We traveled as a group of 6. Three adults (ages 55, 33, and 32) and three kids (10, 6, and 4.) This was my second cruise and the first cruise for everyone else. We did a 7-day Mexican Riveria cruise in October 2010.
Embarkation was the worst part of this vacation. In fact, 4 hours into the cruise I wondered if we made a mistake even coming! We arrived at the Port of LA (San Pedro) at 11am. It was mass confusion and the port workers were just standing around. No one was helpful. We had to push through crowds and follow porters around asking for help until one would actually take our luggage. Then we just wandered around until we found lines to stand in. We waited for a long time to get checked in though security, etc. We did see the staff confiscating alcohol that people had in their carry-ons. They had a big bin they were throwing it in. When we finally got through the lines there was no place to sit. They were not letting anyone on the ship so everyone was waiting and there were not enough seats. We all ended up sitting on the dirty disgusting floor to wait. It was very uncomfortable and chilly. Finally (after two hours!) at 1:00pm they started letting groups on per number but they didn't have any microphone or loudspeaker. Just one staff member and three thousand or so tired passengers trying to hear him shout. The people in the front of the line/crowd would hold up fingers to show the boarding group and it was like the children's game of telephone with people passing down the info on the boarding group. Awful.
When we got on ship we were really tired and ticked off. The kids were hungry so we went to the Promenade Cafe just to get away from the lines. That was nice and peaceful and we grabbed a quick snack (cookies, etc) and went to check out our rooms since they were ready (it was 1:30 or so.) Then we were still hungry so we went to the windjammer buffet to eat lunch. AWFUL! Crowded! No tables. Total mess. That was when I began to worry that this cruise was a bad idea. Luckily things got much better from there.
Mariner OTS is gorgeous! Loved, loved, loved the ship and would happily sail on her again! Beautifully decorated and classy without being stuffy. The promenade was our favorite place. We liked to hang out there snacking, grabbing a glass of wine, people-watching, and just enjoying ourselves. We went often to Cafe Promenade for coffee and little snacks. The Pool deck was fun though loud. Never had a problem finding a sunny chair near the pool and didn't notice any chair hogs. The fitness center (ship shape center?) was beautiful. Gorgeous hot tub in it that I didn't discover until day 6! Jogging track was fun because you could see all the action on the pool deck as you exercised.
We tried ice-skating at Studio B. We did mini golf a few times. Great sports facilities like a basketball court and rock-climbing wall. Our 10 year old niece was able to rock climb several times. Solarium and adults only pool was beautiful and quiet. Kids loved the free ice scream (soft serve) by the pool but I found it inedible. We didn't use the screening room, library, spa, or internet center. The schooner bar was tons of fun and they often had trivia there, which was a blast.
Lots of music around the ship. There was always so much to do. We were never bored. We didn't have time to do all we wanted and agreed we would have liked 2 weeks on the ship.
And the best part of the ship: the AWESOME CASINO! Whoooohoooo! Ok, we don't usually gamble or go to casinos. But on the last morning we were playing the quarter slots in the casino and I won $750. Can I say Whoooohoooo again??? This paid for the expenses we had accrued on our sea pass account (3 pets at sea, photos, lots of liquor, Chops, etc!) as well as the tips at the end of the cruise (which was really expensive.) I spent $25 to win that $750 but still, great way to end a cruise!
We had a junior suite on deck nine (Room 9298) and the interior room across the hall (9297). Beautiful rooms. We were very happy with them. The JS was spacious enough for 4 people (2 adults and 2 kids). The kids slept on the fold out couch and my husband and I had the king size bed. The room attendant made up the bed each evening and then put it away each morning so we could have plenty of room. Lots of storage (more than we needed for a family of 4!) and the walk in closet was perfect for us.
We enjoyed the dining experience in the Main Dining Room. Our waitress was lovely. After the first day she always had fruit cups ready for the kids before we came, and some flavored water from the windjammer buffet for my husband. All of our MDR dinners were ok except one.
We went to the MDR for lunch and breakfast as much as possible. MRD for lunch had a great salad bar. Loved the little touches at the salad bar like the fresh breads and brie.
We didn't enjoy the Windjammer experience much but the food was ok and had a very impressive variety. We loved the afternoon snack at the Windjammer where they had bread pudding and vanilla sauce every day. The staff in the windjammer was wonderful and would come around to make animal balloons for my kids.
Best part of dining on Mariner OTS - Chops and Portofinos. At Chops I had one of the best meals of my life. It was incredible. The cheesecake . . . oh, that cheesecake! Delicious!
We did the Mystery Dinner at Portofinos. Great meal and great fun. The wine was included in the package and kept flowing. They just kept refilling my glass and I finally had to ask them to stop!
I also ordered a Chops steak one night in the MDR. It cost $15 but I was very happy and enjoyed being able to eat such a nice dinner in the MDR with the kids.
Oh, then there was Johnny Rockets. Ok food but the service was terrible. Would not go there again.
Don't miss the Ice Skating Show! It is a must-do! We also saw the headliner performance and that was a fun Las Vegas type of show.
I have mixed feelings about the kids club (Adventure Ocean.) The three kids were each in different groups. The 4 year old was in the Aquanauts (age 3-5), the 6 year old was in the Explorers (age 6-8) and the 10 year old was in the 9-11 age room. The space was cute. They had some cute themes like pirates, circus, etc. They did some special events like one night they dressed up as pirates and took over the Royal Promenade. They did a circus performance in the Royal Promenade one night. And on the last night of the cruise (October 30, day before Halloween) they took the kids on a trick or treating parade around the ship. My kids wanted to go to Adventure Ocean every chance they could.
On the negative side, I wasn't all that impressed with the counselors. They smiled a lot and were energetic but didn't seem like they liked kids all that much. They were not very warm and loving and I didn't feel like my son was treated very well there. I opted not to send them the last day because I just wasn't comfortable with the quality of the staff even though my kids wanted to go and I wanted the time to relax! We all played together as a family instead.
We stopped at three ports on this cruise. Cabo San Lucas was our least favorite. We didn't plan any excursions and decided to explore and eat lunch. We went to Solomon's because it was recommended by tripadvisor and cruise critic. My family didn't enjoy the meal and it was very expensive. The day was very hot and humid and we were bothered by all the aggressive vendors so we returned to the ship.
Mazatlan was great! My favorite day of the cruise. We booked the Stone Island Getaway through RCI. One of the nice things about the excursion was that the tour guides met us on the ship in the Lotus Lounge so we were very comfortable as we waited for everyone and learned about our day. The guides were excellent. They took us on a short boat ride to Stone Island. Then we boarded a large wagon pulled by a tractor for a tour of the small village. We arrived at the beach and restaurant area for a very fun and relaxing day. The water was warm and the waves gentle so it was perfect for the kids. We rented boogie boards (2 boards for 30 minutes was $10 though they didn't check the time.) My mother in law had a massage on the beach that was $20 for 30 minutes. She thought it was great. We lounged in hammocks and enjoyed the open bar. It was a great vacation day.
Puerto Vallarta was our third port and we booked an excursion through RCI for a day at Las Caletas. For most of our group this was their favorite port day. My husband and kids loved the monkey encounter and we got great pictures. My 10-year-old niece had a blast on the zip line and went 5 times. The kids caught crabs on the beach and played with them. My mother-in-law and niece did the kayaking. There was a ton to do there. I had a massage ($25 for 30 minutes). The lunch was very tasty.
We had a 9:40 disembarkation time. It was better than embarkation. My daughter woke up sick that morning (vomiting) and my son was having melt down tantrums so disembarkation was awful for us but not the ship's fault on that one.
Overall a great cruise. We would happily sail on Mariner OTS again.