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Untitled Document Western Caribbean Ft. Lauderdale – Nassau, Bahamas – At Sea – Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Georgetown, Grand Cayman – At Sea – Key West, Florida – Ft. Lauderdale SNAPSHOT The Radisson Seven Seas Mariner is an attractive 50,000 tonne ship, contemporary and proportionate in its design, with soft, flowing lines. Mariner’s remarkable space ratio of 71.4 provides guests with a great deal of space to move about and there is never any sense of crowding. As the first all-suite, all-balcony vessel of its kind, the Mariner offers spacious, attractive, and very practical guest accommodations for its 700 guests. Issues exist with the small bathtub/shower combination and the inadequate balcony partitions, though. The multiple dining restaurants are all elegant in their design and appearance, and first-rate in quality of food and service. The in-suite dining experience is nothing short of extraordinary. Various public rooms, lounges and areas serve different purposes and, for the most part, are all sensibly designed, decorated and configured. Nice touches such as included gratuities, complimentary wines, bottled water and soft drinks are provided. Service throughout the ship is consistent and excellent. We have deemed the Radisson Seven Seas cruising experience aboard Mariner as one of “simple elegance and sophistication.” FOR STARTERS We initiated our “respite from reality” a day early in Ft. Lauderdale (as well as extending it), choosing to stay at the oceanfront Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, a 15-story resort with exceptional views of the Atlantic Ocean, and located 10 minutes from the cruise ship pier (a $10 cab ride). Lush, tropical landscaping with waterfalls and garden walkways abound. While the hotel can tend to be “busy”, plenty of areas for escape to peace and quiet are easily found. Pay the premium for an oceanfront category on one of the upper floors, and in the 07 through 37 blocks, which provide direct, unobstructed and panoramic vistas of the beach and ocean beyond. The sounds and views of the sparkling Atlantic and its crashing surf are worth the additional cost. As well, the resort is located less than a mile north of the entrance to the inter-coastal where all the ships arrive and depart from Port Everglades, and from your room you can easily watch the parade of cruise ships. Better yet, do as we did, pack some beverages and take the twenty minute stroll down the pristine beach to witness the magical evening exodus of the departing ships from a mere distance of 75 yards. It all gets underway at about 4:30. And, if you’re so inclined, you can wake at 5 in the morning to watch them arrive – albeit in the dark. FIRST IMPRESSIONS The RSSC cruise documents clearly spell it out – embarkation is between 3 pm and 5 pm, although you’ll likely be comfortably accommodated in one of the ship’s lounges prior to that time. Consider an alternative: Arrive a day early, stay at the Harbor Beach Marriott, request late checkout (1 pm), enjoy the beautiful pool area, have lunch, and head to the pier at 3:30 pm. We arrived at 3:45 to a nearly empty Port Everglades, since all ships had boarded, and we registered effortlessly at the RSSC desk. At time of registration, our cruise account was also established, and moments later we were at the main reception area of the ship where our security photos were taken, followed by a champagne toast, and an escort to our suite. All completed in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was about 5 minutes behind us. Nice and smooth. HOME, SUITE, HOME We had originally booked a Category H guarantee, which subsequently was upgraded by Radisson to a Category D on Deck 10. The standard suite provides 252 square feet of stateroom area and a 49 square foot balcony. We actually ended up upgrading to a Category B Penthouse Suite, deciding that the additional 124 square feet of interior space, and additional 24 square feet of teak balcony, was worth the incremental cost. We noted that the balcony of the Category B stateroom was entirely unobstructed in that there was no raised “lip” (about 12 inches) as there was on the balcony of the Category C stateroom. A small fact, perhaps, and likely not noted by many, but we wanted as much visual access from the balcony as possible. The Penthouse Suite interior is beautifully designed, and very functional. Containing a comfortable living area with a wrap-around couch, complete with a small table, and armchair with footrest, this suite provides an abundance of room to relax or entertain. The living area leads to large floor-to-ceiling windows, and a sliding glass door to the balcony allows easy access to the beauty of the outdoors. Opposite to the couch stands a large wall unit, stretching floor to ceiling, and it stores the mini-bar, television/VCR, writing desk and assorted drawer space. The bedroom area is nicely separated from the living area through use of dual decorative columns and attractive curtains that may be drawn. Close by is the roomy walk-in closet that is quite able to handle a wardrobe for the longest voyage. And with the handy laundry facility on board, there is no need to over-pack. A vanity area and a second armchair with footrest complete the bedroom configuration. This suite (as like all others aboard Mariner) is tastefully decorated and very inviting. The only major concern with the suite’s interior is the design of the bathtub/shower combination. If you’re six feet plus, you’re quite likely to bruise your head trying to shower. If you’re vertically challenged, climbing into the tub is an event on its own since the tub’s base itself is raised off the floor, and the high sides of the tub will challenge even the finest Olympic hurdler. As was first done with Radisson’s Navigator, there should have been a separate shower installed. The new Radisson ship Voyager, due out in 2003, will have such a configuration, so Radisson obviously realized the mistake with Mariner. Minor grievances include the European King size bed, which is much narrower than a North American King size. The TV/VCR unit is difficult to operate and the choice of in-house films and satellite channels less than stellar. CNN, CNN-Headline News and ESPN are the satellite networks, although TNT was advertised in the program guide. While CNN and ESPN are a must, surely Radisson can expand the programming to provide a better variety. How about Nickelodeon’s “Nick at Night” or ABC’s Monday Night Football? While on the subject of in-suite television and video entertainment, the film video library was another disappointment. Any of the interesting videos that were available were snapped up right away, and of the remaining that were remotely interesting, the quality of some tapes was poor. We had the opportunity to tour the Radisson Seven Seas Navigator in Key West, and already a full day into their itinerary, the video library aboard that ship was impressive, with many great films still available. Our biggest disappointment with our suite, however, and the Mariner as a whole, was the balcony partitions. In our view, the partitions are ridiculously inadequate, in that each is 4 by 6½ feet, leaving a 16-inch wide gap from the balcony rail to the front edge of the partition, and a 4-inch gap between the back edge of the partition and the suite itself. If you’re of the social kind and love to mingle with your neighbors, then you’ll be just fine. Better yet if you’re a voyeur. If, however, you’re like us, and view your balcony as a place of respite, privacy and solitude, think again. You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your neighbors, and you’re at the mercy of the cruise line in that you don’t know who is going to end up beside you. Not meaning to belabor the point (well, maybe just a little), but how cruise designers, and subsequently cruise lines such as Radisson, can accept balcony partitions designed as they are on the Mariner (and on many other cruise ships), is baffling to us. Especially on a ship such as the Mariner, which is marketed by Radisson as “uncompromising quality”, it would appear Radisson has discounted that its guests might be looking for peace, quiet and respite on their balcony. And Heaven help you if you’re downwind of a smoker. Although the balcony’s privacy leaves much to be desired, Mariner’s Penthouse Suite is still one of the nicest suites afloat that we’ve come across, combining roomy living and sleeping areas, while maintaining a close connection with the sea from either, due to the large floor to ceiling windows, and no solid balustrade on that not-so-private balcony. The Mariner and Master Suites are home to the most private balconies (verandas), but you pay the price. We had the opportunity to tour most of Mariner’s suite categories and would offer the following observations. For the ultimate, the Master Suite is a gorgeous two-bedroom layout, complete with a huge, private forward facing veranda. The veranda has a protected portion, with a glass-enclosed area outfitted with lounge chairs and a teak dining set – table and 4 chairs. If price isn’t a concern, this is the place to be. The Mariner Suite is a very attractive two-room retreat, with the living room and the bedroom each embracing the very private balcony. Unfortunately, the price of the Mariner Suite is still one of those “if you have to ask, then you probably can’t afford it.” The Horizon, Seven Seas and Grand Suites are practical layouts, different only by the size of the suite and balcony. A common theme across these suites that we found disappointing (except for the Seven Seas Forward) is the bedroom areas tend to be set away to an interior corner of the suite and, thus, lose much of any connection to the sea. If you’re the type of cruiser who prefers quiet as opposed to the sound of the ocean at night, then this won’t be a problem in these suites. But if you’re like us and relish the sounds of the ship dancing with the swells, then these suites could potentially drive you to sleeping out in the living area by the balcony door. The other comments we’ll make are directed to the suites located aft; balcony partitions are also less than private, you might feel you’re staying next to a waterfall (ship’s wake), and there always seemed to be a prevailing, albeit slight, scent of engine exhaust in the air. The standard suite aboard Mariner is a comfortable arrangement, although the living area is somewhat “cozy” with a small couch, table, chair, and wall unit. The narrow design of the suite may cause claustrophobia for longer voyages, but is likely quite suitable for the shorter durations. However, we ourselves were very glad to have upgraded to a Penthouse Suite. One final, small (but nice to have) feature is the doorbell at the suite door. The soft sound of a chime is much more welcome than a startling rap. IF FOOD BE THE MUSIC OF LOVE, PLAY ON (oh, wait a minute ...) Five dining venues, plus a pool grill, are available aboard the Mariner, and we took advantage of each. We relished the open seating, when-you-darn-well-feel-like-it dining policy, having previously been tied to a specific time and table on all our previous cruises. We fell in love with the in-suite dining, choosing to have all our breakfasts, most lunches and a few dinners in the privacy and comfort of our suite. Radisson has hit the mark with this service, and should be complimented for providing a top-notch experience for its guests. Starting with the specially fitted table-top, retrieved seemingly from out of nowhere by the waiter, a table for two is created inside of a minute, complete with crisp linens, crystal, and china. Ordered meals are served a course at a time, with impeccable timing, and the quality of food and service is as good as at any other dining venue on board. Dining on exquisite creations, dressed in your comfortable terry cloth robe, while the sea rushes by you just feet away, and the warm Caribbean breezes tickle at your toes, well, enough said. Exceptional. As for the other venues, we dined in the reservations-required Signatures and Latitudes. The service and food quality was very good at these highly touted restaurants, although we left Signatures somewhat “peckish” since the portions were small across the appetizer, entrée and dessert. We felt Signatures to be over-rated, having come aboard expecting something extra special. Signatures is worth a visit, but just one visit. Latitudes’ portions, too, were small, but plentiful, at this “tasting” restaurant. No need to call room service as we did after Signatures. The Compass Rose restaurant, the largest of all venues, is an attractive dining room, well staffed and offering varied menus. No complaint with the quality of food or service and we would remark it is very similar to that of Crystal Cruises’ dining rooms. The nicest dining experience we enjoyed (with the exception of the in-suite dining) occurred at La Veranda Restaurant with its Mediterranean Bistro theme that provides for the opportunity to dine al fresco. With the distant, twinkling lights of Key West visible from our private candle-lit corner table, we delighted in fare such as fresh antipasti, grilled Prawns with Risotto, and flambé Mango and Vanilla Ice Cream, as the warm Caribbean air circled around us. Perfect, perfect, perfect. As for the pool grill, the standard items are available – including steak sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and salads. All freshly prepared, to order, and delicious. No pizza, unfortunately, although you can order it to your suite through room service. It, too, was delicious. Afternoon Tea was served in either the Horizon or Observation lounges. The Observation lounge is a much nicer venue to enjoy tea with better sea vistas through the floor to ceiling windows. The tea service itself is fairly simple with Lipton as the “house tea” and special teas by request. There is also a self-serve sandwich table. Some improvements would be welcome for the afternoon tea set-up, as it certainly isn’t up to the same standard embraced by Crystal Cruises. A table for two in any of the dining locations was never a problem for us and it seemed that most guests preferred dining in this manner. Obtaining reservations at the specialty restaurants is simple and we had no difficulties receiving our desired dining time or requested table for two. There was absolutely no pressure to dine with anyone else unless desired to do so. Special note to make is the beverage policy aboard the Radisson ships. Complimentary bar set-up and unlimited replenishment of soft drinks and bottled water is a big plus. It was a welcome relief to find continuously stocked water in our fridge, without having to pay for it. This is the kind of benefit that should be standard on all luxury cruise lines (without mentioning names). Right Crystal? Oops, it slipped out. As well, the availability of 10% or 18% cream for your coffee is a nice touch, something we could not get consistently when sailing Crystal. The coffee’s very good, too. As for the complimentary poured wines, that was a welcome bonus, as the wines served were very good quality. For example, one evening of in-suite dining was accompanied with bottles of excellent Saint-Emilion and Pouilley-Fuissé wines. IF YOU PLEASE, SIR Service levels across all ship hotel areas are consistent. The staff performed their duties promptly, efficiently, and pleasantly. For dining, no need to ask for water refills, fresh ground pepper, or additional warm bread and rolls. And, yes, they even remember your favorite beverage. The room service staff (both telephone and wait staff) deserves special recognition for their superior level of service and care that made in-suite dining such a highlight. Service from staff outside the dining areas is also very friendly, warm and efficient. Our inquiries and requests always met with willing smiles and timely follow-up. OUT AND ABOUT The Mariner exudes a feel of a traditional ship with a sedate, muted décor. Much artwork is placed throughout the hallways, lounges and other public rooms, and the ship has a definite cosy and intimate feel to it. The Mariner, as one would expect, is in immaculate condition. A very high standard of care is obviously exercised and it’s reflected in the cleanliness and overall appearance throughout. However, there’s no particular focal point of the ship that we would deem as “striking”, for example, the atrium entrance to Crystal’s Symphony (or Harmony) ships. While all Mariner’s lounges and such are, for the most part, bright and spacious, there is a theme of simplicity throughout, thus our label of the Mariner as “simple elegance and sophistication.” What’s noticeably missing is a connection with the sea, as there are few large windows that allow for panoramic views of the outside land or seascape. On either side of the ship on Deck 7 is a working promenade (not wraparound), with very little incentive for guest traffic, and to which a number of lounges and hallways look out upon. The fitness complex is rather small, and is sectioned into two areas, with one containing the standard array of treadmills, stair-steppers, and other cardio equipment. A larger-than-required aerobics area is adjacent and was seldom utilized. The treadmills were positioned facing a number of picture windows but these windows were really inadequate in size to allow in the beauty of the outside. For some reason, Radisson has installed a small television at each individual piece of cardio equipment that makes the area awfully noisy when a busy crowd abounds (and on this cruise, the days at sea meant a noisy gym). There is a universal weight gym that may only be used by one guest at a time due to a single weight stack; we observed that there occasionally was a wait for guests to use this piece of equipment. Located on the starboard side, opposite the fitness complex, is the Judith Jackson Spa, which offers various services and facilities. Important to note is to that if you do not reserve a Spa treatment as soon as you board, forget about getting any (of the most popular) treatments at all. Radisson’s shipboard credit program means that’s where guests head as soon as they get on board. We accepted that as the penalty for joining the ship later in the afternoon – no available Spa appointments and poor selection of film videos from the library. C’est la vie. The theatre is attractive, subdued and unassuming, and provides excellent sightlines from every vantage point. The library is much smaller then expected, and actually is not so much a room as it is an alcove. The choice of reading material was similar to that of the film videos – inadequate. Mariner’s casino is small and intimate with a mix of tables and slots, and the table play tended to start later in the evening. The slots area was a fairly quiet and sedate environment during the times we challenged the one-armed bandits. The computer room is actively used but there was never a shortage of workstations. Radisson charges by the second for its Internet use, but only when page data is being loaded; the result is a fairly inexpensive means of staying in touch with the outside world. It’s also less expensive to utilize your own personal email account as opposed to having an email account through Radisson. As for the shopping arcade, there are only two boutique stores on board, which are located in separate areas. The largest boutique has a mix of fashion and jewellery articles for sale but does not really entice one to enter. For those inclined to physical activity outdoors, there are paddle tennis and shuffleboard courts (no teak for the shuffleboard, however) located aft. The paddle tennis court is covered with a mesh net that is hung far too low, and a number of finely placed ball returns failed when contacting the net above. A golf driving and putting area is also located adjacent to the paddle tennis court. Radisson should invest in upgrading the golf equipment as the drivers and irons were in poor condition (where’s the Calloways?). The outside public areas and sunning spaces are adequate, with an upper walking/jogging “track” encircling the lower pool area. Two hundred times around equalled a mile…well, maybe it was only eleven times around, but it seemed like more. We sorely missed a wraparound promenade deck for those invigorating “sea walks.” The pool area itself was somewhat disappointing with few decorative touches such as floral displays or tropical plants. The area was actively used but never crowded. Radisson should do something to diminish the sterile ambience. Keep in mind there is no cinema, café, or ice cream bar on Mariner, as there is on similar upscale vessels, such as the Crystal ships. As a result, there isn’t the greatest motivation to get out and explore the ship. THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! The entertainment program varied between Broadway-style reviews, cabaret, and a piano/guitar ensemble, in addition to guest lecturers and other enrichment activities. Due to the lure of our suite, combined with the later start of most entertainment (9:45 pm), we just didn’t make it out to any of the shows and, therefore, are unable to offer any comments as to the calibre of entertainment. We’re sure it was very nice… THE NEIGHBORHOOD We observed a wide range of age groups aboard this particular cruise, with very few under the age of 20. For the most part, it was an older crowd, with many estimated in their late 50’s and beyond. Of the remaining, there seemed to be an even representation from the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s age groups. Disappointingly, there was an assortment of guests (in their 30’s and early 40’s) who conducted themselves in a manner that was more suited to a Carnival cruise, with loud, boisterous behavior, complete with bare feet in the public rooms and hallways. Where’s the gangplank when you need it? Whether this was due to a number of cruise groups, including travel agents, who were apparently on board, one can only surmise, but it was unexpected, and disappointing, to observe poor behavior on a cruise line of this calibre. WHERE TO TODAY? Western Caribbean. Nassau, Ocho Rios, Georgetown, Key West. Itinerary was not a real influence in taking this cruise, and since this was a repeat itinerary for us (except for Key West), we did not spend much time off the Mariner. One note of observation regarding the docking pattern for the Mariner. In Ocho Rios, the Mariner docked directly at the Bauxite mill, which provided a very undesirable view for passengers on the starboard side of the ship. In Key West, the Mariner was docked at the former Navy Dock, and while the centre of “tourist” town (Mallory Square) was only ¼ to ½ mile away (in a straight line), it would be quite a swim to get there since that direct line meant crossing a harbor channel. The result was a 15-minute shuttle through the former Navy base, including three security checkpoints, aboard a Conch train. The Navigator was located right at the Mallory Square dock which allowed passengers to disembark right at the centre of the action. We concluded that the starboard side on this itinerary was not the preferred side to be located and one would be better off on the Port side. IT'S OVER, PLEASE LEAVE Simple. Up at 7, breakfast in our suite, out by 8 and off by 9. Due to the high space ratio of the Mariner, it was easy to find a quiet corner to await your debarkation call. LASTING IMPRESSION Undeniably, the flexibility and quality in its dining, particularly the in-suite dining, attractive guest suites, special inclusive touches, and high guest space ratio are reasons enough to sail Mariner again and again. And while we could argue the Crystal ships may have slightly more attractive interiors and additional incentives for leaving your suite then Mariner does, you will be hard-pressed to match the overall value that Radisson delivers. We couldn’t imagine returning to a rigid dining assignment (and forget about those so-called free-style, personal choice dining arrangements), or having to pay for bottled water or soft drinks. As for the issue of Mariner’s inadequate balcony partitions, Radisson should consider retrofitting the existing partitions with proper privacy dividers. Or, at the least, giving its guests the opportunity to interview their prospective neighbors. With either unlikely to happen, the lack of balcony privacy is the only reason we could find that would dissuade us from choosing the Mariner again – or at least waiting until our lottery win so as to afford the Mariner or Master Suites. All considered, though, Radisson delivers a very, very good cruise experience. ccccccc@canada.com

Seven Seas Mariner

Seven Seas Mariner Cruise Review by ccccccc

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 1899
  • Destination:
Untitled Document





Western Caribbean
Ft. Lauderdale – Nassau, Bahamas – At Sea – Ocho Rios,
Jamaica – Georgetown, Grand Cayman – At Sea – Key West,
Florida – Ft. Lauderdale
SNAPSHOT
The Radisson Seven Seas Mariner is an attractive 50,000
tonne ship, contemporary and proportionate in its design,
with soft, flowing lines. Mariner’s remarkable space ratio
of 71.4 provides guests with a great deal of space to move
about and there is never any sense of crowding.
As the first all-suite, all-balcony vessel of its kind,
the Mariner offers spacious, attractive, and very practical
guest accommodations for its 700 guests. Issues exist
with the small bathtub/shower combination and the inadequate
balcony partitions, though.
The multiple dining restaurants are all elegant in their
design and appearance, and first-rate in quality of food
and service. The in-suite dining experience is nothing
short of extraordinary.
Various public rooms, lounges and areas serve different
purposes and, for the most part, are all sensibly designed,
decorated and configured.
Nice touches such as included gratuities, complimentary
wines, bottled water and soft drinks are provided. Service
throughout the ship is consistent and excellent.
We have deemed the Radisson Seven Seas cruising experience
aboard Mariner as one of “simple elegance and sophistication.”
FOR STARTERS
We initiated our “respite from reality” a day early in
Ft. Lauderdale (as well as extending it), choosing to stay
at the oceanfront Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, a
15-story resort with exceptional views of the Atlantic
Ocean, and located 10 minutes from the cruise ship pier
(a $10 cab ride). Lush, tropical landscaping with waterfalls
and garden walkways abound.
While the hotel can tend to be “busy”, plenty of areas
for escape to peace and quiet are easily found. Pay the
premium for an oceanfront category on one of the upper
floors, and in the 07 through 37 blocks, which provide
direct, unobstructed and panoramic vistas of the beach
and ocean beyond. The sounds and views of the sparkling
Atlantic and its crashing surf are worth the additional
cost. As well, the resort is located less than a mile
north of the entrance to the inter-coastal where all the
ships arrive and depart from Port Everglades, and from
your room you can easily watch the parade of cruise ships.
Better yet, do as we did, pack some beverages and take
the twenty minute stroll down the pristine beach to witness
the magical evening exodus of the departing ships from
a mere distance of 75 yards. It all gets underway at about
4:30. And, if you’re so inclined, you can wake at 5 in
the morning to watch them arrive – albeit in the dark.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The RSSC cruise documents clearly spell it out – embarkation
is between 3 pm and 5 pm, although you’ll likely be comfortably
accommodated in one of the ship’s lounges prior to that
time. Consider an alternative: Arrive a day early, stay
at the Harbor Beach Marriott, request late checkout (1
pm), enjoy the beautiful pool area, have lunch, and head
to the pier at 3:30 pm. We arrived at 3:45 to a nearly
empty Port Everglades, since all ships had boarded, and
we registered effortlessly at the RSSC desk. At time of
registration, our cruise account was also established,
and moments later we were at the main reception area of
the ship where our security photos were taken, followed
by a champagne toast, and an escort to our suite. All completed
in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was about 5 minutes
behind us. Nice and smooth.
HOME, SUITE, HOME
We had originally booked a Category H guarantee, which
subsequently was upgraded by Radisson to a Category D on
Deck 10. The standard suite provides 252 square feet of
stateroom area and a 49 square foot balcony. We actually
ended up upgrading to a Category B Penthouse Suite, deciding
that the additional 124 square feet of interior space,
and additional 24 square feet of teak balcony, was worth
the incremental cost. We noted that the balcony of the
Category B stateroom was entirely unobstructed in that
there was no raised “lip” (about 12 inches) as there was
on the balcony of the Category C stateroom. A small fact,
perhaps, and likely not noted by many, but we wanted as
much visual access from the balcony as possible.
The Penthouse Suite interior is beautifully designed, and
very functional. Containing a comfortable living area
with a wrap-around couch, complete with a small table,
and armchair with footrest, this suite provides an abundance
of room to relax or entertain. The living area leads to
large floor-to-ceiling windows, and a sliding glass door
to the balcony allows easy access to the beauty of the
outdoors. Opposite to the couch stands a large wall unit,
stretching floor to ceiling, and it stores the mini-bar,
television/VCR, writing desk and assorted drawer space.
The bedroom area is nicely separated from the living area
through use of dual decorative columns and attractive curtains
that may be drawn. Close by is the roomy walk-in closet
that is quite able to handle a wardrobe for the longest
voyage. And with the handy laundry facility on board,
there is no need to over-pack. A vanity area and a second
armchair with footrest complete the bedroom configuration.
This suite (as like all others aboard Mariner) is tastefully
decorated and very inviting.
The only major concern with the suite’s interior is the
design of the bathtub/shower combination. If you’re six
feet plus, you’re quite likely to bruise your head trying
to shower. If you’re vertically challenged, climbing into
the tub is an event on its own since the tub’s base itself
is raised off the floor, and the high sides of the tub
will challenge even the finest Olympic hurdler. As was
first done with Radisson’s Navigator, there should have
been a separate shower installed. The new Radisson ship
Voyager, due out in 2003, will have such a configuration,
so Radisson obviously realized the mistake with Mariner.
Minor grievances include the European King size bed, which
is much narrower than a North American King size. The
TV/VCR unit is difficult to operate and the choice of in-house
films and satellite channels less than stellar. CNN, CNN-Headline
News and ESPN are the satellite networks, although TNT
was advertised in the program guide. While CNN and ESPN
are a must, surely Radisson can expand the programming
to provide a better variety. How about Nickelodeon’s “Nick
at Night” or ABC’s Monday Night Football?
While on the subject of in-suite television and video entertainment,
the film video library was another disappointment. Any
of the interesting videos that were available were snapped
up right away, and of the remaining that were remotely
interesting, the quality of some tapes was poor. We had
the opportunity to tour the Radisson Seven Seas Navigator
in Key West, and already a full day into their itinerary,
the video library aboard that ship was impressive, with
many great films still available.
Our biggest disappointment with our suite, however, and
the Mariner as a whole, was the balcony partitions. In
our view, the partitions are ridiculously inadequate, in
that each is 4 by 6½ feet, leaving a 16-inch wide gap from
the balcony rail to the front edge of the partition, and
a 4-inch gap between the back edge of the partition and
the suite itself. If you’re of the social kind and love
to mingle with your neighbors, then you’ll be just fine.
Better yet if you’re a voyeur. If, however, you’re like
us, and view your balcony as a place of respite, privacy
and solitude, think again. You can pick your friends,
but you can’t pick your neighbors, and you’re at the mercy
of the cruise line in that you don’t know who is going
to end up beside you.
Not meaning to belabor the point (well, maybe just a little),
but how cruise designers, and subsequently cruise lines
such as Radisson, can accept balcony partitions designed
as they are on the Mariner (and on many other cruise ships),
is baffling to us. Especially on a ship such as the Mariner,
which is marketed by Radisson as “uncompromising quality”,
it would appear Radisson has discounted that its guests
might be looking for peace, quiet and respite on their
balcony. And Heaven help you if you’re downwind of a smoker.
Although the balcony’s privacy leaves much to be desired,
Mariner’s Penthouse Suite is still one of the nicest suites
afloat that we’ve come across, combining roomy living and
sleeping areas, while maintaining a close connection with
the sea from either, due to the large floor to ceiling
windows, and no solid balustrade on that not-so-private
balcony.
The Mariner and Master Suites are home to the most private
balconies (verandas), but you pay the price.
We had the opportunity to tour most of Mariner’s suite
categories and would offer the following observations.
For the ultimate, the Master Suite is a gorgeous two-bedroom
layout, complete with a huge, private forward facing veranda.
The veranda has a protected portion, with a glass-enclosed
area outfitted with lounge chairs and a teak dining set
– table and 4 chairs. If price isn’t a concern, this is
the place to be.
The Mariner Suite is a very attractive two-room retreat,
with the living room and the bedroom each embracing the
very private balcony. Unfortunately, the price of the
Mariner Suite is still one of those “if you have to ask,
then you probably can’t afford it.”
The Horizon, Seven Seas and Grand Suites are practical
layouts, different only by the size of the suite and balcony.
A common theme across these suites that we found disappointing
(except for the Seven Seas Forward) is the bedroom areas
tend to be set away to an interior corner of the suite
and, thus, lose much of any connection to the sea. If
you’re the type of cruiser who prefers quiet as opposed
to the sound of the ocean at night, then this won’t be
a problem in these suites. But if you’re like us and relish
the sounds of the ship dancing with the swells, then these
suites could potentially drive you to sleeping out in the
living area by the balcony door.
The other comments we’ll make are directed to the suites
located aft; balcony partitions are also less than private,
you might feel you’re staying next to a waterfall (ship’s
wake), and there always seemed to be a prevailing, albeit
slight, scent of engine exhaust in the air.
The standard suite aboard Mariner is a comfortable arrangement,
although the living area is somewhat “cozy” with a small
couch, table, chair, and wall unit. The narrow design
of the suite may cause claustrophobia for longer voyages,
but is likely quite suitable for the shorter durations.
However, we ourselves were very glad to have upgraded
to a Penthouse Suite.
One final, small (but nice to have) feature is the doorbell
at the suite door. The soft sound of a chime is much more
welcome than a startling rap.
IF FOOD BE THE MUSIC OF LOVE, PLAY ON (oh, wait a minute ...)
Five dining venues, plus a pool grill, are available aboard
the Mariner, and we took advantage of each. We relished
the open seating, when-you-darn-well-feel-like-it dining
policy, having previously been tied to a specific time
and table on all our previous cruises.
We fell in love with the in-suite dining, choosing to have
all our breakfasts, most lunches and a few dinners in the
privacy and comfort of our suite. Radisson has hit the
mark with this service, and should be complimented for
providing a top-notch experience for its guests.
Starting with the specially fitted table-top, retrieved
seemingly from out of nowhere by the waiter, a table for
two is created inside of a minute, complete with crisp
linens, crystal, and china.
Ordered meals are served a course at a time, with impeccable
timing, and the quality of food and service is as good
as at any other dining venue on board.
Dining on exquisite creations, dressed in your comfortable
terry cloth robe, while the sea rushes by you just feet
away, and the warm Caribbean breezes tickle at your toes,
well, enough said. Exceptional.
As for the other venues, we dined in the reservations-required
Signatures and Latitudes. The service and food quality
was very good at these highly touted restaurants, although
we left Signatures somewhat “peckish” since the portions
were small across the appetizer, entrée and dessert. We
felt Signatures to be over-rated, having come aboard expecting
something extra special. Signatures is worth a visit,
but just one visit.
Latitudes’ portions, too, were small, but plentiful, at
this “tasting” restaurant. No need to call room service
as we did after Signatures.
The Compass Rose restaurant, the largest of all venues,
is an attractive dining room, well staffed and offering
varied menus. No complaint with the quality of food or
service and we would remark it is very similar to that
of Crystal Cruises’ dining rooms.
The nicest dining experience we enjoyed (with the exception
of the in-suite dining) occurred at La Veranda Restaurant
with its Mediterranean Bistro theme that provides for the
opportunity to dine al fresco. With the distant, twinkling
lights of Key West visible from our private candle-lit
corner table, we delighted in fare such as fresh antipasti,
grilled Prawns with Risotto, and flambé Mango and Vanilla
Ice Cream, as the warm Caribbean air circled around us.
Perfect, perfect, perfect.
As for the pool grill, the standard items are available
– including steak sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and salads.
All freshly prepared, to order, and delicious. No pizza,
unfortunately, although you can order it to your suite
through room service. It, too, was delicious.
Afternoon Tea was served in either the Horizon or Observation
lounges. The Observation lounge is a much nicer venue
to enjoy tea with better sea vistas through the floor to
ceiling windows. The tea service itself is fairly simple
with Lipton as the “house tea” and special teas by request.
There is also a self-serve sandwich table. Some improvements
would be welcome for the afternoon tea set-up, as it certainly
isn’t up to the same standard embraced by Crystal Cruises.
A table for two in any of the dining locations was never
a problem for us and it seemed that most guests preferred
dining in this manner. Obtaining reservations at the specialty
restaurants is simple and we had no difficulties receiving
our desired dining time or requested table for two. There
was absolutely no pressure to dine with anyone else unless
desired to do so.
Special note to make is the beverage policy aboard the
Radisson ships. Complimentary bar set-up and unlimited
replenishment of soft drinks and bottled water is a big
plus. It was a welcome relief to find continuously stocked
water in our fridge, without having to pay for it. This
is the kind of benefit that should be standard on all luxury
cruise lines (without mentioning names). Right Crystal?
Oops, it slipped out. As well, the availability of 10%
or 18% cream for your coffee is a nice touch, something
we could not get consistently when sailing Crystal. The
coffee’s very good, too.
As for the complimentary poured wines, that was a welcome
bonus, as the wines served were very good quality. For
example, one evening of in-suite dining was accompanied
with bottles of excellent Saint-Emilion and Pouilley-Fuissé
wines.
IF YOU PLEASE, SIR
Service levels across all ship hotel areas are consistent.
The staff performed their duties promptly, efficiently,
and pleasantly. For dining, no need to ask for water refills,
fresh ground pepper, or additional warm bread and rolls.
And, yes, they even remember your favorite beverage.
The room service staff (both telephone and wait staff)
deserves special recognition for their superior level of
service and care that made in-suite dining such a highlight.
Service from staff outside the dining areas is also very
friendly, warm and efficient. Our inquiries and requests
always met with willing smiles and timely follow-up.
OUT AND ABOUT
The Mariner exudes a feel of a traditional ship with a
sedate, muted décor. Much artwork is placed throughout
the hallways, lounges and other public rooms, and the ship
has a definite cosy and intimate feel to it. The Mariner,
as one would expect, is in immaculate condition. A very
high standard of care is obviously exercised and it’s reflected
in the cleanliness and overall appearance throughout.
However, there’s no particular focal point of the ship
that we would deem as “striking”, for example, the atrium
entrance to Crystal’s Symphony (or Harmony) ships. While
all Mariner’s lounges and such are, for the most part,
bright and spacious, there is a theme of simplicity throughout,
thus our label of the Mariner as “simple elegance and sophistication.”

What’s noticeably missing is a connection with the sea,
as there are few large windows that allow for panoramic
views of the outside land or seascape. On either side
of the ship on Deck 7 is a working promenade (not wraparound),
with very little incentive for guest traffic, and to which
a number of lounges and hallways look out upon.
The fitness complex is rather small, and is sectioned into
two areas, with one containing the standard array of treadmills,
stair-steppers, and other cardio equipment. A larger-than-required
aerobics area is adjacent and was seldom utilized.
The treadmills were positioned facing a number of picture
windows but these windows were really inadequate in size
to allow in the beauty of the outside. For some reason,
Radisson has installed a small television at each individual
piece of cardio equipment that makes the area awfully noisy
when a busy crowd abounds (and on this cruise, the days
at sea meant a noisy gym). There is a universal weight
gym that may only be used by one guest at a time due to
a single weight stack; we observed that there occasionally
was a wait for guests to use this piece of equipment.
Located on the starboard side, opposite the fitness complex,
is the Judith Jackson Spa, which offers various services
and facilities. Important to note is to that if you do
not reserve a Spa treatment as soon as you board, forget
about getting any (of the most popular) treatments at all.
Radisson’s shipboard credit program means that’s where
guests head as soon as they get on board. We accepted
that as the penalty for joining the ship later in the afternoon
– no available Spa appointments and poor selection of film
videos from the library. C’est la vie.
The theatre is attractive, subdued and unassuming, and
provides excellent sightlines from every vantage point.
The library is much smaller then expected, and actually
is not so much a room as it is an alcove. The choice of
reading material was similar to that of the film videos
– inadequate.
Mariner’s casino is small and intimate with a mix of tables
and slots, and the table play tended to start later in
the evening. The slots area was a fairly quiet and sedate
environment during the times we challenged the one-armed
bandits.
The computer room is actively used but there was never
a shortage of workstations. Radisson charges by the second
for its Internet use, but only when page data is being
loaded; the result is a fairly inexpensive means of staying
in touch with the outside world. It’s also less expensive
to utilize your own personal email account as opposed to
having an email account through Radisson.
As for the shopping arcade, there are only two boutique
stores on board, which are located in separate areas.
The largest boutique has a mix of fashion and jewellery
articles for sale but does not really entice one to enter.
For those inclined to physical activity outdoors, there
are paddle tennis and shuffleboard courts (no teak for
the shuffleboard, however) located aft. The paddle tennis
court is covered with a mesh net that is hung far too low,
and a number of finely placed ball returns failed when
contacting the net above. A golf driving and putting area
is also located adjacent to the paddle tennis court. Radisson
should invest in upgrading the golf equipment as the drivers
and irons were in poor condition (where’s the Calloways?).
The outside public areas and sunning spaces are adequate,
with an upper walking/jogging “track” encircling the lower
pool area. Two hundred times around equalled a mile…well,
maybe it was only eleven times around, but it seemed like
more. We sorely missed a wraparound promenade deck for
those invigorating “sea walks.”
The pool area itself was somewhat disappointing with few
decorative touches such as floral displays or tropical
plants. The area was actively used but never crowded.
Radisson should do something to diminish the sterile ambience.
Keep in mind there is no cinema, café, or ice cream bar
on Mariner, as there is on similar upscale vessels, such
as the Crystal ships. As a result, there isn’t the greatest
motivation to get out and explore the ship.
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT!
The entertainment program varied between Broadway-style
reviews, cabaret, and a piano/guitar ensemble, in addition
to guest lecturers and other enrichment activities. Due
to the lure of our suite, combined with the later start
of most entertainment (9:45 pm), we just didn’t make it
out to any of the shows and, therefore, are unable to offer
any comments as to the calibre of entertainment. We’re
sure it was very nice…
THE NEIGHBORHOOD
We observed a wide range of age groups aboard this particular
cruise, with very few under the age of 20. For the most
part, it was an older crowd, with many estimated in their
late 50’s and beyond. Of the remaining, there seemed to
be an even representation from the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s
age groups.
Disappointingly, there was an assortment of guests (in
their 30’s and early 40’s) who conducted themselves in
a manner that was more suited to a Carnival cruise, with
loud, boisterous behavior, complete with bare feet in the
public rooms and hallways. Where’s the gangplank when
you need it? Whether this was due to a number of cruise
groups, including travel agents, who were apparently on
board, one can only surmise, but it was unexpected, and
disappointing, to observe poor behavior on a cruise line
of this calibre.
WHERE TO TODAY?
Western Caribbean. Nassau, Ocho Rios, Georgetown, Key West.
Itinerary was not a real influence in taking this cruise,
and since this was a repeat itinerary for us (except for
Key West), we did not spend much time off the Mariner.
One note of observation regarding the docking pattern for
the Mariner. In Ocho Rios, the Mariner docked directly
at the Bauxite mill, which provided a very undesirable
view for passengers on the starboard side of the ship.
In Key West, the Mariner was docked at the former Navy
Dock, and while the centre of “tourist” town (Mallory Square)
was only ¼ to ½ mile away (in a straight line), it would
be quite a swim to get there since that direct line meant
crossing a harbor channel. The result was a 15-minute
shuttle through the former Navy base, including three security
checkpoints, aboard a Conch train. The Navigator was located
right at the Mallory Square dock which allowed passengers
to disembark right at the centre of the action.
We concluded that the starboard side on this itinerary
was not the preferred side to be located and one would
be better off on the Port side.
IT'S OVER, PLEASE LEAVE
Simple. Up at 7, breakfast in our suite, out by 8 and
off by 9. Due to the high space ratio of the Mariner,
it was easy to find a quiet corner to await your debarkation
call.
LASTING IMPRESSION
Undeniably, the flexibility and quality in its dining,
particularly the in-suite dining, attractive guest suites,
special inclusive touches, and high guest space ratio are
reasons enough to sail Mariner again and again. And while
we could argue the Crystal ships may have slightly more
attractive interiors and additional incentives for leaving
your suite then Mariner does, you will be hard-pressed
to match the overall value that Radisson delivers. We
couldn’t imagine returning to a rigid dining assignment
(and forget about those so-called free-style, personal
choice dining arrangements), or having to pay for bottled
water or soft drinks. As for the issue of Mariner’s inadequate
balcony partitions, Radisson should consider retrofitting
the existing partitions with proper privacy dividers.
Or, at the least, giving its guests the opportunity to
interview their prospective neighbors. With either unlikely
to happen, the lack of balcony privacy is the only reason
we could find that would dissuade us from choosing the
Mariner again – or at least waiting until our lottery win
so as to afford the Mariner or Master Suites. All considered,
though, Radisson delivers a very, very good cruise experience.

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