We booked our cruise through the cruise line. They were super to work with in finding the best options to accomodate our trip. We purchased shore excursions, special dining, and a wine package the week before the cruise, which was a good idea.
We arose before daybreak and drove to Galveston, arriving shortly after noon. A friend recommended EZ Cruise parking rather than the Port Authority parking. We took the advice and highly recommend the EZ Cruise parking. The lot is secure, and the shuttle allows you to take all of your bags with you. The port authority parking requires the bags be dropped off at the port prior to parking which adds delay to the ship check-in process. The lines for the check-in were long and this process needs to be improved. Make sure to allow 1.5 hours for this. After completing check-in, we arrived at our stateroom where we had an adjoining room with our daughters. This was a great setup.
The entire staff throughout the cruise, without exception, was incredible! Each evening we dined in the formal dining room and enjoyed our table companions so much that we exchanged contact info. The food was great at not only the formal dining but also the casual buffet locations. The special serenade by the entire dining staff was a delight. We dined at Chops one evening and the food and staff were outstanding! The self-serve frozen yogurt at poolside was a nice touch. The on board pictures were great but overpriced. We purchased a few but would have purchased more had the price been reasonable. The on board entertainment (Ice Skating, Comedy, etc.) was really good but we had hoped for off Broadway type productions and there were none offered. Make sure to bring plenty of suntan lotion with you before boarding the ship. It is available for purchase on the ship and at the ports but really expensive.
Ports of Call.
Cozumel, Mexico. We did the Push Pull Dolphin excursion. This was absolutely fantastic and worth the money. We read a number of negative reviews about this excursion because of the photos taken by the excursion crew. It's not a big deal and you can use your own camera if you wish. We did elect to purchase the DVD, negotiated a discount, and this was worth it. The interaction with the dolphin was amazing and you don't want to miss it. After the excursion, we returned to the cruise tourist compound. The shopping experience there was not enjoyable. Many of the shop owners were pushy. The restaurant options were very limited within the compound. We ended up at Senior Frogs where the focus was on alcohol rather than food.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We did the Catamaran w/two snorkel stops excursion. Crew was great and snorkeling was breathtaking. We enjoyed walking around the local area after the excursion was over. Very safe and enjoyable. We ate lunch at a local restaurant and the food was delicious.
Falmouth, Jamaica. We did the Rafting down the Martha Brae River excursion. This was really great. The tour guide was informative along the hour long bus ride. After the rafting down the river, we drank coconut water, watched a local climb a coconut tree, had a banana plantation tour, were served a delicious local meal, and finally enjoyed liqueur tasting and freshly made pina coladas. Great!
Of the three ports of call, Grand Cayman is the one only where you can easily walk outside of the cruise line compound. At both Cozumel and Falmouth, walking outside of the compound without a tour group would not be recommended.
High marks for the Mariner of the Seas 7 Night Western Caribbean cruise. We loved it!