A Mega-Ship for Teens

| May 15, 2004
CruiseMates Teen Editor

My recent cruise on Mariner of the Seas had to be my best cruise experience by far. Not only was the ship amazing, but the people I met, the things I did, and the places I went all contributed to making this the best vacation ever!

Mariner of the Seas is the second largest ship in the world at 142,000 gross tons (the Queen Mary II is 150,000 gross tons). While I had a different experience onboard the QM2, I have to say I enjoyed my time on Mariner much more. It's not that Mariner has more to offer, but it has a more "playful" design. Upon boarding you can sense it is different from any other ship. It smelled brand new, and your first step on board brings you into the stunning Royal Promenade -- a giant mall that spans the middle of the ship. On each end is a "Centrum" – a 12-deck-high atrium with glass elevators lifting you skyward. The Royal Promenade is basically a city street with shops, bars, even a restaurant and bakery called "Café Promenade" that's open 24 hours a day, and all the food there is free! The Promenade has parades, mimes, and actors who walk around and talk to people and put on acts. You can get free ice cream there, and it's a good meeting place for everyone.

Going skyward to the pool and sports deck, you enter a completely different world. You can choose from three pools and six hot tubs. The Solarium is a more upscale pool area, with two large hot tubs that are open 24 hours; my friends and I would sometimes go up there at 2 a.m. to relax in the hot tubs.

The main pools and bars are all located next to the Solarium, and the pool deck is very bright. There is always a reggae band out there, and you have your choice of two bars. The Pool and Sky bars are located one above the other. Scattered around the pool deck are hundreds of deck chairs, with others tiered around the pool.

Further aft is the sports deck, which houses the miniature golf course, basketball court, and in-line skating rink. I tried climbing the rock wall, and everyone should try it. It is not as easy as it looks! Make sure you do it at sea, because when you reach the top, looking down is enough to make you panic!

The teen clubs were amazing. For teenagers age 15-17 there are two teen-only rooms. The "Living Room," located by the pool, resembles a real living room with a bar, flat panel TV, computer room, and lots of sofas. The other teen room is called Fuel. It has a state-of-the-art sound system, bar and dance floor. This is where you could meet lots of teens hanging out during the day and dancing at night. The teen hosts in Fuel were Amanda and Michelle; they made sure everyone was having an awesome time, and they did a good job with that.

At night, Fuel turns into a nightclub where teens can dance with everyone they met. Toward the end of the cruise, they choose three teens to be the DJs while the hosts worked the bar. Outside of Fuel is a teen-only tanning deck, which I used more than I thought I would. Completely off limits to adults, this area has music, lounge chairs, "bean chairs," and best of all, it's right next to Johnny Rockets -- the only chain restaurant at sea, where for $3.95 you can get whatever you want, and as much of it you want. The crew is the most friendly up there, and when they're not busy they enjoy sitting down and talking to you. They always have oldies music playing, and the food is really good. If you play certain songs, all the wait staff will start dancing. I visited Johnny Rockets every day because of how welcoming the crew was, and their food was some of the best onboard!

I also met an awesome group of teens. I hung out with teens from ages 14 to 17. Most were from Michigan, North Carolina or other northern states. I met a huge group of teens, but it started with only three of us. While I was waiting for an elevator, I saw a girl and a guy (Jarod and Emily) also waiting for an elevator. We stared talking, and walked around for a while. We came up with a mission - to organize the biggest group of teens onboard. While we were exploring the ship, we came across Kevin, Rhett, Davis and Lindsey. We agreed to meet up again with them after the lifeboat drill, either by the pool or in the living room.

Around 5, I went back to the living room, and I met the new people everyone else had met, including Michelle, Laura, Courtney and Trey. We all hung out, played some cards and chilled. Most teens have late dinner seating, so we all agreed to meet up again in Fuel at 10:30 (when Fuel nightclub opens). We all went to Fuel for the next seven nights, and eventually we met Katie, Amanda, Leah, Raquel, Allie, Shaniq and Yale, who were from Mexico.

I met a lot more people, so many I can't even name them all! My best memory had to be when we all waited for the guy to change the "day of the week" floor mats in the elevator. It was something that was a mystery onboard - one that everyone was asking about! You could be in an elevator at 11:55 p.m. and the day would say Monday, and go in the same elevator at 12:03 a.m. and it would say Tuesday. So we all decided we would camp out and see what really goes down. We eventually got everyone together, waited for an elevator and got in. While onboard, was asked the people in there if they were waiting for the day to change, and they were. Then we stopped at another deck, and 10 more kids got on - all waiting to see the same thing. As we approached the bottom floor, the man was waiting down there with the new floor mats; he took all of our pictures, and we all cheered and clapped when he switched the mat. We all sadly got back into the elevator knowing another day was over.

While on Mariner of the Seas I was able to visit the bridge. This was an opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes. During my visit to the bridge we were sailing through rough seas, and the officer showed me how the stabilizers work. We were leaning to one side, and to fix the problem he simply pressed a few buttons, and immediately the ship leveled. I got to see how the propellers and engines worked, the joystick steering wheel, and how we are all watched on over 200 different security cameras. They can pull up any room at any time, and watch up to three different camera angles for that room. So be careful!

My cruise on Mariner took me to the islands of the Eastern Caribbean -- Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Best of all, I had three full days at sea - days to relax and do whatever I wanted! At Nassau, we were only there until 2 p.m. so I just went to the Straw Market to buy some new necklaces, and basically circled the town. Next we visited St. Thomas, and there we explored the island, had some lunch, and I got a cool pair of Foalkies. St. Maarten is my favorite island of all the Caribbean, and it was even better then I remembered. The island is similar to St. Thomas, but a little more tropical. Here my dad and I each rented jet skis. It was somewhat of a rough day, and it had to be the best excursion I have ever taken! You could wave-jump and go really fast through the harbor. It was a lot of fun; I felt as I was being taped for a new Royal Caribbean TV commercial! Next time I would definitely rent them again. After this, we had two full days at sea, and I slept, ate and did nothing and everything.

All in all my vacation on Mariner of the Seas was the best cruise yet. From boarding to disembarkation everything was perfect. I would highly suggest a Voyager Class ship to any first-time cruiser, teen, or family. They have the most for teens and not once was I bored! The bridge tour and staff onboard the ship was among the most friendly, especially Jeff who worked on the Promenade, teen staff, and everyone in Johnny Rockets. I hope someday to go again on Mariner or any other Voyager class ship. It was truly a "get out there" experience!

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