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Royal Caribbean International: Mariner of the Seas

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Nov 20, 2015

Nice Older Vessel serving Cheap Low End Food

Being a 12+ Cruiser and full time traveler the recent experience that I had with RCC Mariner of the Sea's 7 Days Singapore Cruise was a real bad deal. The vessel is nicely decorated and restored but the food in main dinning and buffet was unbelievable bad. Menu was half western and half eastern and the type of dishes served was so cheap that there were not even up to Chinese Fast Food basic standard. Lots of passengers complained about warm dishes

being cold and there was always not enough food in the buffet area. Majority of servers in the dinning area was Asians and their English communication was always a challenge. This would be my 4th and last time on board RCC Cruise Ship.

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Apr 2, 2012

Western Caribbean

This cruise had everything I was looking for. Great service, friendly atmosphere, lots of entertainment, and great food. The food was wonderful. I did not have any meal that I did not like. Everything was hot when it arrived. I loved the bread that was served at dinner. There was quite a unique selection. I could almost just live on the bread alone. The lobster was wonderful. We had the late seating and we were never rushed, just a nice relaxing

dinner every night. Deny's was our room steward and always met all our requests. Excellent service. There were a lot of unique things to see and do. There was a parade in the grand promenade, a great ice show equal to the Ice Capades, and don't miss the Quest. The Quest is usually held near the end of the cruise. Please arrive early as seats are at a premium. We did the zipline in Jamaica. It was great and not as scary as one might think. The staff are fully trained and very professional. It was quite safe. The Dunn River falls are a real challenge. We did not do the falls on this cruise but did do them on a previous cruise. Be prepared. Wear water shoes as the rocks are very slippery. Once you start you have to keep going. It is pretty dangerous. At the end we were glad that we survived and were able to do the falls alone at the age of 60. We will never do them again. There is a new port in Jamaica and it is very nice. Lots of shops right of the ship and the natives do not harass you like they have in the past. All the ports are great with lots of shopping available, which I love. The weather was great throughout the whole cruise. No rain and not too hot. The weather in Galveston was the coldest. Thank heavens we weren't there long. Most of the passengers were from Texas and they were just beautiful people, very well dressed and very friendly. I really enjoyed the staff and the passengers. I would do this cruise again in a heart beat.

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Feb 26, 2012

Western Caribbean

The cruise was great, the crew so attentive and polite, very helpful. The only bad thing I have to say is the de-embarcation at Galveston was the worst experience, it took us 3 hours to reach Customs. We were in long lines, shuffling along. I was so tired, my back and legs hurting from having to stand with luggage. Royal Caribbean needs to evaluate the process. I know that I won't do another cruise with them out of Galveston. The food was wonderful,

very fresh and appetizing. My stateroom was comfortable, clean, the attendant was the best, he checked on my daughter and I, to see if we had any questions or needed assistance. We didn't participate in many of the onboard activities, most of the time just relaxing and reading. We did excursions at all three ports and enjoyed them very much. I reccommend them highly.

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Feb 22, 2012

Southwestern Carribean

After a clunky online experience (website is not user friendly) I finally called the travel agent to confirm I was indeed finished with the online check in process. Galveston cruise terminal embarkation was smoother than disembarkation with long lines to embark and longer lines to disembark due to the bottleneck at customs. Pick up and drop off of passengers was in the same exact spot at the terminal occurring at the same time (chaos). Upon

arrival to my state room I discovered a hand towel that had blue stains on it hanging in the bathroom (similar to toothpast stains). I requested a new towel and worried for the rest of the cruise that my towels may not be clean. I was assured that they were clean by the cabin steward Nazir Souvenier (spelling?). He gave very friendly service. The ship lost my luggage the first day. It was recovered on day 2. In the first 3 days at sea my group of 6 women had a blast in the casino (sucks your money and not regulated). We spent 3 evenings in the Wig and Gavel Pub on the Promenade listening to a very talented guitarist named Marty Daniels during our cruise. When the sun came out on Tuesday, we relaxed near the pool. The snorkeling excursion in Honduras was wonderful and the horseback riding in Belize was fabulous. Cozumel is too comercialized for me, but was nice. Other cruise terminals along the pier did not like selling to Royal Carribean cruisers and directed us back to our own terminal for some reason. The food in the dining room every evening was only ok. After my friend found a fly in her desert, we were switched to a new table and group of servers. Service was only ok before that. It was phenomenal after that. We discovered the Portofino dining room ($20/per person cover charge) on the last night. The food was delightful there. Windjammer was ok for buffet service. Dining room tasted like buffet food: Only ok. Sent back the salmon (smelled so fishy I got nauseous). Couldn't eat the beef stroganoff (seemed out of a can). The lobster was rubbery and dry. The steak was chewy (I like mine medium rare, this should not have been chewy). Johnny Rockets was a good burger and fries and worth the cover charge of $4.95. Portofino had awesome food and was worth the $20/per person cover charge. The cafe on the promenade had the same thing every morning, but was ok. The sandwiches were good at lunch. I can't believe the cruiseline charges for bottled water anywhere on the ship. Ridiculous. This should be included in the ticket price. The stateroom decor was dated. I know the ship was put into commission in 2003, but the decor is 1998. It was clean, though. I understand it will be dry docked for 10 days in April. They should change the drapes and carpets to something more current. The shows were great. This is where Royal Carribean spared no expense. The ice skating show was better than expected. The guitarist/vocalist Marty Daniels was fun to sing along with for our group. The Sophia Fiora blue diamonds were nice and sales people knowledgeable. The casino disappointed in that it didn't let people win enough to play very long. Overall I had a very good time with my group of 6 friends. We laughed and enjoyed the time together creating memories. The entertainment is stellar, they need to work on the food quality in the dining room, and stop charging for bottled water. I was irritated that I was reminded to tip extra on several occasions during the last 3 days of the trip even though I paid tips in advance within my ticket price. The newsletter inserted a convenient charge form with convenient tip guidelines stating it could easily be charged to your account . This confused me and I had to ask whether the people I believed I had tipped in advance had indeed received it. On the last day, envelopes were given to us for additional tips. I don't mind tipping: Even in advance for a job not performed yet. But begging for additional tipping on top of the 15% already paid is not attractive on the part of the cruise line who ought to compensate their friendly employees and add it to the ticket price rather than allowing the additional tips to be guilted out of passengers to serve as compensation! Just sayin'

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By SB_CR

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Feb 26, 2011

Valparaiso to Sao Paulo

Destinations were the reason for us choosing this cruise I.e. Valparaiso, Chile to Sao Paulo, Brazil via the Chilean Fjords (gorgeous), Ushuaia, very interesting except a fiasco due top inadequate tender service, Cape Horn, wonderful and the highlight of the trip and the captain gave us ample time to take it in; the weather was wild and windy and wavy which is what it should be there. Then Montevideo, (wonderful) and on to Sao Paulo. The bus tour

in Sao Paulo was dreadful. Due to disembarking delays it was truncated, the tour guide was totally self-centered a gave us a political rant for hours, she was misinformed aboTrmut a few things as we discovered for ourselves the next day, and the bag lunch was deplorable! The ship was much bigger than we would have liked therefore crowds and much time sent waiting for elevators. The Windjammer was often too crowded. The service was good overall, except for the guest service desk which was less than helpful. Stateroom staff was excellent for us. We had a junior suite which was lovely. Although most of the time it was too cool to use the pool, when it did get warm we found it impossible to use it because the music was deafeningly loud, to the point that we couldn't talk or hear, and certainly couldn't read our books. The Internet/wifi services were quite inadequate. Several of the computers were unusable, and those that were OK were so slow that you used up a great deal of your time (at cents a minute) just waiting to connect. In this day and age wifi should be a given in each stateroom. Food was generally so-so; the buffets were average, and no more. The dining room was OK, mainly because the portions were a reasonable size and not mammoth. Some nights were better than others, Service was very good. Lovely as we had a junior sweet which was well worth it. Nice balcony, room to spread out. Should have wifi see above. Did't participate in much,but thought some of the morning lectures were OK, and some of the entertainment was good particularly the classical pianist and the " Three Seasons " classical group. Also the ice show was fantastic. The captain's lecture on the last day was interesting, but should have been earlier in the cruise. We had many quest ions about the ship and the precise route we were taking day by day. There wasn't enough information about where we were or here we were going.. Don't take the day long trips, but take a short overview and then go on your own. In our experience the port that required tenders was a disaster- completely ruined the day, which was a shame as we wanted to have a look around Ushuaia as well as go out on a boat trip, but the lack of tenders meant that we missed the town and waited for two hors to get back to the ship. Definitely sit up in the lounge on Deck 14 and watch Cape Horn.(the smoking lounge is quite disgusting and too odorous to even use. Also, there was a "private" function in Ellington's every evening at cocktail time, which was quite annoying as it would have been nice to have a drink up there before dinner. Too much attention given to the diamond set, you need to cultivate the new cruisers. A welcome drink or something would have bern nice - even the most basic all-inclusive in Mexico offers that. Destinations were fabulous, the cruise itself was ho-hum.

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Feb 8, 2011

south america

On 1/16/11 my husband and I boarded the Royal Caribbean ship named the Mariner of the seas for a 17 day tour from Los Angeles to Chile, First I would like to say we scheduled all our plans through Royal Caribbean including flights to make certain all our arrangements would be proper. We arrived at the airport on time and were told our flights were rescheduled just a short time sooner which meant we had to pay for a new flight and wait at the airport

an additional hour. This cost us time and money which Royal Caribbean refused to reimburse us for. Once on board we noticed there were obvious cut backs to what we are accustomed to with Royal, I will mention as few as possible as to not bore all interested. On our sixth day we determined that Royal had no intentions of heating any of the three pools. We contacted the front desk and spoke to two managers that said it was sea water to the pools which meant only 23 degrees which is the equivalent to the San Francisco Bay where we lived. Even the few children on the ship would not stay in without visibly shivering in a short while. We disputed this sea to pool logic and finally said we would get 100 signatures if necessary asking to heat the pools, which would have a taken less than an hour as 3,000 seniors were also very unhappy with this cost cutting at our inconvenience. We even asked if they would consider heating just the one pool on the adult side with the same answer of (no)! Ironically the very last day of the cruise, day 16, they decided to heat the pools! 3,000 of us suffered for 16 days and were not happy about this better late than never technique. Also the food was appalling on this ship. The beef could not be chewed effectively for swallowing, thereby causing my husband to continually pull it out of his mouth and placing it on its plate. On the forth day of this we decided to go to the main restaurant and try their beef and found it to be just as tough. We spoke to several waiters and informed them of this fact. We were told we could purchase for an additional cost of $14.99 a better choice that we would be able to swallow. The hamburger was worse as it did not appear to be a meat product. This is the tip of the iceberg as far as gross cost cutting was performed systematically on this ship. The majority of conversation we had with at least 100 guests was of how bad the cost cutting was. Takes the fun out of socializing! At least 20 seniors said never again to Royal and explained how much better Holland America was. These are only the majority of folks we talked too imagine the amount of folks who simply say nothing? I am a platinum member and used to think how nice it would be when we became Diamond members, now I am forced to look at alternatives as to other cruise lines and or visiting hotels as to Royal’s depressing adventures. Perhaps this misery was a blessing in disguise? To top off our holiday we disembarked the ship in Chile and were bused to the airport and were informed we had a 14 hour wait for our return flight home. Other cruise lines would have had an excursion and drop off at the airport within two hours of flight but not Royal Caribbean. I was raised in proper English fashion where you don’t complain but get on with life instead, but I do feel a certain duty to inform the public what to expect from the Royal Cruise lines.

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Jan 20, 2011

Mexican Riviera

Went on this cruise with my husband, 2 of my cousins and their wives. Chose it because one of the cousins lives in CA and we were out there to celebrate his b-day and thought it a good time to finally all vacation together. Having cruised Royal Caribbean many times, my husband I and were familiar with the ship, etc. We thought the entertainment was lacking for what we've been used to in the past. Other than that, all that Royal Caribbean offers

was not lacking. However, we had always cruised the Caribbean and were in for a surprise cruising the Pacific! It was cold, and extremely rough! Since one of my cousins tended towards sea sickness and I promised him he wouldn't feel anything on this mega ship, that wasn't great! But, personally, I wouldn't cruise the West Coast again. I'm not a huge Mexico fan either, but thought it would be nice to see this side of Mexico. It was okay, but the ports were disappointing to us in comparison to what we are used to. CA cruising might work for some, but although it was an enjoyable time and RCCI delivered, future cruising for us will be departing from the East Coast or TX in the future! Excellent as usual with Royal Caribbean. We had a Jr. Suite which we usually get and it was predictably great! One of my cousins also had the Jr. Suite and will get nothing less on future cruises. The other couple chose a balcony and decided that on future cruises, they would get the Jr. Suite. All cabins were good though. Fine .... always lots to do, or not to do! We've always researched our trip and ports in advance and gone off on our own. We did that again this time. The best one was the cabbie we bargained with in Puerto Vallarta ... he took us everywhere, did what we wanted to do and charged us a reasonable price .... and he was very nice and entertaining as well. Think I've already said it all .... good accommodations, great food, entertainment not quite as good as other RCCI cruises we'd been on. Ports a little disappointing and the seas just a tad rougher and more windy and cooler than we like.

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Oct 31, 2010

fun

great good great great Do not purchase any jewelry at the cruise terminals. When you exit the ship at Mazatlan, you take a tram to the terminals. There is a jewelry kiosk in the middle of the building. They will lie to you and ripe you off. They sold me fake jewelery. great

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Oct 14, 2010

Mexican Riviera

My wife and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary on this cruise. This was my 3rd and her 1st cruise. We both had a blast and have not felt so refreshed and happy in quite some time during and after our cruise. I have absolutely nothing to complain about except for the caricature artist and we will not even go into that, too long of a story! We had such a great time that a little over a month after our return we booked our next cruise on the same

itenerary and ship. That sailing departs on Nov 7th, 2010 which is just a little over 3 weeks away now. We could not be more excited about it. We are taking a little different approach this time as we will drive to LA, from Reno, NV., instead of flying. We plan on leaving around 4AM in order to arrive at the pier by 1PM. It's a long drive but it will save us some $ and all the hassles related to airports and changing planes etc. I would have to say that the flying was my least favorite part of the previous trip. Our 1st experience with the food was in the Wind Jammer on the 1st day while we waited for our cabin to be ready. We were a bit surprised by the number of people in that area and it was not a real good 1st experience on this cruise. We eventually were able to get a plate of food and find a table, very hard to do, while we packed our carry ons around. After that first experience we knew what to expect at the WJ and we just went with it, didn't let the crowds bother us. Went there 5 out of the 7 days for breakfast and enjoyed it just fine. Our favorite things were the small danishes and the create your own omelet. They were quite good, fresh and hot since they are made to order. We ate breakfast in the main dining room one morning and had room service on another. Wasn't nuts about either but it was certainly adequate. We dined in the main dining room every night except for one, opted for Johnny Rockets on Wednesday so we could make the ice show that night. Our waiter and assistant were very attentive and friendly. We enjoyed them immensely over the course of the week. The food was good and some of it was VERY good. I tried a few things that I ordinarily would not order. The highlight had to have been the lamb shank, absolutely incredible! We enjoyed the evening meals very much for the comradery with table mates and wait staff. Just plain fun! The last time I cruised was around 15 years ago and I did find that the food quality was not the same as it was then. I understand economics though and was still able to enjoy the food. Certainly missed the Baked Alaska that they used to do. We went up for the midnight buffet on the pool deck but did not eat. Just looked around and took some pictures. We had an outside stateroom on Deck 2. Our room steward was very friendly and kept our room in tip top shape. I don't remember his name now, it has just been too long. We saw him numerous times a day. We are staying on Deck 2 in 3 weeks as well, closer to the elevators and stairways this time!, so if we see him we will be sure to say hello!! I loved the giant portal and we both slept very well on the comfortable bed. We didn't spend a lot of time in our stateroom so I can not complain that it was too small or anything. Storage was better than I expected and we enjoyed watching the cruise directors morning show on the TV while we were getting ready for the day. Quite comical. We went to the nightly show every night and made the ice show on Wednesday evening. Enjoyed them all, some obviously better than others but still fun to go sit and relax in the beautiful showroom with a cold drink after dinner. We usually went a little early and always managed seats in the first few rows. The ice show was very good considering they are on a relatively small rink and on a moving ship. Definitely a must see. We utilized the pool and hot tubs as much as possible but I think we will find more time for both on our next trip. Very nice and relaxing up there but certainly prefer when it is warmer. On the way home it was a bit cool and breezy up there. Many many more things to see and do. The 70's disco party on the Promenade was a blast and the night 1 parade on the Promenade was fun too. The sound system is VERY good there for those 2 events. We made frequent stops in the casino but usually only for short periods of time while we were waiting for the next show, dinner or activity to start. We actually had trouble losing money, not that we wanted to, we'd take $20 or $40 a piece and leave with it or even win a little. On one evening I actually hit a $650 jackpot too! So that made our shopping trips on shore much more liberal. Highly recommend the Love & Marriage Show for some laughs. My wife and I almost made it on the show but the couple that beat us in a 2nd chance clap off barely edged us out. We think we'll try to be contestants again this trip. We did not participate in any excursions so we just winged it in each port. Cabo we walked around a bit, shopped and stopped in at Senior Frogs for lunch. That was a bit spendy but we got over it. We returned to the ship pretty early and enjoyed the empty pool deck for the afternoon. Mazatlan we took a cab over to the Golden Zone to snorkel. A young boy took us over to Deer Island in a small boat so we could snorkel for a bit. He returned to pick us back up as promised. I have to say that this was our favorite shore day. The boat ride over and back, the open air taxi ride back along the coast, beautiful!, and the shopping back at the pier with live entertainment was really fun. Peurto Vallarta we didn't venture far from the ship at all. We shopped at the many shops close by and sat for awhile at an outdoor pub and chatted with 2 of our dinner table mates. It was a very nice relaxing day. I loved the close proximity to the ship as I needed to run back to the room to get something, it took only a matter of minutes to do that. All in all this was a wonderful vacation. As evidenced by our return in only 8 months. I never dreamed I would be so fortunate to go on 2 cruises in the same year. I'm already wondering when we will be able to go again! Advice that I would give a first time cruiser is to just have fun and make the most of your trip. Don't let the little things bug you the 1st day or two because they won't shortly thereafter. If you have any tendencies towards sea sickness or aren't sure, take some dramamine and take one every day. You'll be fine, the ship just doesn't move around that much.

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Sep 16, 2010

mexican rivera

My husband and I had a great time on this cruise. We booked no excursions on this one, as we wanted to shop relax and go day to day. We love the promenade rooms for the view.We seen the Nelson brothers show on board. LOVED IT ! The cruise director was GREAT. Didn't care for Mazatlan as much, but it would've been ok if we had done an excursion. Watch out for cab drivers who drive around all over to try and get more money. We kept saying golden zone,

he said yes, but drove us around and around,we continued to repeat g zone. Puerto Vallerta is best for shopping on this itinerary. Food was good. Loved the promenade. A lot of activities. The ice show. Wonderful

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Sep 8, 2010

Mexican Riviera

This was my 3rd cruise with RC. I love your ships. But this ship is lacking in customer service. When we ate in the Windjammer, which we love, the staff wasn't very friendly. We heard that the ship was only 55% full. And the Logo Shop had a very limited supply of goods, and not a variety of sizes. The food was wonderful, no complaints on the variety or the taste. But everywhere we went on the ship we felt like they really didn't want us there.

Although I have to say our experience in the dining room was the best. We felt pampered and special. The room we had was 1688 which if anyone gets a balcony room this is the best room. It's much bigger than most of the balcony rooms because it's at the very back of the ship and in the corner. The Music on the pool deck was to loud. We couldn't even hear ourselfs talk to each other. And even though I don't drink, the group we had with us did, but the bars would close down early because they said there weren't enough people on deck.

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Aug 1, 2010

Mexican Riviera

This was our first cruise ever, and we had an amazing time! We sailed the mexican coast, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. I recommend this cruise for families with older children, and seniors. However, I found this cruise would not be suited for honeymoon couples, mainly because I thought the ship and overall atmosphere was not very private, and a little noisy. The food far exceeded my expectations!! I traveled with my extended family,

most of whom suffer from celiac disease, which is a disorder in which the sufferer cannot eat wheat products. Although this may seem like an impossible task, the dining room staff was very complient with us. Our waiter and head waiter would always inform us what we could and could not eat. They even made special desserts for us. Windjammers, the buffet, was the best during breakfast. It had many more options then the dining room menu. I reccomed the dining rooms for lunch and dinner. The lunch salad bar is not to be missed in the dining room. My family got an interior stateroom. It was small, but that did not matter because we were not in it very often, we were too busy doing excursions and activities! The fold down bunkbeds came in very handy. I was also exteremly satisfied with the stateroom staff. Our rooms was made up twice a day, convienent when active(and often messy!) kids were staying there. As many have said, I also wish the rooms were equipped with irons. They would have come in very handy for formal nights. Some activities I could have done without. The royal carribean singers and dancers show was forgettable. I am pretty sure most of the songs were made up by the singers themselves. Let me just say the show would have been more entertaining if the songs were actual hits that people knew. Other entertainment options were great fun. Guest comedians and musicians were a bit hit with my party. My personal favorite was the ice show. Ice under the big top features onboard skaters performing to a circus theme. Their stunts on the ice were truly spectacular, considering the rink is only about 1/4 the size of a real one. The skaters, I might add, were the only performers to recieve standing ovations, every time they performed. Activites such as line dancing, disco parties, and various competitions were very much enjoyed by my party. The climbing wall, skating rink, and mini golf were expierienced again and again with great enthusiasim. Don't miss the excrusions! My party went on two excursions. Snorkling in Cabo San Lucas, and doing the zip line in Puerto Vallarta. The snorkling was a little disappointing. On our tour we were only allowed to swim for one hour. However, we did see many beautiful fish, and the meal on the boat was delicious. The crew was also fun and entertaining. (No doubt they wanted tips, but hey, it made it fun!) The zip line is not to be missed! Canopy tours takes you soaring over the treetops in the rain forest. The course takes you on about 9 lines. There is a fair amount of hiking involved, so be aware. Overall, this was the trip of a lifetime for me and my party. The staff was exteremly courtious and always eager to help. I left the ship sighing over sweet memories, and wanting very much to go back again.

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Aug 1, 2010

Mexican Riviera

This was our first cruise ever, and we had an amazing time! We sailed the mexican coast, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. I recommend this cruise for families with older children, and seniors. However, I found this cruise would not be suited for honeymoon couples, mainly because I thought the ship and overall atmosphere was not very private, and a little noisy. The food far exceeded my expectations!! I traveled with my extended family,

most of whom suffer from celiac disease, which is a disorder in which the sufferer cannot eat wheat products. Although this may seem like an impossible task, the dining room staff was very complient with us. Our waiter and head waiter would always inform us what we could and could not eat. They even made special desserts for us. Windjammers, the buffet, was the best during breakfast. It had many more options then the dining room menu. I reccomed the dining rooms for lunch and dinner. The lunch salad bar is not to be missed in the dining room. My family got an interior stateroom. It was small, but that did not matter because we were not in it very often, we were too busy doing excursions and activities! The fold down bunkbeds came in very handy. I was also exteremly satisfied with the stateroom staff. Our rooms was made up twice a day, convienent when active(and often messy!) kids were staying there. As many have said, I also wish the rooms were equipped with irons. They would have come in very handy for formal nights. Some activities I could have done without. The royal carribean singers and dancers show was forgettable. I am pretty sure most of the songs were made up by the singers themselves. Let me just say the show would have been more entertaining if the songs were actual hits that people knew. Other entertainment options were great fun. Guest comedians and musicians were a bit hit with my party. My personal favorite was the ice show. Ice under the big top features onboard skaters performing to a circus theme. Their stunts on the ice were truly spectacular, considering the rink is only about 1/4 the size of a real one. The skaters, I might add, were the only performers to recieve standing ovations, every time they performed. Activites such as line dancing, disco parties, and various competitions were very much enjoyed by my party. The climbing wall, skating rink, and mini golf were expierienced again and again with great enthusiasim. Don't miss the excrusions! My party went on two excursions. Snorkling in Cabo San Lucas, and doing the zip line in Puerto Vallarta. The snorkling was a little disappointing. On our tour we were only allowed to swim for one hour. However, we did see many beautiful fish, and the meal on the boat was delicious. The crew was also fun and entertaining. (No doubt they wanted tips, but hey, it made it fun!) The zip line is not to be missed! Canopy tours takes you soaring over the treetops in the rain forest. The course takes you on about 9 lines. There is a fair amount of hiking involved, so be aware. Overall, this was the trip of a lifetime for me and my party. The staff was exteremly courtious and always eager to help. I left the ship sighing over sweet memories, and wanting very much to go back again.

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Jul 10, 2010

mexican riviera

This is our first cruise and the reviews from this website are pretty accurate. Worth the money spent and we received the most excellent service specially from the dining room staff. Alcohol is constantly being pushed on you so if there is some drinking problems in the family, this will be a very difficult trip. A very GOOD TIP given to us by other families that have cruised before: bring ziplock baggies. Make a snack or sandwiches from the buffet

breakfast to take with you when you go for your excursions. DO NOT take fruits as these are not allowed in Mexico and will be thrown away. Bring bottled water, stick them in you luggage so you don't have to buy the super expensive bottled water from the ship or ports. There's a small fridge in each room and you can placed them there to keep cool. The buffet (Windjammer) is adequate. Plenty of choices and at night, they have a small sushi bar at the Jade Cafe (inside Windjammer), The wait staff there is either hot or cold (they are either attentive or will try their best to ignore you). We opted for the "My Time" dining which allows us to go whenever we need to. There is hardly any wait especially for a family of 4. Our waiter Mahesh and Alexander are the most attentive waiters I;ve seen for a while (of course they are hoping for excellent tips for later). Mahesh did science tricks for the kids after meal and they thought that was such a treat. They were every accomodating as we have a person in our family who cannot have sugar (they modified the desserts and told us in advance which meals are loaded with sugar) and a child who was very picky (they made him pasta with butter). Overall, the food was good although I felt so over loaded with food that I was feeling nauseaus by the end of the trip looking at all the food being presented. The stateroom was OK. Our attendant (it appeared to us) was not as present as the other attendants we see from the other rooms in our area. Plenty of storage spaces. The bathroom has a clothes line inside the shower (very top, almost to the ceiling). Its a little metal looking thingie - pull the small knob and a line will come out. Pull and stretch it across the shower stall to the other metal looking receptor. Viola , you can dry your swim clothes easy. Plenty of things to do especially with the kids. OUr kids only stayed at the Kids Club for 1/2 day (it was on the way back when we were all needed some time out from each other). Sports deck is on the 12 th floor. They liked the ice skating, miniature golf, baskeball court, etc. So you dont need to take them to kids club all the time. You can spend time with them, enjoy each other - again unless you all need to have time away to stay sane. We all tried the rock wall (awesome although I sucked at it). The belaying staff are really really nice and supportive. I am sure they were hysterical when my fat behind went up the rock wall. Radcliff (some huge Jamaican dude) is the best. Look for him in the rock wall and go to him. He helped an 85 year old woman finish the rock wall, coaxing her all the way to not give up. Excursions: 1. Cabo - this is a tender. So if you have tickets for an excursion and you have to be at the pier super early, go to the FORWARD (thats the front) section to get to your tender. If you are in the back side, you"ll be competing with folks who just wants to get off the ship. No one tells you when you buy your excursion tickets about this tender business until you see the chaos of people trying to get off the ship, all at the same time, all claiming they have a "9:00 am" ticket. It was a mess! We did the 4X4 in cabo since it the vehicles were automatic. It was awesome and the kids loved it! My kids were the only kids in that group and I thougth it was going to e too much for them but it turned out awesome. I almost flipped the 4x4 (if that was even possible) but our guide was very patient with me and helped me get out of that pickle! 2. MAZATLAN - we did the Beach, shopping tour with the papatlan flyers. The show was ok but it was hard sell to buy merchandise. Do not make eye contact! Otherwise they will never leave you. The beach resort was Radison and it was heaven. The pool was clean and staff were very helpfull. Buffet lunch was included and it was delicious. The beach was full of vendors, again do not make eye contact - otherwise they will never leave. 3. PUERTO VALLARTA - we did the Marietas Island Eco Snorkeling tour. It is a one hour boat ride to the island and the day we went, the water was very choppy. I knew it was a bad sign when they were offering seasickness medicine before we even left the pier (my advice - take it!). So the first hour was OK, then its hits you. Everyone in the catamaran was looking green but we were all wondering who is going to upchuck first. Lucky it was not me. I actually waited until we anchored at Marietas and then let loose in the bathroom. You dont go in the islands, they just shove you off the back of the boat and say "goodluck". The water was clear and plenty of fishes in the bottom. They "seed" the water so the fishes will come so I don;t know how "eco" really this is. Then of course I did my own naural 'seeding" when I threw up again in the water and my kids could not understand why the fishes were going crazy around us. On the way back, it was open bar and I have never seen so much alcohol consumed in my life. I was sure these people will never be able to get off the catamaran. Overall, it was a good trip and the kids were looking for Mahesh and company even after they got home ( "I want Mahesh to cut my food..") Gambling is heavy on this cruise (with Casinos and Bingos and Raffles). The ice skating show was good considering it was a small rink on a moving ship in the middle of the ocean. The juggling act was good too. The belly flop contest was hilarious!

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Jun 24, 2010

Mexican Riviera

We boarded the Mariner on June 6th for a leisurely cruise to the Mexican Riviera. I had made a preboard boarding pass on the RCL website as had my friends. This made for an easy embarkation. What a lovely boat! They have a terrific liquor store that beats street prices in the cities we visited. Even their jewelry prices were hard to beat. Those of us who were somehow impaired received excellent assistance getting off the boat It has a really

nice Promenade with several stores and places to get a snack. You can get a drink, a sandwich, a shake or an ice cream cone but you have to pay for the bar drinks and the ice cream. The sandwiches and cookies (yummy cookies) are free and tasty. The staff, especially in the Coat and Tails on the 4th deck, was absolutely amazing. We moved from the Rhapsody dining room because we wanted an earlier dining time. What a get!! We got a table for 6 against the window and in a corner. So, not only was it more private but we had a really nice view. The crew in this section was excellent. Thomas Ventura was our waiter and Lenford Williams our assistant waiter. They took very good care of us, especially me. Leontin Baboiu, our Maitre’ De, was amazing. I have a problem with salt. He came to me every evening with the following days fare so I could order what I thought was not too salty. And, he explained the problem to the head chef who made salt free what I had ordered. By the 2nd evening they had made salt free bread and rolls for me that were very good. My friends, euphemistically, started calling me Mr. Trump, LOL. Not only did Leontin take care of my dining room meals, he coordinated with the head chef in the Portofino alternate dining room so I would get what I needed there. Our waiter there was also very deferential to me. We moved from the Rhapsody dining room because we wanted an earlier dining time. The Maitre’D there notified Leontin of my predicament so Leontin asked who needed the special meals on the first night with him. Except for a peculiar tasting Sea Bass and a similar desert, the food was excellent to spectacular. Sometimes we ordered 2 or all 3 mains, more yum! Our room was a larger then we expected balcony suite for the impaired. The closet had a handicapped bar across it making it slightly difficult to hang our clothes. And, it was not removable. The bathroom was large with good access but the swing down chair was very difficult to move. Our friends were in the next room and we called to have the adjoining balcony door opened. I, being a retired mechanic, helped them get the door locks to operate, they were oxidized and difficult to operate. Our room staff, Desiree and her helper, did a great job working around our frequent stops back to the room. They also made the cute towel figurines, an elephant and a monkey hanging from the ceiling. There was always a party going on the upper deck with a band and a lot of happy people. We went to 2 shows. One was a comedy brother team, very funny with an interesting Brazilian bolero dance, and a comedian juggler who was as funny as he was good. None of us had ever seen either shows intricate style before! Don’t come late to the comedians show. He came down from the stage when my friends came down to sit and embarrassingly interacted with one of them. They had singers on the promenade one night and did a show spectacular on another. I know there were more things to do but this was mainly a "hangout cruise" for us. Try to get a tour if you are new to the ports, that's the best way to see the most interesting places in a short time. In general, don't get more then about 2 to 4 blocks away from the beach as the deference to tourists starts to wane and there are some people who might make your trip miserable. There are exceptions which your tour guide can take you to safely. There's a spectacular church in Mazatlan which your tour guide should take you to. Just down the street from the church a large wholesale produce and stuff market worth seeing. The Malecons in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan are lots of fun. Those of us who were somehow impaired received excellent assistance getting off the boat in Cabo by tender. Cabo’s my favorite port so I got to show everybody around. Puerto Vallarta was my friends’ favorite port so they showed us around. We went to Old Town by cab and walked around the beach shopping. Then we went into the city near the beach and went to Pipi’s for a strawberry margarita (watch out, 4 shots of takillya) and a free guacamole made at the table, both were delicious. In Mazatlan we got a tour van at the port. We negotiated the price down from $25 to $20 a person. But, the tour guide was very fun and pleasant, took us to a very nice restaurant on the Malecon for lunch which we paid for. Despite that, we each gave him a $5 dollar tip which he was well worth. Mazatlan is a fun port, great shopping also. Our room was a larger then we expected balcony for the impaired. Our room staff, Desiree and her helper did a great job working around our frequent stops back to the room. They also made the cute towel figurines, an elephant and a monkey hanging from the ceiling. All in all, it was a fabulous trip with excellent deference to seniors. Our disembarkation was very well organized so getting off the ship was fairly easy. Even the bellman who grabbed our luggage came out to our cars to help load them. I highly recommend RCL, great ships, this was our 3rd cruise with them, great food, great shows and great staff.

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Jun 2, 2010

Mexican Rivera

My Husband and I booked our cruise last summer for our Honeymoon, and we thought it was just absolutely wonderful! It was actually our first cruise as well, so we really didn't know what to expect. Honestly I wouldn't have chosen to do anything else! This truly was the ultimate vacation, and what was really awesome about this vacation was in was all inclusive, and the staff were really nice, and made this a wonderful experience! Royal Caribbean hands

down did an awesome job at making everyone feel all at home, and pampered! Especially we told them we were cruising with them for our honeymoon made it all the more, even better experience! We did room service one morning and ordered as nice breakfast and as a bonus from them, they gave us complementary Chocolate dipped Strawberries which i thought added a nice touch. The food was really good! A little too good because I kept going back for more! :P We booked the balcony stateroom, and it was really nice! Had lots of space for all of our things, and overall it was spacious and really roomy! The bathroom was a bit small, but oh well, that was too much of a big deal. The balcony was amazing, I highly recommend it! There were so many things to do on the ship! You could never get bored, there's always so much going on, and definitely something for everyone. My husband and I made the mistake of only doing one excursion, which we did in Cabo San Lucas. I really wish we did one at every port but we just kind of ventured off in to the cities instead. In Cabo we decided to do a sightseeing excursion which was nice, but wish it would have been more fun. At first they took us on a boat and it was unlimited drinking (which was a definite plus=) and took us around the bay and we got to see the town from the bay view. & then they took us to shore and put our group in to a jeep and took us to a really nice resort and we stayed there for an hour or two. I mean all in all it was nice, I just really wish we would have went snorkeling instead. It was just so beautiful there and we feel like we kind of missed out on some of the other fun activities they had going on. We just really wanted to get in the water mostly. & I think because we were new we didn't know what to expect, and I was just happy to do anything really. I can't remember what the excursion was called but if I were you, I would pick something different. Cabo is just to beautiful to waste it driving around, when you can be a part of it! The trip overall was just wonderful! My husband and I had such a wonderful time that were just recently booked another cruise to go back! It really was something to remember, and everyone really made this an amazing experience! They really know how to treat there guests well! Thanks Royal Caribbean! ;)

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By Paul_CR

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Mar 5, 2010

Mexico

My Second cruise with RC and my first after a 12 year break trying different trips. I've been in the Caribbean 4 times and Alaska once. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I was not impressed with the cruise on a whole. The Mariner is a nice ship. Very clean and well designed. The Casino is a bit on the small side with out dated Slot Machines crammed too close together. Ventilation of the smoke was poor. The Buffet/Cafe also gets pretty jammed

when busy, with the tables pretty close together on the sides of the ship. Spa facilities were very nice and the Climbing wall was pretty cool. Elevators were a bit strange. I would have the button pressed only to see an empty elevator pass on by through the glass or on the screen. Apparently the program seemed to be that once I pressed the button, one elevator was headed my way. If it made stops it eventually got to me but someone above me presses their button the second car goes right on past me up to them. Mass chaos both getting on and off the ship in LA but that is normal with the quick turnaround they have. LA Porters are very busy people. Overall I'd give the Mariner food a 2 out of 5. I understand they have a wide variety of people on the boat from around the globe but the food was pretty bland on average. Sure the lobster and prime rib in the dining room was very good but selections beyond those were definitely not 4 star. Buffet was pretty good but the sushi was not very good. Most deserts that I had besides the cookies seemed to be "whipped". Sure it might be better for me AND a whole lot cheaper for the Royal C but it is definitely not on par with previous cruises that I've had. A sign of the times I guess, we'll see on the next cruise. We had a open deck cabin right off Level 8 next to the Internet lounge. Twin beds were a bit on the short side for someone like me: 6'4" with feet just a bit over the end. Nice and clean on the most part except, and here is one of the big negatives from the cruise, they had "stained" but clean sheets on the bed. The stain wasn't on the inside of the sheets.. Plainly obvious when the bed was made, I was shocked to see it. During the week we even had a couple of towels that were also stained. Not the Destination cruises I used to go on years ago. Cruise staff we're friendly and fun. Activities seemed to be aimed more towards the retired crowd though there are plenty of bars and the Night Club Dragons Lair. Wait Staff seemed to be under trained or just doing a job. Not all of them of course but most weren't talkative. Bingo is far too expensive to play. Swimming Pools were relaxing off hours and always had kids in them while sailing. I don't think the teenagers left the hot tubs until curfew. Bargains and Haggle pricing. Don't pay what they tell you at first.. negotiate down. Beware the Time Share folks. I guess I'll put my main negatives here. Dining room- first night, 3 chipped glasses at our 6 person table. In my opinion, this should never have happened in the main dining room. I can understand this happening at the Buffet or bars but the Dining room? No more parade of Baked Alaska?!? Fire and Insurance, ok I can understand that one. Midnight Buffet. One night on the Pool deck. Selection, a couple 6ft tables of food. Not Impressive. Stateroom- See above Help Desk - On the final night of the cruise, my mother , who is handicapped, was feeling under the weather and finally decided to use a wheelchair after walking around the whole week. We only needed it to go to dinner. I went down to the desk to request the use of one. The gal, Karin I believe her name was, looked over and saw that one was available and then told me 'I'm sorry, we started collecting the wheelchairs at 6pm so that we can have them available to offload the next morning in LA'. I said I only needed one for the next hour so that I could wheel my mother to dinner and then I would bring it back.. She once again refused. Ninety minutes later, I went back down after helping my mother walk slowly to the dining room and back. Karin was out from behind the counter and I waited until after she left to go up and ask the manager if I could borrow a wheelchair. " No problem, do you have your ship pass".. No questions, no mention of collecting it. No problems. "Karin" has been reported but that was a lousy final night. Would I go on another Royal C Cruise.. Of course!! It's still a cruise and was relaxing. I'll just try to lower my standards a little bit next time.

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Dec 8, 2009

Mexican Riviera

I enjoyed the cruise immensely. The staff was very accommodating and friendly. Each port had its own perks based on one's particular interest. The Windjammer cafe buffet food was regular buffet food: fruit, sweet and delicious. Waffles/pancakes cold (not made to order). However, the selection was fine for a quick breakfast before the day's events. The dining room served delicious meals except a few of the deserts offered (although presentation

was great) did not meet the expectation as the dinners. Chop's grille was impeccable for great tasting food and service. Filet Mignon, creamed mushrooms - awesome and for good price. The Promenade for late night snacks was okay the first 2 nights but the pizza was not impressive and the sandwiches became boring. We had a family room stateroom at the front of the ship. Great view while heading to Mexico. Very spacious, very quiet and our room attendant was very courteous and helpful. I did not like that irons were not available in the staterooms. Only the ship's laundry service with a 24-hour turnaround. All of my clothes required ironing and I would not pay the fee for laundry. This was not disclosed when the cruise was booked. The worst about being in the front is the bumpy and loud ride back to Los Angeles with the "waves" hitting the front of the ship. Don't miss the ATV riding in Cabo San Lucas but book over the internet through Cabo tours and not the boat - less expensive. *Cigarrette smoking should be reserved only for the open top deck by the running track only. It's uncomfortable on the swimming deck where the smoke is trapped under the enclosed seating. *The hallways smelled of mildew(not sure why). *Provide irons for stateroom use (consider the auto shut after 10 minutes for fire hazards) *Provide MP3 or iPod plugs w/ speakers *

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Oct 15, 2009

mexico

I was really looking forward to this cruise for our 10th wedding anniversary, but was a little disappointed - not with the ship, as we thought was beautiful. But something was definitely lacking and we couldn't quite put our finger on it but a lot of people that we spoke to said the same. The staff did not seem as friendly as Ocean Village who we have previously cruised with. The one morning I went for breakfast, I had to sit at a dirty table.

The table was not cleaned the whole time I was there and I had actually finished my breakfast before I found anyone who could bring me a cup of tea. They cleared my plate when I had finished but still not the rest of the dirty pots - I was actually quite disappointed with this as they seemed to be walking past my table but just ignoring the dirty pots. In the dining room very good but in the Windjammer not very good - I think I only had one decent meal in there Gorgeous - this was the one thing we really liked and our attendant was excellent - thank you for the towel animals! I would have liked tea/coffee making facilities in the room so I could have a brew when I first got up but apart from that very nice. I thought they were good but we didn't use many of them (although I know that was our choice) but we did enjoy the table tennis and the mini golf. We are not really into rock climbing or even swimming so didn't use either . None really but none of them stood out for me as places I want to go back to - plus the humidity didn't help - it was so hot (98 degrees which I can cope with but with 59% humidity!) - on the third day it rained and we were so thankful. Will never go back to Mexico in Sept (again I know not RC's fault) Our trip was OK (we went to Vegas when we left the ship) which we loved. I am not saying I wouldn't go with RC again because I probably would but having been with Ocean Village 5 times before I have to say I do prefer the informality of their cruises. I didn't mind the formal dining but prefer to eat when I want and not at a set time.

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Sep 28, 2009

mexico

Excellent customer service all around. Very clean, well-maintained ship. Overall, you won't be disappointed with Royal's product. Food in formal dining room is quite disappointing and diners had to return meals to the kitchen regularly. However the selections in the buffet were quite an improvement from earlier cruises, and the Indian selections were quite well prepared. Amazing stateroom design that is very comfortable and convenient as a week-long

home. Lots of activities to choose from, although more are charging fees to help offset the lower cruise prices due to the recession. The same excursions are available at the docks for one-half to one-third the onboard prices. This works if you are comfortable negotiating prices with tour providers you meet on arrival.

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Sep 5, 2009

mexico

Our Cruise was not good. There was nothing special and wouldn't cruise with Royal Carribean again. The food was very poor quality and the staff, with the exception of our stateroom attendant and waiter, all had an attitude. All the food was very poor quality and there nothing exciting about the presentation other than the fact that it all seemed like cafeteria food. The majority of the fruit on board wasnt even ripe. The one night I was

really looking forward to was the lobster night. The piece of lobster I was given was 2 inches long and I was told I couldnt get another piece which I hated! Our room was ok and our attendant always kept it clean. He was very nice and tried his best to make sure we were comfortable. Go SETO!! The onboard activities were nothing special and what they did have, wasnt widely talked about in advance. Most of the time when you went to the activity, (e.g. rock climbing wall, teen lounge a.k.a. living room, ice skating) no one was there that knew anything about times or schedules of when activity was available. We Didn't book anything with the ship, but had no problem on shore setting up activities and from what I heard we spent less. Jet skies, snorkeling, and para sailing were the highlights. Unfortunately we rated the whole cruise at about a six on a scale of 1-10. Problem is, our expectations for what a Royal Carribean cruise would be like were much higher.

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Aug 23, 2009

Mexico

We really enjoyed our cruise. Our highlights would be the friendliness of the staff and the excursions. The forgettables would be the food and some shows. Boarding- Boarding/exiting the ship was always quick and painless. It makes me want to think twice about hassling with airports ever again. Royal Caribbean should be commended for this streamlined process. Food- I would not take this cruise for the food- it filled us up, but wasn't

"WOW". The best meals are in the main dining room, so try to go there whenever possible. At dinnertime however, I would stick with appetizers and desserts most of the time (Yes-you can order multiple dishes). The entrees were just OK. Room service is nice if you have a balcony, but stick to cereal and the fruit plate. The Windjammer and Cafe Promenade were our least favorite spots; there were a few decent sandwiches, but everything else was forgettable. We didn't dine in any of the pay restaurants, but our friends told us Chops is the best. Stateroom- This was the first time we booked a balcony and we loved it! It was much bigger than staterooms we had stayed in previously, and breakfast on the balcony was nice. There was also a cool lightening storm we watched from our balcony around midnight in Mexico. The attendants are awesome. In Puerto Vallarta, the ship was leaning a little bit causing an inch or two of water in our bathroom (worse in some other staterooms but we had to change rooms). Don't leave stuff on the floor to be safe. Entertainment- The entertainment had its high and low points for us. The ice show was clever and well-costumed; it's worth seeing. The evening game shows were fun for us. All of the other shows seemed outdated or corny. The art auction was a great spot for free champagne. Bingo-- we played twice- way too expensive (not worth your time). The live musicians were talented but played the same songs way too often (pool deck and Wig & Gavel pub). The art classes were something to do but kind of boring. The dancing on the pool deck is also repetitive. How many times do people really want to do the electric slide??? Excursions- Book excursions if you plan to get off ship in Mexico and have no idea what you'll do. It can be overwhelming with so many vendors. We did ATVs in Cabo and the Zipline Canopy Tour in Puerto Vallarta. We booked both online ahead of time to save money. ATVs were through Cabo San Lucas Tours/ Amigos. They were relatively inexpensive and really fun. I wouldn't recommend young children- they got tired, and if you're a first-timer stick to the shorter tour. In Mazatlan we had no plans and regretted it as soon as we got there. Our friends did a bird-watching tour (saw no birds) which they actually loved. We ended up taking a taxi to the Golden Zone and a nearby beach- disappointing. We bargained with a catamaran driver to take us to a private beach (Deer Island) across the water. It took an hour to get there, but we ended up having some fun snorkeling. It only took us 8 min. to get back once the wind picked up. In Cabo the canopy tours were Los Veranos. This was a fun, family-friendly excursion. The staff was pleasant and they have animals you can interact with at the end. We booked online through BestonPuertoVallarta and the company had no record of our reservation. They honored it anyway when I showed them our paperwork. Book this directly through the company to be sure you actually have a reservation. Overall, we would definitely cruise again, especially with children.

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Aug 10, 2009

Mexican Riviera

It was a long week. There were too many senior type activities and not enough for the 30 - 50 age group. I wanted to inform the staff that not everyone wants to play bingo every day. I would say the ship was just OK. There was a Nickelodean trip the week before and they had definitely not recovered. The stair railings and elevator buttons were nasty and didn't get better throughout the week. The shopping experts on the trip were outstanding.

They were very knowledgeable and very helpful. I noticed a lot of tarts, mousse style desserts. For instance the key lime pie tasted just like the fruit tarts we had all week. The food was a lot of the same all week. Our room was great. The stateroom attendant was awesome. Not too much going on onboard, there were very few activities. We had a lot of time on our hands until about 7p.m. If you're not into laying around the pool for 10 hours a day and eating all the time, you're going to get bored. Puerto Vallarta is beautiful. If you are going to plan something go while in this port. Cabo and Mazatlan are just not that nice.

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By Marc_CR

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Jun 5, 2009

Mex Riv to Pacific North West

This was our 3rd RCCL cruise and our second on the Mariner. We love this ship but chose this Mexican Riviera cruise because we had new friends from out previous Mariner cruise who where on the ship and also, because the ship now departs from L.A. which is where my family lives. Due to that, this became a family visit and a cruise with friends. Unfortuately, the swine flu changed our port o' call from Mexico's warmth to Canada's and Washington's

rain and cold. We still loved the ship and having Captain Johnny was a plus. Both he and Capt Per are great, but I did love Capt Johnny's personnal contact. RCCL rewarded us with discounts, OBC and Future cruise credits. The final cost of the cruise was only $515 pp for us, so we came out ahead. And, any cruise is better than no cruise. The Mariner made it a great cruise. We only used the main diningroom and every meal was great. They are not 5 star meals, but great nevertheless. You get great value for what you spend on these cruises. We did Johnny Rockets again on our Gold Coupons and it was good as usual. We even came back for another lunch one day and paid. Windjammer breakfasts were fair; sometime luke warm and the egg to order line is a little long and needs work, but in all, we enjoyed our breakfasts and lunches there. I don't want to forget this time. The Prominade Cafe has some nice Pizza, sandwiches and cookies (also fruit and coffee) 24 hours a day. You should stop and snack and or try a fast late lunch like we did. It's a treat. We liked the food. We had a Prominade Room on the 7th deck across from the Jewelry Store. They are a little smaller than we like, but they have thier benefits. It's fun to watch the people below, and the parades without having to find a place in the crowd. If you have an interior room, the upcharge for a PR is worth it. We've only had balconies so I knew this would take some adjusting to. Still, we liked our stateroom. We loved the shows, the casino, the 70's night, the Pub (and outstanding show) and we had fun ballroom dancing. The Latin band sort of specialized in Salsa, so we didn't dance as much Latin, Cha-cha or Rumba, as we'd like, but they were an entertaining group. Unfortunately, they play in one of the smoking bars. We only had one and a half days at the pool due to the cold weather, but it was one really good pool day. Astoria, OR was not ready for us and the Mariner was not ready for Austoria. Sorry, this was a very poor port - it was last minute. It took 2 1/2 hours to get people off due to having only one gangway at a location that was not usually used for that. Enough said.. Seattle was fun but rainy as was Victoria, BC. I wish we could go back to both ports when the weather is better, like summer. This was still a good trip, always better to be on the ship. Especially for the money we paid. And the Mariner is a great ship. Lucky for the people of California to have her.

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Jun 5, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

This is our second RCCL cruise and our first (of two) on Mariner. We had a hump balcony room on the 8th deck and it was great. Capt. Per was our Captain. The Mariner is very like the Navigator. It's a beautiful ship, but I did find the crew a bit more friendly than the Navigator. We could have just been lucky. We had met a group at another cruise chat board and did a RCCL meet and mingle, and became very good frinds with a couple we met who already

knew some of the staff though the many cruises they had on Mariner. It's a clean ship, with beautiful decor and artwork thoughtout. Activities abound onboard. Port Canaveral is a great port to navigate and board from. We did both Chops and Portofino on this trip. Both are worth the extra charge as is Johnny Rockets, IMHO. We loved the dining room and had early dining with a very nice couple. We've had good tablemates on both our cruises. I loved the pasta with marinara sauce and had it as a side with every dinner, something I learned from our tablemate. Windjammer was always great for breakfasts and lunches (when not on shore) and someday, we might even try dinner there. We like the food. It may not be 5 star but its a value for the money you spend. I wanted to try a Prominade room but got convinced to go for the Balcony. Especially when we found a Hump cabin, the center hump unit.... wow. It was more than we thought it would be. We had great, unblocked views, plenty of room inside (even though the room was advertised as a silly 20 sq' smaller than a standard balcony cabin. The room was clean and kept that way. We did have a problem with our plumbing twice - fixed within an hour each time, and twice with our safe - also fixed within an hour each time. Overall, we liked the room. There was lots of chances to do. The Latin music in Bolaro's and the ballroom music in Ellingtons were good. But the dance floors were a little small for the number of dancers who showed up. The Ice show was outstanding; the guest star shows where great and the production shows entertained. My wife and our new friend loved the "70's Dance" on the prominade. Mini golf was fun. But, we spent much of our free time lounging at the pool. We liked the onboard activities. In all, this was a wonderful adjenda, Eastern Caribbean, it's a great ship and .... We liked the Mariner of the Seas.

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Apr 5, 2009

Mexico

We were on this cruise with two 13 year-old boys. Our tablemates also had a boy the same age and a 10 year-old girl. All of us thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and the kids just loved the ship and the kids' programs. Our boys spent the majority of the time in the Teen program and had "the best trip ever." The food in the dining room was among the very best I've had on a ship. So much so that I bought their cookbook. Our waiters, Volkan and Carlos

were just excellent and the kids had a great time with them. Volkan was particularly upset the 2 nights the boys decided to go to the buffet for dinner with their new friends. The head waiter stopped by each night to ask us about our day and show the kids some magic tricks. The bufffet food was standard for a ship with a good variety. The one negative is that there does not seem to be sufficient seating in the buffet at busy times like embarkation day and port mornings. A few times we had to watch for people finishing their breakfast and wait nearby to nab a table. Our balcony stateroom was a good size and the layout allowed for lots of storage space, The boys had an inside across the hall. The insides have more space when the beds are apart. The boys loved our cabin steward, M, who entertained them with towel animals each night and was super friendly. The ship's facilities are fantastic! The rock-climbing wall, mini-golf, skating rink, sports court etc. were very well-used. The teen program co-ordinators kept the boys entertained so well that we had to force them to meet us for dinner each night. On the second formal night they even had a teen Prom. The Cruise Director, Abe, was one of the best I've seen; right up there with John Heald. He was so funny. The Love and Marriage and the not-to-be-missed Quest Game Shows were particularly hilarious. I've seen the Quest show 4 times now and this was by far the funniest. The things people will do for a keychain! The shows were not quite as good as others I've seen on Royal Caribbean. Possibly they are new shows to go along with the new itinerary and just haven't gotten into a groove yet. The last 2 nights were better than the 1st. The magician/illusionist was pretty average, his show was all the old standby's. Captain Johnny was an absolute hoot. I've never been on a ship with a more lively and engaging Captain. He was often seen around the Promenade, chatting with anyone who stopped him and even signing copies of his book one night. We enjoyed the piano bar many nights, but the disco was surprisingly quiet. We did not do any excursions with the ship. In Cabo we took a bus/taxi to Playa Santa Maria. It was a nice beach but we were unaware it had no facilities whatsoever. We would have brought water and snacks if we'd known. The sand is more like small pebbles which made it difficult to walk on. In Mazatlan, we took a ferry/tour to Stone Island. We negotiated a price of $25 per person which was $10 less than the other passengers paid. This included the ferry with a detour to an island to view sea lions, lunch on the beach, unlimited drinks, and the choice of 3 activities. We chose horseback riding, kayaking and the Banana Boat. The food was just OK but the kids had a good time. In Puerta Vallarta we hired a taxi for $80 for 4 hours. He gave us a bit of a tour and took us to El Eden Falls. This was a lovely place however the restaurant is very expensive. It seems like you only have 5 menu choices (a variety of large seafood/steak plates at $28 each). This was too much food for lunch, and for the kids, so we elected to have nachos and quesadillas, but these other choices were not immediately offered. All in all this was a fantastic cruise. We sailed over spring break so the ship was completely sold out. I can't believe there were over 3600 passengers. Embarkation took all of 15 minutes. Disembarkation was completed ahead of schedule! The only time we waited was for the tenders in Cabo (which is standard) and as mentioned, for a table in the buffet a few times. RCCL really seems to know how to manage the passengers on large ships better than the other lines I've cruised with. Each and every time we passed a member of the staff, we were greated warmly. Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships and newer are my 1st choice for families. Although you pay a bit more than other lines, the ships' staff and facilities are more than worth the extra money. When I've cruised Princess large ships I was frustrated at all the waiting around and the lack of sufficient seating in the theatre etc.

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By G_CR

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Mar 25, 2009

San Pedro to Baja

Had high hopes for a B-day cruise to Baja. Wanted to get away for a long weekend, and was it LONG. After a hassle in boarding, the cattle call (mostly drunk already) was herded outside for the safety review. What was nearly a lifetime of waiting hip to hip, tail to pelvis cramming waiting for somebody to get a clue as to what they were doing, (half hour at least) the sparce program began. The launch was eventless, found some food and a drink to settle

the anger, when realized that a parcel of luggage never made it to cabin. Went to purser to inform, they said get in back of line (of complaints obviously, nearly a dozen waiting to file) and they took report. After daily followup inquiries as to status, they said to talk to ground service. Ground service says talk to Royal Carribbean. Back and forth for months, no accountability. No resolution to date. Rude, piss poor service, and very disappointing. For the cruise, not uneventful, there was plenty of intoxication, everywhere. Perhaps this is the quality of cruise to Baja, but would expect some semblence of demeanor from staff at least. NOPE. The formal was nice, everybody quality oriented, service excellent, food pleasant. Server well compensated. Each server is from a far off destination, and well trained. Best part of ordeal. Half way thru cruise, foul aromas filled most of the fore of the ship, methane, numerous passengers complained of backed up septic, luckily not ours, but still foul and unacceptable considering you are prisoner to your shoebox cabin or a lounge where the language and booze free flows. Long and short, find another liner as these folks are unconcerned with quality, only getting you on board to fleece you. Never again. Formal dinner very nice, excellent service and well executed. Room was like a shoe-box. Plenty of drinking if you desire, but the quality of fools prevented us from joining any public activities. Find something else to do.

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Oct 14, 2008

Western Carribean

I traveled with a large family groups with ages ranging from 1 to 60+. Everyone enjoyed themselves. Everyone had an activity to do and by the end the majority of us did not want to leave. The food was good. I've been on multiple cruises and it was what I expected. I traveled Norwegian and Royal. A 4 person stateroom is about the same size however, Norwegian uses its real estate better. I preferred Royal's bathroom, much cleaner than Norwegian

and great lighting. Didn't make it seem depressing. Ladies Royal's hairdryers are Great! Shows were much better than Norwegians. More entertaining, more lively. There were tons of things to do on deck. Rock Climbing, Basketball, Dodge ball, mini-golf lots of pools and jacuzzis. Don't miss the ice show or the shows. All very entertaining. Boleros is very fun and the music is great. Not many people frequent the Champagne bar but at least 1 visit to try out the various specialty drinks is a must. I was pleasantly surprised. The first night of karaoke is the best. After the first night its where the seniors or southerners seem to settle.

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Mar 17, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

Our cruise left Port Canaveral on March 18th so we flew in to Orlando airport the day before and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites right by the port. Great hotel. It was nice not to have to rush to the port right from the hotel. The shuttle picked us up at 11am sunday and dropped us at the port. Our boat was the largest and most impressive. Embarkation went quickly and smoothly. There were thirteen in my family traveling together, including

a 17 month old and we were on board, had lunch, and were in our rooms by 1 o'clock. I had a balcony room (7592) with a play yard in it for the baby to sleep in and still felt like we had plenty of room to move around. The balcony was nice as it had Plexiglas up to about 4 1/2 ft. high so my baby could roam out there. In our group we had connecting rooms and also interior rooms overlooking the promenade and all the rooms were decent size. beds were comfortable and my stateroom attendant was wonderful, room always clean. One of my daughters turned 21 years old on the Monday of our trip and they put decorations and a sign on her door. The food in the windjammer was good, a large variety for everyone. It was nice for a quick meal. We never had trouble finding a seat. The dining room food was wonderful and the wait staff, Volcam and MacHaniff, were even better. The food in Portofino's was outstanding and so was Chop's according to other people in my party. We ate at Portofino's one night and we were very impressed by the food and the service. The free coffee in the Cafe Promenade was even good. The ship was very large and never felt crowded. I was a bit frustrated by the elevators because sometimes they took a while to get to us. The shows were always entertaining and worth the time to watch. The clubs were enjoyed by my whole family because of the wide variety of choices. And, of course, the casino was enjoyed by all. There was never a time when we didn't have something to do. We did miss Coco cay because of high winds and we were not able to stop there. Instead we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Because of the rate of speed and the high winds on the way to San Juan, we had a bit of a rough ride. It was very interesting to say the least. We made the best of it and took a couple of seasickness pills and enjoyed the ride. All of our ports were great. San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. The trip home was uneventful and smooth. We had great weather the whole time and March/April seems like a good time to travel the Caribbean. Disembarkation went smoothly and my party made their noon flight home without any problems. This was my first cruise and set the precedent for many more.

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By Kent_CR

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Feb 18, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I decided to go on a cruise for our tenth wedding anniversary. This was to be our first cruise, so we went to the local travel agency which had a ‘cruise expert’ on staff, who has, to date, done 31 cruises. She was very helpful and after carefully assessing our needs and interests, suggested that we go with RCI and do an Eastern Caribbean cruise. I would highly recommend this approach for anyone looking to book his or her

first cruise, because our understanding is each cruise line has its own ‘personality’, and an experienced agent can get you on the right track. Following our travel agent’s advice, we flew into Orlando 24 hours in advance of our scheduled departure from Port Canaveral. Again, excellent advice, because in our case Air Canada had misplaced our luggage during our transfer in Toronto. The extra 24 hours allowed us to get control of the situation, get our bearings, and find our missing luggage in time to catch the shuttle from the airport to the ship next afternoon. Catching the shuttle was a fairly seamless exercise, but I was distressed at the queue-jumping going on. We got to the cruise-ship terminal and got through the clearance process without any troubles. We boarded the ship at about 1300hrs and set out to explore whilst awaiting the scheduled departure set for 1630hrs. A recommendation: take a small carry-on with essentials in it to carry you until your luggage arrives in your stateroom in the evening. Contrary to the advice of our travel agent, we took an inside stateroom. I believe that this was an excellent choice, and would recommend this to anyone, especially if it is a first cruise. My wife and I are quite simply always on the move, and really didn’t spend much time in the stateroom, so having a porthole or even a balcony would have been a waste of money. The dining was very good, especially considering the staggering number of meals served in one day: approximately 17000. We would typically have an early breakfast and late lunch in the Windjammer/Jade and then join our tablemates in the dining room for our second seating dinner. Our breakfasts were largely made up of fresh fruit and cereal, and for lunch we typically enjoyed the pseudo-Asian at Jade. We were fortunate and had excellent tablemates in the formal dining room; two other couples our age. We also ate once in Portofino. I cannot recommend this enough. The service was incomparable, and the food was some of the best I have had the good fortune to eat. Well worth the $20 per person additional charge, plus the tip we left. The only thing which I didn’t like about the dining in general was the amount of over-consumption and wastage of food I witnessed. I found the whole situation hard to reconcile. We are not big drinkers of alcohol, but we usually had one drink per day. The Americans we were with seemed to find the alcohol a bit expensive, but as Canadians, we found it very inexpensive. We found the measurements very generous indeed! We had originally been scheduled to make our first call at Coco Cay, but couldn’t go there due to bad weather and rough seas, so Captain Faevelen decided to go to San Juan PR instead. Although we were disappointed at missing Coco Cay, San Juan was pleasant and our walk to El Morro was very enjoyable. Our next stop was St Thomas USVI, and it was fantastic. We embarked on a tour which took us on a road trip of the island and took us to Megen’s Bay Beach for a couple of hours. It was fantastic and a lot of fun. The tour dropped us off in downtown Charlotte Amalie and we walked back to the ship. The third and final port of call was Philipsburg, Saint Maarten. We also took a tour here, but owing to the fact that the tour didn’t start until the afternoon, upon docking we got off the ship and walked to Great Bay Beach (about 2kms) where we rented two beach chairs and a parasol for $10 USD. Again, the tour and the beach were fantastic. With all of the ports, the arrival and departure were highlights. I especially enjoyed getting up early, grabbing a grande latté at the Café Promenade and going up on deck to witness the arrival. There were rarely other people awake and outside at these times, and it was so beautiful to be outside to enjoy that aspect. The shows in the theatre were quite good. The two stand-up comics were excellent, and the ‘revue’ shows were cheesy but fun if not taken seriously. We didn’t get to go to the ice show, as we weren’t willing to stand in a queue for an hour for tickets. If you’re into that kind of thing, it might be worth it, as the scuttlebutt was that it was a good show. The last two days of the cruise were spent at sea, and we spent most of our time beside the pool, reading books and enjoying being outside. My wife used the onboard fitness facilities and I ran the 300m track on the 12th deck. This was especially invigorating when the ship ran through a rainstorm and the decks were abandoned. The amount of activities put on by the Cruise Director throughout the cruise was staggering, and the Cruise Compass was invaluable in keeping track of everything going on both onboard ship and in port. In the library we found excellent daily newssheets in French and in English, which allowed us to keep up with what was going on in the world outside. My wife brought her wi-fi equipped laptop with her, and this allowed us to send e-mail etc. We could have also used the computers in Royal Caribbean Online. Wireless access is expensive, but useful. The disembarkation Sunday morning went very smoothly as well. We had opted to keep our luggage and disembark immediately upon arrival instead of having our luggage collected and taken down the night before. We would recommend this to anyone who does not have a mountain of luggage, and is at all tight for time. In sum, my wife and I will absolutely go on another cruise with RCI; we are already planning to do a Western Caribbean cruise in 2009! It’s not conducive to someone who wants to really ‘visit’ a place, however. We were never docked for more than ten hours or so, which only allows a superficial taste of what an island is really like. It was a fantastic vacation and a wonderful way to get some sun and warmth in the midst of a cold February back home. I would not hesitate to recommend a cruise to anyone, especially if that person wants to go to a warm place in winter, but doesn’t want to stay in the same spot for a week.

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Jan 28, 2007

Western Caribbean

Driving to the terminal: We decided leave Tallahassee and drive to the terminal the on morning of the cruise. Helpful Hint, arrive the day before, stay in one of the local hotels that offer parking and a shuttle to and from the ship. The cost of parking at the terminal is about the same as staying at the hotel. Best of all a lot of stress about having car trouble on the way down is removed and it is a lot easier to process your luggage

in the shuttle area. I would also recommend using Interstate 95 if you are coming in from the north. It will save you about $10.00 in turnpike fees and the travel distance and time are about the same. Checking in: This turned out to be a nightmare. Somehow all the sea passes were accidentally thrown away. We had to wait in line for over three hours. People that had to use the restroom facilities lost their place in line and had to start over again. I can understand that there was an unexpected problem but nobody tried to explain why there was a delay and after we were on board there was never an apology for the inconvenience or recognition that it even took place. Stateroom: we did not plan to leave the ship very often and found that having a balcony added greatly to our relaxation and enjoyment. We were able to use it for starting the day with room service coffee, comfortably stay out of each other’s way while we were getting dressed. It was also a nice quiet place to sit read a book and enjoy a glass of wine when we wanted to be away from people for a while. Our room attendant was excellent. He took care of any special requests and always had our room clean and fresh while we were away. He quickly learned our names and always had a friendly greeting when he saw us in the hallway. Ship entertainment: The parades, ice show, production shows and daily entertainment specials are more than enough to occupy all your free time while on the ship. We especially enjoyed the show by the Nelsons. The Royal Caribbean singers and dancers extended a lot of energy but some of the vocal arrangements left a lot to be desired. Helpful Hint: The movie theatre is very small and hard to find. It is located on deck three under the Lotus Theatre. We noticed that there were many good movies during the cruise. The library is often overlooked. It has mini newspaper reports form all over the world, a daily trivia sheet and many good novels to read if you are looking to relax during the day instead of fighting the mobs in the curio shops. HELPFUL HINT: The Cruise Compass is very informative and a great tool in planning your day. DINING: Each area that we used had special features. Portofino’s had to be one of the finest meals we enjoyed on the cruise. The service, presentation and quality of the food were well worth the extra $20.00. I promise you it will be one of your better memories of the cruise. The main dining room had good food, good service and a large enough selection to appeal to everyone at our table. The best part of the meal was getting to know our fellow travelers and share our time with them. We did not use the dining room for breakfast but found that the lunch selection was much better than the windjammer as far as quality of the food. We found that the windjammer worked out best for our breakfast meal. They always had a good variety of fruits and just about anything else you might want for your morning meal. HELPFUL HINT: the egg station in the rear of the Windjammer will cook your eggs to order. They make a great western omelet. I found that if I walked back to the station first I could order my omelet, pick up a dish instead of using a tray and then go back to the line to gather up my fruit, bacon and extras. By the time I got back to the station my eggs were ready and I was good to go. As good as the breakfast food was the afternoon meals in the Windjammer seemed to get progressively worse as the week went on. By Friday, it was better to either go to or order something to take out from the dining room. In our opinion, the best deserts had to come from the coffee shop on the promenade. Maybe it was just the casualness of the shop but it was very enjoyable to sit there sharing opinions and having a piece of double chocolate fudge cake and a cup of coffee. I didn’t appreciate that we had to pay for ice cream. I find it hard to believe that it would incur that much of an additional cost. Especially since everyone was paying such exorbitant prices for water and soda. HELPFUL HINT: although it is not publicized very much, the soft ice cream machine is located outside the right entrance to the pool area on the Windjammer side of the ship. EXCURSIONS: We did not intend to do much touring due the fact that I had just undergone a hip replacement in October. Labadee seemed to be a very nice island to enjoy water sports. We took the tender over to the island and enjoyed the beach facilities. The flea market was a little hectic and the sales people were very aggressive. I didn’t find that very pleasurable so I let my wife enjoy her shopping and I tried to enjoy the beauty of the Island. In Georgetown we took the submarine tour and a trip to the butterfly farm. The underwater trip was very enjoyable. The trip to the butterfly farm left a little to be desired. The shops in Georgetown were nice and the people were very friendly. HELPFUL HINT: Pay attention to the Cruise Compass. When it says bring small bills to avoid any change problems they know what they are talking about. I now have a Cayman $10.00 bill that I have no idea what I am going to use it for. If you are going to be walking very much remember that the traffic flows opposite of what it is in the States. I went to cross a divided road, looked very carefully for oncoming traffic and started on my way. The screech I heard behind me gave me goose bumps. I had stepped right in front of a car coming from the opposite direction. CONCLUSION: Aside from the first day, our cruise was everything we were trying to accomplish. We have not traveled on any cruise lines except Royal Caribbean so we really don’t know what to compare it to. We were well taken care of and look forward to our next adventure.

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Nov 26, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

This was a seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise that departed on a Sunday out of Port Canaveral, Florida. The cruise visited Coco Cay-Bahamas, St. Thomas-USVI, Philipsburg-St. Maarten and had three days at sea. While we have been to all of these ports before, less Port Canaveral, we have never been on a cruise with three full sea days, we hoped we wouldn't get bored (we didn't!) We stayed in a Grand Suite on Deck 10. This was our twelfth

cruise with RCCL, making us Diamond Crown and Anchor (C&A) Society members. Embarkation. We got to the Avis location at 10 AM to drop off the rental. We reserved two one-way rentals, airport to pier, then pier to airport a week later - worked great. The Avis shuttle took us and 4 other couples to the RCCL pier, we handed our luggage off to the porters by 10:30 AM. We then proceeded to the check in area to get our Sea Pass cards. This was our first time cruising out of Port Canaveral, so we were not sure what to expect. Being Diamond C&A members, we were given priority check-in, but we needed to be very observant to get it, it was not an overly organized check in and you really had to keep aware of what the RCCL agents were doing so that you would be in the right place. We were one of the first to check in and receive our Sea Pass cards. For this trip we booked a Suite Guarantee cabin - this guaranteed us at least a Junior Suite but it was possible that we would be assigned any suite - and as luck had it we were assigned a Grand Suite. We will probably book through this manner in the future. Just for the heck of it we did ask if there were any Owner's Suite available, but there weren't. After we received our Sea Pass cards we were told to wait in the center of the room, which was the make shift priority boarding area for Platinum and Diamond C&A members. This area was roped off with movie style velvet ropes, anyone could wander in. That was no big deal to us, but if people are expecting the privacy of the Chairman's Club Lounge like in Miami, they will be disappointed; there were also very limited seating. Once the wedding groups boarded, we were next. We got our security pictures taken and were on board Mariner by 11:45 AM. The cabins were not accessible until 1 PM, and for the first time we've ever seen, there was RCCL staff stationed at all of the elevator drop off points preventing passengers from going to their cabin early. It was an overall smooth embarkation, but we are spoiled and like the organization of the Port of Miami better - will most likely cruise out of there next time. The Ship. Marnier of the Seas is a one of the newer Voyager Class ships. It was commissioned in November of 2003. We have been on Explorer of the Seas twice prior, so we had an idea of what to expect. Mariner was very clean and with a very colorful décor, sort of an art deco or retro look. I found it very appealing and somewhat bold and different from traditional cruise ship decorative style. I was apparently in the minority here as many passengers, mostly seniors, did not care for the style and made sure to voice those opinions to anyone within earshot. The Mariner deck layout can be seen on the RCCL website and it is fairly traditional. One highlight for us is the Grande Promenade on Deck 5 with all of the shops, bars and snacks. It also has a direct access to the Casino, which we used frequently. A very minor note - I was sorry to see the sports bar in the Promenade be replaced with a wine tasting bar, the wine tasting bar seemed very out of place and was almost always empty. Another attraction on the Voyager ships is the ice rink. We do not enjoy "the shows", but the ice show is worth checking out - get there at least 15-20 minutes early to get a seat. The Staff. We give very high marks to all the RCCL staff we encountered. The Captain was Per Kristoffersen, we had met when we sailed on Majesty and he was the Captain earlier in the year. Captain Per is very personable and addresses the passengers daily at noon over the Public Address system. The Cruise Director, Becky Thomson, was one of the best we've been with. Her nonstop energy and constant smile was always refreshing -she also had a wonderful staff highlighted by "Dollar Bill" Phil. Our stateroom attendant was a professional, very nice and a hard worker. The bartenders and bar servers were efficient and not at all pushy. We are huge fans of live music and were disappointed to see that the steel drum/calypso band did not have a pan drum (steel drum) at all, and the show band was not as good as others we've seen on board other cruises. We very much enjoyed the Captain's Corner, a chance to talk with the Captain, Chief Engineer, Hotel Director and Cruise Director. Except for some rather ridiculous questions asked by the audience, this was very informative and interesting to learn about life at sea and the background and experiences of these maritime professionals. The Weather. The temps were in the upper 70s to mid 80s for the entire week. It was sunny most of the week, and when it did rain is was brief little showers lasting 20 minutes or less, typical for late fall-early winter in the Caribbean - my family, a collection of sea-goers, refer to these brief downpours as "clearing up showers". On this trip the wind was strong for the first half of the cruise, some of the strongest wind we've experienced in the Caribbean, so much so that the Captain changed heading to get to more protected water so the seas would be calmer. At the height of the wind, we were in 20 foot seas with gusts of wind up to 45 miles per hour - this extreme lasted for one evening. This did cause some ocean motion, but the ship handled it well with its stabilizers fully extended. The Eastern route is normally rougher than the Western route as the Western route is more protected by islands and the ship is generally closer to shore. Even though everyone wants is sunny and calm all the time, when bad weather does occur the staff handles it as best they can by increasing shipboard activities; and, seeing storms at sea is very cool, if they are off in the distance! The Passengers. We have cruised out of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Galveston and now Port Canaveral. Port Canaveral is by far the most remote, with Galveston being 2nd most remote to a major airport. I'm guessing this has to contribute to the very high percentage of locals, in this case Floridians, on the cruise. This same phenomena occurred with locals, when we sailed out of Galveston, those locals being Texans. The very noticeable difference on this cruise was the amount of senior citizens, and specifically the senior-senior citizens on this cruise. Don't get me wrong, while I think it is great that these folks are getting out and enjoying cruising, I do believe shipboard activities and events were more skewed to accommodate an older crowd. Again, I don't have a problem with this, but I will remember it when we plan to bring our young daughters (ages 5 and 3) on our next cruise. We will most likely sail out of the more accessible Miami where there are more children and families, which, for us, makes for better activities on board. I believe this also contributed to the severe lack of nightlife on board. And, for what it is worth, the casino was empty all week - which was fine for us, but very strange to see it that empty, all the time. Our cabin. We stayed in a Grand Suite on Deck 10 - it was fabulous! It had a large bed with a new mattress, large sitting area with a 3-cushion sofa, 2 soft chairs, coffee table, wet-bar, large desk and desk chair and lots of closet and drawer space. The bathroom had a bathtub, double sink, large vanity and the toilet. If was very spacious, even had a floor drain. The private balcony easily fit a chaise lounge, 2 chairs and a table. This cabin could have easily accommodated 4 people, that is, if they packed reasonably - more on packing later. The Food. We have been listening to people whine and complain about RCCL's food for over 10 years and we just don't get it. We have never had a dish poorly prepared, we have tried new dishes that were not to our liking, and as soon as we told our waiter, he brought us another selection. The appetizers were excellent, the soups were some of the best I have ever had (especially the chilled soups - I highly recommend them even if "chilled soup" does not sound particularly appealing, they were wonderful), the salads were very good, the entrees were excellent and the desserts were delicious! The dinners followed a loose nightly theme, and if you did not care for the theme of the evening, there were always five or so traditional alternate entrees you could choose from, these were prepared very well. We were on Majesty of the Seas in January of 2006 and for the first time were forced to eat at the first (Main) seating (we were with a group). We were sure we were not going to care for it as we have always eaten second seating. We were wrong; we very much enjoyed the main seating and chose it again for this cruise - it really seemed to lengthen our day, and we did not go to bed quite as full. We ate all of our dinners in the main dining room. We do not care to spend an overly long time at dinner, we told our Waiter this on day 1 and he made sure we were served first all week long, keeping our dinners to about an hour long, which is how we like it. Both our Waiter and Assistant Waiter were from Indonesia and both were very polished and treated us like royalty. Our Head Waiter was one of the better Head Waiters we have had, he visited with us every night and assisted our Waiter when things got busy - some Head Waiters have been known only to come around on tip collection night, this was not the case this time. Although we did not eat any breakfasts or lunches in the main dining room, I heard many times that they were very good. We ate these meals in the Windjammer Café or in the Promenade; we also ate at the Johnny Rockets restaurant on board once, it was very good and fun to watch the severs sing and dance. We did not eat in the specialty restaurants Jade, Chops or Portofinos - they say to allow over 2 hours for the entire dinner, not our style. Again, I could not have asked for better quality of food from any of the above - I did the math on this once and it showed over 150 food options per day, and there are still people who say that none of it is good and they couldn't fine anything they like - all I say to that is "who has the problem here?!!?!" If you are used to having a private chef prepare fresh cuisine for you daily, and you are worried about RCCL's food quality, I suggest you book on a Radisson Seven Seas cruise, which caters to the most elegant and formal (albeit boring) dining pallets, and costs about 10 times as much at RCCL. The Bars. We are not huge drinkers but do enjoy our frozen drinks while we are in the tropics! The drinks were always consistent, my wife would alternate alcoholic and virgin drinks and she liked them both. One tip - the bartenders/bar servers push the souvenir RCCL glasses, they are an extra charge and nothing special. We always asked for our drinks in a regular glass, we also avoid the pre-made drinks the bar servers carry around, we have found them to be not as good due to the melting and separation of alcohol. We strongly recommend the soda package if you plan on drinking any amount of coke, diet coke or sprite. It is about $6 a day for those unlimited drinks, for adults. It is easy to buy one package for 2 people and just share, the bartenders don't care and they often gave us 2 diet cokes for the one sticker. We enjoyed the pool bars and the Viking Crown lounge very much. The sports bar has been relocated to an area in the Viking Crown Lounge - we enjoyed that as well! We don't care for the Schooner as it always seems to be very smoky. There is a daily drink special, and many of the bars had additional drink specials - just keep your eyes open for them. The casino bar was surprisingly not busy, nor that smoky. As usual there were bar servers present at all the activities to take care of your beverage needs - all were very nice and polite even if you didn't order anything - the gratuities were automatically added on to the drink prices. Cruise Compass. Every day the Cruise Compass is published and delivered to your cabin. This tells you all of the activities, eating options, entertainment, bar hours and gift shop/casino hours for the day. We suggest you keep one of these with you so you can refer to it throughout the day; they are very helpful day (we take a highlighter to highlight what we want to do so we don't forget). We have all of the Cruise Compasses from our Cruise - if anyone would like to see them, feel free to contact me. On board activities - we are not sun worshipers. We have very fair skin and burn easily; so, while we enjoy the sun, we have to be careful. This cruise had 3 full sea days, plus Embarkation day; shipboard activities are greatly reduced while in port. That being said, all of the standard activities were offered - Bingo, karaoke, belly flop contest, sexy legs contest, parades, name-that-tune, trivia challenges, the obnoxious art auction, the very obnoxious horse auction and horse race, the Quest game, the Love and Marriage game, Captain's reception, fitness programs, production shows, the rock climbing wall, playing basketball, mini-golf, inline skating, movie theater, ice skating, line dance classes, various types of live music, the late night club DJs and so on. Keep your Cruise Compass handy and pick what you like and enjoy! I must recommend the Karaoke sessions - these are some very fun events that show some very talented, and some less talented people. I have not performed personally, yet, but I'm told next time I will! You really can do as much or as little as you want - don't feel that you have to do anything, or that you have to lie in the sun and "relax". (we hear this frequently). Also remember, you'll never see these people again so have fun! The Casino. We get asked about the Ship's casino more often than I would have thought, so I'll throw out a couple observations here. Mariner's casino is relatively large, with about 25 tables and lots of slots and video poker machines ranging from 5 cents to 5 dollars per play. We enjoy playing at the tables when it is not super busy, so we would like to see more tables and less slots machines - again, we are in the minority, and on this cruise it didn't matter as the casino was deserted the entire cruise. The table games consist of craps, roulette, various forms of black jack (single deck, let it ride, wheel of fortune), Caribbean stud poker, 3 card poker and now variations of the currently trendy Texas Hold 'em poker. All card games have minimums of $5 to $25. There are some non-smoking tables. It has been our experience that the nice thing about cruise ship casinos is the friendliness of the dealers and most other players. It is not a hard core gambling environment like Vegas; it is much friendlier; the dealers help you, which make it relaxed and fun. The best time to go to the casino is normally during the shows. Most passengers like to go to the shows, which leaves the casino (and many other areas of the ship) virtually deserted. Speaking of the dinner/evening shows - they are popular, but not with us. We have not been to an evening show since the one we walked out of on our first cruise. During the week there are a couple production shows by the cruise staff, a comedian or 2, maybe an animal act or acrobats or a plate spinner, a headliner and a good-bye show. Don't get me wrong, these are wildly popular with the passengers, but they are just not appealing or entertaining to us, and they are normally very crowded. We use the time to go to other places on board while they aren't crowded - the photo area comes to mind. The shows, and many of the shipboard events, are replayed on the ship's closed circuit TV; just in case you think you missed something! As I mentioned earlier, we have enjoyed the Ice Show. Fitness. Mariner has an excellent fitness center with many strength and aerobic machines. There is also a marked jogging/walking track on the pool deck. The Ship Shape program caters to all levels of fitness experience with the different events such as walking groups, stretching classes, nutrition seminars, Pilates, line dances and more advanced workouts classes and events. There is also the basketball court, rock wall and mini-golf course. RCCL makes a big deal about Mariner's state-of-the-art spa, purchase with care here, the spa can be very overpriced for many services - just be careful. The way we look at it is if you must spend time walking on a treadmill, you might as well do it while looking at the ocean! Kids programs. This was most likely our last cruise for a long time for just the 2 of us. We plan to take our daughters on the next one. As we have been planning this for a while, we have done plenty of research on programs for young kids. We have found that the Voyager, and presumably Freedom, classes of ship will best meet our family entertainment needs. While all RCCL ships have dedicated and professionally run kids/youth programs, the Voyager/Freedom classes have the most resources to offer. We talked with several of the counselors and were very impressed with their training and professionalism. There are numerous areas of the ship designated for various kids groups only - which is very cool. As the resources vary slightly between ships, we suggest doing some in depth research on the RCCL website to make sure you know what facilities are on what ships, particularly if you are looking for the Adventure Ocean program for young children. Photos. Royal Caribbean loves to take your picture! From when you first board to the last dinner you are fair game to have your picture taken! Our advice here is to not buy your pictures until the last day - that way you can look over all of the pictures taken over the entire cruise and pick what you like best, as opposed to picking something and buying it on day 2 only to find out you took a better picture on day 4, but don't want them both. RCCL is automating photo review and purchasing - look for the kiosks in the photo display area, they are not very popular and give you a great way to beat searching for your pictures and you can even change the style of the photo if you like - this is very new and very slick! Ports of Call: CocoCay (Day 2). As many people know, CocoCay is RCCL's private island in the Bahamas - it is called Little Stirrup Cay on the map. We arrived at CocoCay at 7AM. It was windy but we were able to tender to shore. We love to snorkel, and at CocoCay - during our last visit we saw 3 giant eagle rays and were hoping to see something as spectacular this time. Unfortunately with the wind, we could not get to the deep water snorkeling area like we were hoping. In fact, as I was making my way out to the deep water, it got very shallow, and there was a lot of marine life in close to shore, so I found myself in the middle of what appeared to be a school of barracuda, with a baby sting ray, flounder and an eel of some type. The current was moderately strong, and I did not want to end up with any of these critters slamming into my face, so I turned back. There are shallow water sights in the lagoon (a "shipwreck" and a sunken airplane), but we had seen them before and they only attract small fish, and they are a considerable swim out. If you have never seen them before, it is definitely worth it, in fact there are RCCL staff on hand to throw food in the water which attracts quite a crowd of marine life - that's pretty cool! We always bring our own snorkel mask and snorkel. We use the swim fins provided by the excursion. CocoCay also has a huge inflatable water park - this is something we will do when we take our daughters - it looks fun! They also offer a nature trail, parasailing and a mini-straw market. There are hundreds of beach chairs on the island, and it is a very pretty tropical setting - we got some great pictures of Marnier from CocoCay. There is BBQ lunch served on the island. This is very popular and the food is fine, we just prefer to eat on the ship in dry clothes. We spent about 3 hours on Cococay, snorkeling and swimming, took a short walk, looked at the mini-straw market (didn't buy anything) and returned to the ship. St. Thomas (Day 4). We docked at St. Thomas at 9 AM. As this is an American port, all guests must present themselves to U.S. Immigration by 10 AM. This is mandatory - go early for the shortest line. St. Thomas is our favorite port of call in all the Caribbean. This is one of the best places to snorkel. We met friends many years ago that did what we all dream of - sold it all, bought a sailboat, sailed to the Caribbean and have been living in the U.S. Virgin Islands ever since. We look forward to meeting up with them and snorkeling whenever we can! Their names are Gary and Gayle, they give snorkeling tours and a variety of sailing cruises; their website is http://www.jollymonstthomas.com/, they have our highest recommendation when it comes to snorkeling and sailing. They take you where the crowds don't go. You can either book a trip with them privately or through the RCCL excursion desk, be sure to ask for the Jolly Mon. This trip we booked a private tour with Gary and Gayle and went to an out-of-the-way reef and saw some tremendous underwater sights. Gayle is in the water with you the entire time, giving you a personal tour. After we were done snorkeling we sailed around the various islands near St. Thomas, ate some snacks and got dropped back off, right at the pier. It was great to renew our friendship again, and we're already planning to bring our daughters to meet them next trip! We spent a total of 4 hours with Gary and Gayle, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy other parts of St. Thomas. As a side note, Gary and Gayle do recommend going up the sky tram to check out the view from atop St. Thomas - it is supposed to be very pretty, we have not been able to do this yet, but plan to next time. The other thing you will hear about St. Thomas is SHOPPING! It is true; St. Thomas can be a shopper's dream. There are rows and rows of stores selling all kinds of jewelry and watches, electronics, linens, china and anything else you can think of. My personal opinion, and I am in the minority here, is I don't think the deals are what they once were; and, we don’t come to the Caribbean to shop. You must be remember what you buy you also must transport home, and if you are getting home by airplane, that may be a challenge. If you pay to ship your purchases home, what you paid in shipping might bring the price up to what it may have cost domestically. Our advice is do your homework before you buy - everything is not a deal and make sure you are buying quality. Our other advice is to shop on board the ship - we have bought a lot of jewelry from the shops on the ship and the quality is excellent, and you get a warranty. You will hear a lot of hype about shopping on the islands, but don't forget to check out the goods on the ship. St. Maarten (Day 5) We docked at St. Maarten at 8 AM. We have been to St. Maarten many times and wanted to just take it easy this time, so we did not plan an excursion. We took the water taxi into town and just walked around the shops, we had never done that in St. Maarten. Unfortunately that only held our attention for about an hour, then we headed back to Marnier. This wasn't all bad as normally we pick a port that is not one of our favorites and plan to stay on board the ship that day. It is kind of fun and special to have the ship "all to yourself" as most of the passengers go ashore to the ports. That is what we did that afternoon, and we were fine with our decision. We have frequently taken the Golden Eagle snorkeling and sailing adventure excursion offered by RCCL. This is a very fun event that takes you on a huge catamaran to private beach for some very good snorkeling, swimming and beach lounging. Although we did not take it this trip - we highly recommend it. A note on shore excursions. I hear all the time that people can find a better rate booking on their own shore activities than a RCCL shore excursion. While this is sometimes true (and I stress 'sometimes'), we normally book through RCCL for piece of mind - if something goes wrong on a RCCL booked shore excursion, the ship will wait for you. I hear at least once per cruise that someone booked a taxi tour of the island, or a fishing trip, or a trip to the beach on the other side of the island, for something like $10 less than the RCCL excursion, and they got stranded because the ship left without them. It happened on this cruise from St. Thomas, the group arranged for a taxi to pick them up, and it never showed up, the group had to pay for transportation to St. Maarten to catch up to the ship. Just keep that in mind when you are deciding what to do in port. Connection options to the outside world. We did take our laptop and we did purchase the Cyber Cabin option for internet access for $100 for the week. This gives a dial up connection to the internet from your stateroom - this was more than adequate for what we wanted - email, weather and such. There are the normal RCCL online internet café and a Wi-Fi package, both at 50 cents per minute. And, the ship's satellite capabilities did allow for cell phone and data transmissions (GPRS) while at sea, for most service providers - this was a first. I have a Blackberry/cell phone through Cingular and I had a signal everywhere except Cococay. Perks. Again, we are Diamond members of the Crown and Anchor society. This entitled us to priority boarding onto the ship as well as a private party (for Platinum and Diamond members) where we could talk with some of the Ship's officers and enjoy complimentary food and drink (we continually bring down the average age of this party). We were also given RCCL robes to use for the duration of the cruise, a gift from RCCL (this time it was a nice Marnier picture frame and slippers) and the Diamond version of the Ultimate Value Booklet. This consisted of free photos, complimentary drinks, casino credits, gift shop discounts, wine discounts as well as discounts for the spa, coffee and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. RCCL also sends various 'thank you' surprises like fresh covered strawberries, fruit basket and champagne during the cruise. We also had a private debarkation lounge available with a continental breakfast. It is a very nice perk that we appreciate and enjoy. Debarkation. We took advantage of a new program this trip - the walk off priority departure program. Instead of putting our luggage outside the stateroom door the last night of the cruise, we kept it all and wheeled it down to deck 5 the morning of debarkation and carried it all off the ship ourselves. This was somewhat disorganized, I'm hoping because it is new; but it did allow us to disembark and get through US Customs very quickly, allowing us to get to the Avis pick up area to be shuttled back to the Avis location in downtown Port Canaveral to pick up our outbound rental car very early, which we needed. Once this gets a little more organized, it will be a great option for those who need an early departure. I never thought this option would happen - but it worked well for us! What to pack. Three words - don't over pack! When you are new at this, it is very easy to over pack; to avoid this it’s best to plan your clothes by day - we figure a daytime outfit, shore excursion outfits and an evening outfit per day, plus swimwear, exercise clothes a couple extra pieces, just in case. Remember the lighting level is low in the dining rooms and most of the photos are from the waist up, so it is easy to wear shoes and pants more than once. This system has worked very well for us over the last 12 cruises, so feel free to contact us if you'd like any further opinions/information on what to pack and what the ship provides, such as hair dryers and power strips. We also keep our suitcases under the bed and fill them up during the week with used clothes; this makes packing less of a hassle at the end of the week and keeps the cabin cleaner too. We bring our own motion sickness pills, just incase, but you can also get some free of charge from the Purser's desk. This trip I brought my European outlet adapters, this doubled the amount of outlets we could use in the cabin - you can pick them up at a Radio Shack for a couple dollars and they come in very handy on the ship, especially if you take a laptop, cell phone(s) and camera(s) that all need charging power. Parting thoughts - again, we very much enjoyed this cruise, as we knew we would. Personally we do wish there were more strictly non smoking areas of the ship, and that smoking should only be permitted outside - my wife has mild asthma and this does cause her some inconvenience. A minor disappointment was that Port Canaveral did not seem all that organized. The only other and somewhat standard disappointment was the minority of typical passengers that just "don't get it" - they seem mad all the time, at everything - those types of ultra self absorbed people I can do without. Everything was as close to perfect as you can get on this cruise, including the staff, the food, the services, the activities, the cleanliness of the ship and so on. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about or would like to chat about cruising Royal Caribbean. We have been on 12 RCCL cruises, aboard six different Royal Caribbean ships, visited dozen or so ports through various Caribbean itineraries. I have all of the Cruise Compasses from this cruise and a ton of digital pictures. If anyone would like to see either or both, feel free to contact me, no mater if I touched on a specific in the review or not. I'm sure its obvious by now, we love to cruise and like helping other people to enjoy it as well. Looking forward to hearing from anyone who wants to chat. Bon Voyage! Jeff and Deb Columbus, Ohio cmhcruisers@columbus.rr.com

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By Fred_CR

  • New

Nov 12, 2006

Western Caribbean

We went on this our 1st cruise and once we got there, had a GREAT time. We have an 8 year old, and the Aquanaughts program is excellent. Contrary to some folks experience I found Royal's pre-boat customer service terrible. Our plane was delayed 4 hours, but even so we arrived at the port at 5pm. The departure time was at 5pm. I was in constant telephone contact with Royal via telephone from 1pm to let them know our status. At 4:40pm

the Royal operator told us the boat had left. Even though we pleaded with her she did nothing to help or contact the ship. In fact she lied. We arrived at the port at 4:50pm and the boat was still there. Unfortunately port security had already closed the gates and would not let us pass. We watched the Mariner sail away. Don't get me wrong once we got on the ship in St. Thomas the crew was fantastic. But word to the wise is try to fly in the day before + that based on my experience with Royal's customer service I believe it to be terrible. Now for some more positive feedback; 1- WestJet that created the delay has FANTASTIC customer Service. Once we watched the ship sail away we called them desperate for help. Janice and crew were AWESOME!!!!. They got us a hotel in Orlando, Airline tickets to St. Thomas, two nights stay in St. Thomas, and covered all the costs along with transportation, and meal costs. PLUS they gave us a partial credit for use of a future flight. Would we pick WestJet next time? YOU BET! 2- www.transportationflorida.com or Sunshine Florida Transportation were unbelievably GREAT. We phoned them and kept them in the loop about our delays. Not only did John (owner\driver) wait for us. He literally ran through the airport with our bags to the van to try and get us there on time. He was empathetic and helpful. He stayed with us the entire time. Drove us around until WestJet rescued us and did not charge us as much as he could have. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Although Royal's customer service was terrible, Sunshine Florida Transportation & WestJet showed us what real customer service was like.... Especially when you really need it. Happy Cruising.

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By Dan_CR

  • New

Nov 5, 2006

Western Caribbean

Our cruise started out on the wrong foot, thanks to Delta Airlines. After sitting on the plane for an hour and a half in Atlanta, they decided the plane wasn’t safe because a baggage handler hit the underbelly and dented it. Understandable, but the decision could have been made about an hour earlier. We were going to be late for the ship's 5:00 PM departure, and many of us were getting different stories when we called RCCL, and also

the travel agency that booked us. Thankfully, RCCL, with input from Captain Johnny (Mariner of the Seas) delayed the departure, and the 22 of us that were late were able to board, along with our luggage. We departed about 45 minutes late, and I can’t thank RCCL enough for going above and beyond….. As soon as my girlfriend and I boarded, we were greeted with smiling faces and cheers. The luggage made it to the stateroom fairly quickly, and we started touring the ship to see what it had to offer. This was a first for both of us. I have to admit, we were both truly amazed with the ship and it’s amenities. Labadee, Haiti. A very quaint, relaxing stop with great beaches and plenty to do (water activities). We were part of the Hogs on the High Seas group, so we also had activities through them while in Labadee. Our excursion at this stop was parasailing, which was awesome. Great views and a friendly crew. The ship catered lunch ashore, which was set up very well. Ocho Rios . Our excursions here were the dolphin encounter where we were able to swim with dolphins and be part of the show. Then we went to Dunns River Falls and did the waterfall hike. This was totally awesome, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone that handle moderate physical activity. We hiked 600 feet, winding our way up the falls as a group. The tour guides were very friendly, even carried the camera for some awesome shots. We also stopped at Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville, a great party place which was rocking with fellow HOG members. Grand Cayman. For our excursion here, I did two dives and my girlfriend snorkeled. I booked through Eden Rock Dive Center, and the guide Chris was very friendly and great to dive with. The water was an incredible 86 degrees, not even cool at 50 feet!! For a quick lunch we stopped at the Jail House Café, an outdoor café which had sandwiches, etc., on the menu. It filled the stomach and next stop was Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Again the HOG crowd was rocking and we had a blast. There was a Harley shop there as well, which we had to walk through too. Cozumel. We booked the island tour, which was interesting. The guides (Veronica & Barb) were extremely friendly, spoke great English and told us about their country, island and brief history. After viewing the eastern side of the island which was wiped out by the last hurricane, we stopped at the small town of Cedral. We were able to view an old Mayan building, a Catholic church dating back to 1590, and of course….local vendors. The next stop was Playa Mia Beach, where we spent 1.5 hours. The water was gorgeous and we enjoyed a burrito and Chimichanga for lunch. The HOG rally was going on at Carlos & Charlie's, so we stopped in for a drink. I can’t say enough about the ship, Mariner of the Seas. Prior to departing, I read some of the reviews and had mixed feelings. I don’t get wrapped around the axle about little things. I understand that with 3200 people on board, there may be some delays experienced. Someone commented about room service trays being in the hallway when they left for breakfast. Big deal, walk around them….no harm done. The restaurants on board were incredible. We mainly had room service for our morning coffee, and then went to the Windjammer Cafe for breakfast. A great buffet which offered everything you could possibly ask for. We did go to the dining room one morning for a sit down, order at your table menu. Along with the Windjammer is Jade, and we had lunch there one day as well which was delicious. We tried Johnny Rockets one time for lunch, both of us having burgers. The outside seating was closed, and it took a while to gain someone’s attention to acknowledge us inside. However, they were responsive afterwards. They started by serving us fries and onion rings which were delicious. Halfway through our meal, the waiters started dancing to YMCA which was on the system…. an added bonus!! We had dinner in the main dining room, sitting on deck three in Rhapsody on the Blue. The food was always delicious and served nicely. The waiter/assistant waiter were the best! The bar tender that took care of our table was also very outgoing, and made great drinks. I was surprised when the head waiter came around and would cut the shrimp/lobster from the shell for you. All the wait staff performed songs and dances, and the chefs came out for everyone to meet. We enjoyed performances in the Savoy Theater, and really enjoyed the ice show. Very talented people, it’s hard to believe you’re watching an ice show while in the middle of the ocean. We found the stores along the Promenade deck to be well priced, and offered great deals on gold and jewelry. There was also a parade on the final night which was fun to watch. We tried a few of the lounges and found them all very comfortable. Whether you wanted to rock and roll, or just chill out and listen to guitar or piano, it was offered. To sum it all up, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. The ship was spectacular, immaculately clean and everyone we encountered was quite friendly. The stateroom was cleaned twice a day; she dropped off the daily schedule of activities, and made little animals from the beach towels. The beds were comfortable, and we were told that RCCL is changing out all new bedding at the beginning of 2007. There was a safe, small refrigerator, plenty of storage, decent sized bathroom (with soap & shampoo), a couch, and a TV in out stateroom. We were on the 8th deck with a balcony, which afforded great views. Another cruise will definitely be in the future.

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By Troy_CR

  • New

Oct 14, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

We arrived in Orlando at approximately 10:00 and were fairly seamlessly put on our transfer bus to the ship. However, when we got to the Ship at approximately 11:00 we sat in the parking lot for almost 45 minutes waiting for the ship to clear due to "luggage difficulties". We were not told this the first 30 minutes we were on the bus, so not the best of starts but we were anxious so we let that slide. Once we were in the check-in we were

in and out and through that process in under 30 minutes and we were free to roam the ship. Our room opened at 1:00 and we went to our room to relax a bit since we had been up since 5:00 am! The ship itself is very nice and similar to any of the Voyager Class RCC ships. Rock Wall, putt putt golf, large family pool area and the normally nice adult pool area (More on that later). We had a deluxe ocean view balcony room on deck 7 mid ship. More than enough to serve your sleeping needs, which is all you should do in the room anyway. The ship itself was magnificent, the crew was astounding, the dining room service and food was incredible and our table for dining was excellent as well. First Area I will review is the FOOD and there is a lot of it. The first thing you must know is that you should dine in the dining room each and every night as the food is incredible, the service is awesome and you can order ALL THAT YOU WANT. A lot of people do not realize that you can order multiple appetizers, multiple entrees, even multiple desserts so don't feel you can't have "all you can eat". The servers will not even bat an eye if you order as much food as you want. Another tidbit is that you can order breakfast to your room each morning at NO COST and have breakfast in bed. This is a great service to take advantage of. The food in the other dining areas is what you would find on most buffets and is o.k. but nothing to write about. The Windjammer is a gigantic buffet with traditional burgers, fries, tacos, pasta, etc. The Promenade Cafe is open 24 hours on the fifth floor and has small sandwiches, pizza and some desserts and fruit. The specialty dining is also excellent and I would personally recommend Portofino or Johnny Rockets for the 2nd of your two formal nights if you don't want to dress up for dinner twice. Portofino is great Italian Cuisine, while Johnny Rockets is a fun "burger joint". I have heard that Chops is great as well, but have not personally dined there. The Ship The ship is awesome to look at however you slice it, its HUGE. You can play basketball, putt putt, climb a rock wall, go to the pool etc. It is great. I can't possibly describe it as good as the RCC website, but all I will say is get involved in the poolside games, the sports court games etc. as that will enhance your vacation. The Shows Our comedian was o.k. and the RCC dancers and singers were o.k. too. Not as good as we had on the Voyager, but still above average entertainment. The real entertainment for adults is the battle of the sexes, the Love and Marriage game show (Get on it if you can) and the QUEST. These are all can't miss shows and are very entertaining way to spend 45 min-1hour. Just a warning, all these shows can get racy so they are not recommended for small children. The quest maybe even questionable for anyone under 17 and we have seen nudity. Briefly and usually not pretty but we have seen it. The highlight show on the cruise is the Ice Show which explains why they give out tickets. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW. It's amazing to see people skate on a moving ship on a very small sheet of ice. The Ports I will be brief on the ports as those really belong on port reviews. Coco Cay A RCC Island that you can simply sit on the beach at, go snorkeling, parasailing or rent a wave runner. The snorkeling is actually quite good and the wave runner experience is pretty good too. St. Thomas has good shopping, but is more expensive than your next stop in St. Marteen. So shop around in St. Thomas, but buy in St. Marteen. The Sky Ride to the Bushwacker Bar is a must as is trying the Bushwacker Drink. Taking a tender to St John is also a great way to spend that day from what I have heard, but we staying in St. Thomas. We did the BOB excursion with Captain Jim and I must say the BOB itself was not worth $100, but the whole experience with Capt. Jim and his crew made it worth it. The snorkeling was great and from what I was told, we snorkeled for over an hour and a 1/2 which is longer than some of the snorkeling excursions!! If you can get Capt Jim and his crew I would definitely recommend the excursion. We had the Dolphin Discover set for St. Marteen but it raining all day and all of our excursions were cancelled. :(( We waited until the rain slowed and headed into town around 1:00. All I can say is WOW on the shopping, especially the liquor. $6 for Absolut, $8 for Kaluha, $9 for Baileys, holy cow this stuff was cheap. As was the cigs, at $10 a carton from what I heard, but we don't smoke so didn't care. The beer in the bars is also unbelievably cheap at about 1.50-2.00 and even McD's has beer for 1.60! A good "excursion" off the ship is to go drink in the local bars. Beware the drug dealers outside these bars as the cops don't seem to care about this. All in all it was a great vacation, other than having to put up with an unruly group of 600 folks that to me was unacceptable that RCC let them "take over" the adult pool the whole cruise. I will definitely check with RCC to see what group are on board to make sure we have access to the "whole" ship and not just the family pool. Hopefully this was helpful and feel free to email me any questions.

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  • New

Sep 16, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Just returned home from cruising on the Mariner of the Seas yesterday. I (50) sailed with my husband(52) and our best friends (both 48). We flew from LAX to Orlando on a Red Eye and arrived at Port Canaveral around 10:00 in the morning. My husband and I had sailed on the Explorer of the Seas a couple of years back so we expected the awesome sight when pulling into Port, however, our friends had not cruised since their honeymoon 25 years

previous on the Love Boat). The Mariner was docked next to the Disney Wonder and Carnival's Sensation. Even though the Wonder is a beauty, the Mariner stood tall and regal next to both ships. Since we arrived early, the previous passengers were still getting off the ship so we had to wait about an hour to board. In the meantime, guests for two weddings taking place before we sailed off were boarding (most were there just for the wedding and leaving the ship by 4 pm.) Once we received our stateroom key, we again waited to board the gangway about 20 minutes. The organization was not up to par that day and we were directed back and forth to different locations/lines before the crew got it together. We boarded about 11:30 and since our staterooms were not ready until 1 pm, we headed to the Windjammer to take in the views and of course, the first of many meals. The food in the Windjammer was okay to good in quality and very good in variety. The service was excellent...better than the other three RCCL(Explorer, Enchantment, Rhapsody) we had sailed previously. The excellent service would continue all week on all levels. I was glad to see that all passengers were required to use sanitizer before entering thru restaurants. The ship is a beauty. The crew was extremely friendly and almost every crew member that passed us greeted us all week even the last morning believe it or not). Each public room was decorated so beautiful and each had a flavor of its own. The Royal Promenade was incredible and each shop/bar/cafe had exceptional service. I enjoyed Vintages, a wine bar, and chose one of the wine samplers how Merlot can you go) and received four different wines to sample. Excellent. We were on deck eight, aft starboard balcony rooms #8650 and #8652. Our room steward, Allister, was friendly and attentive and always called us by name. We never had to ask for anything the whole week, it just happened. Loved the towel animals as always and being Crown and Anchor members, enjoyed the little extras throughout the week. The balcony, although small, is always a bonus. Time spent there is always peaceful and relaxing. Most of the reviews I had read before we sailed had me a little worried about the dining room food. I have to say we were pleased every night. There were many different choices and they were good to excellent. My favorites included the onion tart, cod, shrimp. pork chop, sea bass and of course, the lobster. The desserts were really good, but not fantastic. Our waiter, Dorin, was from Romania and we just really enjoyed him. We sat with a family with two young children and he was great with these kids. The head waiter, Elana, was by our side every night...very unexpected for a head waiter...she was great. Now just in case you are wondering how two middle aged couples were seated with a couple with two small children let me be short and sweet about this. I asked to have our table changed so we can sit by the window...so did they. The first night we were shocked when we walked up to our table and saw...KIDS. We took a deep breathe and decided to give it a go. The kids were 7 and 4(Sydney(g) and Carter)). To make a long story short....I fell in love with little Carter and if I could have taken him home, I would have. He even named a stuffed animal he bought at the Zoo in St. Thomas after me. When he told me the last night he was going to miss me, I couldn't help but cry...I'm crying now. What a beautiful family...We were blessed to have met them. The bottom line here is....You never know when love and friendship will come your way, keep your options open. Had either of us moved looked what we would have missed. (I miss you Carter.) We tried one of the alternative dining options- PORTIFINOS- Oh my....this was fantastic, worth the extra $20 each...food and service was incredible- don't think, just go. I chose to go on Wednesday as I had previously checked out the menus on line and this night looked like the night to skip the dining room. I made these reservations in person within 30 minutes of boarding and they were filling up fast- don't wait. DESTINATIONS- COCO CAY- RCCL has done a nice job fixing up this island since last time we were here. It was spotless, had nice facilities and the beach BBQ WAS YUMMY. Because of the tropical storms miles away we were lucky- great weather all week) there were hundreds of jelly fish in the Bay which put a damper on wading in the water. After all, the ocean is there home and they were there first, so most passengers were on the ship by early afternoon. ST THOMAS- I love St Thomas. The shopping is just great. After a couple of years of wanting a piece of ammolite, my husband purchased a beautiful pendant for me at "Ammolite by the Sea." Ask for Harvey. This jewelry is very rare and an investment. It's not a bargain, but it is special. Use the guide the ship offers you for shops that are guaranteed. This way you know the shop is quality. The men went on a Scuba tour and thought it was pretty good. ST MARTEEN- We had booked the America's Cup Sailing Regatta and knew it would be the highlight of our cruise. Well sad to say, it was cancelled due to lack of wind that day. (Bummer)...We rented a jeep instead to cruise the island. Trust me...there is no cruising here...the natives are maniacs on the road...most of the intersections do not have signals and it takes more energy than it is worth. There is no parking to be found...better off hiring a taxi.The Eastern cruise has three days at sea...love. love . love. The ships has many activities...partake or not. DO NOT MISS THE ADULT GAME SHOW "QUEST'...What a riot...very funny. The shows were good, but not great. I have enjoyed better in the past. The cruise director, Kirk, was good but not great...a little snooty. The Captain, Johnny, was by far the best personality aboard any ship...anywhere...anytime. His daily greeting always started with "Good morning, Good morning, Good morning." He could make every day bright. Not only that but his crew could dock this 138,000 tons masterpiece on a dime. Docking of this ship in the ports is not to be missed. Obviously, I could ramble on and on about this ship, but I better conclude before I lose everyone. So here are the hits and misses about out cruise. Hits- service, dining, Portifinos, Johnny Rockets, cleanliness, ports of call, shopping, activities. Misses- Terminal organization, solarium pool did not have retractable roof like the Explorer), Main pool-did not like the decor- too retro for me. Bottom line- Great cruise....already booking to take sons in March for their Spring Break. Vacations are what you make of them. I personally have never had a bad vacation...We make the best out of our time together and don't sweat the small stuff. However, I miss my little Carter and hope to visit him someday before his 4 year old brain forgets about me...how could he...he has a stuffed monkey named "Patti" and I bought him a towel monkey gift shop sells all the towels animals they put on your bed every night) named "Carter" so we will always be together.... Go on the Mariner...You will have a great vacation........

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Sep 2, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

The Mariner is a nice ship. My wife and I have sailed on her sister ship (Navigator) and it is very similar. Overall I would say that this was a pleasant cruise. My intent is not to go over all of the basic things that make this cruise wonderful, because there are plenty of other cruise reviews that do that. My intent is only to be very picky and list the few things that we noticed/encountered that others may like to know before booking

this ship. Again, I know that this “review” will appear to have been written by a grumpy old man, but I simply am focusing on a couple areas where improvement could take place. First off, the cruise director, Kirk Detweiler, worked his way up in the cruise industry as a singer and dancer, so he starts the cruise by singing a song. Apparently he actually got some record label to record a CD of him singing and I read something in the literature given out on the cruise about him singing some song called “Drunk Girl” that was “regionally” popular. No offense Kirk, but I never heard of that song, but then again I am not from Ohio, which is the region that I assume must have made it popular. He is a decent singer, and I think he is even better than any of the singers currently on the ship. The food is what you expect from Royal Caribbean. I love seafood and I enjoyed almost everything that I ate. My wife hates seafood and she is a generally picky eater, and she did not like much of the food, and out of three steaks that she ate (on 3 different nights), she only liked one (the filet). The desserts that are available in the Windjammer and dining room are only so/so, as is typical with most RCL and Carnival ships. I am not sure why, but my experience is that RCL and Carnival cannot make a decent cheesecake no matter how hard they try. However, head down to deck 5 to the Café promenade where the desserts that are available there are usually better than you will find elsewhere on the ship. Also, they ALWAYS have cookies available at the Café Promenade. For some weird reason there is no place on the ship where you can obtain a free drink after 9pm except from room service (at least three crew member told us this was a fact, including two in the Windjammer). I am not sure why they do not make the ice tea, lemonade or water available after 9, but prepare yourself for that if you get thirsty and are a cheapskate. The ice show was amazing. We have seen other ice shows and we believe that they have been some of the best shows that we have ever seen on our 25 cruises. However, the RCL singers and dancers leave much to be desired. One glaring deficiency was that the quality of dancers was much lower than the quality of ice skaters. Also there is a major difference between the bodies of the ice skaters (in good physical condition) and that of the dancers (at least 2 or 3 women who are visibly overweight with their guts hanging out). If you cruise the eastern Caribbean, the cruise director will warn you of the horrors of getting off the ship at Coco Cay at the peak time (9-10 am) and he will try and get you to line up very early. Don’t believe the hype. We lined up at the exact time that he said there would be an hour-long wait and we got off the ship in 3 minutes and the only wait was 5 minutes waiting for the tender to leave for the island. There is a night where some guys sing Motown songs. Go and see that. Don’t mistake this performance as being a low quality one from the ship’s regular dancers. We met multiple people who skipped this Motown performance because they had assumed that it was the regular dancers and they didn’t want to waste their time watching those dancers again after the first night. The performance with the singing and comedian (two guys: one on guitar and one on synthesizer) is worth going to. The bald comedian who performs a short routine at the beginning of the cruise comes back and does a late night, “R” rated performance which was funny. Here is a warning for the few people who bring their own snorkel gear with them. If you plan on snorkeling on CoCo Cay, they will require you to wear a life vest. They actually made me get out of the water and get a vest. Then, after they give you the vest, later in the cruise you discover that they charged you $6 for “renting” that vest that you didn’t need or want. They will refuse to remove that charge. It is a big scam that RCL does and it is an embarrassment. I could care less about the couple of bucks, but it was a crying shame that they refused to remove the bogus charges from the accounts of the several people whom I spoke with who were forced to take the life vest. Most of the snorkelers who were scammed by this were experienced snorkelers who dove down under water (thus, neither needing nor wanting the life vest). In fact, the RCL officials even instructed everyone how to deflate the vest so to defeat the life-saving properties of the vest. I doubt that anyone from RCL ever reads these cruise reviews, but if they read this, please change this ludicrous policy, and instruct your SeaExplorer staff on how to avoid angering loyal customers. I didn’t even want to include this in my review, but several snorkelers who felt “tricked” by this “scam” requested that I detail it so others could be forewarned. Some of these people had a nice cruise but appeared to have fixated on this “scam” to the point that they surely will produce more negative publicity than RCL could imagine. Overall, we enjoyed our cruise, and my intent in this “review” is to point out where RCL can improve.

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Aug 19, 2006

Western Caribbean

The Mariner of the Seas was truly a beautiful ship.. We got on fairly quickly the first day and our rooms were ready by 1pm.. We ate in the Dining room for dinner the first night and we sort of figured out we were not going to be happy with the food selections. Many other reviewers said the same, the food was just OK. I was telling my husband before the cruise that there were 2 alternative restaurants that we could go to, but he said why

pay more, the food in the dining room is always good? He ended up being the one to make more reservations at Chops and Portafinos. We have been on 2 other RC cruises, the last one was 5 years ago. The food quality has gone way down. So after the first night, we booked our dinners in Chops twice and Portafinos twice. They were both unbelievable - 5 star all the way. The portions were bigger, the filet mignon was great.. Portafinos was slightly better (filet ) the salads were very good. I highly recommend you book at least one night at each. We didn't have much trouble getting a reservation to either. I must say the whole ship was keep so clean! What surprised me the most was how they could keep the pool deck clean on a sea day with lots of people eating and drinking. The waiters always picked up when they saw an empty glass or plate. We had a full ship and it never felt crowded. The Cafe promenade was one of our favorite places to visit in late afternoon, they had different gourmet sandwiches and pizza 24 hours.. The entertainment was just okay, except for the ice show which was fabulous.. We didn't get tickets, but stood in a stand by line and ending up getting front row seats. Don't miss this. We went to the Quest. I was really looking forward to it after reading all the reviews, but we didn't think it was so funny. We were able to buy drinks in a fun margarita glass to keep, so it was nice to have some souvenirs to take home. We took a taxi to Coki Beach in St. Thomas.This was the most beautiful beach I have been to - man! \The islands, and beaches in the Caribbean, this was by far my favorite. The water was crystal clear, and you can rent chairs and umbrellas, the wait staff comes right to your chair and you can order beers or lunch, very reasonable too. You could buy merchandise, rent snorkels, wave runners, etc.. they give you dog bones to use to attract the fish and they ate right out of your hands. In fact they swarm around you if you have a bone. Be careful of the current on the left side of the beach , my son and I were snorkeling and we didn't realize the current brought us way beyond where we should have been and it was a bit scary to know you are so far from land and no one can see or hear you if you needed help. The waiter told us there was an octopus that lived in the rocks there, so off we went to see if we could spot it.. just stay within 50 Ft. of the shore, the current was further out. On St. Martin, we went to Orient Beach and did the parasailing. That was a blast. $40.00 per person and the kids got to ride a 2nd time for free. There are restaurants right on the beach, very good food and reasonable. Be careful for jellyfish. My son got stung and it was painful. You cannot snorkel at this beach, the water is too rough. Nice beach for water sports and swimming. Coco Cay was OK, it was cloudy all day. The water was not as nice as I thought it would be, it was kind of dirty. The kids had fun on this huge water slide they had there. There are so many lounge chairs, you are sure to find one wherever you want to hang out. The BBQ lunch was very good. We really enjoyed this cruise, the ship and the service was excellent. I guess just the food was the disappointment..

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Aug 5, 2006

NOT FOUND

Boarding: Kudos, to the Port of Galveston. After experiencing Port Canaveral for the first time Galveston you should be proud! My family and I arrived at the terminal around 11:30-11:45. I dropped the family and the luggage off and proceeded to drop off the rented car at Avis. Much to my dismay the family was still standing outside in the hot Florida heat awaiting my arrival only to find what seemed like a quarter mile long line of people.

This is where we noticed the difference between Galveston and Port Canaveral. Galveston’s terminal is large enough that while standing in line to pass through security you are free from the elements of standing outside. Once inside screening and check in went pretty well. beautiful ship we have ever been on and our first Voyage class ship to cruise. (Note: Voyager of the Seas is coming to Galveston in 2008 and we are already booked for a spring break cruise). Mariner has a lot of Asian influence in the décor and furnishings throughout the ship. Food: This being my fourth RCCL Cruise I pretty much knew what to expect as far as the food was concerned. The typical cruise fare lobster, prime rib, escargot and plenty of fresh fish choices always await you on RCCL. I was most disappointed in the Windjammer and Jade. Typically on other RCCL ships the Windjammer is pretty decent. Johnny Rockets was great and we really enjoyed getting an old fashioned greasy spoon burger throughout the trip. Did not try Chops Grille or Portofino’s. Service: Our waiter and assistant waiter were really attentive but not overly intrusive of the table conversation throughout the week. We had Main seating in the Sound of Music dining room. Only seen the Head waiter on lobster night when he came by the table to take the tail from the shell. Stateroom Attendant: Rubi was her name; we roomed on the 7th floor. Rubi did what was expected but we felt rushed to get out of the room as she was always out in the hallway dying to clean the room in the morning and then would be dying to get back in there as we were hurrying around to get to dinner by 6:00. Nothing major but have had better stateroom attendants in the past. Cruise Director: Becky Thompson was her name and she was by far the best director we have ever had. 'Good day Love' was her favorite expression. Entertainment: By far the two best shows were the Beatles tribute performed by Revolution and the International Ice Skating Show “Circus”. The RCCL singers and dancers were average have seen better shows in the past but were ok. Comedians were pretty good however can’t remember their names. Overall: I highly recommend this ship Mariner of the Seas. The Royal Promenade and the nightly parades were Disney quality. Best cruise ever!

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Jul 29, 2006

Western Caribbean

Boarding: KUDOS to the Port of Galveston. After experiencing Port Canaveral for the first time Galveston you should be proud! My family and I arrived at the terminal around 11:30-11:45. I dropped the family and the luggage off and proceeded to drop off the rent car at Avis. Much to my dismay the family was still standing outside in the hot Florida heat awaiting my arrival only to find what seemed like a quarter mile long line of people.

This is where we noticed the difference between Galveston and Port Canaveral. Galveston’s terminal is large enough that while standing in line to pass through security you are free from the elements of standing outside. Once inside screening and check in went pretty well. beautiful ship we have ever been on and our first Voyage class ship to cruise. (Note: Voyager of the Seas is coming to Galveston in 2008 and we are already booked for a spring break cruise). Mariner has a lot of Asian influence in the décor and furnishings throughout the ship. Food: This being my fourth RCCL Cruise I pretty much knew what to expect as far as the food was concerned. The typical cruise fare lobster, prime rib, escargot and plenty of fresh fish choices always await you on RCCL. I was most disappointed in the Windjammer and Jade. Typically on other RCCL ships the Windjammer is pretty decent. Johnny Rockets was great and we really enjoyed getting an old fashioned greasy spoon burger throughout the trip. Did not try Chops Grille or Portofino’s. Service: Our waiter and assistant waiter were really attentive but not overly intrusive of the table conversation throughout the week. We had Main seating in the Sound of Music dining room. Only seen the Head waiter on lobster night when he came by the table to take the tail from the shell. Stateroom Attendant: Rubi was her name; we roomed on the 7th floor. Rubi did what was expected but we felt rushed to get out of the room as she was always out in the hallway dying to clean the room in the morning and then would be dying to get back in there as we were hurrying around to get to dinner by 6:00. Nothing major but have had better stateroom attendants in the past. Cruise Director: Becky Thompson was her name and she was by far the best director we have ever had. Good day Love was her favorite expression. Entertainment: By far the two best shows were the Beatles tribute performed by Revolution and the International Ice Skating Show “Circus”. The RCCL singers and dancers were average have seen better shows in the past but were ok. Comedians were pretty good however can’t remember their names. Overall: I highly recommend this ship Mariner of the Seas. The Royal Promenade and the nightly parades were Disney quality. Best cruise ever!

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Jul 29, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was the first cruise for us and a memorable experience. My wife and I were traveling with our thirteen year old son. Upon meeting the Royal Caribbean staff at the airport, we were asked if we had heard about “the virus”. I said that and hadn’t and the Royal Caribbean representative told me that our ship, Mariner of the Seas, came back to Port Canaveral with a virus. He then said that we would not be taken to the ship, but

to a hotel. I thought to myself that this was probably the beginning of a bad vacation. I was also ticked off that the Royal Caribbean representative walked leisurely with us while the three of us, including my wife, struggled through the airport with the luggage. We were then taken to a hotel where lunch was provided. During lunch, we were told that two tankers full of chemicals were being brought in to disinfect the ship. Overall, I think Royal Caribbean handled this extremely well. They made every effort to make us comfortable, they fed us lunch, and we ended up boarding the cleanest ship on the water, only a half hour later than planned. Check in went smoothly and a lot quicker than I had expected. The staff was accommodating and courteous. The ship was everything I expected and more. Everything was clean and in its place. We had a great week on the Mariner of the Seas and I’ll definitely return to Royal Caribbean again. The Ship was absolutely awesome. There was something for everyone. The State Room: we had a room with a balcony on the seventh floor. The balcony was well worth the extra money. It was nice having coffee there in the morning and a cocktail at night. The Food: the food was good, not great, but certainly not bad. Dinners in the dining room were good; lunch at the Windjammer reminded me of college cafeteria food. Not bad, but institutional tasting. 24 hour Room Service was limited but a great feature. The Entertainment: the ice show was incredible, and most of the other entertainment was good. Some of it reminded me of theme park entertainment but was enjoyable. There was plenty to do for my 13 year old son. He was able to meet other kids his age and enjoy activities without Mom and Dad being there 24/7. The Pools: three pools, all clean and well taken care of. The Casino: a fun place and well run, but don’t expect to win any money! The Art Action: fun and enjoyable but prices are slightly higher than on land. You won’t get ripped off but don’t fool yourself into thinking you are getting a deal. Complaints: only two complaints. First is the soft drink package. Charge me an extra $40 for the cruise and include soft drinks rather than make me feel like I’ve been ripped off, plus have the nuisance of having to pull my card out every time I want a soft drink. On this class of ship, it’s definitely not classy for Royal Caribbean to be charging for soft drinks. The other is the ship’s endorsement of diamonds in Cozumel. The ship’s shopping guide gives here sales pitch both in person and on the on-ship TV channel about how you can save 20-70% off diamonds in Cozumel. Take it from someone who knows jewelry, there are very few deals there. I went to at least 20 stores before I found someone who even came close to prices in New York’s diamond district for the same quality. I didn’t appreciate Royal Caribbean sending me on a wild goose chase.

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Jul 22, 2006

Western Caribbean

The Mariner of the Seas is a three-year-old ship that is in the 138,000 ton class. To get there, we suffered through a 14 passenger van ride on the Beeline from Orlando to Cape Canaveral, during which I was stuffed in the very back, with poor functioning air-conditioning. The driver made us wait for the pickup of other passengers, wanting to argue finer points of transportation in each of two stops, thereby delaying our departure for at

least a half an hour. Needless to say, we were very annoyed. My son-in-law even jumped out and tried the hurry up offense, all to no avail. Beware of vans that are towing U-haul trailers, as they will pack everyone in like sardines. We also came to the ship at a peak time, 1 p.m., and encountered very long lines leading to the air – conditioned terminal. Waiting outside was probably twenty minutes and then another twenty minutes inside the Cruise terminal. No one offered us any refreshments whatsoever until we were actually in the partition lines in front of the counters and only then it was self-service. Filling out the set sail pass found on the internet does save time once you check in. We had cruised the Mariner of the Sea's sister ship, Voyager of the Seas in the past and thus were prepared for the amenities offered on this class of ship. Nonetheless, your first walk-through of the ship is nothing less than stupefying. It appears as though no expense was spared in the use of tiles, marble, blond woods, glass and all kinds of fixtures and lighting to create a truly modern, luxurious ship. We headed for the Windjammer, the cafeteria style restaurant that offers food pretty much all of the time. The food was uniformly good, but nothing to brag about. You can always get desserts, all manner of salads, hamburgers and main entrées. Our cabin was a superior State room with a balcony. The room was quiet and comfortable, despite the inevitable small bathroom, but the shower stall was quite adequate due to its circular design. The closet space was very generous. The king bed was more than adequate, as was the couch. The room service was nothing short of excellent. Our room steward took very, very good care of us with service twice a day that was meticulous. I would recommend a balcony as allowing a couple (or more) a little more privacy and the enjoyment of sitting outside, particularly when the ship is cruising during the day. The first night was casual, a blessing for many who experienced delays in delivery of their luggage. However, when you consider that the ship has well over 3000 passengers, it is impressive than that of they are able to get 90% of the luggage up into the rooms within four hours. Royal Caribbean and most cruise companies make their money in selling alcohol, excursions and whatever other services that they can provide such as photographs, Internet access and specialty coffee and ice cream. Almost everyone spends more than they think they will as your room key is also your credit card for the ship and thus you never leave home without it. It took me a few days to unwind, and I suspect there were a few others like me. I experienced profound relaxation, for which I am grateful. On the days we were at sea, as reported elsewhere in these pages, it is very hard to find a deck chair suitable to your liking. One can always find places to sit outside, but those chaise lounges by the pool are in high demand. I preferred the Solarium as an oasis away from activities of the main deck that were, of course, geared to the large amount of teenagers and young people on the ship and thus were very noisy. Nonetheless, the Jacuzzis always had room and except for not finding the chair that I wanted on the deck, I had no real complaints. The separate “gym” area is well-appointed with machines, has an extraordinary Jacuzzi and a great view with sauna and comfortable changing/bathroom area. I had a long conversation with a gentleman and his wife who have had the good fortune to be able to cruise on many, many cruise ships, including those much more luxurious and expensive. He liked this particular ship, because of the variety of activities, which included a large theater that offered very good entertainment at night, ice-skating, a rock 'n roll lounge act, piano bars and a Latin band. In addition, there were art auctions, bingo, water sport lessons, high stakes poker at night in the cigar bar, and of course the Casino. What I particularly liked is that I could always find a quiet place by myself in a public area. I will refrain from detailed commentary about our ports of call as I did very little exploration, other than shop with my wife. St. Thomas and St. Maarten are extremely well-known for their shopping, deservedly so. We were able to obtain some real deals by haggling as no one but the very naïve pays “retail". If it appears as though the business is slow, you can drive a hard bargain as my son-in-law did. We had a very memorable French lunch at L’Oizeau Rare, a restaurant adjacent to the shopping mall on the French side of St. Maarten, in Marigot. Be advised you will pay in Euros while in Marigot. The dining room is a three-story affair that serves well over a thousand meals during two seatings. We took the later seating and glad we did, as we like to linger over dessert. Our waiter and assistant waiter worked very, very hard, and we were not wanting for any service during the course of our meals. Our waiter made an effort to advise us as to his recommendations and we learned early on to accept them. My wife enjoys a chocolate dessert each and every night, and despite that it was not offered each evening, the headwaiter got to know us and made a special effort to find one on the ship, probably from one of the specialty restaurants that I shall mention here later on. I tried the prime rib on two different nights and was disappointed each night but was brought an alternate entrée very quickly. There were “staples” on the menu that included a New York strip steak. The cruise had two formal nights and the food appeared to be a little bit better on those evenings. We had many meals that were good, very few that were OK and many that were excellent. We can be considered picky and had no qualms about sending anything back. Our ship had two specialty restaurants, Chops and Portofino. We had some argument as to which restaurant was better, but we chose Portofino. It is worth the $20 and $15 that you pay per person at each restaurant, respectively. Chops is similar to a Morton's type experience, with entrées brought to your table as a menu and a large variety of side dishes. The appetizers and entrées at Portofino's were very, very good and truly Italian. If you want a romantic dinner for two, I would choose Portofino’s. Our cruise had a minor outbreak of Norwalk virus that was reported on CNN and other national news outlets. We were able to find out that 75 passengers went down, but that according to later news reports the number was 100 passengers and six crew members. When we went to Windjammer's on Wednesday they insisted on serving our food. We were not advised of this development and were annoyed in not knowing why they were serving us. We could only guess. However, that night, we received a letter in the stateroom as did all the passengers from the Captain minimizing the problem and advising us to utilize the manned hand-sanitizer stations as often as possible. The stations had been there since the start of the cruise at the entrance to each restaurant. We all felt that the ship's crew did a very good job in working hard to contain the virus and to try their best to see that everybody used the hand sanitizers and to wash their hands. Their job was not made any easier by the reportedly 1,000 kids on the ship. Inevitably, our time appeared to go very, very quickly. The preparation for departure was extremely good. On Saturday night, prior to departure, you are given colored baggage tags, depending upon your plans for air travel on Sunday. We were among the first passengers to depart, and got up early for a breakfast in the dining room, which we appreciated later on in the day. We had no complaints and only praise for the manner of departure and the speed by which we were able to claim our bags and meet our van driver, again. The ride back had less people and was less painful. We were off the ship by 8:30 a.m. I’m plotting my next Royal Caribbean cruise. I’m looking forward to unplugging and getting out there.

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Jul 15, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was my wife’s and my 2nd cruise and our first with our two sons ages 13 and 15. Embarkation: We stayed at the Radisson at the Port before leaving. Even without the Cruise & Park Package we were offered the free parking and shuttle to the Port. This worked out very well and saved some $$$ in parking at the port. This resort was nice and a great way to relax before leaving on the cruise. We got a whirlpool suite which was exceptional.

At the hotel’s recommendation we took one of the later shuttles and this seemed to work out fine. The time from when we boarded the shuttle to when we were checking out our cabin was probably not much more than an hour. Our luggage arrived at the room in several deliveries over a period of time but all of it was there in time to dress for our 8:30 dinner. The port staff that we encountered were all pleasant and competent. You will get hit up for a tip from the porters but it wasn’t in any way harassing. Our first meal at sea was great and met what would turn out to be two exceptional waiters Henry and Luis. The First Day at Sea: We all had fun exploring the ship on the first day. Spent some time in the sun and got used to our new environs. The boys checked out the arcade and the kids clubs. Some of the things that I had been told to bring along were a power strip which proved useful due to the limited wall outlets also brought along a clock radio, and extra hangers. I had also thrown in my Magellan GPS which turned out to be a lot of fun following our course, seeing our speed etc. The ship’s TV has similar data on one of its channels too. Labadee: What a beautiful place. My youngest son went to the water park ($15/hour we signed up at the park). He had a good time. The day went quickly. The lunch was fine and we sampled a Labadoozie (medication for your vacation). Later we did some snorkeling and just walking around this very pretty peninsula. You can get some great pictures of the ship especially from on top of the hill behind the beaches if you don’t mind a little bushwhacking. Jamaica: In the morning we checked out the market and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritavillle near the dock. Yes I’m a parrot head. Be careful when you exit the ship, we were misdirected by locals regarding the shopping area that is recommended but quickly realized that something wasn’t right when we started seeing the razor wire protecting the waking path. A friendly guard along the way got us pointed in the right direction. After shopping we boarded the bus for the horseback ride that we booked through RCI. There were all levels of experience in our group of about 20. All in our family had ridden before but we are far from experienced riders. The horses were gentle and I didn’t see anyone have trouble. They seemed to a good job of matching horse to rider and take extra time to keep families together for the ride. We had a nice day here. I liked seeing the sights on the bus ride to the ranch. They do some narration on the way. I did not bring enough money with us as I wanted to tip the bus staff and the trail guides. Also the pictures they take might be worth buying. We wore long pants over our swimsuits but if I were to do this again I would have worn shorts which most others did. They just laid their towels over the saddles to prevent pinches and rubs. There are nice restrooms and a place to change prior to the ocean ride. The run through the ocean was great fun. All in all it was interesting and fun. Grand Cayman: We chose to take the RCI booked bike ride here. We had a fairly short but exciting bus ride to a resort to meet our guides and get our bikes. Our bus driver was a bit aggressive to say the least but all seemed to enjoy the “brisk” trip to the resort. The two tour guides were interesting, fun, and willing to share things that interest me like what life is like on a small island. They had a support vehicle with water follow us on the 8-9 mile ride. We stopped at the Turtle Farm which we all enjoyed and got to hold some of the smaller Sea Turtles. This stop’s cost was included with our tour which was an unexpected bonus. Then a stop at the Tortuga Rum Shop, with free tasting for the adults. We bought a 3 bottle sampler of flavored rum which is delicious. Purportedly there is a one liter per adult limit for tax free import but we had no issues with the three liters we brought back. This was delivered to our room the last night on the ship. Our last stop was the town of Hell. Everyone got a big kick out of the multitude of puns related to this town’s name. It also turned out the owner’s wife is a West Virginian which got us a free post card from Ivan the devil. The bikes themselves were serviceable but not in the best shape but we all enjoyed this and would do it again. If you are looking for a way to see a bit of the island and get a little exercise I would recommend this. If you are a serious cyclist that wants a good workout this is not the best pick and likewise if you are not at least in average physical condition I would not suggest this. Cozumel: My youngest son and I booked the dolphin swim and my wife and older son wanted to do the Atlantis submarine. Each of us had a great outing despite this being the only rainy day on our whole cruise. The only negative for our dolphin swim was that they could not take the professional pictures and video but I had brought along a waterproof camera which they let us use. The time with the dolphins was too brief (about 30 mins.) but my son and I probably never could have gotten enough time with these incredible animals. What a treat to get to spend some time interacting with them. Riding on their bellies across the lagoon and holding them in our arms was wonderful. A nice lunch was included in this as well as free lockers. We also booked this through RCI. I understand it is cheaper if you book it independently and you get more time with the dolphins but this is a pretty tight schedule day and you have to take both a ferry to the mainland and a bus or taxi to the resort. For the peace of mind I preferred the RCI booking. My wife and other son said the sub was fun and interesting and they got some cool pictures. Last day at sea: Our last day at sea was spent playing some miniature golf, trying Johnny Rockets which was fun but not great, visiting the casino, and taking in some shows. The only negative for us was knowing that this was our last day on this great ship and saying good byes to our new friends Henry and Luis. Like another reviewer on here, Flash Gordon seemed to be everywhere but we had fun with his antics. All the shows we saw were fun and entertaining. What a beautiful ship and great crew. Lastly, prior to our cruise I had read a lot of these reviews. Some of the things that concerned me never did materialize. You can feel the ship move but none of us ever felt sea sick. We brought along the usual remedies but never used them. None of us suffered any type of illness nor did we hear of any problems in that regard. We never did run into any significant harassment by merchants at the ports but in fairness we did very little shopping. Some were bothered by the musicians on Labadee but a few no thank you (s) were all it took. The Windjammer buffet food was good we ended up eating most breakfasts and lunches there due to schedule. The Promenade Café always provided a place to get a light snack or piece of pizza. We all bought the soft drink sticker. I am not sure if this is a money saver but it is a time saver for sure. The dinners were in my evaluation excellent. There was a wide selection and everything I had was great. Again, our waiters were excellent and made each day’s end a pleasure. Yes we would all do this again. PS the casino bar has the best margaritas tell Sheldon that I sent you! I hope this info helps.

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Jun 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

Fresh back from the Mariner of the Seas trip that set sail on 6/18 (Western Caribbean)….and here’s our summary. “Wow” about sums up the experience in one word. You have to try a cruise at least one in your lifetime…and I ensure you’ll get addicted to it. As a first-time cruise customer, I was optimistic about the experience I was about to embark on with my family. I had read Cruise Reviews, Port Reviews, and a host of other

sites to pick Royal Caribbean International as our first cruise line. My family of four and my brother’s family of four both agreed a year ago to try a cruise. We had heard many positive things about RCL so rolled the dice with them. I booked the vacation through RCL’s website after looking at Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia, and others. Once you zero in on a cabin type, you can pretty much shop all the sites to get a price range. As we got closer to April, I began to see things booking up fast, so I didn’t want to risk losing a nice cabin – and I booked through RCL. Very pleasant experience. We, however, did not book airfare through RCL – I found better deals on Priceline (including local hotels in Orlando). Also, we found a good transportation company (limo/van service) to haul all of our families back and forth to port. I recommend you check out Orlando Transportation & Tours. Georges, the owner, is great and totally customer focused. Picked us up on time and with good rates and nice vehicles. We flew in from the Bay Area the day before and stayed in Orlando that same night. The drive from Orlando to Port Canaveral is about an hour – and you start to tingle when you hit the coast and your driver points out the top of the ships you can see in the distance. Nothing will prepare you, however, for the majesty of the ships. Mariner of the Seas is HUGE and beautiful. It’s really an incredible ship and only 3 years new. We arrived at port around 1 pm. Make SURE you print out your Boarding Documents in advance. This will speed you through the check in lines. I was surprised a lot of people showed up without them and waited in the long line. Our check-in went super fast and, before long, we were on board. You pretty much leave your worries and cares behind on the pier once you’re on board. The crew takes care of the rest. We went to our cabin – which I was really worried about at first, having heard the stories of how small they may seem. This was the one area I decided to splurge on more than anything. I went for the Grand Suite with a patio on the 10th floor. My brother chose a regular cabin across the way. He squeezed his family in there (the bunk beds the steward pulls down at night in the normal cabins are really cool!). Needless to say, it was nice to have the roominess in the Grand Suite. We all hung out there quite often. It’s very spacious – and the starboard side patio was spectacular. The bathroom, too, was glorious. My wife was so appreciative to have the extra space….and with a 17 year old and a 7 year old – we needed it. The ship, itself, is so enormous….you spend the first day just roaming around getting your bearings straight. The Royal Promenade with the shops – the bars – casino, shows, the pool deck – the Solarium – the Sport Court, Miniature Golf, Climbing Wall, Arcade, restaurants – it’s endless. There is so much to do on board that even in one week, you have a hard time trying to do it all. Near impossible. One hidden part of the ship that we didn’t find until near the end of the cruise; go to the 3rd floor front of the ship and up the stairs to the helipad and the very front prow. This is really cool. You can look back and see the bridge of the ship - what a view. Dolphins and flying fish could also be seen on occasion near the front. Since we had a Grand Suite, you get Concierge Lounge privileges along with many other goodies. We went to the lounge during happy hour from 5-8:30 pm (free drinks!). Good place to chat and have a drink without a lot of folks around. And the Concierge is usually around – so he can help make reservations for you at any show or restaurant on board. The Food – I’d read mixed reviews about the food – but mostly positive. I was a bit worried – but after our first meal in the Main Dining Room, I was sold. Spectacular service – good wine selection – and great preparation and choice EVERY night. We were bloated at the end of the trip – and you actually start to avoid the food since it’s easy to be a glutton. Thank God for the gym, shore excursions, and walking around board ship to walk off the calories you’ll gain. Leave your diet at home. And the ship is big on sanitization. At each restaurant, there is a hand sanitizer that you must use before entering to prevent germs from spreading. My wife loved this, as she is really picky when it comes to food cleanliness or buffets where others can manhandle the food. The ship even brought the hand sanitizers ashore in Labadee. For breakfast and lunch, you have lots of choices. The Windjammer/Jade Café is always buzzing and a great buffet to choose from for all appetites. Asian cuisine to standard fare. The soups are very good. And if you’re not in a rush (and even if you are, they can get you out in under 30 minutes if you tell the staff you have to hit a shore excursion or show) use your main dining room for breakfast or lunch. It’s so nice to sit down and have the service. Great choices, Do not miss Chops. We decided to let the kids go to Windjammer one night while the adults went to Chops. Wow. Very good steaks, appetizers, and desserts. A real steakhouse onboard ship. Excellent service (‘Drago’ was our waiter for the evening – and he was outstanding). We didn’t get a chance to try Portofino's – but folks we talked to say it was delicious, too. We had only one ‘off’ night in the Main Dining room where the beef dish wasn’t stellar – so skip the steak/beef/pork in the Main dining and go straight to Chops. Much better cuts of beef and grilled to perfection. The ship has food round the clock – so you can eat at just about anytime. The kids loved Johnnie Rockets – that was a hoot for them. And running downstairs to the Promenade for a late night snack is easy. Great place in the morning for a quick cup of coffee or tea, too. The Shows – This was one area we didn’t partake in very much. We saw one singing/dancing revue show. And we played one game of Bingo together just to try it (This isn’t your grandma’s variety of bingo – it’s much faster and well attended…. a lot more adrenaline). We went to the Casino a few nights just to try our luck. The 21 tables were great – very fun. The parades inside the Royal Promenade were also a blast. Camp out at the Wig and Gavel pub for the best table and shows. The parade goes right by and the kids loved it. Our children ran all over the boat the week we sailed. To the pools, the arcade, the gym (but 16 and older required) – there is so much to do for them. And places to just hangout for their age groups. The Arcade was a major hit – games for everyone to try. I kind of wish they weren’t so expensive to play compared to what you get at home – they rip through their Sea Pass accounts pretty quickly if you don’t watch it. Miniature golf is really fun for the whole family. We played a late night game with the ocean breeze (very warm) around us. A pleasant experience. Do not miss the shuffleboard games on board. This is so much fun. It’s a lot harder than you think it is. The pucks get very slippery as you slide them across deck and it’s hard to gauge speed. A very fun game for everyone to play. Shore Excursions – Let’s just put it this way. If you’re a first time cruiser, it’s hard to decide what to do. Read the Port Reviews heavily to help you decide. We used the RCL’s excursion site to pick what we wanted….and went ashore for all port calls. Glad we did – but I think I would probably choose to skip one port just to enjoy the luxury of the ship and sit in a lounge chair sunning or reading a book if I could do it over. You have so much to do during the cruise – that you forget, sometimes, to just relax and have a good time. Enjoy.

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Jun 16, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was my husband and mine 3rd Cruise. This was on the 2nd on RCCL. This ship was wonderful. The ship was kept very clean and staff was very friendly. The weather was great. I have no complaints. The excursions we took were lots of fun. I highly recommend the White River Tubing with Lunch in Jamaica. It was great fun. The other people with us on the trip went to the Falls and they very disappointed. In Cozumel, the Jeep 4 x 4, Snorkel

and Beach was worth every penny spent. We got to see the island, go snorkeling and went to the beach, with a light Mexican snack. Then you go 4 wheeling. Great time. The Mariner of the Sea is the best ship I have been on. I recommend it to anyone.

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Jun 15, 2006

Western Caribbean

To all of you who are wondering whether or not to take a cruise... We had an absolutely fabulous time!!! My husband and I were celebrating our 22nd anniversary. We are ready to take another cruise ASAP. It was fantastic!! My husband and I chose to make the drive down to Cape Canaveral and we stayed the night at the Radisson at the Port. The service was excellent and the breakfast was great. They allowed us to park our car the entire length

of the cruise. When we arrived at the Mariner everyone on the staff was very nice and professional. We arrived at the ship at around 12:00. We were told our cabin would be ready at 1:00 and were directed to Windjammer Cafe (buffet style). The main courses were not piping hot (but you try serving 2000 people coming and going at different times..:) but they were still very good. The fruit was wonderful as were the deserts and the selection was huge. As far as the ship goes, we cruised for 7 nights and still didn't get to do it all. We climbed the rock wall (you should try it if you get the chance - what have you got to lose - it's included!! and fun.) The staff is there to help you. We played putt-putt (That's always a hoot when a small breeze is stirring, try playing in a big breeze. We laughed and laughed!! We even went to an art auction. When I got home I went on-line and looked up the artist, sent him an e-mail, and he even e-mailed me back (awesome!!). As far as the ports of call... In Labadee, we road wave runners. I thought we were going to die!!! Once the ride was over though, looking back, I would not trade the experience for anything. It was well worth the 89.00 excursion fee (included both me and my husband). We walked the island which was very beautiful and drank a virgin Labaduzee (we aren't drinkers - it doesn't take drink to get us high on life - plus we want to remember everything. :)). In Ochos Rios we started out doing the shopping thing but since we are more or less "poor Americans", we asked one of the shops to help us locate a taxi (remember to use red-tag government issued types) and we headed in our taxi up to Fern Gully. It was very pretty. Along the way our taxi driver let us in on the local scenery which was great. He also stopped about mid way and showed us the local plant life, illegal plant life included, - we graciously told him "no thanks" and he finished the "Fern Gully" tour and then took us to Dunn's River Falls. (FANTASTIC). The entrance fee is $15.00 to the park. We hired a guide who put us with a group and we climbed the falls, holding hands the entire way. The guide was great. He put all our cameras around his neck (he probably had all total about 10-15 cameras around his neck and took our pictures along the way. (hopefully these will come out. Haven't had the chance to pick them up yet.) It ended up another beautiful day. All in all total, in Jamaica we spent (on our own - $40.00 for the taxi, $30.00 for the Dunn's River park, and $5.00 for the tour guide's tip. Not to mention the souvenirs we picked up along the way. Our next stop was Grand Cayman. We did quite a lot of shopping as soon as we got off the ship. From there we again, hired a taxi to take us to "Hell, Grand Cayman". Not a whole lot to see there. Took a few pictures of the rock formations behind the store, mailed a couple of post-cards (which have not arrived yet) and then got back into the taxi which took us to 7-mile beach. This taxi ride cost us about $10.00. While we were walking along the beach we decided to go parasailing. This was awesome!!!! They charged 50.00/person and there were about 10 people in the boat. We were out in the middle of the ocean and took off directly off the boat. Our next port of call was Cozumel, where it rained!!! We decided just to shop because we were so exhausted. My husband bought a marble chess set for 20.00. We went to a side street. On the main strip they were being sold for $50.00 and above. I can honestly say we had the absolutely best time we have had in a long time. The Mariner of the Seas was great. The ice show was out of this world. As far as the people go.... We stayed in cabin 7530, our steward was the best. Very, very conscience, polite, caring, etc... Our wait staff were also very gracious. Becky, the cruise director. She kept everything going. She was like a 6-year old at Christmas, high on Koolaid. The games were hilarious (try not to get picked though). As far as shopping... "Flash Gordon" - the dude got on my nerves. It was like playing part in an infomercial. Enough already. (my only negative comment.) Almost forgot the most important... The food!! It was very very good. The main dining hall didn't serve up anything I didn't enjoy. The steaks were mouth-watering as well as the deserts. If you can, make reservations for CHOPS. The extra 20.00/person is well worth it. And Johnny Rockets. YUM!! All in all, a fantastic time!!! My suggestions for you who are interested in this cruise.... 1. If you chose to take teenagers keep an eye on them. They seemed to be running a little loose. 2. If you chose to take smaller children - they were great!! The staff who is in charge of them have great patience and a good feel on what the younger ones will enjoy. 3. Excursions - do them, whether on your own or through the ship. (plan ahead though and know what you are wanting to see/do before you leave home. 4. Enjoy yourself. Leave you high-profile life, expectations, problems, etc... at home. Be happy and be ready to experience a once in a lifetime experience and go with the flow!!! 5. GET OUT THERE!!! Experience things you might not at home. Don't worry so much about looking foolish, whether in what you wear or in how you act (within reason). NO ONE KNOWS YOU!!! and I promise, no one will care what you look like in your swimsuit. Have fun and enjoy your cruise!! Also, to anyone who needs a cruise specialist my suggestion is Majestic Cruises - Sherry Jones, 256-355-4588.

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Jun 10, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Arrived port Canaveral at 11:10, boarded fairly quickly and were in the Windjammer eating lunch by noon. Hand sanitizer was everywhere and required before you entered the dining areas. You do need to complete the Bahamas’ form they mail you before boarding. I had read elsewhere you didn’t need it since we weren’t going to Nassau. Rooms available at 1:00 (we were in ocean view 7680, port side, aft). Luggage was there by 1:30. It

rained a little so sail away was moved to the promenade. We explored the ship, found our dining room table (336, table for six on third floor near the entrance). We had muster drill as required and then went to dinner. Waiter was Sonny from India and Norman from Jamaica. Had excellent service all week from both. The second night both couples were absent and were replaced by an older couple, one in a wheelchair. They were experienced cruisers and knew several of the waiters from previous cruises. It was good to see the head waiter and waiters fight over who was going to assist them each night. Overall dining room food was good. We enjoyed everything we had. Caesar salad was a little bland and some desserts were better than others. (really enjoyed the key lime pie). We ate at Chops Tuesday night and it was excellent. Our excursion to St John got back late so we ate Johnny Rockets Wednesday night. Hamburgers were undercooked first time around. Looked okay after we sent them back to try again. I’d recommend cutting them in half before you dig in. Great sundae for dessert. Second formal was Shrimp and lobster, prime rib. I tried it all and it was all very good. Saturday night we had the NY strip which was nice size and very good. Vegetable servings were small but adequate. Tablemates who had cruised a lot (this was their 64th) said they notice the cut backs on every cruise. Since we didn’t have that frame of reference we were very pleased. Room attendant was Lydia from Nicaragua. She was very attentive, had the room cleaned while we were out in the morning and during dinner. Had towel animals all but the first and last nights. Beds were okay. No spring to them but we slept well. We went to all the shows except for late night ones. We enjoyed them all, especially the comics and Bobby Arvon (guy who sang the theme song on TV’s Happy Days). He had incredible energy. El Gaucho was also very entertaining. Enjoyed the singers/dancers shows as well. Ice skating was good as advertised. Went to Quest, it was fun. Becky is a bundle of energy that works hard to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. Her staff is excellent as well. Excursions – we did St John Snorkel and Best of St. Maarten both through the cruise line. Next time we would probably try to do our own tours, but not to St. john. Our port time was extended but I sure would not want to miss the boat! Out walking early on sea days I noted several chairs in prime spots “reserved”. Deck 4 was always empty if you want a nice chair to read and ocean watch out of the sun. We did self assist departure. We were in the car and headed home by 7:40. Overall the cruise was excellent. We enjoyed everything. It all went very smoothly and for the price was a good deal.

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Jun 10, 2006

Western Caribbean

Well after months of planning and reading a bunch of Cruise Reviews, the time had arrived for me and my husband to board our very 1st cruise ship ever. Being that it was our 1st time it was definitely a learning experience and hopefully this review could help future "new" cruisers as well. We did book through Royal Caribbean so they made all the plane reservations. They flew us w/ Northwest and and we didn't have a very good experience

going to or coming home with them. Only benefit was that if Northwest was delayed there were other fellow cruisers w/ you and they would most likely hold the ship until you arrive. If time does allow, we would book our own air next time for the day before the ship leaves and maybe even save a little cost wise too. Once we arrived at Port Canaveral we had to wait in line at customs and then a long line to check in and get our sea pass cards. That very 1st day is a long one so be ready to go to bed early so you get all rested up for the week. One piece of advice I will give is carry your camera w/ you as often as possible because there is always a photo-op somewhere. I got some awesome photos just because I had my camera at the right place at the right time. Also don't feel bad about sleeping - remember you are on vacation. Coco Cay was our 1st port of call. Water was pretty but it is very rocky there especially at the bottom of the ocean so be careful not to cut your feet like I did. We did the jet ski excursion there and it was fun. Water was very choppy so I wouldn't go as fast as my husband did, plus you will get saltwater in your eyes so wear some sunglasses or goggles. There are other parts of the beach though if you want to just float, which was relaxing, or if you want to snorkel. Next port of Call was St. Thomas. We opted to go to St. John because that came highly recommended by other cruise reviewers and also the RCCL staff. We went to Trunk Bay and it was amazing. Trunk Bay was actually voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and I believe it. The water temperature was great, crystal clear, and it was not overly crowded either which was nice. I think a lot of other cruisers stayed on St. Thomas and went to to the beaches there but nothing can compare to St. John. Only thing I will warn you is to get to St. John it was a little pricey. You had to take a cab to the ferry $6 per person each way, then the ferry $10 per person each way, then another cab to the beach $6 per person each way so all in all about $40 per person but it was well worth it. Almost the cost of an excursion anyway, and they only except cash so have that handy when you go. You can get some amazing photos there - don't forget your camera that day. We also rented some snorkel equipment there and had fun seeing all the colorful fish. St. Maarten was our next port of call. We thought St. Maarten was even more beautiful than St. Thomas. We didn't do the beach that day - we opted for shopping which was a good call. Lots of shops, don't forget your guava berry rum to take home w/ you....mmmmmmmm. I will say though people told us shopping was great, "you get so many deals", honestly the prices on things we looked at were pretty much the same as the states they just don't charge tax. There is a great shop called Del Sol. Everything in there changes color in the sun (t-shirts, hats, keychains...ect) ...very fun souvenirs. We got an inside cabin due to cost reasons. Even though you are not in your room very often it was very small when you are and we will definitely get a balcony next time just because of the size difference. There is a nice vanity area you to get ready, and there is a closet large enough to hang several items. Do bring an alarm clock, we assumed there would be one but there wasn't. You can however, get a wake up call for anytime if needed. In the shower, it was small, but there is a clothes line to hang your swimsuits up to dry and that worked well. Also if people say you won't feel the boat rock they are wrong! We felt it everyday, some days worse than others and worse in different areas of the ship. You can get sea sick pills in the general store or get the patch from your DR. before you leave. Our stateroom attendant was great. She was always right there when we needed towels or dry cleaning and she deserved every tip she got. We would also get a towel animal every night with our turndown service. It was fun to guess what she made you each night. The dining room food got better as the week went on. The dining room staff were very courteous and had good memories too. Don't be afraid to ask for more than one appetizer or entree. You paid for it so eat as much as you want!!! Our table all loved shrimp cocktail and we all got it every night even if it wasn't on the menu for that night. We had late seating which was nice. We never had to rush our days to get back, shower and get ready for dinner. If you have kids early dinner may be better but you can decide when you make your reservation. We also chose to do group seating so we could meet other people. We had a blast with the 2 other couples that sat w/ us. One couple was from a different country so that was neat to hear about their country and the other couple was around our age and we made great friends w/ them and hung out all through the week and plan to keep in touch. The Windjammer Cafe is a buffet style, food was ok nothing to rave about but it was great if you wanted something quick. Didn't eat at Chops or Portofino's so I can't comment there but everyone says they are good. We also always had great service at Johnny Rockets. The alcoholic drinks are made strong so be prepared when you order that pina colada when lying out at the pool. Now the entertainment on the boat was great... there was so much to do. You will get a list of activities the night before, but you won't be able to get to every single thing. Pick some things that interest you and enjoy yourself. They do have something for everyone. Whether you like bingo, art auctions, shopping and so much more. Whatever you do, don't miss The Quest (it's an adult scavenger hunt...its hysterical!!!), The Love & Marriage Game, Mr. Sexy Legs, Karaoke Idol, Battle of the Sexes, or the Ice Show. The variety shows are very good too. Becky our cruise director was a riot! She is great at what she does and has so much energy. She is very funny so if you are traveling on the Mariner you will love her. The only complaint we would have is that it was very hard to ever find seats at any of the pools. The solarium was great because part of it was shaded and the chairs in there were more comfortable, but again you could enjoy it if you could ever find a seat. Overall we enjoyed our cruise and plan to cruise again in the future maybe with a larger group. I hope this helps some of you out there getting ready for your own cruise vacation. I know I had a blast reading other reviews before our vacation. Have fun, and Bon Voyage !!!!!

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May 27, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Intro: Let me start by saying this cruise is truly amazing! It is the PERFECT place to have a family vacation! There is seriously something for everyone onboard! Everything was great.... not good but great! I am going to write about each category on the ship and answer many questions you may have been wondering. Boarding: Well it took us about 35 minutes to get onto the ship. What will happen is you drop your bags off with one of the

bag guys and they should get to your room before or a bit after dinner. Once you have dropped your luggage off you must wait in a line that first leads to a metal detector, then you will sign in and get your sea pass cards. The sea pass card does everything including using it in the arcade, getting your drinks, buying stuff from the gift shop, getting off and on at ports of call, and getting into your room. Finally you get your picture taken and you get on. Now once you get on you will be ready to relax and have some fun! Dining: First let me start by saying the food tasted a bit different to everyone. What I mean is if you are a middle class man you will think the food came from heaven... if your a very wealthy man with high expectations you will think its ok. Now the best places to eat are Chops Grille and The Portofino offering Italian dining. These places were very good but they cost extra and require reservations. The next best place [and in my opinion was just as good] is the dining room. The dining room is included so there are no prices next to the items on the menus. The dining room offers many many choices and the items change every night so if you like something don't be afraid to ask for seconds. You will find the waiters are well trained and very friendly. There are also 2 other places to eat including Johnny Rockets and the Windjammer buffet. Entertainment: There is so much to do on the Mariner, it's crazy! During the day you can take a stroll down the royal promenade [I called it "the city" it was so big!!!], you can take a dip in the pool, sit in the hot tub waiting for a couple of "hotties" to get in [what I did all day], you can shoot some hoops, go skating, play mini golf, go rock climbing, light up a smoke, I mean that's not even 1/10 of the stuff you could do. Kids and Teens: This place is the "bomb diggity" for kids and teens. Especially teens. The teens have 2 rooms both with a bar, TV's, and computers. One is meant to go to during the day [The Living Room] The other to go to at night.[Fuel]! They are both pretty good but I liked fuel the best! End: I answered all I could and hope I helped some people... But if you are looking for cruises do yourself a favor and choose this one. If you have got questions I have answers. Please email me at richieschlatterer2000@gmail.com anytime. I want to help! God bless, Richard

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May 20, 2006

Western Caribbean

We had a wonderful time. More than my husband and I expected. It was 2nd cruise for both of us but it had been many years. It was a honeymoon/vacation so although we participated in some activities, we mostly relaxed on the ship and just enjoyed being on the ship. We didn't feel compelled to participate in all the excursions, we mostly arranged our own tours (which may not be the safest route) but we didn't have any problems. We usually

tried to find other couples wanting to just take a local tour of the area. The crew was fabulous. It was amazing how they reflected the RC values. I left feeling like this company understands what their product is, not staterooms, meals, a trip etc. but they're selling an "experience" and it reflected in the crew's delivery of the service. It was amazing how customer service on the ship contrasted with the customer service as soon as we got back to the rental car place in Orlando. I love the way the cruise line is sensitive to the illnesses and provide hand sanitizers. I would ask other cruisers to be sensitive to this as well and please do not show your hospitality by offering your hand for a shake in the dining room. Although it is usually the appropriate gesture for a greeting, it defeats the purpose to sanitize as you enter the dining room then shake everyone's hands at the table. Another situation that we were disappointed in (nothing to do with RC) our assigned dinner group seemed to be a little put out by us because we sat in different seats at the table the 2nd night. One couple never came back, but others seemed to get over it and seemed to loosen up and sat in different seats themselves. Lesson learned, assigned tables doesn't mean assigned seats. How boring would that be? We never went to Ellington's because we thought it was ballroom music and we're not into that. We should have gone anyway because we heard it was great Jazz. Oh, and I can't forget the pictures of the sunrise and sunset off our balcony. Plenty of space for our belongings in the Superior sized room. I carried travelers checks which I would do again but it was easier to deal with cash so I just cashed them at the Purser's Office as needed. When visiting ports, be cognizant that displayed prices may not be in American dollars as was the case in a Subway in Grand Cayman. The price of a sandwich was quite higher than in the states once the conversion to American dollar was done. All in all, best trip we ever had and we will be taking another RC cruise next year if not sooner. Enjoy!

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Apr 29, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

After 4 voyages on the Navigator of the Seas, the Mariner of the Seas seemed to be a carbon copy of the NV (which is no put-down). Only the names were changed to protect the innocent. The dining, both in the dining room and in the Windjammer, was excellent and we were seated with a Mom and Dad, Son and Fiancée, all from England who could not have been better company. The food was excellent and properly served. We got our favorite Cruise

Director... Becky Thompson from Coventry England who you will quickly learn to address as 'Allo Love!'. This blonde 90 pounder has more energy than you can ask for and is quite an entertainer. The first stop is Coco Cay in the Bahamas and is advertised as a 'Straw Market' and the cruise staff encourages the passengers to take dollar bills. They actually sell T-Shirts and the like and prices generally start at $20 and go up from there and there is no haggling over the price. We recommend the 'Love and Marriage Game' and 'The Quest'... if you don't participate, you have lost half the fun. Photography on the MA was somewhat better than the NV and we bought quite a few shots. There is a 'Mister Sexy Legs' contest poolside and I am a three-time winner of 'Mister Flamingo Legs' (at 5'11" and 125... who could compete?)... in September on the NV, I am going for number 4. You go and have fun on the NV or the MA... RCCL is easily the finest. Louis Schubert Mr Flamingo Legs Blue Ridge, GA USA GetErDone

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Apr 8, 2006

Western Caribbean

My husband and I cruised on the Mariner of the Seas (Western Caribbean) April 9-16, 2006. It was our first cruise and we couldn’t have been more impressed. The ship is spectacular. I’m hoping that my review will provide you with some information that I hoped I had prior to leaving. The boarding process was quite smooth considering the number of people that they had to go through. We arrived around 1:30 and were in our rooms by 2:45.

They keep your passports when you board the ship and return them to you later in the cruise. We got ours back on day 5. Be sure to keep the receipt you get for your passport or you won’t be getting yours back. The activities on board are great. They really do have something for everyone. Make sure you get to the skating show. It’s hard to believe that they can do such spectacular tricks on such a small ice surface. You have to get tickets for this show (no cost, it’s just a small seating area and a lot of people want to attend). They were available for pick-up on the first day at sea. A long line for them, but it moved quickly. There are two formal nights on board the ship. Most men wear dark suits or tuxes and the women wore everything from cocktail dresses to elegant gowns. The formal dinners are held in the elegant three story dinning room so take advantage of a great opportunity to get dressed up for the night. On the formal nights, there are photographers available to take your photo before and after dinner (the line is much shorter after dinner, then before dinner). There are two different back drops in front of each of the three dining room entrances, so look around and find the background you like. We had pictures done at several locations and then just bought the ones we liked best. The photos are 8x10 and cost $19.95 each. They’re not cheap, but they are beautiful. You get a free frame if you buy a certain number (4, I think) of the 8x10 photos. If you are planning on buying a lot of these photos, you might want to wait until later in the week so you can take advantage of the free frame. There are also photographers taking your photos all over the ship and on land. These pictures come in 5x7 and are $9.95 each. If you want a photo of something special, ask one of the photographers and they’ll be happy to do it for you (with their camera of course). There are two restaurants on the ship that have an extra cost. We thought that they were worth every penny. The Italian restaurant is only $15 per person the first night and is almost empty as most people don’t think to go there the first night. Make sure you book reservations as soon as you get on the ship as they book up quickly. Other than the two formal nights, dress is “smart casual”. My husband wore a dress shirt and sports coat and I wore a simple black dress, but there were some men wearing golf shirts and women in sundresses, so pretty much anything goes. As I said before, the décor is so elegant that formal clothing works any night of the week. Our cruise involved stops in Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Caymen and Cozumel. We had to tender to shore for all stops except Jamaica. The tender holds about 350 people at a time. If you have one of the first excursions of the day, you will be assigned a meeting place and will be on the first tender off the ship. The busiest times are from 9:30-11:00, so you can count on a longer wait if you go then. We usually headed off the ship as early as possible and it took about 30 minutes to get to shore. You can book your excursions online prior to the cruise. Do this as they sell out quickly. Be prepared for some changes in the excursions as they are cancelled due to mechanical problems, poor weather, etc. Labadee is a beach day. There isn’t much to see or do there. There is an excursion that takes you away to a private beach. Unless you really don’t want to be around a lot of people, I wouldn’t bother as there are several separate beaches for you to use and tons of lounge chairs for no extra cost. Jamaica really is the only country where you should do an excursion. It’s not very safe there and there is a lot of crime. I’m not sure how safe you would be trying to get around and see things on your own. The hike up Dunn’s River Falls is a must. It’s not a difficult climb (all ages and athletic abilities can do it). They have guides that will take you up the falls. We started with a guide, but it is a very slow process and you spend a lot of time waiting for others to catch up. About half way up, we left our group and climbed by ourselves. It was a lot better and we could move at our own pace. Grand Cayman is a fun place; lots of shopping. Very safe to go about on your own, without a group if you wish. We heard from others on the ship that the snorkeling isn’t as good as it is in Cozumel, so if you are planning only one snorkeling trip, you might want to wait. Cozumel still has a lot of damage from last year’s hurricanes, however, it doesn’t cut into any of the fun that you can have there. Beware of drinking too much as the wait for a tender can be long and there is no shade on the dock. We saw several people passed out on the dock or too sick to crawl back to the tender dock. If you are looking for diamonds or tanzanite, Grand Cayman and Cozumel are the best places for this. We found Cozumel to be cheaper; however, most of the jewelry is set in silver, or a silver/gold mixture. If you have your heart set on a large tanzanite or diamond, you can buy the loose stones and set them however, you want when you get home. If you buy loose stones, you don’t have to pay any duty on them as they are classified as gravel, not jewelry. Some of the stores give away a free sapphire or opal to the first few customers. Don’t waste your time as the stones are of such poor quality, you would never use them in jewelry. Overall, the cruise was everything we hoped it would be. The staff and service is the best I have experienced. I’ll be heading back for another one asap. Oh, don’t forget to bring something to cover your shoulders as it gets a little cool up on deck in the evening. Enjoy your trip!!!

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Apr 2, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Our group consisted of 5 couples--ages 39-50, some had cruised before, some had never cruised. In a nutshell....We LOVED this cruise: the ship, the ports, the number of sea days...in fact, we have all booked again for next year. We were concerned about the size of the ship thinking things might be crowded. The only time you really notice that there are 3500 people on board is when getting tendered off at coco cay and also when trying

to find a chair by the pool on the sea days. It is possible, but you might have to search for awhile! We tried the promenade cabins this trip: the inside cabins with windows looking into the promenade of the ship. This was a great place to watch the parades down the promenade--no searching for a space--you have your own seat in your cabin. You did have to be careful though in making sure that your curtain was closed before you got undressed, otherwise, the people in the cabin across the promenade got a free show!! Our cabin steward was great--and left us a nice towel animal every night! The 3 story dining room was just beautiful--we had the best server: Joel and assistant Dorcus. Some reviews have noted that the food on board is just okay--but we all disagreed, we felt that the food and the service was great! Most of the group tried one of the specialty restaurants and those both got rave reviews despite of the surcharge added to your bill. My husband also liked Jade--the sushi bar. At Cococay, we all rented waverunners for the excursion offered by the cruise line--well, all but the two of us that were stuck in our cabins with the flu! The rest of the group said this day was the highlight of their trip--a real blast! (thanks alot!!) In St. Thomas, we chartered our own boat to St.John--the M/V Cinnamon Bay with Capt. Bob. He took us snorkeling away from the cruise ship crowds and then to a private beach. This day was just perfect!! You tell him what you want and he'll help you plan the day based on that days weather conditions--we all highly recommend him!! You can find his website at www.motoryachtcinnamonbay. In St. Maartin, we did the 4x4 jeep tour offered by the cruiseline. This was a good way to see much of the island--spend some time shopping and then end the day at Orient Beach. It would have been better if the jeeps were equipped with a radio so the guide could point out all the sites. We would stop at a site, he would then explain what was coming up next and so on. It was fun... but I probably wouldn't do it again. Probably our biggest complaint was that there just wasn't time to try everything, even with 3 sea days! We would all highly recommend this trip!

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Mar 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was my wife's and mine 2nd cruise and it was a Western Caribbean cruise on March 26th on the Mariner of The Seas as was our very first Eastern Caribbean cruise in May of 2004, which I also reviewed for Cruise Reviews . This will not be as lengthy as my first review, since I absolutely loved the Mariner of The Seas ship the first time and knew we would love it just as much with our youngest 19 year old son and his good friend with us

for this time around. We reserved 2 Balcony staterooms toward the back of the Port side and we had rooms right next to each other. The trip started off weird due to the Bus company that was scheduled to arrive at our Walt Disney Hilton hotel at 10:20 am…did not arrive until well after 11;20 am…and that was after making several calls in advance to the bus line to confirm the pick up times. They did finally come, and we were whisked right to the pier at Port Canaveral, with no wait, and everything went as smooth as silk from then on. Make sure to call the bus company in advance, and on the day of the departure from the hotel, using your RCCL booklet which has the Bus information and contact numbers and don’t be shy to absolutely make sure you are going to get picked up just as RCCL promises. Since my wife and I love the ship, we were happy to bring our 19 year old son and his 18 year old friend to cruise with us on this trip. They were astonished at the immensity of the ship as we drove up to Port Canaveral, and as we boarded this floating city. The first thing I want to say is…. Who are you people who say the food on the Mariner is anything but great ? We were so pleased with absolutely everything….. We knew what to expect from the casual Windjammer , and we knew the Main Dining Room would be a step above, and the specialty restaurants would be superb. They all were wonderful, and all of us never complained even once. In fact, we were thrilled to enjoy all that the Mariner offered. We ate at Portofino’s for the very 1st time on the very 1st night of the cruise…it was superb !!!!! Don’t miss it !!! The food and service are unmatched. What a way to start our experience ! We also ate at Chops and the waiters and waitresses were very attentive, and the food was as good as I have ever eaten at a steak house anywhere. My son had the jumbo shrimp cocktail, and the waitress saw that he was enjoying it so much, she insisted on bringing him a 2nd one…which he was almost too shy to accept, but did….the waiters were happy to bring it to him, and appreciated his modesty so much, they snuck him a 3rd one near the end of the meal and all had a great laugh as my son was not used to this kind of friendly and gracious service anywhere. Another great experience. It rained in Labadie , Haiti, but we were able to get out to do wave running during a break from the rain, and my wife and son had the time of their lives, riding 14 foot waves doing 50 and 60 mph with a group of wave runners. The beach was nice, as was the casual lunch and bar area the ship had arranged for us. The band that played reggae music was very appropriate for the island mood we were all in, but did get quite aggressive trying to sell their home-made CD’s after they played 2 or 3 songs in a row. Anyone sitting near the band while eating lunch, who appeared to be enjoying the music was given the ..” hey Mon…want to buy our CD ? It was a bit overdone. The second stop at Jamaica was a Reggae party boat to Dunns River Falls,,,, Beware the boat as the boat captain will take you through very rocky waves with no qualms,….. And they almost seem to enjoy that the passengers were looking quite a bit queasy from the rockin and rollin seas. They were also quite aggressive in trying to sell CD’s, braided hair stylings, T-shirts, and other trinkets. But not unbearable. The falls are not for everyone, and older , less mobile, or overweight people might find the climb dangerous. Guides at the falls are very aggressive and love to sell DVDs of their group trips up the falls for 40 bucks a pop. Grand Cayman was wonderful, as we went to Stingray City to swim with Stingrays and feed and/or kiss one. It was a nice boat ride there and back, no problems. They also try and sell a DVD for 30 bucks with your pics with the stingrays. This trip was definitely worth it, though we were only in the water with the stingrays perhaps 40 minutes total on a 4 hour excursion. Cozumel Mexico was a disappointment, as we went shopping and were hounded by the locals every 10 feet along the main drag to come in and check out their store. I felt like this was the Wisconsin Dells south. Loads of trinkets and stuff that we as Americans would sell at a garage sale, and now being sold back to us in Mexico. The entertainment on the Mariner was quite good, with a couple of good comedians and a superb ice show that is NOT to be missed. The bingo was as usual, never won until the very last day, and of course, most every passenger got hyped and sucked into buying more and more bingo cards as the week went on, looking to make that BIG , BIG score ….. RCCL did score…… that much is certain….as hundreds lined up to spend between 35 and 50 bucks a crack to get “ cards “ …..each day. Nice racket. My wife and I loved this trip…we did as we pleased, and did not let the ships schedule DRIVE US….. We went to the first formal night, but skipped the 2nd and didn’t give a hoot. Captain Johhny was a hoot, and has a keen sense of humour. On April 1st ( April fools day ) he announced that there were “ whales” on the starboard side , about 200 yards off the bow. 1 minute later, he announced that the whales had “ migrated “ underneath the ship and were now on the PORT side as well. After a brief wait,…he got back on the horn and said he had fooled us all, as it was April 1st ….and that he had enjoyed watching all the heads pop out on the balconies , first on Starboard, then on the Port side . All good and clean fun. The cruise director was “ ok “ …but seemed pretentious and quite insincere. Finally, wear lots of sunblock, or you will get fried in the tropical sun… I did. Three cheers for Mariner of The Seas …. It is one of the biggest and best ships afloat…period. A beautiful and majestic diamond on the ocean. Don Mitroff

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Mar 19, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

There were 7 of us on this trip together. We planned this about a year ago and were extremely nervous about the booking. The agent that we went through kept getting the information wrong and would say, "as long as Royal Caribbean has the correct information you'll be all set." But my concern was how was R.C. getting the correct information when they had the wrong information. I tried to confirm with Royal Caribbean customer support via

e-mail that they had all the correct information and took several days to return my e-mail and then did not even answer the question that I had, I felt that I was getting the run around and just got one of those "standard form" response because the answer did not even come close to answering the question that I had asked. I was certainly NOT impressed with that and was hell bent that I will never use Royal Caribbean again because of their lack of customer support and started to get worried that it will not be a smooth vacation. But then we got to the ship. The 7 of us were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. The people at the Port check-in should teach the online customer service a few things. That's when I started to relax a little. Had it not been for the online customer support, I would have given at least 4 star review. Our suite attendant - Rohan was beyond excellent! There was nothing we wanted that he could not or did not get for us and always did it with a smile, as it was with all the staff, with every answer being, "no problem". The first night he came and introduced himself to us and told us all the bonus we get for booking a suite. We had the first seating in The Sound of Music, table 532. Mamet and Claire were our staff. Although they weren't outgoing, they were excellent at what they did and remember how each of us liked our meats cooked and figured out what kind of dessert we each would like by the 3rd night. Peter, the cocktail waiter aka - "The booze guy" as he introduced himself to us as, and claimed that he was our "dream come true" on the first night and he was right. ALWAYS smiling and right there when we wanted another drink. The food, though limited choices, was great. Being a function manager myself, to serve a perfect meal to 200 people is not an easy task. The chefs here had to serve a lot more than 200 people and did it extremely well. I can not say that I had a bad meal even once during the entire week. Including the food in the Windjammer. I was a bit disappointed on the first formal night, which was the night we were suppose to Meet the Captain. I never saw the man. Other cruises on other lines I've been on, you actually do meet the Captain. Also, the formal pictures that were being taken before dinner, the backgrounds for the pictures were very limited which also was a disappointment. What was made in disappointments were made up in other areas. James, The cruise director, I have never seen a man with such energy!!!! Other cruise directors I have seen, have not had "hands on" with the planned activities. James was involved in almost all of them. I strongly suggest everyone going to watch The Quest. You will be laughing all night long. One review that I read about the Marnier was the Love and Marriage game was a bit "raunchy". I personally found the game to be extremely entertaining and due to the nature of the game, is expected to have some kind of "tongue in cheek" humor. If there wasn't that kind of humor that would have been disappointing to more people than those who found it raunchy. His second hand man Steve O was just as amazing. His ability to make people laugh, his energy, and his precise public speaking was excellent. Others on James’s team weren't as strong. One of them, Eva - I'm not sure if she's just new and a tad on the shy side, but you really can't be when it comes to working with the cruise director. She should also take a class on public speaking; unfortunately she was not very good at using the microphone and just did not look comfortable being in front of people and not exactly approachable because of her shyness. The shore excursions, not too impressive. Coco Cay, is R.C. Private Island. The entire ship goes to this one teeny tiny island. Some of the staff aboard the ship goes early in the morning, sets the island up, works all day, breaks the island down and then returns to the ship to continue working. I can't say it was worth the stop or either that, stay on the ship, you'll have the whole thing to yourself. I think there was more room on the ship to handle all those people than there was on the island. Magen's Bay in St. Thomas has been named on of the top 10 beaches in the world. So we figured we HAD to go there. The beach is not that big or long and everyone else had the same idea. It was extremely crowded and if your tour bus does not get there before all the other tour buses; you will be hard press to find a spot to lie down on. The description in the cruise book about this excursion was not exactly correct. There was not a beach mat where you can float in the water with. However it was impressive that the cocktail waitress came out into the water to hand you your drink. Pizzas started at $16.00 at the beach. The driver stopped on the way back so that we could take pictures of the breathtaking views. Exiting the ship on Sunday was a fairly painless procedure. Wishing it was a tad later, but also understanding that they had to get the ship ready for the next trip out in several hours.

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Mar 12, 2006

Western Caribbean

Finding a vacation that will satisfy each individual in a family of six, including three boys and one girl….16, 14, 12, and 10---- is very difficult. This cruise had something wonderful for each of us, and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Great ship, great staff, great activities. The food was only ok. Choosing a cruise was a challenge. I wanted to leave from the port closest to home...Port Canaveral, Tampa, or Houston. My wife wanted

a shorter cruise….3 to 4 days. One child wanted to go to Disney, one wanted a cruise, and two wanted to go skiing. Out of frustration, we choose a cruise based primarily on the ship. For our family, this turned out to be the best decision. We chose the newest boat with the most activities. The result was an amazing vacation for every member of the family. The ship- Mariner of the Seas is beautiful. It’s a mega ship…and to us this is an asset. We never felt like we were cooped up on a small boat, and there was always something for each person to do. The appointments are first class and beautiful. Very impressive boat. The room- Like all cruise ships, the rooms were small. However, they are laid-out well with plenty of storage and a nice sitting area. Spend the extra money for a balcony room. My wife and I spent quality time on the balcony each night watching the sunset. The only negative is there is not an iron in the room or a community laundry facility. We ended up using the shower to steam the wrinkles out of our clothes. The staff was exceptional….ensuring everything was perfect…yet never interfering with our ever-changing schedule. Dining- The main dining room is a work of art. It is huge room with elegant appointments and gorgeous crystal chandeliers throughout. The food is good. Not great…but good. The service is outstanding…as good as you’ll find in the finest restaurants and hotels around the world. Portofino- Great food, great service, great atmosphere. Strongly recommend. Windjammer- It’s a decent buffet…and all that that implies. Johnny Rocket- Kids enjoyed it. Promenade Café- Kids liked the pizza and the croissants. Activities- Amazing selection! Our kids were never board. They went ice-skating, rock climbing, roller-skating, miniature golfing, and swimming. They went days without going into the pool because they were busy doing other things. They spent hours in the arcade. It’s huge and has a large variety of games that kept them going for hours. My wife and I enjoyed the first-rate casino, various bars and restaurants, and relaxing on the balcony. Excursions- We thought the first stop at Royal Caribbean’s private island in Haiti would be a throwaway day. Wrong. My wife and I sat on the beach while the kids played on the water slide and all the other water toys. It was a very fun day. Jamaica- Two of the kids are huge Bob Marley fans, so we booked a private tour from a third party vendor. Waste of time. It’s a long trip through the mountains on very narrow and dangerous roads. If you are a fan, it is probably not worth the trouble. If Marley is your messiah, it might be worth your while. Next cruise, we will stay on the ship when it stops in Jamaica. Grand Cayman- We did the snuba diving with the stingrays. This was incredible!!! Go snorkeling in the pool first to get acclimated, and make sure you take an underwater camera. This was the best excursion we had. My wife went shopping…clean shops…great prices…lots of nice merchandise. Cozumel- We went to Tulum because we thought it was important for the kids to see this ancient Mayan city. It was not a “fun” excursion, but it was a valuable trip that the kids will remember. Very nice bus and great guides. You’ll pay more if you book through Royal Caribbean. It is well worth the money to have the peace of mind knowing you’ll have a safe, fun excursion. Minor complaints- I almost feel guilty about complaining about anything. However, Royal Caribbean is obviously a well-run company, and I am sure they would want to hear about things they can do better. The food in the main dining room should be exceptional and it was not. We enjoyed most of the meals…most were quite good. But in a room that exceeds all expectations in atmosphere and service, the food should not be the weakest link. The deserts were boring and unimaginative. WiFi should be Mac compatible. Value- All in all, I would say the cruise was a great value! I really feel we got our money’s worth. It appears RCI pays close attention to pricing on the ship and ensures most goods and services are priced with value in mind. $3.50 for a beer…including a 15% gratuity is a good value. But there were a few areas in which I felt like I was being nickel and dimed -Either put irons in the rooms or have a central laundry area. Dinging the guests for a few bucks every time they need a shirt pressed is simply ridiculous. If everyone used the shower to steam their clothes like we did,….the money RCI made on laundry services was lost on wasted hot water. -$42 bucks for the unlimited drink cards is a bit much. - I think the arcade games for the kids should be free….just like the pool, ice skating, and rock wall. The staff- Amazing. The company obviously trains its people very, very well. When you have a problem…they want to own it. Everyone is so upbeat and friendly….and this attitude sets the tone for the entire ship. We had the vacation of a lifetime and would highly recommend Mariner of the Seas to anyone.

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Mar 5, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Noreen - 37 years old; First Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. I will be the author of the report. Cathy – 37 years old; Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. PLANNING My husband Paul and I went on our first cruise in May 2003 on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. Prior to that, I was leery of cruises thinking I’d feel trapped on a boat and bored. I love to be busy

all day and our trip on Voyager proved that there are tons of things to do on a cruise. We booked a balcony cabin for that cruise and upgraded at the pier to the owner’s suite. We had a great time and decided we definitely want to cruise again. In October 2003 Paul and I went on our second cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas. Once again, we had a great time and confirmed that we enjoyed cruising. Paul bought a small business in early 2005. He expanded and took on a second place already. He works 7 days a week and hasn’t been able to take any time off. He doesn’t want me to miss out on taking vacations so I spent several vacations in 2005 going to Disney World with various friends and family members. I’ve known Cathy since 1998. We used to work in the same department. We both have different jobs now but are still at the same company. Cathy is single and had a bunch of single friends that she used to travel with. Most of them recently either got married, found boyfriends, had kids, etc. When I was telling Cathy my saga of Paul never having any time off and me having to tag along on other people’s vacations, she mentioned she is looking for a travel buddy now too. In January 2006 Cathy and I went out to dinner. We were talking in general about vacations and she mentioned that she was serious when she said she’d be happy to travel with me if I needed someone to go on vacation with. We realized we both had some vacation time we needed to use before the end of March. We started tossing around ideas about where to go and what we would like to do. Cathy is very laid back and is open to any ideas. She’s never been on a cruise before but wanted to try one. She mentioned wanting to see St. Thomas and St. Maarten and I know that means Eastern Caribbean. I’ve never been to either of those islands myself. My friend Kim (another friend from work who cruises several times a year and talked me into my first cruise back in 2003) just cruised on the Mariner of the Seas in January 2006 and said it was her best cruise yet. I had a Disney trip planned for the end of January so Cathy and I figured we’d talk about a possible cruise when I got back. Cathy and I talked the beginning of February and decided the Mariner of the Seas Eastern Caribbean cruise sounded like a great trip for us. We tossed around some dates and the week that worked out was March 5 – March 12. I was hoping to see those dates on a happy hour special but unfortunately, that week wasn’t one. If we could have gone two weeks later (leaving March 19) we could have saved several hundred dollars each. Cathy knows I’m a type A hyper person who needs to be constantly busy. She already told me she needs some time for vegging at the pool. I told her that’s fine, I can amuse myself while she does that. I don’t want her to feel she has to run around with me constantly if she wants some time to relax. The Cruise The Mariner Itinerary is as follows: Sunday – Leave from Port Canaveral Florida Monday – At Sea Tuesday – Puerto Rico Wednesday – St Thomas Thursday – St Maarten Friday - At Sea Saturday – At Sea Sunday - Return to Port Canaveral February 8, 2006 I called the travel agent I used for my last two cruises – Cathy from Captain’s Club Cruises who was able to give me the prices for the various types of cabins. She’s the one who suggested switching to March 19 to save some money due to that week being a Happy Hour special. Unfortunately, the week change didn’t work for Cathy (my travel buddy). I had prices for all types of room both with Cathy and I sharing a room as well as prices for us each getting our own room and paying the single supplement. We decided to get our own rooms. Cathy wanted our rooms to be near each other. Cathy (the travel agent) was able to find us Promenade rooms that were midship and right next to each other but not connected. I’m in room 6581 and Cathy is in room 6579. The price was $1,399 each, but we added the insurance and our total was now $1,477.79 each. When we were thinking of sharing a room, we were going to go with a balcony room and that would have been $1169 each with taxes and port fees before insurance. For an extra $230 each, we were able to get our own cabins (yes we downgraded from a balcony to a promenade, but that’s OK). We booked it and since we are leaving in a few weeks had to pay the full amount immediately. We originally chose the early dinner seating. Cathy (the travel agent) called back to say we were waitlisted for early as that was booked. Cathy (my travel buddy) said it’s fine, we can just keep late dinner so we don’t have to rush back from the ports. It’s noted in the reservation that I’m a vegetarian. Transportation I live Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) and Cathy lives in New York City. We are going to fly Jet Blue to Orlando out of JFK. We were on the phone with each other and both went on Jetblue.com and booked our flights at the same time. We had a bit of a scare when we both hit submit at the same time and mine came back confirmed and hers came back as the flight was full. She tried again and was able to get on the flight, but the price went up by $30 in those few seconds. We’re on flight 1051 on Sunday 3/5 at 7am leaving from JFK and landing in Orlando at 9:50am. Coming home we’re on flight 152 on Sunday 3/12 leaving Orlando at 1:30pm and landing in JFK at 3:55pm. We debated flying down on Saturday instead of the morning of the cruise, but it didn’t work out. We are trying to figure out the best way to get from the airport to the pier. We originally thought of renting a car and I found one-way prices that were very reasonable. Cathy suggested instead of renting a car, since we would have to go to the rental counter and wait there, get the car, stop at a store to pick up water, etc, drive to Port Canaveral, find the place to drop off the car, then take a shuttle to the ship – why not just take car service. So I started looking into car service and asked for suggestions on Cruise Critic. I received information on Happy Limo, Art’s Shuttle, and Ed Korgan. Since Cathy used to use Happy as her password all the time, she was partial to that one. On 2/28/06 I called Happy Limo to book a towncar for our trip from airport to pier and back. I also requested a grocery stop. Excursions We started reading about the excursions on line and have some ideas as to what we want to do. We’ve tossed around Parasailing, snorkeling, ziplining, shopping, sight seeing, etc. We are going to have some busy days in the ports. Cathy thought I was a bit nuts when my original idea for St Thomas had us on the Tram in the morning, a mid day excursion, then parasailing late afternoon. She said lets just book one excursion in advance for St. Thomas and one excursion in advance for St Maarten and play the rest by ear which would give us time to wander around and see the islands. On 2/16/06 we booked two excursions: St Thomas – Parasailing at 4pm for $79 per person. We chose 4pm which is the last available time slot because that gives us the whole day to do the Tram to Paradise Point, shop, go to a beach and still get to Parasail. St Maarten – America’s Cup Sailing Regatta at 8:30am for $84 per person. I read very good feedback for this excursion so was happy to get it as I heard it sells out quickly. DAY BY DAY The week before our trip I was busy at work getting ready to be out of touch for a week. I also spent some time shopping for some new clothes/shoes for the cruise. I found two new outfits for the two formal nights, a new bathing suit, and a new outfit for one of the casual nights. I reminded Cathy that we were on the 7am flight. She thought it was at 9am. The day before our trip – Saturday 3/4/06 I had to pack. I’m not a good packer. I had a huge suitcase that weighed 62 pounds (luckily Jet Blue allows you 70 pounds per checked bag) as well as a rolling carry on. I’d rather take things and not wear them than not have them. I read advice about packing clothes in big Ziploc bags which I did, but I think that’s part of what took up so much room in the suitcase. This is the same bag that Paul and I used for both of our stuff for our last cruise; meanwhile, I filled it up with just my stuff. I guess having 8 pairs of shoes didn’t help. But I was OK with it since I started off with 10 pairs of shoes and cut it back to 8. Sunday 3/5/06 The day started very early at 3:15am. I took Kiki (my dog) for a walk, showered, got dressed, and grabbed any last minute items I wanted to throw in my bag. I was originally planning to leave the house at 4:30am, but ended up hanging out with Paul and Kiki for a little while before leaving. I left at 5am to drive to JFK. There weren’t that many cars on the road at 5am Sunday morning going from New Jersey to Queens. I made good time and arrived at Avistar (where I was leaving my car for the week) without getting lost, got on the shuttle, and was on my way to the airport. I was checking in at the Jet Blue counter by 6am. I checked my big giant suitcase. I quickly went through security and made my way to the gate. I didn’t see Cathy so stopped in the ladies room (I found Cathy in there). We boarded the plan around 6:30am. It was smaller than the usual Jet Blue flights I’ve taken and only had 2 seats on each side of the plane. The flight was delayed a few minutes as a mechanic needed to fix the pilots seat. We left shortly after. I think I scared Cathy a bit because I was my usual perky, chipper self even at 6am. She didn’t have her coffee yet, so kept shushing me. I was chatting with everyone around us on the plane. I’m just a happy person. At one point during the flight the pilot had to go to the bathroom. They block off the front bathroom from the passengers and he came out of the cockpit to go. From our seats we were able to see out the front cockpit window while flying. That was a first. We landed on time at 9:50am. Once off the plane, we stopped at the ladies room and then went to get our luggage, which was already circling. Cathy laughed at the size of my giant suitcase. We called Happy Limo and they directed us to the pick up area. The driver, Robert, was very friendly. We were chatting the whole way. We stopped at a Winn Dixie near the pier to pick up bottled water, soda, and disposable cameras. We were dropped off at the pier by 11am. We gave the porters our big suitcases to check. We each had one bag to check and each tipped the porter $5. I guess that’s a decent tip for 1 bag as they were very helpful as I tried to get my little duffle with the soda and water to close. I carried that little duffle on the ship along with my carryon bag. We went through the pier security quickly and checked in with only one person ahead of us in line. We both did our set sail passes on line so that probably helped speed the process along. We were on the ship after the boarding photo. Staterooms weren’t available until 1pm so we went to the Windjammer for some lunch. It was a little cumbersome with our carryons, jackets, etc, but we had our first meal on the ship. We went out to the pool deck. Cathy lounged in the sun and kept an eye on the carryons while I wandered around taking pictures. My friend Kim (the one who talked me into my first cruise) lent me her digital camera as well as her underwater camera. We were able to go to our staterooms to drop off our carryons at 1pm. The rooms are small, but very efficient. After seeing the size of the rooms, Cathy was glad I suggested we each get our own cabins. We are right next door to each other. The beds are set up as queens in each of our rooms. Our excursion tickets were waiting in our room for us. The times have changed from what we originally booked. The parasailing is now scheduled for 2:45pm and the sailing regatta is now scheduled for 10:45am. We spent some time exploring the ship. We went deck by deck exploring. The Royal Promenade had people promoting the various things they offer. Cathy is very interested in the art auction so we spent some time with the guy getting information about it. Cathy was debating getting the wine package but the smallest one is 5 bottles and I don’t drink wine so she would have to drink it all herself. She decided to just order a bottle at a time at the table. We saw the dining room and found where our table is. It’s a table for 6 – number 277. We met one of the couples that will be sharing the table with us. We were back on deck 6 and saw that our luggage had arrived so we spent some time unpacking. We met Philip the cabin steward. We changed into shorts and went up to Sail away. We each had a Miami Vice drink (I think that’s what they were called) – it was a combination of Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri. It was a bit chilly outside now that we were sailing but we stayed out for a while. At 5:30pm we went to the gaming lessons in the Casino. We sat at the Black Jack table then the Let it Ride table so Cathy could learn the rules. They’ve added a new twist to the Let It Ride game – a 3 card bonus. The bonus is that the 3 cards in your hand are played like regular 3 card poker with it’s own payout schedule. The casino opened so we each quickly lost $20 in slots. At 6:45pm we went back to our rooms to shower and change. We saw the Welcome Aboard show at 7:45pm. It was freezing it the theater. The cruise director is very energetic. His name is James. We saw a balancing act and than a comedian. The comedian was really funny. 8:45pm we went to the dining room. Our tablemates were: Christine and James – a couple on their honeymoon that live in Florida. This is the couple we met at the table during our earlier wandering around the ship. Nick and Michelle – friends that are on Spring Break from college and live in North Carolina Our waiter was Manoj; I can’t remember the assistant waiter’s name but she was very nice. Cathy ordered a bottle of wine. I ordered a can of sprite for about $1.75. My dinner choices were as follows: Appetizer – Vidalia onion tart Caesar salad Entrée – Mediterranean Vegetable Quesadilla Dessert – White chocolate fondue with berries All the food was very good. The assistant waiter came by at the beginning of the meal with bread/rolls in a basket which we were served from. We got along very well with our tablemates. We were finished with dinner around 10:15pm. We walked through the shops on the promenade a little then went back to our rooms to get ready for bed. It was a very long day and we were exhausted. At 10:45 the parade on the promenade was on. I appreciated my promenade room at this point, as I watched the parade in my PJ’s from my window seat. I got into bed right after and fell asleep. I’m usually a very light sleeper and it takes me a while to fall asleep; but with being up since 3:15am, I was exhausted and fell asleep quickly. My phone rang at 12:15am. It was Cathy. Our rooms are right above the Wig and Gavel Pub and there is a singer playing and it’s very loud. We can hear every word he’s saying. Cathy already called to complain and was told he performs until 1am every night. Normally we would probably still be out at that time. Cathy is right above it; I’m one room over. It’s noisy in my room but not as bad as it seems to be in hers. Cathy said she’s going to ask about changing rooms in the morning and if they can’t accommodate her, she wants to get off the ship in Puerto Rico. She said she would probably sleep in tomorrow. Monday 3/6/06 Day at Sea Since Cathy wanted to sleep in today, I left a note on her door (I brought a sticky pad just for this purpose) telling her where I was going. At 8:45 I went to get in line for the Ice Show tickets for us. There was a huge line. Ticket distribution started at 9. Once it started, the line moved quickly. I chatted with some of the people on line. One man was telling me that we’re the nuts that are standing here in line for this, but if we came by an hour later, we could just walk right up and get them. I guess I was being paranoid and wanted to make sure. I got us tickets for the Wednesday 7pm show (this was the recommended show for late seating). I stopped in the Windjammer for some yogurt and granola since I was hungry and didn’t know when Cathy would be up. I went to the Port and Shopping seminar at 10am in Studio B. The guy on line was correct. The tables handing out the ice show tickets were still there with absolutely no line. So many people bought the VIP shopping book that they were promoting at the seminar. I thought the woman giving the presentation was good. These people sitting behind me didn’t like her and kept complaining she was talking too fast and too much. I thought she gave out a lot of information, but it was basically a commercial to convince you to go to the shops they recommend. I stopped back at the room to drop off the brochures I collected and saw a note from Cathy that she went to the Windjammer for breakfast. I went up to meet her and we hung out while she ate. We went to the front desk so Cathy could ask about changing rooms. She explained the situation of how loud her room was and she wouldn’t be able to get any sleep at all. She was put off when the guy helping her said no one else has complained about that room before. The person helping her said he’d have to check as the ship was full. Cathy was very upset and already planning to get off in Puerto Rico. The guy came back a few minutes later with his supervisor and they found a new room for her just down the hall. They said she should call the room steward and they would help her get her stuff moved. We went up to the room and two stewards showed up to help her move. We got everything moved over pretty quickly. Her room is at the end of the promenade instead of in the middle and it’s set up with two twin beds instead of one queen. I went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle at 1pm. Cathy stayed to unpack, get settled in her new room, and then go to the pool. It was nice that prior to sailing we received an email confirming the time and location of the meet and mingle. We also received invitations in our stateroom. Our roll call board was not very active. There was a decent turn out and I spoke with several of the people there. We all received these lanyard type of things that you can wear around your neck that had a pad and pencil in it. I was surprised to see Christina and James there too. Someone from the cruise director’s staff was there, gave us a little information, and raffled off a few prizes. The prizes were a few pedometers and a Royal Caribbean mouse. It’s very nice that they give out anything as they don’t have to, but on our cruise on the Voyager of the Seas in 2003 the prizes raffled off were a lot nicer (dinner for two in Portofino’s, alcohol drink cards, etc). I’m not complaining just commenting on the lower budget items being used now. I looked for our pictures in the photo area. I wasn’t thrilled with how the embarkation photos came out. I bought my little Mariner of the Seas photo album from one of the gift shops on board. I wasn’t getting any cell phone service at this point and wasn’t able to call Paul. I looked for Cathy but we kept missing each other. I stopped in the casino for a little while and played on the slot machine – unfortunately, just donating. I even went to the library and found a book that I borrowed. I met up with Cathy around 4:30 and we headed to the windjammer for a snack. After snacking we went back to the Casino where Cathy found a slot machine she liked so played. We stopped at the Café Promenade and had mini éclairs and Cathy had some coffee. We went back to our rooms to shower and dress for our first formal night. We went down to the dining room at 8:30 for dinner. We feel like we’re old friends already with our tablemates. Whoever puts together the seating arrangements did a very good job. After dinner we stopped back at our rooms to change back into our casual clothes. We received our first towel animal tonight. We saw the 10:45 Pure Energy show with the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers. It was an OK show. At 12:15 we saw the late night comedian that was the same guy from last night. He was hysterical. I don’t think we stopped laughing the whole time he was up there. Tuesday 3/7/06 San Juan 4pm arrival Cathy and I met to go to breakfast in the Windjammer around 10am. We stopped at the Shore Excursion desk to change the time of our Parasailing excursion. We originally booked 4pm, but it was changed to 3 and we had to meet at 2:45pm. We wanted to make it earlier so we could still have the rest of the day to run around without having to watch the time. We were able to switch to 9am and have to be on the pier at 8;45am. We went to the casino for a little while and both lost. Cathy wanted to lie by the pool so we made plans to meet up a little later. I went ice-skating around 12:30. I liked the rental skates they had. There are no laces; just clips like on rollerblades to keep them on. It was fun skating on the ship. The rink isn’t that big, but it was fun and there were about 10 people skating. I went out to the pool deck to meet Cathy and thought I’d read my book for a little while. It was too hot and sunny (even though it was windy) for me so I went up to Ellingtons and sat on one of the couches with a great panoramic view to read for about 20 minutes. We docked in Puerto Rico around 3pm which was a little earlier than the scheduled time of 4pm. I called Paul to say hi. Cathy and I went up to the Windjammer around 4 to have a little snack before heading off the ship and into Puerto Rico. We got off the ship around 4:30. It’s docked so it’s easy to just walk off without having to tender. We found a taxi van to take us to Old San Juan. It was a mini van and $5 per person. We were sitting with a family from Virginia. When we told them we were from NY/NJ they commented that the traffic must seem like nothing to us. There wasn’t any traffic to speak of. We were moving along smoothly so it was a strange comment from them. This comment was made while we were driving along the highway at maybe 40 miles an hour (not in the center of Old San Juan where there was more traffic and congestion). The only place where the traffic was bad was the area they were loading cabs right outside the ship and later in Old San Juan. Unfortunately, it was raining out so we were getting wet. Neither of us brought an umbrella on the trip. It soon tapered to a drizzle so we started walking. We stopped in a store selling linen like cotton clothes. The items were all very pretty, but I’m too messy to wear off-white. Next we stopped in a linen store (linens like tablecloths as opposed to the clothes shop we stopped in where the clothes looked like linen). Cathy bought some hand towels and a unique and pretty little pocketbook. I asked for directions to the Hard Rock Café which was our next stop. My friend Paula mentioned a shirt she saw in the Hard Rock when she was in Puerto Rico last year that she regrets not buying. I was hoping to find it for her. I didn’t see any shirts I could picture her wearing so I called her to ask her what the shirt looked like. They didn’t have anything she wanted but she was pleasantly surprised to hear from me. I bought a hat for Paul, one for our friend Peter, and a guitar pin. We did some more wandering around and I bought a magnet. We weren’t very impressed with what we saw of San Juan. The stores were starting to close. Having the ship arrive so late in the afternoon didn’t give us an opportunity to really see San Juan. We took a mini van taxi back to the pier for $5 per person. We hung out by the Café Promenade for a little while. Cathy wanted to take a nap before dinner so we agreed to meet around 8:30. I wandered around the ship. Since we were still in port, the stores and casino were closed. We met at 8:30 for dinner. We ended up being the only ones at our table tonight. I had the following: Appetizer – crab cake (one of the few non vegetarian items I’ll still attempt to eat even though I don’t eat chicken, meat or fish anymore) Caesar Salad Entrée – Risotto primavera Dessert – Baked Alaska I called Paul before the show. We saw the show at 10:45pm which was an Australian singer/performer. It started out a little slow but got much better. We were scheduled to leave at 11pm, but at 11:45 we were still docked. We went up to Deck 11 for the Sail away Party. We left Puerto Rico a little after midnight. Wednesday 30/8/06 St. Thomas We are scheduled for 9am Parasailing so need to be on the dock at 8:45am. Cathy ordered room service for breakfast. I didn’t put my tag out so ran up to the Windjammer quickly to get some yogurt, fruit, and granola for breakfast. We headed out to the pier for our Parasailing excursion at 8:45 like we were told to. We waited for a while since two people were missing. Finally they told us to go to the end of the pier around the ships which is where the Parasailing boats go out from. When we got there one boat was about to leave with the people scheduled for the 10am Parasailing excursion. I’m not sure how they got ahead of us since we were the 9am excursion. They had room for a few more people so these other people that were complaining about having another excursion scheduled at noon went. We waited since they told us another boat would be by in 10 minutes. It was us and this nice couple from Pennsylvania (Annie & Bill). Our boat showed up and the four of us get in. Due to the lack of wind, we each had to fly single. As we were driving (not sure if that’s the correct term for a boat) a call came on the radio that the other boat stalled, dropped two people in the water, and we had to pick them up. We were already in our harnesses so got to Parasail before them. You sit on the back of the boat in your harness and you are just lifted right up. At first it was fun. Once I was up for a while I didn’t like it. I was hanging on so tightly and just kept imagining falling. When I wasn’t stressing about the rope breaking and plummeting to the water, the views were beautiful and it was very peaceful. I was very happy to be reeled back in. You land right back on the boat very smoothly. We were back at the dock by 11:45am and went back on the ship to shower before heading out to shop. We grabbed a quick lunch in the Windjammer then took a cab to Downtown St. Thomas. Cathy wanted to buy a gold necklace. We went in tons of stores looking. At Diamonds International she found one that she really liked with a matching bracelet. She bargained them down to $2,000 but wanted to think about it a little more. We went to other stores comparison shopping, but none of them compared to the one she saw in Diamonds International. We bought a few other souvenirs along the way. We went back to Diamonds International just as they were getting ready to close. There were matching earrings that we didn’t see before either. Cathy bought the whole set – necklace, bracelet, and earrings for $2,200. The stores were all closing so we jumped in a cab back to the ship. We didn’t have time to take the Tram to the lookout. 4:30 We were back at the ship and went to the Windjammer for an afternoon snack of Nachos. We hung out for a while at the Windjammer. We wanted to shower again before dinner so each went to our rooms to get ready. 6:45 We met to go to the 7pm Ice Under the Big Top show. It was very good. Some of the skaters fell a few times. 7:45 I went to the Crown and Anchor party in the Lotus Lounge. Cathy went to the Casino. I tried a rum punch (it was one of the drinks the waiter was passing out). Captain Johnny is very funny. There was a couple on board with 123 Royal Caribbean cruises. They talked about Freedom of the Seas (then Liberty, then the 3rd unnamed Freedom class ship). They also mentioned the Genesis class. The Captain answered questions that people asked. 8:35 I found Cathy in the Casino and we went to dinner. Our tablemates were all at dinner tonight. I had the following: Appetizer – Fruit Salad (mango, papaya, pineapple) and ½ spring roll Caesar Salad Entrée – Bami Goreng – a noodle dish Dessert – Crème Brulee 10:30 We went to the Love and Marriage show. It was very funny. The show ended almost at midnight. We went back to the Casino for a little while. Cathy wanted to, but was afraid, to play blackjack so stuck to the slot machines. 1am We went up to our cabins to go to sleep. I received a RCCL tote bag as a Crown and Anchor gift. Thursday 3/9/06 St Maarten 9:30 We met to have breakfast in the Windjammer. After breakfast we went back to our cabins to grab our stuff, then headed out to the pier to meet our sailing excursion. Cathy was chosen as the captain for our team. We were racing on the Stars & Stripes yacht. We were all assigned duties. Cathy and I were both backstay grinders. The excursion was a lot of fun but more work than we expected. One guy who was the Main grinder got sick. We did not get soaking wet, just some spray. We raced against two other yachts – True North and True North IV. We came in 2nd place which was great since we had less people on our team than the other two yachts. After the race, we were dropped at their gift shop. I bought the picture for $30. We decided to wander the shops since we were already downtown. The downtown shopping area was very cute. After browsing through some shops, we stopped for lunch at Oualichi - a place on the beach and recommended by the cruise guide. We each had pizza. We thought they were personal size, but when they came out they were huge. I had the vegetarian one, and Cathy had the 3 cheese. We ran into Rick (one of our dinner tablemates) while eating so he helped eat some of the pizza. We found the Belgian Chocolate Shop and bought some truffles there. We bought some other souvenirs. Cathy was debating over a Furla bag but decided against it since she really wanted black and they didn’t have the style she wanted in black. We stopped at the Guavaberry Emporium. I bought a bottle for Kim and one for me. Cathy and I each had a Guavaberry Colada. They were very good. After a little more wandering, we took the water taxi back to the ship around 5pm. All Aboard is at 5:30. Cathy wanted to take a nap. I tried calling Paul but didn’t get reception on my phone. I wandered around the ship a bit but everything is closed since we’re still in port. I went back to my cabin to shower and change. 7pm We went to the show which was a Beatles Tribute Band. Cathy had some portraits done. Then we went to the casino and lost some money. 8:30 We went to dinner – everyone was there except for Michelle who was sick. I had the following: Appetizer –fresh mozzarella and tomato Mixed green salad Entrée – I tried the vegetarian chili but it was too spicy so they brought me pasta with marinara sauce instead Dessert – Tiramisu 10:30 We saw the Quest. This was hysterical 11:15 Win a Cruise Bingo. Unfortunately, we didn’t win – we didn’t even come close Friday 3/10/06 Day At Sea 9am Cathy and I met for breakfast at the Windjammer. After breakfast Cathy went to lie out by the pool. I went shopping for some souvenirs. I went to the gym to work out. There was an issue with the locker key – no one knew where they were or how to get them to work. Finally this got straightened out. I went on the Elliptical Machine. The ship is rocking a lot today so it was difficult to do the machine while swaying. I went out by the pool next. The water was flying out of the pool. It was like a wave pool. They ended up having to drain the pool. It was also very windy so I didn’t stay long. I went in the Jacuzzi in the spa. It was very nice and pretty empty. I was having fun since the rocking was tossing me around even in the Jacuzzi. I returned my library book. 1:30 I met Cathy at the art auction. She bought a few items. 2:45 We went to the Windjammer for some lunch. Next we went to the casino and lost a little more money. 5pm I went up to the Sports Deck to Rollerblade but it was closed for the day. Cathy went to sit out in the sun and read. I wandered around the ship some more. 7pm I went back to the cabin to shower and get ready for dinner It’s formal night. I was ready early so watched people on the promenade out the window. 8:30 We went down to dinner. Everyone was there. We took a few table pictures and exchanged addresses. Unfortunately, I forgot exactly what we had for dinner tonight. Everyone else at the table had Lobster (except me). I probably ordered the vegetarian entrée. 10:45 We saw the show – it was OK 11:30 We went to the dining room for picture taking of the gala buffet 12:15 We were allowed in. We just wanted a few chocolate covered strawberries. They were a hot item and everyone was grabbing them. We sat to eat our strawberries. We made another detour though the casino then went to our rooms. Saturday 3/11/06 Day at Sea 9:15 We met for breakfast and went to the dining room for the first time. It took a while. I had granola with fruit and yogurt. I thought it would be different from the Windjammer but it wasn’t. After breakfast Cathy went to lie in the sun. I went rollerblading, and then walked around the track a few times. 11:30 I went to the Screening Room and saw the movie In Her Shoes. It was very cute and 2 hours long 1:30 I met Cathy at the Art Auction 2:45 We went up to Johnny Rockets for lunch but it was really crowded so we went to the Windjammer instead for a late lunch. Cathy went back out in the sun 3:30 I went to the final Bingo. I didn’t win anything I started pulling out my suitcases for packing. 5:45 There was a parade on the Promenade which I watched out the window. I did most of the packing. 7pm We saw the Farewell Show. It was very well done. The cruise director spoke, the Captain came out on a scooter. We saw highlights from the cruise in review video. There was a balancing act and a comedian. Cathy and I went to the Casino. Cathy finally won a little. She started with $10 and cashed out $75 in the slot machine she liked. 8;30 We went for our final dinner in the dining room and gave out our tip envelopes. I had the following: Appetizer – chips with spinach dip Caesar salad Entrée – Vegetarian dish – this was horrible and in curry sauce (I don’t like curry) so ended up with pasta in marinara sauce instead again Dessert – banana parfait They need more vegetarian options 10:30 We watched the Karoke Idol finals Midnight – I finished packing and put my bags out Sunday 3/12/06 Debarkation and Going Home 7:45 We met for breakfast and went to the Windjammer. Our color was called at 8am while we were eating. Once finished we headed off. It didn’t take very long. Maybe ½ hour. We were off the ship by 8:45. I called Happy Limo to let them know we were off, but got their answering machine which made me a bit nervous. I left Cathy with the luggage and walked over to where I saw people with signs. I saw a guy from Happy Limo with a sign with my name on it (that was a big relief). His name was Gary and he said “You girls are going in style”. We were in a huge white stretch Lincoln Navigator. It had 2 TV’s in it. We watched part of Madagascar on the ride back. 9:45 We were at the airport. My big suitcase still weighed less than Jet Blue’s limit of 70 pounds (not by much though). We asked about getting on an earlier flight since our scheduled one isn’t’ until 1:30. We went standby for 11:40am. Luckily we got on. 2:30 We were back at JFK and got our luggage. Cathy took a cab and I called the Avistar shuttle. I ended up waiting about 25 minutes. Once I arrived at Avistar people were yelling that they were there for over an hour and where is their car. One of the shuttles backed into a Mercedes. In the midst of all this commotion I saw my car come right out. I asked one of the guys to help lift my luggage into my car. I paid, got directions, and was on my way by about 3:15. There was a lot of traffic and I didn’t get home until after 5pm to a husband and a dog who were both very happy to see me. I missed them too. FINAL THOUGHTS This was a great trip. The Mariner of the Seas is a beautiful ship. I was very impressed with how they were able to move Cathy when she was so upset with her first room due to the noise. It was weird being on a cruise without Paul and having times without cell phone service where I wasn’t able to get in touch with him. I enjoyed having my own cabin. My only complaint would be that there weren’t enough vegetarian options available. At dinner in the dining room, there was one choice and often it contained curry or was spicy (I don’t like curry or spicy foods). Although the alternative of pasta with marinara sauce is always available that’s pretty boring. A suggestion I would make is to have some sort of pasta dish like Mushroom Ravioli, Stuffed Shells, Gnocchi; some type of pasta other than plain pasta with marinara sauce. I also found a lack of vegetarian choices when we would stop at the Windjammer for lunch/a snack. They had burgers and hot dogs, but there were not any veggie burgers (only at Johnny Rockets I was told). Although I packed a lot, I wore just about everything I brought (except for 2 shirts). I’m looking forward to taking another cruise.

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Feb 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

My family is big, entertaining, fun, and crazy. After hearing about the last cruise they embarked on, I had to come along for the fun. They all (25+ppl) went on the Adventures of the Seas out of San Juan in Jan of 2004. The stories are endless and every time I listen to them I crack up. So I booked the cruise along with them and headed into the Caribbean. Being 21 years old and a current college student this review will be mainly about

the attractions that I feel are most important. I keep reading reviews and they all state the same things. Furthermore, the ppl reviewing the ships are older. Here's a point of view from young viewpoint.. I anticipated the many numerous bars/pubs, pool, and club they had to offer. I researched the ship prior to our sailing date and also had the opportunity of my family to fall back on. The bars were, for the most part, 1/2 full at times and didn't give the social atmosphere that I was used to. 3.5/5 stars The pool was a sight in itself, definitely a high point and a 2 thumbs up. Everyone loves the pool deck so no need to comment further. 5/5 stars The nightclub was the main disappointment. I have to refer back to the last cruise my family went on. My uncle and cousin told stories of the club on Adventure that blew my mind. I guess the real downside to it was that no one went! And the nights that a decent crowd formed, they closed at 3am!! The DJ wouldn't take requests and didn't even see the guy. All in all, we made our own fun and there were nights that it was hopping in there. 3/5 stars The Food: Everyone always has some negative comment about the food. So here's mine. Note: I am not picky at all. Great service and selection, although at times some dishes were a little too salty, but preserved it to the fullest.

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Feb 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

As residents of Florida, we only had a two-hour bus ride to reach Port Canaveral and board The Mariner of the Seas, but as it turned out, that ride was the most undesirable part of the trip. We used Cruise Connection and on the way to the port, we were told that the “luxury bus” was not running and we were in very uncomfortable s4eats. One the way home, we didn’t even have a bus – just a van with 18 people jammed in it and a trailer

hauling our luggage. Needless to say, the next time we depart from Port Canaveral, we will drive over. Checking in and loading were quick and within 30 minutes of arriving at the terminal, we were on the 11th deck of the Mariner, enjoying lunch. What can you say about the Mariner of the Seas? It is a huge ship with a full-size basketball court, a miniature golf course, a rock climbing wall, an ice rink, a huge theatre, a great night club, an indoor shopping mall, conference center, spa, gym and enough restaurants and bars to keep you hopping all week. The crew works hard (mostly at night) to keep the ship clean (and no doubt sanitary) and there are hand sanitizers throughout the ship, with signs reminding you that a great vacation means staying well. Our room attendant, Renold, was outstanding. The room (6-314) was always clean and the towels fresh even though we hardly saw him. Errol was his assistant. I can’t recommend them more highly. There were some pleasant surprises and disappointments on this trip. In sum, here they are: Pleasant surprises: • Chops Restaurant. Pay the $20 per person surcharge and enjoy this restaurant, which compares well to the finer restaurants in major cities. The service is outstanding, the view from the aft part of the ship is great and the food is the best you’ll have on the trip. The next time we’re on board we plan to eat here at least twice during the trip. FYI, our fellow travelers also raved about Portofino’s (also an extra charge), but we did not eat there. • The Ice Show. Outstanding and hard to believe that you’re at sea when you watch this extravaganza on the ship’s ice rink. Don’t miss it. • The shopping area. Its size alone will overwhelm you, but you are on one of the largest cruise ships in the world. • The friendliness of the staff, overall. Remembering your name, your drink and food preferences. Seems easy on the cruise, but when you realize that they do cruise after cruise, it’s really remarkable that they can give you such a personal touch. Disappointments: • Food in the main dining room. Just wasn’t that good. Tasted institutional. After three nights, we opted for other places to eat. • Guest Relations. The group behind the counter had one goal – to sell you shore excursions. If you presented them with any other problem, they were hopelessly lost. Just one example: My wife broke a temple on her glasses and when asked, they suggested we go to the jewelry shop in the main shopping area. Once there, we were told there was no jeweler on the ship, the shop was only set up for sales. (I remembered an optical shop at our next stop - Georgetown, Grand Cayman - and we were able to get her glasses repaired there). Another time, we asked Guest Relations about reservations at Chops and were told “Go up there and ask them”. • The drink card. At $42 each for unlimited soft drinks, the card is terribly overpriced and we are sorry we bought it. • The entertainment shows. Mostly retrospective looks back at the 60s and 70s and obviously aimed at a very elderly audience. Talent was weak and the entertainment director’s antics grew old very quickly. Ports of call: I should first state that my wife and I purchased no shore excursions, deciding to do our “own thing” in each port. It worked well. • Labadee, Haiti. I guess Royal Caribbean is afraid to call this place by its proper name: Haiti (they refer to it as Hispanola, which would be like stopping in Miami and describing it not as Florida or the U.S., but as “North America”. Don’t miss this destination; it’s one of the best on the Western Caribbean itinerary. Great beaches, great facilities, nice people (a little pressure from some salesmen in the vending area, but you can ignore them). The scenic wonder of this area is unforgettable. • Ochos Rios, Jamaica. As usual, we had friends warning us about Jamaica, but I spent the 2003 Iraq War in the Middle East, so I wasn’t about to hang on the ship when this area was waiting just a short walk from the dock. Had a great time and highly recommend visiting the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, a short cab ride ($10 each way) from the docks. There is a $6 admission charge, but the gardens are well worth it. Besides, you’re only about three blocks from Mick Jagger’s Jamaican home. The shopping are adjacent to the docks have all the expected shops, including a tired, worn and loud Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant. • Grand Cayman. Our fifth trip here and the shopping is great, especially if you’re looking for jewelry and watches. It’s a striking contrast to visit a very developed, first-world island after the previous two stops. • Cozumel. How sad. After Hurricane Wilma stalled over this island for 63 hours, there’s little left. The docks are gone, so are many buildings and lots of trees. The Mexicans are rebuilding, but one wonders how long it will be before this island returns to its former beauty. Disembarkment back at Port Canaveral was quick and efficient. It took us about 20 minutes once we left the ship until we were out in front of the terminal building. Overall, we found the trip to be relaxing and a great way to recharge the batteries. The Mariner of the Seas is highly recommended, especially if you want to be on one of the biggest ships now plying the Caribbean.

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Dec 18, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

My husband, daughter aged 19 and I embarked on December 18th, 2005 for a five day cruise. The embarkation was somewhat hectic. We had been informed not to arrive at the port before 2 p.m. They obviously told everyone that because the traffic seemed to stretch for at least half a mile. When we parked (handicapped parking) we had to walk at least 500 yards! That was annoying. We were checked in by an indifferent clerk. However, because we

booked an owner's suite we were met by the most delightful concierge, Cesar, who sheparded us through security and accompanied us to our suite. It was beautiful but does not compare to Disney's suites. After the bon voyage party on the pool deck, which almost nobody seemed interested in, we returned to our suite to discover only two of our four bags, so we could not change. We had decided to do the buffet the first night so it wasn't a huge issued just, again, annoying. The Windjammer buffet was edible and varied but nothing to write home about. After getting our remaining bags (about 9:00) we called it a night since the weather was inclement, hence terribly turbulent seas. Our first full day was a day at sea. There were lots of activities listed but nothing seemed really interesting so we spent lounging around the pool. Everyday from 5 to 7 p.m. the concierge lounge was open to suite holders who could go in and eat fabulous hors de'oeuvres and drink whatever including alcohol. This was absolutely the best food on the ship hands down. Seafood, caviar, fruit, chicken, a full well stocked bar, and Cesar, with his charming self

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Dec 11, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

This was my second time on a cruise and my wife's 4th cruise. The Ship 4 stars out of 5 Dining Room - this three story beauty is certainly one of the highlights on the boat. You can't help but feel like you are experiencing first class dining while here. The Promonade - Another sight to behold on this ship. It's hard to remember you are at sea when you walk down this strip of shopping, bars, and cafes. Although it was a little crowded

especially with the giant Christmas tree. The bars - too many in my opinion and many of them were poorly laid out and therefore made activites held in them not as manageable. The art auction wasn't even worth attending because there was only enough room to seat maybe 30 people. The pools - were very small. This was one of my biggest shocks considering the grandeur of everything else onboard. There wasn't enough room to actually swim around them at all. Let alone hold any events, like a volleyball tourney. Other stuff - the rockwall, the mini-golf, and basketball court were all excellent. But the golf simulator was so small that you could only have 2 people inside at once while the rest had to wait their turn outside. The Food 2 stars out of 5 I wouldn't even call what they served at the Windjammer and Jade food. We witnessed a pancake being snapped in two like a shattered CD. Once it was clear that their menu was not going to change we stopped eating there entirely. The dining room was much better but still not great. The entrees were fairly solid but the desserts were poor. Many times you took one bite and then pushed the rest away. The dancing waiters parade got very old the third time around as well. And not once did you ever get the impression that were putting much effort into it. The Stateroom 5 stars out of 5 We had a interior stateroom and it was as good as you could reasonably expect from one, which is why it gets 5 stars. There was quite a bit of room to move around (although if the glass coffee table was removed it would have been better). The closet space and size of the bathroom were good as well. The Entertainment 2 stars out of 5 The comedian on the first two nights was horrible. Every joke was just a remix of stuff we see in our email inbox every day. Part of his routine included a confession that he was 60K in debt....I wasn't the least bit surpised. The stage show Front Row was quite fun. The singers and dancers were fairly high quality and the complex set changes were impressive. Their second show called Pure Energy was not as good. The songs chosen were not always what you would think of as 80's hits. And the costumes were just horrible stereotypes. At one point they made a big display of lowering a purple Prince jacket from above only to have the singer turn around and begin a George Michaels song. We never got to see the Ice Show as the tickets that went best with our dinner time went quickly. The game shows were fun. I participated in the scavenger hunt show called The Quest. Strutting around in a bra while the song "It's Raining Men" was played might have been the highlight of the cruise. Luckily no pictures were taken! The Service 3 stars out of 5 Our head waiter was quite charming if maybe a little too formal. Our assistant waiter probably won't be offered another contract by RC. He was virtually silent the entire cruise, clumsy, and made mistakes on our wine orders numerous times. Combined the two of them never seemed to make an effort to remember our preferences. I was asked every night if I wanted coffee even after making it known on day 1 that I never drank it. Our stateroom attendant was nice and the towel animals were cute but she didn't seem to understand that if we happened to return to our room while she was in the middle of cleaning that perhaps she should comeback later. She actually was chatting to a friend on a cell phone while cleaning the bathroom, while my wife and I waited patiently so we could change to go swimming. Misc. thoughts The "Cruise Compass" that everyone used to plan their day seemed more focused on advertising events that included an extra charge than the free activities. An example would be the air-brushed tattoo's which were listed no less than 3 times each and every day but never was there listed the mini-golf tourney (only 6 people showed up), the long drive and closest to the pin contests, etc. Also the staff assigned to handle some of the events didn't put any effort into them. For the mini-golf tourney the girl explained that we would be playing all 9 holes, and each had a unique style of play and then just handed us a scorecard and told us to report back to her when we were done. I still don't understand why she didn't follow us around "announcing" each hole and trying to create a feeling of excitement like a tournament is supposed to have. For the belly flop contest, James the cruise director did a marvelous job and he had everyone who walked within earshot stopping to watch. We did not buy any of the shore excursions and so I have not included a review of the islands since nothing we did on them was in anyway related to the cruise. We simply made our own fun and all three stops (St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Cococay) were simply gorgeous and lots of fun. Overall The cruise was a disappointment in comparison to my first cruise on Princess. The food was substandard, the service had some serious flaws, and constant push to buy more, more, more was so overwhelming that it was hard to not be cynical of the whole ordeal. Royal Caribbean is the Walmart of cruises. Pick a different cruise line if you truly want to enjoy a fabulous cruise.

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Dec 11, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Embarkation : Left from RIC in Va at 7 in the morning and arrived in Orlando at 9. Once we went down to baggage claims there was a RC worker ready to meet us and take us away. Very efficient. Once we arrived in Port Canaveral it was smooth sailing. Took at max. 45min. Once we got on the boat it was time to explore. It was my husbands first time on a boat and so wonderful to see his eyes light up. "there's a full basketball court, an

ice skating ring?" "Yes honey its a city on the ocean" (it was our honeymoon) The ship Dining Room -What a dining room!! 3-storys all beautifully laid out. Never seem crowded. The Promenade - This one of our favorite places to go. Great for "people watching" You feel like your walking through some quaint town. Numerous shops such as general store, logo store, jewelry store (husband had to buy a tag heur watch) & the cute promenade cafe. Where fresh brewed coffee flows "freely" however lattes and capp. are at cost. Ben & Jerrys was there too, but portion to prices were not very good. The bars - SO many to choose from!!! I think we counted like 18!! There is something for everyone. Too the loud sports bar to the classy champagne bar. Husband and I are easily pleased we just love our miller lights and we felt they were reasonable prices. 3.00 for 12 oz The pools Area - I was really afraid of the days at sea we wouldn't be able to find a spot to lay out. Now we never got right next to the pool, cause I felt the upper level was better sun light. But I did see the few bad apples who had put their bags on chair at 7 in the morning. Come on People. Exercise Room: Absolute wonderful. I never felt like it was crowded. Great equipment. Other stuff - the Rockwall, the mini-golf, and basketball court were all excellent. The Food: Windjammer - Windjammer gets a bad wrap. Its not wonderful but for on the go its perfect. We usually got there at 7 in the morning for breakfast and found the usual items. French toast, pancakes, waffles, home fries, hash browns, bacon, sausage, assorted cereal, doughnuts. etc Lunch changed from time to time and we could always find something. Dining Room - I really did love the food. First night I had encrusted cod, very nice. Husband had prime rib. He learned real fast to always get what I ordered, which was usually the waitress suggestion. I always enjoyed the appetizer from onion tart to shrimp cocktail. We had rack of lamb one night which was cooked excellent. Prime rib was very good. lots of flavor. husband even tried escargot and liked it! The last formal night when they serve the Lobster husband caught on real fast you could order more than one. The table next to us was setting a bad example as they ordered 6-8 lobster tails. I loved how RC honored are request for a 2 person table. It meant so much to us to spend that time with one another than 6 strangers. Our waitress was wonderful she learned very quick that I was always going to eat what she mentioned and knew I loved sour cream. The asst waitress knew I only would eat the sour dough rolls and to bring each one of us 2. Bar waiter knew on the 2nd night to go ahead and bring 2 miller lights. I love that kind of services. Johnny Rockets - What a treat! Good hamburger, fries and onion rings. And milkshake was real good too. I loved the dancing waiters. Chops Grill - Ok for 20 bucks a person it was worth every penny. We called once we got on the ship around 5ish and they were already booked till Saturday. So we took that reservation. We have eaten at A LOT of nice upper class steak houses and it was like eating at another one. The meats, fish, and vegetables were presented on a cart to show you what you would be getting. We started of with French onion soup (might be the best I've ever had or at least top 5) and then we both had new york strip. prepared perfectly. And finished off with bread pudding and cheesecake. Both were very good. Matire' D had found out we are honeymooners are brought us to glasses of champagne. Very nice touch! The Stateroom We had a balcony stateroom (6282) I will never cruise again without a balcony. We left the door open every night to hear the wind and water. Very soothing. The room was spacious, enough space for the two of us for the week. Bathroom was accommodating and I am so glad they did away with that nasty shower curtain. The doors are so much nicer. Our stateroom attendant was good. love the towel animals. The Entertainment - We went attempted to go to every show we could keep our eyes awake for. First night there was a man who did amazing juggling acts and then a comedian. Comedian you could tell was just dying to say something dirty. which he did on the 2nd night. We laughed!! Singers and Dancers were good. You can tell they work really hard. Ice show was absolutely amazing!!! We waited in line for 30 minutes for tickets. Well worth it. We were just in awwww. The cruise director hosted a honeymooners social (31 honeymooners are the cruise) We were won a bottle of champagne which we will open on our 1yr anniversary. But by far the best entertainment on the boat was the Love and Marriage game. The questions that were asked was just screaming for "get me in trouble" it def. made for some good laughs. Ports: Coco cay, Bahamas - RC private island, which was beautiful. Very islandy. We picked a spot not so crowed and laid out until are kayaking shore excursion was ready to begin. I've never kayaked before and picked up real fast. Actually husband had to keep telling me to slow down cause I wanted to pass everyone. We saw large star shells. I really did enjoy this sea excursions. Food was provided on the island. Typical BBQ food. But truly not appealing to watch some people eat in their bathing suits. St. Thomas - We did a historic tour of Blackboards Castle. Very informative and interesting. I loved hearing about Annie Bonnie (girl pirate) I was in awe and amazement of the beauty of St. Thomas. The tour took us to the top of St.. Thomas for great views. Then we ended at the shopping district. It was a rather long tour and I was starving so we went to CUZZIN's. Authentic St.. Thomas food. We both got conch fritter, FF, coleslaw and 2 red stripes. Love me some conch fritters. Shopping wasn't bad. Prices were good. I'm a David Yurman fanatic. And there was the best DY selection at one of the boutiques and was cheaper by about 10% in the states. St.Maarten - We booked the Dolphin Discovery Swim. Even though this was one of my fav. moments on our cruise. This was not made aware to us. We had to travel 1hr and 45 minutes to another island to get there. 1hr boat ride and 45 minute bus ride to Anguilla. Anguilla is a very poor island and not much to see there. However there was like one of the top 5 beaches in the world. Dolphin Swim was great you get good swim time with the dolphin. Pictures & video if you want. You take a picture with diff types of birds. I really loved this. After swim they give you the opportunity to go to the beach and then they feed you. (which was good too) and then back to the bus. Now this excursion was 6hrs long so not much time to explore St. Marten. but what we saw we really did love. Debarkation - We were one the later groups to leave 9:45 I believe. Which they said we could go to Savoy theater to watch a video of weekly events. That never happened. they played the same music over and over again. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Once we exited, customs was a breeze, baggage was easy, got on our bus and back to Orlando. We were originally weren't suppose to leave Orlando till 4:40 but there was another flight leaving at 1:15. So we paid the extra 50bucks and got back to Virginia. Overall - WE LOVED IT!!!!!!!! We were already talking about taking another cruise with either friend or family. I really did love this for our honeymoon. They really did make us feel special. And offered a lot of diff. honeymooners specials. I'll go Royal Caribbean again and again.

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Nov 26, 2005

Eastern and Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise but certainly not our last - the lottery has become an even more regular itinerary in our home since the cruise in the hope we can take even more. It was fantastic - having never been on one before we were all very skeptical as to what to expect and all the pre-reviews, brochures, etc can never put into words the fantastic experience that you will get especially with someone as good as Royal Caribbean, The ship

was terrific, entertainment, food, staff, accommodation, nothing was too much trouble - even the weather was on our side. The ship is so first class and on the night that you are presented with all the wonderful food artistry, ice sculptures, etc, you could only liken it to a top class hotel that would cost an absolute fortune to stay there and you would never feel as comfortable as you did on this ship. The atmosphere was so friendly, first rate service and style but with no stuffiness whatsoever. We were happy to dress up on the few occasions that were formal evenings and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere on the royal promenade - watching the different styles and seeing something which unfortunately is so alien to normal life these days. Beats jeans and trainers any day. Without boring you, if you want to try it, then don't be put off by negative thoughts, book, go and you will have a fantastic time. We did and we will be back next year

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Sep 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

My husband and I just completed a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on RC’s Mariner of the Seas. This is our second cruise. Our first was to the Eastern Caribbean in 2003 on RC’s Navigator of the Seas. Pre-Cruise We decided to get to Port Canaveral one day early so that we could be there and not feel rushed. We stayed at the Radisson at Port which was an OK hotel (Nothing to write home about). Day 1- We Board On Sunday morning, we

took the complimentary shuttle provided by the hotel to the Port to board the ship. We were concerned that the check-in process would be like our first cruise (long lines and long waits to board the ship), but we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the terminal. RC has definitely streamlined the process for check in. From the time we left the shuttle, we were actually on the ship in 30 - 45 min. Although we were not allowed to go to our staterooms until 1 pm., we had lunch in the Windjammer Café and by the time we were done with lunch, it was time to go to our room. By 2 pm our luggage was delivered to our stateroom and we were able to unpack and get settled. We had the main seating for dinner and met two nice couples that we would be having dinner with for the next 6 nights. After dinner, we went to first production show in the Savoy theatre. It was far from amateur and the cruise director, James Andrews is a “ball of fire”. Very energetic, made you feel welcome and made you feel proud that you and selected RC and were on of the largest ships in the world. Day 2 – At Sea This is typically one of my favorite days on the ship. You can relax and do on-board activities with out the stress of having to be somewhere. The only draw back to “at sea” days, is that everyone is on board, so the pool is a little more crowded and the café is a little busier, but other than that, you hardly realize that there are 3,000+ people around you. Went to dinner and the show. Looking forward to tomorrow in Labadee. Day 3 – Labadee We rise for a late breakfast and then off to Labadee by tender. It is truly a beautiful island with beautiful beaches. We find a nice spot under a palm tree and just chill. There are some water activities you can choose to do, but we have been to Labadee before and just like to hang out at the beach. RC prepares lunch for you on the island. It’s a BBQ with burgers, hot dogs, ribs, cole slaw, etc. Local merchants are also selling their wares in a small market that is right by the beach. If you like to shop in peace, I suggest that you save your shopping for another port. The merchants are quite pushy – trying to get you to look at their merchandise (which, by the way looks just like the next merchant’s anyway). If you have the fortitude to stick it out, enjoy. Otherwise, avoid it. Day 4 – Ochos Rios, Jamaica We took the recommendation of other reviews and booked a private tour with PEAT TAYLOR. We were not disappointed. He met us at the port on time as promise and took us to Dunns River Falls (our admission to the falls was included in the price of the tour - $35.00). We were one of the first groups to arrive at the Falls and therefore were one of the first groups to make it up to the top. I would recommend that you bring a change of clothes. We changed into our bathing suits when we got to the Falls and then we changed back into our street clothes when we were done. That way you don’t have to be in wet clothes all day. I rented aqua shoes to climb the falls (my husband brought his from home). The shoes are $5 to rent. Our guide was very nice and comical and used our camera to take pictures of us going up the falls. It was an experience of a life time. If you can, do it. You may be sore for the next day or so, but the experience is soooo worth it. Be sure to get your Appleton Jamaican rum and the Jablum Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee (which runs over $30/lb. here in the states). Peat’s tour is a very interactive tour. You can sing, you can ask him questions, you can tell him where you want to go. The group decided that they wanted to go to the Ruins for lunch. This is a beautiful restaurant built around a water fall that is absolutely breathtaking. This tour also took us to Fern Gulley and to a local pre-school where we got to take pictures of the kids and stretch our legs. I recommend this private 100%. You get the more tour for less than what RC’s excursions cost. Day 5 – Grand Cayman We did not plan an excursion for this port. However, if we come back, we will definitely do Stingray City. Everyone says that it is unbelievable. We just did some shopping. It was hot at the blazes there so it made it a little uncomfortable walking around. Thank goodness for the stores with the super blowing air conditioners. Whenever you need a break from the heat – step into a store and cool off. If you are in the market for a timepiece or jewelry, this is a good place to look. Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico We also did not plan an excursion for this port. We took a cab from the terminal into down town and did some shopping. The terminal was very crowded and it was a pain trying to get a cab. Initially we thought that that we would just walk it. But it was too far for us (some did tackle it). The cab dropped us at the Forum Shoppes in downtown and we worked our way through the different stores. There were also some shops in the terminal if you don’t want to stray too far from the ship. So much sterling silver, it is a bit overwhelming. The merchants here are also a challenge. I walked pass several stores because I did not want to deal with the “pressure” of the merchants. When we were done shopping we hailed a cab back to the ship. Day 7 – At Sea It’s nice to relax after 4 days of getting up and out early. We played some miniature golf and just relaxed. It’s our last dinner onboard and so we decided to make reservations for dinner Chops. The food and the atmosphere are first class. It’s worth the $20 per person surcharge. Be sure to book reservations in advance. The farewell production show at the end of the day was great! Overall It was a great cruising experience. Our Seapass account at the end of the cruise reflected correct charges, some folks did have a problem with being charged for things they didn’t purchase. Our stateroom attendant, Edna was the best. Our Waiter at dinner, Monica was also fabulous. We did not have a problem with service at all. I got a pedicure in the spa one day and it was a bit pricey ($61), but I was on vacation and didn’t mind paying the money. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The only thing that I did not like about this cruise was the loud music they played at the pool. The ship has its on band that plays Caribbean music by the pool, but the volume was so loud that it really detracted from the “mood”. We went and sat in the Solarium when it got to be too much. On our last cruise, there was also a band, but the volume was just perfect. I did make a note of this on the RC evaluation form we completed the final day. Debarkation – Our bags were outside our staterooms by midnight on Saturday night. Our bag color (Yellow 1 ) was called at 8:00 am. We were off the ship and on the shuttle in about an hour. The process was smooth and simple. Our shuttle back to the Orlando airport broke down 20 min. into the trip. So we had to wait for another bus to take us. Fortunately our flight was not until later, but we decided to take an early shuttle so that if anything went wrong (which it did), we would not miss our flight. The delay did cause some folks to miss their flights out. My advice is to get off the ship as early as possible, unless of course you have an evening flight. Everyone is off the ship by 10:30 anyway. We are already planning our next cruising adventure. It is well worth the planning and the money. Enjoy!

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Sep 3, 2005

Western Caribbean

I will skip all the details of my trip that are only interesting to me and try to write a review that will be helpful and to the point. First let me say that, yes, I have traveled RCCL before and YES, I would travel with them again. Each cruise line offers different things that I like and each has some things that I wish I could change. This was my 16th cruise and my husbands 4th. We were celebrating our 6th anniversary and we went with

a couple that was celebrating their 25th (we are all in our 40's). It was their first cruise and I wanted it to be a memorable one. So, I chose this particular cruise for several reasons: 1) Voyager Class - Even though I have cruised RCCL before I have always wanted to try a Voyager class ship because of the size and all the activities on board. 2) Departing port - it leaves from Port Canaveral which is about 4 or 5 hours closer to my house then Miami so it was easier to drive there. 3) Itinerary - We had 3 sea days so, I felt like it would be a little more relaxing then the ones I usually take that have only 2 sea days. HIGHLIGHTS: STAFF Very friendly staff! Our waiter Warren from India and assistant waiter "Z" were awesome! Even though all 4 of us are vegetarians Warren was wonderful! The service was superb! Our room steward was excellent and we enjoyed the towel art every night. We found all the staff on board to be very friendly and enthusiastic! The Captain - Captain Gerry from Norway - was the best I have every had! He was very interactive and told jokes. I saw and heard him more than any other captain I have ever sailed with. The Cruise Director James Andrews from Australia was awesome as well. He rates right up there with the best (tied with one I had on NCL in 2002). He was very very enthusiastic and funny too. (But not too "cheesy:) SHIP The Mariner of the Seas is beautiful! She is decorated tastefully and her dining room is the loveliest one I have seen. It spans three floors. The decor reminds me of being on the Titanic. It is very lovely and romantic. There is live music being played while you eat which was a refreshing change from the typical "canned" music on some ships. Check out the art around the ship. It is very unique. The promenade was awesome too with all the shops, cafes and bars. There is an ice-skating rink on board. It is small but plenty adequate. There is a rock climbing wall, putt-putt golf, in-line skating area and basketball court where they play basket ball along with soccer and volleyball as well. The library is nice with plenty of comfortable chairs. I never got to see the theater or the chapel. The Viking lounge was nice. We had an inside stateroom which was small. There was not as much storage space as we have seen on other ships but it was adequate. The bathroom was typical and small but modern and clean with a nice shower head that could be adjusted. There is a pretty powerful blow-dryer in the top drawer of the vanity which was nice. There is a safe and refrigerator (I brought my own cans of soda and put them in there.) You can also check out your on board credit list at anytime. The menu for the dinning room is also available on the TV but we found that is was not a complete list. You can also order pay-per-view movies for more than 11 dollars which is more than if you went to a movie theater. One of the ships best features was the adults-only pool area. It was decorated beautifully and was far enough away from the main pools that you could only slightly hear the music and activities going on over there. There were two outdoor showers to rinse off in before going back to your room or getting in the hot tub. Two huge adults-only hot tubs were next to the pool. The pool was very well designed to where you could sit on the side and still be partially in the water. One different feature that I have never seen before was in the elevators - in the carpet on the floor it had the day of the week on it. Everyday it changed so you never lost track of what day it was. The ship overall is exceptionally beautiful and very well laid out. FOOD I mentioned before that I am a vegetarian so I won't be much help to any carnivores. But, before you skip right to the next section let me share this with you: I did overhear someone at the next table (I won't mention her name but she is a soap opera star) that they had the "best escargot on the planet!" Johnny Rockets is someplace you must visit whether you are a vegetarian or not. There is a cover charge of about $3.95 but it is well worth it. They start by bringing you a plate of fries and onion rings. The food is good and they did have vegeburgers available (Boca Burgers) which are really good. The singing and dancing of the waiters is a show in itself (maybe this should be listed under entertainment). The food in the dining room was good. We really enjoyed the soups (cold and hot) and the bread. There is always a vegetarian entree and pasta with marinara as well. I ordered so many of the appetizers because I could not decide and they were all good. They usually serve about the same thing in the Windjammer café in the event that you do not want to eat in the dining room. We always ate lunch in the Windjammer café where you could always get pizza (Carnival still rules in the pizza category), hamburgers (they will grill up a vegeburger if you ask and you may have to ask more than one person because the first person I asked did not know anything about what I was asking. It is not a garden burger and it is really good), and fries, usually a pasta of some type, salad, different types of potatoes (they had the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten!) And a meat carving station. There is also the Jade section of the café where they serve Asian food. The soups in the café were usually awesome! To name a few there was the Rasam (Jade section) , and a white onion soup with croutons, and a broccoli cheese soup. I still think Celebrity's food was better but Celebrity is owned by RCCL now. The food over all was good. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was excellent on this ship! We loved the comedian the first night and the Russian couple that did the balancing acts. The dancers were typical. We also really enjoyed the impersonator: he was very good and funny as well! The Motown music singers featuring Spectrum was really fantastic! The ice-skating show was extremely good and the last comedian was really good. We went to one of the piano bars where there was a man who played the piano and sang and he was really good. The belly flop contest by the pool was funny. The karaoke final program on the last night was exceptionally good. There is always some kind of entertainment going on. Overall the entertainment was excellent. We really enjoyed this ship and would definitely try another Voyager class ship and sail with RCCL again.

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Aug 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

I’m sharing some brief thoughts/ assessments from our cruise in the Western Caribbean aboard the RCCL’s Mariner of Seas as a way of thanking all those other cruise passengers whose earlier reports helped to enrich my family’s experience. This will not be a comprehensive summary—just some reactions to certain things that may prove helpful to others. I’ll be happy to answer specific questions at mraffel49@yahoo.com. This is my

second RCCL cruise in the Caribbean. We did the Eastern route last November on the Explorer. Both cruises were great/ dollar for dollar one of the best vacation values in my opinion. Mariner was newer but layout basically identical. This trip, I went with my wife and our 15-year old son, our friend and his 15-year old son and 20-year old daughter, the friend’s girlfriend and parents who are in their early 80’s. Top to bottom, it was a terrific experience. Food seemed to be better on this cruise compared to last November: more variety and nicer presentation. Ate in Chop’s for the first time, which, I think, was a good decision. For $20 you get an outstanding meal valued at maybe $50 per person. I had always hesitated to eat in one of the gourmet places thinking that we had already paid good money for dining room food. But one time during the week makes good sense. There’s really no comparison to quality of food and service, not that dining room is bad. Obviously, there are all kinds of people on a ship. I tend to like quiet and solitude; enjoy curling up with a good book and listening to music on my newly acquired Ipod. So I stay away from the casino, the bars, and the main pool area with its hairy leg and belly flop contests. My recommended places—solarium pool and especially the helicopter landing area in front of the ship anytime, but especially late at night with the wind in your face and the stars above, and virtually nobody else around. I’m also a snorkeling lover – with very bad vision, so I rent a prescription mask from the dive shop as soon as I get on board. $15 for the week – very good deal I think. Our ports: Labadee. I went to the beach that is supposed to have the best snorkeling. Don’t waste your time. Very little coral and a few fish here and there. Just enjoy swimming at any of the beaches. The further you go from where the tender drops you off the less crowded the beach. Ocho Rios. I took advice of many and arranged a trip with PEAT TAYLOR. He did a fine job and I join in recommending him. He and his associate Andrea take you on a little tour of the area including a drive through Fern Gulley and then drop you at Dunn’s River Falls for the climb, which is relatively challenging. If you are uncomfortable walking on slippery rocks, think twice. You are taken up by one of the guides at the falls. Afterwards he returned to the ship for lunch. At 2:30 he returned and took part of the group to a shopping area, and my wife and I were taken to Shaw Park, which has its own falls and beautiful botanical garden. We were the only tourists there – a real find. I highly recommend it. Then he came back, picked us up and dropped us at the ship. Grand Cayman Island. We booked a 3-hour excursion with Captain Marvin, again based on past reports, and it also worked out quite well for us. Three stops—two snorkeling, the first, which was mediocre, the second at the barrier reef, which was outstanding. Saw a shark and moray eel, along with much coral and tropical fish. Why don’t they just spend more time at the reef? Then on to Stingray City, which looks a little like Grand Central Station with scores of people playing with the rays, some shouting with glee, others with fear. It is an experience/ I’m ambivalent about it though. Is this changing their behaviors? Are we interfering in nature? But there’s no nice white sandy beach; so if that’s what you want go to Seven Mile beach. Last stop Cozumel; we took a taxi (be prepared to deal with a mob scene outside the terminal trying to hail taxis) to Chankaraab Park. I liked it a lot – good snorkeling. But there’s no nice white sandy beach; so if that’s what you want go to Seven Mile beach. Shows on board: skating show, as last November, was best of the lot. Comedians ok and singers/ dancers just ok also. Their first show had weak song selection. We did Quest last time and didn’t feel it was necessary to repeat, but recommended if you haven’t done it. James Andrews was our cruise director both times—enjoyable, pleasant fellow. Our 15-year old boys lived around the sports area taking advantage of the basketball court and miniature golf. It would be hard to go back to smaller ships that don’t have these features. One last point: We had 8th deck cabin with balcony and I really enjoyed having it. Great just to look out at the ocean and I sat and read there on sea days. My tentative conclusion is – it’s either a balcony if we want to spend the extra money or an inexpensive inside cabin. Outside cabin with a small port hole doesn’t make sense to me. My wife disagrees. We’ll work it out. Hope this is helpful.

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Jul 2, 2005

Western Caribbean

I enjoyed myself so much and had so much fun, that I don't know where to begin. After perusing every cruise review website and reading almost every review on the Mariner, I couldn't wait to submit my own. I must apologize because this is a LONG, but informative review. This was our first cruise. I was traveling with my cousin Valerie, and my best friend of 20 years Tawanna. We decided to do a ladies trip and leave the men and children home

this time. We flew down from New York (JFK) on that Sunday July 3rd-my birthday. After a few tense moments at the airport where we thought Valerie was going to miss the plane and me being apprehensive about flying we were off to an exciting start. Once landing at Orlando International we were able to find the representative from Royal Caribbean with a sign that read "Mariner of the Seas" with no problem. However, the gentleman was not the most friendliest or most helpful. But as we were led to the crew that would be checking our transfer vouchers and leading us to board the bus we found that his attitude was an isolated incident. The bus driver and other representative were very nice and very helpful. Off we were for the 45 minute ride to Port Canaveral arriving at 12:30 PM. The bus was very clean, comfortable and the temperature was at a good setting-not to hot, not to cold. Driving up and seeing the Mariner gave us goose bumps, as it was a beauty. We also saw the Disney Magic in port but it could not compare in size or in elegance. After getting off the bus we walked straight into the terminal where we had to go through metal detectors and then up the escalators where we encountered a long line to check in. However, the line moved very quickly, the check in process was really quick and painless. Next we were taking our welcome aboard photo. The whole process took about 20 minutes. When first boarding we were in awe. By now it was 1:00 and access to cabins were permitted so we dropped off our carry-ons and headed to the Windjammer for lunch. Let me just say when first entering our cabin we were shocked at the size as it was small. However the cabins are lovely and clean. There are so many storage compartments and the beds are the most comfortable. After the initial shock wears off, the cabin size is not bad at all. For our welcome aboard lunch this would be the first of many good lunches at the Windjammer. There was a variety of things: delicious hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries. As well several hot dishes of meats, veggies, potatoes, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and an Asian food area (Jade). There were several drink stations also serving complimentary ice tea, lemonade, and water. Soda was also available to purchase. There were also waiters going back and forth selling the famous "welcome aboard" drinks for a $5.95 charge on your sea pass. After lunch we went back to our cabins to see if our luggage had arrived and to prepare for the mandatory muster drill. The muster drill was hot, uncomfortable but necessary. After returning to the cabin from the muster drill we saw all of our luggage outside of the cabin, and with 3 women traveling there was a lot of luggage. We unpacked and got ready for dinner. It was now that we met our cabin steward Lloyd. He was professional and nice. He did his job very well. Now it was time for our first dinner. We had early sitting and were in the Rhapsody of Blue dining room on the first level. This in my opinion was the best one. It was the most spacious, and it was where Captain Johnny's table was located. In fact we were 2 tables away from Captain Johnny's. We met our head waiter Mario, and assistant waiter Melvin. Mario was efficient and funny, although there were just one or two things that could've been improved upon. But kudos to Melvin-he was exceptional. He remembered all of drink and bread preferences. I felt he should've gotten the majority amount of gratuities. With the food, it was hit or miss. I have to admit, this was the one area I was disappointed in. I won't go into everything that was served or consumed. But I will list what I found to be delicious and what I did not like from the dining room: a dessert-savarin was to die for!!! The banana cream pie was the best I've ever had!! Also good were the bananarama frozen soup, the ice cream and lady fingers, the steak and the jerk chicken. And the strawberry daiquiri (virgins of course) was the best I've ever had. Now for the not so good: the prime rib was nasty as was the watermelon gazzepo, and chicken soup. I didn't care for the other desserts either. We ate all dinners except 1 in the dining one, one night we ate at the Windjammer. We ate all lunches in the Windjammer and half of our breakfasts in the Windjammer and half in the dining room. Breakfast at both venues was okay. Again, I was a little disappointed. In the Windjammer the items that I enjoyed were the burgers, hot dogs and fries, a rum cake dessert, the pasta, bbq ribs and the honey fried chicken. And for breakfast the ham, grits, and french toast were good. Over all the food in the Windjammer was good although some items could have been served a little warmer and the eggs were too runny. Most of the servers were very friendly and very helpful. We never ate at Chops, Portofino's or Johnny Rockets. We just didn't find the point in paying extra for food when there was so much. One thing for sure, you will find something that you like. And I am a very picky eater, so don't fret. I should also mention that our sailing was the "Hurricane Dennis" cruise. More on that later. For our days at seas we kept ourselves busy with the different shows, people watching, strolling the Royal Promenade and shopping in the stores, and exploring different parts of the ship. We also hit the casino one day, we tried bingo one day ($35 a pop), and we were disappointed that we did not win the $13,000 jackpot. We saw the Ice Show but we weren't particularly interested in it although the performers were very talented. We liked the welcome aboard show with our cruise director: James Andrews. He was great, as was Captain Johnny Favelin. We loved the Quest and the farewell show. The love and marriage show was okay. But not as funny and ummm...raunchy as the ones they do in the Poconos, Penn. Now for our port days...well Hurricane Dennis kind of put a damper on things. We originally scheduled to go to Labadee, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We did get to go to Labadee and Jamaica. However due to the Hurricane, we missed the Cayman Islands and Mexico. RCI did substitute by taking us to Nassau, Bahamas instead. Labadee was a nice relaxing day on the beach, the floating mats are great. The bbq lunch was alright. However, the vendors at the outdoor markets were horrendous. I've never seen or experienced anything like that before. Jamaica was great!!! We did not book any tours with RCI. Instead we booked an independent tour with Peat Taylor Tours. In a word they were fabulous!!! The compliments and recommendations that I saw in different reviews for Peat Taylor were well deserved. He and his adorable son O'neal were great. They met us at the end of the pier and we went through several areas to Fern Gulley which was basically a "rain forest" with lots of greenery. We then headed over to Dunn's River Falls. Valerie climbed along with others, Tawanna and I however decided not too. Today in Jamaica was HOT!!! We did dip our toes into the water from the falls and it was FREEZING!!! We stayed at the falls for about 2 hours. While exiting we went the WRONG WAY and was hassled by vendors wanting to sell us "gifts". However a polite, but firm "no thank you" was all that we needed to say. From there Mr. Taylor dropped us off for lunch. Some chose to go to Margaritaville,we opted to go to the "Jerk Center" after reading some reviews. The food was fantastic. After lunch Mr. Taylor and that cute O'neal picked us up and dropped us off to shop at Island Village which was in walking distance (a hot 10-15 minute walk) of our ship. There I was able to do most of my souvenir shopping. There were great prices on spices, vanilla, alcohol (for those who desired) and tee-shirts. However, the Bob Marley tee-shirts were a bit over priced. It was a great day; we enjoyed Jamaica so much that I am thinking about going there next summer for a land vacation. It was that night that we received an announcement from Capt. Johnny that there would be a change in the itinerary. We therefore had the next 2 days at sea with plans to arrive in Nassau on Saturday. The next night as we passed the tip of Cuba the ship was really rocking and the waves were quite high, it was raining and thundering and lightning. It was quite scary; but it passed. In any event we arrived that Sat-(our last day) at Nassau, Bahamas as planned. Upon getting off of the ship Tawanna and I were a little disappointed with the Bahamas. We were not impressed at all. I don't think I'd ever go back there unless I was going to one of the nice resorts like Atlantis. We walked around for a little while and bought a few souvenirs and headed back to the ship. It is then that we began the sad task of packing up and preparing to disembark tomorrow. The disembarking process wasn't too bad, just a lot of waiting around. We had a 1:45 PM flight back to NYC and therefore our colored tags were for the later disembarkation. We were finally called at 10:30 AM although everyone had to clear out of their cabins by 8:00 AM. Clearing customs and everything else was really quick and painless. Embarkation and disembarkation was by far much easier and painless than I had anticipated. Next we were led into a warehouse to claim our luggage which is similar to the baggage claim procedures at airports. Next we were boarding our bus back to the airport. While we were very excited to get back home and see our children, there was a little bit of sadness. A vacation that we had planned and anticipated for, for so long was at an end. We are definitely planning to sail again, and only on Royal Caribbean. We are trying to go back on the Mariner next summer. I highly recommend the Mariner of the Seas. Feel free to email me with any questions. Just some final thoughts and tips: 1. Add your gratuities to your sea pass (much more convenient. 2.) Definitely bring Dramamine or bonine or the sea bands. 3.) In the dining room try the savarin for dessert. 4.) Bring plenty of $1 bills. 5.) Definitely do not miss the Quest, welcome aboard or farewell shows.

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Jul 2, 2005

Western Caribbean

Just got back from our first cruise and what a time we had. We went w/our 3 children, niece, and another family. Kids ages l9, l7, l6, l5, l3. A great time was had by all. What a ship. We hardly saw the kids. Ship was so clean you could eat off the floors. Service was A PLUSS. Food was great. Ate in dining room every night with kids. They loved it. We all got to catch up on our days during dinner. Activities for everyone were great. Shows

were worth seeing. Don't miss the Ice show. It was wonderful. The itinery was changed due to Hurricane Dennis, but it was Ok because the ship had so much to do. We ended up at the Bahamas instead. Didnt like Jamaica, but had fun climbing Dunns Falls. Fun to be had by all. Worth the trip. Other than that people pushing to sell you stuff and kids were approached a lot by locals trying to sell drugs to them. Captain Johnny was very personable and mixed well with the guests. Cruise director was funny and wonderful. I would highly recommended this ship to families of kids of all ages. Cant wait to do it again. I will return to Royal Caribbean and one of the Voyager ships again. You never even could tell there were over 3000 people on the ship. Truly amazing.

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Jun 18, 2005

Western Caribbean

What a beautiful ship! We had an inside cabin on deck 9 aft which was the perfect location. Just up 2 flights of stairs to the Windjammer Buffet or the pools. Right below us on level 5 is where we had dinner at the gorgeous Sound of Music dining room. Down 1 more level or 2 was the ice rink & photo area. The theatre was at the forward of the ship but it was not a far walk. The ship layout is one of the best I've been on. The crew

& staff were great & always smiling. James, the cruise director was so funny, he was one of the highlights for sure. Enjoyed the Captain's announcements each morning & his sense of humor was a big plus. The food & entertainment was something we looked forward to each day. We loved the excursions...did the Dunn's River Falls/Swim With the Dolphins in Jamaica. The falls are very exciting, must try it...they are challenging so be careful. The dolphin swim was fun, we did swim in the water where the dolphins were, but we did not actually swim holding onto the dolphins. We got to interact with them which was a real treat. Jamaica is beautiful...but BEWARE of the vendors. They come right up to you & give you items & say they are free gifts. Then they bring out other items & ask for money for the item they "supposedly" gave you as the gift. We had 2 of them even come up to us as we walked by the outside market & grab us by the arm to buy from their things. They were rentlentless! We swam with the stingrays on Grand Cayman. Highly recommended, very fun & unique experience. When in Cozumel we tried Snuba & boy are we glad we did! It was so awesome. If you like to snorkel or swim, try it. The shopping in Cozumel was so much better than Jamaica. The vendors were so much more friendly & no pressure. My son rode a wave runner in Labadee & had a blast. I just laid back on a lounger & enjoyed the beauty. Would highly recommend The Mariner of the Seas!!!!

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Jun 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date: June 12th, 2005 This was a family cruise to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We chose a cruise as we knew that there would be something for everyone from ages 74 to 51/2 and that at least we would all be together at dinner each day. The ship is huge, but there is no feeling of being overcrowded. Follow the instructions given and fill out

all forms in advance, and boarding is a snap. You will not receive your luggage for 3-4 hours or more, so take some casual clothes and medications in your carry-on. The Junior Suites and Balcony Staterooms are large enough that there is no problem with luggage stowage, and there is enough space for unpacking all hanging clothes and shelves and drawers for other items. Bathrooms are a little cramped, and a small deodorant spray would be indicated. The Staff is very solicitous and the rooms are kept spotless. Ice is provided both morning and evening in vacuum type containers. Room Service is provided free of charge, other than a gratuity, and usually a little earlier than requested. The Dining Room food is good, but not gourmet. Our waiter was excellent and knew all 11 of our names after the first night. We ate breakfast, and usually lunch in the Windjammer, which is buffet style, and ranges from sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, to salads, and full meals. The only thing to stay away from is the hot dog, which is a bit like cardboard and tasteless. Coffee is excellent and readily available throughout the ship. A "Sea Pass" card is issued on boarding, and all items on board are charged to this, which is convenient. Shore excursions were only fair. Time in Nassau is markedly limited. The beaches are fine, and be sure to take a zipper pack to carry a change of clothes if utilizing the beaches. We were lucky with calm seas, the waves being only 1-3 ft., so that there was really no problem with motion sickness. A Bonine each day is recommended. Frequent hand washing is a must. A tux is not required unless desired, but a suit and evening type dress are in order for the formal nights. Entertainment in the Savoy Theatre was only mediocre, with little talent. Bingo will cost $35/card. Make arrangements to charge your gratuities to your Sea Pass card to eliminate having to go to Guest Relations to settle any charges. We used Ocean Shuttle for all 11 of us with luggage to take us from our hotel in Orlando to Port Canaveral, and then from the ship to the Orlando airport on departing. The cost was approximately $350, which is less expensive than a taxi for 11 people. I have perused the reviews of many previous passengers, and feel that several things are not needed. First of all, using 21/2 gal. Ziploc bags to pack items in is a waste of space, when plastic cleaning bags between pants and coats are equally effective. Lanyards to hang the Sea Pass on are useless, unless you are planning to spend all your time in the swimming pools (which are excellent). All pools have seawater so that well fitting goggles are of value. Advance arrangements for birthdays (we had two in our group) were marred by having the staterooms decorated prior to our boarding the ship rather than on the days we had requested. There was a great deal of confusion about having cakes available (which are a part of the package, and not to be ordered separately) on the appropriate date. Our waiter was able to handle this, however, quite well. All in all, this is an excellent cruise ship, staffed by well trained personnel. I do recommend it.    

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Jun 11, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

This was my first cruise along with my sister, brother, and brother's friend. It was the second for my parents. Coming in, I didn't know what to expect, other than a few things my parents had told us about their first cruise 2 years ago. As I left, I knew I would definitely be back. We flew in from the Indianapolis Airport and had a connecting flight in Atlanta, on our way to Orlando. We were able to get a bus to Port Canaveral rather

quickly after picking up our luggage. The lines weren't too terribly long to get in, as it was probably 2 in the afternoon. For the rest of the review I will use a point system and rate the different areas of the ship. The Stateroom: My sister and I shared a inside stateroom, it was small but always clean. The beds were comfortable also. I loved the way the towels were folded to look like different animals each night. Overall i give the room a 4 out of 5. The Dining Room: The food in the dining room was for the most part very good. There was a couple of things i thought could have been better. I did try some things that normally I wouldn't try, and I was glad I did, because most of it was very good. Our waitress Diana, was very nice, as was the assistant waiter, Rene and the Head waiter (I forget his name). After dinner Diana and the head waiter would go around the table and have us solve a riddle or play these little puzzle game that were formed from toothpicks. I would give the Dining room a 4 out of 5. Windjammer: On the days we got off the boat we would eat breakfast here, and we ate lunch here everyday. The majority of the food was pretty good, I thought the breakfast food could have been a little better. I would give the windjammer a 3 out of 5. Entertainment: Most of the entertainment was enjoyable. Each night featured a headlining show. A couple of nights they had comedians, the comedian on the final night was very funny. The ice show was featured for two nights, it depended on what time your group ate in the dining room as to which night you would attend. The show started off a little slow. I didn't like it much when all of the skaters were on the ice at once, it seemed too crowded. Once they started performing individually or in pairs the show got much better. The costumes were amazing. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were featured on two nights. Their first performance was called Front Row. It was alright, I thought they sang and danced well, and I enjoyed the small part of the show where they sang Billy Joel songs. Their second show was called Pure Energy, and featured 80's music. It was alot better than the first show. Costumes were sometimes a little strange looking, but I guess a lot of the clothes in the 80's were. The I.T.S. band, which was the ships houseband, could've been better. I think the female singer of the band should've stuck to playing her keyboard and singing backup. The male singers of the group i thought sounded fine. They also had a game show called the Love and Marriage game (Royal Caribbean's version of the Newlywed Game) I give the entertainment a 3 out of 5. Activities: I enjoyed most of the activities, either by participating in them or watching them. I played bingo 4 out of the 5 or 6 times they had it. I got a t-shirt for playing four times. I also got to be bingo commissioner one time as did my sister another time. For being commissioner we each were given two RC key chains (ooo, ahhh) lol. It cost 35 dollars each time, which I thought was a little steep at first, but when I heard how much money they would be giving away, it didn't bother me as much. Both my mother and sister one some money at bingo, my mom had to split $400 and my sister had to split $900. Jackpot for the final game was $13,000! I also participated in Karaoke Idol. They had two nights where they would pick 4 people from each night, and those eight who be in the championship. The judges could've been picked better. From what i picked up on not too many were country music fans, so even if you sang really good, you didn't get a good score if you sang country. That was what my problem happened to be. I got good compliments from the other people watching, and my mom told me that the member of the Cruise director staff that was in charge of the Karaoke almost berated one of the judges for the score she gave me. I had fun anyway. One night they had a Dancing Through the Decades, where the ITS band would play music from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Everyone joined the Cruise Director and his staff on the dance floor. The highlight was the men of the staff dressing up and dancing like the Village People. I didn't dance but i enjoyed watching the many other people dance. The had a game called "The Quest" it was a racier version of a scavenger hunt. They had about 15 teams consisting of one man and one woman. When something was called out for them to find, they had to either find it on themselves or their teammate or go into the audience to look for it. Some interesting things were asked for and in the end all the men in the group had to line up in a row wearing a woman's bra, women's shoes, wearing lipstick, and holding a purse. The pool deck always had activities going on there, from line dance and salsa lessons, to horse races (toy horses), a sexy legs competition, and a belly flop contest. I would rate the activities a 4 out of 5. Shore Excursions: In Nassau we took a tour of Nassau and ended up at the Atlantis Resort. We stopped at some old Fort's that were built many, many years ago. It was alright, and the rest of the time before the Atlantis we were driven around Nassau in a taxi. The houses are very colorful, but definitely not a place I would want to live. The Atlantis was a beautiful resort, we didn't get much time there, but if i were too ever come to Nassau again it would be to only stay at the Atlantis. The Nassau excursion overall wasn't all that great, it would have been better to stay on the boat. In St. Thomas we first took a Catamaran boat out to a small uninhabited island and went snorkeling. I didn't snorkel, but I did get in the water. It felt wonderful. The rest of my group, except my mom, did snorkel though. We have been to Hawaii, where there was awesome snorkeling, so they were disappointed in the snorkeling here. The catamaran ride was fun though. The other excursion on St. Thomas was the Screaming Eagle Jet Boat. It was a lot of fun, good thing to do if you want to get really wet. I do recommend for those who don't want their eyes to burn from the salt water, either take out contacts if you have them, or wear goggle. On St. Maarten we went on a Jeep Safari trip around the island. This was a 6 hour long excursion (which was way too long). The views of the island from some of the places we drove too were very pretty, but the way the trip was conducted, i did not like. Our first stop was for only 20 minutes at Mullet Bay Beach which was way too short considering this was the nicest, most beautiful beach with the clearest water, I have ever seen. We also got to stop in Marigot to do some shopping which only lasted about 45 minutes. Our last stop was the Orient Bay beach for two hours, one hour was spent eating lunch, food was good but not worth the $94 it cost for 6 hamburgers and fries. We spent the rest of the time on the beach, the water felt good, but the beach wasn't near as nice as Mullet Bay. For anyone planning on shore excursions, do lots of research on them, and pick something short, otherwise there is not much time for anything else. I give the excursions a 2 1/2 out of 5. Casino: The casino was very nice although it took way too much of my money. My fav game is the Wheel of Fortune Slot machine. I was disappointed there wasn't any 25 cent slots of this game, only $1. So that game didn't get played to much by me. My sister again won more money. For a person who came with less than $100 (poor college student), she did very well for herself. 3 out of 5 I save the best for last, The Staff: The captain was very enjoyable, and very funny. I loved his Norwegian accent too. The room attendants were very nice, they did a good job of keeping the room clean, and they were quick also. As I mentioned before, the dining room staff was very nice, and funny as well. The Cruise director, James Andrews, was awesome. Loved his Aussie accent. He was everywhere on the ship, very pleasant and very funny. He was funnier than a couple of the comedians they had there. Loved his top ten list during the farewell show. The Cruise director staff was also very awesome. Skippy (Karaoke guy), Gavin (Bingo guy), Luc( mr. beautiful eyes), Belinda, Luciana, Jerry, and Jerrod, all did a wonderful job in making my cruise an absolutely enjoyable one. The Staff gets a 5 out of 5. Aside from some of the shore excursions, and some of the food and entertainment, I had a great time. Kudos to the Staff of the Mariner, I hope the next RCI cruise I go on have the same crew as this one. I can't wait to go back!!!  

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May 21, 2005

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date: May 22nd, 2005 I was very excited about this trip. This cruise was my first vacation in over five years and the very first time to get away without my two children. It was a gift from my mother and we were looking forward to sharing a vacation together away from the grandkids, work, and school. My mother had previously traveled with RC’s sister

company, Celebrity, going to Alaska and Hawaii. She raved about the excellent service and luxuriousness of the ships, including their spas, entertainment, and room service and dining. We were planning to enjoy several excursions but were primarily taking a cruise because of the luxury and ability to not have to worry about anything. Originally my grandmother asked to join us so we booked a room with handicap access because she uses a walker and might even need a wheelchair. Unfortunately, my grandmother’s health declined so she was forced to cancel. Instead we brought along one of my mother’s work friends. Though we offered to exchange the handicapped cabin to someone else if needed, we ended up in that cabin for our trip. Our cabin was 1608, on the 10th deck, amidships. We chose to book a bus ride through RC from our hometown of Jacksonville, Florida to Port Canaveral. We all agreed that this was a good choice. The expense was less than gas and parking for a week would have been, plus we had priority at parking and lots of help in moving our luggage. Our experience at embarkation was pleasant overall. The ticketing agent checked our passports and was pleasant. Unfortunately, she failed to clear our cabin mates Sea Pass card which caused a delay in boarding the ship. Once we got on the ship there was no one to point out what direction we should go so we ended up wandering a bit before we found the elevators. Throughout the trip a common complaint we overheard from other passengers and shared was the lack of a map to the ship. Though there were many found around the ship it would have helped me to feel more oriented if I had some kind of map that I could refer to when planning my day. We eventually found our cabin. The cabin has a large balcony which accommodates a lounge chair, two chairs and a small table. There was a sliding glass door and a set of windows looking out onto the balcony that were as large as the glass door. As a group we spent most of our down time on the balcony enjoying the view of the sea and the spectacular sight of our ports of call coming into view early in the morning. Because it was designed for handicap access the cabin itself was quite spacious. There were two single beds, two bedside tables, a chair and ottoman, a foldout couch and a vanity with a chair. Even with the bed folded out to a double there was still plenty of space to pass between the couch and beds and there was no problem accessing our balcony. The bathroom was equally spacious and the closet was a walk-in with one set of shelves and a hanging rack along the back. The negative aspects of having a handicapped cabin included the fact that the shower wasn’t at all enclosed, so that when anyone took a shower the water spread all over the bathroom floor. (To quote our cabin mate after her first shower, “Houston, we have a problem!”) It was tedious and time consuming trying to scrape the water back towards the drain with your foot so that others could use the bathroom without getting drenched. The closet included a special drop down rack that would allow a person confined to a wheelchair to hang their clothing. Great! Except, the bar was larger than the hangers the ship provided so we were unable to use over a third of our hanging space. With three women trying to hang up clothes that was a major annoyance. Our steward, Echo (short for something Indian that he didn’t even try to get us to reproduce), introduced himself. He had very little to say but was very friendly. We had no complaints with Echo. He did his job conscientiously and we always returned to find our cabin in good condition, bathroom floor dry and clean, with adequate towels. We especially enjoyed the towel animals that he created for us on five nights of our seven night cruise vacation. Our only complaints were no pillow chocolates the first night and the apparent stinginess of the ship in providing only one shower cap for three female guests and one box of tissue. No extras on this ship! We chose first seating, being used to eating with small children earlier in the day, and were seated at Top Hat and Tails, the middle “layer” of the dining room. The name was derived from some kind of Rogers and Astaire connection, only evidenced by a few costumes located at the entrance. The dining room was reasonably attractive with dark woods accented with navy and burgundy upholstery and a large staircase leading from the second floor down to the first. Overall the impression wasn’t that special, the most attractive item being the beautiful chandelier which was viewable from all three floors of the dining room. We received very good service from our waiter, Ilarion, and his assistant, Jeethu. They were attentive and always willing to bring us anything we desired. Unfortunately for the gentlemen seated at our table several times Ilarion forgot to come back to them for their orders so they have to wave him down to place their orders. I can only guess what caused these oversights. The food was generally well-prepared and we enjoyed the selections. There was typical cruise fare; prime rib offered several nights, shrimp cocktail offered two nights, Florida lobster one night, New York Strip offered one other night. Several comments/complaints….the evenings when Cherries Jubilee and Baked Alaska were served was a disappointment as all of the “flaming” must have been done in the kitchen. According to our waiter the insurance company had put a stop to using the live flames. It was a letdown. Also, dinners were carried out covered with brown plastic covers instead of the expected silver/steel. Desserts were frequently served in little clear plastic bowls, instead of crystal. This made everything feel a bit like being in a hospital, not the luxury dining that we were expecting. That evening we explored the ship a bit before heading to an early bed. I was almost 3 months pregnant at the time of this trip and suffered a bit with getting my sea legs so we all agreed that an early night should help. The “Royal Promenade” was a bit of a letdown. I’d seen all of the pictures and read descriptions that lead me to expect something a bit grander. That came to be a theme for the trip. On day two we explored the ship and rested up for our upcoming excursions. The pool decks were as expected. I was grateful that there was an area available for those who didn’t want to be splashed by children (I love kids but this was my vacation!) that adjoined the spa area. On the Celebrity cruises that my mother enjoyed she had paid a membership fee so that she could enjoy scented steam showers and have access to their healthy breakfast bar that adjoined the spa and steam room. This ship didn’t offer any of those amenities. There was a gym which I used once (walking on a treadmill to the rocking of the ship proved to be a challenge beyond my abilities!), with a changing room that included a sauna, then upstairs were the small private rooms where you could purchase spa services and the ships salon. We opted to not use any of those services, the prices seemed exorbitant. Instead of the healthy breakfast bar offering yogurts, fresh fruit, granola, etc… that my mother had enjoyed on her Celebrity cruises, Mariner had the standard alcohol bar in place. The Windjammer Café on the 12th deck adjacent to the pools was pleasantly decorated with a modern feel. The food selections were fairly basic, salad bar, sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers, with a choice of two hot entrees such as baked ham and roast beef. At Jade, the adjoining Asian buffet there was always a selection of fried rice and cooked entrees, however, I never saw any sushi. Servers offered ice water, iced tea and coffee. Sodas were available for a price. The food was good and usually well-prepared but nothing special. The other dining venue that we used on the ship was the Café Promenade, a small eatery found on the Royal Promenade. This area is open 24 hours a day offering sandwiches, pizza, cookies and assorted other desserts as well as coffee and ice water. Outside of the café was a bar where you could purchase other drinks as well as the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The food served at the café was pretty good and we usually found the café in good clean condition. Other than the first day at sea it wasn’t usually too crowded to find a place to sit. Throughout the trip we experienced several instances of bad service from the ship’s crew. The first occurred on the second day when my mother and her friend went to purchase some duty free items at the Promenade. They both felt that the man working at the register was quite rude and had a bad attitude. Later that night we called for a late night snack from room service and were shocked at the reluctance of the server to take our order. She discouragingly told us that it would be *at least* 45 minutes for a pot of coffee and reminded us that the Café Promenade was open 24 hours for service. We were astounded but said we would prefer the room service. (Note: when we finally received our order several items were missing and the quality of the food was pathetic, i.e. a cheese tray served with only a few grapes and individually packaged saltine crackers.) This kind of attitude from room service was common throughout the cruise. Another evening we were returning to our cabin from a show and paused to use a phone in the lobby to order a pot of coffee since we knew that there would be quite a wait. We were informed that they could only take a room service order phoned in from our actual cabin. No reason was given. Our biggest disappointment occurred on the afternoon of day three of the cruise when we returned from the beach at Labadee. We had enjoyed snorkeling in the ocean, shopping at the market (beware of pushy vendors!), the day was quite warm and the tender ride back to the ship had felt like forever. We all were looking forward to getting a shower and enjoying the island view on the balcony for a few hours before it was time to dress for dinner. I gratefully reached our cabin and rushed in to take a shower. A few minutes later I stepped out of the shower as my mother and our friend returned to the cabin. They cautioned me not to come out of the bathroom, because “the men would see me”. I laughed, assuming that they meant people out on the beach or in the ocean but they insisted. It turned out that they were referring to the group of four men on our balcony! My mother went to investigate what was going on since we had received no prior notice of any maintenance. It appeared that they were painting the pillars of our balcony. My mother opened the sliding door to ask what was going on and we were assailed by strong chemical fumes that instantly filled the cabin. She insisted that they cease painting immediately until we could determine if the paint might be toxic (remember – I am three months pregnant!). The supervisor acquiesced and the group moved on to the adjoining balcony. Needless to say, we were very upset by this situation. We called guest relations to place a complaint and were told that if I was concerned for my health I should go to one of the public lobbies. (Right, the ones where people are constantly smoking cigarettes? Sounds like a great place to take a nap.) The guest relations person on duty said that they didn’t know anything about the situation and would call us back when their supervisor was available. We waited but finally decided to leave the cabin to escape the fumes. We went down to their desk and got no further. We returned to our cabin and decided to open the door to the hall and the sliding door, knowing that creates quite a wind. We hoped that this would clear out the fumes so that we would have a place to sleep for the night. This is when the operations officer finally came to our cabin accompanied by several service crewmen. He claimed that the chemicals weren’t at all dangerous and that the workers didn’t even wear masks – we quickly corrected him and pointed out that all of the men had been wearing breathing masks when working on the balcony. When we asked for information regarding the chemicals used he agreed that they would be provided; however, in later discussions with guest relations they stated that they couldn’t provide anything in writing due to liability concerns. The whole experience was a major case of CYA and no one would take any responsibility for the failure of communication to us. Our concerns were twofold – first, the loss of the use of the cabin that we had paid for and space we intended to use. This was a situation of basic maintenance, not emergency repairs and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they should damage our ability to use the space we rented while they do their maintenance. Secondly, the chemicals used had a very strong odor and we were concerned about their toxicity. Pregnant women are supposed to avoid paint fumes (common knowledge) so it is reasonable to be concerned, especially considering that I already have one child with serious asthma. The remainder of the cruise was marred by our continued efforts to get information about the situation and the crew’s unwillingness to assist us or even offer a reasonable apology for our inconvenience. We were called several times to see how we were enjoying our cruise but when we asked about resolution for our specific concerns we were blown off. The only compensation we were ever offered for our “inconvenience” was a meal coupon to Johnny Rocket’s (wow! $3.95!). Considering the level of our concerns we all felt insulted and declined. The other issues that we experienced were annoyances, the crew and ship didn’t compare favorably to the previous cruise experiences of my mother; however, this last issue was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. We will never, ever cruise with Royal Caribbean again. A few last comments and notes about the ports of call: In Ochos Rios, Jamaica, we booked the excursion to Brimmer Hall Plantation followed by the walkup at Dunn’s River Falls. Though our driver and guide were very pleasant (Yay, Pat and “Sexy”!), the roads in Jamaica are in truly horrible condition. The 45 minute one way trip was incredibly rough as we drove over roads that were more potholes than paving. The tour around the plantation was somewhat interesting in a PBS kind of way but not worth the exhausting bus ride. A better option seemed to be the boat tour to go snorkeling then a visit to the falls. We all enjoyed seeing the falls but it was so crowded with the various groups climbing up that it was hard to enjoy the natural beauty. Also, if you have any concerns with your hips or knees this is not the excursion for you. While waiting at the base of the falls we were one of many people approached to buy drugs by the natives. Overall, the poverty of Jamaica was heart wrenching and I wouldn’t return for a vacation. In Georgetown, Grand Caymans, we didn’t plan any excursions but instead walked around the stores at the pier and did our shopping. Overall very pleasant, though I later wished that we had planned an excursion to see the turtle farm or swim with the stingrays. Our final port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. We were very excited about viewing the Mayan Ruins and booked an excursion to Tulum. In order to visit Tulum first we had to take a ferry “Jet Boat” ride across the bay to Playa del Carmen. The ride lasts about 45 minutes and even on a sunny mild day it was pretty rough. I managed the ride over only resorting to my sea bands but on the ride back I took two tiny doses of Dramamine to counter the wild rocking and swaying of the boat. On the ferry seems to be the cheapest place to buy t-shirts, $5. Playa del Carmen was absolutely beautiful. The small port area was surrounded by shops that reminded me of nicer shopping areas in Miami. There were fountains all over the place to combat the aridness of the weather and the beaches are gorgeous. The prices that we saw advertised were fabulous ($28 for an hour long massage?!?). We all really wanted to shop here but in order to make our excursion we were really hustled through the area with no time to look around. The buses used by this tour company were several steps up from those in Jamaica, with good air conditioning and larger seats, more like a European style of tour bus. Our guide was interesting and knowledgeable about the history of the area and of the Mayan people. This trip was also approximately 45 minutes each way but passed much more quickly than the trip in Jamaica. Once at Tulum I highly recommend buying the $2 tram ride to and from the site. There is nothing interesting to see, just a dusty road and scrub bushes for scenery. Even though our trip took place in May it was unbelievably hot and dry on the day of our excursion. You *must* take water. There are places to buy drinks but the prices are high. We just had the server in the Windjammer Café fill our water bottles with lots of ice and a little water and were grateful for it later. The view of the beach right under the cliffs with the ancient ruins perched on their edges was well worth the drive and walk. It was absolutely stunning. Many people were lying on the beach and enjoying swimming and if we’d had more time I would like to have done that as well. Tulum was gorgeous and I hope to return to this area in future vacations. Hopefully we will have more time to shop in Playa del Carmen and go further inland to see the ruins at Chiken Itza. The only mar to the experience was that there just wasn’t enough time to do everything that we would have liked to at this port.  

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May 14, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: May 15th, 2005 Just came back from this cruise. Had a great time. Been here before so not too much was new. I just wish that Royal Caribbean would read some of their comment cards and make changes. lst of all the food in the main dining room was worse than cafeteria food at a low class cafeteria. Denny's might have better food. They have cut down

on selections and definitely quality is not good. Service was good. But main dishes were not. Seems like they were experimenting on the food. Next thing is can't RCI buy new bedspreads? Those bedspreads are on all the cruises - seems like same ones and they are dirty, dirty, dirty. Most of us wouldn't have them on our beds. The balcony stateroom (and you must have a balcony) was good and most enjoyable as always. The weather was not that great - no sunshine and quite windy but sitting on the balcony was fine. Room kept clean (except for those ugly bedspreads.) We did not have a trash container in the bathroom and the attendant told us someone "stole" the trash can -boy they sure needed a trash can bad if they took that piece of plastic home w/them. Anyway he could not give us a trash can in the bathroom because RCI didn't have any more trash cans. Now come on do you believe that story - I don't. So I kept taking the one from underneath the coffee table and put it in the bathroom and lo and behold every day the attendant took it out of the bathroom where I needed it and put it back under the coffee table where I didn't need it - it got to be like a put and take game. I took it in the bathroom and he put it back in the main room. So RCI extend your budget to put a trash container in the bath room of suite 8634 please. The staff was good - the entertainment okay - a great Afro American comedian the last night we were there was sensational. The ice show of course was just great. Russian skaters and they do know what they are doing. You must eat at Chops - it is just wonderful - well worth the extra $20 per person. The food is outstanding. No comparison to the dining room food at all. Johnny Rockets was just fair as far as the hamburger goes but the milk shake was delicious. I still like RCI but they do need to make some adjustments in their food and bedspreads. Surely RCI knows about Linens 'n Things. They can buy bedspreads there and go to the $1 store and pickup a plastic waste can for the bathroom and get a chef in the kitchen that knows how to make good food - how about a woman chef - cause on the last 4 trips on RCI - the food was bad, bad and bad. Thanks for letting me review. It helps to vent.  

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Apr 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

I am writing this as a mom for other moms who have preschool age children, and are wondering if this is a good investment. It is!!! My biggest concern was that this would be our second cruise with our twins. Our first one was on the 7 day Disney Cruise when the girls were 17 months and it was a NIGHTMARE. The girls were three when we took this cruise and let me tell you this was the best vacation of my life. The childcare provided at The

Adventure Club was beyond excellent. I had one child who cried to go there and cried when I picked her up. The childcare staff was WONDERFUL. I cannot say enough great things about them. First of all they change their names so that the kids can have an easier time of remembering (Lauren was Lilipop, Yoham was Yoyo, etc). Obviously the kids are divided into age groups, and all their activates are geared to their ability and attention span. Each night you recieve a schedule of what they will be offering the next day so you know if your kid(s) will be interested. The problem with that, for us, was that they wanted to do everything, because it all sounded like fun. Because of this, my husband and I actually got to spend time together -alone! WE LOVED THAT! You do carry a beeper, so if they need you, they can contact you right away. Please be aware that your child has to be three or older on the day they go and they must be potty trained. They are allowed 2 or 3 potty accidents and after that, you they are not allowed to go back. So if your child is not three or potty trained, don't bother taking them there. They are VERY strict about this. The area where they are, seems small and unimpressive, but it really does work well. The facilities are very clean. The activites are all excellent and in very good taste. They are not cheap when it comes to using materials, such as crayons, paper, and other arts and crafts stuff. While at sea they do divide the day in two and you must pick up your child at lunch time. While in port they are opened from the time the ship docks until it departs, allowing the parents to do excursions. The majority of the staff were college grads with majors in early childhood education and were doing this before they started pursueing other career goals. They were really were young and perky, and had an incredibly positive attitude that translated into everything they did with the kids. We were and still are very pleased. Their private island Labedee is awesome. It is actually the tip/corner of Haiti and the way it is shape means you have beaches on three sides. So although there is over 2000 people on this little piece of land, it never feels crowded. The Adventure Club has a location there, so you can drop off the kids. Parents now have the option of taking the kids to a splash park. It is nothing out of this world, but is cute and the kids love it. They also have a water park on the beach. There is a surcharge for doing this (I think $10 for an hour) and it is way worth it. We took our girls out with us and they had a blast. We had to drag them out kicking and screaming at the end of the hour. The pools on the ship have cold sea water that is dumped daily. Even though we went at the start of summer, we spent 99% of our time in the hot tubs, because the pool water was that cold. Unlike most ship, this ship does not have a slide. (They do have an adult pool, where kids are not allowed.) As for the room, we got a standard ocean view room and it was two twin beds on the bottom and two fold away bunk beds on top. Because our kids are monkeys, we decided to join the twin beds to make a king bed and take the mattress from one of the fold away top bunks and put it on the floor for the girls. It was a bit crowded at night, and one kept rolling under the big bed, but it worked out for us. Our cabin stewart was really good about working around this with us. The food was the only disappointing thing.They did have all the standard kids stuff everywhere (the main dining room, buffet, snack bar, etc.). It was just ALL blah. There was not a single thing that was just plain good. We did eat one night at Chops ($20 per person surcharge, put the kids in the Adventure Club), the steak house and we have to say that the food was excellent. The cheese cake was marvelous. It was the only decent dessert I had all week. On the bright side, the average cruiser gains 10 pounds in one week. Since the food was what it was, we didn't gain a single pound. I do have to say that our wait staff was excellent too. Overall the ship was beautiful and very clean. I would venture to say it is more accommodating to an older crowd. The absolute highlight of my trip was when I bumped into Charo checking-in in Jamaica. Her show was MARVELOUS and she is so funny and truly talented with her guitar. (The shows are good and the first one is always child friendly.) In Cozumel I took a banana ride with a snob that bragged about being on the Love Boat, to which I responded that Charo had upgraded the venues she chose to preform in and we had follwed. (Only those of you that were watching the Love Boat in the late 70's early 80's will understand that comment.) Bottom line, if you have kids that are social and do well with other kids and are not clingy, they will do great in The Adventure Club. As much as I love my kids, having alone time with my husband, while knowing my kids were having a great time, just made this vacation the best ever. I felt not one ounce of guilt about putting them in The Adventure Club since they wanted to be there and seem to have a better time with them than us. I hope that if you do go on this ship, you have as great a time as we did.

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Apr 16, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: April 17th, 2005 Boarding at Port Canaveral is truly a pleasant experience. We drove up to unload our luggage and were met by a porter who efficiently whisked away our bags and we were directed to the covered parking garage. How nice to have the car under cover and not out in the elements for a week. Security checks do take considerable

time but that is a small price to pay for a safe voyage. Once past the checkpoint we made our way to the counter where we signed in and received our sea passes. Royal Caribbean did a very efficient job of getting us through this procedure and allowed us to board in a rapid fashion. Once aboard, we went to locate our cabin on deck 9. It was a Junior Suite and was one of the “hump” cabins (299 sq. ft.) which allowed great views from the spacious (65 sq. ft.) balcony. The cabin was quite large with a walk-in closet that was more than generous and had plenty of room for hanging clothes as well as shelves for folded clothes, shoes, etc. And there was ample space for the luggage to be stored out of the way. The bathroom was spacious and contained a tub with shower. Again, ample storage space for toiletries, etc. The cabin included a queen size sleep sofa, cocktail table, club chair and ottoman in addition to the bed and dresser area which contained a small refrigerator, a TV and a safe. The cabin was well lit and a large mirror over the desk area was helpful for dressing. There was also a hair dryer in one of the drawers. There was plenty of drawer space and more shelving. Our room attendant introduced himself and gave us complimentary robes to use for our cruise and helped familiarize us with the cabin’s amenities. We did give him a “down-payment” on his tip for his services and thereafter he took very good care of us. The luggage had not yet reached the cabin so we took a tour of the ship to get our bearings. We discovered the promenade which is truly amazing. It is like walking down a city street with shops, a wine bar, an English Pub, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and a café that had bar service as well as sandwiches, pastries, pizza and beverages that were available 24 hours. This was a great place to grab a light snack, sit and people watch. All throughout the ship there are various artworks which we found to be a bit strange and not up to par with the artwork we enjoyed on the Grandeur last summer. Continuing our tour, we found the library, internet room, cigar lounge and other areas while making our way to the dining room to find our table. It turned out to be a table for two which is pretty rare. We were assigned to the very elegant Top Hat and Tails dining room which was on the second of three tiers. While we enjoyed having the table for two, we missed the camaraderie with our fellow shipmates. There is so much to do and see inside and outside on this vessel. There was an ice-skating rink, a rock climbing wall, in-line skating, miniature golf, a basketball court and jogging tracks for all the sports fans. Not to mention the swimming pools, whirlpools, fitness center and day spa which had a steam bath and sauna, styling salon, and fitness seminars as well as a staff of masseuses and masseurs for luxurious massages. The Casino offered blackjack, craps, roulette and various slot machines. We found so many bars of differing themes on the ship. You are never very far from a bartender offering you all kind of exotic drinks as well as your own favorite libations. We checked out the Windjammer Café which offers a variety of buffet style meals throughout the day and night, found the alternative restaurants, Chops steak house and Portofino Italian restaurant. We made reservations for Chops for Sunday night and Portofino on another night later in the week. Having found our way around we returned to the cabin. Our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and stowed away the luggage and had the attendant take our tuxes and jackets and formal shirts to the laundry for pressing. Surprisingly, the rates for the pressing were on par with what we would pay back home. Our wonderful travel agent had sent us a bottle of champagne and a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries to enjoy on our balcony as the ship set sail. We too had ordered a bottle of bubbly for sailing along with a tray of hors d'oeuvres. What a pleasant beginning to a wonderful week. It was extremely windy the day we left Port Canaveral and the seas were quite rough. Neither of us suffers sea-sickness and enjoyed the rolling and swaying that makes you know you are on the high seas. After finishing our champagne, we dressed for dinner and went to the Martini Bar in the Viking Crown Lounge on the 14th deck for cocktails where we met and made friends with Archie who became our favorite bartender. Archie was very efficient and very entertaining. We had never seen so many bar tricks. He was quite the magician. After being entertained we went on to dinner at Chops. We were treated with complimentary glasses of champagne to enjoy with our appetizers. The food was very good and the service was excellent, but we discovered that the food and service were just as good in the main dining room. We canceled the reservation we had made for later in the week at Chops since we didn’t think it was worth the extra charges. After dinner we went back to see Archie and had night caps then returned to the cabin to get a good nights sleep. The rocking and swaying of the boat enabled getting to sleep quickly. Monday morning we arrived in port at Nassau. Having been there before, we opted to stay on board and take advantage of the day spa. We had made reservations on Sunday to have massages while in port. You get a $30.00 discount for scheduling while in port. The massages were fabulous and make you feel like a million bucks. After the massages they recommend a brief time in the warm Jacuzzi. After that you are ready for a nap! It was hard to believe that something so soothing could leave you so sore the next day and for days to come. We had done the massages last summer on Grandeur and had forgotten how you feel later. We probably will not do this again. We found that the prices for massages had about doubled since last year. After a relaxing afternoon, we had a light snack at the promenade café before heading to the cabin to don our tuxes as this was a formal night in the dining room. The little sandwiches were quite delicious and just enough to hold us over until dinner. We had a formal portrait taken on our way to dinner. The dining room service was very good. We had a great waiter and assistant waiter and bar server. After ordering martinis this night, the server had them waiting for us every other night when we arrived there for dinner. The food was varied and ample and everything we ate was delicious. Having chosen the second seating at 8:30 we could enjoy a relaxed dinner without having to hurry through the various courses. Being on vacation, we shelved the Atkins diet and totally enjoyed eating all those things we normally would not have. Rediscovering bread was fantastic. And the desserts were to die for! We had eaten breakfast on the balcony that morning. Room service was very gracious and the food was wonderful. You can’t go wrong with scrambled eggs with salmon and caviar to top them with. Other mornings we ate in the dining room and since this is open seating we were able to meet a lot of nice folks. Only once did we eat breakfast at the Windjammer. The buffet can be like a zoo and we found the dining room much more to our liking. Lunches, like breakfast are open seating in the dining room, once again giving us the opportunity to meet more passengers. Lunch menus were very good and again the food was wonderful. One afternoon we ate at Johnny Rockets which was a real treat. Cheeseburgers, fries and malts. We were in heaven! And to add to the fun, the waiters and waitresses put on a song and dance show that was quite entertaining. Having sailed with Royal Caribbean before, we had become members of the Crown and Anchor Society which afforded us with a coupon book that had lots of good values and a welcome back cocktail party with the Captain. That was very nice. There was good entertainment and plenty of waiters passing trays of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Also we had signed up for a Meet and Mingle with members of CruiseCritic.com. There was a reception given by Royal Caribbean with refreshments and entertainment and drawings for door prizes. We each won something so that made it even more fun. When we arrived at port in St. Thomas we were among 6 other ships. When we left Port Canaveral we sailed behind a Disney ship and a Carnival ship. We saw them at various times during our cruise. We had signed up for an excursion tour. Our driver met us at the ship and took us in to the older downtown section for a couple hours of shopping. We had never seen so many jewelry and liquor stores in such a small town! Seemed funny to be so far from home and yet see chain restaurants we are so familiar with. We browsed through a few shops and stumbled on a shop that sold Waterford crystal. There was a rep there from Ireland and he was signing and dating pieces. We bought a pair of martini glasses (what else?) in the Lismore pattern that is difficult to find at home. They were kind enough to have them signed for us and then sent them home by US Priority Mail. Turned out that they actually arrived home before we did! We returned to the town square where we met up with our tour group and went on a two hour tour of the island. The driver was very informative and we learned a lot about the island. We were taken all the way to the top of the highest mountain which was over 1500 feet above sea level. There is a tourist trap on top of the mountain that has gift shops and a bar, food concessions and viewing deck from which you could see so much. The driver would stop along the way for photo shoots so we got some really good pictures. They also stop at three different beaches where one could swim or snorkel. This made for a fun day. It was 86 degrees and very sunny. Having taken in the sights we were returned to the port where we were ready to shower and change for the evening. The biggest problem was getting off the ship once in port. We had to go through Customs since we had been in a foreign port and once off the ship we had to go through a gate with a turnstile that allowed only one person at a time to get through. Needless to say this slowed down getting hooked up with our tour guide. Our next port was St. Maarten. The port here was designed specifically for cruise ships and was quite pleasant and very clean. There were very modern shops and hotels near the port. We had reserved an excursion here aboard the Lord Sheffield, a square rigged sail boat like a pirate ship. There were several others on board. We were motored out of port and then they unfurled the sails and we were swept away by the trade winds. Our Captain and his crew were very accommodating. They served rum punch, two kinds of beer, sodas and ice water. They passed trays of cheese and French bread and Buffalo wings. The wind was quite strong and one of us lost a straw hat to the sea, which later resulted in a bad sunburn. We had already lost one straw hat in the wind at Port Canaveral while walking from the garage to the Port. At any rate, the Captain sailed along the Dutch side of the island until we reached the French side. We had sailed past the airport and saw several planes land and take off. Once on the French side, the Captain dropped anchor and they had snorkeling gear on board for those who wanted to explore and several folks got in the water for a swim. We did not have our swim suits on so we did not partake of these festivities. We were anchored in front of a hotel which we were told is the most expensive on the island, $1500.00 a night! Their guests include personalities like Johnny Depp. After the swimming and snorkeling and all were back on board we set sail back to port. The winds were blowing in the wrong direction so we had to motor back to shore. Without the sails providing some shade, the sun burns got worse. We had both worn sandals and even though we had slathered ourselves well with sun block, the sun was so fierce that we got burns on our feet as well. These things will help us prepare for our next journey! We were happy to get back on ship after having walked from the Lord Sheffield back to port. We both had really healthy glows from the sunburn but it wasn’t hurting too badly. Soothing showers prepared us for another evening enjoying onboard life. The shows on the ship are amazing. Imagine the Ice Capades appearing on a moving ship! This was most entertaining and enjoyable. We also saw variety shows with singers and dancers, comedians, jugglers, clowns and the like. There is a movie theatre that is used for various activities besides full length motion pictures. We played BINGO there one afternoon. We did not win a nickel but had a good time anyway. We saw a cooking demonstration and bought a cookbook which contains recipes for much of the food served onboard. And we got to sample the fare that was prepared before us. Another afternoon we watched a crew member do a napkin folding demo which was very heavily attended. There were not enough napkins on hand to go around so we just watched. Probably wouldn’t remember how to do some of them anyway! One evening we ate at Portofino. We really enjoyed this experience, the food was totally different and very good. The service was outstanding, better we thought than it was at Chops. One afternoon we discovered the Peek-a-boo Bridge which has windows overlooking the Captain’s bridge. We were able to see some of the officers doing their duties and some of the equipment used to navigate the seas. Pretty amazing stuff! Also we were able to walk all the way to the bow of the ship where one can do the scene from Titanic! It was very windy there and we had to hold on to our glasses so they would not be blown off our faces. There is a heliport on this part of the ship but we did not get to see it being used. Our Captain had a great personality and wonderful sense of humor. One afternoon he hosted a question and answer session that was indeed informative. In answer to one question he replied that he was really not a Captain but had stayed at a Holiday Inn Express one night. That’s the kind of humor he exhibited. The crew on this ship is very international with staff from all around the world, unlike the Grandeur staff which seemed mostly to be from the Caribbean islands. All in all, we would have to say that the week was a complete joy for us and overlooked the annoying things that can happen. Our Loyalty Ambassador had talked us out of going in March because Easter was early and that meant spring breaks so she talked us into mid April. Who knew it would be spring break in New England? The ship was loaded with kids on their spring break. Even though the ship provides plenty of entertainment and activities for them, they seemed to become restless after the first couple of days. It was often difficult to get up or down on elevators because the kids would ride them, push all the buttons and just drive you crazy. They would gather on the stairways making it difficult to get past them. I can only blame the parents who let their kids run loose and unchaperoned. Once back at Port Canaveral we arose early, showered, dressed and went off to breakfast in the main dining room. Our debarkation color tag was called while we were eating and once finished gathered our belongings and proceeded to disembark. We were met at the luggage carousel by a very efficient porter who swiftly found our bags and loaded them on a cart. We figured he would take us to curbside but he actually wheeled our luggage all the way to the car in the garage. Great service. We were on our way by 9:00 a.m. We have already booked our next cruise on Royal Caribbean sailing out of Baltimore on the Grandeur of the Seas on September 2 for nine days with our destination being Cozumel. We are looking forward to that cruise since we have not been to Mexico before and this cruise has more sea days which we truly enjoy.  

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By C.S._CR

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Mar 13, 2005

Western Caribbean

This ship is so beautiful! Everyone is so nice on the ship and they do anything to help you out. I recommend going to all of the royal Caribbean singers and dancers performances they are fantastic! Also, the rock climbing, mini golf, ice skating, roller blading, and pools are awesome! Just don't go during spring break because it gets a little out of hand at times. Otherwise i hope that

you chose to go on The mariner because it is certainly the best cruise ship and cruise line out there!

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Mar 13, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: March 13th, 2005 My husband and I went on our first cruise recently. We had a good time, and generally learned a lot that you just don’t know when you haven’t cruised before. The flight down to Orlando was turbulent and I was already motion sick. After retrieving our luggage, we found the RCI reps and they directed us to the meet and greet

lounge for RCI guests. We ended up waiting there for quite awhile for a bus to the dock. The bus was nice, except there was almost nil leg room (and I’m only 5’2!). The driver flew down the road, then slammed on the brakes at the toll booths. This made me even sicker than the plane had. The actual check-in process was pretty easy and moved somewhat quickly. We were in our room by 2 when our plane had only landed at 11:30. The bus driver had said our bags would be at our room within 2 hours, but that was not true. They showed up after dinner, which was fine with us. We went to eat lunch at Windjammer, which we were pleasantly surprised by. There was a great variety, and the food was hot and not dried out. We went back to the cabin, since I was still feeling a little ill. We had a balcony room, which was great!! I would never get an interior room after having a balcony-we ended up spending a lot of time out there, people-watching, sun-bathing, and just relaxing. We watched the ship leave port and waved to all the Floridians watching us go. As soon as the ship got up to speed, my stomach started its thing again. I started Dramamine the next morning and never went a day without it-my advice-start it on the morning before you leave and don’t stop it! Every morning I felt my stomach start to roll right before I took my next dose. We saw the beautiful sunset that evening, which was the only one we saw since we had main seating for dinner. The next morning we got up early and explored the ship. It is quite amazing! I had read all the reviews and seen pictures, but there was nothing like seeing it in person. We walked the jogging track for awhile around the pool area and saw the helipad landing area and Peek-A-Boo bridge. I was very amazed by the wind! It was so strong and persistent……I couldn’t see half the time on the open decks due to my hair flying around my face and my husband was chasing his hat. I thought maybe this was a rare occurrence, but we dealt with the wind almost our entire cruise! This was our first day “at sea”. We ate breakfast and I was laying out by 7:55 a.m.! You can’t do that in Ohio! It was relaxing if slightly chilly in all that wind….and you couldn’t even leave towels or clothes on your chair without pushing them thru the chair slats as the wind would blow them away! Later on in the cruise I ended up sunning on my balcony (pushed the 2 chairs together) as the sun/pool decks were too crowded and windy. Or too much in the shade, which was too cold with the wind. I also was disappointed that the pools were salt water. And the adult pool was not heated. Basically it was unusable because it was so cold, and everyone ended up at the main (kiddie) pool anyway. Some thoughts on the dining……the dining room was amazing! Very pretty and elegant. The waitstaff was very friendly and helpful, if a little hard to understand. The food was very good and I found something I wanted every night. I’m not a seafood person, and there was quite a bit of that every night. There were nice alternative choices offered though. Try the chilled fruit soups-they are great! We ate there every night for dinner. There was quite a wait between starter and dinner, dinner and dessert, but the waiters did well considering the number of people they were responsible for. Windjammer & Jade, as I mentioned, were pleasant, but we were a little tired of it at the end of 7 days. And the staff are very annoying at breakfast, interrupting every 2 minutes with offers of oj, water, green tea, coffee, when you obviously already have what you need. We didn’t go to Chops or Portofino’s. We went to Johnny Rockets once….good food, but we ended up paying $20 for the service charge, 2 milkshakes, and a tip (the food was free). The wait staff sings and dances, which was funny the first time, obnoxious the second time we were interrupted. A little too loud and “in your face”. But the food was good everywhere, we ate way too much and in fact took a nap after lunch every day. Onto the ports of call…..We enjoyed their private island, Labadee (Haiti) immensely. Mostly a beach day. It was supposed to be 94 degrees that day, but once again, due to the wind, it felt barely 70. I kept pulling my chair out of the shade and into the sun to warm up…….Another thing we did not know-the sun will burn you there even if you are under shade. My husband stayed under a tree all day with no suntan lotion, and ended up much more burned than me, who was out in the sun with suntan lotion. His legs stayed red for a week! We visited the market RC has set up there, but the vendors were very very aggressive and all had the same things in their stalls. We went to the beach after 20 minutes. We had a BBQ on the island that day. Had to wait in quite a long line to get tendered back to the boat. The next day was Jamaica-we didn’t enjoy that at all……It was hot and hazy and we were accosted by potential taxi drivers at every turn when we just wanted to walk around ourselves. We returned to the boat after 2 hours and hung out by the nearly deserted pool. We hadn’t booked any excursions on any port, as we just wanted to check out the islands ourselves. My husband doesn’t’ swim so that cut out a lot. One note about people who did book excursions-they would block up the docks waiting to depart on their trips at every pier and some tours did not return by the set time and held up the boat from leaving at its designated time. Quite an irritant to those of us who HAD made it back in time. Royal Caribbean should not recommend those excursions that cannot bring people back on time! . We were also surprised by the stores. They were all mostly “high-brow” and expensive and not what we were looking for at all. We were hesitant to take taxis to the local markets with all the kidnapping items in the news lately and stuck to what we could walk to from the pier. The next day was Grand Cayman. There were 7 cruise ships in port that day and it was very crowded. Once again, the stores were not our cup of tea. We took a taxi to 7 mile beach. Had a fun day there sunning and relaxing. The tenders had been a little rough when we got off the ship that morning, and unbeknownst to us, it had grown much worse in the afternoon. They quit letting people go ashore at noon, but still had to bring those of us already off back. When we tried to reboard about 2 o’clock, the waves were 9-10 feet!! This was very dangerous…..the gangplank between the tender boat and the Mariner was violently sliding left to right and up and down with the swells….When it would calm for a second, they would instruct us to RUN across to the ship. Very scary and I felt sorry for the 90 year old women and families with babies who were trying to get back on board. I think the captain would not have let anyone off that morning if they had known how bad it was going to get. We didn’t leave at the specified time that night as they were having a hard time getting everyone back on board…..even in our room several decks away, we felt the whole ship shudder as the tender boat would slam into it from the waves. I think the captain was going extra fast that night to make up time….the ship was so rocky I could not sleep. Not a gentle rolling rocky either…..this was like someone violently shaking your shoulder to wake you……then there would be calm for several seconds, then the shaking would start again. I didn’t sleep at all that night. My husband and I both woke up with colds also. The final port was Cozumel , which was our favorite for shopping. The prices were much more in our range and the items were more what were searching for anyway. The vendors were less aggressive and more pleasant to work with. Every day we had returned to the boat for lunch, and this was the only port where we went back on land after we ate instead of staying on the ship.   The shows on board were good, we really enjoyed the comedians, and watched a movie also. We aren’t drinkers, so we didn’t go to the lounges. Some of the shows and activities we might have liked to do were just a little too late at night for us. We are early risers, and were ready to hit the hay by 10:30 every night. We watched the speed climbing competition at the rock wall, played putt-putt, and people-watched. The room attendant was fantastic…..fun guy to talk too, and had our room sparkling even when we had only been gone for 30 minutes or so. The towel animals were cute. We were pleased with how clean our room and the entire ship was….all week we saw evidence of the upkeep program-carpets being shampooed, our balcony rail was re-varnished, and everything was clean and new looking. All in all, we had a good, relaxing trip. If I cruise again, I will know about the boat movement almost every night (you wouldn’t think on a ship that big), the wind, and to avoid certain stores. Even with 3500 passengers, the boat only seemed crowded during the “at sea” days and at the elevators. I think I will try a resort next, and see how that compares to the cruise experience.

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Feb 20, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: February 20th, 2005 Our sixth cruise, fifth w/RCL. Second on the Mariner. Lovely ship, very clean. Getting on and off was a breeze. Cabin attendant, waiter and assistant waiter were all excellent. Big name entertainment - The Drifters and Ben Vereen. Excellent. Musical shows were okay, nothing special. We enjoy Bingo. Unfortunately, it was obvious

that the bingo director did not, and wanted to get it over with ASAP. Sinan, an assistant cruise director who called the last games of each session, was hilarious. We would suggest he be given the bingo job. A word about the food. The dining room was very good - better than in the past. The Windjammer could use some improvement. Also, we ate twice at Johnny Rockets. We paid $4 each for a service charge to eat a hot dog or burger and then paid for our sodas. It did not seem too busy. We would suggest that they drop the service charge. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation and find RCL to be a great family cruise line. We find the staff friendly and helpful and the ships clean and well maintained.    

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Feb 20, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: February 20th, 2005 Beautiful ship, great experience. This in the second cruise (first on sister ship Voyager of the Seas 4 years ago). On that cruise my husband and I were celebrating an anniversary. On this cruise, it was just myself and my mom (63). I partly chose this cruise because of the positive experience on Voyager. Mariner

did not disappoint. The ship was full with 800 kids on board. A few times (looking for a chair on deck) it felt crowded. Most of the time, it was fine. I was not at all bothered by the kids on board. The top 2 experiences on board the ship were: #1 Great entertainment. We had guest performances by the "Oiginal Drifters", very good and an amazing performance by Ben Vereen, just outstanding. The ice show was impressive and very beautifully produced. The production shows were good, I enjoyed the second show with music from the 80's more. Another comedy night was good as well. #2 Portifino's. The $20 surcharge/person was very well spent. It is true 5 star dining. We went twice! I also heard excellent reviews of the other surcharge restaurant, Chops, as well. Definitely worth it. Our ports of call were Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Nice ports, but we were 3 hours late getting to St. Thomas due to a medical emergency after leaving Nassau. We did all ship excursions. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. Because it was just my mom and I, we went the safe route. Next time, I'd rent a car or get a private taxi or tour. In Nassau, we did "Harbour Cruise and Atlantis Tour". This was a lot of walking, many people on the tour weren't prepared. Also, another couple we met paid $20 each for a taxi island tour. They stopped at Atlantis where the casino and lobby area with aquariums are apparantly open to the public. We had bracelets that allowed us to walk the grounds, but did not give any pool access. So we basically had the same tour! In St. Thomas, I had to cancel a morning dive I had scheduled online from home. However, we took the skyride, $16 per adult for a beautiful view. Worth it?...the view WAS nice. Then we took our excursion, the "St. John Island Tour". This is a variation of the "St. John Beach Tour"...you take the same ferry over and split into groups in St. John. The beach people felt they didn't have enough beach time, although is was nice. Our tour group consisted of ten (some large) adults sitting on two bench seats in the back of a full size pick up. This is described as an "open air safari vehicle". Anyway, we drove the road through the center of the island, very steep with hairpin turns. Our driver actually pointed out the Subway restaurant and the Texaco station leaving town, I am not kidding. He stopped for ten minutes and talked about a termite nest in the tree. We stopped about 4 times to briefly get out for a photo, but it was more "look from afar" than "experience" St. John. I have no idea what any of the hotels look like. In St. Maarten, we signed up for the recommended Golden Eagle Catamaran. I must say, it was a lot of fun. Be aware, that even though you leave at 8:15 in the morning, the free beer, rum punch is flowing. By the time you cruise back at noon, everyone on board was dancing and generally having a good time. Also, the snorkel stop was difficult because you had to get off the boat in water over your head. The snorkeling wasn't good (no live reef, some assorted fish), but the water was clear and beautiful. Both my mom and I had a very nice time. I found the crew, waiters, etc. to be very friendly and helpful. We ate at Johnny Rocketts, and it was fair...the fries and onion rings are awesome though. There is plenty to do and the days at sea are really nice to relax and actually feel like you are on vacation. I'd love to go again with my whole family, my 13 and 15 year old would just love it. Highly recommended.

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Sep 27, 2004

Nassau, Mexico

I have a great memory of both ship and crew. The room attendant was wonderful, the dining room waiters along wih the bar waiters were the best. I will return to RCCL. I have sailed on the Maritania II and the Maxim Gorki but the Mariner of the Seas was by far the best and I will only sail on RCCL from now on. I met the Captain and he is from my family country (Norway). Thank you so much for the courteous service that your employees showered

us with.

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Aug 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

We were also on the "hurricane" cruise. I would have to disagree with the other review on how RCCL responded to the changes. The overall cruise was wonderful. Excellent service, food in dining room only so-so. Buffet was actually better and not quite as long. But the best part of the cruise "eating experience" was Chops Grill. By far, the best steak I have ever had. The service, environment etc... was perfect. Make

reservations for the first and last night of your cruise. The 20.00 fee is well worth it. We had a wonderful cabin, on the back of the ship along with what I would call a deck, not a small balcony. Our deck was as big as our room. There was lots of storage and place to put away clothes. We are going back on this cruise because of the way we were treated and the amenities on the ship. A word about the hurricane. Because the cruise line did not know what mother nature was doing and when she would be through, I feel they did as well as could be expected. I was not looking for free handouts and recognize the expense in keeping us on the ship 2 extra days. The bus ride back to port canaveral was long but it was free, clean and an alternative to being stuck in Miami. I was pleased with the way RCCL treated us.

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Aug 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

First Time Cruisers my wife and myself. We arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida Sunday afternoon on August 29th at 1:00pm. What a surprise The Mariner was a big beautiful white ship with much bustling activity. Not knowing what to expect we followed the traffic to the lane where you drop-off your luggage. The very first thing I noticed was how organized everything was from the porters getting your luggage to the attendants directing you

to the parking building. The check in process at the Terminal was smooth and easy, once finished it was time to board the ship. We went straight to our stateroom 7234 and admired the layout with plenty of room for two with a spacious balcony. Time to look over the ship; Wow! I was in the Navy on sea duty and could not have possibly conceived what was before me on a ship no less. Deck 5 The Grand Promenade was like being in the French Quarter in New Orleans, shops, taverns, cafes’ and people. It is absolutely beautiful. The interior of the ship was breathtaking from the pool deck to The Savoy Theater, not to mention the people, so many but never felt crowded. The ship left Port Canaveral promptly at 5:00pm, just behind the Disney Ship with great weather and calm seas. First formal dinner in The Sound of Music Dining Room was absolutely grand, the decor and table settings were regal. Our dinner partners were old salts each couple having been on many previous cruises and they were very helpful with tips and tricks about cruising we enjoyed the company and conversation very much. Let me take a moment to say our waiter, Richard D’Souza and assistant waiter Mario were so attentive and formal that I felt like a king at a banquet. There was nothing that these two individuals wouldn’t do to make sure our dining experience was a memorable one each and every night we dined with them. Kudos to them. The excursions we planned were always based around the beautiful beaches we visited from Labadee, Haiti (you must do the wave runners) to Cozumel, Mexico the waters were pristine and the bluest I’ve ever seen. In Jamaica we did Dunn’s River Falls, the climb was awesome with cooling waters all around and we made it to the top. In Cozumel we opted for a trip to Cancun, I don’t suggest this trip because the boat ride to Playa Del Carmen and then the bus ride to Cancun was so time consuming we only had 3 hours to shop, eat and do the beach, but it was beautiful. The food aboard ship was sumptuous, I’ve read many reviews with folks complaining about how bad or bland or generic the food was, but aboard the Mariner the menus from breakfast to dinner were great, even the snacks at the Promenade Café were out of this world. Hurricane Frances threw a curve to everyone, keeping us at sea for a couple extra days and diverting the ship to Miami. Royal Carribean provided bus transportation back to Port Canaveral and after a free tour of southern Florida we arrived safely to pickup our cars and travel home. The cruise was absolutely terrific, I’m sold and now have the cruise bug fever, can’t wait to go again and it will be abroad The Mariner of the Seas, from the Captain to the Cabin Steward the folks give you all the attention you could ever wish for on a vacation and I highly recommend this cruise experience for everyone.

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Aug 7, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Cruises have to be the best vacations on earth. All the things to do, eat, and see! All the surroundings you can never get board on the giant "Voyager Class Ships". The crew makes you feel like you're rite at home! Day 1-Port Canaveral, Florida (A.K.A Hurricane Land!) Embarkation Day -When we arrived at the port after our crazy bus ride with Jay Lowe, we were taken into a building with two floors. Onboard the bus ride, you are asked

if you filled out all the forms necessary. If you don't have them all they have a life time supply inside. When we entered the building we had to go through security. Then we were taken upstairs. We then had to wait on a line for only five minutes to get are key cards and hand in the papers we filled out. We were finally aloud onboard the ship. Since this was my families second cruise we knew what to expect out of our rooms. The bathrooms the size of a cabinet and the sleeping area small but suitable. We then had to do the muster drill on deck four at 5:15. We were standing next to the lifeboats for about 15 minutes. Then the captain made a little speech and then dismissed us. Then we had a few hours in-between since we had the late seating at dinner. The show that night was the welcome aboard show. We were greeted by the cruise director, Kirk Detweiler, singing come sail away with me. They also had a comedian, Carl Strong, who was very funny, next Duo Claudio who were acrobatically performers. Then at 11:30 we went to the Island A Gogo parade which was fun. Then we walked around a bit and headed back to the room for sleep. Day 2-Nassau, Bahamas Early wake up today. It was off to rainbow reef snorkeling for us! The fish were very pretty and I recommend it to any age group! We arrived back at the dock at 3:30 and met my husband. We then headed to the Atlantis hotel which was beautiful. We were only allowed in the lobby but it still looked very nice. We left Nassau at 5:30. Tonight's show was the Platters. They only had one original platter but they performed very well. Day 3-At Sea Today was a day onboard. We spent a few hours down by the pool and played some minigolf. Then we headed to the lotus lounge to see the jewelry rendition thing. Tonight's show was a Broadway Review. They had various songs from Moving' Out and a few other shows I can't remember. I live in New Jersey and love Broadway so this show was great! Then they had the first of the two midnight buffets. This one was by the pool. They had a few ice sculptures, fruit carvings and animals. They had a lot of food to go around! Day 4-St.Thomas, U.S.V.I Today was beautiful St.Thomas. This was my favorite island of the three. We took and island tour and saw Mountain Top, which had a great view of the island, Megan's bay beach and then a couple other places. Then the drive took us back to the shopping district. We got back to the ship at 6:00.Tonights show was the ice skating show called "Ice Under The Big Top". It was great and I give a perfect 10! That was over in time for the second seating show. It was called Pure Energy which had various song from the 80's. Then after that we had a special treat. We had a little party thing for being on a Royal Caribbean ship more than once. The captain made a speech and the were drinks and hour d'ourves. Then at 12:00 there was an adult comedy show with Carl Strong. He was very funny. He's having a comedy special on show time sometime this fall. Then it was off to sleep! Zzzzzz... Day 5-At Sea Today was pool games with Kirk! They had the Olympics on the pool and sports decks. My family had a lot of fun. They had basketball, volleyball, and horse races! Then we relaxed by the pool for the rest of the day. Tonight's show was great! It was a imitation of the Beatles performed by a band who acts, talks, looks, and performs just like the Beatles! Tonight was the Grand Gala buffet in the dining room. They had beautiful carvings made out of ice and wax. The also had watermelon carvings and fruit animals. They were so cute! Day 6-At Sea Today we went ice skating witch was ok. There were a lot of first timers and it was a pretty small ice rink. That was over in a half hour. More relaxing by the pool! 5:30 rolls around and we get ready for dinner. This was my favorite dinner of them all. Tonight's show was the farewell show. It had a different comedian who was very funny (he was good for families unlike the other comedian), then Kirk, the cruise director sang a song. He has a wonderful voice! Then he sang another song with the royal Caribbean singers and dancers. Then Duo Claudio performed again. This time even better! Then Kirk showed his "A Day In A Life Of A Cruise Director". It was funny. Then the cruise in review video. Finally, the crew came out, including the captain. That concluded the last show. Then after that there was the farewell show called Enchanted Knights. After that we walked around the ship for the last time and then hit the sack! Food- The food was excellent and give it a perfect 10. Only the breakfast and lunch never changed but even at that those meals were good. The dinners were outstanding! They had mahi-mahi, fillet mignon, and so much more that I can't remember! The desserts were the ultimate best! They had chocolate cake, baked Alaska, a delicious soufflé, and scrumptious crème Brule! The Windjammer which was buffet style had less selections but was better if you were in a hurry. To go where I don't know. All the food was the best of the best! Entertainment- The entertainment was excellent. I also give that a big 10! The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers were the best! The variety of shows was perfect! It was great for all ages and was very well put together! The entire cruise was so good there's no words to describe it! The waiters were so nice they made you feel like they were your very own personal butlers! A special word to the cruise director, Kirk Detweiler. He was funny, energetic, had a great voice, and was young and very upbeat. He had a great voice and has a cd called random white boy. I have the cd and it is outstanding! He is supposed to come out with another in February 2005 called shades of wrong. Oh, and he's cute too! I would definitely go on another Royal Caribbean cruise again. I wish I could do this all over again. Enjoy!

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Jul 24, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise, and we started out in a grand style. Mariner of the Seas is a beautiful ship. The entertainment every night was good, the restaurant are very nice and the food was very good, but I would have to say not excellent. The main dinners are much better than the Windjammer & Jade's breakfasts or lunches. Overall I have to say good food. The rooms are extremely nice and having never cruised before I was quite impressed

with their size. My husband and I had a balcony room and our daughters had a promenade room, which they really liked. The room attendants left us with towels in the shapes of animals everynight which was very cute. The service was fantastic. Our waiter Alex and his assistant Gonzolo were great. They did an excellent job. The midnight buffet was unbelievable unfortunately, we were all still full from dinner and only looked, did not eat. I couldn't, just too much food. This really was an extremely nice trip. Boarding and departing went smooth with no problems. It is a little bit of a hassle waiting for your luggage the first day, especially if you didn't pack a bathing suit in your carry on. But now I know. Pool area was great with plenty of seating, we never had a problem find chairs and we traveled with relatives so there was 9 of us. Having never cruied before I would choose a different itinerary. We stopped at Nassau (6 hours) not really enough time to do much. St. Thomas and St. Maartin. St. Thomas & St. Maartin were beautiful I would go back in a minute. But from Thursday at 5:00PM to Sunday 8:00AM we sailed and it was just too long to not see land for us. Although there is so much to do on the ship the weather isn't the best it's a long time to be on a ship. Especially if your not a drinker, gambler, dancer, singer or power shopper. Our last day we thought we be spent at the pool soaking up the sun, instead I wandered the ship due to the rain and clouds that followed us the last day. I would like 4 stops on a 7 day cruise much better. Overall great trip, a little pricey. Broke down and shopped in St. Thomas (So worth it). It is a trip we will remember. P.S. Shoe excursions were nice. Kayaked and Hiked and Snorkeled. Great experience.

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Jul 17, 2004

Western Caribbean

I have delayed submitting this for a week after our return from the cruise, because we had made a complaint to RCI and were waiting on resolution. Our complaint has been satisfactorily resolved, so here are some comments on the cruise. This was the best cruise of the three I’ve sailed on out of Port Canaveral, and what we had to complain about doesn’t really detract from that “best” experience. I have previously sailed on the

Carnival “Pride” and “Fantasy,” and while I thoroughly enjoyed the Carnival cruises, in my opinion the RCI cruise was better in almost every respect. The food (both in the dining room and at the casual buffet bars), the wait staff service, the room attendant service, the on-board activities and amenities – all these aspects were, to me, better than the Carnival cruises I’ve been on. I’ll give some more specific comments day-to-day below. Embarkation – Port Canaveral, Sunday We always try to embark as soon as the ship will allow, to see as much of the ship as possible. We arrived at 10:30 AM (it helps to live 20 minutes from Port Canaveral!) and were on board by 11. The in processing was much smoother and faster than on Carnival. The “Mariner” advertising literature mentions that “you won’t realize there are 3100 other passengers,” and in many cases that was true. Embarkation was an example – maybe we were just earlier than others, but it wasn’t crowded at all. The stateroom wasn’t available until 1 PM, so we were off to find the bars, sample the drink of the day, and get the soft drink cards for the kids (our boys, ages 12 and 16). It did not take long to learn this big ship, if you’re used to walking around cruise ships. We did eventually visit every bar, shop, sport/spa area, etc, if only to glance in (at least we think we saw them all). When we went to the stateroom at 1 PM we got our first disappointment. We were in a junior suite on Deck 7, aft at the stern. Our travel agent had mentioned that these were really classy and enjoyable suites. On “days at sea” I enjoy relaxing on my private balcony, drinking beer and reading “Horatio Hornblower” books while observing the sea, other ships, etc. The suite had a nice balcony, but a lousy view. Instead of overlooking the water, our balcony overlooked a metal deck that jutted out about 30 feet to the very stern where the flagpole is. In addition, large superstructure railings seriously blocked the view to the ocean. You may have noticed that the sterns of Carnival and some other ships have a squared-off look, which isn’t pretty but makes it so that the stern staterooms overlook the water. RCI ships look much more streamlined, but the superstructure that gives that streamlined look blocks the view from the stern staterooms. Oh well; the balcony was large, the balcony chairs were comfortable, the beer was cold… Day 2, Monday – At Sea Sailing toward Haiti. Lots of stuff to do on this ship at sea – my wife and I started with an early morning walk on the fitness deck, which she followed by a trip to the spa; we did some exploring and shopping and played mini-golf, and at night took in a great show and a parade. The “Mariner” has evening themed parades with the show performers and other staff along the large open Promenade deck (the “shopping” deck). The two parades that we watched started at about 10:30 PM; I don’t recall if they were every night. Very colorful and entertaining. Our two boys took off on their own and found friends. They’re old enough that they don’t do many of the formal kids’ activities; they hang out in the arcade and the “kids’ lounge” and do their own thing. On this ship, our boys mentioned that the kid only areas (“Fuel” lounge and “The Living Room” hangout) were great. As parents we tried a new trick this time out for staying in contact – low power walkie-talkies. They didn’t work well, and one reason was the fact that of course every other parent on the ship had the same idea, so all frequencies were full. Perhaps our walkie-talkies (cheap ones) were also too small and weak; there seemed to be a lot of interference and the range was short. But we managed to keep in sporadic contact, enough to be safe. If I recall correctly, this was the first of the formal dining nights. The three-level dining room on the “Mariner” is very classy. Your dinner seating instructions will say that you’re in the “Rhapsody in Blue” dining room, or the “Sound of Music,” or the “Top Hat & Tails,” but in reality they’re all connected by an open central area and staircase. You can see glimpses of the other dining rooms on the decks above or below you, without losing the “cozy” feeling of your own dining room. A good violinist accompanied by piano entertains during dinner every evening, not just during the formal nights. Day 3, Tuesday – Labadee, Haiti We ate breakfast in the Windjammer Café, one of the buffet areas on Deck 12. Lots of food selection, and they make omelets to order (with egg substitute as well). The Jade buffet is right beside the Windjammer, and also serves breakfast with an Asian flavor. The buffet dining areas are of course crowded for breakfast, but not overly so. We debarked – again, you wonder where the other 3100 passengers are. It truly seemed to take a shorter amount of time to leave this ship than it did on the Carnival ships I’ve been on. Maybe that was my imagination, but it didn’t take long to get off the ship. A tender took us to the private RCI area at Labadee. This isn’t a “private island,” but a remote area on a peninsula where, as it was explained to us, RCI is 99% of the business. We selected kayaking as a shore excursion, which was fun, but the next time we go we’ll definitely switch to the water park. RCI has a fenced off “water park” with large trampolines, “rock climbing” slides, and other water sports. We were fortunate enough to get to add a couple of us and use the water park after kayaking. RCI has a free buffet lunch at Labadee. There was another part of the peninsula with shopping and hair-braiding areas that we didn’t visit. Since most passengers seemed to disembark it took a while to get back onto the ship (we stood in line maybe 20 minutes to get onto the tender), but not a problem! Security in Haiti – because of the civil war in Haiti, some previous RCI cruises had been diverted to other ports of call. RCI and the local government had plenty of visible security at Labadee, and the area is a long way from the more settled parts of the island. My family didn’t feel threatened. Day 4, Wednesday – Ocho Rios, Jamaica Our shore excursion was a guided bus tour of Ocho Rios, ending with a trip to the Dunn’s River Falls park. The guide was very knowledgeable and agreeable, and taught us the mandatory Jamaican island phrases like “Yeah mon! and “No problem.” The Dunn’s River Fall park was quite beautiful with its lush tropical scenery. We opted not to do the full “river walk” up the falls; instead we splashed around in some of the pools. We would do the river walk and falls climb next visit. A word of warning – when you exit the park they try to get you to pass through a local “flea market.” If you don’t like hard sell, DON’T go through the flea market! I’ve been hustled in Cairo, Morocco, the Czech Republic, Tijuana, Acapulco and other places in Mexico, but the dealers in this flea market gave the best hard sell I’ve ever seen. It took a concerted effort to say “no” and make it stick; they often simply followed you and didn’t give up. One vendor followed another family all the way out to the bus! It would have been fun if their prices hadn’t been really exorbitant for cheap goods. If this sort of hard sell bothers you, take the “real” exit (the sign to the left as you’re leaving the park). We spent the rest of the day on our own in Ocho Rios, sampling Jamaican jerk with Red Stripe beer, and shopping. Lots of interesting souvenirs to choose from. Our 12-year-old decided on a hat with attached dreadlocks, so we called him Ziggy Marley after that. Some of the shops had some really interesting “smoking paraphernalia,” but we said no to that! We ended up drinking margaritas in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We couldn’t pass this up; Jimmy’s music is a family favorite, and we visit Margaritavilles wherever we find them. They had a great party going on. Back to the ship to sail away and enjoy dinner again. Our waiter was Osman from Turkey and his assistant was Radoslava from Slovakia; both were very professional. For the first time on a cruise we decided to tip the headwaiter, as ours (Majik from Poland) always came around to make sure everything was OK and was nicely attentive. While getting ready for dinner we heard the captain’s daily announcements after sailing. He remarked that a couple of passengers would do well to get some of the nicer watches for sale in the ship and consult them while on shore, because a couple of passengers had missed the ship and had to make their way out in a private boat. The “Mariner” was still in the harbor and stopped to let them board. That evening we got our second disappointment with the cruise. We were awakened about 3 AM by loud singing, apparently outside our balcony. Remember I mentioned that our balcony overlooked an extension of Deck 6 that stretched to the flagpole at the stern? Right beneath the flagpole there was an extension of Deck 5, with a small open area right at the “taffrail.” That small area apparently opened off of part of the crew quarters, because they had a table and chairs set up, and a crew member could usually be seen relaxing there. I didn’t have a big problem with that, even though it meant that no part of our balcony was truly private (a crew member in this break area could see into all parts of our balcony area). But I drew the line at singing at 3 AM. When we called the desk the singing ended very soon, and the next day the break table and chairs were removed. However, they were back on Friday, though there was no more singing. We also heard noises like clanging dishes from this area early some mornings, but the passenger relations people told us they could not determine what that was, and it stopped happening. Day 5, Thursday – Grand Cayman, B.W.I. (British West Indies) Grand Cayman is a gorgeous island. The 7-Mile Beach and ocean views are stupendous, even for a Floridian. We opted to sightsee on our own, and hired a taxi for $15 to take the four of us around Georgetown and the local area. We saw the local sights (7-Mile Beach, Government House, etc), and made stops at the turtle farm and rum cake factory. Just had to take one of those rum cakes home! Then we drove to one of my favorite stops: Hell! A small town on Grand Cayman is designated as Hell. I believe that’s the town’s incorporated name; anyway, there’s a real Hell post office. Theories on the name origin vary; the most plausible seems to be derived from a worn limestone rock formation that could be said to resemble “frozen flames” coming from the ground. One of the early governors is said to have remarked that “the place looks like Hell.” So the locals have capitalized on the name. You can drive down the road to Hell (paved with asphalt and not too many good intentions showing), mail letters and postcards from Hell post office, and buy your souvenirs in the Devil’s Hangout shop right beside the hellish rock formation. Of course, the guy minding the desk in the Devil’s Hangout tourist trap (I mean store) is dressed as the Devil. As I opened the door out of habit I said “How are you doing?” To which he replied (in an Irish accent), “I’m havin’ a Hell of a day!” I know, by now you’re thinking, “Gee, how corny is this?” But it was really a blast! That night for dinner we opted to eat at one of the two reservation-only, extra fancy restaurants on board. We chose the Italian Portofino’s. The other choice is the Chops Grill. Absolutely superb! Day 6, Friday – Cozumel, Mexico I think Cozumel has something for everyone. The shore excursion possibilities are too many to list! We had snorkeled there before, so we decided to try introduction to scuba diving this time. The instruction was safety-oriented and we dove with a small group. We had always wanted to try diving, and now we’re out to get our certifications so we can dive again. This shore excursion was great. After diving we sampled the shopping downtown. We loaded up on our favorite tequila (Tequila Orendain from Guadalajara, for you tequila aficionados, which you can’t get in the States) and various other souvenirs. Dinner at our usual seating again. I’ve read in other cruise reviews that RCI makes no claims to serve truly gourmet meals at the regular dinners, but the food on the “Mariner” is superb. However, I echo a remark I saw in another review: if you want a different entrée and choose to get one of the daily substitutes, don’t get the steak with herb butter. Day 7, Saturday – At Sea We sampled a couple of bars we had missed before, tried the slots in the casino, played lots of bingo, and visited the ice skating rink. The skating rink is unique to this class of RCI ship, and I believe the rock-climbing wall is unique as well. It would be pretty hard to get bored on the “Mariner.” We took in the final theater show, which was very nice. During times in our stateroom we made sure our on board account was correct through the menu on the television. That evening we also personally tipped our stateroom attendant, the headwaiter, and our two table waiters. They all greatly deserved it! Of course, if you wish, you can have the tips put on your account instead. Debarkation – Port Canaveral, Sunday I was up at 5 AM to sit on the balcony and watch us come home. I knew I was home to Florida’s Space Coast when I heard an osprey cry at Port Canaveral. As with other cruises, the night before the stateroom attendant had given us color-coded luggage tags. Our bags were picked up after midnight. We breakfasted one last time in the Windjammer and then waited in the main theater for our color to be called. We debarked about 10 AM. Of course, there were lines to go through Customs, but not too long. One aspect of RCI debarking that I found better than Carnival was the fact that your luggage is on conveyors, just like at an airport. It makes the bags much easier to find than the Carnival system of stacking them in the open bay areas. So what happened to the resolution of our complaints about the stateroom obstructed view and the crew break area that looked into our balcony? The customer representatives on the ship were very helpful, though they couldn’t do anything about the view of course. We contacted RCI in Miami, and they apologized for the crew break area and the singing, and also for the obstructed view. They acknowledged that their literature should mention the obstructed view. They’ve given us a nice discount voucher for a future cruise, and we’re happy!

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By Lori_CR

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Jul 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

I have enjoyed reading the many reviews of the Mariner of the Seas and I have learned a lot of great things from those reviews. We just got back from our 7 night Eastern Caribbean Vacation (our first cruise ever) and I wanted to share my experience with the hope that it might help some other first time cruisers. I know that this is a long review, but this review is for those who have a fear of the unknown. If you have any other questions,

please feel free to email me privately. Getting to Port Canaveral: We drove our own vehicle to Port Canaveral. We took the Beeline Expressway as directed and once we were getting close to the port there were numerous marquees with specific directions for Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. I will confess, once we first spotted her from the expressway, the butterflies in my stomach became intense. She was sitting in port with two other ships, Disney Magic and the Carnival Fantasy. There was no questions which was ours, she was by far the biggest and most beautiful. We were directed to Cruise Terminal A. This is indicated on the marquees as well as the cruise documents you should receive before your trip. Once we got closer to the terminal, there was an abundance of signs telling us exactly where to go. Once we made it to the Royal Caribbean area, a very polite security guard who wanted to see our cruise documents only to make sure we were in the proper spot met us. Unloading and Parking: We actually arrived at the Port around 11:00 a.m. I had read numerous reviews and it was suggested that we arrive early even though our documents stated that loading wouldn’t begin until early afternoon. We were directed down a long street and told to drive in front of the terminal to unload all our CHECKED baggage. As we were doing this, I will warn you, that there were a lot of people. Some going to the ship and some just leaving the terminal. It was slight chaos. We waited in a line of cars and as we crept closer to the terminal we were directed to a parking lot where porters were waiting to take our bags and put them on luggage carts. These men were taking our luggage and putting them on carts that were going to go straight to the ship. Please people, to speed things along …have your luggage tags already on your luggage BEFORE you get to the terminal. I think at this point we could have let others in our party out with our carryon luggage at the terminal and have them wait for us, but we decided to all go and park together. There were actually 13 of us and we had 3 vanloads of people and luggage. After unloading our checked bags, we were directed to the parking area. It is here that we paid our parking fee. Information I had stated that parking was $10 per day and we would be there for 8 days, however, prepaid parking only cost us $70. I was very pleased to find out that we would actually be parking in a parking garage. I worried about our vehicle being parked in the open Florida sun/weather for that long of a time. And because we were early, we got to park on the ground floor. Check-in, Security and Embarkation: When we entered the terminal we immediately had to have our carryon luggage x-rayed and pass through a metal detector ourselves. They are very strict about this. The lady in front of me had an infant in a stroller. They made her pick up the baby and hold it out at arms length in front of her as they both passed through. After clearance, we were asked by personnel if we had all of our documents, including the Bahamas Immigration Form. Which we did! However, I don’t understand how some people said they didn’t even have their tickets, let alone their Bahamas form. This form comes with your cruise documents. Take the time to have this filled out along with your charge account information. We were sent on to check in – a real time saver. We proceeded up an escalator where you see a clerk that corresponds to the deck your cabin is on. It is here that all your forms are taken from you and you receive your Sea Pass card. Once you are through this, it is on to the ship. When you actually cross the gangway and enter the ship, you have to insert your Sea Pass into a machine and have your picture taken. This was probably the worst photo ever taken of me. I had no idea what was going on and didn’t know exactly where I was looking or why I was doing this. However, each time you get on or off at ports, this picture pops up. After that, you will be met with the first photographer of your cruise for your welcome aboard photo. I redeemed myself on that pic! Our Official Day 1: Once we entered the ship, we were met by some Adventure Ocean (Children’s Program) staff. Any children under the age of 12 are required to wear a wrist bracelet for the duration of the cruise. The purpose of this is if you become separated from your child during an evacuation, the bracelet lets the staff now where to find the parents. In theory, this is a wonderful idea, however, my 8-year-old daughter came to hate this bracelet. It was tight and often scratched her. Honestly, by Friday of our cruise. We cut it off. She did not participate in any of the Adventure Ocean activities and never left our side anyway. Our Stateroom was not available until 1 p.m. that afternoon, so we were told we could go to the Windjammer Café on Deck 11 for lunch. This was great, however, you have to keep your carryon luggage with you and it became it was a pain to have to carry our entire carryon luggage with us. The rooms were okay. We had an inside stateroom with 2 pull down beds, (Kids loved em). We put the two twin beds together, however, I think they may have been full size beds, because it felt like a king size bed instead of a queen. There was a safe in the room and a small refrigerator. We did bring our own pop on board in our suitcases and asked our wonderful stateroom attendant “Catur” to empty out the minibar. This was no problem. The storage spaces in the inside staterooms are minimal. There is a closet with some shelves, but no dresser drawers like in a hotel room. There is minimal cabinet space and a few drawers in the desk. There is a small couch in the room. We stored our suitcases under the bed along with our lifejackets. We were to leave for Nassau at 5 p.m., but we didn’t leave until after 6 p.m. apparently there was a security problem following disembarking that morning and it took several hours to regain security clearance. There was also a storm that moved through and the captain decided to wait to leave so we could be on deck to watch. Nassau: We had booked the excursion, Blackbeard’s Cay Beach Break. It was okay. The beach we went to was a private island. However, it was very rocky in the water. We could not be in the water without beach shoes. It wasn’t overly crowded and we had a good time. Those who book the Stingray Snorkel go to this same island. We didn’t do this, but could see that the area where you snorkel is enclosed within a fence and it seemed to be very crowded. We didn’t get to explore Nassau other than the walk we had to take to get to the exploration boat. It happened to be Bahamas Independence Day and a lot of the shops were closed anyway. Tuesday at Sea: This was our first chance to really enjoy the ship. This is also the day we could really feel the ship moving. Yes, people even a ship of this size rocks in the water. We encountered 45 mph head winds this day and it was quite a challenge to even walk the top deck. I would not let my 8 year old on the top deck because of the high winds. It was nice to sunbathe on this day, because the intense sun/heat was less noticeable with the winds. St. Thomas: What can I say!! LOVED IT!! (The shopping anyway). We had an afternoon excursion so the morning was free to shop. We got off the ship and was met me eager taxi drivers. It cost us $3 per person each way to hitch a ride to town to shop. We drove to downtown, but there is a shopping mall within walking distance of the ship. Much of the same shops as downtown, but not as many sidewalk vendors. The sidewalk vendors are what I really liked though. A wide variety of t-shirts, island wear, and best of all, designer purses. A word to the wise…if you see something you like, BUY IT. I didn’t buy a purse I really liked thinking I would find the same things on St. Maarten. Didn’t happen. People, don’t waste your time shopping on St. Maarten. Buy it on St. Thomas. After leaving the island, I joked about asking the captain to stop back by St. Thomas and let me get the purse. Our afternoon excursion was the St. John Beach Tour. Highly recommend it! We went to Trunk Bay and it was absolutely beautiful. We were able to snorkel and no additional charge and it was amazing. I tried to snorkel in Hawaii and hated it. But the waters here were so calm it was wonderful. I only wished I had spent the whole time snorkeling. St. Maarten: Like I mentioned before. Don’t waste time shopping here. We were constantly hounded for hair braiding and to shop in their shops. The T-shirts here were of very low quality at least at the sidewalk vendors. There were a few stores that had quality products, and they were willing to give you a decent buy if you purchased several things. We booked the Afternoon Beach Break at Orient Beach. Over 250 people on our ship also booked this tour. However, this strip of sand is quite large and it didn’t seem overly crowded here. The water here was very rough though. My nephews were finally able to do some body surfing here. The waves were strong enough to knock you down without being to far out. We were warned about possible nudity on this beach, but I only saw one lady topless (and you had to really look to tell if it were a man or woman). The provided lounge chairs were very comfortable and the punch was okay. Last Sea Days: The last two days were at sea. We enjoyed the pool, rock wall, ice-skating, inline skating, etc. I personally didn’t get to do too much on Saturday as I spent most of the afternoon packing. All checked luggage has to be outside of your stateroom between 7 p.m. and midnight. Other Ship Activities: Rock Wall – I didn’t do it. But my daughters did. There are 3 different levels you can climb. You have to sign up and parents have to sign waivers for their children and for yourself. There was usually a line, but it goes fast because they can send 3 at one time. Ice Skating – The show was wonderful. However, I didn’t like the way they did tickets. You have to have tickets to go to the show, and tickets were made available while we were at an excursion in Nassau. We did manage to get them once we got back on the ship, but I think they should do this differently. Actual ice-skating was okay. It’s a small rink and it can get crowded. They usually let you skate for about 15 minutes before they ask you to get off and let others skate. Again waiver must be signed. Inline Skating – Small track, but not usually too busy. Tried it. Feel on my butt. I was done. Parents again must sign waivers. Miniature Golf – I personally didn’t do the golf, but the rest of my family did. Can’t offer an opinion here. Promenade Parades – Stay up late the first day and go to the Welcome Aboard Parade. It was wonderful and a great way to kick off your vacation. It starts at 10:45 p.m., but worth it! The farewell parade left a little to be desired and didn’t at all compare to the welcome parade. Windjammer / Dining Room – We ate all breakfast & lunch meals in the Windjammer Café. It is a buffet style – pancakes, waffles, bacon, for breakfast and hotdogs, hamburgers and wonderful French fries for lunch. There were a lot of other types of food too. The food was average. Nothing exceptional, but certainly a wide variety. I will say to try the Pan de Sal Asian bread in the Jade area. Wonderful!! That I truly miss. The Dining Room was beautiful. We ate there every night but the first. We had the best waiter, Tong. He was from China and he was the best. I wish we could have brought him home. We had two tables for our family. The kids sat at their own table and Tong referred to them as “his little friends.” It was really fun talking to him about American customs. The boys enjoyed trying to teach him about baseball. As far as our Assistant Waiter and the Maitre D. We personally couldn’t understand anything they said. Our AW was from Indonesia and the MD was very French and arrogant. Be for-warned…the majority of the RC staff are from other countries. I only saw a couple that were from the states. Most can speak English, but it is difficult to carry on conversations with them. Shows – Shows were great. Our first show was The Platters. They were wonderful. The comics on board were hilarious. Take the time to go to these shows. Worth it! Disembarking the Final Time: On the last night, you will receive in your room disembarking instructions along with new color-coded luggage tags. These tags will determine how soon you get off the ship. You must leave your stateroom by 8 a.m. and go to one of the theaters or open decks to wait. We were in the Savoy Theatre by 7:30, but didn’t leave the ship until 10:15 a.m. Our color was in the middle of the pack. I have a hint – but don’t know if it will work. The night before in front of guest relations are the color-coded tags in case you need extra and you will know the color order from your cruise compass. In hind site, I’m wondering if I would have gotten a color closer to the beginning we would have been on the road much sooner. Keep in mind, others may have been doing this and it may create a mob getting off the ship. We didn’t have much problem once I color was called. And your luggage doesn’t go to the terminal until your color is called. Once our color was called, we left the ship and had to go through U.S. Customs. It was chaotic with everyone trying to go down the escalator, but after that we were through customs quickly. Its then off to get your luggage. The different colors are at different carousels. We found ours quite quickly and grabbed a porter and we were soon on our way home! Overview – I had a wonderful time. I thought I would be ready to get off the ship after 8 days, but I wasn’t. I could have easily gone out for another 7 nights. I’ve read many reviews about people complaining about all the kids. This cruise was in the middle of the summer. We were at full capacity. 5000 people and crew. Yes, there were kids and teens, but I never encountered any rude children. And the only crying child I remember hearing was in the theatre waiting to get off the ship. If you take a cruise looking to find things wrong, than you will find them. I went on this cruise for the vacation of a lifetime and that is exactly what I experienced.

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Jun 3, 2004

Western Caribbean

I had an absolutely amazing time aboard the mariner of the Seas. The Ship was incredibly beautiful, and the crew and staff aboard were fanominal. Every Night we were served a wonderful 3 corse meal (and your always welcome to have more then just 1 of any course) from the best waiter and assistant waiter I have ever had. The shows were also great. Our Cruise Director, Becky, always started and ended the show with her amazing energy and

upbeat personality. The Royal Carribean Singers and Dancers as well as our Cruise Director had amazing talent. I was blown away by the one show called Pure Energy that took us back to the rock f the 80's. Also the 3 comedians we saw at 3 of the shows were very entertaining and hilarious. I even got to see the legend group of the 50s and 60s known as The Platters perform many of their hit songs. Our Ports of call were much much fun. In Labadee my famly and I relaxed on the beautiful secluded beach area and swam in the crystal clear ocean waters (yes water is supposed to be clear and blue.) Our Second stop was in Ohos Rios, Jamaica. My family and I went on an afternoon river tubbing excersion here, which was so much fun. Becky and a few other members of the staff joined us on this which made it even more fun.(when I was in Jamaica not even a year ago we swam with dolphins and climbed the Duns River Falls, all a part of our cruise excursion.) The next port of call was Geogetown, Grand Cayman. I did most of my shopping here as its one of the greatest shopping attractions of the western carribean. My mom and stepdad liked the cheap cost of liqur here and brought back some. In Georgetown the locals were very friendly and never pushed items onto you like those in labadee and jamaica. Our Final stop was Cozumel, Mexico. Unfortunately the weather was very overcast and stormy so I only spent close to an hour on land. I bought some nice things there. (Also the last time I went to Cozumel we took an excursion to see the Mayan Ruines, it was a great experience that you shouldnt miss out on.) Overall the entire Cruise Vacation was amazing. Having over 4000 people on the ship was quite allright because of the enormous size of it so I have nothing to complain about in that department. I did however like the early seating on the last cruise compared to late seating this time, only because of the long lines to wait for pictures on formal nights. Having activities to do on board such as mini golf, a rock climbing wall, a day spa, fittness room and track, multiple swimming pools and hot tubs, ice skating on the indoor rink, shows at night, ice shows, kids and teens club activites with adventure ocean, roller skating rink, movie theter, midnight buffet, parties for all ages, teen and adult clubs, and the many many more activities like the belly flop competition made my week one I'll remember forever. A cruise with Royal Carribean is great for people of all ages and Is something you shouldnt miss out on. The Royal Carribean motto GET OUT THERE is something you should always keep in mind as well as Beckys motto...Whatever you do, do it with a smile. So on my Cruise I definately got out there, and did it all with a smile. : )

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May 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date: May 30th, 2004 I was so excited to hear that I was going on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I went straight to the computer to look up some fun shore excursions. I was very surprised at how easy this was to book. There were so many great options at each port! We flew to Orlando, and were greeted by people from Royal Caribbean who somehow

knew us by name as soon as we walked up. They led us directly to the bus where our luggage was put under the bus. We had a smooth and comfortable bus ride. The bus was clean, the seats were comfortable, and the heat was set to a good temperature so that we would not be sweltering from the Orlando heat. We got off the bus at the port after having been greeted by a RCCL crewmember. There were long lines in the port, but we had made special arrangements to be in a special (and very short) line. I don’t know how we did this, but you should definitely find out how for your vacation. We got our cards, which acted as a room key and credit card (the credit card option can be removed for the younger children). We walked through the doors, and there was a photographer who could take your picture as you walked onto the boat. We got on the boat, but didn’t have to worry about taking our luggage anywhere. It was taken up to the room by RCCL. We were not yet allowed up to the room because it was still being cleaned, so we decided to go to the Windjammer where lunch was being served. We had to wait a very long time at the entrance until opening (this was only on departure day), but we found that the food was very good. The Windjammer was a buffet that had everything…hamburgers and French fries, all different kinds of salads, meat carving stations, an Asian station, a beverage station, pasta, pizza, soup, yummy desserts, and many other great foods. We found that we enjoyed the Windjammer throughout our vacation. We were upset that our luggage didn’t arrive to our room until about 6 o’clock at night, but we were so excited about our cruise that this didn’t even matter. We went to our room when it was ready, and it was beautiful. It was a Grand Suite with a balcony double the size of most others. The entire room was very spacious, including the big bathroom. We slept 4 people in this room without a problem. If you’re thinking about not getting a balcony because you “won’t really use it” think again. We thoroughly enjoyed our balcony, which gave so much more light and beauty to the room. Plus, we could always hear the sounds of the ocean and could see the sun rising and setting. Dinner at the dining room was good, not great. There were many great choices, along with the “always on the menu” options for those picky eaters. One thing that disappointed me was that my dad tried to order shrimp cocktail on a night that it wasn’t on the menu. They should have been able to bring it to him, right? They firmly answered that they were unable to serve this to him. We also didn’t really like our waiter. He wasn’t as upbeat and friendly as the other waiters, and when he noticed that the waiter in the section next to us was doing a better job at connecting with his tables, he tried to do the same. He started calling the desserts “yummy yummies”, which didn’t impress us more. On our last cruise, we had really liked our waiter. He had such a great personality, and even though this wasn’t a RCCL cruise, we were still looking for that same service. We didn’t get that on the Mariner. There were so many great activities on the ship, and we really enjoyed our shore excursions. One thing not to do is Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Most people enjoy this trip, but I didn’t. This was because the guide claimed that we were a “special” tour, and decided to take us up the middle of the falls! The water was rushing at us, and I honestly felt unsafe. This was not very fun. We did a dolphin excursion in Cozumel which was fun, and my favorite excursion was in Grand Cayman where we went out on a nice, big boat to swim with the stingrays. Labadee was basically just a place to sit around on the beach, and there wasn’t much to do. All of the activities on the ship were fun. Rock climbing, mini golfing, relaxing by the pool…the fun is endless! Everything on the ship was fun and exciting, even when the weather wasn’t so good. We found out that since we had booked a suite, we were allowed in the Concierge Lounge. Here there was a free continental breakfast, free soda (there is NEVER any free soda anywhere else on the ship), and free appetizers before dinner. We met some nice people in this very relaxed, laid back atmosphere. There was a free concierge service, which even had videos that you could rent. This was nice, because not many people knew about this spot, and it was exclusively for people in suites. There was even a special key to get in! This was a really fun part of our cruise. Departure went smoothly, although it was very long. We really enjoyed our cruise on the Mariner of the Seas, and were sad to go home.  

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May 29, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Don Mitroff This was to be a very special 25th anniversary gift to myself and my wife and we chose to sail on Royal Carribbeans’ Mariner of the Seas on May 30th-June 6th, 2004. I made the reservations via phone and reserved a forward cabin on the 8th deck with a balcony . We had never sailed before and we selected the Mariner due to its

newness, size, and amenities. I made phone reservations for a one night stay-over at Walt Disney World’s Hilton, with a shuttle to pick us up on the morning of the sailing ( May 30th). The hotel is beautiful and centrally located in the heart of the Walt Disney World Hotel complex and in close proximity to Pleasure Island etc…. The hotel was large , elegant, comfortable, in room fridge, safe, and loaded with amenities and several restaurants, and very clean. We checked in on May 29th at 10;30 pm, and asked the guest relations manager for the pickup time of the shuttle in the morning. He said he did not know exactly, and that the Concierge was off-duty until the next morning at 8 am. We asked if the shuttle could come as early as 8 am…and he said …” yes, I do believe that the shuttle arrives somewhere around 8;00 or 8;30. This uncertainty now meant that my wife and I would not be able to stay up late or visit any local spots …since we would likely have to be up very early so as to avoid the possibility of missing the shuttle to Port Canaveral. We were a bit disappointed that the selected RCCL hotel did not have specific information relating to shuttle pick up. We woke up at 6:30 am and called the shuttle line agency advertised in our reservation book from RCCL. They said that the bus would arrive at 10:30 am….. We were too excited to get upset , and decided to eat a leisurely breakfast and wait . The bus trip over to Port Canaveral was on a very sleek and modern bus with overhead television monitors and very comfortable seating. The bus arrived on time and bags were packed by the driver and all went very smoothly. We departed around 11;00 am and made one quick stop at the Caribe Royal suites hotel and resort to pick up some more RCCL passengers, then we were on our way to vacation!!!!!!!! The bus ride was very comfortable but……… there is an onboard restroom at the rear of the bus , and an elderly woman used the facilities 15 minutes into the ride and the ventilation carried an intensely foul odor fully halfway up the bus, and made the entire rear of the bus to react and groan and eventually have nervous laughter. This was a peculiarly bad start we thought. We arrived some 20 minutes later at the entrance to Port Canaveral, and found extremely long lines of cars and buses which crept along for at least 30 minutes before we got into the unloading area. The first person on the bus from RCCL gave us some peppy little greeting and made sure to tell us to kindly tip the porters. Our bags were pre marked and were to be delivered to the rooms while we were boarding. The lines were smooth and efficient, and very well organized. A photographer met us at the end of the process and took a photo as we boarded. We were blown away by the size and majestic beauty of the ship. I had never seen anything like it, rich mahogany, marble, glass, steel, chandeliers, paintings, and deluxe elevators that lead to a total of 15 levels. We walked to our stateroom and found it to be pretty much what we expected ….clean, neat, compact and yet efficient for our needs. The bathroom was small but the shower was ample and had a removable hand shower set up that was really quite nice. The balcony was small but delightful, with an opaque dividing wall between cabins for privacy. We were told that our bags would arrive over the next few hours and that we should check the ship out. We went to the Windjammer restaurant to get some lunch since we overheard that most people were heading there. Upon arrival were were blown away by the opulence of the 11th deck and the strolling musicians and pina colada carrying waiters. We were ready to party . We went in to eat lunch after we purchased “ soft drink “ cards…for $42 per adult per week. This was a mistake ..and we never should have done this , as we never drank anywhere near enough pop to make this worthwhile. The Windjammer buffet room was enormous and had 3 large seating areas and numerous buffet stations which were load with food. We checked out the JADE section and were a bit disappointed that the food there was at best “ average “ looking, and looked like something you might expect at Panda express. We were not disappointed with the traditional buffet lines…. They had an incredible variety of hot and cold meats, salads, soups, chesses, desserts, and carving stations. We smiled and thought what weight we were going to gain. Getting a place to sit was a problem on opening day…but eventually we found a small table for 2 and ate looking out over Port Canaveral. The food was good And we were not disappointed at all. We then checked out the Chops Dining room and made a reservation for that very evening….and were told that smart people do that, since opening night is usually a slower night in the Chops Grille. We made a reservation for 7;30 and decided to check out the ship until then. I can only say this about the ship……. WOW …WOW …WOW…. This is a floating city …a real masterpiece……a showplace , and wew knew we were going to have a very nice 25th anniversary trip. The promenade was spectacular and left me speechless ……….the pool decks were wonderful and I could tell that there were going to be many happy sunbathers on those decks…. The crew was very friendly and they made special efforts to be very warm and gracious. We found the Main dining area to be elegant and the food wonderful each evening…. An occasional menu item was “ average” but most were top notch, and better than we had anticipated. The wait staff was friendly and very accommodating, and our tablemates made the trip ( 4 women ) and they all liked to have fun……….as we did…it was a perfect match. Over the next 7 days we saw a top flight ship and a top flight crew meet our every need, and they all were obviously trained to pamper the guests. We felt pampered and special and it made the experience so wonderful. The cruise director was a bundle of energy and was very vocal and energetic ( understatement ). I did find the QUEST adventure which was designated as an “ adult scavenger hunt” to be overdone with a unwelcome amount of sexual innuendoes and even the encouragement of teams of men to remove their pants and wear women's bras , skip around holding other mens hands etc etc…to have been cheap , degrading, tasteless and offensive ….and an unnecessary and excessive display of group dynamics and mind control via peer pressure that I wouldn’t have expected from such a top flight 600 million diollar ship or its’ female cruise director. This display left my wife and I wondering just who gave the OK to this vulgar display. We are not prudes , and we were not the only ones who complained and astonished at the low-brow humor this game conveyed. RCCL should scrap this filthy event, or get a responsible cruise director or both. The rst of the week we ate , and ate, and made about 100 trips on the deluxe elevators, and loved every nook and cranny of this multi-facted behemoth. My wife especially loved Johnny Rockets for its laid back, happy dancing crew and burgers and shakes motif…. What a blast. The sailing weather was smooth, though we did feel the boat move at times and yes , there were several passengers who appeared to be affected , though they were the minority. I and my wife both made it throught the entire trip without a bout of sickness. The ports of call were “ as advertised” and were loads of fun and very well organized. Top marks to RCCL for the shore excursions. Shopping onboard was great, as was onboard parades, games, décor, the Café Promenade, and jewelry sales . My wife went nuts and I didn’t care……It was a blast……… The end of the trip was just as organized as the start, and I was so impressed by the orderliness of the disembarking and the beautiful bus ride to Orlando Airport…. RCCL did a great job…..and all I can say for my first cruise experience is YAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don’t miss this ship…….. Captain Johnny and the crew are outstanding. Hope this helps. Sincerely, DON AND PAT

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May 8, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

After 3 months after our cruise, my wife and I just had to post this review. This was our first cruise and we just cannot tell you everything but keep reading and you will book your cruise on the Mariner of the Seas! We boarded in Port Canaveral and the process was fast and easy for those of us to actually do their homework so go online and fill out the forms, have a pen handy while waiting in line with all the documents you need. Don’t

carry a lot on board, check as much as possible because you might have to wait for your room to be ready. We had an hour and a half wait and took so much stuff with us that someone had to wait with it in the library on the 7th deck. So only pull one bag and make sure it has wheels or else you will just have to sit and wait. Which you will not want to do so pack light. First, Captain Johnny was the best. | miss hearing him say, “Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning” because if you ever cruise on his boat you will want to buy a Harley, have a maid, and personal head waiter named David. We were on the boat at 11:30am on Sunday and promptly found the pool bar, (my wife found five different ones before the boat left port). This is a floating city with the best bar staff in Florida and they will remember your face and drink within the hour. When we left port, we were in the conga line, and the boat is so large that you don’t feel a thing. So much to do and so little time (especially trying to keep up with 10 other people) If you go in a group you must buy the walkie talkies they sell in the general store. Less to pack and better value than Walmart. Wait until the last sea day to save on souvenirs. The second day was to be Lebadee but they sent us to CoCo Cay which was nice and relaxing with lots of beach stuff to do. We live in Florida so it was a nap under the palm to catch up on our shut eye from all the fun we had the first night on board. The food was terrific and the water taxi’s were nice way to get to know other people. Our sea day was so packed full of stuff to do that we had to take our compass with us so we could keep track of where to be and at what time. Keep a permanent smile because they take your picture everytime you turn around! The comedy show was so funny we bought the CD, the welcome aboard show has a cruise director that should sing professionally and according to my wife is just the cutest thing ever..... Ocho Rios was a shock but we had a great time on the Martha Brae river. It is sad to see a cow chained to a pole while goats are a prized possession but the people are so sweet and the excursion was fun. Beware they drive on the wrong side of the road and have no highways or stop signs. Lots of honking goes on! Grand Cayman stingray city was a nice relaxing boat ride in a beautiful port but be prepared to wait in a group then walk around the corner to a bus. Once you get to the boat, it’s smooth sailing from there but no alcohol until after the excursion. Cozumel was a blast but you must go to Carlos and Charlies. The tequila conga line and three tier dance stage will make your friends laugh and you will take home pictures that you can’t show your parents. Remember the golden rule: What goes on in Mexico will stay in Mexico expect for the pictures so be careful! The formal nights were magical but a lot of picture taking so be ready early if you have the main seating. Those who like to stay up late should book the second dinner seating. The food was fabulous in the dining room and since we had a party of 12, we had our own head waiter and the service was over the top. You can eat from sunup to sunup and never eat the same thing twice. I cannot end this review with out saying you absolutely must go to the quest and beware of men with fake legs and pray you have someone in your section with false teeth. Your welcome to email me and I will explain! We will be happy to answer any emails so feel free to ask us because there is just to much to say in such a short space. Our overall experience was so great, I honestly can’t wait to do it again and just don’t think any other cruise will compare to being on the Mania of the Seas. Don’t be shy, jump in and participate and don’t bring your troubles with you!

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Apr 4, 2004

Western Caribbean

We had a terrific week on Mariner of the Seas. It's a beautiful, new ship with almost more to do than can be done in a week's time. There is something for everyone -- basketball, mini golf, ping pong, swimming, jogging track, ice and inline skating for the sports enthusiast and many quieter activities for others, including an internet center and a very

comfortable and well-stocked library. You can "people watch" at the Cafe on the Royal Promenade and enjoy a cup of coffee or stretch out in a comfy lounge chair in the Solarium. We loved the Solarium as opposed to the larger and louder and more crowded pool area. Even though Mariner is an enormous ship -- there were 3,500 guests plus crew on our sailing and 1,000 were kids! -- it rarely seemed crowded and we never waited more than a few minutes in lines. There are so many different activities on many different decks, but one can always find a quiet place. The promenade deck (deck 4), for example, is very wide and circles the ship. In the old days aboard ship this was the place folks gathered or sat to read or take walks as there wasn't much in the way of entertainment. Today, however, the promenade deck is little used as people are mostly "inside" shopping or eating or lounging at the pool or involved in a myriad of activities. So, the lovely, wide promenade deck is all but vacant. Many times I took daily walks here, as opposed to the more crowded jogging track, and would often be one of only 8 or 10 people around. It's a great place to lounge in a chair and read or enjoy the view or take a stroll after dinner and watch the sun set. Another quiet spot during the day is the heli pad. Go to deck four and walk up the stairs at the front of the boat to the heli pad. There are benches to sit on and the view is great. Or go up to the "peek-a-boo" deck (outside of the solarium) and look down through the windows and watch the crew operate the boat. Or go all the way up to the fifteenth deck (the red-carpeted stairs outside of Ellington's)and see the sunlight come through the stained glassed ceiling of the lovely little chapel. Everyone on board finds the "active" spots, but some of the quieter ones are special, too. We enjoyed the shows in the Savoy Theatre and went almost every night. We had main seating at dinner (6 o'clock) and then had a chance to go back to our rooms and relax a bit before showtime. The early dinner worked great for us. We never had a line getting into the dining room as I noticed sometimes for the later seating and we never had a problem getting a great seat at the theatre. The ice show was perhaps the best entertainment on board. Be sure to see this performance and check about tickets. Though the Savoy theatre does not require tickets, the ice show does. There is no cost, but you do have to get them in advance. Costumes are fabulous. There are bars galore and nightly entertainment here, too. I liked Bolero's Latin music and the band there was quite good. The singer in the Wig and Gavel was good, too, and the mimes and comics and singers on the promenade were always good. The parade (don't miss the parades and get there on time as they last only a few minutes) were very colorful and unexpected on a boat! Vintages wine bar was especially nice and offered wine tastings almost every day. The staff there were so nice and informative. The ship's staff in general were excellent. Our room attendant was always cheery and seemed to time our comings and goings right each day, providing a different towel animal each night and taking a moment to converse with us about each of our excursions ashore and inquiring about our activities. Our dining room staff were exceptional, as well, and made a point of remembering what each person liked to drink and doing everything they could to make our dining experiences enjoyable. We were at a big table and thoroughly enjoyed all the folks we were paired with. In fact, we were going to dine in Portofino's or Chops one night and cancelled our reservation as we preferred to spend the time with our new dinner mates. For the most part, we had a terrific time. The weather was superb -- sunshine every day and clear, still, looking-glass seas with hardly a ripple. You couldn't even tell you were on a boat! We had a suite with a wonderfully large balcony with lounge chair and a small table and chairs where we had breakfast several times. We splurged to get the suite and it was worth it. There was a large bathroom with tub, two sinks, and two walls that were mirrored...a large closet, bar,sofa bed and queen bed. The suites also come with concierge service -- complimentary continental breakfast and complimentary drinks and hors d'oerves before dinner. I really cannot come up with anything negative to say about the Mariner. Our trip was just great and everything worked out well. Even getting off and on the ship, which I expected (with the new security regulations, etc) to be exhausting, wasn't. The lines moved efficiently and quickly. We never had much of a wait anywhere. Shore excursions we liked: swimming with the stingrays at Stingray City on Grand Cayman, the Coyaba River Gardens on Jamaica (don't bother paying to shop at "Island Village," it's in walking distance of the boat...so is the Taj Mahal)and the Atlantis submarine in Cozumel (also available in Grand Cayman). The sub goes down about 100 feet at Chankanab National Park...the fish are beautiful and everyone has a window to view the scenery. Kids went on the sub, as well as one very elderly couple. It was a treat. My only disappointment didn't have anything at all to do with the ship per se, but rather with cruising in general. I have traveled extensively in many parts of the world and this trip made me realize just how very different "traveling" is from cruising. A cruise is a wonderful chance to relax, to get a glimpse of a lot of different places, to do some shopping, and to be catered to in so many ways. The drawbacks for a "traveler," however, is that one gets only a glimpse of the places visited. Our trip was to the Western Caribbean (Cococay Bahamas, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel) and I would like to have spent a little more time in each place. I have been to the Caribbean many times and I realized on this week-long journey afloat that folks who had never been to the islands were going back home after a week with only a vague notion of the places they'd seen. I missed lying on the beach amongst the seagrape trees, listening to the rain at night, hearing the birds sing in the early morning, and smelling the tropical flowers. The ports-of-call are bustling places to shop, but they are not truly indicative of the culture or the people or some of the finer pleasures to be had in the islands. So, my advice would be: if you've never cruised, don't miss doing it! And choose a ship like the Mariner that has something for everyone, from the kids to the grandparents, from the active to the passive, from the artist to the athlete. On the other hand, if you've always been a "cruiser," consider choosing one of the places that have intrigued you most and next vacation go there for a week and relax on land and get to know the people and the place and the culture up close. The world is full of wonderful possibilities.

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Mar 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

Me and my family ( Aunt and uncle included ) and my family friend scheduled our cruise in about 6 months in advance. Paying off every month until the cruise. We had to get my friends ( stephanie who was also 14 ) parents to sign and fill out some stuff and have time to talk about money for shopping and shore excursions. In the morning on the day

of the cruise we finished getting everything together, waited for my relatives to arrive and also for Stephanie to arrive at my house which pretty much happened at about 11:30. Then we left for the port. When we dropped off out laugage, we had to get my mom a wheel chair because she broke her leg about 3 months before the cruise, but that didnt change anything, except for our Embarkation routine. We had wonderful service for the Royal Carribean staff with the assistance of my mom. It went very fast. While waiting to get our sea passes and head to take out boarding photo, i saw about 3 people i knew from around my own town getting on the ship. After we got our sea passes, we went swiftly aboard the Mariner Of The Seas! I was in complete "awe" when we boarded. The ship was enormus and absolutlely magnificent! Very decorative. Me and my family and Stephanie had staterooms on the 10th deck, two differnt cabins. My Aunt and Uncle were located on deck 8. Me, my mom, and stephanie shared a room, the handicap room, this room was a really nice size compared to my brother and dad's room, it had a seat in the shower. a big opening to the room, it was very manoverable in that room. ( We all had interior rooms ) The neat thing about the television is that you could order room service from your television by using the remote if you don't feel like calling, we used this plenty of times. When we entered our room and turned on our television, the screen said " Welcome, Allison, Stephanie, And Shelia" I thought it was very neat. After we got settled me and stephanie we to get something to eat in the Wind Jammer Cafe', which is an international buffet. The food aboard this ship was just about the best I have honestly ever had. Service here was very nice. In the Wind Jammer is were Portofinos And Chops were located, these two resturants you have to make reservations for. My parents ate at Portofinos and said it was excelent! Afterwards, we went to go walk around, we went to the pool deck which is just outside the entrance of the Wind Jammer ( port or starboard side ) it had a total of 4 hot tubs, and 2 swimmings pools, there were two bars out ther Brittos Sky Bar and Britto's Pool Bar ( the difference is that the Sky Bar is located on deck tweleve, one deck above the Pool Bar. ) Bartenders here are very friendly and funny. After we walked around there for a little bit we went to the sports deck. There they had full court basket ball, ping pong, and minature golf. Me and stephanie did a lot of each. After that we found my dad on the walkie-talkie ( these come in great use ) and met at the Jhonny Rockets, but we never ate there, and i regret that because i heard they had great malts. Then we left them again and went to the Royal Promanade. This is where all the shopping was on board, there was a wine bar called Vintages, and a pub called the Wig and Gavel. ( my dad is into wines so he spent a lot of time at vintages. ) They had perfume and colonge shops, boutique shops, and a logo shop. Located here was also a Ice cream machine, a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop, and a cafe ( they served, pizza, sandwhiches and desserts here for free). The life boat drill didnt last that long, we didn't even have to go outside luckily. We left port a little late due to a late bus from the airport, but that didnt matter because we are the last to leave out of the three ships that leave on sunday. We stood up on deck twelve all the way forward so we could say good-bye to stephanies parents who were waiting for us. We saw them and waved to them for about forever but it was fun. Here we met one of my good friends from school who was on the cheerleading squad with me at school. After we got out past the beach me and stephanie headed back to the room to change ( o yeah, and about our rooms, they were in the same hall as all the suites and even the royal suite was just down the hall, i got a peek in it when it was being clean, i was breathless.) Ate dinner we ate in the Rhadophsy in Blue ( the bottom dining room )out waiter was Navas from India, and Elmer from the Phillipense. These two did a fine job in sevice and entertainment. The food here was magnificent! I have had cruise food before but man, there was something different about this. It was just great food! Ha! After dinner Me and Stephanie had to go to the guest relations desk to get some sea sick pills because the ship was a little bit on the tipsy side. We missed the main seating show, only stephanie didnt stay up long enough to catch the late seating show, but i met up with erin, so we went to the late seating show. It was a singer inpression show it was very, very entertaining. Monday, Nassau, beautiful, beautiful Nassau. Me and Stephanie went ashore on our own. We went throught the big mall, and walked around a little bit. We hit the straw market where Stephanie bought her mom and her sister something. She got her sister a blues clues grass purse, and her mom a scooby-doo grass purse. They had a lot of neat stuff in that market. Then we headed back the the ship. We had our pictures taken a lot on the way on and off the ship. For the rest of the day we spent either eating or outside by the pool because it wasn't crowded, considering everyone was on the island. Erin took a tour of the Atlantis resort. She said it was very nice. Tuesday was a day at sea. Heading toward St.Thomas U.S.V.I. This day was filled with jamacian music and games on the pool deck. There was win a cruise bingo. They only open shops out at seas so you shop on the island so there was alot of shopping to be done. (also keep in mind, rember that everyone is back on board at this time so be sure to get up early to get a chair in the sun out by the pool because its windy and in the shade its very cold.)Miniature golf is very busy on a day at sea. The basketball court was being used to its full potential, and the rock climbing wall wasn't open until 4p.m. Just to name a few things that are going on while your at sea. For the parenst there is a program for kids of ages 3-5,6-9,10-14,and 15-17. Each age group with their own club. The spa has a lot of choices to choose from, the hair salon, work out room, massages, maicures and pedicures. I got my hair cut and blow dried one day of the cruise, my stylist was kim, who had cut my moms hair a few days before my who cut Stephanies hair the day after she cut mine. She did a fantasic job. My hair cut and my moms both cost 77$ each and stephanies cost about 120$ because she got highlights which cost about 3 dollars a peice. There is a solarium pool at the forward part of the ship for adults, with padded lounge chairs, the other ones out by the pool aren't padded. This night was formal night. We all got dressed up and met up with my aunt and uncle at our dinner table. Every night we got a visit from our head Maitradi (?) who was very nice. I never got his name though. After that there was a show, one of those broadway shows. It was called pure energy. It was amazing. When they said pure energy, they ment it, it was a blast. Entertainment was very well around the entire ship. They had a group of people who were dressed up like the crew in prange jump suits on the promanade and acted really stupid but it was hilarious. They always had something new. One night at a show they had a guy climbing across chairs carrying a fold up chair and a bus boy who kept going around acting yelling at people pretending like they did nothing wrong and would from time to time yell at the person climbing across the chairs. I hadn't laughed so hard in my life. After that me and Stephanie decided to hit the sack. Everynight when we would go back to the room my mom would be up ordering room service, and so we would place and order to it was always fun trying to decide what to order. On the last night we order a HUGE midnight snack, just us three. Wensday, Day 4, St.Thomas U.S.V.I. Today my brother and dad were suposed to go snokeling, but my brother backed out so my dad stayed on the ship. I felt kind of bad because he had been looking forward to this. I Would have gone but im not certified like my brother and he are. Anyways, me my mom and stephanie decided the do the tram ride up to the top of the island to shop and look around. The Excursions desk said it was right across the street from us and there wasn't a lot of walking because yeah my mom couldn't get a wheel chair on the tram and couldn't stand for very long. Well, it was the complete opposite. It was one of the most deadliest walks i think i have ever taken, consider the way the people there drive, And to get to the tram ride up, there was a total of fifty steps to take. They didnt tell us about that. So if your choose to do this excursion beware. Once your there the wait isnt too long for a tram, and the view is absolutley beautiful. Once we were at the top, my mom stayed at the tram station and me and Stephanie went and did some shopping. There was even a bird show. I got a shirt and drink, stephanie got a shirt and a shot glass for her dad. Then we went back up to where my mom was waiting and went back down to the bottom of the island. To get back to the ship we got a taxi. This made things a lot easier. The cost wasn't that bad it was only 3 dollars a person. When we were back on the ship we met up with my dad for a little bit and then me and stephanie got in the hottub for a little bit. ( Also, because you left international waters, you have to go through immagrations this morning for 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ) At dinner we had to leave early yo catch the ice show. It was terrific, but there are only so many tickets for each show. The way these people knew how to coordinate with the movement of the ship was almost unbelievable! If it is at all possible make it to this show, its like nothing you have ever seen.We left St.Thomas at about 5:00p.m. Day 5 of our voyage was in the port of San Juan Puerto Rico. Where me , my brother Stephanie and a bunch of our friends we had met on the ship all got off together and walked to senor frogs and got a little bit lost. We ment to catch up with my AUnt and Uncle because they used to lived there and were there for about 7 years, But we never found them until later that day. We spent the entire day just hanging out with our friends pretty much on the ship, That evening we went to the schooner bar to play " Name That Tune" but we did teribble at it, but we still had fun trying to figure them out. Then it was off to dinner. After dinner me and Stephanie got a couple of from row seats to tonights concert but Kenny James. Who is by the way a 13-itime "Star Search" Grand Champion. He was totally awesome! He sang a couple of songs were i just started crying. Stephanie got a picture with him after the show. Then at 9:30 they had a San Juan Sailing Away party at the pool side with bartending compitions, and get music. I went to bed really late that night. I had a good time though. Friday, day 6, nearing the end. I woke up at like 7 in the morning because at 8 i had to get my haircut. Which only took like an hour and when we returned to the cabin stephanie was already awake and ready for the day. Then we went to get something to eat, and walked around just admiring things and talking. At about noon-ish we went and grabbed a couple of chairs in the sun and layed out until about 2:30 and watch the Belly flop contest, it was rediculously funny, and then we watch the horse racing. At 2:30 we went back to the room for a nap and to get ready for dinner because tonight was the second formal night. My mom wanted lots of pictures so me and steph left early for dinner to get all the pictures we could get taken and then met up with my parents and took some with them. ( bying pictures is a great way to keep the memories, but they are kind of expensive.) and then we went to dinner. For all previous Royal Carribean sailers, there is a "welcome Back" party in the savoy theatre. Were the captain takes questions, introduces the important people, and you get served little orderves. Saturday, day6, I spent most of the time reorganizing and packing things so i wouldnt have to pack later that night. Laugage has to be out in the hall way by midnight so that it can be taken to holding so in the morning they can get it right off. The show that night was a good-bye show where they showed clips of the "Cruise in Review" tape of your cruise, and a comedian, some dancing, basically a little bit of everything. Sunday, Port canaveral. We were off the ship by 8:45 and had stephanie home by 9:30 and picked up our dog by 9:40 and home by 10 easily, so things went pretty smoothly. All -in-all it was a great vacation and im definitly doing it again!

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By Amy_CR

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Mar 21, 2004

Southern Caribbean

My husband and I went on the cruise with about 50 friends and family to attend a wedding in Grand Cayman. We had been looking forward to cruising for some time. I had no expectations so I was really open to anything. We are not difficult people to please. I will start with the good things. The ship was beautiful, the weather was perfect and the boarding process

was seamless. Now for the bad and the biggest reason that I will do everything in my power to make sure that no one we know will ever cruise with Royal Caribbean again. On the last night of the cruise, we were required to have all of our bags packed and outside our cabin door by midnight. We had everything laid out on our bed ready to pack before we went to dinner at 8:30. When we got to dinner we realized that we had left our many envelopes filled with tips for our waiters in our stateroom so my husband went back to get them. When he got back he noticed that our stateroom attendant had already come and picked up his tip envelope out of the stack. Strange and a little greedy, we thought but laughed it off. In all of the rush and confusion of deboarding that night and the next morning, we didn't realize that my husband's cell phone was missing. We each assumed that the other had packed it. Unfortunately, it took us a few days to realize that it was missing. Over $1200 in cell phone charges had been accumulated in phone calls to Spain and Trinidad and many other countries. Our cell phone company claims it is our responsibility to pay those charges because we didn't report the phone stolen right away and Royal Caribbean is not taking responsibility for the theft. Now after paying too much money for an extremely overpriced cruise, we are also out an additional $1200 because someone from the crew (most likely our stateroom attendant) stole our cell phone out of our room. How do you prove that? Unfortunately, that is the million dollar question. On another note, I did contact the Port Canaveral Sheriff's Department to file a report and apparently theft aboard cruise ships is their most common complaint. 99% of the time the theft is by crew members and on the last day of the cruise. This is something to seriously consider if you are thinking of taking a cruise. My husband and I would recommend that you do not cruise with Royal Caribbean.

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Mar 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

The setup: I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 38 travel professionals on a Western Caribbean sailing of the Mariner of the Seas. I flew from San Diego to Orlando the day before the cruise and then spent the evening by the airport in Orlando and wanted to board the ship early, as there had been an itinerary change due to the uprising in Haiti and I needed to reschedule a seminar. I called for a taxi at around 10am

and was told that the Mariner had not yet arrived at Port Canaveral. It seems that they had a medical emergency returning to Port Canaveral from Cozumel and had to divert the ship to Nassau in the Bahamas to get the poor fellow to the hospital. I am sure it was a very difficult decision for the Captain to make, but as he said once we had departed Port Canaveral “you have to do everything you can to save a life” and he was absolutely correct. Just imagine if it were your loved one that needed immediate medical attention or would face possible death. I would like to think every person would make the choice that the Captain did. I decided to return to the airport and purchase Royal Caribbean transfers and simply commit my day to making it to the ship. Of course, it was chaos for both the debarking passengers and those arriving for their cruise. Royal Caribbean’s staff did a wonderful job of keeping their tempers and smiles going and successfully defused what could have been a very difficult situation. The employees of the Mariner of the Seas deserve a huge “thank you” for their professional handling of a challenging situation. After hours waiting in a motor coach, we finally were able to board the ship. Summary in Advance This review is more of a pictorial of the Mariner of the Seas than a thorough review of the ship. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Mariner of the Seas and never get off the ship and have the best cruise of your life. The Mariner of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto them selves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison pping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Mariner of the Seas is without question the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles. Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such a diverse amount of activities and entertainment on the Mariner of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions. Honeymooners: There were 60 some honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships. Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team building opportunities on the Mariner that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel) and the idea that costs are controlled makes the Mariner of the Seas an incredible meeting venue. Groups and Friends Traveling Together: If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Mariner of the Seas offers enough diverse opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes makes for a happy cruise. About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Mariner of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering singles events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact. One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time. The Mariner of the Seas Docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica The Ship: The Mariner of the Seas is the fifth in Royal Caribbean’s Eagle services of MEGA ships. At 142,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved as every detail in her manufacture and décor is simply beautiful. Certainly the best Voyager class ship yet. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship. Cabin 3085: I was located in cabin 3085 located on deck 3. I enjoyed a porthole cabin, however, the porthole was gigantic (almost the size of a typical window in a normal cabin) I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands and two reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 2 110v outlets (European). This proved to be an excellent feature as I had forgotten my extension cord and needed the two American outlets for my computer and printer. The Mariner offered “in cabin” Internet access for only $100 with unlimited access for the entire cruise. Of course, I immediately took advantage of the offer and the good news was that the telephone used to gain access came equipped with European sockets that worked perfectly. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items. A closet lines the cabin entraneway and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the right hand side. The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable. Exploring the Mariner of the Seas The best way to explore the Mariner is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin. The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15 Up the stairway from Ellington’s one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit. Ellington's Deck 14 The main lounge here is named Ellington’s and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. Ellington’s is just part of the Viking Crown Lounge. We had our “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party here at Ellington’s as it was a wonderful place to meet everyone. We also met here one night for a computer session and it was not at all crowded and proved to be an excellent place for an impromptu meeting that could easily accommodate all of us. The 19th Hole To the rear on the starboard side lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole. On the port side of Ellington’s is a very intimate room with a piano bar named Cloud Nine that is used for receptions and is a popular place for a post wedding reception. It is very private. Just aft of Cloud Nine is the “Seven Hearts” card room. I never saw it busy at all. The Mariner of the Seas Miniature Golf Course Deck 13 When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of deck 13. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Mariner offers a wonderful miniature golf course. You can simply grab a putter and a ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course. On the port side of the gold course is the inline skating track where one can race around the Le Mans type track as much as they would like. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it. The Basket Ball Court and Royal Caribbean's Signature Rock Wall Standing in front of the golf simulator you can here the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used). Surrounding the area is a number of ping pong tables. I noticed a good number of families that were using them and having the time of their lives. Another View of the Rock Wall This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship. Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship. The "Back Deck" No Adults Allowed Deck 12 The very aft section of deck 12 (The Back Deck) is dedicated strictly for teenagers with no adults allowed. Johnny Rockets Main Entrance Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining. Dining Inside Johnny Rockets There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kid’s clubs. The Living Room, Part of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program The Living Room is designated specifically for the teens; but on the Mariner, all youth between the ages of 3 and 17 have a unique, fun and safe environment designed just for them. Ocean's Video Zone Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program. The Walking and/or Jogging Track Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track that is heavily used. Britta's Sky Bar Britta’s Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors. The Mariner's ShipShape Spa The Mariner’s “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section offering a full beauty salon and spa services. "Peek-a-Boo Bridge" Deck 11 Deck 11 is the first ship length deck on the Mariner and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Peek-a-Boo Bridge”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship. ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “Ship Shape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and can be accessed either here or from the “Ship Shape Day Spa” on deck 12. The Free Weight Area of the ShipeShape Fitness Center There is ample equipment for a good work out, but be aware, it can get crowded during the most popular times. The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet. Solarium Pool and Jacuzzis Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun. There are two large (I mean LARGE) Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well. The Solarium Bar The Solarium Bar is always busy and well located within Solarium area. Aft of the Solarium is the main swimming pool/sunning area of the ship. The Mariner of the Sea's Pool Area The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Mariner has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the byproduct is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge. Another View of the Pool Area There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by everyone. The Pool Bar The pool area is always served by the bar staff and you never have to wait long if you want to order a drink. Entrance to the Windjammer Cafe Aft of the pool area is one of the main dining venues on the Mariner of the Seas. Portofino Restaurant Upon entering the Windjammer Café, you will see the Portofino Restaurant on the port side and the entrance to Chops Grille on the starboard side. Chops Grille Both of these are specialty restaurants that require reservations and an extra gratuity. I did not get an opportunity to dine at either restaurant, but those that did raved about them. Moving aft we enter the area of the Windjammer buffet known as “Jade”. I loved this spot and ate here more than anywhere else. Jade offers Asian delicacies daily. One day might be Japanese sushi, the next Thai cuisine and the next curry dishes. There is always a noodle soup and several excellent choices of entrees daily. If you like Asian food, you will love Jade. Windjammer Cafe Aft of Jade is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet, the Windjammer Café. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous choices. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. The Plaza Bar serves the entire area and there are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine. Deck 10 Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins. Deck 9 With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of all passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats. The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the evening, it turns into a lounge where cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members. Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8 With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Mariner of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. The Internet Café itself is slow and cumbersome, but The Mariner of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. I paid $100 for the cruise and was able to go on-line 24 hours a day with unlimited access. It is truly a great deal. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. If you want to get access, visit the Registration Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service. While access is still slow, it doesn’t matter because you enjoy unlimited access for one low rate. The Mariner of the Seas Library Deck 7 With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size. Deck 6 Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up as the benefits are excellent. The Mariner of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well. The Royal Promenade Deck 5 Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship. Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants Starting with the Sound of Music Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room carries a different name on each deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply beautiful and while large, is quite intimate. Guest Relations and the Tour Desk Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small intimate areas for casual conversation. On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk. Moving forward, you pass the General Store on your starboard side and the Tommy Hilfiger logo store on your port side. Next to the General Store is the Royal Caribbean Logo Souvenir Shop where you can find everything imaginable with Royal Caribbean logos on it. Vintages Wine Bar Vintages Wine bar is directly across from the Logo Shop and I loved this particular venue. It is set up with a wonderful bar and several areas to sit in and relax. They have an excellent wine list and always have several chilled bottles available to try by the glass. If you like to drink wine, don’t miss this little jewel. The Wig and Gavel A tad forward and on the port side is another lounge venue, the Wig and Gavel. This pub like atmosphere serves ales, beers and a full mixed drink venue and normally has a guitarist/singer playing in the evening to add some entertainment. While I didn’t use this particular lounge, it always was packed with people. The Cafe Promenade On the Starboard side is the Café Promenade forward (under the bridge). This is a great spot. There is coffee and tea set up all day and a bakery serving freshly baked coffee cakes and such in the morning and then turns to fresh cookies during the day and other dessert treats during the evening. There is no charge for the bakery goods. Fresh sandwiches are made right next to the bakery and are available all day long. The adjoining bar features specialty coffee drinks, as well as a full assortment of cocktails, beer and wine. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade. The Lotus Lounge Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Lotus Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active. The Connoisseur Club The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Lotus Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar. The Savoy Theater Deck 4 Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Savoy Theater. This is the main showroom on the Mariner and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Savoy is the Schooner Bar. The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bars are the signature bars of the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner. Dragon's Lair Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “Dragon’s Lair”. I didn’t explore it until later in the cruise, but you should walk into it the second you see it, as it leads you into the ship’s 2-story disco area, which is surreal. The Casino Royale Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale. This is a major casino that offers much gaming opportunities and I heard a number of people say that the slots were somewhat loose. Boleros If you like Latin music, song and refreshments, then you will love Boleros. This restaurant and lounge is lots of fun and filled with salsa atmosphere. Aft of Boleros is the second level of the dinning room, the Top Hat and Tails Dining Room. Deck 3 The lower level of the restaurant, the Rhapsody in Blue Dining Room resides on deck 3 aft. The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes them logical. A Small Part of the Fabulous Centrum The Centrum is simply breathtaking, but was very difficult to photograph. This area is huge. Studio B Ice Arena The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. While I didn’t attend any of the ice shows that were put on during the cruise (which I heard were excellent) I did sneak in one afternoon to watch folks skating their hearts out. It looked like so much fun! Stained Glass in the Dragon's Lair In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Dragon’s Lair, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance. Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Dragon’s Lair. The Dragon's Lair Dance Floor This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service. Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Savoy Theater. Deck 2 Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the lowest floor of the Savoy Theater all the way forward and the Conference Center directly aft of the Savoy Theater. Entrance to the Conference Center The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3- to 40. One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting. The Conference Center's Screening Room They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings. The Boardroom The Boardroom is on the starboard side and seats about 16 people comfortably for more formal meetings and negotiations. All in all, if you are looking for a ship to have a meeting on, this is the one! The Cruise Sunday, March 12th, 2004; Port Canaveral, Florida I flew into Orlando the day before the cruise and stayed at one of the hotels near the airport. It was my intention to rise early and grab a taxi out to the port and try to be one of the first to board the Mariner of the Seas. We had had some last minute changes that I needed to straighten out with the group coordinator and Maitre d’. After I had checked out, I had the front desk call for a taxi. The taxi driver advised me that the Mariner had not yet returned to Port Canaveral and that it was going to be quite late on this day. He said it was chaos at the port and did not recommend that I take a taxi at this time. I decided to take a shuttle back to the airport and arrange to take one of the Royal Caribbean transfers, which I ended up doing. It turns out that there had been a medical emergency on the Mariner’s return trip to Port Canaveral and she had to detour to Nassau to get the gentleman to a hospital for immediate care. This action set her arrival back about five hours. Needless to say, thousands of debarking passengers had missed their flights and thousands of embarking passengers didn’t understand why they could not board the ship when they got there. As we found out later in the cruise, Royal Caribbean had a “crisis team” come up from Miami to handle the situation and managed to not only accommodate all of the debarking passengers, making sure they got flights and transfers, but they also turned the ship completely around in about two hours. Everyone in our group had nothing but kudos for Royal Caribbean’s actions during the crisis. My personal experience was excellent, even down to the lady that processed me onto the ship. She was all smiles and showed absolutely no signs of stress, even though everyone knew it had to be one of the most stressful mornings they had ever had. However the same could not be said for the Port of Canaveral port authority. Motor coaches were backed up for miles when the gates were finally opened to let the new passengers into the terminal. Instead of putting additional people on to help process the luggage and passengers, they simply went with their normal staffing. It was ridiculous watching to rasta guys take bags out of the pit of our motor coach so slowly it was painful. I looked at the motor coaches lined up behind ours and it didn’t seem that these guys could have cared less. Once on board, I met with the group coordinator who had already anticipated the changes I was going to make and confirmed everything. She was an excellent employee of Royal Caribbean and was one step ahead of me all the way along the line. After making flyers for the group and delivering them to their cabins, I unpacked, attended the muster drill and began getting ready for the evening’s cocktail reception with the group. We met in Ellington’s for a one-hour cocktail party with hot and cold appetizers. The group was made up of agents from all over the United States and they seemed to be compatible from the very beginning. We departed Ellington’s for the first of what would be seven wonderful dinners together. Our table enjoyed one another so much that we stayed until we were the last table left in the entire restaurant. We had missed the welcome aboard show, but decided to continue to Ellington’s for a nightcap. Monday, March 13th, 2004; Freeport, Bahamas Because of the turmoil in Haiti, Royal Caribbean had substituted a stop in Freeport for a call at their “private island” in Haiti. It was the first time that the Mariner of the Seas had called on Freeport and the Captain later said they had numerous favorable reports. It was my first time in Freeport as well. I had been to Nassau what seems a million times and just didn’t care to explore the Bahamas any further. I found Freeport to be an outstanding destination. The island was clean, the people so friendly I couldn’t believe it and entire experience a positive. I simply left the ship and took a long walk (it is miles into the main part of town) and then made my way back into the port where I grabbed a taxi out to the main shopping area. I wandered around the International bazaar, the casino, and the hotels in the area and then just walked around talking with folks. I came away very impressed and made a mental note to go back to Freeport. Back on the ship, I spent the afternoon by the pool doing some work and then prepared for the evening’s formal night, the first of the cruise. I had arranged to meets some of the folks from our group so that we could all attend the Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party together. The Captain was quite a character and everyone liked him very much, enjoying his humor and wit. We left the cocktail party making our way to dinner, where once again, we talked right through the evening’s entertainment. Some of our tables were having so much fun that even our waiters were laughing. Tuesday, March 14th, 2004; Day at Sea I was up early, hit the gym for a quick workout, ate in the Windjammer Café and then got ready for our first seminar of the trip in the Conference Center. The Mariner of the Seas has an entire conference room complex that is made up of five breakout rooms (that can be combined to make two large meeting rooms) and a screening room. There is a central conference center reception desk that is manned when there are several meetings taking place concurrently. Once again, the group coordinator was right on top of setting up our meeting room and coffee, tea, juice and Danish. The seminar went very smoothly and we ended right at 12 noon on the button. After a wonderful salad I spent the afternoon in the sun by the pool. Even with 3,500 people aboard the ship, it just didn’t seem like it was at all crowded and I had no trouble getting a lounge chair by the Jacuzzi. I suspect that the Mariner’s towel policy contributes much to this, as each guest on the ship is issued a towel in their stateroom that is used for both the pool area and the beach. You may exchange a used towel for a fresh one by the pool all day long, but if you lose your towel, you will be charged $20 for it. This policy seems to encourage everyone not to leave their towels when they vacate their lounge chair. I am sure this wasn’t the intended result from the policy, but it is certainly nice to be able to find lounge chairs mid-day. I lingered so long enjoying the late afternoon that I missed the opportunity to go to the evening’s show that was a pre-dinner performance by “Billy Richard’s Coasters”. I heard that the performance was wonderful from those that went at dinner. We enjoyed another wonderful dining experience in the restaurant. While I was tired from the day in the sun, I decided to wander around the ship and check out the various entertainment venues. The Royal Promenade is just an amazing feature. Its shops and bars were packed with people having a great time, yet it wasn’t crowded. It is such a visual treat that it is hard to believe that you are actually on a cruise ship. There was an event “Dancin’ through the Decades” in Studio B, so I dropped in and watched for a bit. Everyone was having a great time and the entire ship was alive with activity. I slept like a rock. Wednesday, March 15th, 2004; Ocho Rios, Jamaica We arrived in Ocho Rios right on schedule and the massive size of the Mariner of the Seas seemed to dwarf Ocho Rios. There was a gentleman with our group that had become ill and needed to debark the ship in Ocho Rios so I had decided to stay with him to make sure he was taken care of. It went from bad to worse and the doctor called in a medical evacuation for the gentleman. I helped him pack his things and stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. I had fully intended on going with him to Montego Bay to check him into the hospital, but because of delays, it became apparent that I could not make it back to the ship in time for sailing and the purser asked that I debark with the gentleman. This would have added much needed time onto the process, so I bid him good luck once he was in the ambulance, I watched as the ambulance took off and wondered how he would fare. By this time it was almost 1:30 pm so I had a quick lunch and I decided to take a walk around town to take some pictures for PortReviews.com. I was surprised at the changes in Ocho Rios. Most notable was that the population seemed much more subdued than in past visits. While there were still the same rasta guys walking around trying to sell drugs and vendors were still reasonably aggressive, the out-and-out disrespect for tourists seemed to have mellowed a bit. I enjoyed walking through the Ocean Village flea market and got a great shot of the Mariner of the Seas from Mallard Beach. The new Island Village Shopping Center right at the foot of the main pier is also a wonderful new addition to Ocho Rios. The Margaritaville located there offers a great little beach and is as much fun as Margaritaville in Montego Bay. The Island Village Shopping Center has numerous shops, restaurants and other stores of interest. Also, as you depart the main pier, look for the walkway that parallels the beach all the way to Ocean Village. I was back on the ship for departure and relaxed in the Jacuzzi for the late afternoon. I couldn’t stop thinking how the gentleman that had been evacuated was doing. A group of us had arranged to meet in the Lord Nelson Pub before dinner for a cocktail and I rushed to make the meeting on time. It was great fun to have a social hour before going to dinner. Dinner was another excellent experience and by now, our waiters were bonding with out group. Most of our group decide to attend the “Dancing Under the Stars” party that was taking place on the pool deck, but I decided to simply turn in for the evening. Thursday, March 16th, 2004; Grand Cayman I slept quite nicely and awoke refreshed and ready for the day. After a lingering breakfast, I made the decision to simply spend the day onboard the Mariner of the Seas. I was enjoying the ship so much, that I wanted to explore it even more. I also wanted to take some photographs of the ship for this review, so planned my day accordingly. While it was a nice day in Grand Cayman, I had been there numerous times before and thought I would enjoy the ship more than going ashore. I suspect that this says volumes for the Voyager class ships. They are a destination in themselves. I secured a lounge chair by the pool and was settling in for the day. The Windjammer is such a great place for breakfast and lunch. It is easy to navigate and offers excellent choices. I made good use of the salad bar during the cruise and it was always enjoyable. The day went by quickly and before I knew it, it was time to meet the group in Ellington’s for pre-dinner cocktails. Since it was the second formal night, we proceeded to our group photo before heading off to our restaurant for dinner. Once again, the Mariner of the Seas presented a wonderful dining experience and by now, the group had bonded quite closely and was thoroughly enjoying one another. We made an effort to finish dinner in time for the evening’s show “Front Row” presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. What an excellent production! Don’t miss it on your cruise. After the show I stopped Vintages Wine Bar on the Promenade and enjoyed a wonderful glass of Chardonnay before turning in for the evening. I made a mental note to return to Vintages Wine Bar, as it was such an excellent experience. Friday, March 17th, 2004; Cozumel, Mexico We arrived in Cozumel at 10 am and I had planned to visit Cozumel’s east coast beaches for an article I was writing about Cozumel’s beaches for PortReviews.com. One of the agents had agreed to accompany me on the journey so we debarked the Mariner of the Seas and negotiated for a taxi to take us to the various beaches. It was a great day and we found several wonderful beaches that I had never visited before. I was back on the ship for a late lunch, some pool time and then spent the late afternoon in my cabin working. I hadn’t really used the Diamond Member privileges on this cruise, but invited some of the agents up to the private Concierge Lounge (I had explained to the gentleman on duty that they were travel agents and he approved their visit. The Lounge is just one of the many benefits in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program. We enjoyed a glass of wine and some nice conversation and then made our way to dinner and yet another wonderful dining experience. We stayed late and missed the evening’s entertainment, a Mr. Bobby Arvon. We learned at dinner on the last night, that everyone loved his performance. I regret not making it. Saturday, March 18th, 2004; Day at Sea I woke up to a bright and sun shiny day. We had calm seas so flat that one would have thought they were on a lake. Our second seminar for the cruise was scheduled for this morning and after a quick breakfast in the Windjammer, I made my way to the conference Center to make sure everything was on schedule. Once again, Mariet Vonk, the Mariner’s Group Coordinator, had taken care of everything. The seminar went excellent and when it was time to break at 12 noon, everyone wanted to continue on. We stayed until almost 2 pm and decided to break for lunch before the restaurants closed. I spent the afternoon enjoying the sun and stayed until the last possible minute before going to my cabin to dress for our last cocktail meeting and business card exchange. It was amazing what good friends we had become. Dinner lingered as usual until our table was the last to leave the dinning room. I decided to return to my cabin to pack for the morning’s departure. Sunday, March 19th, 2004; Port Canaveral, Florida As hectic as boarding the Mariner of the Seas was only 8 days before, was as easy the debarkations process was upon our return to Cape Canaveral. Another great benefit of achieving “Diamond” status in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program is priority embarkation and debarkation. You simply report to a designated lounge and as soon as the ship is cleared, you may disembark. This gives you such an advantage, not only in getting off the ship, but getting a transfer, checking in at the airport and generally just having a stress free experience.

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Feb 22, 2004

Western Caribbean

This cruise completed our wish to cruise on all five of Royal Caribbean International's (RCI) Voyager Class ships. Once labeled the "Eagle" class, Mariner of the Seas Captain Tor Isak Olsen informed us that they are now referred to as the Voyager ships. These innovative ships, include the Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Navigator and the newest, the

Mariner of the Seas, launched in November 2003. They are both the ultimate in technology and interior design: These two features combine to give cruisers "a vacation like no other on earth!" Where else at sea can a cruiser rock climb, ice skate, golf, in line skate, play basket ball or volley ball, swim, go to a Las Vegas style show, and then stroll down a Euro style promenade, enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe --- all in one day, without leaving the ship? All of this is possible on the Voyager class ships. The many balconied staterooms on board provide views of the seas and the skies that are incredible. This trip we saw a delicate crescent moon accompanied by the brightest object in the dark sky: Jupiter. Sunrise on Day 3 was a spectacular combination of pink stratus clouds interspersed with an intense baby blue sky. The rising red sun changed into a golden ball and then into a blinding white sun all in a matter of minutes. Just an ordinary beginning to another day at sea! Leading up to this trip we were a bit apprehensive since the first port of call was in Haiti and rebels had been rampaging in the north of this island and were heading toward Port au Prince. The first notice we received on board was that Labadee, Haiti had ben replaced with Nassau Bahamas. RCI, true to its reputation, places the health and safety of its passengers above all. Another instance of this attitude was when high seas prompted Captain Olsen to skip Georgetown, Grand Caymans since tendering was unsafe. EMBARKATION Port Canaveral, FL has grown over the past three years and now includes a covered parking garage (not like the open field parking we used in 2000, with a warning at that time to remove all food from the vehicle in order to avoid sugar or fire ant infestation). Baggage drop off was slow, since the luggage was separated by deck with the expectation that this speeds delivery to staterooms. With over 4,000 people on board the logistics are tremendous. We arrived on the pier at noon and boarded by 12:30 pm. There was assistance with the wheelchair, and we saw friendly faces all around. After leaving our carry on luggage in our stateroom, we proceeded to the Windjammer Cafe` for the buffet lunch. There was a gigantic fresh fruit display that was so beautifully arranged that no one would disturb it, but a crew member repeatedly asked the passengers to help themselves, which we did. SHIP Captain Olsen states that, "When we build several ships that look alike, the decor contributes to the vessel's identity. All the ships are beautiful; they each have their own theme and personality (p. 106 Vision of Art, 2000). This is instantly apparent to passengers: the colors, art work and names of the various theaters, lounges and Casinos lend atmosphere which expresses the "soul" of each individual ship. And, so it is with the Mariner of the Seas. Sigurd Skaugen was the owner of the Norwegian shipping company that joined with the Anders Wilhelmsen Company, along with the US based Larsen Shipping Company to form RCI in 1968. Mr. Skaugen believed that the soul of new ships is created through the use of "innovative fantasy" (p. 19). RCI built its first ship, the Song of Norway, specifically for cruising and she was an instant success. Now having cruised on all of the Voyager class ships, for us it was easy to find our way around the Mariner, but it was not as complete a de ja vu as could be expected. These sister ships, even though they all look the same on the outside and have been constructed with the same deck plans, they are so interestingly different in interior decoration and art work that the fun comes with discerning the various differences among them. The ship's vital statistics are a gross tonnage of 138,000; her length is 1,020 ft.; beam of 157.5 ft.; draft of only 29 ft., and a top speed of 22 knots. Passenger capacity is 3,114 and a crew of 1,180. This cruise the Mariner sailed fully booked. Deck 2 forward has the Screening Room and the Conference Center and Category I outside staterooms. Deck 3 forward has the Savoy Theatre, a classically simple decor of teal blue, maroon, black and gold with a striking curtain displaying a line of eight dancing couples in formal attire. Very dramatic. With only six columns, virtually all seats have an excellent view of the stage. Toward midship is the entrance to the Dragon's Lair Disco guarded by two stone dragons and fiery wall sconces. Leaded stain glass windows depicting maidens defeating dragons, gothic arches and a vaulted ceiling held up by gargoyles and the many accouterments of knighthood like shields, crossed swords and halberds all contribute to a chivalric atmosphere and days of yore. Two Larger than life size paintings by Simon and Sally Dray (England) depict "The Amorous Maid" and "The Lovelorn Knight." Midship is Studio B Entertainment Complex where fantastic live ice shows take place. Next is the Photo Gallery with great pictures of Hollywood icons: Douglas Kirkland's photos include Jack Nicholson with a lighted match (1975); Ann Margret on a Harley motorcycle (1969); and Orson Welles (1983). Some other intriguing photos were Drew Barrymore in boxing gloves and wearing Everlast shorts, by Seliger (1993) and Julia Roberts by Sante D'Orazio (1997). Aft is the main floor of the "Rhapsody in Blue" Dining Room. The entrance way dramatically faces the triple tier staircase: There is a bronze statue of a dancing couple from "The Sound of Music" Maria (Julie Andrews) and Von Trapp. The three deck dining room is opulent (more later). Deck 4 forward is the balcony of the Savoy Theatre. Next is the Schooner Bar with its by now familiar pungent odor of creosote on the ropes. Here are also found the familiar Ebbings's collages (textiles, ceramics and ropes), shaped like huge portholes. There is a model of the schooner Boston and seven naval paintings portraying the Schooner Era by Harald E. Nissen (Norway, 1950). We particularly enjoyed the large haunting portrait of what seemed like a prow figurehead of a beautiful blond lady in a sea blue billowing gown. There is also much wonderful art to be seen in the stair wells. This stairwell had some whimsical work like Hanne Tyrmi's (Norway) aluminum kitchen objects, and Studio Sem, Silvina Spravkin's (Italy) "A Hard Night's Sleep" pillows of marble, and "Almost Clean" marble sheets and washboard. Midship is the Casino Royale with a State Fair theme mural by (Zsiba & Smolver) and flanking the entrance are posters featuring a Carnival Strongman, a Prize Bull, a Dancing Girl, and a Cowboy and a Cawgirl. This is a large casino with many venues and games of chance. Walk aft and you will find the bottom of the Centrum and Boleros Bar with its many fantastic, enormous blown glass flowers. The staircase here leads to decks 4 and 5. It is all glass and birch wood balustrades (light and airy). The chairs and sofas are colorful prints recalling Picasso and the 1960s. All the way aft is the middle tier of the dining room, "Top Hat & Tails." The entrance to this lovely room has two displays of formal wear reminiscent of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astare: a white waltz gown and a black formal tails. The chairs are extremely comfortable with arms. There is a central crystal chandelier of monumental proportions, and it is complemented by many semicircular ones on every level. The mahogany wood on the balconies adds beauty to this area. Deck 5 forward has the low ceiling, intimate "Lotus Lounge" decorated with statues of Chinese Ladies with folded arms and red lacquered columns with gilded ginkgo leaves. This room was used for the Crown & Anchor Society and the Captain's Receptions. Next to the exit is the Connoisseur Club (fine cigars and liquors). It is filled with beautiful dark leather couches and chairs and the scent of fine cigars. Here we met with Environmental Officer Peter Roy, who spoke about RCI's Ocean Fund and Compliance & Audit Programs. This is right up Vincent's alley as retired Professor, Director of Environmental Safety & Health at Florida Atlantic University. Mr. Roy spoke of their weekly environmental meetings and he impressed us with his knowledge and enthusiasm. Next to the elevators is located the sculpture titled "The Mariner Story" this gift from the workers at Kvaerner Masa Shipyard in Finland depicts the "TeamWork" necessary to construct the Mariner of the Seas. Look up at the forward Centrum and see a World War I dog fight between five planes including Snoopy's Sopwith Camel and The Red Baron. Take the elevators to Deck 10 and view them up close. Back on Deck 5 walk toward aft through the entire Royal Promenade which is four decks high and the most innovative feature afloat. Imagine a city street with boutiques, cafes and refreshment areas and parades daily; this week was Mardi Gras, so it was especially busy! This concept allows for strolling and inside cabins which now have windows overlooking the Promenade: This is unique to the Voyager class ships and not to be seen on any other line. The Aft Centrum areas of these ships have original suspended mobiles of huge proportions, which are visually awesome, many of which designed by Larry Kirkland. Toward aft is the Guest Relations Desk, Shore Excursions and the Champagne Bar with its shoe art (a clever reference to drinking champagne from a lady's slipper). All the way aft is the top balcony of the Dining Room "The Sound of Music." Decks 6, 7, 8 & 9 are mainly staterooms. Adjacent to the aft elevators on Deck 6 is located the Business services and on Deck 7 is the Library (well stocked, open stacks, honor system), which is user friendly. Every day pick up a trivia sheet, but alas trivia games have been discontinued. Deck 8 has the Computer Room "RC On Line." Deck 9 has the Concierge Club for Crown & Anchor Diamond members and Suite occupants. This was wonderfully managed by German Inostroza (Chile). He was extremely competent and helpful in many ways. Deck 10 has the navigation bridge, staterooms and suites. Deck 11 forward has the Peek-A-Boo Bridge, from which passengers can see the inside of the navigation bridge, and the Solarium with its two huge hot tubs and a lap pool. Here are terra cotta urns filled with laurel, boxwood, podocarpus and ivy trimmed neatly into topiaries. Very nice! On top of the colonnade are a lion and a lioness. There is modern art by Romero Britto, and murals of mosaic by Barsanti of Petrasanta, Italy. The centerpiece is a larger than life bronze statue by Luigi Galligani (Italy) "Portatrice d'Acqua" (a full figured female water carrier), she is flanked by two huge bowls of fruit by Sinclair (Britain). Galligani also sculpted the two terra cotta busts of "Circe" and "Calypso." Midship toward aft are the two specialty restaurants, the Chops Grille and the Portofino. The Chops Grille serves superb meats (beef, veal) and fish (Filet of Dover sole, salmon). We suggest skipping lunch if you plan to dine here, the portions are huge: Boston clam chowder served in a tureen size bowl, sautéed mushrooms, a family size tomato salad and, above all, a very big veal chop. Don't forget dessert, the Mississippi Mud Pie is the best. Hotel Director Richard Nentwich invited us to the Portofino Restaurant, a lovely dining room with dark Mahogany paneled walls, decorated with Magnolia flowers. We had a long leisurely dinner and Richard pointed out many interesting facts about the Mariner and its operation. Try the Carpaccio for appetizer; Mary had the excellent shrimp. The grand finale to a superb meal can be the Tiramisu. These two restaurants have a nominal fee of $20 per person. Aft is the Jade (Asian Cuisine) and the Windjammer Cafe`, buffet style dining with many stations including the following: Salad, Pizza, Pasta, Meat Carving, Desserts, and Fresh Fruit displays (peaches, strawberries, pears, oranges, grapes, melons, etc.), all excellent. Deck 12 forward has the Ship Shape Fitness Center and the Mariner Day Spa, with a beautiful view of the ocean for those using the treadmills and cycles. Aft is the Adventure Ocean youth facilities with the "Teen Only" area. Located near here is Johnny Rockets a 50's style burger joint with red naugahyde and chrome everywhere. They serve great chili, French fries, onion rings, sodas and floats. The mood is set by the juke boxes playing Rock and Roll. It's lots of fun and a nice trip down memory lane for those of us who came of age at that time! Deck 13 aft has the sports court, full basket ball court, golf simulator, 9 hole mini golf and even an in line skating track and the Rock Climbing Wall. Deck 14 has the 19th Hole Sports Bar with barstools with handles, so fans won't fall off. There are three monitors with games simulcast from around the world. Go out on the deck and stand next to Daddona's (USA) fiber glass and steel sculpture titled "For the love of the game." It is an amply endowed female spectator wearing yellow flowered, bulging shorts. Ellington's night club, also on 14, is a nice place for relaxing with a great surround view. There are also two game and card rooms located near the elevators. Deck 15 has the Skylight Chapel, perfect for on board weddings. This ship has many fascinating things to see and do. This simple outline cannot do justice to the beauty and artwork which abound in its many public areas and lounges. CABIN Stateroom # 7604 is a wheelchair accessible room, when entering on the right is the large bathroom with a 4'x4' shower, a corner medicine cabinet with several shelves, and tile accents and safety rails well positioned. There is a hide-a-bed sofa and a comfortable upholstered chair and a large glass top coffee table. There is also a console holding the TV, refrigerator and personal safe. Next there is a mirrored vanity desk and chair. When entering on the left, there is a triple armoire, a king size bed with two night stands, and the far wall to the balcony is all glassed. There are both sheers and blackout drapes, good for the hot Caribbean sun. Hung on the walls are two signed prints by P. Birchall. The colors are teal and blue and the wood is light birch. The overall impression is one of freshness and comfort. The balcony has two chairs, a little table and sufficient space for a chaise lounge that our steward Stephen set up for Vincent's convenience. Thanks, Stephen for a week of excellent service! FOOD & SERVICE The food and service is always a product of the top personnel's vision. Hotel Director Richard Nentwich's Austrian background in restaurant and hotel management makes him set the bar high. Undoubtedly, his cordiality and gentlemanly attitude reflect well on the performance of the personnel. He is also very observant and shares his ideas. Executive Chef Bartol Cabrera has served in famous positions such as New York's Waldorf Astoria and on the Q.E. II. His training with Master Chef Rudi Sodamin is evident; he oversees the preparation of over 12,000 meals served per day, not including snacks; yet everything is fresh and beautifully plated. Maitre D' Dominique Claudel (France) is both elegant and very accommodating. At table #449A, we were served ably and pleasantly by Osman Olmez (Turkey) and the lovely Neringa Laurinaviciute (Lithuania). The food temperature was just right and the pace of each meal was perfect! We dined well at both Chops Grille and Portofino. However, the best dining aboard is always at the Captain's table, and this time the Master of the ship, Captain Tor Olsen out did himself. He takes personal interest in the menu: an entree of shrimp and lobster served over spaghetti (al dente), in the shape of a lobster, was from a recipe that the Captain had forwarded to the Mariner's Chef from another RCI Chef. Vincent was very impressed, and he is a tough critic. Of course the high point of dinner is always dessert, and once again it came specially for us from the Portofino: Frutti di Bosco in zabione (wild berries in a foamy custard). All that could enhance this feast would be lively conversation and that was amply provided by Captain Olsen and his interesting guests. There is something memorable about sitting in the middle of a huge gorgeous room with balconies of polished mahogany wood under a crystal chandelier weighing tons and being serenaded by the crew singing "O Sole Mio." It was a perfect formal evening; we will never forget! Whenever you need something on board, look for Chief Purser Francois Chevalier (what a marvelous name!). This pleasant and helpful gentleman assisted us with information for this review, while making us feel welcome. He along with Concierge German went the extra effort to answer all our questions. RCI's Crown & Anchor Society makes sure that repeaters know that they are special --- this is the best reason to return to RCI. Loyalty Ambassador Dean Hay knows all repeaters by name and even our dream destinations: the Galapagos for us. Suffice it to say service and food are excellent on board the Mariner of the Seas. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Kirk Detweiler is both young and energetic. There are so many activities on board the RCI Voyager class ships that are not available on any other line. The Ice Skating Rink is the setting for a spectacular show (Olympic quality skating) "Under the Big Top" with stunning costumes. The opening number was all silver and white, then the "Cossack Song" was performed in bright red and gold with flying skirts and Russian hats. We saw many triples and graceful spins performed by the international cast including the following: Matt Kessinger, Ice Captain, Sean Rice, Danny Clausen, Jeff LaBrake, Carl Des-Rosiers; and the Russian girls: Marina and Tatiana and three North American girls: Jodeyne, Molly and Azumi. They were superb and got a standing ovation. Athletes will love this ship: rock climbing, in line skating, golfing, gym exercising, swimming, dancing lessons, dance parties and don't forget the upper arm workout at the Casino. The Savoy is the setting of several very good shows. Of course, the Piano Melodies in the Schooner Bar and the Classical Guitar music by Pedro Espedido were especially wonderful. If all this makes you want to rest, for that there are plenty of quiet peaceful areas too. PORTS OF CALL There were two changes in the itinerary, first Labadee, Haiti was deleted due to political unrest and replaced by Nassau, Bahamas; then Georgetown, Grand Caymans was dropped due to unsafe tendering conditions. Day 1. Port Canaveral, Florida Departure: 5:00 pm. Day 2. Nassau, Bahamas Arrival: 9:00 am Departure: 5:00 pm Some interesting shore excursions offered here are as follows: The Historic Harbor Cruise and Discover Atlantis (2.5 hrs., $42), which includes a narrated history of the harbor and a visit to the famous resort; The Pirates and Dungeons City Tour (2 hrs., $29), includes a visit to the Pirates Museum and Castle. Day 3. At sea. Day 4. Ochos Rios, Jamaica Arrival: 8:00 am Departure: 5:00 pm These are two of the interesting excursions: The Enchanted Gardens and Dunn's River Falls (4 hrs., $43), visit lush gardens and then climb the famous falls; The Beach Horseback Riding (4 hrs., $86), a horseback ride through bamboo trails and on the beach with a stop for swimming. Day 5. At sea, we skipped Grand Cayman due to high seas and dangerous tendering. Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrival: 9:00 am Departure: 7:00 pm Some interesting excursions: The Tulum Mayan Ruins (6.5 hrs., $75), this is the official guided tour of the archeological site; The Cozumel Reef Snorkeling (3 Hrs., $44) takes you to one of the best reef areas in the world, and includes complimentary Rum Punch and Margaritas after snorkeling. Day 7. At Sea. Day 8. Port Canaveral. Arrival: 6:30 am Debarkation: 8:00 am CONCLUSIONS This was our 17th cruise on a RCI ship and at the party for repeaters (frequent floaters, as we have been called by some RCI captains), we were honored by Captain Olsen as the couple with the most RCI cruises aboard this ship and given a bottle champagne. This and other courtesies, including the invitation to the Captain's dinner, make us feel very welcome on this and other RCI ships. The repeaters' program that RCI has instituted with the Crown & Anchor Society is among the best in the cruising industry, offering, at various level of membership, benefits including special services, cruise discounts, value coupon booklets, embarkation and debarkation preferences, etc.... This is a major incentive for us to cruise frequently on RCI ships. We have already booked three other cruises: the Transatlantic Eastbound Crossing on the Brilliance of the Seas, April 30th, the Mediterranean Cruise on the same ship, May 14th, and finally the Transatlantic Westbound Crossing on the new Jewel of the Seas, Sept. 1st. We do cruise on ships of other lines (this was our 43rd cruise), and we intend to continue our cruising activity very intensely in the foreseeable future. We are addicted to cruising! We have had good and great cruises, but not yet a bad one (we hope it never comes). However, we are looking for a perfect cruise (we keep moving the bar higher and higher) and we'll be cruising until we'll find it. Happy Cruising!

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Feb 22, 2004

Western Caribbean

I just came back from my Western Caribbean cruise on the Mariner of the Seas. First the good things: We did not go to Haiti because of the revolution, but we did go to Nassau, Bahamas. We went on the Blackbeard excursion, which was a lot of fun. The weather was a little cool and the water temperature was the cool as well. We went to Jamaica, we did the

Ocho Rios tour. That was very nice as well. We couldn't stop at Grand Cayman because of the weather, so we had a day at sea. We went to Cozumel and did the Playa del Sol tour. That was a nice place. We did not like the zoo. They had a crocodile sitting there we no water. That was pretty cruel. The ship is beautiful....the dining room is very classy. Promenade was very nice as well. The ice show was amazing. Don't miss that. Get the tickets as soon as they start giving them out. Entertainment was poor. I was very disappointed. There was nothing to do between dinner and the show. They need to plan this better. We had main sitting. We were traveling with a younger couple in the late 20's and a 3 year old. The younger couple felt the same way we did. They were disappointed as well. We have been on Carnival, Celebrity and older ships and we will not do another Voyager kind of ship. Too many people and not very much to do. The food was not very good either. Nothing really special like in other ships. Same dessert and same food in the buffets line. They had only one midnight buffet and one on a smaller scale one night that was it. There was nothing to drink after 9:30 pm. They closed the Windjammer and all you can get is coffee. Well, not everyone drinks coffee, how about some iced tea or lemonada at all times? I don't think I will ever go on another Royal Caribbean Cruise again, if this is the way their other cruises are.

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Feb 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

We had a great cruise on this fantastic ship. We found there is plenty to do most of the time. The ice show is a must but get tickets as soon as they are available as they go quick. The evening entertainment was okay but the principal singers really don't seem very comfortable with the songs they sing they are obviously used to singing in another genre. The

girl just screeches and squawks and her lyrics inaudible. The guys were okay. Like the other lady who has written a review for this same date, I too had problems with the Customer Service desk on board. They were blunt, rude and unhelpful. I also had problems with the transfers to the ship from the airport when the dithering guy (who shouted to one lady "I only have one pair of hands madam" when she spoke to him while he was reading his clipboard!!) told us we weren't on his list so we would have to pay again. I started to call my agent on my cell phone and after 10 minutes on hold to them his colleague came over, looked at his board and showed him our names WERE on his list. "That's your bus there, you'd better hurry" was his reply. No apology - not a great start to ones vacation. Despite this it was a magnificent ship and the Captain Tor was fantastic. We were probably the last ship to stop in Haiti before the problems escalated and we were lucky because it was beautiful. Jamaica and Grand Cayman were fantastic too. Cozumel was wet (I've been there before and was wet then too) but the biggest problem was that there were FIVE other ships docked too and the streets and shops were just far too busy to enjoy. Shame. The food was amazing in the main dining room and the staff better than most restaurants I've visited in London. The food in the Windjammer had a fantastic choice so even if it was somewhat repetitive you could still have different meals every night for at least a fortnight!! And the quality was excellent. Despite a couple of nagging problems we would highly recommend this ship. It really has to be seen to be believed!

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Feb 8, 2004

Western Caribbean

The cruise itself was good and we were treated very well by the staff on the ship. We had great difficulty with the customer service department who talked to me rudely and disrespectfully, as well as not dealing with the problems. I was charged twice for pier to airport transfers. We had to beg to get our documents, which finally arrived just before the cruise.

I was promised a $100 onboard credit for all of the grief I experienced and then didn't get it during the cruise. Stay far away from their customer service department and use a travel agent. Do not book directly with RCCL since they talk a good story about caring about customer satisfaction, but they don't follow through when problems arise.

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Jan 25, 2004

Western Caribbean

We sailed on Marnier of the Seas with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in January 2004. We had been on 6 cruise prior to this one. We were excited as always as we entered the beautiful ship. We were impressed with everything until we retired to sleep for the night. Our cabin was on the tenth floor, mid-ship, we plan far ahead so that we can have our pick of

the nicest cabins available on our cruise vacations. We were awakened around 12:30 p.m. with what sounded like an unlatched door banging somewhere near our cabin. I looked out and found no sign of anything outside our cabin but could still hear the noise inside the walls. We called the steward's desk three times before anyone responded somewhere around 3:30 a.m. The noise was incessant and grew louder as the ship moved through the water. We got no information from the guest relations desk and called again around 5:00 a.m. to see if anything was being done. We were told to come down to the fifth floor to the guest relations. First, we were told that there was no other room available, then we were given a cabin key and told we could sleep there only for the night. We went to this other room and opened the door to find other guest sleeping in that room. We returned to the desk and was finally given a key ( again only for the rest of the night to sleep) on the lowest guest level, in the very front of the ship. It was now 6:00 a.m. To make a long story short, we spent three more additional nights replicating this first night. Finally, we were given the first night's room permantantly, but were told that Royal Carribean now felt under no further oligation to compensate us for the lost time or fun we had missed on our vacation. Furthermore, a porter was sent to help us move our things from one room to the next. In the course of a conversation with him, we were told that this was NOT the first time that someone had complained about that exact thing in that room. The guest relation's desk acted throughout this entire ordeal like we were a problem and that they did not know anything about this prior to this sailing. After spending so much money and planning a vacation for so long, we contacted Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and was given another slap in the face. They gave us $100.00 off the purchase of another cruise with them. We will be sailing again, but not with this ship or this cruise line, I am sorry to say.

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Dec 28, 2003

Western Caribbean

We are just back from our 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on "Mariner of the Seas". There were 14 of us, seven adults ranging in age from 69 to 40 and 7 kids from 17 to 9--all cousins. At the time it was the largest cruise ship in the world. Launched in November, we were on its seventh sailing. This was also its first New Years' cruise. 15

decks. Like a hotel or small town afloat. A three story shopping mall runs down the middle of the ship on decks 5-7. There is an ice rink and a climbing wall, as well as the usual amenities. Gobs of hot tubs, three pools... You name it. Even a Johnny Rockets restaurant on board, where everything but the drinks were no added cost. We had a lovely outside stateroom on deck 2—plenty spacious, decorated in subdued green and orange, with a big round window and a very nice if smallish bathroom. The round shower was very efficient and the hand held nozzle a plus. The phone system was great, especially the voice mail, since we had five family cabins all over the ship with so many to stay in touch with. We took walkie talkies and they were a big plus. If you have a family group, I recommend it—the 5 mile radius kind. The first long day and night at sea, I found the ship to be more than a bit unstable and learned later that when they want to make good time, they turn off the stabilizers--it showed. The first day out, we heaved and rocked our way through the Bermuda triangle (!) and I saw lots of the fellow passengers wearing those little behind the ear patches. The seas were not rough, so it seems it is a problem intrinsic to the ship. RCI needs to fix that, fast. The ship is immense. Very lavishly decorated, much of it in a retro Art deco style. Some parts were a bit over the top for my tastes although the three story dining room is lovely, in ivory gold and a deep red. Sort of "Crown Room" (at the Del Coronado Hotel) of the Waves. The three levels of the dining room have musical names--ours (top) was "Sound of Music" and indeed it was decorated with hints from that film. They have a dinner orchestra playing big band and similar pieces, very nice. Our waitress Elana and assistant waiter Sonar were delightful, attentive and fun. They took extra good care of “My Lady” (my mother in law) and of all the cousins who sat at their own table next to ours. The food was better than good and often outstanding. The desserts also—get the warm chocolate cake the night it is served. We were at the main seating. There are some great spots on the ship—the pastry shop on Deck 5 at one end of the Promenade has coffee all day long, as well as pastries, pizza, cookies and some really interesting sandwiches. Try the Grand Mariner cream puffs and the Ranger Cookies. Two mornings we simply slipped up the elevator three decks, picked out some pastries and coffee, and had breakfast in our stateroom. You can also order breakfast in your room, which we did on our first shore excursion day—it arrived at 6:30 and was a real luxury to simply enjoy while we got ready to go ashore. The female piano player at Schooners lounge on the first night out was fabulous. We had a night cap there, in the booth at the back of the lounge. Schooners is the only lounge on the ship that regularly serves something salty with your drinks—but you need to ask. (We did manage to get multicolored corn chips at Ellington’s when we requested something salty.) The male piano player who was in Schooners the rest of the week was too loud for sitting and conversing with your party. We made Ellington’s our hide away after that (for the adults) and spent the New Year up there listening to a fabulous band. All the music on the ship was great—and Ellington’s seems to have the best each night, the female vocalist up there is very talented. The Solarium pool got crowded fast (adults only) and there were all too many seat savers. I wish the ship would monitor that better. We were tempted to move some towels that sat for several hours with no sign of life appearing. But we behaved! RE kids. The New Year cruise was fully booked and with a lot of teens. Our kids enjoyed the teen only area (do set rules re the Arcade or you will find they are charging way too much up there). They loved Johnny Rockets, as did we (we had lunch there twice). Our son and his oldest cousin also really loved the cuisine at Jade in the Windjammer. Both are “eating machines” so the soft serve frozen yogurt machine was also a bit hit with them. One of our kids made friends from far and near. We met several families from our own neighborhood—you probably will, too. We stopped in four ports. The first was Labadie in Haiti. The setting is very picture post card. The spot RCI uses is very remote and I suspect surrounded by unseen high chain link fencing. We were to have done parasailing there but the swells were too high (10 foot) so some of us traded to wave running, and the rest did without. The cove was beautiful from the ship's deck, where we watched our family do their excursion; with the blue water and leafy hills, it looked like paradise. The ship's entertainment crew members double as the coordinators of the shore excursion at Haiti, so we were able to talk with some of them. Our next sop was Ocho Rios in Jamaica where we did a combo of climbing Dunn’s River Falls (fun but a work out—those who wish may use the gentle stairs alongside the falls and watch and photograph their party while staying high and dry) and snorkeling in a coral reef within a mile or so of the ship, which was wonderful in every way. Lots of beautiful tropical fish. I could have done that all day, and recommend that combination highly. Next port was Georgetown in Grand Cayman--we did not book an excursion but chose to shop there. Very crowded due to the more than 3000 from our ship and several other cruise ships that were in port also. Stick with the ship recommended shops. We had gone to the on board shopping seminar and had bought the VIP book with its discounts and freebies. It was a good deal at $20, with one exception I will note, at Cozumel. My wife came home with free or nearly free items that we either kept or used as gifts. From there we sailed for Cozumel, and one of the Mariner sister ships accompanied us all night long--very pretty to see it off the starboard bow. Do take time, on this very busy ship, to walk forward on deck 4, take the outside stairs up to deck 5 and sit at the heliport in the bow, under the stars. It is what cruising is really all about. At Cozumel we went over to the Mexican mainland for the tour of the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Here is a rundown on what I would have loved to have known before we went. I wish they had told us to take a bottle of water for every person in your party. The cruise line does not give or sell bottled water that morning, and there is none to be had on the pier. Fortunately we did take the two bottles from our fridge in our stateroom (for which we were of course billed later). But we were glad we had. When we left the ship, we went about half way on the pier, there was a sign for the tour (boat) to take us from Cozumel to the mainland of Mexico. We were on a very rough crossing of about 50 minutes, and many on this shuttle boat got seasick. I was glad we were seated on the lower level. Inside. It seemed to help. When we got to the mainland we were in a town called Playa del Carmen. We got off the boat and were led off the pier and up the main street (pedestrian) toward the place where we were assigned a bus. We did not stay together. Our family of 14, as a result, were separated, put on 3 different buses and did not see others in our family for the rest of the day. The bus made one stop on the way to Tulum. It is a rest stop and souvenir shop. There were some nice bargains to be found in the silver jewelry line, and some haggling is okay. Our high school age child tried out Spanish II in the haggling. At the ruins, we were offered the chance to walk to the ruins or ride a tram which costs $2 per person round trip. We walked to the ruins (15 minutes at a steady pace) but bought the tram ticket for the ride back. Buy the tram ticket. After we got to the ruins, we went down a pathway off to the left toward the entrance. It took time. Then once inside the entrance, we climbed up and over the old wall, and there in front of us was the whole complex. We didn't have a map (find one on line and take it with you if you are going on this tour), the tour didn't not provide one. So it was a bit of a challenge to figure out what is what. We had no more than 35-40 minutes to see the actual site. The views over the sea are marvelous, the beach is stunning and makes you wish you could stay all day and swim (if we had but known we would have dressed accordingly and had a dip). We found the ruins to be overcrowded which meant it was hard to take photos without anyone in them. We compromised and put members of our own group in the foreground and then the rest of the throngs in the background did not seem as intrusive. My sister-in-law did get a super photo of a huge iguana sunning at the base of the big temple. There are LOTS of fist sized loose rocks all over the place, so it was a bit of a chore for those who were not nimble. Our eldest (age 69 with bad knees) found it hard to get close to the bigger temples due to the rocks underfoot. When you make the return trip to Cozumel you are plopped down in the town, about 2 miles from the ship. Our plan was to shop but we had no more than 45 minutes to do that before heading back by taxi (small taxi holds no more than 4; there are vans, too) and the trip is $6. We did go to the $10 Silver shop, and found many reasonable and charming items on sale there. I would say it is your best shopping bet in Cozumel. Avoid at all costs the chain of shops called Diamonds International. They had a coupon in the VIP book for a bracelet, but even though they have 7 shops in Cozumel, the three we managed to try all said they were “sold out” of this “free” come on. We were not amused. Memories? The whimsical towel folding by our cabin steward was a treat. Ken Rush’s Top Ten Dumb Things people have asked him in 20 years of cruising was priceless and reminded me of the silly things people say their ministers. The ice show was super, especially on a tipping and rocking rink. The snorkeling and the iguana were the big highlights of the cruise for me, along with a starlight Caribbean night on deck and toasting the New Year up on the 15th deck at Ellington’s Lounge, so at the very top of the very largest cruise ship (till the Queen Mary 2 sails on Jan. 12th, 2004).

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Dec 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was the 5th cruise for the Mariner. The ship is unbelievable and the crew does a great job of managing the large number of passengers. It was everything I expected from Royal Caribbean. I highly recommend a trip on this beautiful ship.

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Dec 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

PRE-CRUISE We flew from NYC to Orlando on Sat 12/13/03. The weather in Orlando was perfect! I was traveling with 6 friends. 5 of us flew in from NYC and 2 flew in from Boston. We arrived around 11:30 so we got our rental car and drove out to grab a bite to eat. Afterwards, we went to the Premium Outlets and did a bit of pre Christmas shopping! I booked for

all of us to stay at a condo in Celebration. We took some time and visited Downtown Disney and we all turned in at midnight. EMBARKATION The next morning we headed for the pier at 10:00 AM. It was pouring rain! We drove to Cocoa Beach and returned our rental car at Avis. They had a free shuttle to the ship. The ship is gorgeous!!! It was the biggest ship at the pier. Carnival Fantasy and the Disney ships were also at the pier but looked tiny in comparison! We arrived at the port around 11:30 AM .There was a huge traffic jam trying to get into the drop off for the luggage. The AVIS shuttle was held up there for like 20 minutes because the traffic guy would not let any additional cars through. They need to get a better handle on this process. Once we were dropped off and our luggage checked, we entered the building to check ourselves in. We got into the line to get our room keys etc. Everything went efficiently. We were on the ship by 12/12:30. We were told our rooms were ready so we went to our rooms, dropped off our stuff and headed directly to the Windjammer/Jade for our buffet. The food was okay. It was basic cafeteria type of food but lots of stations and choices. THE SHIP After lunch, we went and walked around the ship. The ship is nice! The Promenade on Deck 5 is like a whole block of stores! We felt like we were in a big mall or something! There are different types of artwork all over the ship to appeal to different types of personalities. The dining room is also gorgeous! It’s 3 decks high. We ate dinner on the top deck (Deck 5) called the Sound of Music dining room. They actually have people playing the piano and violin while you eat on that floor. They are located in the back of the dining room. Our table was right next to the music. Very nice! The Savoy Theatre was where all the shows were held. It was pretty big with stadium seating on the balcony. We sat in the balcony level most of the time so we can have a bird’s eye view. It is usually less crowded there as well. Peek a Boo Bridge We didn’t get to see this on the ship but when we were leaving, I stopped by briefly. This is located at the front of the ship on the same level as the Shipshape Center. There is a side entrance that brings you to the front. There is a section to see the directional controls. Looks pretty cool! Also give a brief history. Library There is a library on the 7th Floor. You can sign out books. Maybe something to take to the beach or on deck to read while sunning! Also in the morning, they have little inserts of the major papers so you can get a bit of news from the outside! I picked up the one labeled the New York Times and there were a few stories from the times printed. FOOD & SERVICE Breakfast: We had breakfast at the dining room the first few days. The food and service was good. If you want a quicker breakfast the Windjammer breakfast is a good alternative. We found they have a little more variety here and it will be quicker. The menu at the dinning room for breakfast stays the same. Service all over the ship was excellent. We used Room Service for breakfast one morning and it was punctual and good. It’s a good form of wake up call too! Lunch: We try to eat at the Dining Room when possible. The food and service are both good. We did have lunch at the Windjammer/ Jade a few days. The food here is okay as well. Dinner: We have dinner every night at the Dining Room. Our servers were wonderful! Our assistant waiter knew us each by name and knew we all wanted apple juice and honey tea! Every night when we showed up, he would give us a round of apple juice and after each entrée he would bring us a cup of tea with honey. For dinner I would definitely eat at the dining room is possible. We had Surf and Turf one night, Duck, Escargot, Pastas, Fish, Shrimp… lots of variety. Desserts were also really good. The best part! You can get more then one!!! =) Johnny Rockets: This is their version of a 60s diner. They have really good chili fries/chili dogs! We came here for a midnight snack one evening. Their malts/shakes are really good (Costs $3.60). All the food here is free. Only fee you pay are for drinks. Promenade Deck Yogurt Machine: There was a free yogurt machine with sprinkles on deck 5. As far as I could see it was open 24 hours a day and you could choose from strawberry, vanilla, chocolate or swirl! CABIN We were in stateroom #8335. It’s an inside stateroom on the 8th Floor. We were down the hall from the Internet room. The size of the room was bigger then our cabin on Sovereign of the Sea so we were really satisfied with it! Everything in the room was so new. The size was perfect for two people. We met our cabin steward Lydia later that day. She’s awesome! She’s always smiling and saying hello every time we see her in the hall. She made us an animal towel every night of the cruise! At the end of the first night, I saw the curtains in my room ½ drawn closed with the lights dimmed down; I was like what’s going on? I opened the curtains and on the bed was our first animal towel with my sunglasses on its head! Every night the towel animals got more elaborate. We had animals including an elephant, rabbit, pig, a hanging monkey, and even a pair of kissing swans on the last day! It was soooo nice! Lydia did a great job on our room. Every time I returned to my room, the room was clean! I never saw her cleaning it. It was pretty cool. As an extra tip, we bought one of those plug in nightlight/air fresheners. It made the room smell so nice the whole trip and gave us some light in the interior room since it’s pitch dark at night. My friends came into our room and was like wow you’re room smells nicer then ours ;) Little did they know we had our air freshener! Also in the room, every evening you get your daily Compass for the next day. We usually came back after dinner and reviewed what we wanted to do for the next day. We are Gold Members in the RCCL Crown and Anchor program so they gave us a coupon books and some free RCCL stuff. It was a cool perk. On the last night, the room steward leaves 4 envelopes for you to put your tip in for your headwaiter, your waiter, your assistant waiter, and your room steward. They all did such a good job that I gave them more then the suggested amount! ENTERTAINMENT The daily COMPASS is the best guide to activities. The ship was pretty big so there were lots of things going on. Cruise Director Ken Rush did a great job keeping things fun! We went to the Quest and the Love and Marriage Game! Both were a riot! We had so much fun at both we were laughing so hard! I think we had the best Quest game of all time on this cruise. All I can say is HO HO HO Boxers and a blinky earring. AWESOME!!! The ice show was also AWESOME! I have been to many good shows in NYC and I think this ice show was up to the same caliber! The ice skaters were wonderful with their colorful costumes and jumps! Given the small rink, I was truly amazed! The nightly shows also included a few comedian shows and 2 singing and dancing shows. The comedians were okay and the dancing shows were good. 2 Parades - There was a parade down the promenade deck. It was pretty cool to see. You see a guy on stilts, singing, dancing, and LOTS of colorful people in costumes. Dancing – They had an event called Dancing Under the Stars. It featured music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This was tons of fun. We were doing the twist, the YMCA song, etc. The dancing event ended with a dance competition. We were one of the three couples going for the win! That was really cool! They showed all of us dancing on the stateroom TVs! Rock Wall – I had a chance at climbing this. It was lots of fun. The line wasn’t that long. They have assigned times listed on your COMPASS. You just need to go and fill out a form and sign up for a time slot. I made it ¾ a way up the wall! There are several ways you can go up. The way I went up was one of the easier ones! Pretty sad! I’ll have to try again next time! Ice Skating – The rink also had free skate sessions. The rink is quite small so they have multiple 1-hour sessions where people can go skate. They will rent you free skates. The rink can get crowded but I just went in for 15 –20 minute just to get some pictures. They have people monitoring to make sure people are skating safely. One of the rules, no skating backwards! Mini Golf – There is a mini golf course on board on the Sports Deck. We played a round of golf the first day on board. There are little pictures at the beginning of each hole that give you an idea how to shoot the ball. Pretty creative. Basketball Court – There is a b-ball court the in middle of the sports deck. I saw lots of people playing while on board. At certain times, this court is converted to a volleyball court. On at sea days, the compass showed competitions people could sign up for. The Shipshape Gym – The gym was really good. They had many treadmills, elliptical, step machines, free weights, weight machines, etc. They even have classes; Step, Kickboxing, Spin (For a $10 Fee), Yoga (For a $10 Fee) etc. Inside the Gym, there was an indoor hot tub and sauna. It was quite nice. Really nicely decorated too. PORTS OF CALL Monday: Labadee, Haiti We booked the Waverunner excursion. We spend the first 15 minutes or so watching a video and then went out and strapped on our life vests. We had either 1 or 2 per waverunner. It was tons of fun! We were able to go up to 45 mile/hour. We had a beautiful day in Labandee. Felt like it was 90 degrees out! During lunch we had a BBQ. They had fresh cut fruit, bbq ribs, chicken, cheeseburgers, hot dogs etc. Tuesday: Ochos Rios, Jamaica I booked an excursion with Peat Taylor for this port and didn’t go through the ship. We docked at 8:00 AM so we went out to meet Peat at around 8:30/9:00 his van and he took us to Dunn River Falls. Dunn River Falls was a blast! We had another guide at the falls that took us up. We all linked hands and climbed up the left side of the waterfalls. We took a lot of pictures and the cold water was refreshing! It took about an hour to climb the falls. At the end of the falls, we gave our guide a tip and had to exit. We read on message boards that we should exit at the entrance to avoid the marketplace but there was a guard standing at the entrance when I was there and since we had a big group, they directed us to the marketplace exit. I walked through really quickly and said no thanks along the way but some the guys in my party were stopped by the vendors. They shook their hands and asked for their names. Once the had a hold of their hands, they wouldn’t let go and tried to get your to talk to them and “donate” money or buy their things. I would also try to warn people against giving their names because once they get your name, they carve your name into the item and you will feel inclined to buy it. Just beware! The marketplace is tough! Peat picked us up at the parking lot of the falls. We then drove to Fern Gulley. It’s a rainforest where a person showed us many plants and explained their uses. It was pretty interesting. We headed back to the ship for Lunch and Peat came back and picked us up after lunch to take us downtown for some shopping. We were able to buy some blue mountain coffee. I hear Jamaica is known for this. My friend also was able to get a good price on a Citizen watch he was looking at for a while. Wednesday: Grand Cayman Canceled due to high seas Thursday: Cozumel In Cozumel we booked a separate tour through Eagle Ray Divers! We went to the beginner Scuba Course called the Resort Course. They will teach you the basics of scuba diving and take you to a max of 35 feet! Antonio was awesome! We had 7 people on our tour total (5 being my friends and I) and we got lots of personalized attention! I was pretty scared at first but Antonio helped me to calm down and held my hand through the whole experience so I felt comfortable. I would highly recommend them if you want to try out Scuba Diving. Afterwards, we took a cab back to the ship and hand lunch. We then took another cab downtown to do a little bit of shopping. DISEMBARKATION On the last day, we woke up early at around 7AM for breakfast since we had to vacate our rooms by 8AM. We met at the Windjammer Café and had breakfast there. The night before 12 midnight, you had to have your luggage outside your cabin door so they can ensure it will be available when you reach the pier the next day. After breakfast, each of the common areas was available for people to wait until their luggage color was called. We had Blue 2 so it was one of the later ones to be called. You had to make sure you had your passport and Custom Declaration forms when you left. You will go to a room to pick up your luggage at the baggage claim area. We were off the ship by around 10:15. Everything went fairly well. We went to our car rental and picked up the minivan and came back to port to pick up the rest of our party. We drove back to Orlando and had some lunch before going to the airport to fly home. CONCLUSION We definitely had a great time while on this cruise! I would definitely recommend this to other people. She is definitely a great ship!

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Dec 7, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Before I begin my review let me share with you a little background on me and my family. We were a group of 6, which includes My wife(40) myself(41), my two teen aged boys (15 and 17), my oldest sons girlfriend (17) and my recently widowed sister-in-law(37). We live in Gettysburg Pa, and all except for my wife’s sister have cruised before.

We had planes on leaving Thursday December 4th at around 10 pm drive straight through to Orlando and stay Just outside of Walt Disney World and do a quick through the parks on Saturday December 6th and then head off and board the Ship on Sunday. Well as luck has it the Weather Man changed our plans with the forecast of up to a foot of snow starting sometime after 5 on Thursday. So as soon as we could get the Van loaded we headed south. We have a full sized Customized Ford Van. We where loaded to the gills with the Six of us 12 bags we where planning on checking at the port and another 9 carrion's. We took our time driving all night Thursday and into Friday. It took approximately 16 hours to get to Orlando, where we checked into the Cypress Pointe Resort. We had reserved a 3 bedroom three bath condo that I had found on the net. I could not believe how wonderful it was for only $99 a night. It had its own well equipped Kitchen complete with dishwasher. The master suite had a large Jacuzzi tub and the adjoining suite and a roman soaking tub. the living room had its own 46 inch big screen TV. The resort itself was rather impressive with lots of pools, hot tubs, fountains, mini golf, Beach Volley Ball, game room.... need I say more. There was almost enough there to make us wish we did not have to get on the ship “WELL ALMOST“. Saturday we went to Disney and along with enjoying all the wonders of the Magic Kingdom we also got to see the tapping the Disney Christmas Parade. Disney was decked out for Christmas and we truly enjoyed ourselves. Sunday we woke up and drove to the Port it took just over an hour to drive from Orlando to the Port. You can see the Mariner for miles away. She gleams like a new penny in the sun. She grows larger and larger as you near her and she is very impressive. The Disney ship in port is no little ship but she is dwarfed buy this behemoth floating next to her. We have sailed out of Canaveral before and we where surprised to see that the Traffic pattern had changed. We arrived at the pier at 11am but traffic came to a complete halt as we neared the ship. I think they have a small amount of construction left and hopefully will get the few bugs worked out and traffic will flow better. Even with the traffic confusion we made our way to drop our bags off with the porters. There was several porters ready to take our bags and off they went. I left everyone else on the curb with our carrions and off I went to park the Van. The line for the lot went fast and a few minutes and $70 latter I was parked and headed to the terminal. My family had already gone in and after going through Security I was whisked off to the front of the line where my family had already made it to and where in the middle of checking in. We basically walked right on board ship at 11:35 we went right to our awaiting cabins dropped of our luggage and headed to the Windjammer for some lunch. The Windjammer in the Mariner in a little bit different from the other ships I have been on (this was my first Voyager class ship) As you enter the Windjammer there is a bar area directly in front of you and you either go right or left. Both sides being identical. The first lines (buffet stations) are Jade this is the windjammers oriental buffet. They serve breakfast lunch and dinner oriental style food. Its good not great only in that the choices are limited. The next station has salads and fruits then the next is hot stuff and carving stations and in the center a desert bar meeting up with the identical lines coming from the other direction opposite the bar from in front. The foods here where good for buffet style and the choices were plentiful. There are several Drink Stations and they are being operated by the waiter staff. They not only pour you drink for you they bring them to your table and get you refills. They also offer to get you refills of any buffet item you may want along with desert. After lunch we set off exploring the ship. At first you feel that she is so large and it is easy to get confused or even lost. The hallways are LONG. and other then the cabin numbers to guide you it is a little confusing. On most ships I have been on the hallways lead you to the Centrum where you can see out to the Ocean and its quite visible as to what's for and what's aft. How ever on this ship the hallways go on for ever and even the Centrums (there are two) lead you only to the royal Promenade. Until you learn which way the street of the Promenade is and what end is aft it gets rather confusing. We always looked for the dinning room and knowing that what ever you eat usually shows up in your butt we figured that that dinning room was in the aft of the ship. Anyhow I did miss the fact that there are no windows in the centrums but this ship makes up for that in other ways. The royal Promenade is beautiful as is every inch of this ship. The feeling of being on a city street is really neat. The shops are inviting as are the pubs and even more so the Cafe Promenade, my favorite. If you are on a diet stay out of the Cafe Promenade. The goodies in there case are way to inviting. Here you have your choice of tasty little sandwiches and pies cookies and cakes. each day they had something different, and believe me it was all out of this world. We had the pleasure of sailing with some of the greatest people around. We had been in touch with well over 100 people through CruiseCritics.com. We had all agreed to meet at the Crows nest at 3 and so shortly before three we headed off the meet face to face all these crazies we had been talking to on line for the last several months. It was great fun meeting some of these people but we still had to get ready for the life boat drill and supper plus we wanted a little time in the hot tub. Our bags arrived just in time to ready for supper and off we went to meet our waiters and dinner companions. We got to the dining room and meet and older couple upset that they had been separated from their traveling companions They complained to our waiter and he whisked them and their friends from the next table off to some other table of their own. We where a little disappointed. It is usually nice getting to meet other people and sharing our table with them. Our disappointment was short lived when on the second night we got new dinner companions. Marv and Robin where wonderful and fun. We talked with them for hours and feel like they are now family. Day 2 Nassau We have been to Nassau before. Our plans where to get off the ship and take a Cab to Cabbage Beach for some Snorkeling. However when we exited the ship we found it was raining and cool. We took the Snorkeling gear back to our room and headed into town to do a little shopping. My sister in law had never been to Nassau and she enjoyed the Jewelry shopping. She purchased a couple of nice pieces and we then headed into the straw market. That place never changes but it is fun haggling with the locals on some souvenirs. We then headed back to the ship for a little lunch and enjoyed the sail away. This day they start offering complementary tickets for the ice show. Get in line early!!! The good shows and times sell out fast, and believe me you don't want to miss this show. This night was Caribbean night. We wore our flowery Caribbean cloths and where happy to see that most people joined in. Day 3 at sea This day was fun and relaxing. I must say the most important thing is don't be afraid to join in. I even got into the Mr. Sexy Legs Competition, It was good for some laughs and I got a key chain for my efforts. This night was the first formal night. We did not make it to the Captains reception but the diner was great. We did go to the Ice show this night and WOW it was great. We had Breakfast in the dinning room. and lunch at the Windjammer. This was the day that we had the Cruise Critics Party. It was fun to meet everyone. We had a really large group. I felt RCCL dropped the ball here just a little. We had well over 100 people sign up and all they had for us to eat was a few cookies. They did give us a little talk and gave out a couple of prizes. I would have expected with the size group we had some hot and cold horderves. Day 4 St Thomas We rented a van in St Thomas with Budget Rental car. We reserved it on line for only $100 for the day. It was a nice Chevy Venture. As we were leaving the port headed for the car rental we were stopped by a local who insisted we let him drive us. He wanted $120 for only three hours but we opted instead to pick up or van. We then drove to Sapphire Beach. Its so pretty there its only about 20 minutes from the port the roads wind around sharp turns and they are narrow and in disrepair but its fun all the same. You have to drive on the wrong side of the road and if you have never done it before you just have to be careful pulling out and turning onto other roads. It does get confusing. Anyhow Sapphire Beach was so pretty. They let you park there for free. and use their beaches. The lounge chairs where $5 and they had snorkeling gear for rent along with boats a kayaks. the snorkeling there was real nice and we also played some beach volley ball. The front desk there lent us the ball just made me promise to bring it back. We worked up an appetite and drove to red hook for pizza. There is a great little pizza shop there and the prices where similar to the states. I think we paid $10 for a large cheese pizza. We were now running our of time and headed back toward the pier. The traffic there is bad and it takes time getting around town. we drove up to lookout way up high in the mountains. It had a great view of the port and the whole island. We then drove back to the ship. Dropped off the car and enjoyed the rest of our day on the ship. This was the day we were supposed to have the returners party, well I did not get my invitation till I got back to the ship at 5:15 and the party was at 5:30. Needless to say I did not make it. This day we ate breakfast in the Windjammer ..It was good but the dinning room is much better. Day 5 St Martin We had also reserved a Van on this Island. Here we had a Mitsubishi Space wagon reserved with Best car rental. It was only $60 for the day and they are right off the pier to the right. My sister-In-Law is a big lover of horses and she insisted we go horseback ridding. She had made arrangements with Lucky Stables. I was a bit unsure of this excursion. I have not been on a horse since I was a kid. Well we got there and they made it so easy. It was great. The trail is rough and it goes up and down several hills, but the views are panoramic and very beautiful. This is a must for anyone fit enough to ride a horse, young or old. We booked a 2 hour ride and they gave us almost a 3 hour ride. the terrain is covered in cactus and there are millions upon millions of butterflies. there where even wild horse. At the end of the ride we got to ride our horses into the Ocean. what fun this was and probably the high light of our cruise. I had expected to be really sore but it really did not bother us much at all. After the ride we stopped at Burger King for lunch and then headed back toward the pier for some shopping. Best Car Rental let us park right in their gaited lot and we walked right to front street for some shopping. Did you know that as long as you are buying they give you free beer. We shopped and drank the afternoon away. There are great deals to be gotten in St Martin and I highly recommend Majesty Jewelers. I think there are several good stores there but we really liked that one the best. If you don't want to buy anything but want to look and still drink beer they where offered everywhere for $1. You can get pretty trashed cheep in St Martin. Well after some shopping and drinking we drove back to the pier and dropped the car off and walked back on the ship. and enjoyed the evening activities. Day 6 Sea Days Day six is the day they finish up all the pool games. The big highlights are the horse racing and the Men's International Belly Flop Contest. This must have been our day for winning. We won six dollars at the horse race and I won the gold mettle at the Belly flop Contest. This night was also the second formal night. We noticed more people both formal nights dressing up. (at least in our opinion as compared to the other recent cruises we had been on) We had Breakfast in the dinning room and lunch at Johnny Rockets. Day 7 Sea day This was just a relaxing day at sea. We went to the show, we visited the shop and purchased a few last minute things. We went to the Casino and won a few bucks...We are actually walking away ahead. We had to have our bags out by midnight so we took some time today packing. We had breakfast and lunch in the dinning room. I much prefer this over the windjammer. No lines and the food is GREAT. We played an exciting game of ping-pong and then we went to Johnny Rockets for malts. I love Johnny Rockets the food their is fresh and tasty and the entertainment is really cool. Day 8 Debarkation Wow we went to the Dinning room one last time for a terrific breakfast. We finished and headed back to our rooms. We where supposed to be out of them by 8:00am we got to our room at 7:55 and heard them announcing the first colors. We picked up our bags and walked right off the ship. Fastest and easiest debarkation ever. They have set up something new with customers. Each family must present themselves with customs its really painless and the lines go fast. We then walked down to pick up our checked bags and after finding all 12 of them (finding them took some time) two porters came loaded everything up on bag wagons and off we went. They took us out into the parking lot and left everything at the curb in the loading area. It could not have been much easier. I pulled the van over and we loaded. We where on the road by 9am, then 18 hours later we were home. The ship is beautiful and stable. The staff was GREAT. The Captain is very visible and fun. All the food is wonderful. I loved the Promenade cafe, and Johnny Rockets, that's not to diminish how wonderful the dinning room is. I don't have a complaint. The shows where so good. Bobby Collins was the featured comedian. He made me laugh so hard I had trouble breathing. Matt Yee is GREAT. We only made it to his last two shows, but I wish we would have made it to all of them. He is so talented and funny. The ice show is not to be missed. Oh one last group that really made our cruise was the cruise comics, they where a riot.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

This was my 2nd cruise. In May 2003 I sailed on Voyager of the Seas. I am very impressed with Royal Caribbean and the two ships I sailed on.... My roommate and I booked a Promenade view room--wonderful and several others in our group of 25 people had similar rooms. My parents at 77 years & 81 years booked Superior Balcony --loved the balcony but too breezy at night to sit out!! Lovely in the day!! The cabin was more than adequate. Although

small I am amazed by the space saving layout, comfortable beds, and the shower was lovely! Liked the hand-held shower and the design of the whole bathroom. The food in the main dining room was very adequate. The selection was excellent. Do not expect 5 star dining on a mega ship! Our table mates were wonderful, funny, lively, and we had a ball laughing about each others experiences! Our server, Vanessa from Montevideo, Uruguay was superb, always remembered our orders, was friendly, fun loving, gracious, Perfect!!! I loved the dancing servers at the farewell dinner, as well as the singing and clapping! I'm a sucker! The Windjammer Cafe was often too crowded and the food cold at breakfast and lunch. I choose to eat in the main dining room on a few occasions and tried Johnny Rockets which was very good and a pleasant change! One night 4 of us had dinner in Portofino's. The food and service was very good, but I thought it was too rich! The dessert was obscene! Tiramisu and whipped cream and a potent shot of liquor! Too much for me but others might enjoy it! I think the best part of this cruise was the people I met from all over the world. My parents mostly enjoyed the main dining room for breakfast & lunch as they savored meeting and chatting with new people every day. Even Old Mom met twin brothers and all of us had some good laughs. I met folks from Ireland, Japan, and all the USA. It was most entertaining. I enjoyed the casino. The first night I was panic stricken --the Blackjack tables were all $10 per hand and up! Thankfully the other nights the minimum went down to $5 a hand and I even enjoyed losing. It was my "contribution"... I enjoyed sitting on all the decks. Even the lower decks, less crowded and quiet were a peaceful retreat. My favorite entertainment venue was the Schooner Bar --every evening I was entertained by Matt Wu (?). I joined in the fun with a group of friends as we donned boas and danced with the crowd! Great fun! Don't miss the ice shows! Bingo was fun, but expensive! I am much more entertained by Blackjack! I celebrated by 45th birthday on this cruise. My parents joined me in a photograph and I must say it is one of my cherished memories of this trip! How fortunate I am to have good family, friends, and the opportunity to see the world. The Wine Bar and all the very cordial, friendly, fun loving servers were great! The selections, presentation, and the excellent wine talk were a lot of fun! The promenade is spectacular! The shows with the mimes were fantastic. The shopping good --loved the silver by the inch! All in all I had a fantastic experience. Sure, some things go wronig but I certainly did not let that hamper my fun! The ship is beautiful, the staff friendly, the gusets warm & inviting, and the whole experience was AAAA++++. Great job Royal Caribbean

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My families previous cruise experience was Carnival Sensation, Paradise, Victory, and Glory We arrived at the beautiful Port of Canaveral at about 11:00 am on Sunday. We were told to come at that time because of our elderly parents and my mother's use of a wheel chair. This was our 2nd cruise out of this Port (previous Glory) and we love it. They seem to really have their act together there compared to Miami. We were immediately directed

to drive up and unload our luggage before parking in the clean parking deck. All went well and the porters were professional and helpful. After parking two cars ($70 per car) we immediate were ushered into the building for document processing and embarkation. The process went very smooth and and if anyone else has a family member with wheelchairs don't hesitate to sail out of Canaveral, the elevator and staff that work with the port make the process fairly easy. Papers were processed and after a small wait we walked onboard at 11:30 am. Wow what a ship. Needless to say, no matter how hard we tried, we immediately began our comparisons with Carnival. The ship was beautiful, spotless, and you could immediately see Royal Caribbean attention to detail when constructing and designing the ship. The ship was ours to explore but we were told that our rooms would not be ready until 1:00PM We proceeded to the Windjammer for the Buffet Lunch. Basic welcome lunch with many serving stations and beautiful views in many directions. After completing our lunch we began our first day explorations. Upon peaking out over a balcony to view the Promenade for the first time, awesome! It looked like they had transported a street from Paris and placed it in the middle of the ship. We than made it back to our room. We had 3 interior rooms in a row on deck 7. (I would have preferred a balcony but I was paying the whole lot) Typically cruise rooms. Clean, a lot of storage space and compared to Carnival, no shower curtains. The ship has circular shower doors that form a tube when closed. Great idea. No more wet bathroom floor. Our room steward was Arnold from Romania and he did a great job! The Ship- Hands down more beautiful than any of our Carnival ships. (We loved all of our Carnival cruises as well) The tile, colors, furniture, etc. all a step up. The solarium was gorgeous and the general pool areas were well laid out and for a ship this big never seemed overcrowded. The spa was a spa. Work out equipment and whirlpool with a view. The Savoy theatre was great with good sight lines and we enjoyed the movie theatre style seats. The sports deck was great. Full basketball court and the miniature golf was a great family past time (I though it would be hokie) The rock wall was a blast and this geezer actually made it to the top. Surprising to me was that we played golf, climbed the wall, ice skated, etc. with out much wait. RCL does a good job handling people flow by either ticketing (free for the ice show) or just signing up people. Less waiting in line. The Centrum ice skating ring was really cool. No pun intended. Our luggage arrived during the afternoon. No problems and the muster drill went great. We waited in the air conditioned theatre instead of out in the heat. The Mariner pulled out of port a few minutes late but the ship always sailed very smooth. We had calm water but you rarely felt like you were on water. Our dining was first seating and the dining room is just beautiful. Our party of 7 was given our own table (not requested) Again even with this more crowded ship, there seemed to be more room around our table and less of a cramped feeling that we had on a couple of our Carnival cruises. Our waiters were from Indonesia and the Philippines. Both were good spirited and did a good job. The Food- Uh, oh. All good until here. We found the food to be spotty at best. Some things like the daily fresh bread were great. However many of the entrees and deserts were ok if not bad. I can eat fast food, chain restaurant, or gourmet food and if it is done right I have no complaints. The Mariner has some work to do with the food. Carnival overall was much better. All 7 people in my party said that. The first night we had a great Cod dish. Later we had a terrible jerk chicken. One night they didn't have any Red Snapper. Weird because that was the Chefs recommendation on the menu. We had a dessert one night that all 7 people pushed away. (We are a big dessert family) The food in many ways reminded me of hotel convention food. Many times it looked better than it tasted. I would have a tough time ordering many of the entrees again and that is the best judgment of good food. Needless to say, they weren't selling many cook books. The slice of Baked Alaska was about as thick as paper towel. I thought it might blow away. I asked for grapefruit juice and I was told they were out. We also had two cartons of spoiled milk given to us for breakfast. Curdles on the cereal. We had a lot of apologies on that day. To be fair the ship always had awesome cookies at the Cafe Promenade and a variety of good pastries and sandwiches. The pizza was ok. Again Carnival wins that comparison. Crazy but the Cafe Promenade only offers cold water or hot coffee or tea 24/7. If you are thirsty you better sprint to the Windjammer to get some ice tea or Lemonade before it closes. Maybe they are trying to sell more soda cards! The Windjammer and Jade were spotty as well. Cold pancakes and some non inspired Fusion food were a little disappointing. The outside buffet was cut short because of a storm and the gala was good but you had to be careful your weren't run over by rude people! Speaking of people, no difference between Carnival or Royal regarding attire. No effort to stop shorts, jeans, tea shirts, etc. in the beautiful dining room. We saw one girl come to dinner in ragged jeans with holes. I thought she was going to the auto body shop. Overall some food good and some bad. Shows and Entertainment- Stage shows had something for everyone. The Mariner did have great singers. DO NOT MISS the ice show. One of the best shows I ever saw even compared to Broadway or Vegas. It is amazing what they do on that little piece of ice. Some great Russian skaters. The show is more of a "show" versus and ice demonstration like many of the Ice Capade and post Olympic shows. No boring moments even for Macho guys. The casino was not to impressive. Mostly slots and a few poker games. The tables were kind of pushed to the side and put in a cramped area. Great ventilation and not too much smoke. The smaller venues seemed to have some good pianist and guitarist. Port of Calls- Labadee, Cozumel, Cayman. Jamaica. No problem getting off the ship. After 4 other Caribbean cruises I would have been happy staying on the Mariner but they do close down many of the activities when in port. Bummer. I would have liked to do more rock climbing and ice skating. Labadee was beautiful. All others will always vary according to your shore excursions. Debarkation- Went smooth. They clear according to color on luggage tags. My area was cleared earlier than expected. We finished breakfast and walked right off. A little delay at customs but that can be expected. Overall- Great cruise (hard to have a bad one) Like most frequent cruisers, I would like to combine several of my cruises to get the "Perfect Cruise" Maybe the Mariner plus the Carnival Glory's foodservice might be the right combinations. You will enjoy the Mariner just don't expect fine dining. (Off to Princess and Celebrity I guess) Mike

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We cruised Mariner of the Seas on August 28 - Sept 4, 2005. This was the BEST cruise ever! I can't say enough positive things about Mariner of the Seas and the wonderful vacation we had. This was my third cruise, but my first on a Royal Caribbean Voyager-class ship. I had concerns about vacationing on such a large ship with 3000 passengers but in all honesty, the ship was big enough that it never felt like 3000 passengers were onboard. This

was the first cruise with our 2 children too. Our kids are 11 years and 15 years old. We did a lot of research in advance to find a ship that offered enough activities for kids. The Mariner of the Seas will not disappoint you! For the kids they have a video arcade, ping pong tables, inline skating, ice skating, miniature golf, face painting, Johnny Rockets dining, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, basketball and/or soccer court, jogging track and all the fun Adventure Ocean activities that are planned by the staff. We also were concerned about cruising during hurricane season and we were tracking the hurricanes for the month prior to our cruise. When Hurricane Katrina hit Miami on the Thursday before we left, we definitely were nervous and very glad that we purchased travel insurance just in case. We checked the Royal Caribbean website for Tropical Weather Updates and our cruise was not affected by Hurricane Katrina, although other cruises leaving out of Miami, Tampa and Galvaston were affected. We also had read that the cruise ships do a good job of staying away from the bad weather and keep you in calm water. We're happy to report that we had wonderful sunny weather for the entire week, although it did rain a few times at night. Nevertheless, we did have a very UNUSUAL weather experience aboard the Mariner! In the wee hours of the morning at 4:30AM on September 2, 2005 the ship's emergency alarms were set off by lightening. Everyone on the ship was awoken and it was a bit scary at first not knowing what was happening. Some passengers were in the hallways with their life jackets but most folks just looked outside the doors or stood on their balcony. We were on Deck 7 with a balcony, so we looked outside but couldn't see anything unusual. Within 10 minutes, the Captain came on the loudspeaker with an announcement that ome of the communication radar towers had been struck by lightening and set off the alarm. He reassured us there was no need to panic and everything was under control. Unfortunately, he could not shut off the alarm because it was a complicated process (the alarm needs to be reset in each section of the ship and it takes the techinicans time to do that.) Luckily, the captain did discover a way to quiet the alarm by holding down the Purser's announcement button so we heard crackling for about 2 hours through the room radio, but that was better than a blaring alarm. Everyone was calm and went back to sleep for the most part. I must say the crew handled this experience extremely well and I was impressed with how quickly the passengers were informed about what was happening. Even the woman who makes the announcements in all the different foreign languages got on the intercom and told passengers the situation. The lightening was truly a once in a lifetime event and by the next day everyone was talking and laughing about it. One of the passengers on another Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, happened to see the lightening strike the Mariner and took a picture. When we docked in Cozumel next to the Rhapsody, that passenger gave our crew the photo and the next day at the Captains Talk we all saw it. It was quite a photograph! Besides all the excitement with the weather, we also were thrilled with the great onboard entertainment. The ice show with George and Anna (guest stars from Russia) was first-class. In fact, it was so good that I watched it twice. The ice rink is on Dec 3 in Studio B and although it's small you'd never get that impression from the skaters. They are jumping and twirling like it's a full-size rink! The evening entertainment in the Savoy Theatre was just as spectacular. We liked the rotation between comedy and dancing, as our kids preferred the comedy and liked how the entertainment was comedy one night and then dancing/singing the next. The shows are Las Vegas style with high production values. There are huge lighted sets, multiple costume changes and a live orchestra. The comedy was hilarious and we enjoyed all the jokes (well, most of them.) The Cruise Director, James Andrews, was a lot of fun too. He's got a ton of energy and spoke to us every night before the evening entertainment. We especially liked his segment on the last night, "Top Ten Things that Passengers Ask Us." It was hilarious, but I won't spoil the fun and give away his jokes. James Andrews is the livliest Cruise Director that I've met and an all around nice guy. I spoke to him a few times throughout the cruise and you could tell the pride he has working for Royal Caribbean. Plus, he truly wanted everyone to have a good time. The ports of call on our cruise were good, although Cozumel was the best in my opinion. We had more time in Cozumel and there was more to see and do, plus the souvenirs were priced right. We picked up lots of T-shirts for $4 each and these were the heavy cotton, quality shirts too. We were not impressed with Ocho Rios and probably would not go back. There was so much begging and pushy sales people, it really got annoying. The Jamacian vendors would put things into your hands and say "How much you give me?" and when you tried to give it back or say "no, I'm not interested" they wouldn't stop. There were especially bad around our kids who had never experienced this behavior before. They would put necklaces on my 11-year old daughter and then tell her to give them money. I had to intercede constantly and take the merchandise off her and give it back. We went to Dunn's River Falls that day, which was fun and then we went to the shops and beach at Margaritaville (which is right next to the dock.) If you go to Jamaica, be sure you don't walk around aimlessly because the street vendors and taxi drivers will drive you CRAZY. My recommendation is to see Dunn's River Falls or hang out at the beach at Margaritaville. The store keepers at Margaritaville do not hassle you and it's like a mini-mall in Jamaica. We made the mistake of walking around before our excursion and I don't recommend that! We also enjoyed seeing the StingRays at StingRay City in Grand Cayman. If you have kids, that's definitely going to be a highlight for them. In Cozumel, we went to Chankanaab National Park, which was a 10 minute $10 taxi ride from the Cozumel Cruise Terminal. You can find out more at www.cozumelparks.org.mx . We like to snorkel and swim, and at Chankanaab you can rent snorkel equipment on the beach and spend the entire day. We didn't book an excursion through the ship because we wanted to spend more time snorkeling and the excursions onlyl allow you 2 to 3 hours. We were in Cozumel from 10am - 6:30pm, so we wanted more time. It costs $12 per person for admission to Chankanaab, but it's a small price to pay. There are also dolphins, sea lions, sloths and toucans that you can see there. Plus, there are restaurants on the beach and snack bars. And best of all, there were not any street vendors selling their stuff and being pushy. Except a few gals on the beach who are doing hair braiding, but there were not pushy. We're guessing that because it's an admission-only park, that most of the street vendors go elsewhere. Regarding the food on the Mariner, we were in heaven! It was fine dining everynight and our wait staff treated us like royalty. You can order as many entrees as you want, and my husband and I each ordered our own entree and then one to share, so we could sample more of the wonderful selections. We had read some reviews before our cruise from people that complained about the food, so we thought maybe the quality had gone down since our prior cruises, but that is NOT TRUE! The food is spectacular and I told our Head Waiter that I was surprised anyone would complain about the food. We tried most of the fish selections like Sea Bass, Grilled Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, Salmon, Scallops etc. And the desserts were amazing too, we had Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, creme brulee, warm chocolote cake and key lime pie. Our rooms were larger than we remembered from our previous cruises, another advantage of going on a Voyager-class ship. We had adjoining rooms on Deck 7 with balconies. If you're traveling with older kids, this is definitely the way to go. We could shut the door at night, but keep it open during the day and it felt like an even bigger stateroom. We came home last night (Sept 4) so this review is fresh in my mind. I'm on Cloud 9 and had the best vacation of my life. I bought the DVD that they sell onboard called "Cruise in Review" and I've already watched it. I'm planning to show the DVD to some friends and get a group together for our next vacation on the Freedom of the Seas in 2006. If you have any questions and would like to contact me, I will do my best to answer all inquiries. You can email me at debsand@comcast.net. Bon Voyage and have a great time on the Mariner of the Seas!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

My Wife and I were supposed to go on our Honeymoon on the above date, but missed the cruise because of a cancelled flight. We flew to St. Thomas to catch the cruise at it's second port, when the Mariner was diverted to Haiti out of fear for Hurricane Emily. When we asked RCI what they would do for us, their reply was nothing because we didn't book our trip through them. They stated that had we booked through them we would have been taken

care of. Luckily we had travel insurance. Now we are trying to get our travel insurance to pay us our claim and they need a letter from RCI to prove to them that the ship was diverted, now my travel agent has informed that it will be 6 weeks. I just want to say that I am very disgusted by RCI for treating us like second class citizens because we did not book through them. I am almost wondering if the letter is taking 6 weeks just to punish us for dealing with a travel agent. I didn't make it on a Royal Caribbean boat, and now I probably never will. I am sure it is a great ship, but RCI can go to the bottom of the ocean!

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By JC_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We are a married couple with no kids yet (want to have some day). We sailed on the Mariner of the Seas (Nov 7-14) to the Western Caribbean (Labadee, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel). Previous cruises include Majesty, Adventure (AOS), and Voyager (VOS) of the Seas. Bottom line - we had a great time, and like every vacation, it was not perfect (no one is perfect and nothing is ever perfect), but you are away from the office and surrounded by wonderful

people!! This would rank second to our VOS trip. Please excuse me if I make too many comparisons between the two. Sunday - Port Canaveral is a very nice port. Other ships there were the Disney Wonder and Carnival Fantasy. After check in, we had lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. There are really two parts to the buffet, Jade and Windjammer. Jade specializes in Asian fusion food and Windjammer in regular food. In addition to the buffets, on Deck 11, there is Chops and Portofino's. I will explain these two fabulous restaurants in a second. After lunch we headed to our balcony cabin on the starboard side. It was very nice. The bathroom is slighter bigger than on AOS and VOS. There is a safe and lots of drawer space. There is a fridge/mini-bar. If you brought your own computer, you can get Internet access in your cabin for $100.00 for the entire cruise. See Guest Relations. After settling in, we explored the ship. Being that this was our third Eagle/Voyager class ship we were familiar with the setup. Even though they are in the same class, each has a unique personality which makes it fun to compare! We got back and made reservations for Chops Grille that evening. It is one of 2 specialty restaurants on the ship (the other is Portofino's). We have eaten at Portofino's on AOS and VOS, so we decided to skip it since the menu was the same as VOS. Chops was a new experience. It was fabulous. It is well worth the $20 per person. New York Strip is spectacular, many side dishes, like fried potatoes, asparagus, onion rings and the desserts are so good. Bread pudding and Apple Pie cobbler are not to be missed. It was a 2 hour dinner and it was a lot of fun. Must eat at Chops. Ruby and Augusto were great wait staff. We also liked Portofino's on the other ships. At least do one, but do both if you can. Cancellation with 24 hours results in a penalty, so keep appointment! Monday - Day at sea - This was fun! We played bingo ($35 for Bingo pack), watched the Belly Flop contest and relaxed on the top deck and also enjoyed our balcony. Also we picked up our tickets to the Ice Under the Big Top show. The tickets are free, but are required to enter Studio B to watch the show. You have 4 choices for what show to watch. We chose the Thursday show. Depending on day, it can be a pre or post dinner show. On the days with the ice show, there is no show in the Savoy Theater. This was the first formal night - Captain's Dinner. My advice is have the ship's photographers take your picture with all backgrounds you like. There are a variety of stations. You do not have to pay for it at the time of taking photo. Only after you have reviewed it in the photo shop the next day is when you decide if you want to purchase it. It can be expensive, but they provide memories of a lifetime. Backgrounds include the aft atrium on different levels and a variety of murals. Tuesday - Labadee Haiti. I woke up early as saw we approached a lush land. It was Labadee. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!! We have to tender to get there. Once you get to Labadee, to the left is a beach, straight ahead are the markets, to the right are the kayaks, Aqua Park and Waverunners. RCI provides a BBQ lunch. Ribs, salad, corn, hot dogs, burgers. The food was OK at best. There is no lunch in the Windjammer Buffet on the ship since the staff has to work at Labadee. There are clean bathrooms and sanitizing stations on the island. This is a wonderful beach day to relax and see the palm trees, walk on sand and admire the beauty of this island. We liked this better than CoCoCay - RCI's other private island. Wednesday - Ocho Rios Jamaica - We took the Runaway Caves and Dunns River Falls excursion through the ship and it was great. There is a lot of walking in the caves. The tour was very good and informative. After that the tour went to a packed Dunns River Falls. They are beautiful. We did not walk them, but looking at all that did, it looked like fun. There is a beach at the bottom of the falls, which is nice. When you leave Dunns River, you have to exit through a market. They are very aggressive. We just ignored the sellers and went our way. The dinner that evening was Caribbean themed with jerk chicken and other Caribbean dishes. The suggested attire for this evening was Caribbean clothes! This evening was also the first of two midnight buffets. This midnight buffet was on the top deck, poolside. Fabulous fruit carvings, suckling pig, cold cuts, breads, desserts and other food items surrounded the area. The food is the same on both sides of the pool. Thursday - Georgetown, Grand Cayman - We were here on our last VOS cruise, before Hurricane Ivan. When I saw the port as we arrived, it was different. The trees are down, and did not look as lush from afar, but when you get to the city via tender boat, it is a great city and the businesses are getting back to normal. This was the ship's first trip back there since the hurricane. Other ships there were the Carnival Conquest, Carnival Victory and the Star Princess. The stingray excursions were cancelled that day, but if you get a chance to do, DO IT! We did the Stingray city tour last time and it was so good. Must do when you are in Grand Cayman. This time, all we did was walk around and shop. Grand Cayman is a great place and their recovery will be great. This evening the second formal night - Italian Night. We saw the Ice Under the Big Top show and it was the best ice show we have seen compared to VOS and AOS. Must see!! This evening was also the second midnight buffet - the Gala one in the dining room. Cannot miss this one. Ice carvings, wax figures, and food, food, food. Desserts were displayed perfectly and looked too good to eat. Friday - Cozumel. We chose this time to do the Atlantis Submarine tour through the ship. We were docked at the International Pier. This is a cab ride away from Downtown. The tour picked us up from the pier. Next to our pier is the Carnival pier. The Atlantis tour was wonderful. Got to go 100 ft below sea level to watch beautiful fish and coral. Our tour was mixed with people from the Carnival Conquest. This is a must do tour in Cozumel, along with the Tulum Ruins tour, which we did last time. After the submarine tour we had lunch at Pancho's Backyard. The food is wonderful there. Must try in Cozumel. Saturday - Day at Sea - Packing Day. Also this is the day you get the envelopes to tip your waiters and stateroom attendants. These people work a long day, everyday and are away from their homes for 6 months straight. Of course, tipping is a personal matter, based on service. We have just had great people serving us on our cruises. We had a wonderful waitress, Paola from Chile and a delightful assistant waitress Niculina from Romania. They spoke to us and made us feel at home and gave us what we asked for. From our VOS trip, Sylvia, "G" and Serap were awesome as well. The wait staff from these two cruises was an absolute delight to know. They work from 6AM at the Windjammer Buffet or Breakfast dining room hours, work during lunch at the same places and 2 dinners in the Dining room. You have the choice of giving cash or charging it to your sea pass account and giving the vouchers in the envelope. Our stateroom attendant was very good. In addition, you get color tags for your luggage that you leave out of your cabin before midnight. You also get the customs form. Last day of cruise is always sad, but all good things must end. Sunday - last day of cruise. Wake up early to have one last meal! Dining room is open and the buffet is open as well. Your color tags are called over the PA system. You go through customs and go to the carousel where you color tag is. A few other thoughts: a) Capt Johnny is the BEST captain we had. When we entered a port, he would explain the weather, how long we were there, what time to be back and have funny one liners from his Chinese friend. He explained the history of the ports and especially Labadee, RCI's private island, the first port of call. Even on the last evening, he addressed the crowd at the Farewell Show in the Savoy Theatre. RCI should be proud to have a wonderful captain. b) Enjoy the Royal Promenade. Shops, bars, Cafe Promenade, Ben and Jerry's ice cream are all here. Cafe Promenade food is free - pizza, sandwiches, desserts coffee tea. There is a parade the first and last nights of the cruise in the promenade. Ben and Jerry's ice cream has a fee, depending on size/scoops of ice cream. c) Sports - You can choose from mini golf, Ice skating, rock climbing, basketball court, golf simulator. d) Johnny Rockets charges $3.95 to eat there and $3.95 (around this price range) for malts or shakes. Burgers, sandwiches and fries are free. The staff sings YMCA. There is seating on the outside and inside. Wonderful food and wonderful service. We were able to eat there once. e) Do the activities and watch shows - if you miss them you will get to see them on TV: The Quest is a lot of fun to watch and participate in. Dancing through the decades is fun. If you miss a show, they show it on the TV the next day. They also had a Love and Marriage Game show - like the Newlywed Game with host Bob Eubanks. Pure Energy is a good show, if you are into 80's music f) Cruise Compass - must have to see what activities are available...You get this when your room is tended to during your dinner. g) Miscellaneous: sometimes the RCTV to review your SeaPass account did not work. Also, the food was good for the most part. Some days it was hit or miss, but you know what, it beats fast food or microwave dinners! The cruise director was OK, but not as entertaining as the Voyager one. As mentioned, nothing is perfect, but you are on vacation in a happy mode and you are away from stress and the office. We had a relaxing vacation. Enjoy this marvelous ship!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Wow, I have been reading Cruise Reviews for a year now and I finally get to write my own. My only other cruise was about 14 years ago so I can't compare the two. Six of my long time friends and I decided to take a cruise to celebrate our 62nd birthdays. I was the person in charge and we wanted to take a 7day cruise on a newer ship. The cruise met all our expectations and more. It was everything we dreamed about. We flew ino Orlando airport

and spent the night at the DoubleTree hotel and a bus picked up from there and transported us to the dock. We got to the dock and were probably in our cabins in less than an hour. There was a line but it moved quickly and the clerks were very nice. The food was just great and every evening there were several entrees to choose from and always several alternates too. One friend had steak as an alternate several times and and said it was good. The desserts had a seperate menu and always had 2 sugar free or light choices. We did go to Chops one night to celebrate a birthday and the food and service there was outstanding. For lunch one day we went to Johnny Rockets and that got mixed reviews from our group,most thought it wasn't worth the extra money. A few times we at the Windjammer or Jade and that was the usual buffet fare but we mostly ate in the dining room so that we could be "served". Our table's waiter only had one other table of 4 to wait on so we did have excellent service. One thing I did take was too many dress clothes and not enough casual. The "Compass", the daily newspaper that was delivered to your cabin each night told the suggested the dress for the next evening's dinner and there were 2 formal nights and mostly casual after that. Chops suggested "smart Casual". Our cabin had so much storage space and was a little bigger than I expected and we did enjoy having our coffee on the balcony. Our first port was Nassau and we took a tour of the Atlantis Resort but you could probably take a taxi or water taxi and do it on your own a little cheaper (Itwas $54) but then you wouldn't have the narrated tour at the resort. At St. Thomas we took a tour on a open air bus and at St. Marteen it was a large tour bus. Both were around $24 and a good value for the money. With each tour you had the opportunity to shop at the end of the tour. We took the tours and went back to the ship to eat lunch and then just did the shops near where the ship was docked and that was good enough for us. We all liked the fact that we only had 3 shore stops. There were so many activities on the ship on sea days that you could keep busy if you wanted to or just sit in the sun and relax. I had read in other reviews that finding lounge chairs near the pool was a problem but that was not the case on our cruise,you could go out on deck at anytime and find chair. I was worried that the ship might be so big that we would get lost but it was very easy to find everything. The elevators always had a line and were crowded at dinner time so we usually took the stairs. If you need to use the elevator allow extra time to get to your destination. We thought getting off the ship might be a problem but RC has it worked out perfectly. Not too long of lines and your luggage is on a moving baggage track just like at the airports so there is no problem finding your luggage--no searching in a big building--it comes right by and there are plenty of porters to help with your luggage for a few dollars which is well worth it. What can I say except that it was a wonderful trip and we want to repeat the trip when we reach 65.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Let me start by saying the Mariner is just fantastic, it blew us away. My family did a transatlantic cruise on the Splendour last year and we thought that was big. First tip, get there early, we had a pick up from International Drive at 11:30, we arrive at the port at 12:20, and I’ll tell you, we were sitting in our stateroom at 13:15. It couldn’t be easier, but we did notice it did get busy from about 14:00 onward. We headed to the Windjammer

for a spot on lunch; this was really busy, bit frustrating as everyone seemed to have the same idea, but we got a table after a couple of tours round. The food is great, something for everyone; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is everything from fruit right through to burgers, rice dishes; the list goes on and on. There is normally 2 other ships in port. A Disney one and a Carnival one, you can look down on both of them. We sailed at 5pm watching the sunset from the top deck is just the best way to start your cruise. Now take your time to explore the ship, and if you want to be stunned leave the Royal Promenade until last. Go play golf or a dip in one of the 5 hot tubs. We were on the second sitting for dinner. The dinning room is 3 stories high, yes 3!!! Meals were great, and the staff were great. Head to the Royal Prom deck after dinner for a great parade, I don’t want to spoil it for you just get your camera ready. As for the ports Labadee is nice, nice back drop. If you want a bit of peace and quiet, walk thro’ to the other side of the island, not so busy and loads of beds. We didn’t do much there but caught the sun. Next was Jamaica. I’ve got to admit I didn’t like this place, the people are very pushy and I felt I had to constantly was my 14 year daughter as the locals wanted to braid her hair. We did go to Duns River Falls, not as part of the ships tour. ( I’ll say at this point we didn’t do any of the ships tours, just walked out the ports and there are plenty of taxis and buses to take you round all the ports). Another word of warning about Duns Falls, the market at the exit is very tough. DON’T take any of the things they hand you, again very pushy. Grand Cayman was the next day. Lovely Island, but hurricane Ivan has put a great big dent in it. Good shopping, again we jumped into a bus and for $15 we were taken to Hell, the turtle farm (extra to get in there), 7 mile beach and a couple of other stop, well worth the money. You get to see what Ivan did to the island. Mexico next; another shopping trip. We jumped into a taxi to the lagoon park first, $10 for the taxi and $12 each to get in. Great snorkelling, if that’s your thing, but you have to pay extra. Last day at sea, we took time to go ice skating, roller blade and golf again. Another tip, go to the ice show, jaw dropping stuff. The other shows are worth talking about too but I’ll not spoil the surprises, I’ll just say all very professional. I’ve taken loads of pictures, when I get to the bottom of my suit case I’ll post a few up, if you like. One last thing, Captain Johnny is a real show man, listen to his announcements, they are just brill.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

My husband Bill and I went on this cruise over the summer with my 7 year old daughter, Sarah, and my 15 year old daughter, Mandy. We really enjoyed this cruise. If you are lokking for a cruise where you can relax, have fun, enjoy yourself and have a good time with your family this is the one to take. We started boarding an hour early, so that was real nice. We zipped right through the boarding process. It only took about 15 minutes. First we gave

them our luggage so they could take it to our room. Then we got in lines according to what deck your stateroom is on. They gave you information, and your seapass which is used as your identity for ports of call, your charge card, and your room key. Then they took your picture and then you walk up the stairs and on the ship. The ship is beautiful inside out. There are beautiful displays of artwork as far as the eye can see. All my 15 year old could say was, "WOW, are we really on a ship?" and my 7 year old literally coulden't say anything. She even got teary eyed she was so amazed. We went to check out our room on deck 6, which was a Junior suite with a private balcont. When we went in the room it was ready for us. Our luggage was already there. Our stateroom attendent was very friendly as well. The service is awesome. The crew is so friendly. The food is great as well. The shows are well put together. Make sure you see the show where the comedian Scott performs one night. H eis downright hilarious. He does everything, immitations, acting, singing, dancing, he does it all. You can also order drinks during the show. We went to every show except the welcome aboard show because we were at the welcome aboard party up by the pool deck. The girls had a blast at the welcome aboard party. Mandy and Sarah made friends through "Adventure Ocean" the kids program. They hung out with their new friends on the ship. Even to this present day they keep in touch. We had a real nice time and we hope this review was helpful. HOT TIP: Try making your dinner seating time the earlier one. Its less crowded.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My wife and our three sons (aged 8, 9, 12) just completed a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean (RC) Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral. We had a great time until Royal Caribbean dumped our family at the Miami pier with no hotel and no flight out- more on that later in this review. We had a beautiful Grand Suite on the Concierge Deck that included a large bathroom with a full-sized tub. Our cabin steward and our dinner waiters

were always helpful and attentive. The food was fine, the table service was even better. I highly recommend the horseback riding in Jamaica (you actually ride bareback through the ocean, the horses swim through the deep water parts and run along the sandy bottom when they can reach). All our kids loved the kids-club activities on board ship. The last day was tough for all of them since they had made may good friends during the week and had to say good-bye. The majority of the passengers were families (some with 3 or 4 generations) and seemed to be a very active bunch of folks. We had a great time climbing on the wall and skating on the ice rink. I learned to ice skate... after a little peer pressure from the rest of the family- they had wrist-guards & elbow pads which helped a lot. Many of the excursions in Cozumel involve an hour-long ferry ride to and from a pretty little beach town called Playa Del Carmen- be prepared for the long boat ride. Now the bad- and I mean REALLY bad stuff. I'm sure some of you recognize that our cruise took place during hurricane Francis. Because of the Hurricane our ship was unable to dock at Port Canaveral on our scheduled return date (Sunday). We floated around in the Gulf of Mexico and up and down the coast of Florida on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, finally docking in Miami (NOT Port Canaveral) on Tuesday morning. Everyone on board was trying to change their hotel and flight arrangements as the port date and location kept changing. We had very limited Internet and phone capability from the emergency communication centers that were set up on board (free, but limited time and very long waits). When the ship was finally re-routed to Miami on Monday afternoon, the passengers were asked to report to a 'Customer Service' desk on each deck where, after waiting in line for almost two hours, we were given special forms to fill out with our personal information and travel information. We were told verbally and in writing on the forms that RC would re-schedule our flights out of Miami and if they could not book a Tuesday flight that they would have a hotel in Miami for us while we waited for a Wednesday flight. Monday nite came and went- no flight info. We waited at Customer Service until 1 AM-no flight info. At 6 AM Tuesday morning, more waiting at Customer Service- no flight info, but they told us "don't worry, your flight info will be waiting for you at the Customer Service Tables in the pier terminal". RC hustled us off the ship starting at 6:30 am. When we got to the terminal there were no "Customer Service Tables". After gathering our luggage, we finally found a RC Customer Service Supervisor named Vicki who was very rude and kept telling us to get on a bus to Orlando (which was demolished by the hurricane)- a 5-hour bus ride away. She finally turned her back and walked away without helping us. NO hotels. NO Flights. They had lied to us and had never booked our flights or hotels. Many families were stranded just like us with no help at all from RC. Crying babies, frustrated parents, stranded seniors. You get the picture. On a tip, we learned that RC corporate headquarters were a few blocks from the terminal. We carried and pulled 14 pieces of luggage and our tired kids through a pretty bad section of town in 95 degree heat to the lobby of the RC headquarters where we finally got some help. A wonderful woman named Susan got us something to drink and some snacks for the kids. She arranged for a shuttle to a hotel and gave us an office phone so that we could make phone calls. We eventually were able to get a flight for the next day (Wednsday). At the hotel we were met by some RC employees and were treated very well. If we hadn't walked to RC headquarters and asked for help, RC would have bussed us to Orlando with no hotels arranged- we would have spent the nite on the floor of the airport. Royal Caribbean should be ashamed for lying to its passengers and treating us and others so poorly.

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