Background: New, late 50's retirees. First time cruisers; decided for full immersion, transatlantic cruise.
PreCruise: Stayed in a very nice Hampden Inn in center of Miami. Made the adventure of flying to Ft. Lauderdale (much cheaper), then shuttle to triRail station, train to Metro Xfer stop and metro to 1 block from hotel (2 hour trip for $4 bucks total). Quick walk to hotel and it was very upscale. Inexpensive Taxi to ship next day. No problem getting on ship, pretty quick check-in.
Cabin: Balcony cabin was roomier than I expected; balcony was a little wasted on transatlantic; several days were very windy. I expected to use it for breakfast, but didn't. Was nice to view the world floating by, but oceanview would have been fine. Shower is small, but workable. Cabin steward made up room twice a day and we never noticed him; he was great.
Ship: Mariner is revamped and very nice, great promenade; Big theatre; upscale dining. Pub bar was good to have, can get a good beer and service was great. MyTime Dining is way to go, we could eat later since 7:00 show was less crowded. 8:45 show is packed, and would be smart to avoid. Wished the pools were bigger, but hot tubs are plentiful. Internet access is almost non-existent and too pricey. Don't buy the prepaid options, it wouldn't be worth it. The cruise was great, seas pretty calm, weather usually nice, sunny - but windy on many days. Temp around 65-75 almost every day.
Dining: I wouldn't listen to the other review complainer's. The food is great at the dining rooms. I can't think why you would go to the buffet for dinner, so don't. Since we ate late, we used buffet for wonderful early appetizers. The lunch in the dining room is also very good. Breakfast at the buffet- they make a great omelet. Why complain about any food issues? So many choices, you just avoid any questionable food items. Overall superb eats. We did eat at Giovanni's and food and service were very good, but not sure it beat normal dining -> why pay the extra?
Activities: Tons of fun things to do. Good art history lectures, tons of trivia contests, plus other games. Limited time to lay by pool. We would struggle to relax, we were constantly running to the next activity. The staff is fun, approachable and engaging, really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Clientele: There are a ton of old people on-board; perhaps they are attracted to the long-term transatlantics? My guess is 50% - 80+, 20% - 68+, 20% - 45+, 10% younger. Guess: 70% American, 10% Canadian, 10% UK, 10% other. Probably only 40 kids on ship. But there are more than enough 40-60 year olds to hang and do stuff with. This is probably the best part of long-term sea days -> many good people you see often and enjoy.
Ports: Majorca, Barcelona are fun, beautiful cities. Easy to tour on your own. If you avoid RCI tours at ports, do some homework and have a goal for a specific activity; otherwise you shuffle around aimlessly. Don't miss a chance to see Florence, we used their guide and she was very good. Ship drops you off in Civitavecchia, easy to take train into Rome center -> then we spent days in Rome on our own.
Conclusion: We had a great time, staff at RCI was top notch and fun. This is a truly affordable luxury; a nice room, constantly made up; eating every night at a very nice, classy restaurant with great, friendly staff; a pretty good show each night -> truly this cannot be beat. It's a wonder the rest of the world hasn't discovered cruising.