I am an 18 year old girl who loves to travel and really enjoyed this trip with my family. We took the 7 night cruise on the mariner of the seas from December 30 2012- January 6 2013. It was considered a holiday cruise because it was over New Years, which was really fun and enjoyable.
We embarked from Galveston Texas, which went pretty smoothly thanks to our travel agent getting us priority boarding passes (try to get these if possible). I love Galveston, but I have to admit that the terminal is way too small to function the way it should. Get there very early and be patient. People are disembarking the boat at the same time that you are pulling up to the terminal. It is confusing and took us about an hour to get through lines and to finally start walking to the boat. The number one recommendation I would make would be to make sure to grab a porter as soon as you park as this will make it so much more less confusing. It also took a very long time to park the car, It might even be worth it to park in a non terminal lot and walk if you are able to do that.
Our rooms were already ready by the time that we boarded the ship so we dropped off our bags and went off to explore the ship. Our rooms were on deck 6, right next to the elevator bank. While we thought it would be noisy, the rooms were actually amazing because of the convenience of having the elevators right there. The ship includes a promenade which is where most of the action occurs. We had early dinner, which we actually enjoyed because we were always hungry by the time 5:30 rolled around. We are a family of 5, but we were placed at a table with people we had never met before. It turned out great with us leaving with 6 new friends to keep in touch with. It was weird at first to have to share a table with random people, but don't change tables, because by the 2nd night we were great friends and even hung out every night outside of dinner. Our waiters were fabulous, which I think is probably standard on every cruise. The food was really good, but did not always have the variety that other cruises we have been on had. One complaint that I have was that the windjammer buffet had pretty limited late hours. Unlike other boats where there is 24 hour food everywhere, the windjammer closes at 9, and there is only one 24 hour place with limited choices (like sandwiches and cookies but not much more).
The number one thing we were nervous about on this cruise was starting off with two full days at sea. The first day at sea was still cold (it was December), and we spent the day doing inside activities such as wondering the promenade and exploring around the ship. The only complaint my two younger teen sisters had was that they did not think there was enough activities for teens on this boat that they actually enjoyed. They spent most of their time out of the teen club hanging out together. There is a 18+ meet and greet one night in the club that I did not attend so I can't say how easy it might be to meet other 18+ travelers at this. This first day at sea was also New Years Eve for us. There was a party in the promenade (it was still too cold up on deck) where almost every passenger showed up. Get there early and either grab a table or a good place to stand. They started a countdown to midnight and it was a fabulous celebration with confetti and balloons all over the place.
The second day at sea was a perfect temperature. By this time, we had gotten south enough that the sun was out all day and the pool deck was packed. I spent the whole day in my deck chair and the pool, a amazing way to start off a new year. They have this amazingly large TV screen which they showed football on the entire day so we caught the cowboys game by the pool. The ice skating show on this ship is AMAZING. We saw it two times, be sure to get your tickets early. The night shows were also pretty good. They were not Disney show level, but we went to all of them and did not regret doing so. One of our favorite places on the boat was the bar on deck 14. It has an amazing view of everything and is a great place to be. We also enjoyed attending trivia with our dinner friends, which actually turned out to be fun, even for a 18 year old.
Our first port of call was Roatan, Honduras. We chose to go without the cruise line on this excursion, going to Little French Key instead. We had researched this before hand intensely, because we were nervous about going on our own in Honduras. It has a 5 star rating on trip advisor and I also wrote a review over there rating it 5 stars. I can honestly say it is the most fabulous place I have ever been and I plan to return many times in the future. Make sure to be aware that people do not drive the same in Honduras as they do in America. They are more daring drivers, they are not always dangerous, but be aware that it will be an experience. Little French Key is a private island with the most clear, turquoise water I have ever seen. All you have to do is email them from their website and they will quickly respond with all the package options. It is WELL WORTH IT. They provide lunch and two free drinks from the bar. You can use water loungers and lounge chairs and spend all day by the fabulous water. I cannot say it enough, just read all of the reviews on trip advisor and they will convince you for sure. And it was absolutely perfect for teens, I cant think of a teen who wouldn't want to spend the day here (and my parents loved it too!). After Little French Key, we made it back to port about an hour early so we shopped around and then boarded the boat. There is a shopping area right where we docked (Coxen Hole) with some shops to buy t-shirts and other trinkets. Be aware that you will see a lot of poverty in these countries. I have never seen anything like it, and it has caused my family to find a Roatan charity that we are going to start donating supplies to. Don't expect air conditioning in any of these countries and don't drink the water (which you should know anyways).
Our second port of call was Belize City, Belize. Here we did a River Wallace and Altun Ha Mayan site tour through Royal Caribbean. There is a barrier reef surrounding Belize so the ship must dock far away. You have to be tendered in, which takes a significant amount of time. If you do a tour through the ship, they will tell you when you need to meet in order to board the tender, which is very helpful. The number one thing I wish I knew in Belize is how HOT it was going to be. I think it was 95 degrees (which isn't the bad part, i'm from Texas) with 95% humidity (which was AWFUL). Bring tons of water bottles and expect to be hot. As soon as we disembarked the tender, Chukka tours was waiting for us. They are the tour group that royal Caribbean runs this tour through and they did a fantastic job. We had to wait for 3 more tenders until our entire tour group arrived, so they let us wait inside the only air conditioned building in the whole area because it was so hot. We then boarded a small boat and set off for our river tour. We saw so many neat things; dolphins, manatees, monkeys, iguanas, and alligators- all right next to our boat. The rain forest that the river runs through looks like something out of a movie and our tour guides were so knowledgeable about everything we saw. After the river tour, we arrived at a hotel to eat lunch. By this time, everyone was red faced and soaking from the humidity, but like I said earlier, there is no air conditioning. Not that that is a bad thing, I just think it is important to know for those who have low heat tolerance. The lunch was good (either Belize food or hamburgers) and then we set off on tour buses (AIR CONDITIONED! YAY) for the hour drive to Altun Ha. The Mayan site was really neat to just admire all of it. You take a guided tour of all the ruins and then even get to climb the tallest one, the temple of the sun god. They build steps around the back so that was accessible and not too dangerous to climb. After the tour, you get about 20 minutes to explore yourself. I would recommend at least spending a little time shopping at the little shops set up. These people have worked so hard and sit out there all day just to sell a few items. But those items are handmade and amazingly done and cheap! One thing I discovered is that no matter how little material things these people have, they are so kind to us. I had many memorable conversations with local Belizians at Altun Ha, and even met a little boy who wanted to talk American sports with me.(: Take the time to talk to those people because that was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. After this, you board the bus for a 2 hour ride into Belize City. The bus ride was a great way to see all of Belize and I loved looking out my window and seeing everything. If we did this again, I do not know if I would do the river part. Because of the river part, we did not have too much time at the ruins. I enjoyed the river part, but I will probably not do a combo tour in the future for the interest of time. We were wiped by the time we got back to Belize City, so we pretty much walked through a few stores and bought t-shirts and some gifts and then waited for a tender. Do NOT wait to board the last tender or you may end up with a problem. If there is one place to be on the ship early, it is here because of the tender length and amount of people trying to board the last tender.
Our final port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. Here we did a dolphin tour through Royal Caribbean. We had planned ahead knowing that we would be tired after the entire day of tours in Belize so we planned the excursion for 9am instead of 7am. Keep in mind that it is hard to go non-stop for three countries in a row so plan accordingly especially if you have teens in the family who love to sleep in (ME). The dolphin thing was at Chankanaab Park. The tour group put us in taxis that they paid for and we got over there fine. We swam with the dolphins and got pushed and pulled by them. It was a super neat experience and the dolphins are so loving and cute. After the dolphins, you have the opportunity to return to the dock or stay the the park. The park has several places to eat, a stunning beach, pools, and snorkeling sites. We chose to walk down to the beach area and eat at the beach-side hut restaurant. Our waiter barely spoke English so I got to use some of that Spanish I had been practicing for many years. While our parents waited at the table for the food, the teens walked right out from our table and swam in the ocean like 20 feet away. It was amazing and the food was good too. We caught a taxi back to the dock and shopped in the many many shops. I really enjoyed Chankanaab a lot more than I thought I would and thought it was beautiful.
We then had one more day at sea, which we just spent hanging out. I can tell when a trip was amazing because I immediately want to return. I saw some amazing things on this trip and learned a lot. I really appreciate my life after seeing the way some of these people have to live. I have to decided that when I return to Roatan in the future (hopefully), it will be with many things to donate.
The worst part of this trip was disembarkation. It was about a 3 hour line and we had to stand the whole time. It was terrible. Make SURE you do the walk off the boat at 7am with your luggage option. We did not do this, and we stood in line for 3 HOURS. It may be early and a lot of hassle to carry all of your luggage, but take advice from a 18 year old- PLEASE DO IT. Do not get stuck waiting in the line, it will put a negative end on your otherwise great trip.
I realize this review is super long, but i think it will be helpful for anyone with teens so they can see this trip from our prospective. All of my family loved this trip and really got to say that we have been to paradise. Let me know if you have any questions, I would LOVE to answer them all! Thanks and enjoy your trip.