This was our 5th cruise. 3 with RCCL and 2 with Princess. We chose the Mariner due to the easy road trip to Galveston for the elderly in-laws. My father-in-law has Alzheimer's and this was the best way to get him this trip. Our first trip was on the Sovereign of the Seas in 1994 and the 3rd was the Rhapsody of the Seas in 2004. We have seen quite a few changes over the years, some good and some bad, with RCCL.
THE GOOD: the ships are bigger and have more activities and venues. The Mariner is a beautiful ship and we loved the promenade with its shops, clubs, restaurants, etc. We spent a lot of time there just relaxing and listening to music, people watching. The Grand Suite was a first for us. It was perfect because we had our 23 year old daughter with us and we had privacy and tons of room and storage. The perks of Suite life was great too, especially the Concierge, Luca. He was awesome and made us feel like we were his only worry. He knew the family was not in suites but helped us many times with issues that concerned them as well as us. The specialty restaurants, Chops and Giovanni's Table were unbelievable. The service and the food were top notch, well worth the extra charges. The shows were really entertaining and very professionally done. I've attended some in the past on both cruise lines that were pretty cheesy. On the Mariner the big shows were a pleasant surprise as well as the ice show.
THE BAD: while the food in the specialty restaurants was superb, the main dining room was just mediocre, except for the Thanksgiving meal which was worse. It reminded me of my 5th grade Thanksgiving meal before the holidays where they unloaded all the leftovers. Next time I'll leave the Turkey alone and get the ham. The windjammer had a wide selection but the quality was barely above your local all you can eat buffet, sometimes worse. I really felt less personal attention than on my prior RCCL cruises. The attention we received in Chops was more like what I remember from the past in food and service quality. I guess you now get what you pay for, literally. Overall A-