We just returned from the May 2nd sailing of RCL's Mariner of the Seas. It was a wonderful cruise. Instead of going over each and every one of the rooms, features, and statistics in depth as many other reviewers have already done, we will just cover the basic areas.
We read some real horror stories about Port Canaveral, in terms of long lines and delays getting onto the ship. After experiencing this for ourselves, we can honestly say it was a breeze. We did end up sitting in the hotel shuttle van for about 20 minutes, but once we were dropped off, it was a matter of about 15 minutes before we were getting our SeaPass cards and having our welcome aboard picture taken! We believe the key is to get there early! We arrived there about noon.
We sailed on one of the sister ships last year (The Navigator). The Mariner of the Seas is equally as impressive, with it's own distinct décor. The Royal Promenade is awesome, as are all of the bars and lounges on the ship. Public areas are very open and spacious, but you can still find a cozy corner if you want to. Our sailing was a complete sell out, but the ship never felt crowded.
One area we had read negative things about, was that the Mariner was a much more rough riding ship than the Navigator. Well, this is true to an extent, but it has nothing to do with the ship itself. The Navigator sails from Miami, and the Mariner goes out of Port Canaveral. The ride out from the port, all the way past Nassau, was a bit on the rough side. Not much worse than the Navigator, but it just lasted longer. Upon inquiring about this, we discovered that it had to do with the outbound route the Mariner has to take, just out of Florida past Nassau. That particular area is rougher than the return route, which bypasses those rough seas. As a result, the ride home (2 straight days at sea) was much more pleasant, with only the occasional rough patch.
We had a Deluxe Oceanview w/balcony, towards the front of the ship on Deck 9. The room was great. It had the standard bathroom (shower, no tub), plenty of closet space, a sofa-bed, and vanity. The balcony proved to be a good spot to catch the sun going down, and the moon reflecting off the ocean. The only complaint we had, was the location of the room, which was on the opposite end from the dining room. So, if you can get a cabin mid-ship, go for it.
This is another area we have heard frequent criticism from many reviewers, who review these Voyager-class ships. We look at it this way...you are one of about 3500 people on these mega-ships, and given that fact, put it in perspective. Of course, the attention to detail may be a little better on a ship that holds half as many passengers, but that's basic math. Given this crew has to feed 3500 passengers in 2 seatings, the food was amazing. We recall having a couple of questionable meals on the Navigator last year, but we honestly can say that's not the case with the Mariner. Every meal, from the appetizers, through dessert, was amazing. We never felt the need to spend the extra $$$ on "Chops" or "Portofino". Every evening, the menu had some featured items, which our waiter gave her recommendations on. There is also an alternative menu every night, in case you have a real picky eater in your group. The service was impeccable. Our waiter, Oana, and her assistant waiter, Ildiko, did an amazing job each and every night. By the 2nd night, they knew all of our names, and our drink and bread selections were basically waiting for us. They were very attentive, and even with our picky eater, they went out of their way to accommodate him.
And if you need something else to munch on, in between meals, the Café Promenade offers a nice selection of sandwiches, pastries, and pizza. We ate at Johnny Rocket's one day ($3.95 a person cover, unless you have a Crown and Anchor coupon as we did). The food was great (especially the onion rings!). And let's not forget the self-serve frozen yogurt machine in the Royal Promenade. :o)
We would say, on average, it was equal to last year's Navigator trip. The comedians were pretty good (Carl Strong and Tony Daro), and the stage shows were decent. If piano-man Matt Yee is on your sailing, DO NOT MISS HIM! His nightly, adult sing-alongs were a hoot. Especially, if you were one of the lucky ones (like us) who were called to the front to put on feather boas, and lead the crowd in a sing along. We were really looking forward to the one stage show, that was all about 80's music. However, we were a little disappointed, because many of the singers over-sang the songs. Instead of the 80's edge on the numbers, they put more of a broadway/opera sound to them, which didn't translate too well. Other than that, the shows were good. The ice show was pretty good as well, especially considering it was the first night for this particular group of skaters. Overall, Cruise Director Kirk Detweiler, did an outstanding job coordinating all of the entertainment on board.
We really can't say anything about Nassau, because we didn't get off the ship there. As for St. Thomas, that was our shopping stop. Jewelry, perfumes, liquor, watches, etc, were found in many places with good deals. We spent our time on St. Maarten, on the French side of the island, on Orient Beach. If you're looking for a beautiful beach, this is the one. It was wonderful. It was peaceful, if you just wanted to grab a chair and relax on the white sandy beach. There was also jet ski's and parasailing available, as well as a few bars and a restaurant (kind of pricey). Overall, this was our favorite port from both this year and last year's cruise. But please note one end of this beach is clothing-optional, and you will occasionally see some of these people walking the length of the beach. DISEMBARKATION
Again, we had heard horror stories. Between the time our color was called on the Mariner, it was a matter of just 15 minutes, before we were through customs, and off to our hotel shuttle. No problems at all in this area. The longest wait we had was on the actual ship, waiting for our color to be called, but that's normal for any RCL cruise. They have certain areas still open on this day, so you can get that last meal in, or enjoy some time on the deck before having to leave the ship.
Overall, this cruise was nearly perfect. We cannot come up with a single thing that is worth complaining about. Given that is was a complete sellout, with probably close to 3500 passengers to satisfy, RCL did a wonderful job. The Mariner is a gorgeous ship, and we can't wait to see what their next generation ships look like. We will definitely be cruising with RCL again.