Well, we entered the Port of Galveston on Sunday, April 7, 2013 to an episode of what can only be defined as CHAOS. Disorganized, people scrambling, long lines, no sense of any real organization (foot traffic or vehicle traffic) other than a lot of people barking orders and no one really knowing what the heck was going on. Our luggage was taken quickly, but as we were waiting in what seemed like line after line, a delay occurs in line. That line did NOT move for almost 45 minutes. No one communicated that there were computer problems, instead, everyone was stuck to wait and wonder. Screening to get on board, another saga. Check in was interesting, if you were not a "gold member" or holding a room for a suite, you were routed into a line that ended somewhere in Odessa, Texas. If you had a suite, things were quick. We got to the terminal about 12:30pm and got onboard the ship by approximately 3:00pm. We went to our suite (9294) and it was nice, it was clean, and headed immediately to the Windjammer Cafe. The food there was good, but not exactly spectacular, but offered a wide variety of choices.
Dinner was good in the dining room, we met some folks from Virginia and Florida that were VERY nice, extremely gracious, fun and had sailed on like 19 prior cruises, so we figured we got paired up with a good group of folks. The food at the dining room was good, good selections, and nothing had to be sent back. (We're not foodies or anything, but we're mindful of what tastes good) no negatives to speak of. Royal's drink policy (sodas, water, wine, or cocktails) were seriously monitored and watched. Anything you wanted, went straight to your room card. Bottom line, your money pays for room and food, liquids of any sort were routed to your seapass card for billing. NO JOKE.
We sailed for two days to Roatan, Honduras. It was nice. The crowd was primarily over 50 years old (about 50% +) and the rest were in our age bracket (lower than 50) with kids in tow. The kids were for the most part well behaved but the parents left some things to be desired. The population of the attendees were MOSTLY from Texas. (What? Did RCL drop pamphlets on Texas or what?? OMG!!!) Where ya from? Texas... Texas... Texas... I think I only saw or heard of a FEW people from California. Please remember to keep your Seapass card with you EVERYWHERE you go. Need a towel, hand em your card, need a soda, card please. hot dog, card please... You get the point right? Also... BIG FYI... When you check out a pool towel, bring it back and have them clear your card OTHERWISE, they will charge you $25 USD PER TOWEL. Be aware of that.
Got to Roatan, docked and went Scuba diving with Anthony Key Resort's package (provided by RCL). AKR was a good group to dive with. Knowledgable but somewhat lazy, didn't really do much to assist their divers, just pretty much took our money, provided us water to drink (no food) and got us in and out pretty quick. I'd rate them on a scale of 1-10 (10 being outstanding) as a 5. The port of Roatan, not much to buy, but decent none the less. It's quaint, go to the interior of the city (hence, leave the gated area) and it can be a little overwhelming... Merchants and villagers looking like their ready to pounce on you for the Gringo dollar pretty quick. It was nice to get on the boat again and relax.
The next day we got to Belize. We were had to be tendered in and out via boats. I went Scuba diving with Hugh Parkey's dive adventures. These guys R-O-C-K. The crew, to die for. Fun, wise, great to work with, they pampered us, LOVED the crew of Hugh Parkey's Dive shop (Royal did WELL to use them) and I highly recommend them to you. They fed us, helped us, helped us clean our gear afterwards, what can I say... AMAZING. Loved them, I'd fly to Belize to dive with them ANY DAY of the week... My fiance' went into Belize City, wasn't very impressed and the tendering between the boat and the land was not good for her. Quite displeased about Belize, but different experiences happen to different people. I would rate Hugh Parkey's group (10+) with MADD love to Captain Biggie and the General as well as Marvin and Martin our dive masters. Got back on board the board, life was good...
The next day we arrived at Cozumel (on the South end). I've dove Cozumel before, and was looking forward to it. I was THOROUGHLY displeased. We ended up with Sand Dollar Dives (out of Cozumel...) AVOID THESE PEOPLE AT ALL COST!!! Book on your own, don't go through Royal and if you see Sand Dollar Dives, RUN don't walk, RUN with your gear elsewhere. Sergio and Valerie (if that's her name) are a bunch of scum merchants. They first weren't happy that a few of the gringo's brought their own equipment. No extra $80 USD rental charges there. Then they try pushing their crappy video of your dives on you for what started out at $40 according to Sergio (spoken in Spanish) too bad they didn't realize until it was too late that some of us onboard were fluent in Spanish and then jacked the price of the video to $60 USD. The quality of the video was poor, the divemasters weren't that good (in fact, Julio was a JOKE.) He spent more time flirting with a young female diver that recently certified than to pay attention to another diver (who he reduced weights from to miss the fact that he rose up over safety points because he was too busy trying to explore the cave of a young female rather than concentrate on his diver... and the guy was an advanced / experienced diver.) Sand Dollar nearly endangered the life of a diver and was renting problematic equipment. Regulators that were malfunctioning, leaking, and breaking. It's a HORRIBLE operation and needs to be avoided AT ALL COSTS. WARNING. Rating of Sand Dollar Dives (-100). They nearly injured a diver on the dive. TERRIBLE. I hope he's OK.
Senor Frogs is a tourist trap, whistles blowing, hoochie mama's pandering shots at every turn, mediocre food. Yuck to Senor Frogs. Avoid!!!! No matter how you slice it, Cozumel is a dump and should be considered avoided. I wished we could've docked in Cancun instead honestly.
Boarding and offloading from the ships, wasn't bad. Wasn't great, but what do you expect, trying to file 2500 people off the boat, there's gonna be some serious wait times right? They did the best they could I suppose.
Spent a day on the seas, it was raining, so it wasn't great weather but there were things to do. It was primarily spent relaxing and preparing for what was to come tomorrow. Dinner's again, good. Windjammer, edible. Chops restaurant, good BUT PRICEY. Watch out on the bar tabs. Even with the unlimited drink packages starting at like $350 (and drinks averaging about 8 to 10 per drink) you're looking at 8 drinks PER PERSON per day. If you want to spend your days pretty much sloshed and inebriated, hey, have at it, but if you're a mild or light-weight drinker, you're not going to win on the Unlimited drink pacakge.
Other noteables... Elevators... TAKE FOREVER. Take the stairs, you're better off. Take the elevators, give yourself TIME. The shows, were good. Saw the Australian BeeGee's, they were good. Saw a couple of comics, they were funny. Quite entertaining. The casino... Smokey. Think Vegas 20 years ago. You'll walk out smelling of smoke and old folks for sure. Vintages wine bar. Nice. Jostam was TERRIFIC. VERY knowledgable about wines. Sadly Vintages and the Champagne bar will be removed as the Mariner gets commissioned to China. I hate to see how the Chinese will wreck this boat. Apparently the Casino will be enlarged and a lot of the bars and shops will be removed. SAD but true.
Welcome home to Galveston... Or NOT. Galveston is what I can only define as the Port from H-E-L-L. Coming off the boat, lines after lines. The porter service in the Port of Galveston... ATROCIOUS. A bunch of slack jaw'd idiots who are lazy and poorly educated. In fact, our porter (Bob Anderson) managed to lose one of my carry-on bags because he got greedy and took my fiance's and my bags and then added another patron (whom we didn't know) and mixed her baggage with ours and then gave her MY carryon souvenir bag. My souvenir's right now are with a 60+ year old woman somewhere in Houston I'd imagine. I hope she doesn't dispense my shot glasses to her bridge club!!! The porter service is TERRIBLE. The management of this port, HORRIBLE. For the extra cost we paid to get into Galveston (flying from San Francisco to Houston (IAH)) and then a shuttle from IAH to Galveston, next time, I'll fly to FLORIDA or San Juan Puerto Rico!!!) THIS WAS TERRIBLE. I've opened a lost and found ticket with Royal but I am of little faith that I'll see my souvenir's again. The management in and out of this port is nothing short of a nightmare. Save money, fly to Florida and DO NOT use the Port of Galveston.
Okay, overall, I rate things as this:
Embarkation / Offloading (1 of 5 stars)
Cleanliness of the boat (4 of 5 stars)
Food (4 of 5 stars)
Entertainment (4 of 5 stars)
Liquor (3 of 5 stars) - Just costly.
Soda's (3 of 5 stars) - Just costly.
Roatan - Anthony Key Resorts Diving (3 of 5 stars)
Belize - Hugh Parkey Diving (5 of 5 stars)
Cozumel - Sand Dollar Diving (0 of 5 stars)
If you've booked out of Galveston, I hope you can change your mind. I realize that the Mariner will soon be out of China, but she was a good ship here in the US. I do worry about her in China, I hope that the travelers there will be good to her in the years to come. I enjoyed her. A lot... I am only disgruntled with Royal out of the port of Galveston, NOT with the ship or the amenities it provided.