If you are thinking of cruising on Mariner of the Seas, do it! It's a beautiful ship with so much to see and do that you might need a vacation from your vacation! Check-in was the easiest, fastest we've ever had. We arrived at the terminal at 11:45 and were on the ship by noon. Before you leave home, print out all the deck plans for the ship because they no longer pass out detailed diagrams when you get on the ship. There are lots of "you are here" signs but very little guidance from the staff unless you look very puzzled and approach someone. After six previous cruises where helpful smiling faces were everywhere to give you directions on day one, this is a bit of a "do it yourself" ship. The first two days are spent trying to figure out how the heck to get to someplace you want to go. You know the deck and you know which part of the ship, but getting there easily without a lot of trial and error is not likely unless you are prepared ahead of time. It's easy to find the buffet restaurant but just try to find the ice skating rink or the convention center. You've just got to KNOW that certain spots on deck 2 have limited access. My husband said this was a very easy ship to navigate around but I found it difficult. Maybe it's a man/woman thing.
Our cabin 6252 was perfect. I was surprised to find even more storage that we needed and a lovely balcony, bigger than we've ever had. The beds were simply wonderful. Although we were situated above the busy Deck 5 Royal Promenade and only four doors down from the elevators & stairs, I didn't hear any noise. Deck 6 is quite convenient. We were above the Cafe Promenade which is open 24/7 so it was a breeze to zip down the stairs for a cup of hot tea or a cookie.
The food was very good everywhere on the ship except for Johnny Rockets. (Don't bother going. It's $4.95 cover charge which only covers your hamburger & fries...your milk shake is another $4.50. The service was terrible. It took over $15 and 45 minutes to get 1 cold hamburger, 1 cold hot dog, and a peculiar looking milk shake. The food tasted like it had been cooked hours before.)
In contrast, Chops Grille was fabulous and well worth the extra money. I can say it was the best food and service I've had in years - on land or sea.
The spa was nice. I had a back & shoulder massage, aromatherapy facial, scalp massage, and foot massage for only $99.
Music on the ship was varied but the dance floors were way too tiny. A ship out of Texas should know there will be lots of passengers interested in Latin music and dancing but they scheduled that music is too small lounges/bars. Finding a place to sit was even harder.
With so many people on board, we thought the ship might feel crowded but it didn't. We always were able to find a table in the Wig & Gavel, Cafe Promenade, & Vintages. There is so much to do and so many places to go, there was no congestion except in the Royal Promenade when they were having the $10 merchandise sale. That was insane. No one could move and I feared for the many older folks with walkers or other mobility issues.
The ship kept the kids busy so we didn't see many except at dinner. We got to the dining room at 5:30 every night but no one in our area was able to complete dinner before 7:20 or 7:30. (Slow service, but good food.) Unfortunately we were seated next to two tables with kids whose parents chose to ignore them for nearly 2 hours and let them cry in a high chair or run around, crawl around on the floor, play tag, and annoy everyone while the parents were oblivious. The head waiter did not do much even after several tables complained. We moved to a table further away but still had to listen to a two year old pitching a fit every night. Appeals to the parents the next few days got us nothing but nasty replies. Finally it got so bad that both tables of 10 - kids, grandparents, and parents, were escorted out of the dining room on day 6 by security. The Maitre d had tried to reason with the parents but got nowhere.
Debarkation was a breeze. They called our group 15 minutes early and we were off the ship and through customs in no time.
I was the leader of an official Group Cruise with 70 people. Dealing with the Royal Caribbean Group Cruise Department was frustrating during the 12 months it took to work out all the details. Just when I thought everything was set, I boarded the ship only to find out that they hadn't paid attention to the dining room seating arrangements that had previously been confirmed by the Group Cruise Department. I had 70 unhappy people on my hands on day 1. Although the rooms I needed for group activities during the week were provided, they were often dirty - littered with cups and food from a previous activity. No signs were placed at the entrances, so we were constantly interrupted. One time a ships tour came through with 20 people! No one apologized or tried to hurry out. The requests for water set ups and an AV technician were ignored as well. I will NEVER do another group cruise on RCCL although I will certainly look forward to sailing on Mariner of the Seas again as an individual or a member of a small group.