We previously cruised with RCI in late November 2012 on a 14 night cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on Voyager of the Seas. When planning a trip to Singapore/Macau and Hong Kong, a cruise out of Singapore was top of our wish list.
I found a cruise on Mariner of The Seas departing 7 Feb, which suited out travel dates and booked via Flight Centre which offered a cheaper price than the RCI website. Note: I put off booking this cruise due to the high prices (compared to Voyager) hoping for a last minute deal. This didn't happen as the cabins were booking quickly and only balcony and suites were available by the time we finally booked.
We flew from Sydney to Singapore the day before and upon arrival were advised that QANTAS had not loaded our luggage onto the flight. The earliest they could get our luggage to us was on the next days flight which arrived in Singapore at 3.15pm. As cruise boarding closed at 3.30pm, we were keen to talk to RCI staff so headed to the cruise terminal early. The staff were fabulous - a huge thanks to Carolin and Magdalyn, who once aware of our problems liaised with airport staff to be kept updated and kept us informed. They also liased with the port authorities and were able to keep boarding open until 4pm, possibly 4.30pm as soon as the airport advised that our bags had arrived.
After a very stressful wait, the airport advised that our bags had arrived and were on their way. The courier arrived at the cruise terminal at 3.55pm and we were rushed through the boarding process. I imagine boarding was delayed anyhow as tour groups were still arriving after that time.
The layout of Mariner is the same as Voyager so was familiar and comfortable. I was surprised to find that Mariner was a newer ship than Voyager as it didn't seem to be as well maintained. The décor is not as bright in some of the public areas and I missed the fruit and vegetable carvings in the Windjammer.
As mentioned by other reviewers, the ship caters for many Asian tour groups and our cruise on the 7th Feb was carrying 3333 passengers from 49 countries (thanks Gordon). Over 1800 of these were Chinese guests. We didn't find this to be any problem and found them more than keen to join in with activities. A bit pushy maybe but we expected that.
Our stateroom attendant Michael was wonderful as were all of the staff we dealt with and found that they all spoke great English. After our first nights dinner at Windjammer, we decided that even though the food was good, with lots of choices, there were too many people for us and the pushing and shoving - we could do without. After that, we had dinner at the Main dining room, we were on anytime dining and always got a table for two at the requested time. After our first night in the Main dining room, we were so impressed with our waiter Dehdi that we requested a table in his section each night. This request was always met. The food was good with enough choices and the Chilean wine was good and not overpriced.
As mentioned by others, the casino was packed and smoking was allowed. We're not interested in casinos so the only time this bothered us was when walking through the casino to get somewhere else. The performance shows were great and the ice show spectacular. The only show we didn't enjoy was an Australian entertainer of Chinese descent who although very good, responded to the crowd and performed mainly in Cantonese. We thought that was fine, as those who didn't speak English had some entertainment more suited to themselves and had a great time.
The overall age group seemed to younger than the cruise from Australia and there were lots of children onboard. All of these were well behaved and seemed to spend most of their time with their families, which was great to see.
We did miss the Sports Bar and The Pig and Whistle Pub which have both been turned into high end retail stores. Apparently, Asians don't drink much alcohol. This worked in our favour, as we took advantage of the daily 4 - 6 pm happy hours offering half price cocktails ! I'd been looking forward to the '70s street party but got crushed in the rush of cameras, not much sense of personal space and couldn't get out of there fast enough.
We didn't bother getting off the ship in KL and spent the day relaxing by the pool. At no time during the cruise did we have problems finding a sunlounge. At Penang, we spent the day discovering Georgetown where we found plenty of stuff to keep us entertained. We did book a shore excursion in Phuket which was great and RCI had booked a coach especially with an English speaking guide. We did the Phang Nga Bay tour which was well worth the money although visiting the Cashew Nut factory, we could've done without.
Overall, we enjoyed this cruise more than the one to New Zealand. Less time at sea, we were lucky to have perfect weather and the showtime entertainment was better. Getting on and off the ship at ports was easier, better organised and tenders in Phuket were plentiful. Disembarkation was a breeze and would definitely recommend spending time in Singapore.
Would cruise again with RCI, maybe on a smaller ship next time to avoid the crowds - planning already.