As the annual cruise date rolled around my friends, my GF and I all were more than ready to scram out of our hometowns for a few days. No jobs, no phones, no kids... Uh well not quite on the last one actually as my friends' teen daughter went on her first trip. For her, I suspect it was a bit of a wash-out. For the rest of us, a great cruise.
Our normal habit is to arrive the day before our sail date and spend that night unwinding from the airline experience. Although I've yet to run across less than professional service from the airlines, the experience is never going to be something I relish. It is a means to an end and further description would require words not used in polite company.
This trip went went in two days early so as to have time to visit Moody Gardens. Since the teen in the group loves penguins, we went all out and did the penguin encounter there. Good experience.. take a breath mask or don't breathe. The smell backstage is indescribable. Other than that very cool.
Our hotel was the Quality Inns and Suites on Seawall Blvd. Clean, great people, good rates, decent breakfast, beds were as soft as limestone. Still, over all a good place to stay for a day or two.
Embarkation day- Looks to me like Galveston has resolved some of the nightmares people have reported before. We arrived around 11am, got checked in and found places to land in the Priority Lounge. RCI had staff in there keeping lemonade an ice water available. Around 12:20pm boarding began and we had quite the cattle call getting on board. But, it was not a horrible experience and flowed reasonably well.
We two meter wave heights according to Capt. Flemming for both or our sea days. There was enough motion for some people to have some issues. Not enough to really bother us however. But when you are moving at close to 20 knots the motion is more pronounced than at lower speeds. For us, these two days were mostly rest days while we tried to heal our lungs from the penguin encounter.
We also found out that our cabin attendant Clever and our waiter William from last year were both still aboard. It took a couple of days to find Clever, but we found William the first night and it was good to speak with both of them again. They promptly caught our service folks for this trip and told them to take care of us well.
This year, our cabin attendant was Sebastian. He was very personable and somewhat new to his job. You could tell that he was still getting into the groove of things. However, he was making a great effort to that end and will no doubt be providing excellent service to all as he gains experience.
Our Waiter and Assistant Waiter for this year were Irene and Curtis (aka "Spicy"). They were also the recipients of my WOW cards this trip. Service was fast, accurate, and very very well done. Curtis had our drinks down from night one and we never had to mention what we wanted again. Irene made her menu recommendations with care and attention to detail. When we encountered them elsewhere, on board or on shore, they greeted us with a smile even though they were off-duty in at least one case.
The menu has not changed from last year, but preparation and presentation was good and very acceptable. We are not foodies so this still remains very subjective for everyone.
Mariner herself is showing some age. She is due a dry dock sometime in the not-so-distant future and it will do her some great good. Some furnishings are showing wear and I did see some bits missing here and there. Still, her crew was attending to detail every day and the experience was quite pleasant.