22 Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas Transatlantic Cruise Reviews

We enjoyed this cruise from the first day to the last. I have to differ with the post that said the cruise director, Steve Davis was disinterested. While we were cruising we both commented that we had never seen such an involved hard ... Read More
We enjoyed this cruise from the first day to the last. I have to differ with the post that said the cruise director, Steve Davis was disinterested. While we were cruising we both commented that we had never seen such an involved hard working CD and activities staff. Possibly others are not comparing this cruise to other transatlantic sailings. I think there was some decent entertainment. I will agree that in our opinion the Rat Pack and the final night comic were misses but we went to all the evening offerings. Never was the Love and Marriage game show or the lounge piano player the main evening show as I have seen on past transatlantic cruises. I imagine that it is difficult to find top headliners that want to sail for 7 days missing other gigs. The dance band was above average and we enjoyed their music. There were bridge lessons, dance lessons, water color painting classes, and lectures given by experienced instructors brought on the ship, not by the staff. We stayed busy and never felt bored. The nightly diamond event was the best we have had on any crossing. I was usually able to find something good to eat in the MDR. We ate dinner in Giovanni's restaurant one night and it was very good. The weather was excellent. The only port we had not visited was Alicante and we really enjoyed it. The port provided a free shuttle to a stop near a beautiful walk along a pristine white sand beach. There was a lift to the castle above town that was free to seniors and inexpensive for anyone. The castle was huge and had been built of centuries; the views over the ramparts were outstanding. The old town was very walkable and interesting. Alicante was the best day port in our opinion. We enjoyed this cruise very much and felt it was an excellent value. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We've been on many RCCL cruises and have always had a great time. This cruise was not up to RCCL standards. The ship, cabin, and cabin steward were great. The problem came with the entertaiment, cruise director and staff, and last but ... Read More
We've been on many RCCL cruises and have always had a great time. This cruise was not up to RCCL standards. The ship, cabin, and cabin steward were great. The problem came with the entertaiment, cruise director and staff, and last but certainly not least, the food. Let me say, the Ice Show was EXCELLENT. The absolute highlight of all the entertainment We always look forward to the nightly main entertainment. But this cruise, most nights it was just . . . bad. We got up and left more nights than we stayed. The very worst was a trio of guys billed as the "Rat Pack." There were new menus, and most nights, the food was just as bad as the entertainment. Very disappointing. I don't require "gormet" food, so when I send it back because the quality is too poor to eat, it's pretty bad. It got to be a joke at our table of 11. Our waitress and the Head Waiter for our area were great. They started bringing enough sweet/sour chicken and grilled sweet potatoes for everyone at our table every night. The Cruise Director and staff appeared to be just going thru the motions. We had 9 sea days and they filled the time with "seminars" and "classes" designed to sell us everything from makeup to art. We are Diamond members who've been "loyal to Royal", but will not be so quick to book the next cruise. May try some other lines. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We booked a cruise package for this trip - our first time to do this. This included flights, transfers, hotel and the 15 night cruise. It was excellent value for money. The flight was from London Heathrow and took over 10 hours. The hotel, ... Read More
We booked a cruise package for this trip - our first time to do this. This included flights, transfers, hotel and the 15 night cruise. It was excellent value for money. The flight was from London Heathrow and took over 10 hours. The hotel, being in the airport, was most welcome.The embarkation went smoothly after a delayed departure from the Marriott at George Bush Airport. The ship was undergoing refurbishment but this did not spoil our enjoyment at all. The casino was closed for 8 days and opened with a fanfare by the Captain.The Diamond Club members were allowed access into the Lotus Lounge each evening from 5-8.30pm with free drinks and snacks -a great social event and a great way of looking after loyal Diamond members. The stateroom was looked after by our attendant, Chen, who kept it immaculate and was very efficient in all aspects of service. The dining room staff ( Jovita and Rong Rong Sun ) were so marvellously efficient and friendly towards a table of 8 who gelled together from the word go. The food was fine as far as we were concerned. There was plenty of choice and we were more than satisfied with all on offer. We experienced the Windjammer some days for lunch with the Main Dining Room being used for those other days and for the evening meal. The entertainment was mixed with some acts being less successful than others. The orchestra were excellent as is the norm on Celebrity and RCCL accompanying the various artists requiring backing. As one reviewer stated - some acts wouldn't want marooning for several days at sea on a cruise liner - understandable. I can't follow the comment about the Cruise Director being not interested. We saw him around the ship and also at the evening entertainment venues. There were a number of lectures on offer with some interesting ones and some less so. The ports visited were interesting with welcome good weather . Nassau, Madeira, Gibraltar and Alicante have their own character and all were enjoyed by our group. Disembarkation went smoothly on arrival in Barcelona with transfers to El Prat Airport with following flights to LHR. The entire trip was an enjoyable one - it was our third T/A cruise and won't be our last. Well done Mariner! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Not first time cruisers, but this was our first transatlantic crossing. We were not sure what to expect. We had read so many reviews and scoured the internet for information. Here's the BIG PICTURE summary: Fantastic cruise that ... Read More
Not first time cruisers, but this was our first transatlantic crossing. We were not sure what to expect. We had read so many reviews and scoured the internet for information. Here's the BIG PICTURE summary: Fantastic cruise that was not boring or too long by any stretch of the imagination. Mariner of the Seas was a great ship with fantastic service. We don't think we could ever take a cruise shorter than 7 days from this point forward. Activities were available all day/evening if you wanted or you could be lazy and lounge around. Either way, there was something for everyone. Ports of call were great and surprising as they were not on "the beaten path" other than Nassau. We would not normally stop at these locations in our travels, which made the decision to take this cruise all the more easier. Passenger mix: Generally an older crowd on transatlantic. Majority seemed to be retired. Certainly not all US citizens or for that matter not all from Texas. Quite a nice international group. Only 16 children on the whole ship. Would we do it again? YES Now for the DETAILS..... GETTING THERE: We are based in the Dallas area so it is a fairly easy drive to get to Galveston. Because this was a one-way cruise with a flight back to the US, we drove to BUSH Intercontinental airport in Houston and dropped the car at the airport economy lot. With a 20% off internet coupon, our parking costs were less than $4 per day. Quite a bit cheaper than parking at the port. Plus we now had a car waiting for us upon our return. We then arranged for a one-way car service to take us from BUSH to Galveston. We used the executive car service division of Super Shuttle (Execucar) for around $130 for the 2 of us. They were on time (actually early), polite, no hassles, and even included bottled water for the ride down to the port. No luggage issues or crowded shuttle bus for not a whole lot more than the shuttle bus cost. EMBARKATION: Once at the port, that is another story with embarkation. Only 4 security screening lines for 2,500 passengers coming in at relatively the same time. You don't have to be a genius to do the math. Long lines and hour long waits. Modern cruise ships have been sailing out of Galveston for over the last 10 years and you would think they would figure the process out by now. Many other reviews complain about embarkation and they are correct. Is this the port's fault or the cruise line's? Either way, they need to get their act together. Once past security, they had quite a few cruise line agents ready to go. There is still some confusion, as they have separate lines for gold, platinum, emerald, etc. cruisers. The people directing traffic at the end of the line would take platinum passengers from the platinum line and allow them to cut in front of the gold passengers line. Really pissed off quite a few customers. I can only imagine how the first time cruisers felt. Not a good way to make a first impression for RCI. Once on board, cabin was ready and we didn't have to go to the "holding pen" buffet. It was as we were unpacking, that I glanced at my set sail pass (this is the card that works as your room key, charge card, ID, etc.) that I noticed they had changed our dining time to the late seating. Another line to stand in to change back to our original seating time. Can't believe RCI does this against our specific wishes and confirmed written reservation. Did they think we wouldn't notice? Speaking of RCI, all of the negative issues I had revolved around the corporate office and customer service. Notifying some passengers about the construction on board and not notifying others? Calling in to customer service to have a simple question answered only to be told that since we used a travel agent, they couldn't talk to me and I had to call the agent so they could call RCI and ask the very same question? Changing our dining time without notice? Once on board, taking three days to confirm and deliver that we had a complimentary bottle of wine and a premium dining certificate? Come on RCI, get it together. COMMUNICATE! SHIP: Large ship that never really felt crowded, except at the Windjammer. Ship showing its age with minor but obvious issues including visible rust spots in public areas, broken hand rails in the hallways, etc. Just needs a little more TLC in maintenance. CABIN: Small but efficient. Bed not as comfortable as I have had on other cruise lines. Mold and missing caulk in shower. Chips in sink area. Once again, a little TLC by the maintenance staff would take care of this. STAFF OVERALL: As far as the ship is concerned, staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. Many were new employees signed on for the transition to the Asian market. MDR staff really good. Cabin steward good as well, but was one of those quiet stealth kinds of stewards. Always polite, but he worked his magic when we were gone. Issues mentioned in other reviews about aggressive tipping requests seemed to have been smoothed out with the implementation of the automatic gratuity billing. Only ran into one rude employee. It was a female eastern European security guard who gave me the third degree on our last night on the ship as I went to weigh my bag on a scale to make sure it was below airline weight limits. The scale was originally in the health club and the staff told me it had been moved to deck 1 because the original scale on deck 1 broke. They instructed me to go down to deck 1 forward where a very helpful staff member said the scale was actually deck 1 aft, but I would have to go up to deck 4 and back down to get to deck 1 aft. The is a "public" area easily accessed by the elevators. After getting off the elevator, the scale was 10 feet from the elevator. I was rudely confronted by the guard wanting to know the names of who sent me there and told me about the scale. She then told me I couldn't use the scale, even though it was used by the public for the last 15 days in the health spa. When I persisted that I only wanted to weigh one bag, the security guard relented when other staff members arrived and said no problem. So much for the scale Nazi! FOOD: Overall the food was decent. Not fantastic, but not bad. We ate almost all of our dinner meals in the MDR. Fish entrees always seemed a little dried out as if they had set too long under a heat lamp. Steak Diane entrEe was tough as shoe leather. Other entrees were good. Menu varied every night even though we were on board for 15 nights. Waiter and assistant waiter were fantastic. Had a few breakfast and lunch meals in the MDR. Waiter service and smaller crowds just made sense to me. Hidden gem was the cafeE promenade. Great small sandwiches and fresh baked cookies for a snack. Even had hot chocolate. It was tasty enough that my wife wants their tuna salad and coconut cookie recipes. Ship ran out of tomato juice mid-way through the cruise. Who knew there would be a tomato juice crisis? OJ both in the MDR and Windjammer was pretty watered down. Not sure if there were actual oranges used in the OJ. Ship restocked OJ when we got to Madeira and the quality noticeably improved. Must have been a better supplier. The Windjammer buffet was standard buffet food. Only issue there was not enough seating available during peak breakfast and lunch times. Once again, do the math RCI. Had one meal at Chops steakhouse because of the certificate from our travel agent. Great food and service. Was the type of food they use to serve in the MDR. Would have a very hard time paying an additional $60 to eat there. Just not worth it in my book. To each his own. ENTERTAINMENT: Ice show was really good. No I mean it, really good. Most of the other entertainment was above average for a cruise ship. A few misses, such as the rat pack show. BEST KEPT SECRET: The free health spa. Always took a steam and sauna every afternoon. Need a little extra room from your cabin shower? They also have full size showers in the health club. Outdoor movie screen by the main pools a nice touch. Could watch a movie even in daylight. Pretty decent HD for such a large screen. Ice cream machine and hot dog house on the pool deck are a little hidden, but once you find them, worth checking out. Matter of fact, I had to inspect the ice cream machine every afternoon. DRINKS: A little on the pricey side. Not too bad, but when you add in the automatic gratuity, it gets up there. I see now why some people smuggle in alcohol. Alternate is to look for daily drink and happy hour specials. PASSENGERS: Only real incidents of bad manners game from a few passengers. Lady screaming loudly at the dining staff about not getting "her table" for dinner. Done in front of a large group of passengers waiting in line to make dining room changes on the first night. This went on for 30 minutes. I would not want the staff's job in dealing with people like this. They handled it as well as could be expected. Several people piling food so high on their plate at the buffet that it falls on the floor. For gods sake people, you can go back. It's a buffet. Some passengers needed a lesson in elevator manners. They kept trying to get on a fully loaded elevator without allowing passengers to get out first. This happened multiple times. And a very small percentage of passengers who can only talk about their Crown & Anchor status level and their next/last cruise. Most of really don't care about your "status". PORTS OF CALL: Nassau, Bahamas was the same as it had been for the last 30 years I have been visiting. Know my way around and even helped guide a few of my fellow passengers around. Went down to the Poop Deck restaurant (past the Paradise Island bridges) and had my conch fix. Free Wi-FI in the building immediately at the base of the dock. Funchal, Madeira was a picture postcard kind of town. The only stop I said I would specifically fly back to stay and explore longer. Old and European with a slight tropical feel. Gibraltar, UK - we took a ship sponsored tour and were glad we did. Upper Rock walking tour labeled as "strenuous". Unfortunately about a 1/3 of our tour participants had no business going on a strenuous tour. All they did was complain and slow the group down. One passenger even commented that "I had no idea there would be so much walking." Not sure why she didn't understand that a tour called Upper Rock Walking Tour would involve walking. Tour itself was very good and provided historical information that we would not have received on our own. Alicante, Spain was a surprise. From the dock it looked kind of bleak. Once you walked into town, the shops, sidewalks, and beach areas were very nice. The castle provided a fantastic view. It took a little work finding it, but there is a pay elevator that takes you up to the top of the castle. Well worth the price. DISEMBARKATION: No issues at all. We chose to carry our own bags (they were all wheeled duffles)and exited the ship to customs to taxi in about 30 minutes. Barcelona, Spain is an artistic kind of city. My wife said it was "Austin, Texas on steroids". Subway system makes it easy to get around once you understand how the system works. Smartest move I ever did was to buy my tickets in advance on the internet for the Sagrada Familia. Literally thousands of people milling around the site with hundreds in line to wait hours for admission. Special entrance for internet purchasers. Only 3 people in line. What a breeze! As I said earlier, would do it again! Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Booked in to a Best Western in Galveston and did not get a wink of sleep because of the room next door. This was my first time to have an interior room but ended up loving it. Very quiet and dark, which I like for sleeping, but the only ... Read More
Booked in to a Best Western in Galveston and did not get a wink of sleep because of the room next door. This was my first time to have an interior room but ended up loving it. Very quiet and dark, which I like for sleeping, but the only draw back is waking up and wondering is it am or pm. I loved the days at sea. All the people on board were around my age. Unfortunately I ate most of my meals in the windjammer. The food was not that good, and any food that was fried was way to greasy. The breakfast at the main dining room was very good and dinners in the dinning room were OK. I went to one evening performance of the 3 tenors and thought it was very good. Most of the evening acts were singing and dance numbers which I did not go see. The service was good, not exceptional. My favorite part of this trip were the days at sea and the ports were wonderful. I loved Funchal, Portugal and Barcelona, Spain the best. Because I had such a good time have already booked a return transatlantic for the Fall. Almost identical ports. Disembarkation went very smoothly, no problems. Stayed a day in Barcelona before heading back home. Stayed at Hotel Continental Palacete which was a nice place and right on Las Ramblas. Great for walking. If you like to relax on your vacations and love to read, this is the kind of cruise you want to take. Another plus is we were the only ship docked at each port. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I had sailed on RCL 2 previous times and had been very pleased with my experience. However, this cruise was not to be a repeat of the previous ones. I have not sailed from Galveston before so I can't say that my embarkation experience ... Read More
I had sailed on RCL 2 previous times and had been very pleased with my experience. However, this cruise was not to be a repeat of the previous ones. I have not sailed from Galveston before so I can't say that my embarkation experience was unusual but definitely unlike previous ones. We stood in the sun for about 40 minutes before we were able to get into the building and then about another 1.5 hours to get to check in counter. From that point we were able to get right on the ship. We had reserved a Promenade room, which was a first for us. We really enjoyed this room. It was on deck 8 midship. Which would turnout to be a very good location when we reached the higher sea's of the Atlantic. Food was good, but menu repeated every 7 days. Also ran out of tomato juice halfway across. Crew was being converted to 90% by end of trip. They lacked experience. Managerial organization was very evident. Lack of training and communication in a lot of the things they did. Port information was terrible. Shore excursion talks were given by the excursion director. Very hard to understand and gave the impression of lack of subject knowledge. I enjoyed the orts of call. Did not take any ship tours but found private ones at each port that made the trip enjoyable. Our arrival at our final port of Barcelona turned out to be mismanagement at its finest. All passengers who were continuing on the next leg were sent to the theater to pickup their passports and new sign and sail cards. The pickup point was in the entrance. Imagine 900 people in a 10x10 room. It took 2 hrs to get off ship. I enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. Thought the cruise directors staff did a good job. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Air Travel and Embarkation We used RCL Choice Air. The airline (U.S. Airways) was fine, getting us to Rome an hour ahead of schedule. Our luggage arrived as scheduled. RCL personnel were at the airport to meet us. We left our bags with ... Read More
Air Travel and Embarkation We used RCL Choice Air. The airline (U.S. Airways) was fine, getting us to Rome an hour ahead of schedule. Our luggage arrived as scheduled. RCL personnel were at the airport to meet us. We left our bags with them, and were taken to the ship by bus by way of a three-hour tour of Rome. For some this might have been a fun sightseeing tour. Since we have been to Rome, it was a waste of time for us. We were tired and just wanted to get to the ship. Check-in was not particularly efficient. Due to a major room cleaning, our rooms were not available until 3 PM (later changed to 2:30 PM). The Windjammer buffet was overcrowded since no one could get into their staterooms. The most frustrating part of embarkation was the late arrival of our luggage....not until after 8 PM, twelve hours after we left our bags with RCL personnel at the airport. During check-in passports were taken to be returned later during the cruise with no explanation given. Ship's Condition Mariner of the Seas has undergone some upgrades since we last sailed in her. New flat panel TV's and other electronic upgrades such as touch screen menus in common areas. The ship looked good...a high standard for all RCL ships. Stateroom Our cabin was clean, spacious, and comfortable. A traveler's tip: we were in cabin 7380. This is one of eight cabins located in the aft end of the ship that affords the square footage of a balcony cabin at a ocean view price. A little inconvenient for getting to some venues but well worth it for the additional space. Entertainment The ship's entertainment ranged from average (production numbers) to outstanding (Jonathan Ansell and Craig Dahn). In order to get a good seat for the shows, one needed to arrive about thirty minutes early. We just took books and read while we waited. Food Breakfast in the Windjammer was decent, except for the bacon that was almost always undercooked. Lunch in the Windjammer was fair with very little variety offered. I recommend eating lunch in the dining room some days. Great salads prepared to order with other entries as well. The only drawback is the time it takes to finish lunch (since we were at sea most days, it really didn't matter.) Dinners in the main dining rooms were not especially good with limited variety. Service was great. Our waiter and his assistant were two of the best we have ever had. Desserts were better than the main courses. Salads were not very tasty. I had Caesar salad several times....never made properly. Library The ship's library was pathetic. Very little to chose from, and some of the books were in German, Italian, etc. Not even close to Holland American libraries. Fitness Center As reported in other RCL ships of this class, the facility was uncomfortably warm. There were no fans so no air circulation. Some equipment broke down with heavy usage. Weight machines were rusted making seat and other adjustments difficult. Staff was supportive. Ship's Personnel RCL has improved its staff noticeably. There are less people from Eastern Europe who in the past were not very friendly. Staff throughout the Mariner of the Seas was helpful, polite and very cheerful. Our cabin steward was the best we have ever had on any cruise. The captain and cruise director were both quite visible around the ship. Additionally, the ship provided for both Protestant and Catholic religious services throughout the cruise, which I really appreciated. Overall Summary The crossing was a pleasant experience, relaxing and enjoyable. The ports were interesting but not as good as some other itineraries. A note of caution, the authorities in Nassau hassled guests for not having a picture ID. The ship's Sea Pass was not enough. RCL needs to stress to guests that in the Bahamas, you could be denied re-boarding the ship if you have no picture identification. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
This was our first Transatlantic cruising with 3,500 very experience, world class travelers. A good number, perhaps a majority, were from Texas and most were active, mature cruisers. This sailing attracts very few children and we only ... Read More
This was our first Transatlantic cruising with 3,500 very experience, world class travelers. A good number, perhaps a majority, were from Texas and most were active, mature cruisers. This sailing attracts very few children and we only saw perhaps a dozen. We had booked this cruise 16 months before sailing and because the itinerary was so good, the prices kept going up and up. The roll call was perhaps the largest one in CC history and a number of people arranged private excursions and shuttles. This all made for an exciting time for those of us who joined in. This sailing could have been really a disappointment for many because Hurricane Sandy impacted a lot of flights going to Rome, but most people managed to get rerouted or came in early. Lesson learned: get travel insurance and be proactive! We had our first connection changed and would have missed out on two days in Rome if I hadn't taken action. Cruiseair was a bit disappointing here and I doubt I would ever use them again. I needed to do all the calling to United. Hotel: We stayed at the Hotel Sonya which seemed to be filled with many knowledgeable Cruise Critics and it was great fun talking at breakfast and enjoying Tony's wine parties in the late afternoon. Also, a big thanks to Bill "Watchhog" for building the fabulous website for our sailing. Hotel Sonya was a very good choice and close enough to many sites. The hotel had free wifi, very nice rooms with modern facilities, a funky, yet reliable old cage elevator and a fabulous breakfast buffet. My favorites were the crostatta, pineapple upside down cake, croissants and fine choice of fruits and yogurts (so much more than I listed). The service was very efficient and kind. Highly recommended. Rome: Late Oct. in Rome can be a bit chilly and rainy, so prepare for all possibilities. Traveling in Rome is covered in many other places and I highly recommend Rick Steve's books for spot on advice. I had two main impressions about visiting Rome. One, Rome is somewhat confusing to navigate as many streets aren't labeled. We decided that the lack of signage in Rome was to purposely make it difficult for the independent traveler so that you would feel the need to use a tour guide. I like doing my own research and going at my own pace. We downloaded Rick Steves' free, very helpful apps to my Kindlefire and used a splitter so that we could both hear the narration. He has photos on the apps and we could start and stop as we wished. This was especially helpful in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. BTW- try to schedule the Scavi tour a few months before your trip. I tried 6 weeks before and it was full. My second impression is that I am amazed that so many visitors don't do any research. For example, if you are spending the day at the Vatican, go to their website and get your tickets online. You can just walk ahead of hundreds of others who must wait in line to get their tickets. The guard scans your voucher; you walk ahead and get your real tickets. Easy enough. Also, don't worry about the exact time that you schedule your tour in the Vatican Museum. Ours said "12:00" and they gave us a ticket for 10:30. Another piece of advice is to take the short cut to St. Peter's Basilica from the Sistine Chapel. This tip will save you an hour. If you go out the regular exit, you will have a 30 minute walk to St. Peter's and then get in another line to go through security again. Here's how to do it: Find the wall opposite the last Judgment. The door THEY want you to exit is on the left. There is a "secret door" that is supposedly for tour groups on the right. Be cool and try to blend in with a group and just go out that door. Once again, Rome is made for the tour groups! You just keep following the signs and there is St. Pete's. He would be proud of you. Be vigilant about the pickpockets. We knew some people personally on this cruise who were victims. We took the metro to the Vatican and would never do that again just because of the sardine experience and the possibility of problems. The pickpockets work in teams and have it down to an art form. I had a scottevest so felt that my property was pretty safe. Personally, I would only take a taxi if I returned. IMHO. One of our best experiences was taking a countryside tour to see the Appian Way, the catacombs and the Aqueduct Park. We used a tour company for that which I can't really recommend. The guide was not respectful of the catacombs ("I have to spend the day with dead people" -- uh, there are no bones or dead people left) and the tour bus was dirty. The driver didn't communicate with the guides and we thought he had abandoned ALL of us. He asked a random driver to come tell us that we had to walk farther up the road to find the bus. I had heard negative reviews on the Archeobus and getting to the Aqueducts isn't feasible unless you get a taxi to take you there, stay with you and take you back. The Appian Way and the Park are pretty much out there in the country and you don't exactly have taxis waiting to take you back to Rome. Still, a very worthwhile experience. The National Museum of Rome which is located next to Termini was really wonderful. Once again, some reviews had reported that all you see are a bunch of busts of old Emperors, but it is so much more than that. I highly recommend it after seeing your A list places. One word of caution about National Holidays. We were there on All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and while some places aren't affected, others cause significant concerns. The Vatican Museums will be closed and even the day before had limited hours. The Pantheon closed at 1:30 and all we saw were the locked doors. Port of Civitavechhia: I had arranged a shuttle for 8 with Limounsine Systems. They were efficient in every respect and probably were the lowest cost of any other CC shuttle: 22euro PP. We arrived around 11 AM and embarkation and check in was prompt and quite efficient. I'm lowly RCI gold, but was still pleased. Ship Info: The Mariner of the Seas had received some updates in April, 2012 and the ship was spotless with no wear and tear. I had heard that the previous sailing had some norovirus, but this problem was minimal with ours. There was a ship cold/cough and that was the problem we had to deal with. There were no restrictions, just the daily reminders about hand washing. We loved the new interactive boards that are all around the ship near the elevators. Really helpful. Stateroom: We had a balcony on deck 6. The daylight hours are more limited on a TA and we just didn't use it as much as we had hoped. The Mediterranean was pretty port intensive and then the six days on the Atlantic often didn't produce enough opportunities to sit outside. I wouldn't be too sad if we didn't have a balcony on a future TA. The pools and hot tubs were not used much on most days. The cabin was very roomy and comfortable. Lots of storage and our service was impeccable with Lee Zhang as our steward. The shower was a good size and I had no trouble getting around and even bending over. The design makes sense. The new flat screen TV's are really nice but the channel selection is so limited on a TA. We both loved the comfortable mattress. Service: Overall, the staff is outstanding. I received a friendly greeting 99% of the time and they all worked so very hard. Everyone did their jobs very well. An A+ rating here. The captain is very amiable. The one disappointment was the head chef who seemed to think he was very funny with a sarcastic wit. During the cake demonstration, he set up a contest between him, a woman and a man who he drafted. The ladies' cake was lovely and the man's, well- good try. The chef then spun the guests' cakes on the cake spin/decorating table and their cakes were ruined. Chef won. What a jerk! I suppose you would like him if you enjoy people with puffed up egos who like to insult others. I am surprised that the lady's husband didn't punch the chef. Dining: We ate lunch and dinner in the MDR. For dinner, we had two other very nice couples who came every evening and one couple never showed up. The fifth couple came about 25% of the time. A group of 8 at a table for 10 is awkward. Fortunately, our regulars were delightful and great conversationalists. I don't know why RCL left the no shows at the table since others would have liked to have moved from late dining. Our waiter, Oliver, was very pleasant and efficient. The service was wonderful and most of the food items were very good. I have to say that nothing stood out, but that might be because I'm getting spoiled with cruising. The others commented that the steak on the surf and turf was excellent but most people weren't impressed with the other steaks ordered. I typically had chicken and fish main dishes. I generally like anything that I don't have to cook. None of us felt the need to dine in the specialty restaurants but I heard they were superb. We ate most of our breakfasts in the Windjammer. This is one area that needs improvement. First, this is a TA where you gain an hour for seven days. People's body clocks are waking up a bit too early and there are many people in the WJ before 7 AM. The staff keeps much of the Windjammer off limits and the guests are required to fill up the areas opened before they open a new section. I can understand keeping the food areas closed off, but guests should be able to sit where they want instead of scrambling for tables in a crowded area. The selection of foods didn't change from day to day although there certainly was plenty. For example, there were two types of pastries each day- the same ones day after day. It was pretty much "get up and get your own coffee/juice as there were not many servers. I did love the fresh fruit, esp. the pineapple. The ship seemed to lack a good place to dine outside. I missed that experience. I didn't try the new hotdog place, but it looked interesting for those who like hotdogs/brats. I am learning sensible eating on a cruise. I only gained one pound during our 22 days! Success! We quickly decided to eat a small breakfast in order to not be full 24 hours a day I also didn't eat bread in the MDR, but had two appetizers and a dessert at lunch and dinner. Activities: The ship did a great job of lots of entertainment all day long and the cruise director, Carly was excellent. I wish I had attended more of the dance classes offered by Gordon and Janice Smith. They had lots of interest and were very skillful at teaching. RCL seemed to know the population that was sailing and accommodated most people. Not your typical Caribbean cruise atmosphere- no steel drums here! There were weekend religious services for Christians , Sabbath services and daily mass for Catholics. A group had a praise and worship time each sea day in the chapel. The internet service was a bit weak and quite expensive. It seems that a text package may be the smartest idea. A simple email sometimes took me ten minutes. I noted that early in the AM or later at night was the best for a more rapid transmission. I didn't want to waste my port time huntingn for a wifi place. Entertainment: Soul Inspiration- really rocked the house; Hanna Starosta (violin)-talented but mildly entertaining; David Deeble- only one we missed- the comments were overwhelmingly positive;; RCL dancers and singers- they were okay but the sets were outstanding; Ice Show- a ship favorite; Craig Dahn -- wonderful pianist and a ship favorite; Joey Van (another not memorable) ; Tracey Shield- imitated Celine Dion and only show where many people walked out in the middle; Christopher Caress- hypnotist- entertaining but the effect left you wondering- I wouldn't go again and I would never participate to be hypnotized; Tom McTique- cute and endearing- worthwhile ; a few others and I just can't recall. The lounge acts were fine but none were exceptional. The young ladies who were the "Fleur de Lis Trio were always very good. The final day's finale was pretty weak. It is hard to keep things interesting for everyone and I appreciated the variety and effort. Fitness: Loved the walking/running track and the fitness areas. I never noticed that they were crowded and they were well maintained and machines were plentiful. The promenade deck is a bit of a letdown as it is not continual. You have to walk up the stairs to get all the way around. Not sure why the ship was built this way. There were plenty of chairs and loungers, but this wasn't the type of cruise where you got that tan. The adult solarium is a wonderful place and is somewhat protected from the elements. Fellow Cruisers: This cruise was majority Texans and I thought they were a hoot. Texans tell the best stories! It was a sad day for them when the presidential election results were clear. Most of the ship was in a sad mood in the AM. I was so enthralled with the level of cruising so many of my fellow passengers had logged and learned a lot from their experiences. I would estimate 85% USA, 5% Canadians and the rest from all over. Love those Australians! The average age of the cruisers was perhaps a young 70- this group takes good care of themselves and knows how to live life. They also know how to party into the night. Overall, a very pleasant and friendly bunch. Most of our fellow passengers had advanced status in the CA and were diamond and above. I understand why RCL wants to maintain loyalty, but the venues set aside for these categories don't really seem to be used all that well. I understand that the former sports lounge was turned into a venue for the more elite passengers. I didn't notice passengers making a big deal out of their status, maybe because they were all the majority on this cruise. I learned that the MOS has a jail- heard about a disturbance that resulted in the use of it and then the couple was put out at port. Ouch. I appreciate that the decision was made to do this as you can't have violent people onboard a cruise. Thanks, captain and security. I also learned that they have quite a medical facility onboard with two doctors and three nurses. I understand that they were kept quite busy and the stories made me pleased to know that things appeared to be handled very professionally. They have a "cooler" in this unit and I heard it was used, sadly. Shopping onboard: I heard some complaints but there was lots of activity and bargains. One piece of advice: bring your own pharmacy as the medicines in the general store are minimal and pretty $$$. Ports: Ajaccio, Corsica- Cute port that was very walkable. You have to be really into Napoleon to think it is great. The market was adorable- near the port, but that is about it. Lots of nice little shops. Palma de Mallorca- We did the HOHO "sightseeing bus" (15 euros for both of us- you see it right outside the port terminal and buy the tickets from the driver) and just loved the LeSeu Cathedral and the Bellver Castle (it was free on Sunday). We bought an adorable flamenco dress for 12 euro for our granddaughter right outside LeSeu. Beautiful port! Cartagena- The town is lovely for a walk and well laid out. The Roman theater was recently excavated and really worthwhile. Clean and lots of nice shops. We found Barcelona football/soccer jerseys here- and made lots of people very happy! Lanzarote- a CC member set up a 5 ½ hour tour of Timanfaya National Park- absolutely sensational with the opportunity to ride a camel. Just 25 euro pp. What a deal! I think that is the best bet for a tour. The island is very dry and rugged. Buy some of the volcanic rock at the Black Sand beach. That is part of the mantle of the earth! Tenerife- this island is the opposite- lots of rain and lush. We took the ship tour (first one we ever did) and the highlight wasn't the main "cultural tour" but the wine tasting. What fun and great wine. The tour guide needed an interpreter to be understood. Oh, well. Nassau, Bahamas- too cool for much beach time and the port is just run down and depressing. Such a beautiful climate with such poverty. We just walked around and found a wifi place. We never grew tired of the days at sea. The ship did a good job of entertaining and feeding us. The waters were relatively calm except for maybe one day where you could feel some movement. I thought the Atlantic would be choppier but those stabilizers are amazing. Cruise Critic events: The mix and mingle was so large that it was held in Studio B, the ice rink. Not very conducive to a gathering. Someone tried to get a luncheon together and that just didn't work out well. The staff just didn't understand that we all wanted to be somewhat near one another or they just didn't care to accommodate us. There is a notice posting board near the Promenade Cafe and you should get in the habit of checking it daily. It was nice to run into the CC family onboard and their experience was so helpful in planning. Disembarkation: I understand many were not happy with this, but we had no big issues. We were assigned for the 10:30 departure but our shuttle was leaving before that time so we were advised to just leave the ship when we wanted. Once we made it off the ship, we had to wait just a bit and then were allowed in the terminal to find our luggage. All four pieces were right there and we walked right up to customs and left two minutes later. I would advise people to try to arrange transportation as late as possible and to leave when they kick you off... Summary: Overall, this cruise met and exceeded my expectations. A TA is usually a great bargain and RCL kept the standards high in every area. I highly recommend that you do your homework through cruise critic to maximize your experience and get top value! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
I did not know what to expect of a trans Atlantic crossing with a number of sea days. There was nothing to worry about. I had a blast. Then there were all the freinds I made with Cruise Critic. I have noticed Royal Carribean has ... Read More
I did not know what to expect of a trans Atlantic crossing with a number of sea days. There was nothing to worry about. I had a blast. Then there were all the freinds I made with Cruise Critic. I have noticed Royal Carribean has cut back on a few items and is now charging for some things that were free like sodas but in this day and age they probably need to do that to continue providing cruises that we enjoy. The rooms on Mariner of the Seas were the quietest I have ever had the pleasure to stay in. The sizes and service was what I have grown accustomed to but I never once heard my neighbors. I also love cruising toward the west. Those extra 1 hour time changes were a treat and a blessing when needing that extra hour of sleep. Again thank you Cruise Critic. You adopted me at he Sonya Hotel in Rome a week before we got aboard ship. I have never made so many freinds so fast and now I am a happy member as well. Later-Loren Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
We originally planned on going to Rome for a week but soon realized it was cheaper to take this cruise back to the states than fly back! 16 nights for $509 pp. This was an unbelievable bargain. Especially starting in Rome and going to ... Read More
We originally planned on going to Rome for a week but soon realized it was cheaper to take this cruise back to the states than fly back! 16 nights for $509 pp. This was an unbelievable bargain. Especially starting in Rome and going to Corsica, Mallorca, Cartegena, Spain, two different stops in the Canary Islands and Nassau before disembarking in Galeveston. We spent 6 nights pre cruise based in Rome and had a blast. The trip to Citavecchia was easy as we used Zelit Tours in Rome and I would highly recommend them. We arrived around 3pm and got on the ship quickly though I heard the folks who got there around noon took over two hours due to some problems with the ship's previous cruise. I am not a fan of the RCCL ships with the Promenade. Too crowded in the public areas but I tend to stay away during the busy times. Most people seem to like these ships though. We did not eat in either of the alternative restaurants but I will say that for the first half of the cruise the food in both the main dining room and the buffet were very good. That being said the 2nd half the food was very poor. They ran out of a lot of stuff and were recycling way too much. If you get to breakfast early enough to the buffet you can get good eggs made to order without a long wait. After 8 am good luck. Room service was fine. they charge though if after midnight. Ports for a TA cruise were great. We docked everywhere which was great but beware - if you had a hard time walking or needed assistance everything was very poorly planned. they need to improve getting off the ship and to buses or sights better for certain folks. The crew were friendly and the cruise director and staff were very very good. HOWEVER there really was not much to do for the under 70 crowd on the 9 sea days! Shopping as usual in these ships was poor though there were some good bargains especially if you smoked as they were getting rid of European cigarettes at $10 a carton! Too much nickel and dimeing on this ship. Water expensive and the coffee bar too much - Starbucks prices. Buy water on shore - you save a ton. Johnny Rockets should be free! By the way - the hot dog house at the pool is awesome! There were lots of shows - just not my cup of tea. Bottom line though is that I paid $509 for a 16 night cruise. I will take the bad with the good any day. I think this might be the only I way I cruise in the future when not going to the South Pacific. An unbelievable bargain - just adjust your expectations. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
As a very seasoned cruiser, I know what to expect and typically am not disappointed. I have been on many RCCL cruises and have loved them all, and this one was no exception. The staff was perfect, ship beautiful and maintained in great ... Read More
As a very seasoned cruiser, I know what to expect and typically am not disappointed. I have been on many RCCL cruises and have loved them all, and this one was no exception. The staff was perfect, ship beautiful and maintained in great shape, however, the food in the dining room at dinner was somewhat below satisfactory. I had read reviews prior to going on the ship of people complaining about the food but did not pay much attention to them. We were a party of 10 close friends and everyone felt the same way. The steak was like eating leather with no taste, dinner salads lettuce was wilted, the meat was generally tasteless and tough with the exception of the veal. The soups were outstanding, but overall the rest was poor and bland. This is not true with the Windjammer where the food was outstanding. With that being said, food does not ruin the trip. We sailed for 16 days and had nothing but outstanding positive experience from the staff. Of all the cruises, I have never seen a Captain so engaging and social walking around the ship morning, noon and night talking with all the guests. The entertainment was some of the best I have ever seen. I expected to have to endure the Royal Caribbean dancers for 16 nights and this was not the case. They flew in all types of acts that were top Las Vegas quality, some getting standing ovations. We had the Grand Suite which was a first for us and I don't know how I will ever go back to a regular room. More space than we could use, dual sinks and overall just beautiful. The service was just outstanding and as a Diamond member the 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm free cocktails are also a great plus. The itinerary was fantastic as we stopped in some very out of the way ports that you normally would not visit. In closing, I still highly recommend RCCL but they do need to pay a little more attention to the evening dining experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Mid-50's empty nesters celebrating 35th anniversary with a transatlantic cruise. My wife is paralyzed on right side so uses wheelchair, thus we booked accessible balcony cabin (category AX) over a year in advance. After booking we ... Read More
Mid-50's empty nesters celebrating 35th anniversary with a transatlantic cruise. My wife is paralyzed on right side so uses wheelchair, thus we booked accessible balcony cabin (category AX) over a year in advance. After booking we learned Mariner was scheduled for drydock (and later Royal Advantage upgrades) just prior to the sail date. Pre-Cruise: Flew US Airways to Miami and stayed two nights at Holiday Inn Port of Miami-Downtown. This hotel has been undergoing renovation for several years and is very nice and in convenient location across from Bayside Marketplace. Room was small but had been updated and was clean and comfortable and orice was right. Sail Day: Royal Caribbean changed the departure time from 5pm to 8pm with no notice to passengers until 48 hours prior to sailing although set sail pass had the new time 75 days in advance. Just prior to sail date they did mass emailsing and phone calls (caller ID was 1111111111 so we had ignored it) to tell people not to arrive before 3pm. Having nowhere else to go with luggage we arrived at 1:00pm and boarded by 2pm. Sailing was delayed until 8:30pm. Muster drill went well and was actually at a lifeboat location for us. Sunny Miami was NOT and it rained the entire time we were there but first whole day of the cruise broke out of that and weather was terrific the entire cruise except for one day of clouds in mid-Atlantic. Cabin 7300: This is an accessible balcony stateroom and elgibility checking was stronger than any prior cruise. RCI has re-catagorized all accessible staterooms as type A (such as AX, AY, AW, etc...) and changed booking system to comply with new ADA rules to prevent people from booking these just for more space. All the standard accessibility features were present (and very much needed) except that unlike Radiance class there is no power door opener. Still the doo did have a delayed closer that held it open long enough to roll wheelchair out into hallway. Ramp to bathroom was less noticable than Radiance class but balcony had a flip down metal ramp on the outside that when not flipped down was a trip hazard for AB persons. When flipped down it also prevented sliding door from being closed. Upgrades in drydock were limted to LCD TV with interactive features. First several days of the cruise TV service was very limited and many people complained at Guest Services. Also for first couple days all balcony dividers were open but not secured so were banging in the wind all night. Eventually there were all closed and latched. Only maintenance issue we had was a bad seal on the sliding door that allowed air from outside to whistle in as well as drawing in smoke from chain smoker on balcony nextdoor. Mariner Notes: Mariner is a great ship and after cruising only Radiance class with RCI we were not sure if we would like the Royal Promenade concept but it was OK. Much smaller that pictures indicated. Pub was super smokey so as to be unusable by us - even sitting outside in promenande. Vintages had been updated with wine dispensers for samples with SeaPass reader. One irritating issue was the jewlery shop tables in the middle of promenade making it very congested there almost all the time. A large TV screen was added to the pool area during the upgrades and had grand opening on about day 5. During day it just played a canned loop (without sound) and in evenings they showd movies there (different from cabin and movies theater rotation). Pools and decking arounf them had all be refurbished in drydock and whatever food venue by pool area had been there before was converted to Boardwalk Dog House with hotdogs and sausages. Dining: We noticed a serious downgrade in the quality and variety of food in Main Dining Room (MDR). Mostly in the entree selections. We made use of the new interactive information screens to preview menu for each night and ate in Windjammer several evenings. My Time Dining (MTD) was total chaos for the first several nights but eventually settled down except immediately after shows. Gary Bateman, the MTD Host, was amazing at fixing things and remembering people and preferences. In fact between ourselves we started calling him "the fixer". But the MDR food issue was a big disappointment and noticably lower quality than prior cruises. Portofino is no longer available on Mariner and has been replaced with Giovanni's Table. They did a very nice job with the decoration and atmosphere and the food was fantastic. It is geared to share the pasta course but you can also have your own. Service was outstanding. They did have some issues with billing us at end of meal when we had pre-paid with online reservation prior to the cruise but eventually it was resolved. All over the ship there seemed to be a new SeaPass charging system that was causing issues as staff learned it. Chops was a huge dispointment. NY Strip was tough and thin - I should have had Porterhouse even if I could not have eaten it all. Also we were seated in front of open kitchen counter/window with harsh flourescent lights and kitchen noise that destroyed the atmosphere. I would highly advise not accepting a table there. What was even more disppointing was the place was virtually empty with many tables farther from the kitchen they could have put us at. Activities: There were many and Cruise Director Carly and Activities Director Steven were great. There was always something going on by the pools and evenings were full of shows and parades and parties. Meet & Mingle Roll Call meeting had over 300 people so had to be moved to Lotus Lounge and even that was filled. There was no lack of things to do on the nine sea days. Speaking of sea days - this was the smoothest transatlantic anyone onboard could remember and there were many TA fans making the trip. Very little ship motion the whole way. Like cruising on a lake. The evening shows were good and the crew production show was fantastic - mostly for the sets. One night was an "all musicians" medly that was OK but only played snipits of each sogn and lacked a consistant theme. Headliner entertainers were all good. Ports: Tenerife, Canary Is. (Spain), Mallorca (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Villefranche (France) for Nice and Monaco (tendered) and Livorno (Italy) for Pisa and Florence. Finally Civitivechia for Rome. We toured with private groups at Tenerife and Mallorca and on our own at the rest so did not use RCI for any of their over priced excursions. Barcelona was very easy to tour on own - even with wheelchair - and Metro subway was very accessible. Train station at Villefranche was a chore to get too due to having to find route with no steps but once there trains to Monaco and Nice were very easy. At Livorno the flat rate taxi to the train station - €25 each way - was a rip off but then the train was inexpensive to Pisa. We skipped Florence for lack of time and used more time at Pisa. Tips on trains from the Rick Steves books were very helpful for touring on own. Summary: Mariner is a great ship and even better now with the upgrades. Capt. Per Kristofersson was great and has nice sense of humor. Biggest downside to the ship was the many places that were too smokey to use but we worked around that. Food variety and quality in MDR need improvement but we certainly did not starve. Overall this was a fantastic cruise on a unique itinerary and we greatly enjoyed it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Background: New, late 50's retirees. First time cruisers; decided for full immersion, transatlantic cruise. PreCruise: Stayed in a very nice Hampden Inn in center of Miami. Made the adventure of flying to Ft. Lauderdale (much ... Read More
Background: New, late 50's retirees. First time cruisers; decided for full immersion, transatlantic cruise. PreCruise: Stayed in a very nice Hampden Inn in center of Miami. Made the adventure of flying to Ft. Lauderdale (much cheaper), then shuttle to triRail station, train to Metro Xfer stop and metro to 1 block from hotel (2 hour trip for $4 bucks total). Quick walk to hotel and it was very upscale. Inexpensive Taxi to ship next day. No problem getting on ship, pretty quick check-in. Cabin: Balcony cabin was roomier than I expected; balcony was a little wasted on transatlantic; several days were very windy. I expected to use it for breakfast, but didn't. Was nice to view the world floating by, but oceanview would have been fine. Shower is small, but workable. Cabin steward made up room twice a day and we never noticed him; he was great. Ship: Mariner is revamped and very nice, great promenade; Big theatre; upscale dining. Pub bar was good to have, can get a good beer and service was great. MyTime Dining is way to go, we could eat later since 7:00 show was less crowded. 8:45 show is packed, and would be smart to avoid. Wished the pools were bigger, but hot tubs are plentiful. Internet access is almost non-existent and too pricey. Don't buy the prepaid options, it wouldn't be worth it. The cruise was great, seas pretty calm, weather usually nice, sunny - but windy on many days. Temp around 65-75 almost every day. Dining: I wouldn't listen to the other review complainer's. The food is great at the dining rooms. I can't think why you would go to the buffet for dinner, so don't. Since we ate late, we used buffet for wonderful early appetizers. The lunch in the dining room is also very good. Breakfast at the buffet- they make a great omelet. Why complain about any food issues? So many choices, you just avoid any questionable food items. Overall superb eats. We did eat at Giovanni's and food and service were very good, but not sure it beat normal dining -> why pay the extra? Activities: Tons of fun things to do. Good art history lectures, tons of trivia contests, plus other games. Limited time to lay by pool. We would struggle to relax, we were constantly running to the next activity. The staff is fun, approachable and engaging, really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Clientele: There are a ton of old people on-board; perhaps they are attracted to the long-term transatlantics? My guess is 50% - 80+, 20% - 68+, 20% - 45+, 10% younger. Guess: 70% American, 10% Canadian, 10% UK, 10% other. Probably only 40 kids on ship. But there are more than enough 40-60 year olds to hang and do stuff with. This is probably the best part of long-term sea days -> many good people you see often and enjoy. Ports: Majorca, Barcelona are fun, beautiful cities. Easy to tour on your own. If you avoid RCI tours at ports, do some homework and have a goal for a specific activity; otherwise you shuffle around aimlessly. Don't miss a chance to see Florence, we used their guide and she was very good. Ship drops you off in Civitavecchia, easy to take train into Rome center -> then we spent days in Rome on our own. Conclusion: We had a great time, staff at RCI was top notch and fun. This is a truly affordable luxury; a nice room, constantly made up; eating every night at a very nice, classy restaurant with great, friendly staff; a pretty good show each night -> truly this cannot be beat. It's a wonder the rest of the world hasn't discovered cruising. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
we traveled on a 14 transatlantic out of Miami. check in was beyond easy. no lines, no hassle. our cabin was the biggest than any other balcony we have had on other lines. our room was clean, had new flat screen tv, nice balcony. bed ... Read More
we traveled on a 14 transatlantic out of Miami. check in was beyond easy. no lines, no hassle. our cabin was the biggest than any other balcony we have had on other lines. our room was clean, had new flat screen tv, nice balcony. bed was very comfortable, lighting was good. our steward was awesome. we was johnny on the spot. always had ice, clean room, a cute towel animal & clean towels & sheets. not one complaint. common areas: very very clean. loved the adult only pool area. loved that pools and hot tubs were open 24 hours. always could get service anywhere we were. the mini golf was nice, the promenade was beautiful. ship was kept spotless and the crew could not be any nicer or quick with responding to your requests. Food: Giavonnis table was excellent. the ambiance, the service and especially the food. well worth the 20 cover charge Chops Grill was good. the ambiance & service was good. The steak was exceptional. the rest of the food was average i would choose giavonnis over this main dining room for dinner: excellent service. food was a little above average. actually all was good except don't ever order a steak here not good at all! dining room was very pretty. we were able to get a table for two had lunch there twice. salads were great! you pick the lettuce and the chef adds and mixes all for you. very good! did not try johnny rockets but did stop by it was clean and the staff were very friendly we just didn't want hamburgers. don't like that they charge extra for shakes on top of the cover charge windjammer for dinner and lunch we found to be very good. the service was excellent. staff always friendly and working hard to clear you plates or bring you drinks. the selection was very good. we did not have a bad meal here and we ate there 7nighs for dinner room service: best ever on a ship. used the service at least ten times, never was our order late OR WRONG!! that has never happened on a ship before. excellent service and the food was pretty good. the ship had just had flat screen tvs put it, a huge outdoor movie screen & touch screen maps on each floor where you could click on whats happening around the ship or get directions. it was very very helpful you could order room service on tv as well as check your account very cool and convenient entertainment: we have seen better. we had two shows that were great one single singer i wish i could remember her name but she only performed one night which we were disappointed she was awesome! i am not into opera singing but they had a one night performance from a guy who sang opera who gave me chills. one other guy in an irish pub on the promenade was good and entertaining. all the other entertainment we did not like at all. their home band was good but we didn't enjoy any of their singers or dancers. they were below anything we have ever seen. the disco was great. great music and great service dragons lair it was called. the casino was below average. too much smoke in room very small casino. but staff was very nice we did not see one ice show you had to get tickets the day before. not a good system. we also did not use the movie theatre which we were disappointed. they need more showing with better times and more than three movies in a 14 day cruise. library. i was able to find three good books to read but i was lucky they have a very small and i mean small selection. the library is quite nice to relax and read. great view of promenade. promenade. not a large selection of shops but the ones they had were priced well with good selections. the cafe there was open 24 hours and had a decent selection with good food. great service there too. the parades they had were fun but kinda short for the wait to start. i loved the idea of the singers performing on the bridge if they were better singers. the one night Carly the cruise director and her staff did a disco show and they were great. she is actually pretty great. very upbeat. very funny. she can sing and dance and you could tell her staff really likes her which says a lot. we also went to a game show in the skating rink wish i could remember the name but it was great!!! funny and great. Carly ran the show and she was so funny. game room: was great. they had all new games & very orderly. great view of the ocean. only thing missing were dictionaries for scrabble other than that it was great. you even got drink service in there which was great. tvs in your room: they need more movie selections for 14 days at sea!! the movies they had were good but not enough variety. ports: all very good. we did all on our own. it was easy and a hell of a lot less money than taking the ships tours. internet: my biggest complaint but i must say the cruise quickly removed the charges. they were having problems with it i guess. the computers they have are good. connection time was awful. i had my own with me and it was great to be able to get internet in my room. the package deals were the best 500 minutes for 150. if the connection time was better and getting to sites was quicker it would be great. spa: well this really is my biggest complaint. loved the gym and loved the hote tub and steam room and sauna and changing areas. very clean and very nice. what i didn't like were their prices. i refused to book one service. i have never been on a cruise where i did not get a few massages or some other treatments. i just could not justify paying three times the amount i would pay at home. so i really missed being able to do this. 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Sail Date May 2012
I had a great time on this trip. I was a little worried at first with so many sea days but we had great weather and there were so many activities available both inside and out on the deck that they passed quickly. I brought activities to ... Read More
I had a great time on this trip. I was a little worried at first with so many sea days but we had great weather and there were so many activities available both inside and out on the deck that they passed quickly. I brought activities to keep myself occupied ie.--books,sudoku, crosswords ,cards but found myself rarely if ever using them. There was bingo, trivia games, dance lessons, language lessons, ice shows,a bellyflop competition,a sexy man competition, the "Quest",onboard movies,lectures about the ports of call and of famous artists, headliner shows,The love and marriage game,a talent show,2 parades on the promenade--one a pirates a parade and the other a 70's dance party, the casino and karaoke. --- I am sure there were other things available but these are the things that I either participated in or can remember. My favorite was the ice show despite some falls. The best part of the show was the clowns ----- full of color and laughs both for kids and adults alike. The Quest was as always alot of crazy fun. If you have never been on an RCI cruise, the Quest is an ADULT(no kids allowed) audience participation game show. The audience is split into teams and asked to do different tasks or provide different items the team with the most points at the end wins. Some of the things asked for this trip were: 7 bras,first one to show a tattoo, a unique human skill--(a belly roll by a woman--LOL,double jointedness, a fart sound with an eye socket), a woman's hairpiece, a method of contraception,metal keys,men dressed as women dressed by their teams --what their stage names would be,had do a catwalk and give a sexy kiss to the camera. Two men skipping together. There were a few more too. Some of these activities were wrong on so many levels but none the less hilarious--one can see why children are not allowed due to the amount of therapy they would need to survive it all. The Headliner shows for the most part were good. There were singing and dancing acts, a ventriloquist act, a xylophone player,and a hypnotist. I and enjoyed most of the singing and dancing acts and surprisingly the ventriloquist act. However, walked out of the hypnotist and xylophone acts. The xylophone player could play great but his voice was so annoying I couldn't get past it--it was like listening to a trained parrot. The hypnotist --well lets just say --I stayed maybe 10 minutes for that show.The dance lessons were fun --but need to find a bigger dance floor--my suggestions would be either the outdoor basketball court, the main stage,studio B with the ice rink covered, the pool deck even --the dragons lair is a terrible choice due to space and lighting.The artist lectures were informative but wished the woman speaking would of been a little enthusiastic about it. I have never attended anything like this before so not sure if this is common but it was like attending a college class that you couldn't wait to be over--a monotone speaker. I was impressed by the artwork/artist but not the speaker. Won at bingo once. The Love and marriage game was a hoot. The other activities were fun too. Sometimes the time you have depends on the people you travel with too--this time there were a lot of great people looking to enjoy themselves. I spent a lot of time laughing. The food wasn't as good as it usually is, but in all fairness it was a transatlantic and the ports of call weren't until the second part of the trip. I tend to be a bit of a picky eater--I have even been called a bit of a food snob at times.:0 I am not one who needs to be pampered but I do like good tasting food. If you wanted a good cup of coffee you had to pay for it at Starbucks-just an opinion but many felt the same way.I think alot of coffee drinkers became tea drinkers or decided to become alcoholics instead. Promenade Cafe--- for one thing don't put mayo on a salami sandwich or any sandwich for that matter unless asked to--just a suggestion. I enjoyed the Windjammer, that way I could pick more of what I wanted and less of what I didn't.And something about eating dinner overlooking the aft of the ship is so relaxing, not to mention seeing a pod of dolphin swimming in the Atlantic. The My Time dining is a good idea if you have a small party. If you have more than a party of four I would stick to the scheduled time dining-- I was part of a group of ten. We started with the my time dining but seating and service was so slow that it was taking 3-3.5 hrs for dinner even with a reservation. I didn't eat at Chops Grill but Giovanni's Table was very good. We ate there for the Mystery Dinner Show- I would recommend the steak over the shrimp for dinner. The menu is bigger, but if you go for the Mystery Dinner Show those were your choices. My sister and I went and she got one and I got the other and we both agreed the steak was fantastic--this coming from someone who rarely eats red meat.My favorite was the dessert a tarimisu mousse served in a dark/white chocolate cup with a few raspberries. I would of ate it every night or ate four that night if they would of let me. My sister and I share a room overlooking the Promenade. Although we didn't spend much time in our room,it was a great place to people watch. If you are someone who likes to go to bed early or are a light sleeper these probably aren't the type of room for you. During the parades especially, it can be noisy. On the other hand, if you enjoy the parades without the crowd you get a pretty good view. We found the best place to watch the parade is in front of the Wig and Gavel --but you need to get there early to get a seat at least 30 minutes if not 45. Keep in mind though the parade only lasts for about 20-30 minutes-so you decide if it is worth it to you or not. Just know once you are there --you are there until it is over--anywhere on the Promenade deck. All of the staff, we found to very friendly,helpful,and in good spirits. Never saw anyone without a smile on their face. The idea of not having to make beds empty garbage, wash towels or do dishes for two weeks was a bonus. The ports of call were great too. In Tenerife, we went to the volcano El Teide , visited some of the historical sites in town, looked for and snapped pictures of the dragon trees, ate paella and tapas and drank Sangria. All were wonderful the only thing I could of done without was the shrimp that still had the head on it---made me want to go fishing rather than eat--just sayin:)~. Mallorca was probably my favorite--by far the most beautiful in my opinion. The cathedral was amazing. The views overlooking the water were beyond compare. The streets were nice and quiet, some found it to be unnerving when the bus was winding through them because they were narrow. If they only realized what they were missing when they were looking at the edge of the road instead on the views. The train ride up the mountain. The never ending views olive and almond trees.The taste of the Mallorca pastry--yum yum. Some complained that they couldn't understand our guide because of his accent. I didn't have a problem understanding him, but I live in south Florida where everyone has an accent. We didn't have a lot of time in Barcelona. We did a walking tour with Running Bean--a free tour with a tip to your guide. Our guide was informative and showed us alot in 2.5 hours--but in my opinion you get what you pay for I would of rather done one of those hop on hop off bus tours but was outvoted.I think we would of been able to cover more ground that way. I found Barcelona to be very over commercialized and pick pockets were present on Las Ramblas(the main street) especially. I am not sure if I liked it enough to go back, but if I ever do go back I will only go to see what I missed. Which I think may have been alot. In villa France we did on our own-- hopped on the bus,went to Nice and Eze. Did some shopping, rode on a carousel.I couldn't get over that their beach was all rocks-thinking how comfortable can that be.Nice place but nothing extraordinary. In Florence we used a tour company "All Around Italy".We liked it so much that we also used the same company for Rome. Fabrizio was our guide. He knew alot of history and catered our tour to what we asked for. We had a list of what we wanted to see and do--and were only unable to do one of them because of time constraints because we had specifically asked to do a tour of a winery and a wine tasting which was a bit out of the way. A lot of art and architecture in Florence to be seen. In Rome we saw alot but we also spent three extra days there. My suggestion to you is to do your own research find out what it is you want to see and do. Cater it to what it is you like and do it -- you only live once. The ship excursions tend to be expensive. If you read through some of these reviews you can use reputable companies and have a great time for less money.And it doesn't hurt to learn some of the native language as well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
In this publication: May 1 - May 16, 2012, Trans-Atlantic on Mariner of the Seas, 15-nights to Southern Europe, written & issued by Weatherguy. I. Background. The two of us who took this cruise on Mariner of the Seas, did so ... Read More
In this publication: May 1 - May 16, 2012, Trans-Atlantic on Mariner of the Seas, 15-nights to Southern Europe, written & issued by Weatherguy. I. Background. The two of us who took this cruise on Mariner of the Seas, did so immediately after Mariner of the Seas encountered a 7-8 day dry dock in Nassau, Bahamas, for ship re-furbishments both above & below the water line. We've been on Royal Caribbean ships several times before and 15 cruises in total during the past decade, with various cruise lines combined. I'm a white Caucasian, age 39, usually a non-drinker, non-smoker, and non-gambler, (but I make up for it with the wild & crazy game shows I participate in!) We had NO children travelling with us either, on this go-around. After this cruise we'll graduate to Emerald Members on the RCCL food chain in the Crown & Anchor Society, so maybe the pins will be bigger next time, and maybe we'll get some sunflower seeds in the stateroom, too! II. Hotel Information. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale via Southwest Airlines late one night before embarkation day, and pitched camp at your Ramada motel Ft. Lauderdale Airport Cruise Port. We secured a room rate of only $62, which included a FREE breakfast, FREE pick-up transfer from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the motel, FREE wireless internet, and a $16.65 transfer from the motel to the Port of Miami, the cheapest transfer I found anywhere. For all we got for free, and low room rate along with cheap transfer, I have no complaints at all. In fact, the motel room was in better repair than I thought it'd be for this kind of rate, so I was pleasantly surprised! It had a gorgeous lush, tropical-themed Tiki Bar in the inside center of the property. They arranged all transportation to the Port of Miami, as they have a contract with KSA tours. III. Travel to Port of Embarkation. Our ship was slated for an 8 PM late evening departure, so arrival time to the Port was to be no earlier than 3 PM. Seeing how I was not able to comply, as the transfer company schedules only 1 pick-up from the motel per day, I arrived around 1230 PM to 1 PM as a number of other folks had to, since they changed departure time by some 3 hours later, after the dry dock, when plans had already been made. The cruise line DID arrange for a FREE shuttle transfer back n' forth to the Miami Bayside Marketplace. So, we hitched a free ride with the transfer shuttle to Miami Bayside Marketplace for the afternoon, and boarded the ship between 445 PM to 5 PM. Checked luggage was accepted prior to 3 PM by the porters, though, taking a goodly amount of baggage off my hands, with only my carry-on in hand as we toured your Bayside Marketplace. Getting on the ship from the Port of Miami was truly a BREEZE, and was lightning-fast, simply incredible not having to wait in terribly long embarkation lines as I've done in Galveston, Texas, San Francisco & Puerto Rico, or when coming back to the Port of New Orleans. Furthermore, I shall say, that embarking & disembarking from Mariner of the Seas on each of the port of call days was expertly handled, and the VERY BEST embarkation/disembarkation I've ever seen for a ship this size. Even the tendering in Villefranche was expertly managed with very little wait time. Truly incredible! However, RECEIVING the luggage once on-board was disastrous & nightmarish, and kept me up late. This was the LATEST I've ever received luggage in all my 15 cruises. It wasn't until 11:30 PM, LATE NIGHT that I received my last piece of luggage holding me hostage from receiving needed items, unpacking, & then heading in to sleep. Their recovery was even better. "Well, some cargo was placed between the lifts & the luggage". They even gave up delivering, by dumping luggage in to the lobby, where guest services was at, an unsightly blemish that contaminated the beautiful lobby scene, expecting folks to claim their luggage there. IV. Ship Information. Your Mariner of the Seas cruise ship by Royal Caribbean is the 4th largest passenger cruise ship in the world, in tonnage, as of the date of this writing May 19, 2012, behind only the Freedom-class & Oasis-class ships of R.C.C.L., (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line), and behind Norwegian Cruise Line's Epic. The ship is nearing 9 years old, with its maiden voyage in November 2003. It received its last refurbishment by April 30, 2012, a day prior to our cruise. Upgrades include: Giovanni's Table specialty restaurant, (an upcharge fee) A new Seaside Theatre, outdoor movie screen on the pool deck Boardwalk Dog House, a hot dog stand with various types of hot dogs & sausages, (no fee). Digital Signage, (an interactive display monitor that tells you what's going on around the ship on the current day and how to map it, showing you where to go). Flat screen TV's in all staterooms that rest on a swivel arm. The rumors about having a Park Side Cafe', cupcake cupboard, or 3-D movie experience are all FALSE. It does not have these upgrades. So the sales pitch that Mariner of the Seas exhibits the "Oasis-class" upgrades must fail with the assertion that these are Oasis-class upgrades, because there's a number of them missing on this ship. Other fast facts about the ship information: Length of ship: 1,020 ft Tonnage: 138,279 Draft: 29 ft. Beam: 158 ft Passenger Occupancy: 3,114, based upon double occupancy only; (3,807 total passenger capacity limit) Staterooms: 1,557 Decks: 15 Dining: Traditional Seating, (early & late), *OR* My Time Dining, which requires pre-paid gratuities All the rest of the ship facts & features can be found at this URL weblink, by the cruise line itself at: http://www.royalcaribbean.com/findacruise/ships/class/ship/home.do?shipClassCode=VY&shipCode=MA&br=R V. Stateroom. The stateroom booked for this cruise was an Inside cabin on the 6th deck, which was in Inside Category "N" for us. My stateroom was in good repair, with all furnishings working and NO maintenance needed during this sailing, which is quite remarkable, considering several other of my cruises have needed issues addressed either with the water or plumbing or climate control. The telephone was problematic though, with a foreign language talk menu found upon arrival in to my stateroom. So, the telephone needed resetting. Then when the phone rung, the green & red flashing lights did not cease, so I just unplugged the telephone afterwards, and problem solved, since the guest relations didn't know how to solve the problem, and neither did the cabin steward. The shower had the sliding, arched doors instead of the shower curtain on this vessel. There was a couch between the bed and the bathroom and a divider curtain which weatherGIRL appreciates so very much during those late-nights I was away to shield out the lighting when I came back at night. Only trouble is that the divider curtain when closed all the way means you freeze in the bedding area, while the rest of the stateroom gets no air conditioning, since the air conditioner is located above the bed and behind the divider curtain. I just propped open a small gap for air to flow at the top, when I arrived back at night. Closet space seemed cramped to me for hanging clothes and didn't seem like enough hanging space, compared to other ships I've been on. Plenty of drawers, and shelves though were found in the cabin, and an in-room safe as well. The flat-panel TV which had been recently installed, is on a swivel arm, and remote control not always responsive. They say you can order your tours using the inside stateroom TV monitor, and check your balance, too, from there. The stateroom steward is the nicest young man (and tallest), I'd ever met in my cruises. I could tell he was brand-new as an employee, as he was missing supplies & items here & there, though. The ship has had a lot of brand-new employees that came with this cruise, most notably in guest services, and it was easily noticeable when they couldn't answer basic questions correctly. Weatherguy's TIP: I recommend you bring some post-it-notes to communicate with your stateroom steward at the beginning for any special requests in your room accommodations and supplies. It'd be a nice, welcome addition if RCCL & other cruise lines would install a small, dry erase board on the wall to communicate with stateroom stewards, and others in cabin. VI. Dining. This was a problem area for me & not up to par. This is the 2nd time I've cruised on a mega-liner from Royal Caribbean, but 4th overall with RCCL. The first mega-liner was Freedom of the Seas, and now here on Mariner of the Seas. This time, on Mariner of the Seas, if I could sum it up in a nutshell FOOD quality on the whole, I'd rate between average to frequently BELOW AVERAGE, especially in the Windjammer morning breakfast buffet. Hash brown nuggets were just down-right disgusting, plagued with a burned greasy, oily taste. Waffle pieces were either hard & stale, or cold; same goes for french toast pieces. It actually became a haunting thought going to the Windjammer during the port mornings, as so much of it is just undesirable quality. I've been on a lot of cruise lines over the years, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, in my opinion, has always suffered a major WEAKNESS in the FOOD QUALITY category. They continuously struggle in this category. Also, I found that food selection in the elegant dining rooms was not abundant & quite repetitive, more so than usual. In the elegant dining rooms, I found I was better off if I retained a beef or steak selection over any thing exotic like any Asian selections, or even the fish selection. The galley seems to struggle in producing anything of good quality, that exhibits a non-traditional meat n' potato fare. We auditioned several Asian selections and just NOT good. On the 2nd night I ordered fish, which tasted like Tofu. WeatherGIRL also was not happy with the quality of the fish. Salmon was either overcooked or returned by our dinner table mates, as I recall one night. Food quality is definitely NOT a priority on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, herein referred to as RCCL. So don't be coming in to this cruise with HIGH expectations on food quality, or you will be sorely disappointed. Do expect high volumes of food, though. Since this cruise ship has on the average nearly 150% of normal cruise line capacity for numbers of guests on-board, it means MORE MASS produced quantity of food. When you increase the mass production of food, then quality MUST take a hit, and it has done so each of the past times I've cruised on a Voyager-class or Freedom-class ship with RCCL. The smaller ships, seem to have better food quality as in my Rhapsody of the Seas cruise from last January. There were a few times when desserts were tasty, though, so it's not all bad news here. I can recall on at least 3 or 4 occasions when they excelled with their cheesecakes and a Vanilla mousse. They had a lunch time blueberry cheesecake that was exceptional. Also, ribs were pretty decent quality one afternoon in the Windjammer buffet, during the 3-5 PM hour. Like I said, stick with simple meat items, and generally you'll fare better than any exotic items which are never authentic, and "ad-libbed" much of the time, by Philipinno or Indonesian influence, as I often found in the Jade cafe. I can also recommend the top sirloin steaks that I had several times in the elegant dining room. Here, they place a garlic butter to go with the steak, and when fused together, creates a tasty dining experience. Baked potatoes & sour cream are served with the steak. The 3 times I had steak, the quality was decent, except one time, when it was undercooked and too red, but otherwise decent in flavor and quality. Others at my dining table really had great things to say about the lamb as well. In other areas.... For late-night buffs, you had ONE choice, called the Cafe' Promenade. Of all the 24-hour eateries on the various cruise lines, the menu selection is quite one-dimensional here and not to my satisfaction. Icky, cold finger sandwiches are your one-dimensional choice. You get one alternative if you don't believe in these cold finger sandwiches, and that is the one or two pans of pizza they have out. That's your only warm food, again serious lack of variety here. I learned to tolerate the ham & cheese finger sandwiches, as I refused to stoop down to cold tuna salad, cold chicken salad sandwiches, and some other cold finger sandwich Italian muckety-muck mush that they tried pedaling out of that Cafe' Promenade. The Cafe' Promenade also serves-out some various desserts as well, but the cookies are hard as stone rocks; not something I'd want to deal with. I won't take another Voyager or Freedom class ship again, solely on account of the extremely lacking food choices in the 24-hr. Cafe Promenade alone. Very disappointing here. (Is it any better elsewhere, weatherguy?) Sure is. RCCL can take some notes here on what Norwegian Cruise Line is doing in their 24-hr eatery. On NCL's Blue Lagoon, they serve comfort food, almost 'round the clock, with hot wings (dry or with sauce), fish sandwiches, burgers, chicken fingers, and a more extensive array of choices than icky, cold finger sandwiches that RCCL pedals out of their 24-hr eatery. Johnny Rockets is your 50's classic diner burger joint, on RCCL's Mariner of the Seas, and requires an upcharge fee of $4.95 for the food there. Milkshakes are an additional $5 on top of that. I had a quick look-see at the menu and decided that the menu wasn't worthy of the upcharge, for burgers I can get for free elsewhere on other cruise lines. I didn't go to any of the other upcharge restaurants, neither Chops Grille, nor Giovanni's Table. They're both there at the entrance of the Windjammer buffet, but opted on not auditioning that fare. The Windjammer is your alternative buffet to those who don't believe in taking the time to wait on service in the elegant formal dining room, and who desire a more casual eat-alone environment. The atmosphere is reminscent of being at a Golden Corral buffet, only the food isn't as good, much of the time. I did sample the FREE Jade eatery on the right side as you enter Windjammer. Those were some WEIRD tastes, that seem to be influenced by Indonesia & the Philippines. They tried to label some soups as Vietnamese, but being my partner is Vietnamese and we've eaten authentic Vietnamese back in the states, this is NOTHING Vietnamese-like what they claim it to be. But if you're up for trying some kind of variation of Asian-inspired foods, and desire a break from the meat, fish, pizza, & sandwiches, you've been getting elsewhere on the ship, then have a try of the Jade; but I make no guarantees of your food satisfaction here. It's hit or miss, and there is Sushi offered there as well, though I'm not a sushi buff myself, so I didn't try it. On the other hand, if you desire to eat in the company of others at the same table, then traditional assigned seating in the elegant dining room is the way to go, which is what I chose to do. I requested a large table of 10, and by the 4th night, we reached full capacity to 10 folks. All were sociable and desireable company. We had a pretty good crop of guests at the table I was seated at, and I felt we had some bonding moments. All were from the states this time. My only wish was that the tables be round instead of oblong, so's to provide access to speaking with all guests. Following in the footsteps of Norwegian Cruise Line's popularly famous "Freestyle Dining" concept, RCCL introduces "My Time Dining", which you can opt to sit alone in the elegant dining room, and show-up at different times each night, whenever you're ready to eat dinner. There is a hitch with this. It requires that you PRE-PAY your gratuities. I don't believe gratuities should ever be pre-paid; I believe they should be EARNED, and not automatic. The Boardwalk Dog House is a hot dog stand outside on the pool deck in the shade. I did audition one of the flavored, seasoned hot dogs of the many they offer. It was just "okay". They also offer sausages, sauteed onions which I desire, and a few other miscellaneous items there. I think the various seasoned hot dogs & sausages will appeal to the many German guests in Europe, as they also had sauerkraut, too as I recall. Don't forget that this ship frequently has INTERNATIONAL passenger guests and is thus obliged to appeal to them as well. Ben n' Jerry's is fused together with Cafe' Promenade & is not a stand-alone merchant as it is on Freedom of the Seas. It's on the side edge of Cafe' Promenade, and there *IS* a cost for the ice cream, so no freebies there. In your Windjammer buffet, the selections of beverages are flavored water, including mango, strawberry/kiwi, lemonade, and iced tea. During the morning hours simulated orange juice is offered, as well as watered-down, simulated apple juice. Again, don't be expecting any great shakes with the beverages on-board, as they're weak in flavor and watered down. So, in summary, my overall dining experiences,--all places considered--, that include elegant dining room, Boardwalk Dog House, Jade, Windjammer, and Cafe Promenade I'd rate as **BELOW-AVERAGE** food quality for much of the time, in comparison with my other 15 cruises on various cruise lines. On about 4 of the 12 days, there were some occasional exceptions when food was briefly tasty and above average, and a few good desserts as the cheesecakes were, but much of this is processed food, so just don't be expecting memorable, hand-crafted meals, because it just is not goona happen, gang. I'm sorry the truth stings, but you do need someone to give you that reality check! Cruise lines are BIG in to the QUANTITY of food, and not in to quality; just bear that in mind. There is no chocolate buffet offered, either, so for those of you long-time cruisers, that's out. So, too, are the chocolate mints on the pillows at night; they're out too. No biggie to me either way, as I don't require that chocolate fix anyways. VII. Activities. For a 15-Night Trans-Atlantic as this sailing was, I can say I was pretty much PLEASED overall with the activities offered. The cruise director & the staff had so many activities jammed & chock-full in to the daily cruise compass listing that there was always something to keep folks busy & occupied during the sea days. I never suffered any boredom, and many times we were doing so much, I felt exhausted and overworked with the dance classes that weatherGIRL had me participate in, during the many sea days. They do need a bigger dance floor than the Dragon's Lair, as it was overcrowded with too many people, & too dark down there like a dungeon. Guests, I think, would have benefited MORE from being taught by "Anita", a really great, articulate dancer of the RCCL production show cast. They only let her teach ONE dance class, though. I wished she would have taught all of our classes, and I was sure to tell her this, too. She counted every step out and went thru slowly and repetitively, the best way to teach & learn. Instead they had a contracted Russian man who seemingly went too quick n' hasty thru the classes, and gave no practice time after the dance classes, except in the last class. It seemed he had his own agenda rather than catering to his class. In other activities, they had offered several pool games like your Miss biceps contest, belly flop contest, floating boats contest, a pool-side scavenger hunt, (which I missed b/c cancelled due to wet decks), and I missed the re-scheduling of it. They had sexiest man contest and likely a few more pool activities I didn't touch on. There was also an interesting digital camera scavenger hunt early-on during the cruise, which I wished I'd have taken a closer look at, as I asked someone participating in it about it. For trivia weenies, they had boat-loads of trivia daily, and what's called progressive trivia, which is a continuing cumulative score trivia hosted in chapters on each successive day. I participated in trivia once or twice early & late in the cruise, but the dance classes with weatherGIRL had top priority over the trivia. You want trivia?? They give you all you want, so you can rest easy about that!! They also had progressive dance classes of Irish dance classes, your Michael Jackson Thriller class, and a mob dance class, & ballroom dance classes. In addition there were numerous Latin dance classes, and scary-oke, (known to you as karaoke), & rockaroke when the digital music tele-prompter machine broke down, then you had to read the scripts on a music stand. I was told the golf or range simulator up top broke down too, during the cruise. Seems like technology can't pass the test of time! I did participate in the 1st class of Steve's Thriller dance class, but after about 30 minutes, the choreography just became too overwhelming to keep up with, and I didn't return. WeatherGIRL particularly enjoyed the Celtic music of the Irish dance class and we did give it a try for the first 2 classes, but was too fast to keep up with as well, and the instructor Katie, from the cruise director's staff, left many behind in the dust, including myself Nearing the last sea days of the cruise, weatherGIRL and I participated in a big ballroom dance they had in Studio B, where we danced my flagship dance, the Waltz, and a few Meringue's and Rhumbas, as well as a Samba or two. We did re-learn the Salsa up on the pool deck and down below in Dragon's Lair, as well. They had an EXCELLENT Latin Band on-board the cruise ship which played in Boleros lounge, much too small a dance floor, for the crowd that turned out, but I still muscled my way on to the tiny dance floor twice that could accommodate 3 couples comfortably for the many Meringue's they played. There were 2 parades I know of that were hosted in the Royal Promenade. I made it to the first one, the pirate-themed parade; the 2nd one I was packing. Your better view will likely be on one of the neighboring upper floor balconies on the forward end of the ship overlooking the promenade deck on deck 6, and stay close to the bridge area near the front and the descending ball. Still yet in other areas.... I'm all about participating in game shows on-board the cruise ship. I feel if I don't participate in the shows, I get bored too easily. There were several game shows that I participated in. Quest game show, Family Feud game show, code-named Friendly Feud, Battle of the Sexes, and Majority Rules Game Show. I didn't make it to the Name that Lyric game show as that was the night for weatherGIRL to shine with her Ballroom Dance event in Studio B, for which my presence was required there. I participated in 4 game shows, and a couple of pool deck beginner Salsa dance classes up top during the sea days. I believe I was at my finest hour when I participated in the 7 PM, early playing of the Hypnotist show, for which I later discovered was not recorded and not played on the stateroom TV's either. It was a LIVE-only show in the large auditorium Savoy theatre. So don't be expecting every theatre show to be re-broadcast on your stateroom TV, as they're not all re-broadcast. Later that night, I also participated in the Quest Game show, a signature favorite of mine along with the earlier Hypnotist show, and this Quest Game show was recorded & sold as a part of the DVD. So, you can see there was a goodly amount of activities to keep me busy. I only wished there were more theatrical shows to participate in, like on NCL, than that 1 and only hypnotist show on Day 6. I did get up for a pre-game show and a stunt where I placed hands behind back, dipped nose in to vaseline and competed in a race to pick up cotton balls with nose and place in to cup, which won me a gold blue ribbon medal and embroidered RCCL hat, and then a highlighter was given for participating in the Friendly Feud game show. Obviously, you certainly don't participate in the games for the prizes, but instead only for the FUN of it! I did make it to both your indoor swimming pool at your Solarium and outdoor pool. There was a wide variance in temperatures, with bath water in the Solarium pool of around 90° water temperature, I'd estimate, and some 76° or 77° water temperature in your outdoor swimming pool. The outdoor swimming pool was good size, by the way cruise ship pools go; usually they're square and tightly-cramped, but this one was rectangular. There's a steam room & sauna available at your disposal for no extra charge for useage inside the gym room lockers, and weatherGIRL participated in the free work-out classes, & stretch classes daily. I let myself in to the sauna room a couple times, and once after a cold, windy night up top watching a seaside movie, entitled, "The Vow" on the pool deck. There was a goodly amount of gym equipment inside the exercise facility, and the largest indoor jacuzzi I'd seen on a cruise ship, just as you enter the gym, with 2 more inside your Solarium. So in this arena of activities, the ship scores what I give ABOVE-AVERAGE ratings, as there were jam-packed scheduled activities to do with a great variety of things to do at all hours of the day and night. It seems this particular cruise director, Carly, was really heavy in to the dancing disco & lots of other dancing venues in the nighttime activities, so the ladies should be eating this up, but good! Incidentally, I was the one who twirled the cruise director up in the air on 2 different shows on the same night, once on the early Hypnotist show, and again in the Quest Game show. VIII. Children's Clubs. Weatherguy is ineligible to rate this part of the cruise ship services, as we don't own children and didn't have any nieces nor nephews traveling with us on this go-around. But for this Trans-Atlantic I did mingle & speak with a few teenagers & young adults. One of the 16-year-old boys told me there were a total of ONLY 14 teenagers between 12 & 17 on the ship, so you can see that Trans-Atlantics during spring time don't turn-out much kids. They did have 55 college students (mostly girls) from Florida International University taking this cruise to receive college credit for it. (How does that happen??) I wished my university would provide this much fun for college credits! The name of the Children's club is ascribed the title "Adventure Ocean", and from what I understand it works many the same ways like the Camp Carnival club works. You have designated hours in which to drop-off & pick-up your kids, and they generally have you pick them up during eating hours like lunch & dinner, and it's a free service. IX. Service. Because of the many newbies in the cruise ship's staff, the service I'd have to say ranks below par, and below the industry average, especially with respect to the guest reception desk. Many newcomers just not knowing the ropes were misinforming guests left & right about the ice show either needing or not needing tickets, and couldn't answer the simplest of questions about where to place tour excursion completed forms, nor how to settle on-board expense discrepancies. A couple of them in particular wanted to pass the buck on to someone else instead of addressing it themselves as they didn't know how, fidgeting most often about it. Elegant dining room service was a bit better versed and my food orders were always accurate each & every time. Ricardo & his wing-man from Columbia were attentive, but as is usually the case in the elegant dining rooms, typically slow to deliver food. Windjammer service was probably better, keeping things pretty well stocked for the most part, and clearing the tables pretty efficiently. For a change, I don't think I've ever had a time when we couldn't find a table. Tables were always available, surprisingly BETTER than previous cruises I've been on, when we've had to compete in finding tables and sitting to reserve them. Not a problem on this cruise, so that is a nice welcome relief, considering a sell-out crowd. Telephone service was not good, having to wait excessive times the few times I did call, for which I understand connects with the back of the guest services area. They really need improvement with their guest services staff, and expediting the line, which seemingly took 'til the end of time to get waited on, even if there were only 5 people ahead of me. ...And they need to get educated on proper protocol to informing guests accurately. This was a problem spot for them. Cafe Promenade had staff who could not understand me, (with the deer in the headlights look), and I could not understand them, either, in their responses. X. Entertainment. Entertainment with regards to the lounge bands & Savoy Theatre entertainment I'd say was right on par with the industry average in comparison with my previous cruises. The 1st production show was well-below average in comparison with other cruises, and the 2nd production show was improved with respect to the scenic backdrops created, but still you saw no sky dancers or Cirque du Soleil themed variations as I get to see on the Norwegian cruise line ships. There should have been more than just 2 production shows for this 15-Night cruise, considering I received 3 production shows during my 7-day Carnival cruise last September 2011. By the middle of the cruise, the nighttime entertainers in the Savoy Theatre were becoming predictable. Generally a one-man-band musician or vocalist of some kind with RCCL back-up band accompaniment to enhance the musical experience. The trumpet players, and a few others, in the RCCL band were performing at high-school level, and it was very obvious to me, since I played trumpet for a decade. In the Savoy theatrical nighttime shows, we had a guitarist, xylophonist, a few vocalists, violinist, pianist, ventriloquist, hypnotist show, a couple comedians, and the last show was a couple of Russian jugglers which was my favorite show of all of them. I was sure to tell Carly B. (your cruise director), how much I enjoyed the Russian jugglers, which was the final farewell show! As said, a couple of mediocre production shows were thrown in the mix of things. The production shows didn't have the costume regalia anywhere nearly as extravagant as Carnival cruise lines, nor any Cirque themed shows as I see on Norwegian. Alas, all is not lost, because for these short-comings in the Savoy Theatre, they attempt to address in the ice skating shows, where you WILL see sky dancers and you will get to see more elaborate costumes, so it is in this arena in Studio B with the ice skating shows where RCCL makes their reply to Carnival & Norwegian cruise lines. There were 4 scheduled showings of the SAME identical ice show, so's to give everyone on-board adequate opportunity to see the ice skating show. I went to the 2nd of 4 shows, an early 6 PM show. The ice skaters had difficulty completing their double or triple axels, with as many as 6 very HARD falls, eyewitnessed, and a terrible bruise that could be seen afterwards, on one girl's leg. (I sat up close). In spite of the hard falls, the creativity of the show I thought was first-rate with the dynamic clown scenes and tiger scenes. They had multiple themes within the show, including Russian themes as well, which was also articulated in the 2nd production show in the Savoy Theatre as well. RCCL gets pretty big in to the visuals of the ice show with a goodly amount of skaters lofting themselves in to the air with the sky dancing scenes. They had one Asian boy who was very confident in his skating and it showed in his facial expressions up-close. He was the only one I believe who was seemingly flawless & impeccable in his skating performance. The clown scenes of the ice skating show were my favorite, and just couldn't help but break a smile with the kids' train scene incorporated within. XI. Port & Shore Excursions. We visited 6 ports of call on this cruise: Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain Palma de Mallorca, Spain Barcelona, Spain Villefranche, France (Nice, Monte Carlo, Monaco) Livorno, Italy (Florence / Pisa) Civitavecchia, Italy (Rome) A.) Tenerife, Canary Islands I chose going up the mountain side of Mt. Teide, on this dormant volcanic island, Canadas del Teide. The island drive wasn't as pretty as Ponta Delgada, Azores, in my opinion. The scenes near the end by the rock formation were more reminiscent of many scenes I've seen in Arizona in the canyon-like caldera. We did get a goodly number of pictures here. A few stops were made for photos and coffee, and some time to pick-up a souvenir. We sampled some local fare near the port after coming back from our tour at the Port of Tenerife. Unemployment on this island is 30%. B.) Palma de Mallorca, Spain Here I REALLY thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Drach caves!! The tour chosen here was entitled Calderers and Drach Caves, an 8-hour tour that visited your Porto Cristo marina village, a demonstration of pearl making, and pearl factory, with opportunity for shopping, a lunch with wine was served, and finally the grand stop for me was the Drach caves, where they performed a violin concerto on 3 lighted wood boats in the lakes of the caves, in darkness. The intricate, delicate cave structure was awesome to see and I got some good pictures of the stalactites & stalagmites, with the natural lighting provided in the caves. Really great caves are hard to find, but these caverns delivered and were very expansive and elaborate. The tour was conducted all in Spanish and our tour guide wasn't allowed to translate nor allowed inside the cave either. If you're into the geosciences, I can highly recommend visiting the Drach caves in Palma de Mallorca! It's truly a memorable moment for those who can appreciate the beauty of caverns and the lakes inside. After our tour, we enjoyed sampling some of the local "Tapas" fare in a typical Spanish tapas tasting outfit called, "Tast". I tried the potatoes brava, spanish sausage, chorizzo, and a tiny fillet of pork with garlic mayonnaise. We also had time to browse shops after the tour. C.) Barcelona, Spain Here, weatherGIRL's biking in Barcelona tour was cancelled due to lack of participation, so I re-booked another tour entitled Barcelona half-day and FC football stadium (soccer) in Barcelona. The highlight for me in this tour was the La Sagrada Familia catedral -- the cathedral that ain't never been finished for hundreds of years, and still won't be finished at the earliest in the year 2026. Still in spite of its on-going construction, it offered beautiful photo opportunities for which I seized on the outside. We were then whisked along to the Barcelona soccer stadium, which they call football. We were escorted inside to see the press area, the inside of stadium, locker areas, the many trophies won, up close, and a photo opportunity with the trophies & a selected player, super-imposed in the image. After our tour, we then took ourselves to the pretty shopping district of Las Ramblas, whose walking strip has a canopy of trees along it, that lines it, and many outside cafes & eateries along the wide walking area. We also ate here within the strip as well. D.) Villefranche, France (Nice, Monaco, Eze, Monte Carlo). Since this was our ONLY port of call in France, I was sure to go "all-out" and splurged on a high-budget tour that visited the 4 towns of: Nice, Monaco, Eze, and Monte Carlo, including the casino there in Monte Carlo, France. This tour also provided the very BEST lunch I've had on a ship's tour, with a visit to the Le Pinocchio restaurant in the cobblestone streets of Eze, France. White wine & red wine were provided with the tasty meal, and every course of the meal was memorable. They provided premium olive oil & vinegar for dipping the French bread in. Weatherguy got a bit liquored-up on the wine that came with the meal, (no extra surcharges), even getting on to the wrong bus, when it was time to leave! All the young, shiny girls shook their head when they seen me get on their bus, & I realized I had too much to drink, and I said "yup, this is too good to be true, and laughed my way off!!" I really enjoyed the many sites and scenery of this trip. WeatherGIRL warned me not to have too much wine as nobody would be there to pick me up off the floor!! I'd say Eze and Monaco were my 2 favorite towns to visit, with Monte Carlo a close 3rd, and seeing the casino lobby was quite spectacular inside. No cameras allowed & no taking photos either, and they have plenty of watchdog security personnel inside to see to it that you comply with their policies. We also got to see scenes of the Monaco Grand Prix streets and the sitting areas along the way of the course track. This was just a FANTASTIC tour and worth every last cent seeing these many areas of the French Riviera, as well as the fine gourmet lunch provided. Eze, Monaco, Monte Carlo along with the Drach caves in Spain were my highlights I enjoyed the most on this trip. E.) Livorno, Italy (Pisa & Florence) Here, we had some on-board credit to use, so by the time I got on the ship, my Panoramic Pisa tour had been sold already, so I went to a back-up tour called Pisa on Your Own. They didn't furnish enough time given on my own for this transfer, but I still got a goodly number of pictures of your Leaning Tower of Pisa from all different angles of us both in the pictures and OUT of the pictures. I also recorded pictures of your baptistery building and neighboring cathedral, outside pictures. The shopping for trinkets nearby was very reasonable in costs, I thought. The tower entrance is still available for a fee, and a much smaller fee will be assessed for entrance in to the cathedral & baptistery buildings nearby. As we arrived back in Livorno, we took a transfer to the town of Livorno and found some interesting shopping streets there. Too bad it seems that Livorno and places in Spain close their doors during the afternoon between the hours of 2 PM & 4 PM either for siesta or a long lunch break, as a number of stores were closed, but there were still a handful open, too. Gelatos were FANTASTIC anywhere we went in Italy, France, or Spain, and weatherGIRL capitalized in getting gelatos it seemed in every port. Weatherguy's TIP: I recommend visiting Florence over Pisa, if you've not been to Florence yet. I've visited Florence, Italy in 2007, so I chose Pisa, on this go-around. Now having seen both, I recommend you to pony-up and pay the extra $$$ to visit Florence as there's more there to see, the birthplace of the Renaissance. F.) Civitavecchia, Italy (Rome) Here is where the cruise ship ended its 15-Night Trans-Atlantic, the gateway to Rome. Since I visited Rome, Italy in 2007, and hit all the big ticket sites to see in Rome in 2007, we merely took a transfer to Fiumicino and stayed overnight at a local residential area motel. We took in the sites of the local area, and ate in a nice country-style tavern for both lunch & dinner, for which I took pictures of. It was quite reasonably priced, too, which made it even all the better. We had access to a local road-side fruit stand & local supermarket for which we both visited and got some fruit & supplies at. Then we visited a gelateria, for some gelatos, and espresso, and prepped ourselves for the flight back on British Airways from Fiumicino, Italy to London with continuing onward service from London to Miami. We enjoyed our time in Fiumicino, Italy in the residential area walking around, and the cozy tavern eatery, too! XII. Disembarkation. Off-loading from the ship was simple. There were NO customs & immigration hassles to deal with. The Italians don't keep track of who's coming in to their country, which makes it easy on me. Whew! I didn't get off as early as some others did. Instead, I left my stateroom with luggage in hand at 810 AM and was out in the parking lot area at 825 AM, 15 minutes' time. I scheduled an appointment for a private transfer from the seaport, to my motel in Fiumicino and the driver came timely, with a Mercedes and excellent helpful & professional driver who whisked us away to Fiumicino, taking 1 hour and 10 minutes to arrive at the motel. I paid less than the ship's transfer price, for just the 2 of us alone. XIII. Summary. So the HIGH points of the cruise were the Activities which were plenty abundant throughout the ship, the pools, the Latin band, the Hypnotist show, and the game shows for me, and the dancing for her & I. Also, the Russian jugglers show was a high point, at the end of the cruise, watching stunts I've not seen before. And, of course, the WEATHER was a high point of this cruise...you know I wouldn't have it any other way! The LOW points of the cruise were the food quality in the various dining rooms, and lack of selection with undesireable cold, finger sandwiches dished out at Cafe Promenade. Guest services reception in the lobby, was also a problematic area, too, with exceedingly long waits, and incorrect information given. More staff training is needed to the newbies who just joined RCCL. The whole telephone system infrastructure could use a revamping overhaul, to get telephones to reset easily. I did feel crowded on this ship, particularly in the Savoy Theatre, the elevators, the Cafe Promenade, and in the lounges of most public areas, and in the dance instruction of Dragon's Lair. The 845 PM theatre shows were most crowded and even getting there 45 minutes ahead of time would still not assure a front row seat. So if you require a premium seat where you can cherry pick, then I advise going to the earlier 7 PM show or the rare 1030 PM show, when it's offered, to have a pick of the litter for seating selection. I was satisfied with the fellow guest passengers whom I cruised with, being a more civilized & intelligent crop of guests in comparison with Carnival's clientele I experienced in September 2011. We had a good mixture of young & older folks alike. Also, I enjoyed all of our dinner table mates at the early seating dinner. In the event I cruise with RCCL again, I will look my hardest to go on a SMALLER RCCL ship where I believe food will be better, less crowded, and less competitive to get front-row seating. I'll also get to avoid being stuck with the tooth-shattering hard cookies & one-dimensional cold finger sandwiches, that I had to tolerate in the Cafe' Promenade during the late nights. I'll be welcoming the Norwegian Cruise Line's Blue Lagoon eatery, when I go on a NCL cruise in the future, far better than the undesireable Cafe' Promenade's cold sandwich selections. Just lower the rates, NCL! -- weatherguy Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We flew to Miami with Copa Airlines from Southamerica. Originally we were booked to fly with Aerosur, but this airline went bankrupt before our flight. We lost the money of the tickets bought with Aerosur, since nobody feels responsible ... Read More
We flew to Miami with Copa Airlines from Southamerica. Originally we were booked to fly with Aerosur, but this airline went bankrupt before our flight. We lost the money of the tickets bought with Aerosur, since nobody feels responsible for the refund. We arrived in Miami three days earlier than our cruise. We have spent a couple of nights at South Beach close to Lincoln Road. The hotel was the Albion hotel, which was OK but nothing special. The best thing about the hotel was its proximity to South Beach. Weather in Miami was not very nice, it was raining a lot. We arrived at 3 pm at the Port after having a good lunch in South Beach. Chek inn was smoth and we could have inmediate access to our stateroom. This was a promenade room, located in the 6th floor. The room was good, and big enough for both of us. Unfortunately we did not receive our luggage until about 11.00 pm, which meant we were not able to retire to sleep earlier than that. It was the first time I have experienced such a chaos with luggage delivery. Being Diamond members, we had access to the diamond lounge. The diamond lounge was not finished at the Mariner during the first days and the event took place at the Lotus lounge. Not a nice atmosphere at the Lotus and the host was not particularly relaxed. Later during the cruise, as the diamond lounge was inaugurated, the situation improved. The lounge served La Terre wine, some other drinks and small canapes. From my point of view, although the wine was not exactly, a high quality wine, it was drinkable and we spent very nice evenings at the lounge meeting fellow cruisers. The cruise itself was very nice. The captain made a good impression to us. Activities were diverse.The shows were OK. I have enjoyed particularly Mario DAndrea, whom I have already seen once at the Celebrity Equinox. His show has not changed much. I have liked his show then at the Celebrity I have liked his show also this time. Maybe for the third time there will be some innovation in his show.... We found the food at the Mariner of the Seas good. We have enjoyed eating at the MDR under the option of my time dining and we have also enjoyed the Windjammer. The sausages station next to the pool area was also very good. It was really a temptation! The fitness center was fine. It will be good though if the machines will be updated to those having individual TVs. The swimming pools were also fine. I enjoy that they change the water each day and this makes unnecessary chlorine and other chemicals. There were at least two heated swimming pools. What we did not like very much, is that some cruisers have the custom of just standing in the pools, without swimming. Unfortunately they stand almost in the middle of the pool and talk to each other without any consideration for swimmers. For us, this was kind of unexpected, since we have hardly seen this happening in other cruises or hotels. Definitely the best show during the crossing was the Ice Show. It was amazing. The ports of call were Teneriffe, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Villefranche sur Mer and Livorno. In Teneriffe we went to Teide. This was a tour organised by Konadave (a cruise critic fellow member). It was very nice. Thank you again Konadave! In Palma we just went to the city and did a litle of sight seeing. The Cathedral although impressive, was disappointing because they charge entrance fee to go to the church. This is the first time I have seen this practice at a Catholic Church. Not even at the Saint Pauls in Vatican City or at the magnificent Duomo in Miland have I experience entrance fees for the Church. But in Palma de Mallorca you have to pay. Is this a common practice a Spain now? In Villefranche sur Mer, we went to Nice and Monaco on our own. It was too much for one day. I would recommend just to choose one place and spend more time there. In Barcelona, we went just to the Ramblas. Time in Barcelona was very short. In Livorno, we took an organised excursion from the ship to Florence. This was good. Our guide was very well informed. We arrived early in Rome and disembarkation was quick and easy. We had opted for the self assisted option and carried our luggage on our own. In summary, this was a very nice crossing, the Mariner of the Seas a lovely ship and the ports of call interesting. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We traveled from Rome to Galveston, TX on Mariner during Oct./Nov. 2012. We have traveled on multi-lines and ships throughout the world. I shall not dwell on the ports except to say that they were all nice and welcomed our visit. We did ... Read More
We traveled from Rome to Galveston, TX on Mariner during Oct./Nov. 2012. We have traveled on multi-lines and ships throughout the world. I shall not dwell on the ports except to say that they were all nice and welcomed our visit. We did not utilize the shore excursions available and prefer to use local transportation. As a general comment, the weather was great and the sailing went smoothly. The ship layout and facilities were good and the staff was generally very friendly and helpful. Most passengers considering a transatlantic voyage are experienced sailors and so I shall not bore you with the typical. Let me divide my comments into three categories: 1) negatives, 2) positives and 3) suggestions for improvement. Negatives - The little things-no chocolates at turn-down, no staff members at the Internet room to handle problems, the entertainment for the first seating was at 9:00pm, which meant just wasting a half hour to 45 minutes just waiting for the show to begin, smoking is still allowed on balconies. The evening movies were offered at 7:00pm, which is too early for those in first seating and too late for those in late seating. The bigger concerns - the food was generally just lukewarm and the soup was always lukewarm, even when I specifically asked for hot soup. The quality of the food was average. Room service did not promptly pick up dirty dishes left in the passage ways by passengers having room service; however, room service was very prompt with service otherwise. Positives - Our Captain. Fleming Neilson, was the most friendly and social Captain I have ever encountered on any ship. He was always walking in the public areas and talking to passengers to see how things were going. He had time for pictures and loved to talk about the ship. If you are lucky enough to have him on board, you will know it. The dining room service was very good, although the staff did not or could not do much about the food temperature. The cabin stewards were friendly and did an excellent job overall. Lastly, the bridge(cards) instruction was good and our cruise director, Paul Rutter did an excellent job. The "guest" entertainers were much better than the "production" numbers put on by the entertainment staff. Improvements - One should be able to charge future cruises booked on ship to the shipboard account. Since most of us had shipboard credits, it was an easy way to spend them rather than being required to gamble or take shore excursions. One disconcerting fact, since I am a RCCL stockholder, is that one's stockholder benefits are offset by other discounts that you may obtain and are available to anyone booking. It removes the incentive to be a stockholder/passenger. Lastly, there should be a TV guide with description of programs in every cabin. It was often challenging to find TV programs. Overall - It was a nice trip and I would rate it between three and four stars. Generally acceptable, but nothing to write home about.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We flew to Rome (FCO) via Lufthansa from Houston (IAH) via Frankfort. I'm glad that we booked a longer layover since our originating flight was delayed 2 hours. We flew into Rome 4 days before our cruise and stayed in an apartment ... Read More
We flew to Rome (FCO) via Lufthansa from Houston (IAH) via Frankfort. I'm glad that we booked a longer layover since our originating flight was delayed 2 hours. We flew into Rome 4 days before our cruise and stayed in an apartment in the Vatican area with friends that we met on CC Roll Call for our ship. The apartment was close to the Metro and bus stops which made it convenient for sightseeing. Since we had previously been to Rome, we used this trip to see the Borghese Gardens and Capitoline Hill as well as visit the usual sights of the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navonna, and Campo di Fiori, We took a guided tour of the Vatican Gardens (arranged through the Vatican) and Museum which was so beautiful. We had previously seen the gardens after climbing the Duomo and was curious to get an up-close view. Well worth it! We enjoyed a pre-cruise dinner the night before we boarded at a local restaurant with some of our fellow cruisers that we met on CC. We prearranged a van with Rome in Limousines for transport to the port which I'm glad we did since it had poured rain that morning, effectively shutting down the Metro for a little while. Some of us met at our apartment then we set out to pick up others on the other side of the Vatican. It was a pleasant drive to the port where we arrived around 12:30. Embarkation was smooth. We even got to keep the several bottles of wine that we had purchased in Rome. No one even asked for them although we were ready to declare them since we had no intention of drinking them onboard. I think we went to the Promenade Cafe for lunch to avoid the crowds in the Windjammer. We have always booked inside cabins since I prefer to be on one of the lower decks and mid-ship to avoid some of the ship's motion but we decided to splurge on a Promenade cabin since it was more central than the inside cabins on this ship. The cabin was a bit larger than I expected but that might have been an illusion because of the window. The only time we heard noise from the Promenade was during the parades but it was a great vantage point from which to see them as well as to gauge when to go down to the sidewalk sales since we were right above the General Store. Since this was our first crossing I worried about getting seasick so I donned sea-bands and began taking ginger capsules twice a day. Despite several days of 15 foot swells, I never really got nauseous until our ship entered the Gulf of Mexico (I had forgotten to take a dose of ginger which also might have had something to do with the queasiness). Our first port was Mallorca where I headed 3 busloads of CC passengers on a tour of the city. Our guide, Miguel Corral, was wonderful and made the tour memorable. After touring the city, we got out to see the Mallorca Pearl Factory and Bull Ring and then made a second stop at the Cathedral which was incredible. I'm glad he explained the symbolism in the modern art altar which helped me to appreciate its beauty. The port is just beautiful, with many sailboats and yachts in the harbor. That night we celebrated our anniversary at Portofinos with a fabulous meal - well worth the price. The chef came out to congratulate us and gave us a special dessert with "Happy Anniversary" written in chocolate on the plate. I have to interject here my complements to Mariner of the Seas for their recognition of my husband's birthday and our anniversary. We usually cruise this time of the year to celebrate both of these occasions and this is the first time that I felt the ship itself had gone above and beyond to recognize these occasions. Not only did the wait staff sing for us but the ship staff gave us certificates for either $15 Internet time or a phone call home for each of them. The last RCI ship didn't even sing. It certainly made us feel special. Our second port was Cartegena, Spain, which was a very accessible port and didn't require any additional transportation to get off the ship and into town. Since the double-decker bus was full when we got off the ship, we just walked around in town and shopped. This is a great port for shoes since there were many stores that carried them. We took the bus a couple of hours later when the crowds thinned for about 4,50Euro each. I believe that for 10 Euro, they included entrance into several tourist stops. This is not a HOHO but did a circuitous route with narration. Another pretty port with many sailboats in the harbor. After another day at sea before we reached our third port, Funchal, Madeiria, Portugal where another CC member made arrangements for tour buses and vans. We were dropped off at the cable car which rode to Monte at the top of the mountain. The scenery was spectacular. Once at the top, you could chose to ride the toboggan down the hill. We chose to ride down in the van and met the others at the bottom. Our driver then took us on a tour around the area and out to the second highest sea cliff in the world with such a spectacular view! Our next port was La Palmas, Canary Islands. Since we arrived on Nov 1 which is a holiday we were concerned that there wouldn't be much open so we opted to take the ship's Volcano and Wine excursion. After seeing some of the local scenery and a stop at a beautiful garden, our driver took us to the volcano. Although not as spectacular as those in Hawaii, we were able to climb to the top for a wonderful view of the sea as well as the inside of the volcano. The hike up is rocky and often narrow with no guardrails so you really need to be careful. The winery stop was not remarkable and we only brought the wine as cheap souveniers. Now on to 6 days at open sea which was quite relaxing. There were several planned activities that interested me. I participated in some of the lectures about immigration, took piano lessons and did origami. They had lots of dance lessons which didn't interest me. Our CC friends organized many activities to keep us busy on these sea days. We had a 3 day mini-golf tournament, slot pull, poker run and cabin crawl which were all fun. Mostly I just read my Nook up on deck and enjoyed the meals. We did get to try the hot tub in the Shipshape Center which had some powerful jets for the lower back. AAAAHHHHH! Our last port was Nassau where we shopped til I dropped. Another great thing about a westbound transatlantic is the added hours. It seemed like almost every day or every other day we gained an hour when we rolled the clocks back. It was especially appreciated the night before we sailed into Galveston so we didn't feel like we had to get up at the crack of dawn to make our way off the ship. Since we live about 2 hours north of Galveston, we took our time getting off the ship. My husband took a taxi to Enterprise Car Rental to get the rental van and came back to the port to get us (we drove our friends from the apartment to Hobby Airport). I think we were out of customs by around 11 and they remarked that it went much smoother this year than last. The crew on the Mariner were outstanding. Our waiter, Valkey, and assistant, Renee, kept our table filled with appetizers that were on the menu early in the cruise which were appreciate and they saw to it that we had them most nights. They went out of their way to see if they could get us special items whenever we asked. Our head waiter, Ashton, was the best we've ever had. He was at our table every day not just visible with his hand out on the last night. He went out of his way to get us extras, too. Our cabin attendant, Doisey, was also the best we've ever encountered. He sought us out, always calling us by name and carrying on conversations about us, the cruise and his homeland. He kept our room spotless. The captain, Flemming Nielson, is the friendliest I've ever encountered. He was often strolling the deck talking with everyone. I didn't see our cruise director, Paul Rutter around except at the shows. The shows were quite good with the exception of a former Starsearch winner (I can't remember her name) I felt sorry for her - people were leaving in droves during her show. I wish the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers could have done another show or two. They were really quite good. I loved the Beatles tribute the best. I'm glad that I got to see the ice show. Tickets were distributed the second day of the cruise when I had slept in so I missed getting them. Just waited in line the second day of the show and was able to secure seats way in the back. It was a fantastic show. Another funny show was the Quest. Our table-mates gathered in the back so that we didn't get too involved but it was funny to watch. The art on board is wonderful and worth a day or two to explore. One of the surprisingly prettiest places on the ship is the ladies room on deck 11 aft where you have a wonderful view of the sea. It makes waiting in line a pleasure. This ship was crowded with many Diamond and Diamond Plus members which led to some slow service for the rest of us. It was almost impossible to get elevators down to the dining rooms because they were all coming down from the Viking Crown lounge at the same time. My husband was getting very frustrated at the many rude passengers which led him to not enjoy this RCI experience as much as our last. That was also a smaller ship and our first experience with RCI. But his frustration didn't prevent us from purchasing Next Cruise certificates while onboard. We look forward to sailing with RCI again but it will be the itinerary which will continue to be our driving force when choosing our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Review of the Mariner of the Seas: TA: Rome to Galveston: October 26-November 11 Having recently (this year) cruised on both Princess and Holland America, we are in an excellent position to compare the three cruise lines and their ... Read More
Review of the Mariner of the Seas: TA: Rome to Galveston: October 26-November 11 Having recently (this year) cruised on both Princess and Holland America, we are in an excellent position to compare the three cruise lines and their performances. We chose this TA because of the 16 day length and the opportunity to relax after a very exhaustive fall work schedule. Some new ports (Mallorca, Madeira, and La Palma) but nothing great. Also having Texan roots, the interest in travelling to a Texan port was overwhelming. It has become obvious to me over the last year that each company has their pluses and minuses and as a result, future choice of cruises will increasingly be driven by itinerary and price, not loyalty necessarily. As they say, the trip to was half the battle. Chicago, a lengthy layover at Heathrow and an uneventful BA flight to Rome got us to the Eternal City. Then our troubles began. Could not find the hotel shuttle site--Rome airport lacks signs or directions. Took a taxi at our own expense only to find the hotel had overbooked and cancelled our reservation (one that had been made nearly 11 months ago). They explained it was because we were on the wrong side of the queue. I was not happy (and neither were the many others) and Marriott will hear about this for sure. They did find another hotel but as our other two couples were staying there (one of which had made their reservation only 2 months ago) and we were to meet them for the transportation to the port, it made for some early morning rush to get together again. Shuttle to port was uneventful. Embarkation was as smooth and quick as we had ever encountered. Could not get to rooms so straight to Windjammer for a quick buffer. Very crowded but no problem finding a seat. Windjammer: We choose to eat here most of the time (excluding the two formal nights when we ate at the specialty restaurants Chops and Portofinos). We have small appetites and have pledged not to gorge oneself as is too often the temptation on cruises. Two hour dinners are not just our preferences (I guess we get more ADD prone the older we get) We prefer the buffet where you can have numerous small helpings of a variety of entrees instead of massive helpings of four courses, and be in and out in 30 minutes or 45 as you prefer. RCI does not offer hard ice cream in the dining area (Holland America had a dozen varieties with at least one or two different ones each day). Desserts were substandard (I missed the large cookies HA offered and the many varieties of hard ice cream available on HA but not RCI) and continued review during the entire cruise confirmed that result: RCI needs desperate improvement in this area. On the other ships they had a Deli Station for made to order sandwiches--something I would highly recommend for RCI. The Jade Asian and an entire Indian station were excellent and not available on the other ships. Food was adequate and variety sufficient. The only specialty restaurants on the Mariner were premium restaurants (for pay). The other cruise lines provided at least one if not more non-pay specialty restaurants. I would encourage RCI to develop non-premium specialty restaurants to provide variety for guests. What RCI has with the Mariner and Navigator (Voyager class of ships) and the others do not is the Promenade, a football field length main street full of shops and dining. Great as a meeting place and wandering site. This allows Parades which MOS had several of. The Ice rink and several ice shows are also unique and something the other lines did not have. Entertainment: The RCI singers and dancers gave two major productions; the other lines provided three for the same length cruise. The Ice Show was excellent but for 16 days you would have expected perhaps a second different show as well. We really enjoyed the Beatles celebration on the 2nd night and the crowd (especially the matrons who were reliving their adolescence twisting and shouting on their now artificial hips and knees) loved it too. The mind reader was so-so. Quality fell off during the sea days; the winter blizzard in the Northeast that closed the airports and kept the scheduled performers from reaching the ship might have had something to do with it. Nonetheless, we have had much better. Activities: We are trivia buffs and the progressive trivia during sea days and other trivia two or three times a day were excellent. The only problem was that the cruise staff members directing the trivia were not native English speakers and thus misspoke many a term making it all the more difficult to understand the question being asked. The enrichment speakers . . . improved as the cruise went along. Best enrichment speaker I ever had was a native Hawaiian on the HA Hawaii cruise. The itinerary was a modest one (Mallorca, Cartagena, Madeira, La Palma, Nassau) but once again we did not choose this cruise because of the ports but for the length and the relaxing environment. All the ports, though, were interesting and worthwhile (except Nassau which is well overdone) Internet. I run my own business using the Internet. In the past, I have found Internet on cruise ships to be iffy connections, very expensive, and confusing. Sometimes you can access it in your room, often times note. On the Mariner, you can only access it on a few select hotspots. Cost is still prohibitive but with the free minutes and discount available, it is getting affordable . I would like to see a daily all you can use rate ($10/day would be reasonable) since one would not need to be so hurried. Connection time is extremely slow. Ships must work on this as more and more the Internet is indispensable to quality of life. In the past we have enjoyed several wine tastings . . . usually 4 to 6 wines for about $10 per person . . . a very reasonable outing. This time the price for 4 wines was $29 and well out of the value range for us. Lots of nickel and diming and trying everywhere to get additional $s out of passengers but we have found that everywhere on all cruise ships and different cruise lines and it just takes discipline and will power to say no. Disembarking for shore excursions was highly disorganized. Passengers entered the Savoy theatre and were given their excursion number and then left to mull around. A better system that had been used for previous cruises would be to have marked off certain theatre seats for each excursion bus and have passengers sit in their assigned sections until called. Mariner appeared to be a clean and well maintained ship. Crew friendly and responsive. Captain very gracious, humorous, competent professional. Our kudos to Paul (" Hi Paul") Rudder the cruise director and his cruise activities staff for keeping us occupied on the many sea days (although he was rarely seen on the ship). Nikki, the activities director, had problems with progressive trivia providing questions that were controversial and then not following up on questions. The rest of the cruise activity staff had major problems with English: Sara from Italy, Alexandro from Italy, Flavio from Brazil. In dealing with a ship full of Americans, they had a hard time vocalizing let alone understanding American English. Even Rachel from England had some problems. I would highly recommend true American cruise staff for a majority American passenger ship. Flavio in particular destroyed a Texas Trivia with his mispronounciations (and then insulted all the Texans by making an obscene gesture of the Hook Em Horns Longhorn sign). The Americans had a devil of a time understanding them and their attitude ("Whatever") did not fuel confidence in the staff. When nuances make differences in trivia, true understanding of the question is critical. If they intend to make a winter of it 5 months in Galveston with primarily Texans, they must learn to speak at least American English and if possible to understand the Texan mentality. Someone must tell the Mariner that this is an American ship full of Texans and other Americans to whom 'football' does not mean soccer. The Sports Bar never showed American sport events, not even the World series nor NFL nor College Football games (such as #1 LSU vs #2 Alabama). Other cruise lines have not been so stingy. A major concern is the library or rather what was called a "library." MOS needs to invest a few hundred dollars and buy hundred volumes at garage sales to have something on its shelves. It is a disgrace. On Sunday, day 12, we discovered the ship had run out of a variety of foodstuffs: bacon, sausage, cream cheese, shrimp, ranch dressing. We still have another 2 days before we reach Nassau. I have never had this happen during a TA before; someone badly miscalculated. We had a thousand Texans on board, if they were not angry before, they were now without their bacon. RCI has a new item called Brasserie 30 whereupon diners for lunch could expect dinner in and out in less than 30. The last day we decided to try it out and was seated promptly at noon and ordered shortly thereafter. Forty five minutes later we still had not been served. After several subtle and not so subtle complaints, our lunch was served and we found it out had been brought out 15 minutes before hand. Several in our party left disgusted with the delay. This also was repeated numerous times for breakfast. I understand Europeans expect a multi-hour meal but as they are now serving Americans and will be for the next 5 months, they had better get their act in gear and serve within 30 minutes or there will be hell to pay with reviews. We have been cruising actively for nearly 15 years and I have seen considerable deteoriation of quality in that time: no more chocolates on the pillows at night, the white glove service quality is gone, key chains instead of glasses or card decks as gifts, food quality has suffered considerably, and accommodations have too taken a dip. But this is pretty much consistent across all cruise lines and ships (except for those premium high end ships starting at 5 digits). It is something we do not particularly like but have become accustomed to and expect. To that end, the Mariner, although lowered quality like all other ships, provides a good value for the quality received. I am a very discerning critic and have written some fiery reviews before so I do not mince words. However this cruise was excellently run and with the exception of a few points (desert, library, internet), we could not have been happier. I would be glad to recommend the Mariner of the Seas to anyone looking for a cruise ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Our cruise plans were made far in advance, but how could one fly to Rome without seeing the sights? One glance at hotel prices in Rome encouraged me to rent an apartment for a couple weeks. We settled into an apartment in Trastevere just ... Read More
Our cruise plans were made far in advance, but how could one fly to Rome without seeing the sights? One glance at hotel prices in Rome encouraged me to rent an apartment for a couple weeks. We settled into an apartment in Trastevere just a block from the pedestrian bridge Ponte Sisto south of the Vatican. Fortuitously, we stayed just around the corner from an English language bookstore whose Irish proprietor was most helpful, "Can I tell you how to get anywhere?" A tempting artisanal bakery lured us at the end of our one block long Vicolo de' Renzi. Thank goodness our adult son accompanied us, as he was a much better traveling companion than his father. After a few days we bought a weekly bus pass. Highlights: Sistine Chapel, Galleria Borghese and Villa Borghese, Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori, Parco Giacolense, and the Pantheon (for all 3 of us); Capitoline Museums, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza del Popolo, Villa Farnesina, Forum and Palatine HIll, Largo Argentina, baroque Il Gesu, Via Giulia, Castel Sant'Angelo and St.Peter's (for son and me); the Sunday flea market at Porta Potese plus scooters and motorcycles (for son and father); Etruscan Museum and the enchanting Santa Maria de Trastevere (for me). Small electric bus #116 was our favorite, traversing narrow cobblestoned streets. Cobblestones is Papa's new curseword. I got pastaed out, but liked pepe e cacchio, chestnuts, panne cotta, and the bread. Got to sample truffles (liked the expensive white ones best) and limoncello. Guys ate quite a bit of pizza. Cooked breakfast with good Italian eggs in the apartment. Finally, tram#8 to the Trastevere Station to catch the airport train (son) and the cruiseport train (the 'rents). After a miserably rainy morning in Rome, we reached sunny Civitavecchia. Boarded relatively early. No problem (husband disagrees). Economy interior cabin on deck 9 unexpectedly comfortable. Plenty of room to stash belongings, outstanding bathroom fixtures and lighting. Just enough room to do yoga in the morning. Cabin attendant Miriam of St. Kitts unfailingly pleasant and helpful. Although some more experienced cruisers complained about running out of food items, we were always satisfied. Lots of fresh fruit. Usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer; some breakfasts and lunches in the dining rooms. We'd selected anytime dining. Jeffrey the maitre d' always seated us well, usually at a table for two, but occasionally joining other diners. The first night some patrons were exasperated at having to wait to be seated, but it was no problem for us after that. I gorged on seafood, which my husband doesn't like. He ate more desserts, but only gained one pound. As excessively early risers, we usually snacked at the Cafe Promenade before the fitness center opened at 6 a.m. The coffee was bitter European for most American tastes. Would we were offered Folger's! We relished the winds and waves, although the 2 main swimming pools were often drained and some decks occasionally closed due to the weather--up to 14 foot seas. I thoroughly enjoyed activities with the dance instructor, the origami instructor, the entertaining and informative lecturer Cathy Eck, and Captain Nielsen's talk. We made calls at Palma de Mallorca; Cartagena, Spain; Funchal de Madeira, Portugal; Santa Maria de Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Nassau, Bahamas. Papa was delighted to find El Corte Ingles in Mallorca, familiar from Madrid, following directions from a friendly tourist info gal. I bought so much chocolate in the department store's basement supermarket that I had to host a chocolate tasting party near Valentine's Day. Cartagena with its marble streets was wonderful. Papa sitting solo at a sidewalk table indulging in Spanish hot chocolate and burros, was soon joined by a bevy of curious tourists. In the afternoon I was moved by the Museum of the Resistance(Spanish Civil War) and got great views of the bull ring, roman arena, harbor and town, from the top of that mount where the castle is located. We loved the market in Madeira, but my husband claimed I made a bank guard nervous by taking photos of the tiled scenes on the building's exterior. The distinct difference in ambiance from the Spanish stops struck both of us. After tasting the madeira, my husband proceeded to buy a bottle. Having seen the alfombra produced by Canary Island artists using multicolored volcanic sand in San Antonio, Texas, where Islanders settled in 1716, it was interesting to note how strikingly apparent the volcanic origins of the islands were. We were too early to dine in a flower bedecked house, but enjoyed some gelato up the block. Had fun looking at crafts and interacting with vendors. Nassau was a bit hectic. We'd planned a sailing and snorkeling tour in the morning, but it was delayed until the afternoon. The cruise rep offered a full refund or a 25% discount for those who still wanted to take the tour. I'd visited Nassau about twenty years ago, but now they had traffic jams! I'd known the straw market had burned down, but not that the vendors were now crowded into small tents hugging the harbor. We did enjoy some music and a little shopping. The sail and snorkel was a total bust for my husband and he was not alone. However, cheers for Royal Caribbean for giving him and, unexpectedly, me a complete refund. The maps of the ports provided on board were helpful. There was however, some confusion about where the tour groups were to meet, as well as sometimes inadequate guidance about routes into the towns. We also had to figure out for ourselves how to reach our assigned rooms on board. Deboarding was long and late. It would have been helpful to know approximately how long it would take to go through customs. The distribution of passports by lining up alphabetically was made less tedious by chatting with other passengers, but surely could have been handled more expeditiously. Finally, My husband liked the experience well enough to book a transatlantic cruise from New Orleans to Barcelona in April. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I've cruised over 60 times on most all the lines including a number of TA crossings. Now that I live in So Am and am retired I favor crossings from So Am to Europe. They involve less air expense for us and are usually a relative ... Read More
I've cruised over 60 times on most all the lines including a number of TA crossings. Now that I live in So Am and am retired I favor crossings from So Am to Europe. They involve less air expense for us and are usually a relative bargain on a per diem basis. We've seen all the So Am ports and we like longer cruises so the ship is now becoming the destination. Accordingly, this review will not include comments on the ports, per se.We've done a couple of crossings on 35,000 ton Oceania in the last few years. The food and service were great on this small ship, but we thought there was too little in the way of entertainment so this spring we opted for the 13 night crossing from Rio to Roma on the Mariner, a 138,000 ton quasi-behemoth that we figured would guarantee lots of entertainment and shipboard activities, however, on the basis of our on board experience we concluded that never again would we sail on a mass market repositioning cruise. DININGFirst and foremost, the food in the MDR was shockingly bad. I know that all cruise lines cut back on repositionings and crossings, but RCI, at least, has carried this too far. To add insult to injury we couldn't even get a decent meal when we paid the extra tariff in the speciality dining rooms, Chops($25) and Portofino ($20). The steaks were tasteless and most dishes seemed to be nothing more elaborate than well presented MDR fare. Bread and butter was often the best tasting item in the MDR. The buffet breakfast in the Windjammer was the most satisfactory meal of the day despite the fact there was no omelet station and the fried eggs were offered heaped together in a large serving tray. It's hard to screw up lox and toasted bagels, but RCI tried by leaving the bagels out on a large serving tray. Depending on your luck you might select one that was still warm. I saw a large orange juice machine in the Windjammer, but it was not operating. I was told the oranges on board were not suitable for making OJ, a curious and telling fact inasmuch as we were sailing out of Rio where year round I can get a liter of fresh squeezed OJ for $2.50 at my local fruit market. As a matter of fact, the oranges weren't suitable for eating either. None of the fruit was particular good, a real oddity given the venue. ACCOMMODATIONS AND SERVICEThe service in the Windjammer, specialty restaurants, and in the MDR at dinner (and dinner only) was as good as the food was bad. When I mentioned my preference for low salt, our head waiter immediately offered to allow me to preselect my dishes from the next day's menu so they would be prepared salt-free. This, they did religiously for the entire cruise. I never had better service in a ship's buffet restaurant than the service I experienced on the Mariner. Whoever trains staff is doing something right. We occupied a corner aft veranda cabin (1688) that was uniquely spacious. The extra inside and rear balcony space afforded us a comfortable environment. Ample storage space and a mini fridge were welcome conveniences. We got plush bathrobes as a platinum level perk, about the only thing of any real value that is now offered for this middling level. There were no extraordinary appointments, but the bed was comfy and the bathroom functioned as expected. Comments on the TV will follow. Our cabin attendant from Indonesia provided excellent service. He was polite, attentive, helpful and efficient. These ships are getting so big that those with mobility issues should give some consideration to occupying an extreme aft or forward cabin. The walk might be a bother for some.Despite my age I'm still something of a gym rat. For me the spa is the gym and little else. The workout area was adequate although at times there was a line waiting to go on the treadmills. There was a casino, but as I don't gamble I spent little time there occasionally stopping to watch the heavy bettors play 21.The main showroom, principle lounges, public rooms, and bars were nicely decorated and comfortable. The mid-level decks include a large open concourse space with upper deck "inside" cabins looking out over the area and shops and bars running the length of its sides. For some unknown reason there was very little merchandise in some of the perfume and merchandise shops. We didn't spend much time in the public rooms lining the concourse except for having a drink occasionally in the Schooner bar. Service by a bilingual Brasilian law school grad was pleasant. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of well educated, well spoken crew members on board. ENTERTAINMENTThe entertainment did little to make up for the poor food. In particular, the TV programming was horrific. I confess to enjoying the boob tube at night in the privacy of my cabin. We occupied a specially designed aft veranda cabin that owing to the uniqueness of the layout had a pole in between the bed and the tiny 18 (maybe 21) inch TV set. I would not have minded the obstacle (it was a tradeoff of which I was aware) or the smallness of the distantly located set, but apparently owing to some antenna problem the TV programming consisted of little more than a repetitive (ad nauseum) diet of boring 5 year old travelogues and episodes from Life at the Playboy Mansion. CNN gave out after the first couple of days which, combined with the absence of any shipboard NYT newsletter, meant living in ignorance for most of the cruise. There were few decent films broadcast. That goes for the small movie theater as well. No first run films. Truly abysmal TV and movie offerings. Parenthetically, the telephone was also on the fritz. At times, messages could not be left and could not be played back according to the instructions. The Engineering Dept was suspect.The showroom theater presentations were okay. The ship's production company's two shows of adequate live singing and inadequate dancing were not much better than fair, but were enhanced by pretty impressive staging, lighting, and especially the orchestra. In fact, the ship's orchestra was as good as any I have heard on board. Really "tight." On other nights there were some talented musical soloists. Unfortunately, there was a lack of variety in the dance music offered by the orchestra or it's subgroups/combos in the lounge venues. More than 85% of the passengers on this voyage were Brasilian so I can understand the emphasis on Latin music, but there was no other style of dance music offered at all. I live in Brasil and can verify that the natives like to swing and foxtrot, too. Not much opportunity for it anywhere. The ice show was extremely colorful and entertaining. Too bad there's only one such show, repeated 4 x during the cruise so everyone can see it.The cruise director and his team were a group of upbeat, good-natured, bi-lingual Brasilians. Bingo is not my bag. I never went, but based on my observations of the cruise director staff at other times, I imagine it was well run. "Marathon" team trivia, run on a cumulative score basis throughout the cruise, was fun (and I take my fun seriously). Surprisingly, the prizes distributed to many of the participants at the end of the event were actually nice, real prizes, e.g. tee shirts, caps, fanny packs, luggage tags, etc. On the other hand, there was no organized bridge play. For a crossing with so many sea days this was a large negative in my book. Speaking of books, the library's offerings were saddeningly sparse. Not sure how much of the lack of decent reading material can be attributed to a lax check out policy (the shelves were left open when no staff was in attendance), but if they can check out the pool towels they ought to be able to check out books and by so doing improve upon the library's meager contents.During the entire 14 day cruise there was one and only one "enrichment talk" about ancient Egypt offered in both Portuguese and English. My wife, who is bi-lingual, said it was boring in either language. Additionally, there were no port info talks in any language. I would have expected at least a crude map of the Salvador, Tenerife, or Civitavecchia port areas when disembarking. Nada, zip, nothing. The lack of decent enrichment talks, reading materials, organized bridge, and TV/movie programming made for an overall entertainment rating of poor despite the competent, fun loving cruise director staff. EMBARKATION AND DISEMBARKATIONMost of the passengers boarded the Mariner in Sao Paulo. We and a few others boarded in Rio. RCI advised me we could board anytime after 9 am. We arrived at 11 am and could not board. Moreover, despite the fact that we were small in number we were kept waiting outside the terminal at the luggage drop off doors for about 20 minutes for no apparent reason. After that time we were permitted to enter the almost vacant terminal where, after waiting another 10 minutes comfortably seated, we were processed in a friendly, efficient manner. Who dropped that ball?Disembarkation was unique in all my experience. If I remember correctly, in all my prior cruises passengers were asked to fill out a form advising of any early travel connections so that priority may be given based upon need. There was no such process at the end of this cruise. We were told we would be assigned luggage tags that would define the time we could disembark in Civitavecchia. As we had to catch a train to Cinque Terra, I called reception and asked if we could disembark early. The reception desk told me to hold and then advised I was disembarking at a time that turned out to be sufficiently early to catch our train, but I wonder why we were not asked and why we had to get lucky to avoid a problem (even if it could have been changed had we asked). Made no sense to me. CONCLUSIONNo amount of good, friendly service could atone for the horrible food that was served on this cruise. To say the food failed to meet expectations is a gross understatement. It was scarily bad. Generally speaking, entertainment and shipboard activities also failed to meet expectations. I think this will be the last mass market repositioning cruise we will take. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Mariner of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.5 4.4
Dining 5.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.5 3.9
Public Rooms 5.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.3
Family 4.5 4.3
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.5 3.6
Service 4.5 4.4
Value For Money 5.0 4.0
Rates N/A 4.3

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