Well since the snow is now melting here in Seattle I am coming out of my shock and figure I will out a review together. Marie and I had the joy of sailing to the Mexican Riviera on the Mariner last week. We signed up for this cruise about 5 weeks prior which for me is the same as last minute. I am the type of person that like to spend months planning out a vacation so of course I was in utter panic when I realized I only had about 40 days to set up everything.
Powering through the first weekend I managed to get arranged airfare (even used a companion coupon for Marie), ground transportation back and forth to the ship, tours in two ports and Chops reservations. Blood pressure dropped considerably by Monday.
We decided to fly to LA same day of the cruise, I didn't think it was too much of a gamble since it was a 2½ hour direct flight, landing about 10:30 am. We actually arrived about 20 minutes early and after collecting bags headed to the ship via Super Shuttle. The driver was nice enough to point out to us where to go to get our return ride when we arrived back to LA. We handed our bags off to a porter who actually seemed surprise when I handed him a tip. Guess I could have kept that one in my pocket.
Boarding took all of 10 minutes; the longest part was waiting in line to get our pictures taken for the sea pass. We did a stroll down the promenade then headed up to Windjammer for some lunch. Now I have seen people on CC rave about the honey stung chicken that is available of sail away day. Well I am now 0 for 2 when it comes to the chicken. Our first cruise it was dry and tasteless, this cruise it was not even offered. So I am giving up on that. Food in the Windjammer was what I remembered in our first cruise, it has its highlights and lowlights (is lowlight a word?).
So one thing Marie and I were looking forward to this time was the sail away. One our first cruise the ship left Barcelona at 7pm and we had the 6:30 seating for dinner. So our view was from the dining room window. We were forewarned to wear a jacket because it may be southern California but it was November. We grabbed a couple of drinks, something they called a Miami Vice, I think it was a combination pina colada and daiquiri with a whole lot of rum added. In fact the waiter came by twice with the rum bottle and topped off the glasses twice. That got the party started. It was sunset when the ship departed which made for a beautiful view. We had a great time, Marie got in a little dancing before it was time to run down to the dining room for dinner and our first meet with our tablemates.
For dining we were on deck 4 which is called Top Hat and Tails. We had a table for 6 next to the port side window. The two couple we shared the table with were John and Diana from Pennsylvania plus Jack and Margarite (sp) from Newfoundland. The cruise was a joy spending our evening meal with them, talking about our parts of the world and reliving what we did in the ports or on the ship. I have heard stories of miserable tablemates making dinner a challenge but we have batted a thousand so far. That evening the show was a comedian name Carl Banks that a number of funny jokes about shipboard life, in particular about the shower and toilet. I would add that they should hang a sign in the cabin bathroom that says "caution, you may experience minor hearing loss after flushing". Ours was a little on the loud side this time.
The first day was spent at sea and my plan was lounging and reading. Marie had other ideas we compromised, I lounged and she explored and found ways to have fun. A little shopping hiking and line dancing for her, lounging for me. That worked. We did ht the Meet and Mingle which was a joy to put face to the names of the people we had been chatting with online. We had arrange a grab bag swap, Marie and I gave smoked salmon and Starbucks (we are from Seattle can you tell?). The M&M was fun; they had a drawing for a few prizes (I won a RCCL 64mg memory stick). That evening was the first formal night. I decided instead of renting an ill fitting tux from the ship I would bring a sports coat and a couple ties. It was much more comfortable and fit in when those around us. I was able to enjoy some snails as a starter to the meal (two orders). Guess the main course was not too remarkable as I had to look it up (filet of beef).The evening's show was a comedy act again so I was hesitant. But it was well worth it, a Vegas act that was a couple of brothers from Argentina (I think) Mario & Daniel. They were better than the guy the previous night.
The next day was Cabo San Lucas. Other than a couple hours in Tijuana we have never been to Mexico. We decided to just spend the day walking around the town, taking in the sights, shop, eat, drink, all the required things for a fun day. We were warned that once you get off the tender boat there would be a wave of people wanting to sell souvenirs, tours, etc. There was, but to be honest we have seen much worse. The people hawking their wares never got in our way and were rather polite in their approach. Nothing high pressure at all.
It was a beautiful day in Cabo, low 80s calm winds, just what you want in mid November. First thing Marie bought was a hat to keep the sun out of her eyes (I brought mine). We wandered a few hours, comparing prices and just making it a leisure day. Marie found Hard Rock Cafe where she could buy her jacket. I think her goal is to get one in every country they are located. Good luck.
There was a row of little restaurants along the water so we stopped in the one that had the most customers, not the best reason but what the heck we were on vacation so no need for major decisions. It was shrimp ceviche and fish tacos that were delicious. Margaritas for Marie and dollar Coronas for me made for a tasty relaxing lunch. A quiet ride back to the ship and a great port visit was over for us.
The show this evening was the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. We saw similar shows on the last cruise. To be honest, these are shows are entertaining but not memorable. Still a fun way to spend part of the evening.
I forgot to mention that Marie has been hitting the casino slot machines each night. On a $20 a night budget she has been doing well on the penny and two penny slots. The twenty bucks has been lasting her about an hour even with me stopping by a pilfering a few of her coins now and then.
So this evening about 11:30 there was going to be dancing under the stars and a buffet (like I need more food). Sounded like a great way to end a fabulous day. Well after the show we made the mistake of stopping by the room to "rest" for a half hour. Yeah, we were pretty much snoozing by 11:30, good intentions.
The next day was a visit to Mazatlan and a tour with the famous Mazatlan Frank. We read about him on CC and there was nothing but good reviews so we figured we would give him a shot. We were not disappointed as he took us to all parts of Mazatlan in our 5 hours with him. Cliff divers, a walking tour in Old Mazatlan, a drive through the golden zone, shopping opportunities and a shrimp & lobster lunch at a beachside restaurant. Great fun for 40 bucks.
That evening we had reservations at Chops Grille. We tried Portofino on our last cruise and really liked it so we decided to give Chops a try. No disappointment here, just steaks that melt in your mouth, shrimp and crab for starters and really decadent desserts we could not finish. It was also nice to have one dinner for two with a little extra personalized service.
This evening we also decided to go to the Love & Marriage show, one of many things we missed last cruise. We wanted to get a good seat so we showed up early. Bingo was about to start (guess we were really early) so we decided to play, no winners here. The L&M show was fun, had a couple married 57 years, one married 5 days and another in between. Was like watching the old Newlywed game on TV, plenty of embarrassing responses to the questions, good fun.
Last port visit was Puerto Vallarta and here we decided to use the ship's 4 hour city and shopping tour. What a waste. There was 20 minute stop downtown where the guide showed a few statues and a quick walk through a cathedral. Then there was a 30 shopping stop at some RCCL sponsored jewelry stores (we snuck across the street and bought painted tiles). After that it was a drive 16 miles south for a 3 minute stop to take a picture of the beach where John Houston filmed Night of the Iguana. Then it was back on the bus to drive all the way back into town to stop at a beachside restaurant for a 30 minutes drink/food break (the margaritas and shrimp were awesome). I quick stop at some more ship sponsored store and then it was back to the ship. I guess I should not have expected much for $26 each. The last stop Marie was feeling the margaritas and did some serious bargaining so it was not a total loss. We heard a lot about the town form the guide as we drove around, it just seemed like we did not see a lot of the town.
Don't remember what dinner; I think it was the catch of the day (cod). That evening the headliner show was the Coasters. Great fun hearing all those old rock n roll songs, Charlie Brown, Yakety Yak, Poison Ivy. The 70s dancing in the street on the Royal Promenade later that evening was fun as well. Some passengers from I think Utah dressed up in the Village People outfits and did a rousing version of YMCA that got everybody moving. When the dancing started we were already in our usual spot at the Cafe Promenade so we were front and center for the dancing. Every evening after the evening show we headed to the cafe for the tasty sandwiches and cookies. Eating again at 10 in the evening was a habit we broke quick after getting back home.
The next day was at sea and heading north. First thing that morning there was a medical emergency so we actually pulled in to the harbor at Cabo to let someone off. I was tantalizing to see the beaches so close but it was a quick turnaround and we were soon back at sea. Late morning there was a walk for the Make a Wish Foundation. So Marie bought one of the tee shirts for the fundraiser and participated in the 5 laps with other passengers and many of the crew. I found a lounge chair to park my rear in and cheer her on as she walked by.
In the afternoon there was the international belly flop competition by the pool. I found a vantage point the next deck up to take pictures while Marie edged her way poolside. Lots of fun as we all got to participate in the scoring. It really was an international competition as the guy that won was from Scotland. We had met him earlier in the cruise, we shared a breakfast table with him and his parents, his name was Michael I think. The rest of the day was relaxing in the sun since we were pretty sure it would be too chilly tomorrow.
That night was the second formal night and lobster for dinner. The wait staff appears to be responsible for more tables this time and was scrambling around a lot throughout the week. But our waiter Ramil still made sure to come around to all of us that ordered lobster and de-shelled them for us.
I figure I will take a few minutes at this point to talk about our wait staff. We had Ramil from the Philippines for our waiter and Luis from Brazil for assistant waiter. They did well but don't expect them to vary too far from the menu. Early on evening I asked Ramil about getting a cheese plate. I know it was not on the menu but come on, it's not that difficult to put some cheese on a plate. He gave me updates two or three times through the meal about the progress (the idea was to have it as a starter but I kept silent) but by meal's end it never did arrive. I figured he may try to make up for it the next night but nope, not a word or slice. One of our tablemates had ice tea every night and had to ask for it every night, and for refills on occasion. Last cruise I had asked for ice tea the first night and every night after that a glass arrived shortly after I sat down. I think Luis was kind of new at his job so I will cut him some slack when we had to ask for bread a couple times. But Ramil was an 11 year veteran. One thing he was good at was reminding us on two different night to be sure and fill out the survey and please check the 'excellent' boxes on the survey as 'good' is frown on by management. Well I give high marks if I see service worthy of high marks, and I don't think I saw that this cruise.
So that night was the Quest game, something we had also missed last cruise. I will not go into details for those who have not yet experience it, but I will say it met all expectations. Funny, naughty and plenty of good clean fun.
Next day we were also at sea and as expected it was too cold to hang out on deck. So I got in some serious reading, Marie did some window shopping on the promenade and we started packing for the return home. We signed up for the valet baggage service. This was well worth the extra $20 a bag (we each only had one bag to check). They delivered special luggage tags to the room and our boarding passes for our flight the next day. All we had to do was get the bags in the hall that night and the next time we saw them was on the luggage carousel in the Seattle airport. It was so sweet not having to hump those bags from the terminal to our ground transportation and then from there into the airport. I figure you spend as much as you do for a cruise and airfare, any extra $40 for that convenience was worth it.
The last night there was another parade on the promenade, an island theme this time. It amazes me how much enthusiasm the staff puts into these activities. The do those same parades week in and week out, probably could do them in their sleep. But they still come across as enjoying the time, maybe many of them still are. All I know is it was fun for us, well done.
Disembarking the ship was delayed about an hour, some issue with the express customers. That was ok as it left us with only a 30 minute wait in the airport once we got to the gate. Flight was uneventful but as we landed in Seattle we saw snowflakes falling. Sad ending to what was a really great cruise. So far we are two for two cruising with Royal Caribbean. It will be another 18 months before head out again, this time to the eastern Mediterranean. Looking forward to doing it again. Thanks for hanging with me on this review.