This was my third cruise with Royal Caribbean, my 12th overall.
I booked this cruise two weeks before sail date and at that time I
requested a small table for 2, second seating.
The embarkation could not have been more smooth. I arrived at
the pier in San Pedro at approximately 11:55am. I was able to drop
bags, check in and board all within 15 minutes of arriving at the
Once on board, knowing staterooms would not be ready until
1:00pm, I made my way to the dining room to check on my dining
assignment. The Mariners main dining room is located in the aft
section of the ship, and is divided into three levels, The Sound of
Music on deck 5, Top Hat and Tails on deck 4 and the Rhapsody in
Blue on deck 3.
I was to discover that I was given a seat at table #320 which is
a table for 6, second seating, which I felt was unacceptable. I was
informed by one of the servers setting the dining room that I could
possibly request a change of the assignment at 1:00 pm. This is
one of the head waiters would be available to reassign me if
Knowing I booked late, I understood there may be a chance my
request may not be granted. I decided "nothing ventured nothing
gained," so I parked myself outside of the entrance on deck four at
12:20pm to wait for the opportunity. As it turned out, it was a
good thing I did as the line began to form quickly. Shortly before
1pm Mr. Dinesh Dogra arrived, and being first in line he quickly
informed me that basically he could not help me, and I was out of
luck, stating "we only have 11 tables for 2 in second seating on
When I asked what he would suggest I do for dinner since I
really did not care for dining with a large table and truly didn't
enjoy the buffet dining experience, his response was "that's your
choice. I don't care what you do." Mr. Dogra was very
condescending, which made for not exactly a great start to this
After I booked this cruise , I called a friend Carmen "H," who
has been on many cruises with RCI (73+) just to see if she might be
available to book as well, and she was.
Miss "H" was in line directly behind me and prefers to dine at a
large table. When her time came to talk with this gentleman, she
simply asked if her dining assignment was in the section of one of
her dear friends who is also a headwaiter on the Mariner, and who
was also expecting her to be assigned in his section. She was
informed by Mr. Dogra that he was too busy to check and that he
wasn't there for that purpose. In my opinion Mr. Dogra's guest
relations skills need work and he should not be permitted to
interact with guests until being sent for retraining in guest
After the confrontation and being somewhat disappointed, Miss
"H" and I agreed to meet later for a drink. Off we went to check
out our individual staterooms.
My cabin was a category E1, #7216 which is located forward on
this ship and included a balcony.
This cabin is spacious, clean, and in fairly good condition,
although I discovered the heating system was not working properly,
and after informing my stateroom attendant of this fact, it was
corrected in less than 90 minutes.
My stateroom attendant for this voyage was a Mr. Mark Bonner,
who is from Jamaica.
Mr. Bonner's responses to my needs throughout this cruise were
met on a higher level than my original expectations. He was
consistently able to quickly and efficiently keep my stateroom in a
constant ready state. He should be commended for his
professionalism and attention to details. Two big thumbs up from
Around 5:00 pm that first evening a wonderful gentleman; Merrick
Saldanha -- another one of Royal Caribbean's excellent head waiters
-- informed me that indeed he was able to arrange a table for two
for me and in his section, although he wasn't able to accommodate
Miss "H" and her request for a large table at her friend's station
(because her friend was not scheduled to work second seating), so
she decided to dine with me. A big thanks to Mr. Saldanha, which
provided a terrific win-win solution.
This being my first voyage on the Mariner, I was presented with
my chance to see what all the hullabaloo was about concerning the
The Promenade, for those that aren't familiar, is a wide
corridor in the middle of the ship. It runs forward to the aft on
deck 5. This is where the ship conducts some of it's many
activities including parades and musical performances, and it is
also the location for the onboard shops, the coffee café,
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Parlor, and the champagne bar, as well as
the guest relations desk. There are cabins that are located over
the area that will enable guests to look over the area, and I was
told by many staff that those staterooms were soundproofed.
Although, the Promenade tends to be a bit loud for my taste, I
admit the concept is a 5 star idea!
The highlight for me on the Promenade is the wine bar
Vintages is a delightful place that houses many excellent wines.
There you are encouraged to "taste" a wine before purchasing, and
you are also allowed to purchase by the glass or bottle. They will
store your unfinished bottle for you, if you so desire.
On this particular cruise, three of Vintages' employees Gustad
Irani, Alme Morrison and Lloyd Tan provided outstanding
descriptions of the wines, and their service was exceptional.
This cruise had three ports of call -- Astoria Oregon, Victoria,
BC and Seattle, Washington. There were also three sea days as well.
Personally I ended up treating this as a mostly sea days cruise,
only getting off in Victoria in order to look over the garden spot
of British Columbia. We were told by the locals that Victoria was a
community of retirees and gardens, so as he put it "Welcome to
Victoria -- the home of garden beds, newlyweds and almost deads!"
Victoria was very charming and I am looking forward to
The Mariner has three specialty dining venues that impose a
surcharge. Portofinos' "Intimate Italian Dining" $20.00 per person,
Chops Grille "The best steak on the high seas" $25.00, and Johnny
On Wednesday I had my chance to try specialty dining. I chose
Chops Grille, and I will say I was quite pleased.
Thursday evening I was invited to dine with the Chief Engineer,
Harri Kulmajarui -- a delightful man from Norway.
On Friday I received an invitation to tour the bridge.
Formal Nights were on Monday and Friday. While preparing for the
second formal night, the top button on my tuxedo shirt popped off.
Not knowing what to do I went to guest services. Gaston Somonte,
one of the guest services officers, went above and beyond the call.
He found an emergency sewing kit and quickly dropped it by my
stateroom. Talk about saving the day!
Due to the economy, RCL has undergone major cost saving
measures, including forgoing the grand buffet -- the chocolate
extravaganza. They have raised prices across the board as well.
Pellegrino is now $6.95 a bottle and they are also charging $14.95
for a decent steak in the dining room. They have also eliminated
the chocolate on the pillow at night.
I truly hope this is not an indication of things to come.
Jeers * To Royal Caribbean International's efforts in cost
cutting and revenue generating by charging $14.95 for a decent
steak in the dining room and for the removal of chocolates on the
pillows at night. Please don't cut too many pennies!
Extra Cheers * Mario Panganiban -- the waiter whose station I
eventually was assigned ensuring that my dining experience was all
it could be.
* Manuel Datayan, the assistant waiter whose attention to detail
always ensured an exceptional dining experience.
What started out with a bad customer service experience ended up
as often happens with great guest relations and the gaining of new
In general the crew of the Mariner try to please, and as with
any organization you will run into a bad apple now and again.