warm and very relaxing. There also are saunas and changing rooms in that area along with showers.

 

I also went ice skating and that was great, after not having skated for 20 years. At first it was difficult, and I had to hang onto the wall for a few times around but then, I guess it is like riding a bike, it comes back to you, and I was able to skate, going around about 20 times and I didn’t even fall. The sessions are scheduled for 45 minutes and you have to sign a waiver before you can skate. The other really cool thing was the Rock Wall, also something that requires a waiver to be signed before you climb. My husband did it twice and I have to say the staff at the Rock Wall is awesome. Melanie Clark is the Sports Director and she and the rest of her staff are encouraging and helpful. You wear a safety harness and they really help you. There was even an elderly lady who went up the wall! The rest of the Sports Activities are also available, e.g. a full-size basketball court, and a 9-hole miniature golf course.

 

The main pool area is large with numerous deck chairs available. There were also several spas, and there was also an area, called the Solarium, which had an adults-only pool.

 

The casino was also a place we visited a few times, although we contribute more there than we won, which is nothing new. There were plenty of slot machines and again, never did there seem to be a time when you had to wait in line to play, and the table were fine small.

 

It was especially noticeable that children were rarely seen. This is due to the excellent Adventure Ocean program for kids. We spoke to parents of small children and they had all good things to say about the kids program.

 

At the end of the cruise, exiting the ship was well organized, the porters were helpful, and we were off the ship by 9:30am. There could be more areas under roof for passengers to wait to be picked up. Again, this area is under construction and hopefully will improve in time.

 

I am not going to review the ports of call, which were Nassau, St Thomas and St Maarten, except to say that in December the temperatures in St Thomas and St Maarten were 85 degrees and in Nassau were mid 70’s. One other thing I must mention is that the day we arrived in St Thomas , every passenger had to get up and come to the dining room between 8-9am to present themselves to US Customs officials. This was something new, mandated by Homeland Security. Since we had left US soil, landed in a foreign country (Bahamas) and then returned to a US possession (St Thomas), we had to comply. It was the only part of the cruise that was not enjoyable.

[Editor's Note: All passengers must present themselves to US IMMIGRATION, not Customs, when re-entering the United States or a US Territory from a foreign port. The procedure has been in effect for several years, since at least the early part of 2000.]

Photo courtesy of Kvaerner Masa-Yards


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