We were a group of 14 (8 adults + 6 kids) sailing on the Mariner out of Galveston. Ports were Roatan, Belize, Cozumel. We stayed two days pre-cruise at the Hampton Inn off Seawall Blvd. Hotel was clean, comfortable and a nice pool area and free breakfast each morning. Used the hotel shuttle Sunday morning (10:00 run) for 5.00 each. Van was large enough to accommodate all 14 people, which was nice to keep the group together.
We arrived at the terminal by 10:30, proceeded through a short scanner line and straight to "Suite check-in". 15 minutes later we were seated in the priority boarding section. By 11:30 we were walking to the gangway and onto the ship. Piece of cake!!!
Toured the ship and had a bite to eat at Cafe Promenade -- first of many "finger sandwiches" that week. Verified table assignment since there was some concern about us being large group. All was set. Two tables, one for adults and one for kids. This proved to be a great arrangement as the week progressed. Rooms were ready shortly after 1:00. Weather was beautiful in Galveston all weekend, so we were able to enjoy the day poolside waiting for sail away festivities.
Ship is in excellent shape for her age. I was amazed that furnishings, carpet and other interior items were as nice as they were. Considering the traffic this ship sees everyday, it's a credit to the crew how clean and well maintained everything was. I did notice some "rust stains" on the exterior and did not see the normal level of paint touch-up as seen on previous cruises. I assume this was due to the upcoming dry dock.
We booked 3 Junior Suites and 1 D2. All rooms were in great shape with only one problem in the D2. There was no hot water and one point during the week, but that was rectified within an hour of calling maintenance. Two JS rooms were next to each other (not connected) and we were able to get the balcony divider opened. Initially we asked and were denied, but on Day 3, our cabin attendant stopped by and announced that he would be able to open the divider. Drinks, cigars and sunsets for the remainder of the week!!!
Dining/food was excellent. I have read many negative things on this topic and was very impressed with food quality and variety. As mentioned before, the kids (12 - 16) were seated at their own table. The wait staff was excellent and they all the kids enjoyed the experience. You could see the excitement in their faces each night as we sat down for dinner. Kudos to the waiter and assistant. waiter. Our waiter wasn't bad, but he wasn't great either. He got the job done and did it respectfully. never a problem with order accuracy and even encouraged some "doubling up" on certain entrees. The assistant waiter was excellent (same one as kids) and we found out that he was being promoted to waiter on the next cruise. Congrats to Mario from Peru. We only ate in the Windjammer a couple of times. Not because of quality or service, but because we were too busy with other things. Poolside BBQ on two sea days also eliminated the need for lunch Windjammer visits.
Shows were just ok -- except for the Ice Show. Don't miss that one. The main productions were ok and the guest entertainers weren't notable. I can't recall any of the names. Live entertainment was 50/50. The piano and pub guys were ok, while the pool and lounge bands were great. Day time activities were non stop. If you're feeling bored, check your pulse. Kids were none stop the entire week. Always entertained.
Outside of the previously mentioned dining room service, all other staff were helpful when needed. This trip was so smooth and problem free, we never really needed anyone's assistance.
Weather was excellent. RCCL had the weather machine cranked and it was great. Not a drop of rain the entire week. Seas were so calm that you rarely felt the ship move. Some what disappointing, since I enjoy feeling the motion of the ocean.
Ports of Call;
Roatan: We booked with Victor Bodden. They were able to accommodate our entire group in one van. We had Big Al as our guide and he was very friendly and accommodating. We wanted to see the island and explore some of the east end (less traveled). We ate lunch at Cal's near Parrot Bay. Great hillside view of the bay, not to mention great food. Local feel, not touristy.
Belize: We booked with coral breezes to do the Ray and Shark Snorkel and Caye Caulker tour. It was nice, but not enough time on Caye Caulker. This is a really neat island that needs a couple hours to explore. We had less than 1 hour for lunch and exploring.
Cozumel: The guys did a two tank dive with Deep Blue Scuba. They were great and our guide Issac was the best. Will consider them again in the future. The ladies and kids did Chankanaab (sp?) for the Dolphin swim. Based on the stories and pictures this was complete success. Great day for all.
Overall this was a perfect cruise and vacation. Would consider this route and ship again to further explore Roatan and Belize. Can always do more diving in Cozumel too!!!
Thank you Royal Caribbean!!!!