This was the 13th cruise on RCCL for my wife, Robin, and myself. This was also our first cruise since the rule changes for Diamond members went into effect last summer, so we were really curious. We decided to break our unbroken streak of Caribbean cruises by doing the Mexican Riviera, plus the Mariner of the Seas was the only Voyager-class ship on which we hadn't yet sailed. Good news travels fast, and by the time we reached the pier in San Pedro on 1/17 our "cruise gang" numbered nine...three couples from Tulsa, another couple from Saint Louis and a single from Baltimore. Our American Airlines flights were a piece of cake, and we quickly rendezvoused with the one who had flown on AirTran. We had prearranged for a private ride on PrimeTime Shuttle (more about them later) to San Pedro, where we stayed the night at the Doubletree Hotel. Highly recommended! They even gave one of our party (my Mom) in the "Presidential Suite" since they had overbooked the hotel! Embarkation went smoothly the next day, and we were onboard before 11:30. We were hoping to beat the storm out of town Sunday and nearly made it...but the clouds and rain moved in as we were making our way out of the harbor. The first at-sea day was partly cloudy and chilly, but we knew that we were headed for warmer waters! Tuesday morning was bright and sunny, and the temperature was climbing toward 80 degrees, as we rounded the famous Los Arcos rock formation and dropped anchor in Cabo San Lucas. We had already passed several whales spouting and lots of leaping dolphins...and best of all Robin had started off the day with a great massage. We all had booked a boat excursion out to the rocks which wasn't scheduled until 12:30 so we strolled around the outdoor markets and picked up a few souvenirs, including a bottle of really awesome pomegranate tequila. We headed back to the dock for our excursion and...waited. No explanation was ever offered and there was some grumbling, but after 45 minutes a large catamaran appeared and all was forgiven. Why not?...The weather was perfect and the scenery was awesome! We spent the remainder of the afternoon at Senior Frog's, celebrating Robin's birthday. A great time...fortunately we all got back to the ship, but (sadly) my balloon hat disappeared overboard from the tender boat. Our second stop was Mazatlan, where six of us had booked the Salsa! Salsa! Margarita! excursion which ended up as one of the highlights of the cruise. A hair-raising shuttle ride to town (barely missing the propane truck was a good thing) brought us to a luxury hotel right on the beach. Everything was nicely arranged on the back patio and the girls running the class were top-notch. The salsa and margarita making was entertaining, fun and highly social, and it reminded us of eating steamed crabs on the East Coast. After plenty of recipes and bottomless drinks, it was time to dance the Salsa. My two left feet and inability to swing my hips were a liability, as was the almost continual laughing...but after 45 minutes we were pleasantly exhausted. After another hour of roaming the "Golden Zone" on our own it was time for another white-knuckle ride back to the ship. Puerto Vallarta was planned to be our beach day since it was supposed to be the warmest day...but it ended up being far more! We headed by boat for La Caleta, but the whale-watching activity was reported to be great so we detoured far out into the bay on a hunt. We were rewarded with the sight of several whales spouting and flicking their tails from within 100 yards or so. It was truly an awesome experience to see these magnificent animals that close! We then continued on to the beach, where we spent the day sunning and relaxing (it's tough, but someone's got to do it)! We returned to the pier around 5:30 and spent another hour shopping around before reboarding the ship for the final time. The final two at-sea days were really rough...big rolling swells from the huge storm that had hit the West Coast. The ship, for all its size, was pitching heavily and quite a few people were miserable, including one of our party. The main pools on Deck 11 finally had to be drained, much to the disappointment of all the kids enjoying what had become a huge wave pool with water splashing up to and over Deck 12. The weather turned much cooler and rainier so almost all the activities had to be moved indoors. No matter...my wife and I tried several new activities, like ballroom dancing (thank you, Don and Sharon) and napkin folding (I'm the one who sets the table while Robin cooks for the holidays). Disembarkation back in San Pedro was easy and we began congratulating ourselves...at least until we reached the Prime Time shuttle boarding area and were greeted with chaos! Only a limited number of shuttle buses were allowed to be on-site at any time, and the waiting crowd was overflowing off the curb and into the street. The poor guy trying to call and load the shuttles was in way over his head...he finally took off his hat and badge...and quit on the spot! A Supervisor turned up and started to sort through the mess...but it became a matter of being in the right spot when a shuttle bus arrived, then talking directly with the driver. We somehow made it back to LAX in time. We then discovered our original flights were overbooked, but were offered seats on another (earlier) flight...if we wanted to be upgraded to First Class (duh)! So we got home even earlier than planned...and had drinks and a meal enroute. A great ending to a relaxing week! The nightly Diamond event was cozy and fun, and we met a great couple from Atlanta that was doing pretty well in the casino. The RCCL singers and dancers were flat during their first show...but rebounded with a great performance in "Pure Energy" on Day 5. We passed on all the headliner shows due to either having other plans or having seen them previously. One big disappointment was the ice show. We were surprised that there was no pick-up-your-tickets earlier arrangement similar to that on the other Voyager-class ships. The shows quickly became overcrowded with no control over rude passengers "holding" entire rows of seats. After getting stiffed we gave up and never tried again. We heard the show was good, however... Dining was great! Anthony did a spot-on job with our service and remembering our individual preferences. After asking for asparagus on the third night, we also had a large bowl of it on our table every night. Of course, as with our other cruises, we enlightened our waiter about the "Robin Special" dessert on the first night. We're still awaiting our call from RCCL for the naming rights to that speciality! We each had at least one spa treatment, which was really good. A special kudo also must go to Fernando, the Loyalty Ambassador. For the first time we booked a specific next cruise after a lengthy and informative discussion with him. He was polite, friendly and knowledgeable. The Jewel of the Seas next December sounds really good now that we're back home in (cold and snowy) Tulsa!