My family decided to take a cruise for the holidays this year, and chose the Mariner of the Seas since we can drive to Galveston. We also had 3 generations sailing with us, so we were excited to have a vacation for the whole family.
Embarkation: This went more smoothly than we expected. RCCL sent us an email a couple of days early stating that there would be a delay in embarking, so we didn't come to the pier until noon. We parked at EZ Cruise and used a porter to get our things checked in. We were on the ship around 2:00 or so, and quickly went to the Windjammer to have some lunch. Cabins were ready soon after, and we had all our luggage by 5.
Room: We had a balcony stateroom, and it was perfect for us. The boys (6 and 4 yrs) loved sitting out there and watching everything. We had ample storage space, and loved that our empty suitcases fit under the bed. We decorated the room for Christmas, and it was a lovely home away from home. I was surprised that there wasn't any kind of toiletries (shampoo, etc) in the bathroom. There was a dispenser of some sort in the shower with what I'm assuming was body was or shampoo. It seems like that for the amount you pay for the cruise, you could get basic toiletries. Other than that, no complaints on our room.
Service: Service was spot on. Our stateroom attendant was friendly and courteous, and made wonderful towel animals each night that the children loved. Our dining room staff was great as well. Our waiter and assistant waiter learned everyone's names after the first night, as well as learned our preferences. They were wonderful with the children.It seemed like all throughout the ship there was wonderful service. Everyone truly seemed happy to be there.
Dining: Dining was much better than I anticipated. After reading some of the CC posts, I had very low expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised. We ate in the MDR every night except for one, where the DH and I had a date night at Chops. The MDR food was delicious, with very few exceptions. I finally understood where all the chatter about MDR wardrobe comes from. While I didn't mind so much people wearing nice jeans and such, I was shocked at the number of people who were wearing ratty shorts, flip flops, and worse at dinner time. And there was a large number of it going on. Oh well. It didn't ruin the taste of the food or the tone at my table, so I never made any fuss about it. Chops was fantastic. We used room service for breakfast most mornings, as that was easier with the kids. Lunch was kind of all over the place.
Entertainment: We really enjoyed the entertainment. Our favorite was the ice show, which was incredible. They also put on a holiday show, which was a combo ice show, orchestra, singers, etc show. You could tell they had kind of just thrown the show together, and didn't have much time to practice. However, it was still enjoyable and fun to watch.
Kids Program: The boys loved the kids program. The staff always seemed a bit stressed and harried, but the kids begged to go and came back with happy stories, so no complaints.
Ship: The ship was breath taking. I had not been on a ship this large before, and you could explore forever. RCCL was enforcing the no chogging policy, which I was glad to see. I was surprised that even though it was a sold-out cruise, the boat never seemed overly crowded. While some areas seemed a bit worn down, you really had to be looking for them.
Debarking: Debarkation was much easier than I expected. The people who complained the loudest were the ones who didn't follow directions. We were given tags the night before that told us when to show up to our designated area. The ship was running about an hour behind schedule due to weather, but we were updated regularly via announcements and the signage as to how that changed our time. The longest wait was through customs, which took about an hour.
Overall, this was a fantastic trip! We will definitely be sailing RCCL again!