Background Information: My mother-in-law (50's) and I (30's) flew from Minneapolis to John Wayne Airport the day before our cruise. It's a small airport, but in the short time we were there we found it very clean, easy to navigate and had options available for those who may need to spend more time there. We were picked up by family members and stayed with them Saturday night. We used this free day to take in In-N-Out Burger (a must) and visit other family members. On the cruise we were joined by another family member (40th birthday!) and her 3 year old son. All of us were booked previously on Mariner of the Seas sailing to the Mexican Riviera. Royal Caribbean was generous with their onboard credits and future cruise credits in my opinion since legally they have the right to change the itinerary at their discretion. And since they changed due to the H1N1 flu outbreak - they certainly did not HAVE to do anything. With so many people dropping this itinerary however, we were really hoping for an upgraded stateroom. We were told this would need to be taken care of on the ship at check in.
Embarkation: We were dropped off at the port in San Pedro around 11am. We sailed through security and did not wait in line at all for an agent to check us in. We asked about the upgrade and we were told this would need to be taken care of on the ship at guest relations. We waited for about 20 minutes for them to start boarding the ship and then were on and off on our adventure. No one was allowed in their rooms until 1pm and we carried on entirely too much. We first went to guest relations to ask about a room upgrade. There was a sign saying the ship was full and there were no room upgrade options. However, we did have other business to take care of there - so while speaking with the person at guest relations, we did ask if they could move our rooms closer to each other. He said he would note the request and let us know. Our next stop was to the dining room to talk to the Maitre D. Since we were sailing together, obviously we wanted to eat together. And despite our reservations being linked online prior to the cruise, we were assigned different tables and different times. We waited in line to speak to him and it was worth it! He was able to get us a table together and our new table was right by the window! We were second in line and there were MANY behind us...so I believe it pays to get there early and wait. After that we went to the Windjammer to eat and there were no tables available. And many "vulchers" waiting to sit. This was an extremely frustrating process for us given we had a hungry three year old and all of our bags. Most frustrating because there were people sitting at tables reading books that could have read them ANYWHERE ELSE on the ship and given that table to people who were actually eating. There were a few times throughout our cruise where we felt passengers were very rude and/or thoughtless. Of course that is countered by MANY nice, kind, helpful people. It does just make you wonder sometimes.
Itinerary: Sunday: Departure from San Pedro (close to LA) Monday: At Sea Tuesday: Astoria, Oregon Wednesday: Victoria, British Columbia Thursday: Seattle, Washington Friday: At Sea Saturday: At Sea
Ports of Call: Astoria, Oregon: We ate breakfast on the ship and then got off to sightsee on our own. We walked up to the trolly "station" and hopped on that for a mere $2 per person round trip. The trolley takes you from one end of town to the other. Our impressions were that Astoria is a cute little town with lots of charm, but that they were not ready for a cruise ship of this size. There were stores that were closed. They could have much more available. In their defense, this was a last minute change for them and I believe our sailing is the only one going there. There are some things to see and do - but probably many more for those who have more time. In the end - we rode the trolly to one end and walked back instead veering off to visit "main street" and see a little more of the town. We boarded the ship just in time to get to our 6:30 dinner.
Victoria, British Columbia: GORGEOUS! Everything was very green and well kept. We did the "Hop On, Hop Off - Double Decker Bus Tour". We were late getting into port but they kept all excursions for the same amount of time that everyone paid for. We were told to meet and wait in the Savoy Theater. When they called our tour we were off and walked off the ship and over to the double decker busses. There were a total of 8 stops, but due to construction they would not be stopping at the last 2. It was overcast and drizzled on and off, but we had our umbrella's and had a great time nonetheless. There were plenty of souvenier shops along the way for us to find some trinkets. There was a lot to see and do here and I would vacation here anytime!
Seattle, Washington: We were docked at Pier 91. Royal Caribbean had buses available to shuttle passengers closer to the action. They dropped us off at the Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is - among other things). We hopped on the monorail which took us to the main shopping area and then we walked down to Pike's Place. Again - Seattle is green and beautiful! We were all pretty amazed with how clear the air seemed to be and everything just felt very fresh. At Pike's Place we saw them throwing the fish, the flowers and fruits/vegetables were huge and gorgeous and fresh. It was crowded, but not terrible. We also went to the first Starbucks (my happy place!!). We stopped at a few shops on the way back to the monorail. We got right on the bus/shuttle and headed back to the ship. Getting back on was a breeze as usual.
The Ship: The ship was BEAUTIFUL! Everything was in great condition and well maintained. We were very impressed with the Mariner and would sail on this ship again in a heartbeat! There were plenty of bars, places to eat, things to do...so on the ship we never really felt crowded. (with the exception of the first day in the Windjammer) With so many days at sea, we wished there would have been more offered for shopping onboard, but since we didn't cruise for that - it is what it is.
Cabin: I should note that we were moved at 10:30pm the first night from our interior stateroom near the back of the ship to a cabin overlooking the promenade right next door to our travel mates!!! This was FANTASTIC! We were on deck 6 in the middle of the ship and it was a great location! It was fun to be able to look out on the promenade and see all that was going on. If you plan on sleeping at 9/10 at night this might not be the room for you. There are a couple nights when there are things going on where it may be a little loud - but it's not til all hours of the morning, so if you're taking in the parades anyway you'll be just fine! Our cabin steward kept our room in great condition so we have no complaints. He was not overly friendly like others we'd see. But truthfully as long as our room was clean we took no issue with him.
Dining: As mentioned, we were moved to a table by the window at the main dining on the 3rd floor - Rhapsody in Blue dining room. We were at a table for 10, but the others never showed so we had our own table which was GREAT. Our waiter was OK. Our assistant waiter was fantastic. Our head waiter was very attentive. I was not feeling well 2 of the days where my travel mates ate lunch in the dining room. When Merrick saw I was not with them and asked why - he promptly got a plate together with apples and soda crackers to send back the room for me. Very thoughtful! With so many guests and two different dinings, for him to even notice that I wasn't there was remarkable in my opinion. I was very appreciative. We ate breakfast in the Windjammer most days. The fruit was always very good and fresh. I never did get to try the omelet bar. Lunch in the dining room was excellent. We also ate at Johnny Rockets one day which was very good.
Entertainment: We took in Ice Under the Big Top which we found very impressive and a fun night for us! We got in line early and got front row seats! We also saw the two shows with the RC singers and dancers in The Savoy Theater which were both quite good. We took in the Love and Marriage game show which is always funny, and kareoke which was unusually very bad (with a couple exceptions). There were lots of activities going on about the ship....the mens bellyflop contest and mens sexy legs contest were both funny. There was also trivia every day and many other opportunities to join in.
Service: In general, there were some good crew members and some bad. We often felt crew members would say they'd get right on it and then do nothing. We had some issues getting our onboard credits taken care of so were at the guest relations desk multiple times a day. There was one gal there that was very polite - but totally blew us off. Another gentlemen, Gaston, was SOOOO helpful and really worked with us to get our issues resolved. He was very understanding and really seemed to care whether we were taken care of/happy or not.
In summary, we had a great cruise vacation at a great value. We would definately cruise on Mariner again and had a wonderful time with many fond memories. Hopefully this review is helpful.