Background: I'm in my 50's and have been on over thirty cruises. I traveled with a friend, also in his 50's and also a seasoned cruiser. We chose this cruise more for the chance to get away than to see the ports, as we had both visited them a number of times before.
EMBARCATION: We arrived just after 1:00 PM, and were aboard the ship in matter of minutes. Seamless!
SHIP OVERALL: We had cruised on the Explorer of the Seas, a ship of the same class as Mariner, so the size wasn't a surprise. I give RCI great credit for maintaining a very clean and attractive ship. Despite its size, it is easy to get around, and the fact that there were over 3,600 passengers never caused a problem with crowds. Our cruise director, Kieron Buffery, was among the best I've ever experienced. He is an amazingly talented guy who has limitless energy and quick wit. Capt. Johnny was omnipresent and very friendly. The staff as a whole was among the friendliest I've ever met on a ship.
CABIN: We had a balcony cabin on deck eight forward. It was attractive, with plenty of storage and space. RCI has nicer linens these days, but I found my bed a bit too firm. Our cabin steward, Dale from Jamaica, was superb!(NB: RCI doesn't provide body lotion or conditioner, so bring your own.)
DINING: This area alone is responsible for my rating of four out of five. Had the food been better, the Mariner would get a perfect five from me. Main dining room: We had "My time dining" and loved it. We never had to wait, and the servers did get to know us. We had a few dinners with others, and a few at a table by ourselves. I enjoyed the flexible times. The three-story dining room is stunning, and tables aren't crowded together. The food, however, was a disappointment night after night. There often was only one salad on the menu. Meats were tough, and I had to send my salmon back one night. I'm not a foodie, but I don't appreciate tasteless foods. Windjammer Buffet: Very lackluster with few options and mediocre offerings. Portofino: This is one of the "fine dining" options, with a $20 per person charge. We had great service, but the salad and pasta were just so-so. I had a terrific bistecca fiorentina and tiramasu for dessert. The restaurant is on deck 11, and deck 12 has an outdoor area near the teen center just above, so there is a lot of foot traffic that you hear throughout the meal. Snacks on the promenade: I appreciated this spot, where you can get coffee, sandwiches and desserts. Room service: Very prompt! We used it only for breakfast. Again, service was terrific everywhere, but the food needs help! I love that they serve Seattle's Best coffee.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Mariner excelled in this area. We had the Drifters one night, a funny comedian, two big production shows, and a fantastic juggler, Ivan Pecel in the main theater. (I know that a juggler sounds lame, but he was hilarious and talented.) There were great musical options, including jazz and a Latin group, elsewhere on the ship. Be sure to catch the ice show-- stunning! The cruise staff also provided a lot of entertainment. Don't miss Quest!
FITNESS/SPA: I worked out every day and appreciated the extensive range of cardio and weight machines. The hot tub right by the fitness room was convenient. It was also adjacent to the adults-only solarium area with two other hot tubs and a small pool.
ITINERARY/PORTS: In Cabo, I booked the zodiac boat and snorkel trip. It was enjoyable, although the waters of Mexico aren't nearly as beautiful as Hawaii or the Caribbean. I stayed on the ship in Mazatlan, and enjoyed a quiet day. In Puerto Vallarta, I booked the zip line trip. It was awesome and a highlight of the week.
DISEMBARCATION: Some of us remember when the last morning of a cruise seemed like reliving the voyage of the damned. No longer! We had a nice breakfast in the main dining room, and walked off the ship. Total time from our cabin to clearing customs-- 10 minutes!
SUMMARY: The Mariner has something for everyone. Even with lots of activity on board, you can find quiet spots for reading or napping if that is what you prefer. The crew and staff should be proud of the job they do. If only they had better food...