Fresh off a massive $120 million renovation that introduced a number of new features to the ship -- the Sky Pad virtual-reality bungee trampoline, FlowRider surf simulators, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade -- and added dining venues and 40 more cabins, 15-year-old Mariner of the Seas has a crisp, fun "new ship" feel.
It's also quite lively, with the hub of activity centered on the fabulous Royal Promenade, a bright, colorful and Instagrammable stretch of Deck 5, where something is happening -- '80s-, '90s- or disco-themed dance parties, or live music -- any time of day.
Royal Caribbean went the extra mile to ensure the ship looks great, and it does. On the Royal Promenade, The Bamboo Room -- a new Polynesian bar serving updated Tiki bar classics -- is visually striking with bright, bold, leaf-patterned wall coverings and a retro-chic sign outside. But outside is where the ship's 2018 "amplification" is most apparent. The giant yellow dome of the Sky Pad is unmistakable, and the twin corkscrews of The Perfect Storm racing water slides -- which appear to hang off the side of the ship -- are appealing as well. Everywhere onboard there's something that catches your eye.
Though Mariner of the Seas is a smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, it never felt small. By that same notion, it never felt too large. Space is used well, and it's evident Royal Caribbean spent time looking at how to keep passengers out of each other's way. We floated from place to place, ate, got drinks, played mini-golf and watched movies by the pool, and the only time we stood in line or really even saw lines was at the Sky Pad, FlowRider and water slides, and those moved quickly. Even in Windjammer Marketplace, the ship's buffet, we found there were few issues with wait times.
Overall, Mariner of the Seas was a delight. Every part of the ship delivered on its promise and our one regret was that our sailing was only two nights. We could have used more time to enjoy the "have fun, you're on vacation" energy that emanated from everyone onboard.