Mariner of the Seas Cruise Review by kevinkingmd
- Sail Date: July 2019
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Grand Suite - 1 Bedroom
TL;DR version: we loved it and are making plans to sail again in about 8 months!
We elected to book a Grand Suite as it was nearly the same cost as two balcony staterooms and we liked the perks. Fair warning: once you "suite" you never go back. Not sure I can ever not book a suite again.
Booking and before the trip: We booked our cruise through Costco Travel and the process was seamless with about a 10% discount (plus a Costco Card worth about $250) over RCI posted prices on their site. We booked about three months before sailing. As we approached about 14 days about, we used the RCI App to check in -- all went very seamlessly.
Prior to our cruise, we spent 4 days at Universal Orlando and stayed at the Residence Inn at Port Canaveral. Great hotel, just a three minute drive from the terminal. About a week prior to the cruise, we received an email from the Suite Concierge (Thanks, Tao!) explaining our benefits and inviting us to the Suite Lounge immediately on embarkation.
Check-in and embarkation: We arrived at the terminal at 10:30am and dropped our luggage off and parked our car. Parking is a bit expensive at about $20/day -- or twice what our hotel would have charged us to leave the car there. At least we didn't have to hassle with a shuttle or cab. Luggage drop off was very quick and efficient. Upon entering the terminal, we showed our SeaPass. The terminal personnel identified us suite passengers and then walked us through the entire embarkation process including passport, security, etc. We were on board in less than 15 minutes. Embarkation culminated with our photo and we then immediately headed to the Suite Lounge.
The Suite Lounge: Located on Deck 14, the lounge overlooks the sport deck and pool deck. Tao, our concierge, spent about 15 minutes explaining the ship and securing us some reservations we were unable to make prior to getting on board. Additionally we had access to some snacks and drinks. He directed us down to the main dining room for our lunch. As suite guests, we were able to avoid the rush at Windjammer and eat lunch in the main dining room. The snacks and drinks came out in the Suite Lounge every day at 4pm, so we enjoyed this perk on each day of our cruise. Plus, if we ever had any questions or requests, Tao was ready to help.
We ate three meals in the main dining room. While the variety of food was good, the quality was "good." I have sailed on RCI twice and both times I found the main dining food to be good, but clearly the mass produced nature of it shines through. For instance, my "New York Strip" was quite thin and had grill marks, but had clearly been cooked and held. I recognize this is a necessity but I just want to explain why the dining room only gets a "Very Good".
Windjammer: we ate one meal (lunch) in the Windjammer. The food was plentiful and I was very pleased to partake in a small selection of Indian food (curries). The rest of the food was "Good" with varying quality on taste and freshness. It's a buffet and a solid, competent one at that. I was pleasantly surprised, however, the fries were always fresh and hot. Twice, we went to Windjammer for a snack and dessert, just prior to bed. The desserts in the evenings (after 9pm) were usually quite tasty and fun. So: meh for lunch, great for late-night snack.
Izumi: We chose to eat one dinner at the new Japanese Steak House on board. This was the best meal we had. The prices were reasonable, our chef was terrific and the food was among the best teppanyaki I've had.
On board activities: We played laser tag -- a free activity -- and had a load of fun. My older daughter and I did the Escape Room and found it to be quite challenging -- more so than other rooms we've done together. The kids did the Sky Pad (VR trampoline jumping) and loved it. We also just enjoyed exploring the ship.
Entertainment: On the first night, we saw the comedy show -- worth the effort and family friendly. On the second night, we saw the ice show -- that started off slow, but got much better as time went on. Our highlight, however, was the piano guy in the elevators. Each night, a very talented Australian gent had an upright piano in one of the main guest elevators. During your ride, you could sing along. Great fun!
Excursions: We elected to just walk around Nassau for about an hour and then spent the rest of that day on the ship. It allowed us terrific access on the ship as most everyone else was on shore. On the second day, we stopped at Coco Cay and rented a cabana. It came with access to the water park for all four of us. The park, cabana and island were all terrific. Our cabana included a nice, comfy couch which may or may not have been responsible for an unscheduled nap.
Disembarkation: the last perk as suite guests was totally worth it: we were escorted of the ship and avoided the massive line in the terminal. Time from ship to car: 10 minutes.
All in all, we had a great time. We're already planning the same ship again and are looking at future cruises in new destinations!
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