I have been fortunate to travel on four cruises this year and when the travel agent recommended the Seven Seas Mariner, I was excited and yet questioned the reason for the cost of such a luxurious cruise to Alaska. Our travel agent explained the reason for choosing this high end ship in Alaska and when my husband and I finished the cruise we added up the costs and found we had only payed a few hundred dollars more for a 6 star ship and that isn't even comparing apples to apples, because we didn't include comparing it to a suite on a 4.5 or 5 star ship or the tips that go along with those cruises. To start Alaska is the most fabulous place you could ever visit!!!! The beauty is incomparable along with the expanse of the territory that goes on seemingly forever. To see Glaciers up close and wild life that is out in the wilderness is all spectacular. This cruise was excellent not only because of the experience and astounding beauty, but also because the ship was wonderful. There is no tipping and you would never know it - everyone is pleasant and goes out of their way to make your life easier without being in your face. Waiters in the dining room wait on you eagerly and bring wine and cocktails freely. The ship's standard wines are above average and are excellent. You can upgrade your wine of course, but it isn't necessary. The cabin stewards are excellent and provide service quickly and efficiently so as not to bother you if you are catching a quick nap. The food in all the restaurants was excellent and prepared to order. Only one night did our party of 10 register a complaint about a steak overly cooked and it was quickly replaced. Room service was excellent and our children used it frequently for midnight meals and frequently requested items without difficulty that weren't even on the 24 hour room service menu. My husband and I used room service for excellent breakfasts that were completely set up with silver and place settings by the server, Fresh fruit was set in the room daily as well as the restocking of our mini bar refrigerator. Daily afternoon tea was enjoyed by a few people in our party and cappucino machines and tea service was available throughout the ship.
The excursions make this cruise a winner. They are fabulous, but also make this ship an excellent value as they are included in the cost (for the most part, at least). Excursions and tours involving sea planes, helicopters, and dog sledding, and some fishing/ boating experiences require you to pay a fee that is on average anywhere from $39.00 to $149.00. They are subsidized by the cruise line and herein lies the savings. Usually a helicopter/ dog sledding on a glacier tour costs $650 - $800.00 per person so you can see how this is a wonderful deal and if you were on a line where you only paid a $500.00 per person for the cruise you probably wouldn't even schedule such trips since they cost more than the cruise and you certainly would lose out. You can not see the true beauty and expanse of Alaska from just visiting the typical ports of call - Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Sitka, Seward,and Anchorage. You must travel a bit inland to get the full UNFORGETABLE experience. The ports of call were also not to be missed and shopping in the towns for Alaskan trinkets, furs if your pocketbook allows and jewelry is not to be missed. The excursions were fabulous with great service and truley fantastic people from the bus drivers to the helicopter pilots, everyone was akin to the Regent Seven Seas excellence of service. Excursions not to be missed include: Misty Fyjords sea planes, Tracey Arm Cruising, Helicopter ride to Mendenhal Glacier with visit to a mushing camp and dog sledding. Fishing for king salmon or halibut, ziplining, and ocean rafting. There are other experiences available, so don't delay and sign up for your excursions early. There are many more that we did as well in our family of four. Everything was well organized and getting off the ship at any time was easy without a long wait. With only 700 passengers on average everything is much easier including embarkation and disembarkation. Don't miss the train trip from Seward to Anchorage (before or after depending on your embarkation) where you travel in domed cars for a 31/2 hour to 4 hour trip. The train is an excellent way to see more of the Alaskan wilderness and wildlife such as bears. moose and eagles are frequently seen. Last week the train stopped for the birthing of a moose calf right next to the tracks.
Also, don't miss some type of boating excursion where you get to see the glorious mountain ranges and tributaries connecting seemingly unending waterways. You can see them a bit differently from a smaller vessel and you will enjoy seeing whales and their calves on a guaranteed whale watching tour. Make sure you don't forget lots of long underwear to layer and water proof jackets or you will be heading to town to find anything warm. A scarf, hat, sunglasses, binoculars (not absolutely necessary), gloves are essential to your warmth at certain times of the day or when touring a glacier. A poncho is nice to have for some experiences too.
We participated in so many excursions that we didn't go to any of the shows, so I cannot comment on that. The casino was small but held a fair number of regulars and was enjoyed by all. Bingo was well attended and the prizes were always nice, considering the number of players the payout was much more than the larger ships that have hundreds in attendance and pay out less than a $100 on a given win. The laundry rooms were usually busy and sometimes a machine was out of order, but quickly got repaired and for that I was surprised. Don't take a chance to be disappointed, go on this ship for a fabulous experience.
I highly recommend this cruise ship and itenerary, you won't be disappointed if you book now.