This was a 40th anniversary cruise with my parents, sister and her family of five, brother and his family of four and my family of four (15 total).
CRUISE HISTORY: My husband and 2 kids (9&10) have been on NCL Majesty & Gem, HAL Maasdam, RCCL Mariner. We all agreed the RCCL Mariner was the best cruise so far.
EMBARKATION: Boston port was convenient for everyone to drive. Lines seemed a little chaotic but moved fairly quickly and we were on the ship in about an hour.
CABIN: we had inside cabin on deck 9. Very small as others have mentioned but it saved us money. Really wished they had 2 pull down bunks instead of the trundle. The pillows were very hard but the comforters were soft. My husband hated the sheetssaid they were scratchy. Showers were roomy and we had an over the door shoe holder that contained a lot of our stuff. Walls are thinwe had a group of teenagers next door to us that did not get along and they would have screaming fights with vulgar words. Security had to be called one day and it got a little better but they would get in at 2am and have loud conversations in the room.
SERVICE: Very hit or miss. Most had smiles but they really did not go out of their way. The cabin stewards seemed to do less and less as the week went on. We had to search him out many times for ice, didn't vacuum sand off carpet for 2 days, didn't always replace the pool towels. Only things they did were straighten the bed sheets (they were never changed) and empty the garbage. Not very friendly. Waiters in the dining room not very organized. Breakfast took an hourone time we walked out. Coffee/tea not served with meals and rarely did we get refills. Dinner took a minimum of 2 hrs and again, service was chaotic. We finally got an excellent waiter/assistant waiter by the 4th night and requested them the next night. We were told it was not possible and that we'd have to wait 1 1/2hrs. We insisted and it indeed took that long but we didn't mind waiting because they were that good. I didn't like that they would beep us that our table was ready but then we'd have to wait another 20 minutes when we showed up for them to get our table ready. Made no sense. We also requested 2 round tables and they said they didn't have any round tables of 8, but one night we would get it another night we didn't. No consistency. One morning my son asked for croissants for breakfast and was told they were out of them. Then the table next to us got served an entire basket of them. Our favorite waiter from the night before came by to say hi and asked why my son wasn't eating. We told him about the croissants and the next thing we knew he was over with a basket full.
FOOD: Very subjective of course but we certainly did not starve. Some things better than others and our requests for extra meals were also welcomed.
Room Service: we never ordered but my family did a lot and said it was pretty good.
Raffles: It's a buffet which I don't care for but certainly had a lot of variety. Did not like the setuppeople mobbed everywhere. Lines for food, drinks, ice cream, tables and even just walking through since it was the only way from one end to the other on that deck.
Blue Lagoon: Loved this place, wished it was bigger. Ate breakfast here most of the week after the long waits in the DR. Service was great, food served quickly. Great place to grab a quick snack.
Garden: Ate dinner here once. Service seemed better and quicker but the room was small and we felt crammed.
Windows: Ate most of our dinners here. When we got decent waiters, the experience was much better. We requested the same waiters the last 3 nights and they were great. They remembered our requests from the previous night which reminded us of traditional cruise dining and that's when we realized we preferred it to the freestyle.
Shogun: The sushi was great and there was so much of it. Godzilla rolls are the new favorites among our group. The asian dishes were also very good and we got great service.
Le Bistro: My parents ate here as part of their anniversary package and they couldn't stop raving about the place. Wished we had tried it.
Wine package: Not a bad deal of buy 6-8 bottles the first 2 days and receive 20% off. Drank mostly red and they weren't that bad.
KIDS CLUB: On previous cruises we couldn't drag my kids out and they talked about going to the club for weeks before the cruise. However, this cruise the kids were asking not to go. I thought it was because they wanted to spend time with their cousins but after seeing the room where the 10-12 yr olds were, I didn't blame them. They would cram dozens of kids in a small room with no windows for hours. The kids only wanted to go when it was freestyle play and they would open the doors and allow them on the play structures.
POOLS: Definitely not big enough for the amount of people on board. We stayed by the kids pool and they loved it but sometimes there were some unruly, unsupervised kids there. Chair hogs were out in full force and it got ugly at times. They would serve food by the pool and there were mobs of people everywhere with no room to sit or eat.
ENTERTAINMENT: The production shows were the usual cruise shows (not my thing), Cat's Pajamas were excellent, the magician had good tricks but the show was boring, Second City improv group was very good.
Martini Tasting: Did this twice and it was very good. The bartender did a very great job. The first time there was probably about 100 people there and it took awhile. The 2nd time only about 20 and the drink pours much bigger, so after 5 drinks we were definitely feeling it!
BERMUDA: Fabulous! Weather was incredible. Went to Snorkel Park the first day and it was OK. Good for families and novice snorkelers. Bought the bus/ferry pass and went to Horseshoe Bay on day 2. Excellent day, great waves, rented an umbrella to have some shade. Walked over to Jobson's Cove which was amazing. Spent an entire day here and then went to Destination Dockyard that night. The last day we went to Church Bay. Rocky and wavy with lots of seaweed but great snorkeling. Had the beach pretty much to ourselves. My family went to the caves and they really liked them, too.
Overall the cruise was great and everyone enjoyed themselves but we decided that if we ever went with a big group again we would opt for traditional dining vs freestyle. The cruise was definitely more casual than I was used to (people in dining room on dress up nights wearing tanks/cutoffs/flip flops/baseball caps). Although it didn't ruin our trip, it just felt weird being all dressed up when no one else was. As an example, when the photographer saw our kids all dressed up, she made a big deal out of it, taking multiple pictures and calling the boys "the necktie boys".