Traveled on Mariner last week of March, Spring Break week; me and the hubby, our 14 year old son, and our best friends. Flew into Houston Hobby and stayed overnight near airport. Springhill Suites has great free shuttle service and is a very nice hotel for the price. The RCCL shuttle is also very nice. We were very pleased with our transportation and the friendliness of the drivers. Arrived at port for embarkation at approximately 12:30pm. They tried to talk us into visiting the town of Galveston until later in the afternoon due to the long lines but we are glad we decided to just wait it out. Our friends are Platinum members and thus we had a very short wait as compared to others. Check in was a breeze and friendly, and we were on the ship by 1:30 and went straight to our staterooms. We were located on Deck 6 aft therefore the balconies are larger. I appreciate that but the only drawback is too much lighting at night and smoking crew members below if on the corner.
Our Stateroom attendant, "Ram" was absolutely wonderful. He went above and beyond to make our stay comfortable and seemed to know our needs before we mentioned them! He even managed to keep our teenager informed and on time to certain events. He deserves a big WOW! The room was always clean and the bed made a little more comfortable with extra padding that Ram was happy to obtain for us. We like the showers much better with the circular doors instead of the flimsy curtain that you usually have with older ships. Plenty of storage in the rooms, too. Nice flat screen TV with many channels and good lighting.
We really enjoyed the food on the Mariner. The buffet at the Windjammer had enough choices for breakfast and lunch so that you could eat something different every day. Our son devoured the pizza just about every day! You can order custom eggs and omelets, etc... Service was adequate but sometimes it was faster to go get your own coffee or juice. All service was friendly and we could always find a seat. We never made it to dinner there but our son enjoyed his meals when he ate with his the new friends that he made in the teen club.
We ate dinner at the Main Dining Room with MTD for all but one night. The food was great. Most nights we were blown away by the menu and enjoyed all of our choices. A couple of nights,the entrees were good but not excellent. For example, if you want a good steak, you basically must order the filet at an additional cost. The soups are fantastic and we tried many new dishes that were excellent. Portion sizes are very nice although a few times we ordered two of the same entrees (like the turkey and dressing) because they were so good! Five of the six nights we ate at the same table so that we could experience the wonderful service of Francis and Fabian! WOW, again!! Always service with a smile, very patient and poised, pleasant and very knowledgeable about the menu and beverage choices. We were so impressed with how they handled some extremely rude and demanding people at other tables. Very impressive!
We chose to eat at Chops Grille for the second night's offer of the Celebration Dining. Don't miss it! The filet will literally melt in your mouth! Everything, including the appetizers, side dishes, sauces and desserts were exquisite! Mark was our server and he was also remarkable. Very pleasant, friendly, and knowledgeable, he treated us with his origami flowers as a reminder of a perfect evening.
We enjoyed the Dog House around the pool area for lunch, too. There are about 6 options for Hot dogs that will knock your socks off! (Complete with sauteed peppers or kraut if you so choose) The frozen yogurt stand in the pool area is also nice. The pool was crowded when the weather finally warmed up but we never had a problem finding a chaise or chair. We liked the adult only area, however that was not enforced, so we didn't stay for long. The fitness area is very nice with a great large hot tub that we enjoyed, too. We didn't participate in the classes offered but many others seemed to enjoy them.
The promenade was usually our "hang out" during both the day and evening. We enjoyed Vintages, as we are wine drinkers and enjoyed sampling the varietals that we were unfamiliar with. The wines that are offered on the ship are really nice and there is something for everyone. We also liked the Wig and Gavel across the way. Better beer selection and great Bloody Marys! The food in the Cafe is excellent with calzones, pizza, sandwiches, ice tea and desserts. Great place for a quick snack but be aware that it becomes packed afternoons during port days when everyone gets back and is looking for a snack.
The casino is very smokey although the husbands did frequent a couple of nights. Not many tables but plenty of slots that were always full. We enjoyed the Schooner Bar because it was not smokey and had decent entertainment, a piano player that played "our kind of music". The other public bar areas were all too smokey for us so we did not visit for long. We enjoyed the comedian they had one night, although were a little surprised that people had their small children there in spite of warnings that the material was too adult for little ears. The ice show is amazing in the fact that they can do what they do at sea. Our seas were not calm for most of the week and they did a spectacular job. The entertainment was good although not the Broadway-like shows as you get on the larger ships.
Our son was once again pleased with the teen program and we rarely saw him. He had plenty of activities to keep him entertained and was often on the sports deck playing soccer, basketball and volleyball. Being Spring Break both in the US and Mexico, there were plenty of teens to hang around with. The rock wall climbing, mini golf, in line skating are also fun to try at sea!
We did the ship's excursion in Roatan, a trip to the beach at Anthonys Key Resort. It was a nice day although it was somewhat cloudy and rainy. Our other two excursions were outside vendors- the cave tubing in Belize and Bar Hop in Cozumel. A good time was had by all.
Disembarkation took a bit longer than usual due to supposed sequester cuts with customs. We actually spent three times more time getting off the ship to our luggage than getting from our luggage to our transportation. This was due to 2/3 of the ship being Mexican Nationals in line for customs and therefore the rest of us had a shorter line. All in all, not too bad for us.
In general, we had a great time on the Mariner. There are plenty of activities and we were very happy with the food, ship's condition and maintenance, and most certainly the service!