We are a family of four. Our daughter is 16 and our son is 11. We have been on numerous cruises and have always enjoyed them so we decided a year ago it was time to go on another one. Our budget was limited so I looked into cruises with a lower price going to ports we had never been to before. Mariner of the Seas out of Galveston fit the bill.
We booked an interior stateroom on deck 12 for all four of us. Total cost $1,876 plus $316 in taxes and fees. The stateroom was a little tight for four of us but it worked out fine. I would never try this with four adults. The kids slept on the fold down bunk beds. Deck 10 was perfect because the pool deck and Windjammer was just one floor up so we didn't have to bother with the elevators. We were also at the front of the ship and the elevators at the front of the ship were less crowded than the back of the ship.
The Galveston port is a bit of a challenge for someone from the Northwest. We were using our Alaska air miles so we had to fly into Bush International airport which is 70 miles from Galveston. There is no inexpensive way to get there. Since we were coming in a day early and would have all day Sunday before we flew back,we opted for a rental car for 8 days. I won a bid on Priceline for $230 which was about the same cost as a taxi, towncar or shuttle. This allowed for a wider selection of hotels for the night before. Galveston hotels are expensive in March. We stayed in a Super 8 in League city the night before the cruise. The hotel was basic and nothing fancy but was easy to find (right by highway 45). It was right by a great local seafood restaurant,Sudie's Catfish and Seafood House. There were several fast food joints nearby and a Kroger grocery store for last minute purchases Traffic was fairly light on a Saturday night so it took a little less than an hour to get to the hotel from the airport.
The next morning we woke up to fog and I was worried the ship would be delayed getting into port. I checked the roll call thread on cruise critic and a kind poster noted that the ship had made it into port so we were good to go. It was about a 20 minute drive to Galveston. We spent the morning driving the Galveston beach front and walking around historic downtown Galveston. It was a pleasant way to spend two or three hours. Finally about 12:30 we decided to head to the ship. I had made reservations at Galveston Park and Cruise for $50 for the week. This parking was directly across the street from the Mariner so we could just walk to the ship (we did have to cross a somewhat busy street with no cross walk). I noticed several lots advertising parking for $35 nearby.
We walked in the terminal right at 1 p.m. and were on board by 1:30. We are gold members and there was no one in the gold line for check in. Those in the general line for check in looked like they were taking about 30 minutes to get through the line.
We had previously cruised on Adventure of the Seas which has the same layout as Mariner so we got around the ship easily. The only thing we had to remember is that there is no easy way to get from one end of the ship to the other on deck 3. The ship looked great. There are hand purification dispensers everywhere and we heard no reports of any sickness.
The food was great all week. We ate in the main dining room each night and split the rest of the meals between the main dining room and the Windjammer. We enjoyed all of our meals in the main dining room with the exception of the breaded sole one evening. No the food is not equivalent to a very expensive restaurant. Primarily because it is made in large quantities but I thought it was better than most of the family restaurants we normally eat at home. I personally preferred the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch because of the variety. My wife and daughter liked the main dining room because of the opportunity to get to know other cruisers who sit at the same table. I have to admit that I also liked that part of the main dining room. We snacked a few times at the Cafe Promenade. It was nothing special but hit the spot for a snack. I ate lots of soft-serve yogurt. We didn't try any of the specialty dining spots. The dinner serving staff was great as always and became good friends by the end of the week. Just a little lecture here. If you are going to eat in the main dining room, pay the tip, even for your kids. The staff works hard and contrary to the myths out there, most of their pay comes from the tips.
Our room attendant was great. Towel animals almost every night with chocolates. She took the stupid coffee table out of our room when requested and emptied the small fridge so we could use it. Once again pay the tip if you are going to cruise.
The on board activities were good. I even entered the belly flop contest for the first and last time. I always found a deck chair to lay on, just not right beside the pool. The shows were entertaining but having been on a number of cruises, the on board singers and dancers don't really excite me. The impersonator was terrible in my opinion. The ice show is spectacular. I don't drink so we didn't spend any time at the night spots. We did listed to some jazz one night in the promenade. The musicians all sounded top notch.
I really enjoyed the balance of sea days and port days. The weather was perfect.
Getting of the ship was fairly easy. We thought about doing self assist but we were assigned to the first group leaving the ship at 8:30 the normal way so choose to do that. If you are in a hurry and not in one of the first assigned groups, use the self assist because I could see were it would get a bit backed up around 10. People were cutting through the lines like crazy and it was turning into a bit of a zoo as we were leaving. Short of calling out the army, I am not sure what more Royal Caribbean can do.
I will review the ports separately but we enjoyed them all.