Unknowingly, we booked a 7 day cruise dubbed the "End of Days Cruise" on the Mariner of the Seas out of Galveston. Didn't stop to think we would be sailing to the Mayan destinations on a Western Caribbean ports of call not realizing we were to be at The-end-of-the-world- Central! We booked in June and just realized the timing in early December. That got our excitement revved up!
Being first-time cruisers, we had no idea what to expect. We drove to Galveston on Saturday and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Resort. It was a nice clean room and friendly staff. They had free cruise parking and transportation to and from the terminal. Once we got dropped off, the immense size of the ships (Carnival also docked next door) took our breath away. The terminal person/porter took our luggage and even tagged it for us because we didn't get any luggage tags with the paperwork we received in the mail.
I saw all the lines and all the porters and thought to myself we were in for a long wait of lines and confusion. Actually, as we approached the first entrance area (as our friendly van driver told us where to enter), we were directed into a short, fast line. Our carry-on was screened and then we quickly moved to a meandering but fast line to the check-in counters. It didn't take long and we got a friendly lady who asked for our ID, papers, passports, etc. It took seconds, gave us a boarding pass and instructed us to head to the waiting area for our boarding group number to be called. We were the 4th group but took only 7 minutes to board. It was sooo exciting, even though it was grey, cold and raining.
A group of RCI reps greeted us as we boarded ship. Not knowing where to go or what to do, we noticed we were on the 4th floor and saw the Casino Royal (yes, I love to play). It was empty and dark, but managed to take some pics. We wondered around the floor and were amazed at the beauty of the lounges, furnishings, and layout. I mentioned to my husband that our rooms would not be ready until 1:00 and normally, people make a bee line to the feed trough, also known as the Windjammer Buffet. We got a window view of the port and munched on some tasty bites.
After a while, we took our carry-on and walked around the ship for a while until 1:00. Again, RCI people were friendly and helpful. We found our cabin, 8th floor balcony, thinking it was going to be port side, which it wasn't. But that's for the travel agent and I to discuss later. We waited for the attendant to open the corridor doors, which he did exactly at 1:00! We got one of the end rooms on the hump of the ship. I knew it was somewhat close to elevators and stairs but was hesitant it would be noisy. Found that the corridor was separated from the main traffic areas by a wall. We were close to stairs and elevator without any noise. Our cabin, 8628, was clean, cozy, and inviting. We loved the balcony and took advantage of it throughout the trip. Lots of drawers and cubbies to put your stuff away. We used the space between the curtains and balcony to store our huge suitcases. The bathroom was small but surprisingly well designed. My tall husband had no problems in the shower or using facilities.
We were scheduled to depart around 5:30, which it did. We managed to find our way to the pool area and sat down for a beer and a smoke. Since the smoking area was but a few tables and chairs, it was a challenge. But we managed, and it isn't easy with those huge standing ash trays they provide. We found some blue plastic table ash trays at the top outside bar and brought one down. As time passed (now close to 5:30), it began to rain and then rain harder. But that didn't bother me, as they were showing the Cowboys/Steelers game on the jumbo screen above the pool. We slowly moved out of Galveston and the rain slowly increased in intensity. That didn't stop the partiers in the sauna and pools. Hubby and I managed to reposition ourselves away from the smoking tables but still in the smoking area to see the big screen better. To make a long story short, it was storming, getting colder, and seeing a killer football game in overtime. What a GREAT way to begin a cruise. The rest of the cruise was just as memorable (minus the hoards of people on the elevators that opted to take it just to climb or descend one floor). Pleeeze...take the stairs! Hubby and I took lots of stairs up and down. Easy to maneuver. Food was great, but I got tired of battling the buffet. The Main Dining Room was elegant and service was top notch. We got the "Our Time" dining option and it was worth it! No lines to wait at, no serving times! We asked for a different table each time. Our preference was a table for two. Elegant setting, elegant food presentation and service!
So much more to review, but for first timers, I would like to say that RCI did fulfill our expectations and look forward to planning another trip. Mariner of the Seas is a beautiful, clean ship with lots of helpful people. Great trip, great experience.