Getting to the ship: We flew into Anchorage the day before the cruise and stayed at the Captain Cook in downtown Anchorage. Very nice place with great service and convenient if you want to see a bit of downtown Anchorage. We then took a van limo from Anchorage to Seward on the day of embarkation.
Embarkation: We arrived at around 3 pm and there were no lines at all. We were on the boat and had our keys, etc. within about 15 minutes. We were able to go to our rooms right away and the bags arrived within an hour or two.
The Ship: We did not have a great base of comparison since this was our first cruise, but the ship seemed very nice. It never felt crowded anywhere we went on board. The cabins were very nice with balconies, comfortable beds and good sized bathrooms.
Dining: The food exceeded my expectations in all of the venues. I was most impressed with the quality of the food in the Compass Rose restaurant. The service was also great, with the staff going out of its way to make special accommodations. The kids were treated very well with a nice kids menu or the option of ordering off the adult menu. The least impressive part of the menus was the desserts, although there was always at least a nice ice cream dessert that appealed to me. None of the food felt institutional at all. I even thought the food at the La Veranda buffets for lunch and breakfast was quite good and very good for a buffet. The all inclusive aspect of the Mariner was very nice since we could always just get drinks, including wine and mixed drinks without a thought. The coffee bar was also quite nice and always had snacks available.
Kid's Club: Nothing too fancy, but my 8 year old liked it. Probably the worst aspect was that it met often in one of the nightclubs and did not have a designated space. But the counselors seemed good, it was easy to use and we didn't need it that much on such a port-heavy itinerary. Overall the boat was very kid-friendly and the kids were very well behaved.
Entertainment: Honestly we didn't see enough of this to rate it. Most of the activities like Trivia and Bingo seemed a little lame to me, but I think that is just a matter of taste.
Disembarkation: Ran very smoothly with a short (15-20) minute wait.Ports and Excursions:
Sitka: We did sea kayaking through the ship and had a very good experience. Also went and walked around Sitka and down to the National Park. Very enjoyable port with lots of charm.
Juneau: Did the Tracy Arm excursion. Very nice scenery but a little long especially for the kids. Then did the helicopter tour with dogsledding, which was absolutely great! Fantastic views and just an overall fun experience. Kids loved it.
Skagway: This was the train ride and gold panning trip. Good excursion (we had bad weather that day) and kid friendly.
Campbell River: this is a new port and the local population was extremely welcoming and friendly. Went to a First Nations dance excursion which was entertaining.