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Mariner of the Seas
Western Caribbean Cruise Review
July 30, 2006

My husband and I just came back from the July 30 Mariner of the Seas cruise to the Western Caribbean. We have been on many cruises, but this was our first with Royal Caribbean and we were very impressed with the Mariner and its staff. First you should know that the Friday before our flight from L.A. to Orlando we heard from our travel agent about the outbreak of norovirus on the ship during the current cruise. We came very close to canceling, but we are glad we didn’t. We took the red-eye flight to Orlando, arriving at 6:30 am and were greeted by RC staff and spent about an hour and a half waiting for other passengers to arrive so that we had a bus full. We were told that RC staff was going to spend an additional two hours “cleaning up” the ship because of the norovirus outbreak, and so they took us to the Radisson Hotel across the street from the pier. They gave us a ballroom with tables set up and served a buffet lunch (hamburgers, chicken, salad, etc). We waited there about two hours. I have to say that the experience could have been worse and, as promised, they put us on the ship by 2:00 p.m. Check in was easy enough, with the lines moving quickly.

The ship is amazing! Nothing prepares you for how huge it is, and the promenade was awesome. You forget you are on a ship, (no movement except for final day so no Dramamine; took ginger root tablets instead and was fine, not drowsy, etc). The crew is friendly, and Becky (cruise director) was awesome and made you want to attend anything she was a part of. On the Promenade even though the shops are standard logo shops, etc. the idea of having someplace else to go onboard, something else to do, (Ben and Jerry’s, the Promenade café with great desserts and sandwiches, the pubs, etc) makes an already wonderful cruise that much more! We did not mind the extra $3.95 for the ice cream. The other nice thing about the Promenade area is that it was a good place to orient yourself as to where you were on the ship - facing forward, aft, etc. Our cabin was great - with a balcony, (we once had a cabin without one and will never do that again). Plenty of closet space and shelves, and the bathroom was very comfortable. Bed was comfortable too, and we had a fridge, safe, hair dryer, etc. Our room steward was terrific.

The food onboard was wonderful. The portions were good and the dining room was beautiful. I had read complaints that it wasn’t too good, but if the only thing I didn’t care for was the prime rib. I liked that they had their main menu and then some “alternate” choices - grilled salmon, steak, and so on and they were always good. Desserts were okay. We also ate at Chops Grille - would highly recommend it, as it is easily worth the $20 each, had filet mignon that was fabulous and the atmosphere was very nice. You need to book early, as by Wednesday they were pretty much sold out. We also tried Portofino - $15 each and found it to be equally as good, both restaurants had wonderful service. Windjammer was great too - Jade had some different dishes, didn’t like the sushi though. They served us (even salad bar) everything the first four days due to the virus thing. Machines were everywhere with hand sanitizers. Never made it to Johnny Rockets.

Days at sea were relaxing or active. The area around both pools gets crowded, but plenty of chairs up top. Husband and new dinner friends did the rock wall and loved it. We enjoyed the casino, blackjack tournament and poker room (although not enough hours there and too far away from casino). Don’t miss - Ice Show - get tickets early, The Quest (it was Tuesday night on our cruise and it is a hilarious show, fast paced, audience participation and adult). The tribute to the Beatles later in week was excellent. We only saw one of the other shows - it was okay. Parade first night in Promenade was also good, as was last night parade. Internet café was easy to get to and use and was active, but not too crowded.

Ports: First stop was Labadee, Haiti - tendered in - RCI’s private part of the island which we weren’t too excited about and it turned out to be a wonderful day. We did the Waverunners and it was great. Highly recommend it! Toby, the guide was great. My husband drove, I was passenger, and there were 8 couples in our group. We were able to go full throttle with each couple staggered about 30 seconds apart, and he took us out for a little over an hour. We went early in a.m. and it was smooth. Loved it! Then we relaxed on the beach and floated in the water. Look around before you settle on a beach as there are a few to choose from. Explored the trails too. Fun day.

Ocho Rios was hot, no tenders, pulled right up to dock. We shopped and went back to ship to relax. Table companions did swimming with dolphins and enjoyed it.

Grand Caymans, tendered in - no problem, big tenders that held plenty and no long lines or waits. We booked a snorkel/Stingray City tour with Moby Dick (online) and found it to be a good tour, cheaper than RCI, and offered both the snorkel and stingrays. It was a smaller boat, less people, but if you get seasick you will want to take something before you go as it is a bit choppy once you get out there, waiting while snorkeling, etc. The snorkeling was off the side and we saw many fish, a shark, etc. Then onto Stingray City which is amazing - a sand reef you can stand up on in the middle of the Caribbean. Fun! Read about people complaining on message boards that vendors were too aggressive, etc. but we didn’t find that to be true - just said no and walked on, no hassle.

Cozumel, tenders again - shopped, had lunch at Palmeras - very good. Warning: we bought a few items at Pama (a sort of deptartment store) and our credit card was denied at check stand. Then they asked us to run another - husband mistakenly ran debit card and then we asked to speak to manager. We called Visa and they okayed the charge (didn’t know why there had been a problem), but when we returned home, the bank told us our debit card had been compromised by that store. So we are awaiting new debit cards, etc. What a hassle!

Disembarking was what it was - waiting. They assign you a color and time, you wait on Deck 4. Took about an hour. Luggage was easy to find. Our big disappointment of trip came here. We had booked an additional three nights in Orlando - through RC - Hilton at Disneyworld. They put us on a bus back to Orlando airport (even though we argued we weren't going there) and once there they didn’t know what to do with us. So, a bus driver volunteered to drive us to our hotel. Hotel is next to Downtown Disney and nice, but an “add on” Disney hotel that doesn’t get same bus service. They have their own, which is a huge hassle, and we once spent 2 hours getting from a park back to hotel. Book your own Disney add on - don’t go through RC. Overall, a fantastic trip! We loved the ship!

Photo courtesy of Kvaerner Masa-Yards

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