This cruise was in celebration of my niece graduating college this year. Our group was my sister, her husband, their daughter, my husband and I. This was a six night cruise.
This was our 7th cruise (5 with RCCL, 1 with Disney and 1 with Carnival). This was our 3rd time on Mariner of the Seas (2006 Western Caribbean - Port Canaveral Florida, 2010 Mexican Rivera - Long Beach California and 2012 Western Caribbean - Galveston Texas.)
We flew into George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday Dec 29, 2011. We rented a minivan and spent the night in Houston at a Towne Place Suites. The next morning we picked up my sister' family and then made our way down to Galveston.
In Galveston, we stayed at the Springhill Suites - hotel rooms were clean, staff friendly and they did have free breakfast (for you and 200 others including children putting their hands on everything). There were 3 cruise ships departing that weekend. Carnival Magic on Sunday Jan 1, Carnival Valor and Mariner of the Seas on Monday Jan 2. Hotel was full. I would stay at this hotel again if I cruised out of Galveston again.
Over the weekend, we visited Moody Gardens -Rainforest Pyramid, the Lone Star Flight Museum, walked on the beach by Seawall Blvd and watched the cargo ships go in and out of port at the end of Seawall Blvd. Weather was a little chilly, pretty windy and it was very foggy on New Year's Eve. The fog was a sign of things to come I guess.
We had lunner (lunch/dinner) on Friday at a Mexican restaurant called Salsas Mexican & Seafood Restaurant on Seawall Blvd -- very good with large portions and the 2 types of salsa (1 red traditional and 1 green with green tomatoes, cilantro and avocado) were wonderful. Saturday we went looking for great BBQ, so we went back to the mainland up I-45 to exit 25 to Rudy's Texas Bar- B-Q. Now this is just plain ole good. Best smoked beef brisket I have ever had. My husband has said he would move to Texas just for this beef. Sunday we had lunch at Chili's (good food, service ok) and dinner at I-HOP (ok service and food). I know boring after the previous two days, but we wanted quiet meals that day.
Monday Jan 2, we arrived at the pier about 10:30am. There were lots of people still getting off the ship so there were no porters available to take your luggage from you as you exited your vehicle. The girls took our own luggage to the terminal where a porter took it from us and we watched him place it in the carts for our deck and section of the ship, while the boys parked in the port parking lot and took shuttle back. We waited inside the terminal until they got back. Security line moved pretty well as they had 4 scanners set up. Then we were directed to the check -- in lines for our staterooms. Check in was quick and with our seapass cards we were directed to the waiting area. We were told that they would start boarding about 1:00pm. We were on the ship having lunch in the Windjammer by 12:30pm with announcements being made that our rooms would not be ready until 3:00 pm. The previous 3 cruises had an issue with illness onboard. At check-in they told us that they only had a few cases this past week and were just doing an extra thorough job cleaning before we boarded and were allowed to our staterooms.
We had a Junior Suite port side hump #9618. We love this stateroom - large walk-in closet, bathtub in the bathroom, a long comfortable couch and a really comfy side chair and ottoman. The balcony was great with 2 chairs, a table and a lounger. There was plenty of space for the 5 of us to hang out. I would reserve this room again.
For this cruise we chose My Time Dining with its prepaid gratuities. We had made a reservation for the first night online for the 5 of us at 7:00 pm, good service meal moved fairly well. My husband, niece and I ate in the Main Dining Room 3 out of the 6 nights while sister and her husband ate there 5 of 6 nights. Two of the times we ate at 6:00pm same as the two other decks of dining room. These were slow, drawn out 2 hour meals, as the kitchen and the wait staff are trying to feed 1500 other people at the same time. Windjammer buffet food was buffet food. The selection and quality were fine, just not as good or as varied as our previous cruises. We have noticed that in both the main dining room and the Windjammer that the overall quality and variety has gone down on each of our three cruises, including the desserts (we used to check out the dessert menu ahead of time so we would know how much room to save, we no longer worry about it as the choice and quality and decadence are not there). I will always do My Time Dining if I have a choice. It gives me the freedom to choose if I want to have a meal in the dining room or at the buffet. If I want to put on long pants and a dressy shirt or stay in jeans and t-shirts.
Windjammer Hits: Honey Stung Chicken on embarkation day was good. Beef Tenderloin on Formal Night was so tender a butter knife cut it. Made to order Eggs and Omelet station in the morning -- need I say more?
Main Dining Room Hits: Onion Tart, Roasted Garlic Soup, Prime Rib, Key Lime Pie
Ports of Call:
Costa Maya, Mexico, Belize City, Beliz and Cozumel, Mexico
I awoke to the sound of fog horns at 5:00 am so I looked out the balcony door and saw a fog enrobed ship glowing in the night, the Carnival Magic, just off our port side with all of its outside lights on in a very dense fog. All of Mariners' outside lights were on as well. We were sitting still 10 miles off shore. Just sitting and waiting. I went back to bed hoping that it would lift and we would not be delayed at all. Not to be the case. Got up, showered and packed the rest of our stuff up and headed to our assigned waiting area for debarking the ship. Once we got off the elevator we heard the announcement that Captain Per made regarding the fog and that we would be delayed a little bit because the Port of Galveston was closed. OK no problem we would head to the Savoy theater and wait with our luggage as we were doing self-assist. Mariner has a plan for getting everyone and their luggage off the ship in a timely and orderly fashion so they can turn the ship around for the next cruise. This process is designed to work even with fog delays. Some passengers think they are the most important and must get off the ship before the schedule allows. We selected self-assist to debark. Self-assist is for those who are carrying all of their luggage off unassisted. We were assigned 7:30 am with the Savoy Theater deck 4 as our waiting area (in the theatre, not in the hallways or on the stairs). When Captain Per made his announcement early that morning he stated that we will follow the plan and please wait in your assigned waiting area. Even after we found out it would be a longer delay, again he said follow the plan and wait comfortably in your area. Many self-assist passengers were too important to wait in the theater; they filled the hallway with their luggage. When we needed to negotiate those hallways to use restrooms, get lunch or use the internet it was almost impossible. Also those who had put their luggage out the night before must have thought they were entitled to get off the ship and hinder the progression of the self-assist and the schedule for all others. If you didn't do self-assist you needed to wait until all the luggage was off the ship and sorted before you would be allowed to retrieve your bags. Safety issue as the forklifts, carts and luggage were still being moved around. Those who got off the ship without their luggage got to wait on the right-side of the hallway until all the self-assist with their own luggage and all the rest of the luggage was unloaded from the ship and sorted before they could leave. Many passengers CANNOT follow directions.
We waited in our area, took turns going to get food, use the restroom and the Internet to rebook flights. We also got to view movies while we waited. Internet and ship to shore calls were free of charge. Captain Per kept us informed as to when the Pilot would come on board (around 11:00 am), when we might begin our 2 hour sail into port and when we could expect to debark (around 1:30 pm). We had no problems doing what we were asked to do even though part of our family had to rebook flights that they were going to miss.. Once we got clearance to debark we were off the ship and through customs in about a half hour. We found the shuttle to the parking lot and off we went towards Houston. Now about this time my nieces' voice from the back of the minivan says "I'm hungry" so we asked what she wanted you know thinking McDonalds or something like that, instead we hear very loud and clear "Rudy's". Well this gave us another chance to have that great BarBQ. After we ate our fill we got back on the road to the airport to send them on their way. We spent another night at the Towne Place Suites before we headed out on a 5:52 am flight for Phoenix the next morning.
As stated before we have sailed on the Mariner of the Seas previously. She was commissioned in 2003 and according to Captain Per is scheduled for a dry dock in April 2012. Some things we noticed about the condition of the ship: The balcony railings are really showing the wear and tear they need to be refinished and varnished. The public area railings have been refinished and varnished. The Glass/Mirrors throughout the ship tended to be very streaky and smudgy (this could have been due to the disinfecting of the ship for 3 straight prior cruises). The public spaces were all in good repair. They have new pool chairs and loungers since our cruise in 2010. The older chairs can be found spaced around on Deck 4 (great place for an afternoon nap). We did not see any issues with chair hogs (of course it was chilly every day except our last sea day). Towel exchange worked great for us. We checked out a towel the first morning and after we used it we exchanged it for a clean dry one to take back to our room for the next morning's hot tub and swim. The last sea day we checked them back in. No charges on our Sea pass account. There were plenty of people the last morning trying to get the towel charges removed from their accounts. The best advice is when you turn them back in make sure they see exactly how many and use your sea pass card to check them back in.
Not really impressed with the level of service. It was not bad, just not over the top like it has been on previous cruises. Stateroom attendant really did a half job. No vacuuming, changing of sheets, exchange of dirty glasses, and one day our room was not cleaned until it was made up during dinner. Wait staff again they were good just slow. Dining room bartender never made it to our table the nights we were in the dining room.
The ice show was good, even though it is the same show we have seen on both previous cruises with only change being the guest star. It might be time for them to revamp the show. The production show Center Stage was good in general. The singers and dancers were not as good as they have been on previous cruises.
This was an enjoyable cruise for us. We did what we intended, which was to relax and enjoy our balcony. Long ago before our first cruise it was suggested that we fly in at least a day prior and depart very late in the day or the next day. Weather, customs or traffic can always change the best of plans. In this case it was a smart thing due to the fog delay.
We will cruise RCCL again and we will cruise Mariner of the Seas again if the itinerary is what we like. We feel that the value of the cruise is still on target even though the quality has decreased some. Cruising is still a good bang for the buck. We would prefer a west coast departure port (we can drive) over having to fly to a port (way more money).