Mariner of the Seas
by Joey Brecker-Richardson
May 10, 2009
This was my third cruise with Royal Caribbean, my 12th overall. I booked this cruise two weeks before sail date and at that time I requested a small table for 2, second seating.
The embarkation could not have been more smooth. I arrived at the pier in San Pedro at approximately 11:55am. I was able to drop bags, check in and board all within 15 minutes of arriving at the port.
Once on board, knowing staterooms would not be ready until 1:00pm, I made my way to the dining room to check on my dining assignment. The Mariners main dining room is located in the aft section of the ship, and is divided into three levels, The Sound of Music on deck 5, Top Hat and Tails on deck 4 and the Rhapsody in Blue on deck 3.
I was to discover that I was given a seat at table #320 which is a table for 6, second seating, which I felt was unacceptable. I was informed by one of the servers setting the dining room that I could possibly request a change of the assignment at 1:00 pm. This is when one of the head waiters would be available to reassign me if possible.
Knowing I booked late, I understood there may be a chance my request may not be granted. I decided "nothing ventured nothing gained," so I parked myself outside of the entrance on deck four at 12:20pm to wait for the opportunity. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did as the line began to form quickly. Shortly before 1pm Mr. Dinesh Dogra arrived, and being first in line he quickly informed me that basically he could not help me, and I was out of luck, stating "we only have 11 tables for 2 in second seating on this sailing."
When I asked what he would suggest I do for dinner since I really did not care for dining with a large table and truly didn't enjoy the buffet dining experience, his response was "that's your choice. I don't care what you do." Mr. Dogra was very condescending, which made for not exactly a great start to this cruise vacation.
After I booked this cruise , I called a friend Carmen "H," who has been on many cruises with RCI (73+) just to see if she might be available to book as well, and she was.
Miss "H" was in line directly behind me and prefers to dine at a large table. When her time came to talk with this gentleman, she simply asked if her dining assignment was in the section of one of her dear friends who is also a headwaiter on the Mariner, and who was also expecting her to be assigned in his section. She was informed by Mr. Dogra that he was too busy to check and that he wasn't there for that purpose. In my opinion Mr. Dogra's guest relations skills need work and he should not be permitted to interact with guests until being sent for retraining in guest relations.
After the confrontation and being somewhat disappointed, Miss "H" and I agreed to meet later for a drink. Off we went to check out our individual staterooms.
My cabin was a category E1, #7216 which is located forward on this ship and included a balcony.
This cabin is spacious, clean, and in fairly good condition, although I discovered the heating system was not working properly, and after informing my stateroom attendant of this fact, it was corrected in less than 90 minutes.
My stateroom attendant for this voyage was a Mr. Mark Bonner, who is from Jamaica.
Mr. Bonner's responses to my needs throughout this cruise were met on a higher level than my original expectations. He was consistently able to quickly and efficiently keep my stateroom in a constant ready state. He should be commended for his professionalism and attention to details. Two big thumbs up from me!
Around 5:00 pm that first evening a wonderful gentleman; Merrick Saldanha -- another one of Royal Caribbean's excellent head waiters -- informed me that indeed he was able to arrange a table for two for me and in his section, although he wasn't able to accommodate Miss "H" and her request for a large table at her friend's station (because her friend was not scheduled to work second seating), so she decided to dine with me. A big thanks to Mr. Saldanha, which provided a terrific win-win solution.
This being my first voyage on the Mariner, I was presented with my chance to see what all the hullabaloo was about concerning the Promenade.
The Promenade, for those that aren't familiar, is a wide corridor in the middle of the ship. It runs forward to the aft on deck 5. This is where the ship conducts some of it's many activities including parades and musical performances, and it is also the location for the onboard shops, the coffee café, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Parlor, and the champagne bar, as well as the guest relations desk. There are cabins that are located over the area that will enable guests to look over the area, and I was told by many staff that those staterooms were soundproofed. Although, the Promenade tends to be a bit loud for my taste, I admit the concept is a 5 star idea!
The highlight for me on the Promenade is the wine bar Vintages!
Vintages is a delightful place that houses many excellent wines. There you are encouraged to "taste" a wine before purchasing, and you are also allowed to purchase by the glass or bottle. They will store your unfinished bottle for you, if you so desire.
On this particular cruise, three of Vintages' employees Gustad Irani, Alme Morrison and Lloyd Tan provided outstanding descriptions of the wines, and their service was exceptional.
This cruise had three ports of call -- Astoria Oregon, Victoria, BC and Seattle, Washington. There were also three sea days as well. Personally I ended up treating this as a mostly sea days cruise, only getting off in Victoria in order to look over the garden spot of British Columbia. We were told by the locals that Victoria was a community of retirees and gardens, so as he put it "Welcome to Victoria -- the home of garden beds, newlyweds and almost deads!" Victoria was very charming and I am looking forward to returning.
The Mariner has three specialty dining venues that impose a surcharge. Portofinos' "Intimate Italian Dining" $20.00 per person, Chops Grille "The best steak on the high seas" $25.00, and Johnny Rockets $4.95.
On Wednesday I had my chance to try specialty dining. I chose Chops Grille, and I will say I was quite pleased.
Thursday evening I was invited to dine with the Chief Engineer, Harri Kulmajarui -- a delightful man from Norway.
On Friday I received an invitation to tour the bridge.
Formal Nights were on Monday and Friday. While preparing for the second formal night, the top button on my tuxedo shirt popped off. Not knowing what to do I went to guest services. Gaston Somonte, one of the guest services officers, went above and beyond the call. He found an emergency sewing kit and quickly dropped it by my stateroom. Talk about saving the day!
Due to the economy, RCL has undergone major cost saving measures, including forgoing the grand buffet -- the chocolate extravaganza. They have raised prices across the board as well. Pellegrino is now $6.95 a bottle and they are also charging $14.95 for a decent steak in the dining room. They have also eliminated the chocolate on the pillow at night.
I truly hope this is not an indication of things to come.
What started out with a bad customer service experience ended up as often happens with great guest relations and the gaining of new acquaintances.
In general the crew of the Mariner try to please, and as with any organization you will run into a bad apple now and again.