As in the intro this was my first cruise. Since I was leaving out of Galveston I had only 2 choices. Carnivals Magic or Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. A friend of mine that has actually worked on both cruise lines plus Norwegian and princess recommended RCL hands down and without reservation. Okay... Now for the cruise.
We arrived in port on Sunday and parked with 81st Dolphin Parking (galvestonparking.net) and the royal treatment began. Though it does not look like much this is the place you want to park, my friend that has left cars for months at a time highly recommended this place. They do have a fenced lot and security. Okay they got us right up to the port and even though a cruise was arriving the drive got a porter and got our bags into the line for check in. We had to wait a little while but it was not bad. We go inside and because the port is used by many cruise lines it was kind of crowded but we knew all we needed to do it get through this little time of being couped up and then we would be on vacation. We go into line and because we had researched and talked to RCl ahead of time we were checked in in no time and then we had to sit and wait for our group to be called.
Our group was called and the vacation began. I had read some other reviews about the Mariner being old... maybe but it is tried and proven. We went up to the windjammer and had lunch. The food in the buffet was nothing less than excellent. We ate breakfast every morning in the buffet and lunch a few times. We never had dinner there but after all, why. This leads me to say if you go anywhere other than the dining room every night you are making a mistake. It is included in the price. We made friends right off the bat with an awesome family of 3 that included a 17 yr old daughter. She and my son hit it off and they started making up their own kinds of food requests. What do I mean by that? Well they were kind of picky so the dining staff and our waiter (mario) brought them something they liked. I little secret, if they know what you like and it is served anywhere on the ship and they know ahead of time... it will be available at your table for dinner even though it is not on the menu.
Johnny Rockets the 50's style diner that serves the hamburgers is not complimentary but it is only $6 per person. And for that $6 you get all the freshly grilled hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, etc that you can handle.
The entertainment was all over the ship at different times. We went to as much as possible. We were told the ice skating show was not to miss but we missed it because daytime activities. The stage shows in the savoy theater were excellent and some were okay. I will say if you get a chance to see "Mosaic", go see them where ever they are. The comedians were good for both shows. They had a family and a late night adults only show. The shows produced by the staff were typical Broadway style shows so if you like that then you will not be disappointed. The Quest... well you have to experience this with an open mind and be ready for anything. It was one of the funniest and wildest times I have ever had. I will say it is adults only. The ship party they had afterward was off the charts. Live music of a few different styles was plentiful throughout the ship. I will say some nights were a little mellow in some places but every night had something that everyone wanted. My wife and I would go up to the lounge on 14 enjoy jazz music and an evening overlooking the ship. Very romantic.
For the 15yr old teen. He really did not want to go. After we came back he swore he would protest if we went again and did not take him. I could count on one hand how many times I actually saw him after dinner the whole week. The ship staff has a full time teen leader on board to make sure they are having a good time. One night they even took over the main night club. My son enjoyed the dinner in the dining room with us every night and they pleased him with whatever and however much food he wanted. Late nights and lots of food. The ship has a lights out time for the teens so they are supervised to a degree. It sounds like we just turned him lose but the staff kept a pretty good eye on them and they did not get into trouble. They can not get off the ship without a parent so we felt very safe allowing him to have a good time.
The ship. We found that even though we were 2 of almost 3000 guests, we really were never crowded. During the day there is plenty of places to lay by the pool or get into the hot tub. The adults only pool area was a place that I would go and just nap. The elevators were situated where there were plenty of them and rarely did we have to wait on an elevator. The design of the ship seemed to be very good in the fact that we never were bottle necked any time except when the theater let out and that was to be expected. The general layout is very good and spread out. The food is all on one floor. The sports stuff on another.
Our room was the typical state room. Complete with fold-down bunk style beds for the teen. Renaldo took very good care of us. We sent out clothes for cleaning and we were waiting for them and we found out he had gotten them and hung them in our closet some time before we came into the room. The room had plenty of storage and we survived just fine. We had an ocean view, no balcony. we really did not care to have a balcony. Going outside was not far. Renaldo kept the room in shape all the time. We never ran out of towels or anything. There was a couple of times the hot water ran a little scarce but it was not that big of a deal because if we waited just a few minutes things were back to normal.
My only complaint was the front desk. I went up there a couple of times. One to get a remote for the TV because ours was missing from day one and the other I can not recall, but the staff at the front desk were not ready for english. you would think that leaving out of Galveston Tx they would have staff that knew english. They knew english everywhere else, just not the front desk. It was an experience trying to ask for a television remote. They thought I did not know how to use it.
The cruise director. We had Mitch Merucci. If you cruise you want Mitch. It seemed like Mitch had clones. I would run into him in the promenade, then I would see at the pool and then he might be hosting an event. He was awesome. He hosted the "love and marriage" game show and he made the show. The quest would not have been half as fun if Mitch would have not been hosting it. He is funny, witty, quick on his feet, and was always in a great mood all the time. He would stop and chat and we had a good time. Mitch you made my vacation so memorable and we will look you up and try to get on a cruise with you again.
The ports... Cozumel, Cayman Islands, Falmouth Jamaica. Cozumel was easy, they have a dock that you just get off onto and you go right into port. Lots of stuff for sale in port and then you can get a cab and go to a beach or shop or whatever. There are people on every corner wanting to sell you something.
The Cayman Islands are spectacular. We spent time at the beach(calico jacks). We went shopping. Both are great things to do at this port. Keep in mind this port is port that you have to tender into (take a little boat to shore). This takes extra time so plan your time wisely. Seven mile beach is very nice and clean. Now Jamaica... We were told, remember this is a third world country. We never had any desire to leave the port area. Falmouth is a very nice port built by RCCL and it shows. The people are nice and shopping is good. They have an outdoor mall area and a market place that you can buy almost anything. The prices were the best and we spent the most money in Jamaica. We ate lunch on the ship because it is docked right next to the port so you can come and go as you please. Overall Cozumel had good food and okay shopping. Cayman was the beach time and Jamaica for lots of shopping in the port.
Overall... We could not have asked for a better vacation. There was nothing that I asked for that they could not deliver. We were entertained, pampered, and treated with "royal" treatment. Even though the ship has been around a few years you could not tell it. It looked good and was very well maintained. We can not wait to get back onto another RCCL cruise. If I could go back on the Mariner today, I would. Thanks RCCL for the most memorable vacation that I have ever had.