Fantasic Family Vacation on the Mariner: Mariner of the Seas Cruise Review by GoldenRose

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Fantasic Family Vacation on the Mariner

Sail Date: February 2012
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Galveston
We traveled with 3 generations - my mother, me and my husband, and our two children, ages 1 and 6. All of us enjoyed the cruise a lot. They set up one of the kids areas as an indoor play area for children under 3, which was a nice surprise. They also had a playground every morning for the babies, and allowed us to check out bags of age appropriate toys. This was an improvement over previous sailings with children under 3. Adventure Ocean was still great, and our son really enjoyed it on the occasions he went to visit.

The Main Dining Room was the biggest disappointment to us on this cruise. We were assigned to My Time Dining instead of the Main Seating as we purchased the cruise somewhat late. Even though we had a reservation at about the same time most nights, we kept getting assigned to different tables with different waiters. Not all were very good with getting food out fast to our young children. (One was particularly dreadful - we couldn't seem to get the waiter More over to our table to take our orders, much less bring us anything.) This was a real change from previous cruises, when we had the same waitstaff, who made an effort to get to know us and have kid snacks either waiting or out quickly. I would not do My Time dining again, if I could avoid it. We ended up ordering a lot of room service. We also thought the food in the MDR was highly variable. Some dishes were very good... some really weren't. It sort of seemed to be luck of the draw. We did go to both Portofino and Chops, which were both excellent.

We thought much of the staff was wonderful. Luca, the Concierge, was absolutely wonderful. He was pleasant, helpful, and always available to help with anything. Our stateroom attendant was also great. He even took the time to give our son a private lesson in making towel monkeys, after the baby destroyed the towel monkey the attendant had left for us.

We loved our balcony, and thought the room size and layout was very good. (We were in a Royal Family Suite.) The balcony was huge, and we had breakfast on it almost every morning.

The Ice Show Under the Big Top was not to be missed. It was the highlight of the entertainment onboard for us. The production shows were decent. Honestly, we've seen better on other ships, but we still enjoyed them.

The embarkation wasn't bad, but the disembarkation was a nightmare. One of our kids wasn't feeling great, so we made the mistake of letting the kids sleep in on the last morning. Suite guests can get early disembarkation, and if we had known what a nightmare disembarkation would be later in the day, we'd have woken up the kids early and dealt with their early morning crankiness. People were trapped in barely moving lines for hours, waiting for a porter and/or waiting to get through customs. Seriously, if you can get off in one of the early groups, do so!

Anyway, overall, this was a wonderful week. Good ship, great ports. We'll definitely do it again. Less

Published 02/25/12

Cabin review: FS Royal Family Suite

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Port and Shore Excursions

We did the Wildlife River Cruise and the ruins of Altun Ha. We saw wild manatees, dolphins, crocodiles, bats, iguanas, a snake, lots of different birds, and multiple groups of monkeys on the river cruise portion. In the touring ruins portion, we were able to climb one of the large structures in Altun Ha. Even thought it was February, it felt hot at the ruins. I can't imagine doing this in warmer weather. They fed us a "typical" local lunch in the middle of the day - rice and beans, chicken, salad, and (not diet, diet was extra money) soda. There was a long bus ride (air conditioned) at the end of the day, but it was still a very pleasant day overall. Our guide was knowledgeable, and our boat driver had a great eye and was able to spot animals at great distance.

Chankanaab National Park Tour

We loved Chankanaab, and would return there again in a minute. This was a wonderful place to spend the day. We did the Dolphin Encounter, with the included Manatee add on, went to the sea lion show and got a kiss from a sea lion afterwards, and relaxed in a tidal pool beach area. Our son thought this was one of the greatest days of his life. The only complaint we had at all was that they take a lot of photos... and they charge you a lot for the photos.

Dolphin Swim & Encounter

We did the Dolphin Push, Pull and Swim at Chankanaab. The adults (including me) loved it. It was a little intimidating to our 6 year old son, who was very enthusiastic about it in theory. He loved doing the simpler interactions with the dolphin, the kiss, the hug, the dance, and the command to have it rise out of the water. He was too intimidated by the belly ride and boogie board push when we were actually there in person, although he thought they sounded great when he was learning about the excursion. The thought of going into deep water with only the dolphin nearby (without a parent) made him a little nervous. They did bring a lifeguard over to assist, as there were a couple of children in our group, but our son still decided not to go out into the center of the large pool we were assigned to. We all still had a great day.

Wildlife Tour

This was an add on with our Dolphin swim; this was the short encounter, not the longer one. We still loved it. None of us had ever been so close to these gentle creatures before, and having the opportunity to touch them was really amazing. Everyone in our family from the 6 year old child to the grandmother thought this was a wonderful addition to an already great day.

We did Gumbalimba Park and the Tabyana Beach Break. This was a wonderful day. At Gumbalimba Park, we played with monkeys, posed with macaws, and viewed agoutis, iguanas, and assorted birds. The Insectarium was interesting (think specimens of assorted preserved exotic bugs.) The fake pirate/history cave was a little cheesy, but it was air conditioned, so it was a nice break. Monkeytown was everyone's favorite part of the day, where the monkeys jumped on us and played and posed. We then went to Tabyana Beach, where we snorkeled, played on the beach, and had lunch. This is a great beach when there aren't too many ships scheduled to use it. (We were the only ship in port that day, and it was great. The other time we were there, there was another huge ship in port, and it felt overly crowded to us.) We thought the day was definitely a highlight of our vacation.
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