I purposely waited a week to write this review to give me some time and perspective from the amazing feeling of being part of the Mariner of the Seas fantasy land. Now, 7 days removed, my family and I continue to talk non-stop about the wonderful experience we had. So much for objectivity! Still, I will try to summarize the major areas to be as helpful as possible.
Embarkation - Galveston is a nice city on the Gulf but we did hit long lines to get on the ship. Maybe being first time cruisers we really didn't mind. We met a bunch of very friendly people and kept up a conversation as the line crawled forward. This is the only part of our trip that we did not rate 5+. Getting off seven days later was much better and faster. Maybe 15 minutes in line to get through customs.
The Cabin - We originally were going to choose an inside room but found a great deal for a large outside window cabin. The cabin was roomy enough for the four of us and the service was top notch! Dwight our attendant was always friendly, helpful, and ready to make us feel at home. We asked for ice once but he kept the bucket filled for 7 straight days. The towel animals made us smile as they seemed to enjoy using our sunglasses and reading material for props. I was also pleasantly surprised at water pressure and hot water available for showers.
Dining - We are newbies so we went with My Time dining thinking we would spend half the time at the Windjammer. Well, one day in the dining room and we were hooked by Aileen and John our waitress and assistant waiter. We asked for them the second time and was easily accommodated. Just from the first day they knew our names and our dining preferences. My time dining allowed us time flexibility while still getting the same table. It was awesome. As for the food, I have read a variety of reviews but for this middle class family, the food hit its mark every night. The meals at the windjammer also was top notch. I decided to choose a theme each time so one meal I went Italian, another Asian, another more American fare.
Entertainment - This was a pleasant surprise for us as I had the idea that we would see the same "troupe" perform different shows each night. Oh how wrong I was. Two comedians, two different headliners, the ice show, and in between we had an amazing group of Mariner singers and dancers to round out the formal entertainment. We also enjoyed the game shows, pool events, and other musical acts. Kudos for Riddim Wave for playing Caribbean music throughout the cruise. I wish we had a CD of their music.
A special call out for the cruise director Steve. His enthusiasm created a fun environment throughout the cruise.
Activities - My 17 year old twins went off on the sports deck. Rock climbing, miniature golf (putt putt in Texas) and inline skating kept them busy and happy! Add a couple of open ice skating sessions and pool time to the mix and the days were completely full.
Excursions - We went for adventure and wildlife so off we went for a dolphin encounter, stingray city, snorkeling, and river tubing. All were great and arranged through RCI. I reviewed them separately so please view those comments if you want.
The bottom line is that the Mariner of the Seas exceeded our expectation is every way. The ship just off it's "Royal Treatment" upgrades seemed new and fresh. The entertainment choices were plentiful and the food was tasty. When you factor in the friendliness of Dwight, Aileen, John, Steve and the rest of the crew, you have one of the best vacations ever!
A final note - it appears that the Mariner is being repositioned for at least a few years to the Asian market. We will miss the opportunity to join her again for another cruise but look forward to sailing her sister ships in the near future. Safe travels to the Mariner and her crew.