We cruised on the Mariner January of 2011 and had such a wonderful time that we booked this cruise while we were on the ship.
We flew from Denver to Houston Hobby Airport on Southwest and used Z Limousine to transfer to Galveston. Z Limousine was great and is highly recommended. We stayed at the Tremont House which is a nice boutique hotel in the heart of the Strand. Very nice for short term, not sure I would want to stay long term as there was not a lot of storage or room to put things in the bathroom. We walked around the Strand -- a lot of shops. Wanted to visit an old restored home, but it was not open. Went by Bob's Groceries to get a six pack of Pepsi (much preferred by me to Coke) but they only had 12 packs. She recommended we try CVS and we hiked over there to find they also only had 12 packs. Put them in a couple of bags and went back to our hotel. Had a wonderful, if a bit noisy, dinner at Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant (recommended by our Z Limousine driver). Watched football -- being from Denver I won't say any more. In the morning we walked over to Starbucks and had coffee and a bagel. The hotel was very helpful in using their Town Car to take us to the port as the shuttle did not have an opening until 11:30 a.m.
Arrived at the port around 10:30 -- we always like to be there early. Got our sea passes and were in group #3. They did not start boarding any passengers until 11:50. We heard people complaining about dinner seating while we were waiting to board. The group next to us had four people. Three were 8:30 dinning and one was 6:00. Found out later that a lot of dining was not what people requested. Had lunch in the Windjammer and went to look at our dinner table -- we had the 6:00 time we requested. Our table was the first one as you come in the dining room. We thought that would be noisy and lined up to see the Maitre d' who changed our table. Went to our room and luggage arrived around 3:45. Met our cabin steward Yanni -- who did an excellent job all week. The cabin a D2 had plenty of storage. We did not even use all the shelves on both sides of the mirror or in the bathroom. Had muster drill where a topic of conversation among passengers was the sinking of the Costa cruise ship. Went to dinner and met two of our other four table mates and then to the show. The comedian was pretty good.
The crew seemed a bit stressed for the first part of the cruise and we wondered if this was due to the Costa tragedy. During the week we learned various things from crew members including that certain things could not have been true i.e. not having a muster drill. Our access to news was limited to CNN and FOX, but not the shows we have here in Denver so were only able to get bits and pieces of all that had happened. We always felt very safe sailing with RCL, the Captain and the crew obviously care about the passengers.
Leaving from Galveston, there were a lot of Texan's on the cruise, about three quarters of the passengers -- they can drive to port.
Next day was a sea day. Walked, read, played trivia and took an art tour of the ship. I recommend this tour. It was an explanation of the various works of art around the Mariner and why they were chosen. It ended at the art auction, but we did not stay for that. We had planned on going to the Meet and Mingle, but never received information about when it was. My husband called guest relations Monday morning and asked about it, but they said they had no information. He was told to check later in the day as that was when the schedule for Tuesday would be posted. We checked later to find out that it had been Monday around 12:00. It was the first of several small annoying things that happened throughout the cruise. That evening was the first formal night. People were dressed in everything. Not many men had on tuxedos. Most had at least a sport coat, but some did not. Women were dressed in everything from full length formals to casual pants and tops. We had free Champagne that was served at the Captain's reception in the Promenade.
Tuesday was another day at sea. We had received an e-mail that our daughter-in-law was to have her labor induced that day so we checked our e-mail throughout the day. We were able to use both coupons in the Gold Crown and Anchor coupon book one for 5 dollars off regular price and then the 10% off a package price. Use the $5 first and then sign up for a package. Have the person who is going to use the internet put his/her folio number on the coupons. You do this at guest relations. Went to the welcome back party where there were drinks and entertainment. It was a long day for us awaiting the birth of our grandson and not being able to be in phone contact with anyone. That night our 9lb. 4oz. grandson was born. We were too tired by that time to do anything but go to bed.
Wednesday was Roatan. We had arranged a private tour through Victor Bodden. I read many wonderful reviews of Victor's tours, but ours was marginal. We had a lot of trouble understanding our guide when he talked which wasn't very much. Basically, all he did was drive us around the island. He also was not aware of roads closed for construction which caused us to make detours. We had hoped to stop at a local restaurant for lunch, but he recommended we go back to the ship. He took us to one store to shop which had limited merchandize. Once we got back to the dock he helped us find a bar that had a WiFi connection so we could try to download some pictures of our grandson. Roatan is a very poor island and modern technology is not really present. We were able to use Tango to call our son and daughter-in-law, but it kept cutting out and we had to recall. We were unable to get on the internet on my tablet. Next to the bar was a small area of booths where we shopped. It is to your right as you leave the tourist village.
That night we wanted to celebrate the birth of our grandson with our tablemates. Since the six of us all liked different kinds of wines we decided to purchase some small bottles of wine in the Windjammer. To explain the whole experience would take a really long time. Initially they were out of Merlot and we were told three different things by three different people about how to get some. We never did, but the next day a fruit basket with brie and chocolate covered strawberries arrived in our cabin compliments of the head of the Windjammer as an apology.
Speaking of dinner, our waiter Sezay and our assistant waiter Avee were fantastic. Avee is especially adorable and has a beautiful fiancÃ©. He had a niece and nephew (twins) born the same day as our grandson. The food was close to excellent. The same food as last year, but, somehow better. We had the same head waiter as last year, Carlos, and we talked to him about this at lunch one day. There is a different head Chef and he said that makes a difference. Loved the cold soups! The only time I had a bad meal was a hamburger I ordered for lunch in the dining room. Overcooked! We ate most all of our meals in the dining room with the exception of lunch on port days.
Wednesday night we asked our tablemates if they had received their excursion tickets yet. They told us the excursion tickets were in their cabin the first day. Off we went to guest relations who printed them out for us -- they should have been in our cabin the first day. These were the little things that happened during the cruise that makes me say things were a little off.
Thursday was Belize. My husband took a private cave tubing excursion with cavetubing.bz and had a wonderful time. We would recommend them. I went on a ships excursion tour of the island which was very informative. During the tour I got to taste local foods and wine. I like Belize a lot. They had been an English Colony so English is taught in their schools. It was very easy to communicate with everyone, and everyone was really friendly. I was also able to find a good internet shop inside at the end of terminal 4. The women who ran it helped me get connected with my tablet and for the $5 I was able to use it before my excursion and then again after I got back from my excursion. This is a tendered port and it does take a while to get ashore.
On Monday or Tuesday our cruise compass had an article about disembarkation and signing up for the time you wanted to leave using the form that had been placed in our cabin. Last year we put down a time and received luggage tags and a waiting place according to what we had requested. Evidently this year they are doing things differently. There is the same article in the cruise compass (they need to change that), but disembarkation is from the top of the ship to the bottom of the ship with some exceptions. The form that was left in the cabin asked if you wanted to sign up for self disembarkation, or if you needed wheelchair assist. My husband asked our cabin steward for the other form with times but was told that was the only form Yanni was given. We then called down to guest relations who told him to use that form. He went down to guest relations and was told that if we did not self disembark we needed assistance with our luggage so to check we needed assistance. That did not make sense so I went to guest relations and was told the same thing. I checked out needing assistance with our luggage and put at the top that we had a 1:30 flight out of Houston Hobby airport (as it turned out it did not matter -- more about that later). On Thursday my husband took the form to guest relations. The women told him that the form was only for people needing a wheelchair and crumbled it up and threw it away. She then told him that it did not matter since we were Gold Crown and Anchor members and would be getting off the ship first. When he came back and told me we had a good laugh -- were not going to let things like this ruin our cruise.
Friday was Cozumel. My husband took a snorkeling excursion through the ship and I shopped at the tourist village. First we found a coffee shop that had WiFi -- we did use the ship's internet, but even at the discounted rate of 58 cents a minute it is slow and expensive. Leave the tourist village and turn right, walk two or three blocks and cross the street. Go past the convenience store and the small flea market area and the coffee shop is there.
That night we checked our onboard account. We had been given a $200 on board credit for booking our cruise on our last cruise. Only $100 of it was there. Long story, we showed them the letter we had confirming this and it did not change things. Our travel agent is working on it now that we are back.
The best time we had was when we left Cozumel. We were docked next to the Alure of the Seas -- one big ship. Our cruise director Kieron (absolutely wonderful) asked us all to go up to deck 12 where he had arrange a Sail Away Event with music and we all danced and waved to those on the Alure. Passengers and crew on the Alure were lined up at the railings and in their cabins watching and as we left port before them. When we passed the bridge on the Alure, the officers were all watching. Kieron had us all yell out "You're on the wrong Ship!" It was a lot of fun.
The Mariner is showing some wear and it is good she is going to dry dock in April. However, she is kept very clean. We thought the food was excellent but, that is so subjective. Service from our cabin attendant and our wait staff was wonderful. The shows and comedians were good. The Ice Show is FANTASTIC. There are a lot of events planned to do on sea days, but we mostly relaxed. We had a good cruise, but not a great cruise.
On Sunday morning around 4:30, 5:00 we felt the ship stop and we began to hear the fog horn. Not a good sign. We were not moving. We opened the drapes to our balcony and you could not see 2 feet in front of us. Around 7:00 the Captain came on the PA system to tell us that the port of Galveston was closed due to fog. This is where I thought RCL absolutely shined. The Captain let us know we could remain in our cabins, that we were close enough to get cell phone service, that if we could not, phone calls from our cabin were free, and that the internet was free. Kieron came on shortly after that and told us about activities that had been planned for us while we waited. Later they served lunch in the Windjammer and also did a buffet in the main dining room. They did everything to make the best out of a problem situation.
We arrived in Galveston about 5 hours late. As a Gold Crown and Anchor member we met in the second floor dining room and disembarked after those doing self disembarkation. Got off the ship around 1:00 -- so much for our 1:30 flight. We went along after exiting until we got to a long hallway where we stopped. Evidently the port of Galveston would not allow people into the luggage area until all the luggage was brought into the terminal. The Mariner had all the luggage unloaded, we could see it on the carts, but the port was really slow about moving it into the terminal area. We waited in this hallway about 45 minutes. After a while the RCL employees started dragging chairs into the hallway for people to sit on. There were a number of elderly people and everyone was pointing them out and helping them get chairs. They finally let us through and we got our luggage, went through customs and found our limousine driver. We ended up spending the night in Houston at the Spring Hill Suites (a nice hotel under renovation -- our room was brand new) and then took an early a.m. flight home. We met people at the hotel that did not get off the ship until 3:30 and they were not the last. Fog is evidently a problem in Galveston in January and February.
We will cruise RCL again if the itinerary is right. Hopefully the little annoyances will not be on our next cruise. We no longer feel that RCL would be our 1st choice for cruising. We will look at various cruise lines and the itineraries and decide who to cruise with.