This was the first time Mariner of the Seas sailed this itinerary, Singapore to Shanghai via Phu My, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Naha, Japan and Jeju Island, Sth Korea. We are a couple in our 30's/40's and this was our honeymoon.
We had never sailed Royal Caribbean but have cruised another line multiple times.
We had checked in online so embarkation was a simple process. Some staff were friendly and chatty, others just going through the motions. Don't know if having Suite on our paperwork helped at all as most staff just referred to us as Deck 10 and sent us to those counters/lines. From start to finish it couldn't have been more than an hour and we were sitting in the Windjammer.
We were very impressed with the ship. Beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean at all times. Only got confused once by the floor plan and that was when we got stuck trying to get to the Screening Room that was supposedly behind Studio B (Ice Skating Rink), took a while before we realised we would need to go up one deck and then back down. Floor plan did not explain this.
The Atrium and Promenade were very impressive and the Solarium made it feel like we weren't even on a ship.
Games arcade and mini golf kept us amused on more than one occasion.
Although we enjoy indoor rock climbing and wanted to try the rock climbing wall, the breakfasts were so good that we always felt a little too full to have a go!
We have always cruised in an inside stateroom until now and would have chosen one again if it had been available. We like the quiet and the dark! When I booked this cruise there was only one room left and it was a Junior Suite, if I wanted this cruise I had to book it.
The suite was well laid out and spotless. I am afraid of heights so the balcony was wasted on me although we did sit out there with a drink for sailaway (sitting as far away from the edge as possible for me!).
The bath and walk in closet were nice touches but again did not really make a difference to us.
The only time we sat on the sofa was on the final day as we were delayed entering Shanghai and returned to our cabin after our steward had already made the bed ready for the next guests and we didn't want to make extra work for him.
There are plenty of options for dining on the Mariner.
On embarkation day we went to the Windjammer, found a nice table by the window and grabbed a drink. There were plenty of free choices, iced water, flavoured waters (kiwi/strawberry, mango, lemon/lime), iced tea (unsweetened) and lemonade, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. We weren't very hungry so just decided to have a sample of a few small things. Again there was a huge choice, from salads to make your own burgers, sandwiches and hotdogs, cakes and sweets, casseroles and soups. If you couldn't find something here then you must be very fussy! We tried the honey stung chicken and said we would go back to Windjammer again just for that but even though this was a 10 night cruise we never made it back to Windjammer for lunch or dinner!
On Day 2 we were invited to take part in a special Honeymooners Lunch with other newly married couples. We were at a secluded table, free bottomless Mimosa's, had private waiters and a lovely cake was brought out for us at the end of the meal. There were only 4 of us so we had a nice afternoon chatting and caught up with the other couple many times over the rest of the cruise.
Only went to the Windjammer for breakfast once when we slept in and missed the MDR. Never again, it was bedlam in there, 9.45am and jam packed with not a seat to spare. The coffee there was horrible! I assume it was the same brand as that served in the MDR and Cafe Promenade but only in the MDR did it not taste bitter and overbrewed.
Breakfast in the MDR was 'seated as you come' and we were seated with 6-8 other people every morning. We had some great conversations with people we would see more of during the cruise but also a few mornings where the complainers made the atmosphere very unpleasant with their incessant whining about every single thing they hated about the ship/food/service/staff....
Breakfast menu was standard fare and we really enjoyed the option of the mini buffet set up in the MDR to help yourself to basics like cereal, fruit, yoghurt, cold meats, salmon, bacon, scrambled eggs etc while you waited for your meal to arrive. One day there was a complete special menu based on chocolate! Chocolate pancakes, chocolate milkshake, chocolate danish...I didn't try any of them but they seemed very popular.
Lunch in the MDR was a similar scenario with a salad bar set up, you choose your ingredients and dressing, have it tossed and plated then add extras like prawns, tuna, smoked chicken and brie, just to name a few. This was so good I rarely felt the need to order any of the standard meals as well.
There seemed to be 2 menus that were presented on alternate days, good variety of choices with about 6 dessert options as well.
Dinner in the MDR was excellent. We chose My Time Dining and regularly ate around 6.30pm. In 10 nights we never had to resort to the 'standing' menu as the choices were so good. The first 3 nights we were sat at different tables (more on that later) and on the 4th night we found the right place AND the best waiter and assistant waiter that we have had on any of our cruises. Their area was full every night and we know why! We did find that most of the meals didn't have a lot of vegetables on the side but from the very first night Michael offered us an extra plate of vegetables. Elizabeth noted our preference for olive oil and balsamic for our bread rather than butter and had it ready as well. Their attention to detail and friendly chat made us look forward to our evening meals even more.
We own a restaurant and have private chefs and we had not one single complaint about the food or wait service in the MDR. The chefs and staff do a wonderful job and deserve a huge pat on the back!
We tried two of the specialty restaurants this cruise.
The first was Giovanni's Table and we went at lunch. We were disappointed that the menu presented to us was not the menu on display at the front of the restaurant that had the dishes that tempted us to book in the first place. It seems that a lesser menu is offered for lunch bookings but this was not explained to us.
For a cover charge of $15pp you can order whatever you like from the 3 courses available. We ordered 3 entrees to share: antipasti, cured beef and caprese salad. My husband wasn't a fan of the antipasti when the undrained anchovies leaked into almost everything else on the plate and I was disappointed that the cured beef was 3 slices the size of the palm of my hand and so thin they were see through on a HUGE bowl of arugula. The caprese was excellent though as the mozzarella and the aged balsamic they use on the ship is lovely.
We followed this with 4 mains dishes to share: Mushroom Risotto, Baked Jumbo Shrimp, Chicken Breast stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach and wrapped in Prosciutto and Veal Meatballs in a rich Tomato Sauce.
This might sound like a LOT of food but the serves were very small, 4 prawns in the shrimp dish, 2 very small pieces of chicken and 2 meatballs! Sort of lucky though as the meatballs were horrible, bland and tasted like they had been boiled. And the rich tomato sauce ended up being nothing but chopped tomatoes that were barely heated let alone turned into a sauce, very disappointing.
Moving on to dessert and the cannoli was a good choice but overall I wouldn't spend the money again. $15pp is very cheap but when you consider we had already prepaid a meal for lunch it certainly wasn't good value as the MDR food that is included was much better than we were served at Giovanni's.
Our second lunch was at Johnny Rockets. Again there was a cover charge (only $4.95pp) and you can order whatever you like from the entree, main and dessert menus. Drinks are extra but when we saw that there was an old fashioned soda fountain and milkshake options we decide to get drinks as well.
To start the waiter brought out a big basket of chips and onion rings with a mega bowl of aioli then drew a smiley face on our plate with sauce, very cute.Â
We decided not to order any entrees (bowl of chilli, bacon cheese fries etc) as we were looking forward to the burgers.
We ordered a burger each (pretty sure his was called a Route 66, love the old American style) and a couple of drinks. His chocolate milkshake was decadent and my vanilla coke had so much vanilla syrup in it I was in danger of developing instant type 2 diabetes...so wonderful! The burgers were hot and juicy and we enjoyed them so much that we ordered another burger to share.
Dessert was a choice of apple pie or icecream sundaes and we both chose the latter. I also ordered a chocolate coke that sent my heart racing and had me bouncing off the walls for the rest of the afternoon.
While you are eating, 50's style rock music is playing and the staff come out and do cheesey dances! They actually get right into it and look like they enjoy it.
This was when we starting seeing things running out. Johnny Rockets had already run out of root beer and hot fudge sauce, not a huge deal but a worry since it was only day 4 of a 10 night cruise.
Within a few days the ship had also run out of hot chocolate, port, sherry and a number of bottled wines.
Hunger was never an issue on this cruise but we still wanted to sample the afternoon snacks at least once in Windjammer and Cafe Promenade and they were worth saving a bit of stomach space for.
Daytime entertainment tended to be a bit boring and was quite thin on the ground. We figured that with a cinema we would be able to go and watch a movie if there was nothing else to do but they showed the same 4 (not new release) movies over and over and they were also available on the TV in our stateroom.
We played bingo twice, mini golf was great fun, there was very limited trivia available, it just seemed there were lots of hours where there was nothing scheduled that suited active people. Lots of talks (read sales) for flatter stomachs etc. but few real activities. We managed to keep ourselves amused though and spent a lot of hours walking up and down the stairs so we didn't have the weight gain from all the lovely food we were eating!
Evening entertainment on the other hand was very good, the nightly choices from the RCI team and special guests was varied and there were a few shows that were even better than we expected.
We did go to a couple of the interactive games: Done in 60 Seconds, Love and Marriage Game and Quest. The first was not very entertaining, people didn't want to volunteer to make fools of themselves and we didn't either so the staff were struggling to force people to take part.
We had seen the Love and Marriage Game before and even though we qualified we didn't want to take part. It is always geared towards getting laughs but they are more laughs of embarrassment on behalf of the contestants.
Quest on the other hand was brilliant! We were in fits laughing and as it was a team effort there was no embarrassment, just a lot of fun! We sang and clapped and the atmosphere was great! If you get a chance take part in Quest!
The ice skating show blew us away, absolutely excellent! Enjoyed every minute and would have seen it twice if given the option.
Most of the staff were amazing. Michael and Elizabeth in the MDR, Joel our steward was sweet and friendly, he was always around but never intrusive and his towel animals made me smile :)
The patience shown by the Service Desk and Shore Tours staff was impressive, there seemed to be a lot of angry people demanding things and complaining and they handled it very well.
My one complaint was with the MTD booking staff (sorry don't know their title).
As stated we were on our honeymoon and wanted to dine alone so chose MTD. I am also partially deaf and in a noisy environment find it very difficult to hear a normal conversation. On the first night we asked to be seated at a table for two at the edge of the room where it was a little quieter. The staff member punched in a table and although there were empty tables all around the edges we were led to a table surrounded by tables of 8-10 people in the middle of the room. The next night we again explained and asked to be placed at the edge of the room and again were placed in the middle. On the 3rd night when our request was again ignored I complained as there were many tables around the edges and near the windows that were vacant and more suitable to our request. The waiter moved us to one of these and we finally had a quieter meal. The 4th night, as mentioned, we were placed in Michael and Elizabeth's area (only tables for 2 or 4 here) and stayed there for the rest of the cruise. Even then there was one night where our booked table was given away although we turned up on time. One of the regular stewards from the area noticed and quickly set up another table close by so we could still be seated in the regular area serviced by Michael and Elizabeth.
The ports for us were very exciting as we had not been to any of the countries before.
Hong Kong has built a brand new Cruise Terminal and Mariner was the Inaugural Berthing there. There were many people there to greet us and a commemorative gift of a model of the ship at the terminal was given to all passengers that disembarked. We were there overnight so had a great full day of exploring the city. The train system was so easy to use, efficient and cheap so we covered a lot of ground.
Vietnam was a bit hard as Ho Chi Min is about 2 hours from where we docked and so 4 hours of the 8 hour stop there was spent travelling. I enjoyed the scenery and felt 4 hours was enough for general sightseeing.
Naha, Japan was a bit disappointing as we docked at 1pm, needed to do a complete face to face with Japanese immigration to disembark and were sailing away at 8.30pm. Many people did not even get to leave the ship til after 3.30pm.
Jeju Island, Sth Korea was even worse. We docked at 6am and sailaway was 11.30am. If you woke at the crack of dawn and skipped breakfast you got to see this port!
For us the choice of shore excursions was quite poor. There were no excursions that had activities, all seemed to be geared to the less mobile that were happy to sit on a bus and be ferried around to see the sights.
While we did pay for an RCI arranged transfer to Ho Chi Min (Saigon on your own), we only chose to do one shore tour, in Naha, Japan, and this was only because at the shore tours talk we were warned that none of the taxi drivers could speak English and the taxi fares were very, very expensive. We were not docked in walking distance of anything so felt we had no choice but to do a tour.
The tour was self guided and consisted of being bussed to and dropped off at a temple (25 minutes allowed and most were ready to leave after 5, very underwhelming) followed by a visit to Shuri Castle that was pretty good, then being dropped on a street famous for shopping for 2 hours. Again, many people returned to the bus stop after a few minutes and simply waited for the bus to return. We ignored the commercial shops (most were just like the $ stores in Australia) and found some traditional markets where we sampled some local delicacies. After the markets we walked past a McDonalds that was crammed full with people from the tours.
On returning to the bus stop with a few minutes to spare we found many disgruntled people that had just arrived and did not want to be there for another 2 hours. Some even left their tours and paid for taxis back to the ship.
We couldn't understand why, when in the middle of Summer and going to islands famous for their diving and water activities, none of these were offered.
There were no adrenalin, no sports, just bussed here and there to look at museums and lacquer factories.
There were a few people upset (on the CC forums) in the weeks leading up to the cruise when many of the docking times were changed and shortened and private tours that had been arranged due to the lack of choice offered by RCI had to be cancelled.
We are frequent travellers and happy to be adventurous and expected more from these exciting ports.
We were delayed docking (about 45 minutes) due to fog and high water traffic approaching Shanghai. We waited in our stateroom for the call to self assist disembark. Took the lift for the first time in the cruise to get our suitcases from Deck 10 to Deck 4 and simply walked off the ship. Quick and painless!
Loved this ship, the food, the staff, the whole cruise.
A little let down by the lack of entertainment and the poor choice of shore tours that didn't show the ports in the best way they could have but will definitely sail RCI again if this is the overall standard that I can expect.