We had sailed on the Mariner about four years ago and had such a great time that we wanted to go again. What a disappointment.
The ship itself is still a beauty. She's showing a bit of wear and tear (scratched legs on the furniture, some rust showing in the bathroom) but nothing a bit of cosmetic work wouldn't fix. Certainly nothing that made me think it was time for drydock.
We had a junior suite, which was very spacious and featured a balcony with two chairs, a small table and a lounger. Masses of storage space. There were 3 of us in the room and we didn't even use some of cupboards, shelves and drawers. They have put in flat-screen TVs to the junior suites, but I still saw old TVs in the balcony and interior rooms when I peeked in while passing by. The carpet was in good condition, but the stateroom attendant never cleaned the glass-topped coffee table or the inside of the glass balcony doors.
The bed was comfortable and had great linens -- crisp and fresh. The sofabed is very, very firm. Our steward put a foam topper on it and our daughter slept comfortably.
As to general cleanliness, I noticed the shelves in the souvenir shop were dusty also. Otherwise, the ship appeared to be kept sparkling clean and tidy, although the elevators are showing wear, scratches, dents and the odd missing call button.
So let's get to the downside ... the food. I am not particularly fussy or demanding but being sentenced to a full week of Denny's-by-the-sea is not how I want to spend my holiday. The first night we went to the dining room and ordered prime rib and pork tenderloin. The pork was all right, but the mashed potatoes were processed to the point of being mushy. Instant? Hard to say, but it was that kind of texture. The prime rib had an odd texture too. Spongy is the only word that comes to mind. Kind of like canned meat. The vegetables were the same bland frozen mixed vegetables you get at the supermarket, with lima beans, green beans, diced carrots etc. Frozen mixed veg on my plate the first night was not an auspicious beginning.
The next day we went to the dining room for breakfast and got bacon-and-egg breakfasts. The eggs were okay, the bacon was mostly fat, sausages tiny and dry and the hash browns appeared, again, to be the frozen shredded variety. Could be worse; we came across the little triangle-shaped, deep fried "hash browns" (a la McDonald's) another morning at breakfast in the Windjammer.
I got a whole kiwi fruit at the dining room the first morning and asked a server if I could have it peeled and cut. He told me I had to take it back to my table and do it myself. Ever try to prepare a kiwi fruit with a table knife? Maybe they were trying to discourage people from actually consuming the expensive kiwis and only wanted them to be on the fruit dish for show. The only other fresh fruits on offer were the ubiquitous apples, oranges & bananas. Sliced melon was available daily at breakfast plus canned peaches, pears, prunes etc.
This is not to say everything was bad. The roast turkey was okay, as was the lamb. Sadly, that was about it. Fish was dry and overcooked, hamburgers sat under heat lamps way too long, chicken was dry. Other than green beans, broccoli and baked potatoes, we could not find cooked vegetables that were at all palatable. Amazing how quickly you get tired of green beans, broccoli and baked potatoes. It's either that or the same tossed salad every night, or forego veggies altogether. The best meal we had overall was at Johnny Rocket's (although the burger patties tasted rather bland).
Almost everything from the dinner menu in the dining room was offered at the Windjammer the same night. The only difference was that in the dining room you got cafeteria food served to you by smiling waiters; in the Windjammer you got cafeteria food served yourself. We wound up eating at the Windjammer nearly every meal because you could at least look at the offerings before making your choice, and there was much more selection with the dining room menu plus a range of Asian foods and casual (hamburgers, pizza etc) if there wasn't anything to your liking on the menu.
I never met a dessert I didn't like, but even here the Mariner fell short. Cookies were hard and dry, and I could not tell the difference between these and the ones that come from a box. Gee, maybe they did come from a box. That would explain things. There was a cheesecake nearly every night, which was good, and a very pleasant man wheeled around an ice cream cart in the Windjammer after dinner. Otherwise, there was fruit salad (watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew melon and canned fruits), a mousse-type dessert or two, a cake, a tart and sometimes creme caramel.
Overall, the food offered on the Mariner is heavy on the frozen and prepared end, bland and relying too much on the breaded-and-fried category. That's fine once in a while, but all day, every day for a whole week and mealtime becomes a chore that has to be got through rather than something to which you look forward. For the first time, I was actually looking forward to going home from a cruise, just so I could get a meal made with fresh food. What a sad fate for the beautiful Mariner.