First, I would like to thank Cruise Critic for giving Host Richard the go-ahead to arrange the CruiseCritic.com cocktail party. It was a lot of fun & we met some really great people who were our friends throughout the cruise. And thanks, Richard for doing all the work.
The Mariner is a beautiful ship of understated elegance. We had a standard stateroom which was just like any of the photos you've seen. Plenty of storage & extremely comfortable. The verandah was just about my favorite place to be during the day. I think a comment had been previously made about the comforters on the beds. The king beds have two comforters so whenever I rolled over I ended up being uncovered because they weren't wide enough. They also were not long enough. Next time I will definitely ask for sheets & blanket. The walk-in closet was huge & had more than enough of the assorted hangers. The bathroom was the largest I've had on a ship--very spacious with lots of shelves. You've probably already read in some reviews that the shower ceiling is too low. This is very true. I'm 5'9" & I felt like Alice in Wonderland. My husband's head skimmed the ceiling at 6 ft. so I'm sure it was very uncomfortable for taller people.
One feature the ship was lacking was a full promenade deck. This one was simply a work area for the crew & a staging area for loading the lifeboats. I hope Radisson includes a traditional wrap-around promenade deck on their next ship. Other than your verandah, the pool deck & sun decks were the only places you could be outside on the ship.
Speaking of which, the pool deck is huge & there were plenty of lounges. We enjoyed eating at the Pool Grill which offered hamburgers & hot dogs & a self-serve bar of side items. On many days, there was also an outdoor buffet (in addition to the regular buffet in La Verandah) with differing food themes.
The computer lab could probably use a few more computers. Many of them weren't working properly and a computer instructor was not often seen in the lab. Users were asking other users how to use the computers. Not a problem but it did add to a lot of extra conversation while some people were trying to concentrate. The price of accessing the Internet was very inexpensive because we were not charged while reading a page, only upload or download time was billed & that was 75 cents a minute, in one second increments. Can't beat that.
All of the restaurants were lovely. The food was excellent. We found the menu in the Compass Rose to be varied & the food well prepared & beautifully presented. Service in the main dining room was very good but many times the waiters seemed harried. Taking care of so many tables that were at different stages of service really kept them on their toes. I posted an earlier review [on Cruise Critic's Cruise Boards] of Signatures while on the ship. BTW, there's no problem with getting a table for two in Compass Rose. Just time it either early in the dining time or mid-way when there might be turnover.
The interior of the ship was beautiful & comfortable. Plenty of tables & chairs throughout to sit any time to read, people watch, or just look out the window. The windows were covered with blinds which gave a cozy atmosphere, but it was no problem to just pull them up to get a clear view out. The artwork throughout the ship is really good. Take the time to go on an art walk, this includes all the stateroom decks as well as the public areas.
Service in the lounges & on the pool deck was not as good as I've had on other lines where the servers work for tips (it wasn't bad; just not as good). In one lounge that was the gathering area for the dining room, there appeared to be a shortage of waiters & it would often take quite a long time before they'd come around for a drink order. We usually had to flag them down. The service, however, was very friendly, if not prompt. In fact, all of the staff with whom we crossed paths were extremely friendly & courteous.
Speaking of lounges, we usually had pre-dinner drinks & often had an after-dinner drink in one of the lounges. The price of drinks was so inexpensive that we didn't feel badly about paying for drinks even though we had a bar setup in our suite. I would love to see other lines adopt this type of drink policy. The Observation Lounge was our favorite after-dinner gathering place where Kemble entertained us with his singing & piano playing. He was a real treat so try to get up there to see him.
The smoking policy on the Mariner was very ambiguous. The theater & a couple of lounges were non-smoking, but, otherwise, there was no "smoking policy" on board. I've been on other ships where they designate one side to be non-smoking, unless you're in your room or in one of the non-smoking lounges. However, there was no such designation on the Mariner. On the pool deck, all the tables had ashtrays on them so there was no one side you could go to if you wanted to avoid all smoke. We were later told that one half of the Observation Lounge was non-smoking but there were no signs nor was it ever stated in "Passages," the ship's newsletter. I think Radisson could be a little clearer on this issue.
Radisson seems to offer a very refined type of cruise; but in my opinion, it may be little too refined. Bingo was so boring that we didn't go back. There was no noontime band. I don't need glitz or constant activity, but I do like there to be a festive atmosphere. Perhaps I'm in the minority since I was among one of the younger groups of passengers on this cruise (and I'm not that young).
An area that needs vast improvement is their embarkation & disembarkation procedures. For a line of this caliber, it was a joke. It was the proverbial "hurry up & wait." Radisson really needs to work on this area of passenger service. Disembarkation was worse. There were just 65 of us disembarking in San Diego, but they hadn't worked out a good system for passengers to pick up their passports & turn in customs forms. It was not a smooth procedure & it took us 2 hours to get off the ship from the time they told us to report to pick up our passports until the time we walked off the ship. I think this all comes under the heading of "details" which Radisson, in my opinion, is not very good at handling. I heard similar grumblings from other passengers. I hope they start paying attention to this because enough times of things not going smoothly, whether it's before, during, or at the end of the cruise, takes away from the wonderful cruise experience they're trying to offer.
All in all, it was a fabulous cruise of greats: food, accommodations, service, weather, and new friends. And even with my so-called negative comments about things which are mostly fixable, we have reserved space on the new "Voyager" coming out in 2003. And I would go on this ship again in a heartbeat.
firstname.lastname@example.org June, 2001