After 3 days touring Rome we met up with friends on the same cruise and took the train from Termini to Civitavecchia for a whopping 5 Euros each -- train was clean, on time, not crowded (2nd class was double decked) and took just over an hour to get there. From the train station we walked about 10 minutes to the port and caught the shuttle bus to the check-in "tent" building. Check-in was quick, friendly and efficient and we were able to immediately drop our carry-on luggage in our staterooms. We showed up on time for the pre-sail emergency drill and then had to wait on others to stroll up 20-30 minutes late -- some things do not change no matter where on the globe you cruise.
Mariner was in great shape and the service was the best and friendliest we've encountered. Windjammer could get very crowded, but breakfast in the MDR was very nice. Passengers reportedly came from more than 50 countries with the largest group being from Italy. Watching the finals of the Euro 2012 competition on the big screen by the pool with 100's of screaming Italians was fun until Spain scored early; as Spain won 4-0 it was good that we had to leave for dinner.
Late seating for dinner was at 9:15, but worked well with our touring plans. Food and service were very good, but sometimes a bit slow. The lamb was the best meal of the cruise and could be improved if RCI would stock mint sauce instead of sickly sweet mint jelly. The Pub was usually busy in the evenings (dominated by a group of 10 or so Scots who were great fun), but Vintages was empty most times I walked by -- when Europeans can buy great bottles of wine for what RCI was charging for a glass I can see why. The Viking Crown lounge on deck 14 was our favorite spot for a pre-dinner, watch the sunset cocktail (say hello to Spice, our favorite waitress!) if you make it there.
Our only gripe was that transportation from many of the distant port locations used by RCI to various city centers was not included in the price of the cruise. For $40 per person you can book ship transport for Genoa, Barcelona, Palma and Valencia -- it is a total of $47 if you buy transport for each port individually. Except for Barcelona where we took a ship sponsored tour, we usually opted to walk or put 4 into a cab and think we came out ahead. Genoa was an easy 10-15 minute walk to the waterfront aquarium area. In Palma we took a cab to the beach at Palma Nova for 17.5 Euros each way. In Valencia a cab to the city center/Cathedral area cost about 15 Euros each way.
Stage shows were good to average, with the "East Coast Boys" -- a Jersey Boys knock off singing Frankie Valli songs being the weakest, but the ice show was amazing and is worth seeing at least once. Opportunities for passengers to ice skate were very limited -- we finally made it on the at sea day. The jazz group playing in the Viking lounge Friday night was very good.
We were in zone 29 to get off the ship but were allowed to leave the ship 15-20 minutes earlier than our projected time of 8:15; I think if we had gone down to deck 3 earlier we could have been off even earlier. Our bags were waiting for us and we found our limo driver (www.limousinesystem.com) waiting for us. The ride to FCO took just under an hour.
This was a great cruise with interesting ports and Mariner and her great crew made it even better than we expected.