My Mother and I decided last minute to drive to Galveston and hop on the Mariner. Booked cabin 6603 for myself and 6605 for my mother. I have sailed on the Mariner before down the coast of Mexico. Have sailed on Royal many times, and it is my cruise line of choice.
We drove from Tyler Texas, and decided to stay in Conroe Texas the night before the cruise. Put us outside of traffic, and since it was Mardi Gras weekend in Galveston it was an inexpensive alternative to Galveston. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, and it was great with a wonderful full breakfast included.
Drive on Sunday morning took about 90 minutes. Got to the port around 11am, dropped off our bags and parked. Used the port parking lot. $60 for a 7 day cruise with a $5 discount if you book on-line. If you are a disabled veteran the parking is free!
Check-in and boarding was a breeze. On the ship and eating lunch by 12:30. Rooms were ready at 1pm.
Promenade cabins are just wonderful. You can sit in the window looking out on the promenade, read, eat, sleep, etc.
We had My Time Dining. We had table 661 the first night and the tone was set for the week. Worst service I have EVER had on any Royal ship. I think 45 minutes is a long time to wait between apps and entree. Food was cold and very poorly presented. We are not foodies, but it was so bad, we did not go back for the rest of the cruise.
We ate at Chops Grill the next night, and it was every cent of the surcharge. Food and service was impeccable. The should be on everyone's must do list.
Buffet was typical Royal fare. Filling and pretty good amount of choices. Service was good and efficient.
Giovannis Table was a BIG let down. I am a regular user of Portofinos and expected the same experience. DID NOT HAPPEN! Some sort of family style concept. I know where they are trying to go, but when you pay a surcharge for an upscale experience, you should get it. Food was very poor. Food was cold and mediocre at best. I have 4 cruises booked and will not be using this venue if it is on any of them. STAY AWAY!
I will leave the port reviews to others. I have been to all of them more than once and stayed on the ship. I love port days, as you have the ship to yourself.
For me it is all about the ship. I love cruising and the different personalities that each ship has. The Mariner is a grand lady, but seems a bit tired. Maybe it is because I cruise often, but all the shows seem the same, contest repeated, pastries always the same, etc. For those of us who are fortunate enough to cruise several times a year, it is time for something new. I enjoyed this cruise and did my Mother, but would choose another ship in the future.