When selecting a cruise we look to the itinerary more than what a ship has to offer. We always have a balcony for catching up on reading and rarely participate in group activities or main dining room dining. The Mariner is a good ship and well-maintained. The staff was helpful and pleasant. The food in the Windjammer cafe is plentiful and there were varied choices for every meal. What could be bad about eating french fries morning, noon and night?! My only criticism of the Windjammer cafe is that RCL piped in loud, ear splitting music over the PA system to the point where I literally had to shout to my son across the table from me! I'd much rather hear the ocean rushing by.
The ship is listed as non-smoking but smoking is allowed on balconies. I wish cruising companies would be brave enough to eliminate smoking on balconies! I sat down on my balcony one sea day all set to read and relax only to smell the cigar exhaust of my neighbor a few cabins down! Yuck!
The adult-only hot tubs and pool on Deck 11 were great to have as long as someone didn't bring their baby or under 16-year-old into the hot tub. Despite having "Adults Only" signs posted quite a few guests seemed to ignore the rules. Not sure what RCL could do about that.
We booked a private two-day tour starting in Haifa, Israel with Mark Zober (firstname.lastname@example.org). Mark and his wife, Marilyn, picked us up in their car at Haifa port and proceeded to provide my son and I with the insider's Israel. Mark and Marilyn were also able to drop us off at the ship in Ashdod to continue on with the cruise. I recommend staying overnight in Jerusalem at the Jerusalem YMCA Hotel so that you can make the most of your two-day stop in Israel.
In Athens we opted for a private taxi that took us to all the necessary sights. Despite the heat throughout the cruise it was thrilling to climb the many steps to see the Acropolis up close and surrounding Athens from a bird's eye view. We also visited the Plaka... a must for shopping.
Kusadasi in Turkey despite having ruins in Ephesus (a cab ride or shore excursion away)turned out to be a walking and shopping stop. We enjoyed walking the winding roads of Kusadasi, seeing the many mosques and visiting the shops as it just seemed too hot to climb any more ruins.
Both Rhodes and Crete were experiencing taxi strikes during our cruise but in Rhodes we chose to walk within the walled city along the cruise port harbor. We stumbled upon this clock tower that for 5 Euros you could climb the tower, get a 360 degree view of Rhodes and get a free drink in the cafe located below the tower. A highlight of our trip!
Crete was the least interesting stop for us and the shortest. For a fee a shuttle bus took cruise guests to the mall for shopping. We just walked into the cruise port town and back.
My one disappointment about Greece is that we didn't get to see the white stucco, blue roof, terraced buildings that you see in movies set in Greece (think "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" or "My Life in Ruins"). My guess is that the buildings would be on the islands of Santorini and/or Mykonos. Next time.
All in all a wonderful and unique 11-day experience.