Mariner of the Seas October 7-14 2007
We took our second cruise on the Mariner of the Seas and brought my wife's parents along this time. It was our fourth cruise with RCCL and my in-laws second. We sailed on the Mariner last October on the eastern caribbean itinerary and enjoyed it so much we decided to go again, this time on the western caribbean itinerary.
We arrived the day before and flew into Orlando from Albany, NY and rented a car from Budget at the airport to drive out to Cocoa Beach. My in-laws reside in North Carolina and drove down also arriving on Saturday. We stayed at the Resort on Cocoa Beach and really enjoyed it. We had a two bedroom ocean front unit and enjoyed a day at the beach prior to our cruise. We arrived at the port at about 11:15 A.M. and sat in a very long line to drop off our luggage with the porters. This took about 45 minutes. We then parked my father in-laws vehicle in the covered garage and got in another line to enter the port building. This took about another 15 to 20 minutes and once inside we were able to check in immediately and walk right on the ship. The whole process took about and hour and fifteen minutes.
Our rooms were not ready so we took the in-laws on a tour of the ship. Needless to say they were impressed with ship. The Mariner looked just as great as the year before and had the same wow factor for us also. The layout of the Voyager class ships is great and you seldom notice that you are on the ship with 3500 other passengers.
For this cruise we booked a category H Ocean View at the very front of the ship overlooking the heli-pad. My in-laws had an identical room four down from us. We liked the layout of the room, but I don't think I would book this room again. It was a very windy trip heading through the straights of Florida and you could really feel the motion and hear the wind and waves. We did have 45-50 MHP winds on the way down and back so I'm sure this enhanced the motion and noise. The room itself was nice and the new bed linens are a nice upgrade. The round showers with doors on the Voyager ships are the best and should be standard on all new ships. Our cabin steward was adequate, but not the best we have had. She kept using the towels for our room to make the towel animals, making it necessary for us to dismantle them immediately.
Per Kristofferson was the Captain for our trip and he was quite personable and friendly. I have read some recent reviews complaining about his announcements and stating that he was a new captain. This is not accurate at Captain Per has been a captain for several years and has worked for RCCL since 1990. We found all his announcement to be clear and informative. I think some reviewers are trying to compare him to Captain Johnny which is unfair as no one is quite like Captain Johnny! Captain Per informed us during the cruise that he will be moving to the new Independence of the Seas next spring.
During the second day it became necessary to turn the ship around and head for Nassau due to a sick child who was believed to have appendicitis. The crew dropped a rescue boat and brought the child into port with his family. This delayed our arrival in Labadee and left us with only a few hours there. Upon arriving in Labadee the tendering process was a nightmare and it took an hour and a half to get off the ship. The cruise directors staff was trying to organize the chaos and was oblivious to the fact that passengers were bypassing the line organized on the stairwells by the staff by way of the elevators. After it was pointed out to them they finally shut off the elevators going to down to deck one and we were able to get off. Labadee is a very pretty area on the northern coast of Haiti and is secluded except for a small village that sits across the bay from where the ship anchors. Labadee is much different from Coco Cay in the Bahamas(RCCL's private island) in that the allow some locals to work on the beach setting up chairs, running the zipline, and selling local made crafts in a small market building. These locals expect to be tipped so come armed with some small bills. Also the locals at the market are rather pushy and will offer to trade you there goods for anything you may have on your person, including your shoes. It is sad as Haiti is a desperately poor country that cannot seem to evolve and take advantage of the tourism dollars that the other caribbean islands have. The swimming areas are quite rocky and I would recommend water shoes if you plan to go in the water. Due to the short amount of time we had there no lunch was served so I cannot comment on that.
The fourth day was Ocho Rios Jamaica and we booked an excursion through the ship to Coyoba Gardens and Mahoe Falls. This was a nice tour that lasted about two and half hours. The gardens are beautiful with many exotic flowers and trees on the estate. The falls were also pretty and my father in law, my wife, and myself were the only ones who got in the water to climb them. After the tour we were taken back to the port and walked to the Island Market and had lunch at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. I have to say this was a disappointment and is most definitely a tourist trap with marginal, overpriced food and drinks and $30 t-shirts for sale.
Day five was Grand Cayman and we booked another tour through the ship that consisted of a trip to the town of Hell, a visit to a turtle farm and the highlight of the trip, Stingray City. Hell is just a gift shop with novelty items for sale. The turtle farm was fun and informative. Swimming with stingrays was one of the best things I have ever done and I highly recommend it. The rays are amazing and so gentle! The return trip to the ship was another tendering nightmare and the line was about a half a mile long and we were the only ship in port! It took over an hour to get back on the ship and we were late leaving port because of the this.
Day six was Cozumel and we booked a trip to Discover Mexico and Chankanaab National Park through the ship. This was also a great tour and I would recommend it. Discover Mexico is a museum that deals with the history of Mexico and has lots of exhibits. Chankanaab park was beautiful with a wide variety of things to do from snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, or just relaxing on the beach. We elected to snorkel and I would strongly recommend renting a vest as the water is very deep right off of the beach. After the tour we did some shopping at the shops near the port. The best bargains to be found were in Cozumel and the shop owners are quite willing to bargain with you and are very good natured and fun about it.
Day seven was a relaxing sea day and we had dinner at Portofino's' which was wonderful. Speaking of food, our dining room team was alot of fun. Achmad our waiter was quite a character and we were able to have alot of fun with him. The food in the dining room was very good and I enjoyed all of the offerings. The windjammer was also decent as far as buffet food goes.
The cruise director for this sailing was Drew Devine. I have to say he was not the best and sounded very canned and rehearsed. I think he is new as a cruise director so maybe he will improve. Most of the shows in the Savoy theater were good and the highlight was the Drifters performing. The ice show is very good and not to be missed. The stage shows were the same as last year and didn't really stand up the second time seeing them.
We had two of the best bar servers in Bolero's lounge, Lukman and Crystal. Lukman is a regular comedian and we had alot of fun with him.
On the last day at sea the Captain announced the six passengers were being treated for norovirus and the ship went into a precautionary mode. We saw staff cleaning with bleach everywhere, handing out purell hand wipes to passengers and wiping down the counters in the shops between transactions.
Overall, the Mariner of the Seas is a beautiful ship with a great staff. I would recommend it highly to anyone looking to cruise in the future.