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Mariner of The Seas
Western Caribbean
May 4-11, 2008

by George Hall

Visiting: Labadee, Haiti; Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico


We are cruiseaholics; fifty plus cruises. Traveling with good friends whom we met cruising in 1992. Our ages range from mid forties to late fifties. We sail two to three times a year, multiple lines.

We traveled a day in advance of sailing making arrangements to stay at the Radisson At The Port, Port Canaveral. Booking online and paying in advance we secured a rate of $99 for a double, w/tax $109.89 This rate requires immediate charge at booking and limited cancellation. Hotel was excellent location about 5 minutes from pier and provided FREE shuttle to ship. Pool area was nice with bar and food available. Room was adequate, small motel style, nothing fancy. It is a non-smoking hotel, however plenty of opportunity to step outside room (motel style entrances) or hang at pool bar area where smoking is permitted.

ORLANDO AIRPORT – Our first time there, large but well organized. You shuttle via smooth operating automated rail car from gate area to baggage, main terminal area. Baggage area to rental cars and transportation level require elevator to another level. Porters are available and $3 self hand carts also readily available. The self cart would be the option to use if renting a car as you might be waiting in line for a while and therefore need second porter. TRANSPORTATION to Hotel Pier area, about 50 miles or one hour, can be arranged via various online services in area of $100. RCI did not offer pre-day arrival transportation unless on their packages, all which were theme park programs. We elected to rent a car since we were also visiting friends in area for a couple hours. Our friends arriving from different location and time also rented a car, though going direct to hotel. We all choose Budget based on rate which was in area of $61 W GPS for under 24 hour rental. The Budget rental office is located less than a quarter mile away from hotel and makes for an easy return the next morning.

NOTE: To speed things up at Orland airport, sign up for FASTBREAK or suffer the 30–40 minute line to do paperwork. Budget is very popular, surely because of rates, and lines are long. With fast break account number you can go right to car area (which is at airport; no shuttle needed) and pick up keys and car bypassing all the lines. HAD I ONLY KNOWN!

EMBARKATION – We were shuttled over to pier from hotel, a short ride of 5 minutes or so. Upon arrival porters took our luggage. Signs at pier indicate that porters are salaried and tipping is not required. A personal decision whether you wish to do so anyway.

It was a short walk to entrance to first check point. ID and ticket check followed by X-ray and metal detector. We all know the drill by now. Then up an escalator to check in areas. If you completed your forms online and printed out your SeaPass forms you have a special line and were handled very quickly. Merely ID again, present credit card you indicated online, and boarding pass is issued. Really does simplify process on all lines I have used it on so far. This is where is became a LONG line, boarding, mainly because ship had not yet started allowing passengers on so there was a bit of a back log once they commenced actual boarding. NOTE: Platinum and Diamond members also have priority boarding and entered the long line to board well ahead of many. Still they suffered line as well to some degree. Also though we fit into Diamond category we did not readily see that boarding area. You really have to look and ask for priority boarding most places, this one included. I don’t go nuts for it because I have found in previous years that such priority boarding can be a plus or minus depending on how staffed and such. NOTE: once on board you cannot get to cabin areas until 1pm. They actually have the doors that close off the corridors shut and locked.

CABIN – We were in JR Suite 1650, our friend in 1652. These have an adjoining door if you wish to have unlocked by the steward. I can’t say enough about this category, we were extremely happy with the cabin size and design! We have sailed the Grand Suite category on other Voyager ships which is start of "real amenity" suite category and I liked this cabin every bit as well. The walk in closet was fantastic! Very, very convenient and very, very roomy! Plenty drawers and even a laptop storage and use drawer. If you need more space you definitely over packed!

A large safe with self programmable code and a mini bar refrigerator also. Cabin space, balcony more than adequate with couch, chair, and table. Location and deck, 10, good for buffet and pool access and other areas of ship though a bit aft. Bathroom has a bathtub. As a JR Suite you do not have true suite amenities such as Concierge lounge use, DVD and such. The value of those items is in the eye of the beholder. Diamond members have lounge use no matter what accommodation taken. SMOKING is allowed on balcony NOT in cabin. That was not a problem as weather was perfect.

DINING/FOOD – We were second seating table 532, I think it was, with Utou (sp?) and Michele who were excellent. Food is always a personal opinion, we were happy enough with it. Service was excellent and we had no complaints. BUFFET area was excellent in our opinion offering many choices, iced tea, lemonade, and water complimentary and several locations makes for easy pickup. We don’t use specialty restaurants so can offer no comment. Coffee was decent and on the BLVD you can get excellent lattes and such, but they are additional cost.

ENTERTAINMENT - The Voyager class ships offer much in activity as large ships, mini golf (we used it and it was fun), rock climbing wall, ice rink and such. Two pools offer best of both worlds. Main pool noisy and active with pool games and music. Second ADULT only pool quiet and enjoyable, plenty of sun and shade areas for both. Shows were entertaining enough for shipboard variety acts featuring standard dancers and singers, but also some comedians which we enjoy. Lounges had various music offerings. The ICE SHOW remains a must see. Tickets are required for one of the four shows as crowd control, there is no charge.

INTERNET – Both internet lounge with terminals and wireless laptop connections are available. As is usually the case on board a ship, connections are like fast dialup, much slower than most of us are used to. Charge is .55 a minute which is less expensive than previous .75 a minute that has been the norm. They also offer packages that bring down price per minute for purchasing a set number of minutes. Wireless connect is limited to several areas and lounges, mostly forward, and the internet café. Printing is available in café and there is no extra charge, excellent for printing out airline boarding passes and such at end of cruise. I have taken to limiting my internet use onboard to a quick mail download to laptop so appreciated a relatively reasonable minute rate. Sign up is done at internet café terminal and is a painless self process. Crown and Anchor members also receive some free internet charge coupons. As Diamond we had $20 worth, simply fill out and drop in box at Pursers desk and credited against your usage.

ITINERARY - Having sailed these islands many times we decided for most part to stay onboard and enjoy pool facilities and such while all were almost exclusively ours. So I leave island activity and review to others. I will say we got off and took brief walk in Jamaica to mall area near ship where Jimmy Buffet's is located. Souvenirs were somewhat expensive there, Cozumel was a much better deal for those T-shirts and like. Best cigarette price was on ship at $86 for 5 cartons. Other prices in ship's store for clothes very high.

DISEMBARKATION – Done by color tags as usual. They do not allow you to wait in your cabin nor do they offer room service that morning. They repeatedly state they would like you out of your cabin by 8 am. I am usually not happy about the hurry up get out and wait system but on Mariner it is not as much of an inconvenience as it is on some ships. Being so large there are many areas to get comfortable while waiting your turn.

It seemed that Mariner gets disembarked quicker than most ships we have sailed. Perhaps since airport is hour drive or maybe just because the lines are after you walk down the gangway and are off the ship. You present yourself to immigration and customs at same time in an area of booths containing the Officers and computers. After clearing through there you head for your luggage. Again something a little different, a baggage carousel like at airports. Much better than the pile of luggage on the floor to search through. Porters were readily available to transport your luggage to pick up areas.

We secured transportation to airport via bus at pursers desk during the cruise. Bus to airport was convenient and comfortable at $32 per person.

GENERAL COMMENT – Mariner of Seas was a very nice ship, and being newer is in great shape. Staff and crew friendly and helpful. Captain Johnny from the bridge is a want-to-be comedian providing information in a jovial way. He was often seen walking about the ship with members of his staff. Overall the Mariner cruise was an excellent one.

You can see a few pictures at http://members.verizon.net/~georgeny/mariner.htm

Specific questions can be emailed to georgeny@verizon.net please indicate Mariner review in subject area or your email may filtered and discarded.

Unfortunately, due to a personal customer service issue with RCCL land operations and issues with smoking policies on RCCL’s Celebrity brand, we are not planning to sail with RCCL or their product lines in the future. However that is a personal decision that in no way reflects on the cruise experience we had on board Mariner of The Seas, which was excellent.

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