We were on the Mariner's 14-night trip from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale via the Panama Canal.
As first-timers we decided to book one of the ship's larger suites that included butler service. We were delighted and dismayed by our choice. Next time we'll think more carefully. (See the very end of this review for details about this.)
First of all, every suite on the Mariner has a balcony, and when the weather is as gorgeous as it was during our cruise, you don't spend much of your time in the suite itself. You're either on your balcony, or you're on the (almost) empty deck. Having the extra space was extremely nice, but we really didn't use half of it. And, anyway, as we learned during one of the "open houses," even the smallest suites on the ship are more than comfortable for two people.
Secondly, everyone gets the same service, whether in a big suite like ours or in one of the smallest. We of course had the extra advantage of having a butler. He was extremely charming and eager to please. He was a great conversationalist. He unpacked our luggage and took our clothes to be dry cleaned and pressed. He looked after every little detail, like delivering invitations to the people we invited for a cocktail party. He was extraordinary. But, like the extra space, we really didn't need him. Like everyone else, we had a steward and stewardess who cleaned our suite twice every day. (We hardly ever saw them.) I don't know what more you'd want in terms of in-room service.
Thirdly, it's true. Radisson does attract a largely older crowd. But this means that the best parts of the ship, like the swimming pool, jacuzzis, the big bar at the aft, are **empty** most of the time. One night my sweetie and I went to soak in one of the deck's three jacuzzis at 7:30 p.m. The air was warm. There was a big full tropical moon in the sky. We were absolutely 100% alone. I was in the ship's pool on most days and maybe only twice was there someone else swimming with me.
Fourthly (is there such a word?), everybody gets the same food, which on most counts ranges from very good to excellent. Our only disappointment was in Latitudes, the reservations-only Asian-fusion restaurant. (Too salty!!) We had very good (formal) French food in Signatures. But we really loved the Spanish and Italian menus in La Verandah, the most casual restaurant. Also, the seafood in ALL the restaurants was exceptionally fresh.
Our big "learning experience" came when we anchored in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. SIX other cruise ships were there at the same time. They were ENORMOUS. We watched their passengers wait ten-deep in the hot sun for a tender back to their ships.
Those of us on the Mariner were whisked back and forth on nearly empty tenders. At the dock, the Mariner had set up chairs under an umbrella and had crew members passing out iced water and orange juice.
What we don't understand is that the nicest suites on those huge ships cost almost as much or more than the smaller suites on the Mariner. But on those huge ships you share **everything** with 2000+ passengers, no matter how much you pay for your suite.
What I'm pretty sure we learned is that the "ultra-deluxe" Radisson cruises are probably an incredible bargain, given the service, the space, and the fact that most areas of the ship are empty most of the time. Also, the fares are all-inclusive. I don't have time to do the math. But you don't need a big suite or butler service on a ship like the Mariner. We had a spectacular trip. (We especially enjoyed Costa Rica and the Panama Canal. Although, the Gatun Yacht Club is a big bore! My sweetie took the helicopter trip over the Gatun Locks and had a blast.)
You can spend a third of what we spent and still have a fantastic time.
We're definitely going to take Radisson again, but next time we want to do a longer cruise.