Hi everyone! We just completed our first sailing on the Mariner and honestly loved every single minute. The ship is beautiful and we can't wait to see her after the dry dock in April!
We were on the Voyager last March and sailed to Belize, Roatan and Cozumel, but this year we tried the Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica itinerary. We loved it so much we re booked for March 3, 2013!
We are: Stacey (35) and Scott (34) and David and Gayle (mid 50's).
We arrived in Galveston around 12:30 and parked with EZ Cruise (found a coupon code online and saved $10 off the usual $55 weekly rate!). Embarkation was fairly simple and took less than an hour. The line for Platinum and above was almost empty, the line for Gold was only about 15 people long and the line for everyone else was EEE-normous. Thankfully we were at least Gold. Or maybe it's just that we read the signs that some were ignoring...
We were on deck 2 in 2310 and 2312, adjoining H cabins that were identical to the ones we stayed in on the Voyager. While I love the additional space of a balcony, it wasn't worth the added expense to us as we are never in our rooms except to sleep - and frankly I don't feel it's a MUST in the Caribbean as it is in Alaska. We ARE considering upgrading to a JS this next trip as we will receive the double points and it will put us into Platinum. Without the double points, we'll be stuck at 29 points and one shy of the cut off.
Our luggage was in the room by about 2:30, way earlier than we expected. We happened to go back to the room to grab something and about tripped over all the bags. I've GOT to learn to pack lighter...but my shoes DESERVE their own suitcase. Or at least this is what I tell Scott.
One thing I was a little surprised at, we never were greeted by our room steward the first day. We were in our room dropping off our carry on bags right after coming on board and were chatting with our friends for about twenty minutes, and then we were back for unpacking the luggage for a good hour and relaxing for a bit...and we never heard from her. On all of our past cruises our steward was waiting in the hallway to greet us when we came on board to drop off our carry-on bags. It was certainly nothing to pitch a fit over, but it was surprising. She kept the room very clean...but we NEVER saw her, maybe twice the entire week. I found this so weird! Our previous stewards were so friendly and personal!
We also found the waiters less personable than on the Voyager. They were extremely friendly and did their jobs very well...but there wasn't any chatting or personality with almost any of them, either in the dining room or Windjammer. Actually, even the pool waiters were this way. Again, not even close to being an irritant or a disappointment, it just surprising.
Speaking of the Windjammer, we found the food WAY better on the Mariner than on the Voyager. I'm not saying the food was poor on the Voyager...but we thought the food was very good on the Mariner's Windjammer. So much better in fact, we opted to eat all dinners except two there in lieu of the MDR. The fresh Mongolian BBQ was exceptional. I was also thrilled to see REAL LIVE friend eggs every morning...not just the powdered scrambled faux-eggs that we found last year. Perfect on an english muffin! My favorite meal in the MDR was the shrimp ravioli. Delicious!
OH! And one more thing that did actually irritate us. On our previous cruises we really enjoyed sitting in the Viking Crown Lounge and looking out the windows for a bit while enjoying a drink...but literally every single time we tried to enter we were greated by a "Private Function" sign. This happened FOUR times and at random times of the day. We finally quit trying.
We were beyond thrilled to see Phil Anderson (the piano man) back in the Schooner bar. We spent every evening/night there listening and singing along. He's really great and so fun! We also really enjoyed the new singing/dancing show they debuted in the Savoy this trip, it was really great. The comedian and juggler on board were also fantastic. All in all the on board entertainment was great.
The CD staff was wonderful!!! All were so cute and energetic and fun...but NEVER obnoxious or annoying. To me there is such a fine line between being over the top and just being fun. One thing I enjoyed while getting ready in the room in the mornings was watching the morning show with the CD and his sidekick. Think Kathy Lee and Hoda, but with two guys and funnier. I burst out laughing when I turned it on for the first time and saw the life size cardboard Justin Bieber standing behind them...I never heard them acknowledge the fake Bieber, he was just hovering behind them every morning and my weird sense of humor found this hysterical. The 70's disco party on the Promenade was one of the highlights of the trip for us!
The ports were great! We love Cozumel and spent the day strolling and shopping and eating lunch. Diamonds International was giving free taxi rides to their flop of a Forum shops, but that's a great starting point for strolling and shopping, so we took advantage of the taxi savings and used the Forum for their bathroom and then promptly left for the REAL shopping. Next year we plan to rent a Jeep and explore on our own. We feel 100% safe and sound in Cozumel, and being that Scott speaks fluent Spanish it's a real bonus! He looks like he's all "white boy", so it really shocks the locals when he joins in their conversations.
Grand Cayman is paradise on earth. Sand the texture of flour and water so clear it's like bath water. We spent the day on a little tour of the island and then we walked a good three miles down the beach and in the water. It was fantastic! It's a place I can't wait to return to, but I hope our dollar goes further than the 80 cents it did this trip! Ouch!!
Jamaica was nice. RCI has done a very nice job with the new port, but we elected to stay within the gates. I wish now we had ignored the paranoia and gone on a tour, but there's always next year.
And I apologize now for any of you who ran into my husband late Thursday night/early Friday morning. Yes, he was officially "That Guy". You know, the one you see the next day and whisper, "Hey...isn't he 'that guy' we saw last night?".
Disembark was fine. We opted for no porter and feel this saved us at least an hour. We went from the room at 9 am to the car at the lot at 9:40. Easy peasy!
All in all we LOVED the cruise! Feel free to email me any questions scredish at hotmail dot com!