I enjoyed myself so much that I don't know where to begin. After perusing every cruise review website and reading almost every review on the Mariner, I couldn't wait to submit my own.
Our First Time
This was our first cruise. I was traveling with my cousin Valerie, and my best friend of 20 years, Tawanna. We decided to do a ladies trip and leave the men and children home. We flew down from New York (JFK) on July 3rd-my birthday. Once we landed at Orlando International we found the representative from Royal Caribbean with no problem. However, he was not especially friendly or helpful. But as met the crew that would check our transfer vouchers and lead us to the bus, we found that his attitude was an isolated incident. The bus driver and other representatives were very nice and very helpful.
Off we were for the 45-minute ride to Port Canaveral, arriving at 12:30 p.m. The bus was very clean, comfortable and the temperature was not too hot, not too cold. Driving up and seeing the Mariner gave us goose bumps, as it is a beauty. We walked into the terminal and had to go through metal detectors and then up the escalators, where we encountered a long line to check in. However, the line moved quickly, and check-in was quick and painless. Next we were having our welcome aboard photo taken. The whole process took about 20 minutes.
When we first boarded we were in awe. By now it was 1:00 and access to cabins was permitted, so we dropped off our carry-ons and headed to the Windjammer for lunch. When we first entered our cabin we were shocked at the size, since it was small. However, the cabins are lovely and clean. There are many storage compartments and the beds are most comfortable. After the initial shock wears off, the cabin size is not bad at all.
Our welcome aboard lunch would be the first of many good lunches at the Windjammer. There was a great variety of items: delicious hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries; several hot dishes of meats, veggies, potatoes, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and an Asian food area (Jade). There were several drink stations serving complimentary iced tea, lemonade, and water. Soda was available to purchase, and waiters were going back and forth selling the famous "welcome aboard" drinks for $5.95. After lunch we went back to our cabins to see if our luggage had arrived and to prepare for the mandatory muster drill. The muster drill was hot, uncomfortable but necessary.
When we returned from the muster drill we saw our luggage outside the cabin, and with three women traveling there was a lot. We unpacked and got ready for dinner. Then we met our cabin steward, Lloyd, who was professional and nice. He did his job very well.
We had early sitting in the Rhapsody of Blue dining room on the first level. This in my opinion was the best one -- the most spacious, and where Captain Johnny's table was located. We met our waiter Mario and assistant waiter Melvin. Mario was efficient and funny, although there were one or two things that could've been improved upon. But kudos to Melvin-he was exceptional. He remembered all our drink and bread preferences. I felt he should've gotten the most gratuities.
The food was hit-or-miss. I have to admit, this was one area that disappointed me. I won't go into everything, but I will list what I found to be delicious and what I did not like from the dining room: a dessert - savarin - was to die for! The banana cream pie was the best I've ever had! Also good were the bananarama frozen soup, the ice cream and lady fingers, the steak and the jerk chicken. And the strawberry daiquiri (virgin of course) was the best I've ever had. Now for the not so good: The prime rib was nasty, as was the watermelon gazzepo, and chicken soup. I didn't care for the other desserts either.
We ate all dinners except one in the dining one; one night we ate at Windjammer. We ate all lunches and half our breakfasts in the Windjammer and half in the dining room. Breakfast at both venues was okay. Again, I was a little disappointed. In the Windjammer the items I enjoyed were the burgers, hot dogs and fries, a rum cake dessert, the pasta, barbecued ribs and the honey fried chicken. And for breakfast the ham, grits, and French toast were good. Overall the food in the Windjammer was good although some items could have been served a little warmer and the eggs were too runny. Most of the servers were very friendly and very helpful.
We never ate at Chops, Portofino's or Johnny Rockets. We just didn't see the point in paying extra for food when there was so much. One thing for sure, you will find something you like.
I should also mention that our sailing was the "Hurricane Dennis" cruise -- more on that later. For our days at seas we kept ourselves busy with the different shows, people-watching, strolling in the Royal Promenade and shopping in the stores. We also hit the casino one day, and we tried bingo ($35 a pop) and were disappointed we did not win the $13,000 jackpot. We saw the Ice Show but we weren't particularly interested in it although the performers were very talented. We liked the welcome aboard show with cruise director James Andrews. He was great, as was Captain Johnny Favelin. We loved the Quest and the farewell show. The love and marriage show was okay.
Now for our port days...well, Hurricane Dennis put a damper on things. We were originally scheduled to go to Labadee, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. We did get to Labadee and Jamaica. But due to the Hurricane, we missed the Cayman Islands and Mexico. RCI did substitute by taking us to Nassau, Bahamas instead. Labadee was a nice, relaxing day on the beach; the floating mats are great. The barbecue lunch was all right. However, the vendors at the outdoor markets were horrendous. I've never experienced anything like that before.
Jamaica was great! We booked an independent excursion with Peat Taylor Tours and it was fabulous! The compliments and recommendations that I saw in different reviews for Peat Taylor were well-deserved. He and his adorable son O'Neal were great. They met us at the end of the pier and we went to Fern Gulley, which was basically a rain forest with lots of greenery. We then headed to Dunn's River Falls. Valerie climbed along with others; Tawanna and I decided not to.
We stayed at the falls for about two hours. While exiting we went the wrong way and were hassled by vendors wanting to sell us "gifts." However, a polite but firm "no thank you" was all we needed to say. From there Mr. Taylor dropped us off for lunch. Some went to Margaritaville; we opted for the "Jerk Center" after reading some reviews. The food was fantastic. After lunch Mr. Taylor picked us up and dropped us off to shop at Island Village, which was a 10-15 minute walk from our ship. There I was able to do most of my souvenir shopping. There were great prices on spices, vanilla, alcohol and tee-shirts. However, the Bob Marley tee-shirts were a bit overpriced. It was a great day; we enjoyed Jamaica so much that I am thinking about going there next summer for a land vacation.
That night we got word from Capt. Johnny that there would be an itinerary change. We thus had the next two days at sea, with plans to arrive in Nassau on Saturday. The next night as we passed the tip of Cuba the ship was really rocking and the waves were quite high; there was rain, thunder and lightning. It was quite scary, but it passed.
We arrived at Nassau, Bahamas as planned. Tawanna and I were a little disappointed with the Bahamas. I don't think I'd ever go back there unless I stayed at one of the nice resorts like Atlantis. We walked around and bought a few souvenirs and headed back to the ship to begin the sad task of packing up and preparing to disembark.
The disembarking process wasn't too bad, just a lot of waiting around. We had a 1:45 p.m. flight to New York, and therefore our colored tags were for the later disembarkation. We were finally called at 10:30 a.m. although everyone had to clear out of their cabins by 8 a.m. Clearing Customs was really quick and painless. Next we were led into a warehouse to claim our luggage, then boarded our bus to the airport.
While we were very excited to get back home and see our children, there was a little bit of sadness. A vacation that we had planned and anticipated for so long was at an end. We are definitely planning to sail again, and only on Royal Caribbean. I highly recommend the Mariner of the Seas.
Some final thoughts and tips: 1. Add your gratuities to your Sea Pass (much more convenient). 2. Bring Dramamine or bonine, or the sea-sickness bands. 3. In the dining room try the savarin for dessert. 4. Bring plenty of $1 bills. 5. Do not miss the Quest, welcome aboard or farewell shows.