This was the 17th cruise for my wife and I, and elevated us to platinum status in the RCI rewards program. We drove to the cruise terminal the day of sailing so I can’t provide any feedback for area hotels or excursions in Miami. The ... Read More
This was the 17th cruise for my wife and I, and elevated us to platinum status in the RCI rewards program. We drove to the cruise terminal the day of sailing so I can’t provide any feedback for area hotels or excursions in Miami. The new RCI terminal in Miami is beautiful though, and getting around inside was a breeze. Much better than before! We sailed with another couple, no kids. Embarkation took less than 10 minutes with the help of RCIs options to sign all documents/waivers prior to embarkation day, provide photographs, and use the app to access SetSail passes. We highly recommend passengers take advantage of this!
As is well known, Mariner recently completed a very expensive refurbishment. The ships public spaces looked absolutely beautiful. Of special note is the main dining room; the new décor and colors made it one of the nicest MDRs we’ve ever been in. The rest of the ship, especially the Royal Promenade, also looked wonderful. My wife put it best when she said that after the refurbishment, the Mariner looks and feels like a smaller version of the Oasis class. And she hit the nail right on the head. Mariner provides a small taste of what her big sisters offer.
We attended several of the onboard activities. The sail away party was well done, though fairly typical. Loud upbeat music with drinks flowing. We made appearances at several trivia events (and ly won one of them). On the final night we attended the silent disco and the 80s party that followed. For those unfamiliar, silent disco is where attendees wear headphones and have the options of listening to different stations featuring different music styles. This was a first for our traveling companions, and they enjoyed it as much as we did. The 80s party in the promenade featured dancing, as well as iconic 80s costumes. A good time was had by all.
We also attended the Escape Room. This was our second aboard a RCI ship (first was on Harmony). The experience was certainly challenging, and I think everyone had a good time. We managed to solve all the puzzles with just a few minutes remaining (thanks to some direction provided by the staff). Worth the extra charge if you enjoy these types of activities. My wife and I also participated in the Sky Pad. This is the large glowing sphere on the top deck. Inside you’ll find four trampolines with bungee cords suspended above each. Participants are strapped in to the cords while standing on the trampolines. Each is also fitted with a virtual reality helmet (optional). The VR helmet displays different games that react to your jumping. It was a fun and unique experience. We recommend it but do your best to make a reservation. The lines were long, and we wouldn’t have made it without the time slot. In addition, we attended the battle of the sexes game in one of the lounges. A typical group activity featuring passengers competing in goofy and somewhat embarrassing games. Fun to watch or participate in.
In regards to service, we were not disappointed. Our cabin steward always greeted us with a smile and had our room well stocked with towels and kept clean. Dining staff, bartenders, and just about everyone else we interacted with asked how our vacation was going and were friendly and professional.
Our cruise brought us to CoCo Cay and Nassau. CoCo Cay is RCI’s private island, and in a few months will complete a massive overhaul. Until complete, ships calling here are still tendering off, so plan for the additional time for this process. The island itself is beautiful and easy to navigate. Also a nice touch is those passengers with a drink package can use it on the island. In CoCo Cay we opted for the Swimming with the Pigs excursion. After a short boat ride to a neighboring smaller island, we entered an enclosed beach that housed, well, pigs. These animals are domesticated and are used to being around people. During our hour in the water, we were able to feed them apple slices and pet them as they swam around us. The staff took pictures for us (cameras are not allowed in the water with the animals). This was a first for us, so we enjoyed the event. However, realistically speaking, we paid $100 to feed pigs. Some would call that rather silly.
In Nassau we didn’t do an excursion. We just strolled the shops and stopped for a beer at the Bearded Clam. It’s a small bar that offers local beers (try the Sands Raddler, a fantastic grapefruit beer) and food. The conch fritters were delicious! After that we returned to the ship.
We were in cabin 8119, an interior cabin. In short, a standard interior cabin with enough (but not plenty) of storage space. While it suited our three day trip, I didn’t get the impression a lot of time was spent updating these cabins. There were no outlets near the bed (which you had to crawl onto), and no USB outlets. Our shower also leaked, despite the glass doors. I love the RCI doors for cabin showers, which are so much better than the curtains other lines have. However, when they leak as ours did you get just as much water all over the bathroom floor. We did not inform the staff about the issue.
In regards to dining, we found the food to be standard fair. One night the MDR there were two steak options. We found it rather funny that both meals were identical except for mushroom sauce on one. Even the sides were the same! Also of note was the much longer time it takes to eat. We chose the My Time Dining option, and usually showed up around 5:30 or 6. Despite the fact that the MDR isn’t too busy at this time and there were only four at our table, dinner took us nearly two hours. There was a small note to expect this on the Cruise Planner. Two hours is too much time! 30 minutes between courses is a bit excessive, and made us skip the MDR the final night. If we find this to be typical on our next RCI cruise (Symphony OTS in February), this may cause us to eat elsewhere. We did have lunch on day three at the Dog House, a hot dog eatery on the pool deck. The dogs were delicious and there was practically no line. A great option apart from the buffet for lunch. The Windjammer (buffet restaurant) was well stocked and had a variety of foods that we found to be perfectly acceptable. It was also kept very clean and we never had trouble finding seating.
Also not to miss is the Bamboo Room on the Promenade. The drinks were great (watch out for the higher cost. Drink packages only cover up to a certain dollar amount, and several of the featured drinks were cost more), and the atmosphere was fun. Think Tiki Bar with associated décor and themed drinks.
Our biggest disappointment for this cruise was the entertainment. We typically make it a point to see all the shows while on cruises, and RCI has some excellent offerings. However, the only show we saw this cruise was the ice skating show on the first night. The reason being was that all the other shows (headliner, comedians, etc) all started after 10 PM. While we do stay up later on vacation, these times either conflicted with other activities or was just too late after a day in the sun and partaking in adult beverages. And as in the past the ice skating show, despite talented skaters, was just weird. The story, if there was one, made absolutely no sense. If you enjoy production shows or similar performers, expect to stay up late and have to choose between a show or something else.
Disembarkation was well organized and ran smoothly. From the time we joined the line (we always carry our luggage off) to the time we were loading it into the car took about 25 minutes.
To summarize, Mariner provided a great weekend getaway. The refurbishment seems to have done the public areas justice, as the ship is beautiful. Service was at the level expected by prior cruises and RCI standards. Food despite the wait in the MDR, ranged from acceptable to quite good. We enjoyed the activities, but missed the opportunity to enjoy the super late starting shows. Read Less