EMBARKATION: Went extremely well. Although we were told beforehand we were not to board until 1 pm, we boarded around 11:30 am. It did not take long to go through the check-in process. By checking in so early, the wait to set sail was much too long for me. The rooms were not ready until approximately 1 pm so our carry-on luggage (tote bags) got heavy. We had wanted to use that time to explore the ship but ended up sitting down by the pool until our room was ready.
DINING: Food was average as best. I have sailed on the Majesty of the Seas prior to this ship. The food their is much better. The service was excellent! 3 of us at our table ordered the apple pie a la mode for desert the first night. Did not eat it because it was not warm/hot. So, each night thereafter they tried again until they got it right (hot) -- that was night 6. Then got it wrong again on night 7. They did a GREAT job of seating assignments for dinner. People around us thought we all knew each other prior to boarding the ship.
STATEROOM: The room was nice. MUCH larger than those on Majesty (including the bathroom). However, I did still bump my elbows constantly against the sides. The room was located in the front of the ship. Had a great view of everything. I lucked up on this by checking online each day after the cruise was paid and it became available. The only thing I did no light about the location of the room was how far it was away from everything. Most of the entertainment, dining, etc. was on the other end of the ship. I chose the large oceanview. It was worth the extra $10 price difference from the next category below.
ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES: There is plenty to do onboard. I enjoyed all of the nightly entertainment. The ice skating show was spectacular. The Royal Caribbean singers have great voices. I was pleasantly surprised. My roommate got bored -- she never looked at the daily activity sheet.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: I did not participate in any of the shore excursions. I am a shopper and especially loved the prices of items in Cozumel, Mexico. On day 3, we sailed to Labadee, Haiti. The beach is beautiful, lots of trees growing on the mountainous/hilly island.
I will definitely sail the Mariner again. I love the larger ships, much more than the smaller ones.
Be sure to do your research before taking a shuttle from Orlando to Port Canaveral. I found one for $43 per person roundtrip. Most others paid $120 roundtrip.