Let me start by saying that despite the date showing on the calendar, the weather was summer hot, hot, hot. The itinerary was outstanding with a good mix of four countries.
While some of the reviews I have read on the Mariner of the Seas mentioned that the ship was old and tired is absurd. The ship is clean and well maintained and the staff were more than accommodating. While I don't utilize alot of the amenities such as the rock climbing wall, mini golf, basketball court, etc, etc,...there is something for everyone at every age and taste.
The ice show as well as the nightly shows were entertaining and enjoyable and offered lots of variety.
The dining room still leaves alot to be desired although RCL did come up a notch since my last cruise. The days that the dining room was open for lunch, offered a great salad bar. Fresh and tasty and certainly no shortage of choices. The Windjammer buffet style cafe, was not at all up to par for any cruise. The food More
was cold and literally tasteless and seemed to be the same every day. Fighting for a seat at lunchtime was frustrating. And I must say the hamburger I had on the first day was the last. It was very very bad. While I didn't go to the speciality restaurants, I did hear from other passengers that the experience was most enjoyable. I don't feel that I should have to pay extra to have a good meal. It should be the norm for all places where you eat on a cruise ship. I never could quite understand the need for a "head waiter" as I really don't see that they do anything other than come to your table and give some quick small talk to try to justify the tip they expect at the end of the cruise.
My first cuise was in the '70's and the entire atmosphere has definitely changed. Some changes for the good and some for the other. Prices for alcohol have gone through the roof and I did notice that on this cruise, I witnessed very few passengers partaking in a libation or two. At $12 for a glass of wine and $6.90 for a beer, the cruise lines are pricing themselves out of the pleasure of taking more money from their patrons. I don't get it. Why don't they sell for a reasonable price and they would sell more!!
The balcony room (cat. D1) we had was more than acceptable and kept very clean by our cabin personnel. The mattresses however, left me with a sore back and begging to have it replaced. Dreadful.
The itinerary was very well thought out, although the Chania (Crete) port could have been replaced with a more enjoyable Greek Island. Rhodes was spendid and being able to walk directly into town, was a bonus. The two ports in Israel - Ashdod and Haifa were special for me since they were two places I had visited on my first cruise back in the '70's. Long days in port allowed for great tours on land.
Ephesus was an especially great port for me as it was one of the reasons I choose this cruise. And I was not disappointed. It is truly a place every cruiser should visit. In my opinion, it is better than the Acropolis and more preserved - the Terrace Houses is a MUST.
The stop in Athens was my fourth visit, so offered little in the way of WOW factor other than the riot police with shields in place. Did not witness a riot however, must have just missed the action. Although there was a taxi strike the day we landed, we managed quite well on the open air hop on - hop off bus to get to the sights.
Palermo offered a chance to visit the Capuchin Catacombs which was very interesting. There are 8,000 mummified bodies arranged on the walls of a grotto.
The stop in Naples gave us an opportunity to tour the Amalfi coast and Pompeii. What a spectacular sight and the views were heartstopping. We visited Sorrento, Poaitano, Amalfi and Revello with a final stop at Pompeii.
The days at sea were welcomed as the days before were spent on tiring tours so the chance to chill out was appreciated.
All in all the cruise was well worth the time and money. Less
Mariner of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Mediterranean
While Athens remains one of my favourite places, it is a huge port with lots and lotsP of marine traffic. It is quite easy to get around and there are several choices to get to the Acropolis. You can walk a few block and get the train into the city with a stop very close to the Acropolis. There is also a hop on hop off bus that takes you around Pireus and Athens. The bus stops right outside the port.
The port of Ashdod is quite a distance from Jerusalem but well worth the drive. What a treasure trove of history and religion. The only thing I would alert other passengers to if they opt to visit both Jerusalem and Bethlahem, you must be handed off to another tour guide who is Palestinian. A bit unnerving, but went off without a hitch. The Palestinian side is quite dirty and carries alot of political influence. We happened to be there the day Palestine was in the UN requesting to be awarded statehood.
While Naples itself is the 3rd largest city in Italy, head out to enjoy the countryside as quickly as you can. The drive up the Amalfi coast is well worth it. The small towns offer the true charm of Italy and the coastline is breathtaking. Get the camera ready. You also have the option of taking a boat ride along the coast although we did not opt to do so.
Very busy city and extremely difficult to walk and the roads are not pedestrian friendly. The sidewalks are very narrow and the traffic don't seem too keen on giving you the right of way. Be mindful of the cars around you and look all ways.
Lovely stop which allows you to walk into town and enjoy the taste of a Greek Island. Be sure to sample the "boot full of beer" while people watching. Busy the day we were there since two other cruise ships were in port.