My wife, two sons (8 and 10) and I sailed the Mariner of the week of August 15th. I purposely waited several weeks to write this review to see what really stood out and what didn't. I have a feeling if I'd written a day or two after, it may have been different.
This was my sixth cruise, first on RCCL- This is the third for my boys and they are hooked, so it looks like we'll be cruising annually. We were excited about this cruise to finally sail on RCCL- our previous cruises have all been on Carnival, save one on Princess. I will primarily compare this cruise to our experience(s) with Carnival.
Overall we had a good time and enjoyed the cruise; no matter what, we try to have fun but there were some significant downers on this cruise that will prevent us from returning to RCCL.
Ports- been to all so many times, not worth discussing. It is personal preference anyway. One mention- we normal grab a cab in Puerto Vallarta to the sea life park and ride water slides all day. Its now called aqua-adventure and has become substantially more expensive...I would never book a shore excursion with ship. I continue to read people paying 50-60 bucks per person for a glass bottom boat road ride to El Arco and lands end in Cabo. $20 for four people is what we paid this time and we got them to drop us off and pick us up at beach afterwards.
I'll start with all the good: -Service was great. Our dining room waiter and asst. waiter were probably the best we've had. Cabin Steward was good. We never had a problem with service anywhere throughout the entire cruise. Great table mate pairings as well. -Cabin size/layout. We had a D1 balcony stateroom (6652) and while no bigger than other cabins we've been in, it seemed more functional and spacious. -Ocean Adventure Program. My kids absolutely hate the Carnival version, but said this was "OK," which means it was probably pretty good. My older son commented that the games were better and the staff actually participated rather than just explained activity. I liked it because there were some family events and because there wasn't the hard sell you get on Carnival. -Coffee: Best coffee I've had on a cruise- this is subjective of course but I really enjoyed the coffee (Seattle's Best) served at the cafe promenade. Pastry was decent here too. -Casino Slots: I actually $1000 one night on $0.25 machine and another $700 the next night on the Wheel of Fortune $1. Was surprised that cruise slots paid- I'd never seen it. -Em- and Debarkation: Unbelievably easy on both counts. One thing I hate about Carnival is the rush to get you out of your room. Royal noted" relax in your stateroom until you assigned time." We were in no rush so this suited us well.
Not so great: (or carnival is better) -Beds: The carnival beds are so much more comfortable. -Cruise director: Three weeks later and I can't remember his name- I can remember the way he looked and he did do a pretty good rendition of "Mustang Sally" one night but this is the first cruise I've been on where the Captain (Johnnie) comes over the PA more than the CD. -Ship- Largest ship I have been on by far, but always crowded everywhere. And while the royal promenade was cool, it was like being at the mall, December 23rd, in a good economy! Ship had a weird layout also, not being able to get to one area without going a level down and coming back up for example. -Photos- RCCL needs to teach the staff to take better photos. The only decent ones we got were so expensive and had fingerprints all over them. Bought them anyway, but for some reason carnival photo seem better and operation more organized. -Liquor prices- way higher than Carnival last year. -Sanitation Nazi's- It bothered me that every time I entered a room, some staff member was stopping me and shooting Purell into my had. It caused major log jams into dining room at night and I doubt it does any good. People either exhibit good hygiene or they don't. (How did mankind survive or so long without Purell??) BTW I never got a wart in my life until I cruised- now three years straight I get a wart about 1 moth after returning from cruise- all on the hand. Weird, but proof that Purell is worthless as I understand warts are mainly viral. If people would just wash their hands!
Will prevent me from returning: (or anything would be better) -Food: I'm not as critical as other concerning the dining room food for Dinner- but everything else (with exception of Johnny Rockets) was bad. I expected better than carnival and got worse...a lot worse. I thought the nightly dinners were decent so I won't complain about them but the Windjammer was really bad. This is from someone who has no problem eating at Denny's. Some standouts from the windjammer: Bacon so thin, so raw and so greasy it would make a goat choke. The deep fried potatoes they called hash browns, either in the shape of a wedge or a tater tot or in a the McDonald's hash brown shape were always floating or swimming in grease, even right out of kitchen they were so bad. Scrambles eggs horrible. Biscuits horrible (Flour/Shortening/baking powder/salt/milk- how freeking hard is that?) Toast always rock hard and cold...and not really toasted. Pancakes, French toast etc all cold, cold, cold. I never saw a grill for hamburgers \ hotdogs; they were served in big metal pans swimming in greasy water and had been cooking for what tasted like hours- so so dry. Fries were coated and not to my liking and the pizza was only a step above frozen, usually cold. I think you get the idea....but in case it wasn't clear...cold, greasy, low quality sums it up. I honest can't say we really enjoyed anything from the Windjammer...
-Elevators- the worst of any ship I have been on- slow, slow, slow. Between the stair climbing and the food I actually lost weight on this cruise. Yes...lost!
-Price: Much more expensive than Carnival, still trying to figure out why?
Lastly, and many of you will think me a jerk for writing this, but the ship was booked with (I think I heard) 800 deaf passengers. Now...I have nothing against deaf people, but I think if RCCL is going to book out 1/3 or 1/2 ship to a particular group they should tell you that before you book. If definitely changed the feeling of the cruise; there were times when entire public rooms were silent. Trying to get from one end of promenade to the other was difficult; "excuse me," didn't work and deaf people I noticed tend to stand around in circles, making an already tight feeling ship tighter. I am absolutely certain the entertainment and activities were changed to accommodate them. I'm not saying it was bad, it was just different and I think we had a right to know before we booked. Just imagine getting on a cruise booked with 800 preachers, strippers, car salesmen, republicans/democrats or whatever...don't you think Royal should disclose that? I stand by what I said so if you want to tell me what a jerk I am...go ahead, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), but I stand by my feelings.