Mariner of the Seas Cruise Review by dhappycruiser2
- Sail Date: July 2019
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Junior Suite
We live in Florida – so in less than 3 hours we were driving into the parking garage around 10:25 – and we walked onto ship at 10:55! Easiest embarkation EVER (8 cruises over the last 22 years).
Our tablemates said they arrived around 1:30pm and that they did not have long lines either.
TIP: If you are arriving by car – 1st drop off your luggage in the bottom of the parking garage (this was Port Canaveral Area B - Terminal #1) – then they will tell you to proceed up the ramp to park your car. You will have to prepay for your parking – an attendant was at the machine to help us run our credit card through. Then take an elevator back down and enter the building attached to the parking garage.
It was so fast partly because not many passengers were there when we arrived and also because we had filled in everything ahead of time online (including providing our credit card) so check in only involved scanning our SetSail Pass and a quick look at our passports and a trip through x-ray.
TIP: Be sure to print your “SetSail Pass” at home before you leave – it has a bar code on it. It serves as your SeaPass Card until you get the permanent card (which will be in an envelope on the cabin # sign outside of your cabin). TIP: get used to carrying your SeaPass EVERYWHERE – basically everything you do on board requires your SeaPass (even activities that are free). Lots of passengers had their passes on lanyards around their necks. And while we’re on the topic: be sure to bring a photo ID with you when you go into Nassau – you’ll need it to get back into the Cruise Ship area. You will not need a Photo ID on Coco Cay – you’ll just need your SeaPass Card.
Since we got on the ship earlier than expected we just hung out on the Starboard side of the pool (Deck 11) – they were playing videos of funny animals and people doing funny or amazing things . . . almost like a montage of Funniest Home Videos without the commentary. TIP: if you dislike smoking you want to be on the Starboard (Right) side of the ship if you are on Decks 4 or 11 – if you are a smoker the smoking areas are on the Port (Left) side of the ship on Decks 4 and 11 (and one section of the Casino).
We were VERY HAPPY that we had booked lunch in Jamie’s Italian Specialty Restaurant (12pm reservation but we went at 11:45 and they seated us right away). We booked lunch to avoid all of the passengers learning their way around the Windjammer on the 1st day. BIG TIP: request to be seated as far back into Jamie’s as possible . . . unfortunately we were seated near the door and heard the clanging silverware of a cleaning station in the Windjammer that must have been right outside the door of Jamie’s. This applies to Chops Grille as well – so when you walk in tell them you would like to be seated in the back of the restaurant.
To enter either Jamie’s or Chops you do still need to enter into the Windjammer which means you will pass through the hand washing area – TIP: the paper towels are above the sinks – we saw people struggling to find the towels. There were two fantastic guys playing a guitar and singing “wash – wash your hands” to the tune of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – this ship had entertaining little touches like that all over – we loved it.
The menu at Jamie’s had appetizers that the waiter (Carlos – he was great) explained were small portions so that we were encouraged to order multiple appetizers . . . and so we did! We ordered the “plank” which had sliced meats, fresh mozzarella balls, some dry cheese, and a different kind of cole slaw – it also had some olives and peppers. We also ordered the garlic bread which were two big rolls with garlic and cheese on them – I’m a fan of soft bread so I liked those the best. 3rd item was the crab and avocado bruschetta – sounds weird but it was delicious. I also ordered the Caprese salad which was the same (yummy) mozzarella balls from the plank + two kinds of tomatoes as well as some baby basil leaves and a very nice balsamic drizzle. For the entrée they say you can order a small portion or the regular portion so I had a small portion of the mushroom “taglie something” pasta and it was plenty and fantastic flavor. Husband ordered the chicken which he said was flavored well and was sitting on a nice sauce. He also got a small portion of penne carbonara as his pasta. Dessert was a chocolate torte for me and a lemon meringue for husband – both delicious.
Even though we prepaid both of the specialty restaurants – they still brought us a “zero” bill – I believe the sole purpose of this is in case you want to add an additional tip (a tip is already included in the price we paid for the specialty restaurant). We were pleased with both of the servers so we did write in an additional tip. I suppose if we had not wanted to tip extra we would have just left the slip at the table with nothing written on it.
They made an announcement when the staterooms were ready – it was before 1:30 - we dropped off our luggage and met our wonderful room steward – Keisha from Jamaica. Then we ventured out again.
TIP: If you want to do the Escape Room or Laser Tag during your cruise – be sure to book them as soon as possible on arrival day. We weren’t sure where to go so we asked at Guest Services and we were told to go up to the Rock Climbing Wall desk. There were two friendly guys up there with tablets. We almost signed up for the Escape Room but then found out there would be 13 people in the room (he was going to over-ride the max of 12 to add our party of 2 to the 11 people already signed up). Maybe I’m a Nervous Nellie but being closed up in a room with 11 people we don’t know didn’t really sound like fun for me personally. For some reason I thought it was limited to just 6-8 people. I have heard though that it is a lot of fun . . . maybe we’ll try it next time. Either way – we got up there around 2:30 pm and there were sessions already filled up. We did not sign up for Laser Tag but I heard those all filled up fast as well (before Day 3 and Day 4 when Laser Tag started). So be sure to get signed up early for those two activities. I can’t comment on the Flowrider – we didn’t do that – although I saw private lessons advertised so that may be an advance sign up as well?
While we were on the back of the ship at the Rock Wall we decided to check out the “archery” – it is rather hidden – the Rock Wall guy had to point it out – it is next to the basketball court. Kind of cool – the targets are four plastic balls that float in the air because of compressed air blowing them up. The arrows just have soft rubber on the end of them – however they did fly pretty fast. There were only about 6 people there so we waited our turn and it was fun for a few minutes. I was surprised there was not anyone from the ship providing instruction – so passengers who knew how to use a bow and arrow were helping those who needed help. We weren’t there for long but I could see if someone really enjoyed it they could spend longer. They did have a tournament later in the week however we did not attend.
We wandered around a bit checking out the upper back of the ship – there is a little area of hammocks and some circle rope swings over by the kids climbing thing (Lucky Climber) and a putt putt course (Mariner Dunes) – accessible by stairs – look for the green painted golf course sign on the wall near the stairs. The putt putt was something we meant to get back to but ahhhh . . . relaxing got in the way and we never made it back up there . . . next time!
The Assembly Drill at 3:30 was painless . . . no need to drag the life jackets there as we had done years ago. A note to future passengers – be sure to be there on time – don’t dilly-dally – the faster everyone is there and accounted for (they will scan your SeaPass card) the faster it is over.
TIP: if you do not buy the drink package that comes with a cup: bring your own water bottle – you can fill it up at the same Coke machines that the drink package folks use – the ice and the water choice do not require the chipped cup. We found two Coke machines across from the Pub on the Promenade Deck 5 and then of course in the Windjammer.
Husband realized he forgot a hat . . . went to the shops on Deck 5 . . . TIP: the shops do not open until 5:30pm on the 1st day.
We had early seating (5:30pm) for dinner . . . we ate there the 1st 3 nights and spent the 4th night at Chops Grille. TIP: check online for your dinner seating – I had talked to a Royal Caribbean agent on the phone who said we would be at a large table at the early seating however when we went by the dining room around 2:30 or so a dining room helper looked us up and told us we were assigned to “my time” dining which we did not want. No problem at all – he typed on his computer and moved us to an assigned table at 5:30. I’m really glad we had checked in with them before dinner time. We were at a small table of 6 and enjoyed our tablemates.
Dining Room Dinners: the highlights for us were the French Onion Soup (available every night) and the desserts (berry cobbler on the 1st night – ask for the ice cream WITH sugar unless you like (or need) sugar-free ice cream). Dinners were good . . . just nothing amazing for our taste buds. That said – it was very nice being served each meal and we enjoyed each evening and the flavors were good – the only item that was not cooked thoroughly enough was the mushroom risotto on Night 3 which was a bit hard – it needed a few more minutes on simmer I think.
We did breakfasts on Days 2, 3 and 5 in the dining room and lunch in the dining room on Day 2. Lunch on Day 4 was on Coco Cay. That means we only ate in the Windjammer once – for breakfast on Day 4 when we had an early excursion on Coco Cay. They had a buffet at both breakfast and lunch in the dining room – along with a menu to order from. The Dining Room breakfast buffet had scrambled eggs, little pre-made omelets, French toast, pancakes, waffles with multiple toppings, lots of fruit, pastries, and cereals. You can get all of that (and more) in the Windjammer – we just prefer the quieter, less hectic, atmosphere of the dining room. The lunch buffet (at Sea Day 2) was a salad prepared as we walked down the line and pointed to what we wanted added (lots of choices) + a pasta bar where again we could choose what we wanted and then they heated it all up in pan. The lunch menu had choices as well – I really enjoyed the heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad – it didn’t have any lettuce so I just added it to a small salad from the salad bar. I also had potato soup . . . if you like creamy potato soup then this is your jam . . . however I like chunky potato soup so I was mildly disappointed to not find chunks of potato. But oh how my disappointment turned to joy when I went to the dessert buffet . . . fantastic – tons of choices and everything we tried was great.
TIP: if you are going to either breakfast or lunch in the dining room you will need to enter the dining room on Deck 3
Husband likes to drink an Old Fashioned sometimes – he was not impressed with the drink he ordered in the Dining Room on Night 1 – tasted like it had carbonated water in it. However he was very happy with the Old Fashioned that Eugenio in the Pub prepared on Night 2. So if you are serious about your mixed drinks it may be safer to visit one of the bars on the promenade (Deck 5) rather than using the Dining Room bar service – they do not mind if you carry your drink from the promenade bars into the dining room (or even into Chops which we also did).
And now a note on dress code . . . as far as we could tell there is no enforced dress code. I think this is wonderful as it allows everyone to enjoy their dining without worrying if they have the correct attire. On the other hand we were stopped on formal night and asked how we knew it was formal night because the woman asking did not see anything announcing it. And she was correct – typically on prior cruises the dining room servers have told the table that the next night is “formal night” and they make a big deal about it. However instead of that announcement on Night 1 they were advertising the champagne brunch with galley tour going on the next day. Also on the Day 2 Cruise Compass (which was in our cabin when we returned from dinner + show on Night 1) the “Dinner Dress Code” for Day 2 was labeled “Wear Your Best” rather than “Formal”. So it definitely seems like they are moving away from “Formal Night”. However there were extra photo areas and an opportunity for a photo with the Captain and some of the passengers dressed up – so it seems like it is Formal Night for those that want to participate. We hardly ever get the chance to dress up and husband had recently bought a new suit so we gussied ourselves up and enjoyed ourselves. We dressed up again for Chops on Night 4 and found two gentlemen at the table to our right in suits and ties while the gentleman to our left was in shorts. So again . . . don’t worry about a dress code. If you want to know ahead of time which night is “Formal Night” just call Royal Caribbean – which is what I did – I just had to tell them the ship and sailing date and they told me it would be Day 2 – our Day at Sea.
We attended the 7pm Ice Skating show (we did have to depart dinner quickly and were lucky to find two empty seats as the show was starting). The show was great – it is amazing how they can fit 10 skaters on a small rink. The skaters were from many different countries and included two pairs – one from Canada and one from the U.S. We enjoyed their skating and costumes. The theme is “Under the Big Top”.
We are not Night Owls so we did not attend the 10pm Welcome Aboard Show. Our tablemates said it started with Marcelo the Cruise Director and then the comedian – so it lasted over an hour. They said the comedian (Steve Smith) was really funny.
Have to admit here that our Day at Sea was mainly about eating and relaxing on our balcony reading our books . . . I did venture up to the gym for a run around 9:45 – found an open treadmill – it did get busy and almost every treadmill had an occupant. The treadmills face a window at the front of the ship so it is a wonderful view while exercising (a little warm – wish I had brought my battery operated fan to clip onto the treadmill but I survived). That is all I did in the gym so I can not comment on the classes or other equipment. I did check out the locker room – lockers, showers and a sauna were available. Oh and they do provide sweat towels so no need to bring one from your cabin.
After lunch we watched a little bit of the Art Auction – they did a “mystery” auction where they had 8 prints – the buyers didn’t really blindly bid on them – seemed more like a ploy to keep the excitement up – when they turned them all around they were by Thomas Kinkade (“the painter of light”) and they were offered up for $400 a piece – two people took advantage of the offer – I have no idea if that is a good price but I will say that later that night I was walking through and heard the auctioneer guy talking to a couple and he offered the same $400 price – so it seems it was not just an “auction special”.
The evening of Day 2 was the last chance for open ice skating (7-11 pm) so I went down around 8:15 and got into the 8:30 session. It was a popular activity so they limited it to 20 minute sessions. The only time I go ice skating is on Royal Caribbean cruises so I enjoyed just going around in circles – there were tons of beginners so a bit of weaving and dodging was required but I liked it. At 10pm they were doing a “disco” session however I did not stay for that – if it had been at 9pm I’d have been all over it! The only other open ice skating session was on Day 1 (1-2:30) so if you know you want to go ice skating be sure to note the times as they are limited – there is no advance reservations – just show up during the open time and fill out the waiver and they punch your SeaPass Card and they give you a ticket for the next available session. TIP: Long pants and socks are required – a lot of the kids were in their PJ bottoms so those pass as “long pants” as do leggings which is what I had on. On Days 3 and 4 the ice gets covered and the area turns into the Laser Tag area – so that is why Ice Skating is only on a few days and Laser Tag is only on the other few days.
Day 3 was Nassau – we are SCUBA divers so we booked a trip with Stuart Cove’s – it is the same operation that the ship uses but since we were in port until 9pm I booked separately to save a little money. If they ship were leaving at 6 I would have booked through the ship to guarantee that we would not miss the departure time. It is a bit of a walk to the meeting point – but not too bad. We walked down the pier, passed through the building and then past the shopping kiosks and the people offering their private tours (“take your pretty lady on a 4 wheel ride” we politely declined and kept walking). We then had to cross the street and then go left on the sidewalk to a concrete/tile pink fountain that serves as Stuart Cove’s (and some other companies) meeting point. There were some locals passing by selling bottles of cold water ($1 each) and a bag of fruit (not sure on price). We had filled our water bottles on the ship so we didn't buy anything. It is about a 40 minute ride to the dive boat – through downtown and by the airport and then by resorts. Our dives were great – “Twin Sisters” is a fantastic wreck dive – two wrecks right next to each other – and then we went to Mike’s Reef which was a nice reef with another wreck. Quick trip in their gift shop and then we were back on their bus at 4:30. The bus dropped us off where it picked us up – to get back into the cruise ship area we had to show our Photo ID’s and SeaPass cards - then to get back onto the ship they only needed our SeaPass cards. It was a race to get to dinner but we got there at 5:40 so all was good!
The Day 3 Headliner Show was a rock concert by a band called “Private Stock” and I thoroughly enjoyed them – they did songs by Elton John, Billy Joel, Journey, AC/DC, Guns & Roses, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi and Van Halen. Really good performers – the female singer even changed outfits and could really sing like Stevie Nicks and Heart and Janis Joplin. We went to the 8pm show – they did a repeat at 10pm. We saw some families with kids leaving after about 10 minutes . . . so unless your kids love rock hits from the 70’s & 80’s it might be better to go watch the outdoor movie instead (Wonder Park and Dumbo were playing that night).
Day 4 was Perfect Day at Coco Cay and wow they have done a lot with this little island! We were there in 2008 and 2012 before they added so much to the island. It is great that they have a pier now so there is no need to tender over anymore. We did the one tank SCUBA dive excursion and we were the only two that signed up so we had our own private excursion. We got off the ship a few minutes after 8 and walked down the pier – then a left over the bridge to “Chill Island” – to the pink first aid building – the back side of the building is the little “Diver’s Den”. They had our tanks out and ready for us and let us stow our bags in their little office. We then put on our gear (except for mask and fins) and took the short walk to the beach. The reef is a bit far off shore so to save us from swimming out there they had us ride on the rescue sled of a jet ski – it was so fun! William took the dive guide (Brandon) out first and then came back for my husband and then for me. We went down and spent 45 minutes cruising around the reef and slowly making our way back to shore. The reef is a bit sandy and the visibility was not great but they have LOTS of great little tropical fish – we saw a couple of small rays and angel fish, file fish, trigger fish, parrot fish etc. I like the small stuff: flamingo tongues, jaw fish, juvenile tangs, juvenile angels, anemones with shrimp and tiny crabs – there was plenty of small stuff to be found. I saw one larger creature – a small shark cruised through real fast – he was cute. After the dive they had rinse tanks and a hose and hangers and a rod to stow our gear – they said we could keep our stuff there all day which was great – it gave the gear a chance to dry a bit.
We had so much fun in the water that we hopped back in just to snorkel and spent about an hour in the water – they have a “shipwreck” which is really just a concrete wall with some cannons on it – but it is a nice little artificial reef and there were some nice critters hanging out on it (including two anemones and a beautiful bright blue/yellow juvenile queen angel fish).
TIP: if you are planning on snorkeling bring a long sleeve “rash guard”/”swim shirt” whatever you call it you NEED it – there were so many sunburned backs on the snorkelers. Board shorts for girls are not a bad idea either – protect those cheeks! Be sure to apply lots of sunscreen to the backs of legs and neck and tops of hands – all of those body parts are exposed to the sun while we’re happily looking down into the water.
We had lunch at the Chill Grill – buffet of tacos, Cuban sandwiches, burgers, etc – I had a nice fried Portobello and cheese sandwich – yum. Dessert options were chocolate chip cookies, brownies (yum) and soft serve ice cream. Forgot to mention there was also salads and fruit but apparently we weren’t into healthy eating after all the swimming we did!
After a bit of lounging under an umbrella on the plentiful lounge chairs on Chill Island we hopped back in the water for some more snorkeling – a nice big Southern Stingray swam by – so beautiful. Have to note that there were some jellyfish in the water – more in the afternoon than in the morning. They did not have long tentacles so they were avoidable – have to look where you are going. One did brush my leg and I have a few spots – they kind of look like little red mosquito bites. They itch on and off so I’ve been putting anti-itch cream on them.
After snorkeling Husband sat back on a lounge chair and I walked over to just dip into the Oasis Lagoon Pool (it is fresh water) – I discovered that the reason why Chill Island is so quiet is because the party was at the Pool! The Swim Up Bar was hopping, fun music playing and everyone was having a great time. A bit of shade can be found in the pool where there are some trees and then under a bridge. Most of the pool area is in full sun and I knew I had already gotten more sun than my pale skin should get so I headed back under the umbrella on Chill Island.
We decided to take the tram back to the ship to avoid walking with our gear – the tram is on the other side of the Chill Grill so it was a little bit of a walk but not bad. A perk was that the tram goes all the way around the Thrill Waterpark so it gave us a chance to see a bit of it. One unfortunate detail of the tram is that the one that can take you around the island is NOT the same one that can take you to the ship. So the island tram took us sort of near the beginning of the pier and then we had to get off and get into a line (wasn’t too long) to wait for the smaller trams that can go up to the ship. Still well worth it to not have to walk all the way up the pier. TIP: To get onto the 2nd tram you have to show your SeaPass card so have it ready – you then have to show it two more times – and then a final time getting onto the ship. The tram took us to the farthest entry point (front of the ship) to get back onto the ship which avoided a line of people getting back onto the ship at middle of the ship. TIP: when getting back onto the ship they do require bags to be x-rayed – if you do not have a bag with you they’ll let you go to the left to avoid the bag x-ray line.
After some relaxing on our balcony it was time to shower up and head to our final dinner – we prepaid for Chops and we were not disappointed! I had the mushroom soup with a drizzle of truffle oil (so good!) and husband had some sort of giant piece of bacon which he raved about. We tried the Wedge Salad as well as a mixed green salad with “crispy goat cheese” (yum). Husband is a steak eater and he enjoyed the ribeye – I had a white fish called “branzino” which was served with sautéed spinach. We each also had baked potatoes and shared some sautéed mushrooms. Dessert was cheesecake and a chocolate lava cake with berries. The entire meal was fantastic – we asked to sit in the back of the restaurant (away from the Windjammer) and we enjoyed a peaceful slow-paced meal looking out at the sea as we headed back to Port Canaveral.
No one likes packing up . . . so we got it over with as quickly as possible – bags had to be out in the hallway by 11pm – we saved just our clothes for the next day plus a carry on with our toiletries and items we didn’t want to put in the checked luggage.
Morning came too fast – we were out of our cabin by 7:45 (required to be out by 8am) and we went to our final breakfast in the dining room. On the last day they only do menu service in the dining room (we could have also gone up to the Windjammer) – so we ordered eggs and French toast and lingered there until our # was called.
To depart the ship they had us go to Deck 4 and then strangely through the dining room to go outside onto the deck – not sure why the regular exterior doors were closed – maybe to be able to have enough room to snake the line around? Since we were #30 we were toward the end of the numbers called and there was not a long line. Off the ship at 8:55am – booooo – I wanted to get right back on – oh to be one of those “back to back” cruisers that get to stay on board . . . maybe in retirement we’ll get to do that!
After getting back into the cruise terminal we went down a ramp and then to an area where they were telling Canadians and people with U.S. birth certificates to go the right and U.S. Passport holders to go straight. Not sure where someone from a country other than Canada or the U.S. were supposed to go? The passport line was easy – they had us walk up to a screen that did facial recognition – pause for a few seconds and then the agent told us we were good to go – he never actually looked at our passports – the facial recognition must pull up our passport info? Kind of freaky but also very quick and we liked that! Next stop was the luggage area and we found our bags in the #30 area very easily – I think there were less than 15 bags in the area and 4 of them were ours because of all of our dive gear. We than walked through what seemed like a customs area – there were booths – but no customs agents in the booths – so we just kept walking and boom we were back at the elevator in the parking garage. Back to the real world . . . after a 3 hour drive it was also back to our beloved dogs so at least reuniting with them makes it ok that the vacation is over!
Hope you enjoyed the rambling review . . . as I read it back it occurs to me that I ate A LOT of mushrooms on this cruise (pasta, soup, sandwich, etc) – just want to assure the reader that there were lots of other menu choices I just really like mushrooms!
*forgot to mention our cabin - #6692 Aft Junior Suite. We LOVE Aft cabins – and we use our points from the Royal Caribbean card to pay for the upgrade from a standard room to a Junior Suite. The room size was great – the décor/carpet/tile is aged a bit – I do not believe the staterooms were part of the giant upgrade that was recently done on the Mariner. However the bed was very comfortable and the linens were soft. Junior Suites have a nice big closet as well as a bathtub – I took advantage of both. We did feel some vibration while falling asleep and waking up and we definitely could feel when we were docking – but nothing was so bad that our sleep was impacted. We did not experience any soot on our balcony. I did smell cigarette smoke one time – not sure if it was from a nearby balcony (smoking is not permitted on balconies but not all passengers are rule followers) or from the crew area below. Overall we love the Aft cabins for their quietness and we do not mind the long walk to the elevator at all . . . it helps us offset all of the extra calories we are taking in during the cruise!
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