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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


Radisson Seven Seas Mariner
Alaska
8/01/2001

by Lori & Barry Cunningham of Skyscraper Tours

This ‘review’ is more of an attempt to judge this cruise line and this particular ship vs. other cruise lines and their respective ships that we enjoy greatly. Namely; Holland America, Princess, Norwegian, Celebrity, etc., vs. the ‘Luxury ships’. Excellence is so subjective and personal that we wanted to approach the review with this thought in mind. Perhaps this review will help others make the decision a little easier between this ship vs. another.

We boarded the ‘Motorcoach’ in Anchorage after an hour wait. They didn’t check for vouchers ($110.00 total), which we found curious and off we went for a four-hour drive to board the ship in Seward. Typically this should be a three-hour tour but due to roadwork and the driver slowing down for any wildlife or road kill it stretched into a ride from hell for both of us (we dislike buses-oops, I mean ‘Motorcoach’!). Entering the security terminal was easy enough, after which we were allowed on board where we were escorted to the theater for official check- in and card issue. During this time the harpist played and we were served champagne in crystal glasses as we waited through a short line. Radisson had gentlemen available to stand and hold any carry-ons while you stood in line which was very nice for the older folks in line (and us too). After receiving our room keys and filling out the usual forms we were escorted by a young lady who took our roll-on to our suite.

Now for the details, upon entering the room (all the suites have doorbells)  we found a good bottle of the house ‘champagne’ (French Crement de Loire) iced down with fresh fruit and flowers. The room was appointed with an assortment of crystal cocktail glasses, filled ice bucket, corkscrew, wine stopper and plastic Radisson stirring sticks. Radisson allows you to preorder your choice of complimentary liquor; we chose a liter of Dewars and a liter of Absolut. We were under the impression that one could have as much in-suite liquor complimentary as needed but found that after that was gone you would be charged for any additional alcohol. Of course that was plenty for a week but we thought we needed to clarify this point. 

The mini-fridge contained cans of club soda, 7 up, diet Coke, Coke, bottled water, and 2 Heinekens. All but the beers were replenished daily no charge. Interestingly the steward always left the freshly filled ice bucket in the fridge… great idea; more cruise lines need to do this. The suite reminds me of the mini-suites aboard the Grand Princess except for the down pillows and comforter and the large separate closet NOT by the suite entrance (which always drives me crazy), and of course the bath has real marble tile from floor to ceiling and a nice size tub with jets.

Interestingly enough the balcony had no glass on the outside, so you could hang your feet out. That really helped the nice Alaskan breeze to flow into the room. Afterward we noticed there wasn’t any on the ship at all, not even on the upper deck, so watch your small children (if your crazy enough to take them-we’d be paranoid and they would be bored to tears with the very limited children’s program in Alaska). Oh yes, the balcony… there were two plastic chairs that reclined and the small table acts as your footrest should you decide totally relax and kick your feet up. Behind the curtains we found two large lounge type cushions to put on the chairs, which was a really nice surprise! Also, these were brought in for the evening so as not to be cold and wet the next morning. Privacy? Just don’t lean on the rail and it’s no problem.

The breakfast menu had the usual items but with a few nice additions such as boiled eggs, salmon, and a variety of omelets. The 24-hour room service menu had a great selection of items including beef tenderloin, spaghetti, and margarita pizzas! The Compass Rose Dinner Menu is available in your suite during regular dining hours. Tailoring service is available ranging from hems to sleeve adjustments for around $20.00 average and a two-day wait.

Of course the first thing we did was go straight to the reservations areas of the two restaurants, Signatures and Latitudes. We were the first to arrive at Signatures and found two gentlemen manning a velvet rope that one opened as we approached and asked to make reservations. I have to be honest here, the reservations gentlemen was rather snobby during the whole experience and when I asked to dine twice he said… and I quote "let’s see if you can dine once, then perhaps you may be able to dine again". This struck me as odd since he told us we were the first to get reservations in the first place. Perhaps I misunderstood his ‘French’. He put us on a wait list for the last night, we were simply going to try to see if you could book twice out of curiosity. They did call and leave a message that we were able to come the last night, so that was nice, we politely cancelled.

Next we went to Latitudes and got in line behind another couple to make reservations and to our surprise a very nice gentlemen approached and told us he could book us on the other side of the room. At this restaurant there are actually three separate computers to book people, very efficient! We never ended up dining there during the week, the menu contained mostly fish entrées which we do not prefer.

Now we were off to the spa to schedule a massage NOT given by Steiner folk (we personally think the Steiner people all are taught the same way and we don’t care for it at all). We were handed a number on a piece of paper and told it would be 15 minutes or so…there were probably seven or eight people there in line. So we went for a quick cocktail and returned to make my appointment. Later that week a wonderful girl named Iris gave Barry the best massage he's ever had on a ship! The spa has the basics along with some interesting differences such as the ‘Gemini’ massage, which is two people massaging at once for an hour ($165.00), deep relief for an hour ($90.00), a quick relief massage for 25 minutes ($40.00) and a ‘hair and scalp’ rub for 25 minutes ($40.00).

With those things out of the way we were off to check out the ship! We’re not going to spend any time on décor etc., you can see from the photos and can certainly expect the ship to be top of the line in every aspect. The things we want to comment on are the differences between this ‘luxury’ ship vs. other cruise lines ships (especially for the dollar). Already the ship, staff and procedures impressed us, now for the real test: food, service and the overall experience. Just how much more does an extra few thousand dollars get you on the Radisson Mariner in Alaska?

The outdoor grill was the first thing that really impressed us, serving by the pool area an assortment of swordfish steaks, corn on the cob, squash, bratwursts, chicken breasts, burgers, and small lunch-steaks. A potato bar and salad bar accompanied this and the service was swift and efficient! After selecting the various foods a waiter led us to a teakwood table set with silver and china on place mats. Drinks were served within moments and the food was delicious! The best Bratwurst I’ve ever had!

Our first night we dined at the ‘Compass Rose’ restaurant. In Alaska dress is ‘Country Club Casual’ every night. Not a tie in sight and rarely a jacket! Asking for a table for two we were told there were none available but we could sit at a table for four by ourselves. It was very similar to the Grand Princess or the ‘Sun Class’ Princess ships in a lot of aspects especially in the layout being sectioned and more private than some of the other restaurants on mega-ships. The chairs are much bigger and more comfortable than the other lines previously mentioned and the chandeliers were gorgeous. It took only seconds (literally… I jokingly counted thinking it would be slow pouring… I counted 4 seconds!) to be served a great glass of wine and for staff to approach and offer us menus. Dinner was superb though the wait staff was rushed throughout the whole of dinner. Most people wouldn’t notice but we wondered why, given the staff to customer ratio (don’t forget to look at the menu... it really was great).

Of course, all wines are poured complimentary during lunch and dinner and were excellent selections, from the whites (which we typically don’t care for… they were excellent!) to the reds. One evening trying to burn up our $400.00 shipboard credit, we tried to buy a $120.00 bottle of wine off the small, well selected list that is available for purchase, only to be told by the sommelier that the Cabernet selected complimentary this evening scored higher ratings on the ‘Wine Spectator’ list that year! He suggested we stick to the complimentary wine!

Unbelievable? So, the no tipping policy does have an effect. After dinner the cheese board was rolled by and was the best we’ve had on board any ship. No charge here and port was offered free of charge! Nice treat for us definitely. Warning! Don’t come to dinner late…the staff is eager to get you out and get going (wherever they go). Basically, we came to the conclusion that the ‘Compass Rose’ is a really superb restaurant but not that much better than the other cruise lines mentioned main dining experience, just a seemingly better selection of fine foods.

Breakfast? Don’t waste your time in the restaurant unless you want a  better view than your suite has. Same menu as in your room and no eggs Benedict (horrors) and frozen hash browns McDonalds style!

When we ordered breakfast the first morning in our cabin we were greeted with two attendants carrying a massive amount of food. I told them to simply leave it on the table and I’d take care of it. One steward replied "you don’t want me to set the table"? Curious I said "sure"... she reached under the couch and lo and behold produced a large top that fits on the small table in your cabin, whisks out a table cloth and silver and china and leaves everything picture perfect! One (almost) hilarious note, every order was botched in some way. First they brought double everything! Omelets, coffee, eggs, milk… all doubled. Next, things missing, hash browns, muffins, etc. Then coffee but no cups or sugar! Surely one would notice the lack of cups to pour the coffee in when delivering two carafes of coffee. It was like they had a jokester running the catering dept. Though the coffee thing just irritated me I must admit. By the way... fresh squeezed juices throughout the ship for you Mimosa lovers!

‘Signatures’ restaurant was very small and intimate, so much so I never got a picture of it during dinner because it would probably really bother the people around you. Great wine list, fantastic menu (see pictures) and the best fillet mignon we’ve ever had on board a ship. Presentation and etiquette are way off here though. For instance, serving gentlemen first and reaching across your face, etc. The ‘Olympic’ on the Millennium blows them away in this respect by far. However, the food wins in ‘Signatures’ hands down. Cooking for only 700 or so has its advantages! And each restaurant had it’s own kitchen so really they were cooking for much less, like a fine large restaurant. A bit disappointed there were no tableside preparations except Bananas Foster.

Next, we visit the ‘Veranda’ café and are very impressed. King Crab legs, fresh shrimp all in massive chilled piles on ice, fresh pasta (carbonara or otherwise) prepared and delivered to your teakwood table and chairs off the top back deck of the ship. Delicious! Of course they had all the typical buffet style foods but typically of slightly better quality than most ships. All the food here was of the highest quality and it was difficult to not keep eating and eating those legs and shrimp…very fresh.

‘High Tea’ was the big event everyday with lots of people lounging around drinking tea and eating some of the best snack foods and ‘biscuits’. By the way, all over the ship the staff would always re-supply sandwiches, snacks and even twice-sipped water bottles in your suite whenever you turned your back. A little wasteful we thought but it was very nice. You never approached a near empty snack, buffet tray or bin anywhere.

Of course throughout the ship nothing but crystal and china everywhere but the pool itself, where they give you real glass (poor baby right?). By the way, we discovered a little known secret, apparently you are allowed two large orders of Russian Beluga caviar for free during your stay (in-suite only)! But be careful, when you place your order they will bring you both at once. Oddly the ‘champagne’ we ordered several times during our trip had several prices attached (and one was given to us free… shhhh). It was either $15.00 or $25.00 for the house ‘champagne’. We never could figure that out, we were charged two prices for the same wine. Oh well, it really didn’t matter to us because we had a hard time burning up the $400.00 credit mentioned earlier. Lori even went and bought a fairly expensive purse and accessories and we left the ship with a $6.42 credit! This is unheard of for us! Most of you know that by the time you get your bill on other ships it’s always a BIT more than you thought. This was weird; even though outside your suite you pay for cocktails at the bars the bartenders are very generous and seem to really want to take care of you if you catch my drift. (More evidence of the no tipping effect?) Of course those who served us did get a little extra ‘help’ from us the day before disembarkation, none refused but by then with only 700 or so passengers on board and most not drinkers we had made some really good friends.

As far as the cruising ‘experience’ the difference was first evident in the large amount of quality observations from the naturalist on board. During the viewing of wildlife and glaciers they would actually change course or slow down if needed to follow humpbacks, Orcas, etc., AND we actually came within an eighth of a mile of Hubbard and Sawyer glaciers. Amazing stuff considering we saw the ‘Regal Princess’ and she only came within two miles of Hubbard glacier according to the Captain! The Captain even turned the ship very slowly around while that close (love those Azipods!) to allow "those guests in their suites to view without difficulty" he explained. Needless to say, unbelievable!

Overall, as to the question of this ship and cruise line vs. say Celebrity, Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, etc.?

We ask the traveler:

  • Crystal vs. plastic or glass?
  • China vs. porcelain or plastic plates?
  • Teakwood chairs and tables vs. plastic?
  • Better food selection during breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service?
  • Bar bill bigger than your cruise cost at the end of your voyage?
  • And the experience itself of having this large of a ship seemingly to yourself (yes it’s true, you sometimes felt it was a ghost ship and you were alone on board, it was that scarce at times). 
  • If you find yourself wondering… check it out and see for yourself at least once in your lifetime!

We loved it and will cruise her again someday, until then… we’ll plan another at half of the cost and still have a great time and eat very well indeed! We hope this helps you out if you’ve never tried the ‘luxury lines’.

Happy Cruising!

For dozens of ship & Alaska photos, as well as Mariner menus, visit Lori & Barry Cunningham's site at Skyscraper Tours


Photo: Courtesy of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises


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