This is our first Royal Caribbean cruise and, for many first-timers aboard the Mariner of the Seas, probably our last one. I have never been on cruise where at times it was great and at times it was terrible. Embarkation was horrid unless you were Diamond Plus. To get a perspective, there was a turnover of crew of about 20% at Los Angeles which I believe is an abnormally high number which do not help in crew efficiency. There was an abnormally high number of Diamond Plus members aboard this cruise. RCCL caters to these Diamond Plus members, starting at Embarkation. Guess what, we ended up waiting in very long lines while the Diamond Plus members had to be handled first. Every cruise-line do this, but generally you do not have that many Diamond Plus members except on this cruise. In effect, I felt like I was aboard a Cunard ship where there are two classes of passengers and I was in the lower class. In the previous reviews of this voyage, you can guess who were the Diamond Plus members and who weren't.
Originally, I had signed up for a cruise from Rio to San Francisco aboard the Star Princess, but Princess had canceled that cruise and this repositioning cruise came up and the price was hard to resist though the itinerary was not the greatest. However, it allowed us to try Royal Caribbean. The Mariner of the Seas had good reputation for food and if you were to take a 30-day cruise, lousy food would be like torturing yourself. Well, the food started out terrible which I thought because of the crew turnover, it only got to be a little better, but not much. Over time, we followed a few procedures which allowed us to have better food. Number one - eat at the dining room if at all possible. Number two - if you can't eat the MDR, be one of the first ones at the Windjammer. Royal Caribbean has great service at the Windjammer, but the price appears to be the quality of the food. It has great selection, but the
price you pay is that the waiters are helping you instead of stirring the food to keep it from drying out or overcooked by the food warmers. Well, after an hour quite a bit of the food is overcooked or dried out in the Windjammer, but if you like salads or the equivalent, you will be happy. Royal Caribbean has a very large salad bar. I find that people who were happy with the food in the Windjammer were eating mostly in the salad bar. People who usually cruised other lines were not very happy with the food. Most unhappy were Celebrity cruisers - well at least it is in the same family, lol. Food in the MDR started out poorly, but was quite good by the time we got to Brazil with alot of good beef and lamb on the 2nd half of the 30 day cruise. It didn't help that the Prime Rib that I received on the first evening had too much baking soda in it. (Why, you use baking soda to tenderize the beef - Chinese restaurants do this quite often, but it leaves the beef tender, but a slightly different texture - but because they use too much flavor and texture was affected quite a bit.) Desserts were not very good unless it was Royal Chocolate cake - most chocolate flavored desserts lacked chocolate - cheesecake lacked cheese. This is the only cruise where I was eating ice cream for desserts. Strange as it may be, desserts were much better during lunch than dinner.
We have sailed a 30-day cruise once before. The ship slows down during the day and speed up during the nights. The Mariner of the Seas was traveling from 17 to 19 knots per hour, night or day, which meant it was quite breezy on top deck when people want to sun themselves. There was no problem on the 2nd half of the cruise as there was no sun, just clouds and cooler weather.
The ship was wonderful, the cabins were roomy, the entertainment was very good for the most part. It could have been better. The ship had a classical group called the Three Seasons who had a Ukrainian pianist who is world-class. However, instead of playing classical tunes, they were playing popular melodies which is a total waste of their talents. Worst, the Mariner of the Seas just didn't have too many out of way, quiet venues for classical music. Many venues for music allow for leakage from other music venues. Basically, the loudest gets heard.
In Ushuaia, Argentina the tender took over 5 hours to offload the passengers.
Some passengers did not get ashore until past 12pm. Not very good.
In all, how was this cruise? Disappointing or at best a very disfunctional cruise. Many people came aboard in Los Angeles expecting a 30-day cruise, what they got was 2 2-week cruises where almost every non-Royal Caribbean cruiser was complaining or were very disappointed and most Royal Caribbean cruisers apologizing that this is not the way Royal Caribbean operates.