The Mariner of the Seas is a huge ship and an example of the mega cruise ship experience that is the hallmark of Royal Caribbean International. The ship is breathtaking in its size and activities. The Royal Promenade is the main street to this vessel and it is filled with shops, bars, and activities. Yet the whole experience is degraded with the constant attempt to "upsell" the customer into a more expensive product. This "upsell" cast a pall over what, normally, should be a pleasurable experience.
Positives. The Shows. The shows on the ship are exceptional. My wife and I have seen many shows over the years and the shows on the Mariner dazzle the audience. First, they have an ice arena which hosted an ice show. The show, Under the Big Top, was a combination of skating show and circus in a cirque du soleil amalgam. The skaters are top notch and the choreography is amazing. The shows in the main stage area (Savoy Theater) maintain the high standard. Particularly enjoyable was a show based upon popular music of the 80's (yes, including Boy George). The next night saw a tribute band for ABBA. I was skeptical at first but they won me over with their on-target portrayal of this popular group.
The Activities. Their are plenty of activities to choose from.
Service. All of the crew is trained to be polite and pleasant and it shows.
Cruise Director. Casey, the cruise director, was exceptional. He seemed genuine and natural in all events. He is one of the best cruise directors we have experienced.
Negatives. Food. The food was mediocre overall. Sure, there was plenty to choose from but the quality was inferior to what we had experienced from RCI in the past. In the main dining room the food selection was limited and rushed. If you ask for anything outside of the servers routine it was a major effort for them to address it. In order to mitigate complaints the head waiter comes over to the table each evening to ask if there were any problems. They must think it cheaper to perform damage control than to provide a quality product at the first time. Coffee is weak as they would like you to purchase the upgraded products. The Windjammer Cafe is huge and serves buffet style food in quantity.
The Constant Upsell. From the moment passengers arrive they are urged to spend and upgrade their experience. It is so pervasive that you are invited to buy "fresh Squeezed" orange juice the moment you arrive for breakfast for an additional four dollars. Does this mean the stuff that is normally called orange juice is that bad? Cappucino/ espresso extra. Alternative dining extra. Beach towel 20$ if you do not return it. This constant attempt to separate the traveller from their money is off putting at best.
The Captain Johnny Show. This is the first cruise in which the personality of the captain is part of the marketing and the show. Captain Johnny is pervasive. He is on the ship channel 24/7. And you hear his spiel from the bridge several times a day. He is almost like the assistant cruise director. Towards the seventh day his omniscience is overbearing. He even has his own autographed book for thirty dollars that he promotes. I have never seen or heard a captain on a cruise ship like this. Since when did personality take the place of a quality cruise?