We flew from London to LA on virgin atlantic and stayed for 3 nights at the elegant Hyatt in Anaheim, Orange county. This gave us an opportunity to visit Disneyland, go on a beach tour visiting various Orange county beaches like Huntingdon, Newport and Laguna beaches and also went shopping to South coast plaza, one of the largest shopping malls in Orange county. I had booked directly via Royal caribbean and booked the flights, hotels and transfers myself which makes the cost slightly cheaper and also gives freedom as far as the location of hotels, flight times, etc. We stayed in a 2 bedroom suite in hyatt which was newly refurbished and very spacious.
On the embarkation day I had booked a prime time private shuttle for $65 to take us from Anaheim to San Pedro. Emabarkation was a breeze. We got to San Pedro at 11.30am and were in the ship by noon. One of the fastest embarkations ever.
The ship was magnificent. Although the Mariner was nearly 7 years old, she was very well maintained. All the public and accomodation areas were all up to high standards. The food was great whether it was breakfast, lunches at windjammers or dinner in the dining room. We were on my time dining booked for 7.45pm each night but was easily changeable if we chose to go at a different time. Dining service was great on first day but below par on the next 2 days however after a quick chat with the head waiter, he moved us to a better area where we had a fabulous waiter named Francis from India who provided super service and accomodated every need of ours. The head waiter came for a chat each night to see how we were doing. As we were vegetarians we not only had the option of the choice from the main menu (which had a different indian curry with rice, roti and poppadom and raita each night) but he also brought us other veg dishes and more spicier curries from the crew menu. We looked forward to our dining each night mainly due to the excellent service by Francis and his assistant waiter.
The entertainment on board was good especially the brilliant ice show which is a must see, the love and marriage and quest game shows which are highly recommended for all open minded adults. On the down side the production and guest shows were below par. The cruise director, Abe Hughes was good and very humorous. The captain of the ship with whom we had pictures taken on the captains night was very friendly and had a good sense of humour too! In fact this is the only cruise in which I have seen the captain interact so frequently with the passengers on-board. I saw him several times during the cruise and during the captains corner whereby he answered all questions from other passengers very well.
All the ports of call were fantastic. We had fabulous hot sunny weather at all ports and on sea days. All were very scenic especially Cabo and Mazatlan. Puerto Vallarta is a big city but still very scenic, surrounded by mountains. We did a trip to a tequilla factory there where we had lots of fun trying different types of tequilla like almond, peach etc. Until now I only had tequila in margaritas but now certainly would have them neat too!
We did tours in each of the ports and all tours were well organised and very informative too. Took lots of pictures and videos of this scenic part of the world. Also tried local mexican food at some ports which was fabulous!
On sea days did 2 mile walks round the upper decks, relaxed in the jacuzzi and swam in one of the 3 swimming pools. Didn't attempt the rock climbing wall or play in the basket ball court but did play mini-golf. Also watched a Sandra Bullock flick in the small cinema, did shopping in the promenade shops, visited the casino, played Bingo etc.
Disembarkation was not as breezy as embarkation. Being non US citizens we had to queue up to see immigration offcials for an hour in the morning and then had to queue up again to see customs officials and it wasn't very well organised. The heavy fog that morning delayed the procedures too. However thats part and parcel of cruising and after such an excellent cruise can't complain at all.
Did a LA tour around downtown LA, hollywood and Farmer's market before being dropped off to the airport for our night flight back to London.
In summary I whole heartedly recommend this cruise for its excellent intinerary and scenic ports of call, great service, fabulous ship and lots of fun activities to keep the whole family occupied all week long. This ship will be leaving LA from Jan 2011 and not doing the mexican riviera from then. So if you are planning to cruise between now and then, book this cruise straight away and get prepared for a vacation of a life time!