We drove from Houston to Galveston on Sunday morning; great drive, not too much traffic, nice weather. Drove straight to EZ Cruise parking where we were able to board a shuttle to the pier about 10:45. No waiting in line to get checked in. We were fortunate enough to be in the "priority" waiting area, and only had about a 50 minute wait before we were called to board the ship. We were eating lunch in the Windjammer shortly after 12:00.
When we got to the cabin, inside on deck 9, we unpacked our carry-on bags. The cabin had more than sufficient storage for all our needs; even had a little space we didn't even need to use. Fortunately we are experienced enough to know how to pack light & efficiently with no waste.
Mariner was dry-docked in the spring of 2012, and the refurbishments were very nice. They didn't fix everything that was old and worn-out, but the new carpet is definitely nice. Our dressing table chair had certainly seen better days, but overall the ship and cabins looked very good. They added touch screens all around the ship, especially around the stairs & elevators. You can find out just about anything by using them, including dining options, the menu for dinner each evening, locations of things on the ship, shore excursions, and so much more. These are a very helpful addition. The TV in each cabin is interactive and you can keep up with your on-board account there.
RCL no longer provides any nice amenities in the cabin or bathroom like they used to. All they provide is a shampoo dispenser on the wall in the shower, that's it. Note for people who are sensitive to highly scented products...the little bars of soap for hand washing & showering are very strongly perfumed. The new in-room safes are great; these actually work and are easy to open & close. The new flat-screen TVs mounted on the desk are great too. They swivel every which-a-way and can be watched from anywhere in the cabin. I was very disappointed that we didn't have major network TV tho...ABC, CBS & NBC. All they offered was Fox News & CNN. Hair dryers are provided in each cabin but they are the awful kind that you have to hold your thumb down on a button to make it work. A hair dryer up-grade would have been nice as part of the refurbishment. As on all RCL ships, Mariner doesn't have a guest laundry facility. For a 7 day cruise it's not so bad, but for longer cruises it can really be a problem if you're having to fly to get on the ship. Sure wish RCL would make that a priority on their refurbishments and new ships.
Lana was our cabin steward and she was awesome. Unfortunately for any of you, she was leaving the ship the day we did, to begin her vacation before returning to the Brilliance of the Seas in a few months. She was really great tho, and anyone who was lucky enough to have her serving their cabin needs was fortunate indeed.
At 3:45 our lifeboat drill took place. Apparently RCL "hasn't got the memo" about doing the drill inside, seated in the lounges & dining rooms! This took 30 minutes standing out on a chilly & windy deck. I am a firm believer in safety and lifeboat drills, but there is definitely a better way, I just wish RCL would get on board with that way.
When we got back from supper (early seating) my luggage was there but my roommate's wasn't. We figured we knew exactly why...she had packed her bottle of wine in her big bag instead of in her carry-on. Sure enough, she had a note on her bed where to go to claim her bag. All she had to do was open the bag and show the crew guy that the bottle in there was indeed a bottle wine. Easy enough and no complaints. There were other people there tho who were very vocal with their opposition to this procedure. Maybe because they were trying to get by with something that was against the rules...don't know.
The purpose of this cruise for my friend and me was for total rest & relaxation and doing absolutely nothing...and we definitely accomplished that goal. We read books, relaxed by the pool in the Solarium, walked up and down the stairs a lot, ate soft-serve ice cream several times daily, shopped briefly at two ports, didn't even get off the ship at one port, and were just generally worthless for an entire week. Oh how wonderful it was! The Super Bowl game was on the big screen out by the pool, as well as every TV around the ship, but we chose to read and go to bed early that night...very long day and we were quite tired. I know that's un-American, but hey, our team wasn't playing.
On Monday, we got tickets for the ice show on Tuesday, "Ice Under the Big Top". I'd seen this ice show twice before but it was still absolutely awesome. The show had some small changes from previous shows, and some of the costumes were different, but it was truly fabulous; such talent. This is one thing no one should miss on this ship. You have four opportunities to see it on the cruise; be sure to get your tickets and go. The tickets are complimentary and you have to stand in line to get them, but the line moves fast and it is so worth it.
The food on this cruise was not quite as good as I've come to expect on RCL. Food in the Windjammer was a bit boring; not very much variety. I heard a number of people say the same thing. Not that the food was bad, because it wasn't, but it just wasn't as good as I'm used to it being. Sunday night I had prime rib and it was as good as I've ever had. Monday night I had Raspberry Pana Cota for dessert; didn't even know what it was, just wanted to try something different. I found out that pana cota is an Italian pudding. That dessert was awesome. I'd have eaten it every night if they offered it. Tuesday night I had Mile High Lemon Tart for dessert. It was as fabulous at the raspberry pana cota. It was made with real lemon, was very tart, had fabulous meringue and a very tasty butter crust. The fruit all week was not good, at least not where I was eating. And the watermelon was down right nasty looking. This is the first cruise I've ever been on where the fruit wasn't just fantastic. Key lime pie was not very limey; actually tasted more like an Eagle Brand pie of some sort. Spinach artichoke dip was OK, but the chips with it were very heavy & stale. I ended up dipping my bread in it because I just couldn't eat the chips. On the last formal night (Friday) lobster was on the menu. It was excellent! For an appetizer that night, since escargot was not on the menu, I chose the Bay Scallops Gratin, which sounded really good. They were teeny tiny bay scallops, no larger than a pencil eraser, baked in an escargot dish. They were baked just like escargot, in the same "sauce". It was very disappointing. Don't waste your calories on this one. Tater tots in the Windjammer were awesome...just like Sonic's. Their potato patties at breakfast were terrible, but these tater tots were wonderful. On Saturday night they had Filet of Beef on the dinner menu. It was as awesome as the prime rib the first night...really tender and tasty. Cafe Promenade was convenient for a snack or light meal, but I didn't think their selections were as good as they used to be either. Seemed they had the same sandwiches every day, same cookies, same breads & Danish; never much variety. The do still have hot chocolate there, which so many ships no longer have. It's the instant stuff in a packet that you mix with hot water, but it was good. So, here you have the good, the bad and the ugly of the food on board.
The entertainment on the cruise was one of the best I've ever experienced. Sunday night, the welcome aboard show was great. It was a French couple who performed a combination of ballet, acrobatics and aerial art, as well as a man who performed comedy & juggling. The RCL singers & dancers offered a very brief performance also. This was quite unusual for a welcome aboard show on the first night, and they had to compete with the Super Bowl for an audience. Monday night the RCL singers & dancers presented "Gallery of Dreams". The show was superb and they had the most awesome sets, lighting & technology; truly spectacular. Tuesday night the headliner was Ian Finkel, a zylophonist. He was truly wonderful, but the orchestra played so loud that his music was often drowned out and he could hardly be heard above them. He was very talented tho. Thursday night featured the comedy and music of John Joseph & Johnny B. They weren't my favorite for the week, although they were good and very entertaining. Friday night the RCL singers & dancers were back in "Center Stage". Another excellent production from these extremely talented young men & women. Saturday night they only offered one "Farewell Variety Show" and it was at 7:15. Since we didn't get out of the dining room till 7:45 that night (very slow service that night for some reason), we didn't get to attend this show.
We went to the gym once...great intentions, but hey, we were on vacation. The gym is a great facility, many good machines & equipment, and when we went it wasn't crowded at all. My favorite hot tub is the huge one in the "foyer area" of the gym. It's for adults only, has restroom/dressing/shower facilities right there and is open till 10:00 every night. It's on deck 11, thru the Solarium, all the way forward.
I observed some changes in the ports we visited. From two years ago, to last year, to present, Falmouth, Jamaica stands out the most. Their dock area has been built up from nothing. It's very nice and attractive and well-designed. They have nice brick buildings and concrete sidewalks and plaza areas; quite a change from what it used to be. In Cozumel we docked at the International Pier and they have re-done the pier and some of the shopping area since the hurricane several years ago. They also no longer have armed guards standing around with machine guns. There was just something about that that made me very nervous. Many nice additions & improvements have been made in Grand Cayman also; in the pier area and the shopping area of the town itself. If anyone needs an internet cafe in GC, it's down Carolina St. behind the post office. I paid $3 for 20 minutes...a tad bit cheaper than on the ship!
The Cruise Director, Carly Boileau from the UK, was very good. She was the first woman CD I've ever seen, and from all appearances she was outstanding at her job. She did a great job hosting the Love & Marriage Game and Quest. The host of both of those games can make or break it, and she really was excellent.
Our cruise on Mariner of the Seas was very enjoyable and relaxing. We had a week of luxury and pampering and I'd recommend this ship without reservation, no matter where it was sailing. Navigator of the Seas will be sailing out of Galveston next year and I look forward to sailing on her also.