Three of our party of four had enjoyed our cruise on the Mariner in May, 2004 so much that we opted to return to this ship and same itinerary, rather than choosing another. We were not disappointed in the Mariner itself, as it has been beautifully maintained. The cruise director, Becky, was a one-woman show at any given time and every crew member with whom we had contact was friendly and helpful.
We particularly enjoyed spending time in the Royal Promenade in the late evening (love Cafe Promenade!)and Matt Yee in the Schooner Bar.
Our only real disappointment was the food on this cruise. My husband and I had eaten most of our meals in the Windjammer buffet previously, but on this trip we only missed one dinner in the dining room. The food in the Windjammer compared to the poor quality found at most all-inclusive resorts. Even the dining room was below standards for bith food and service. Our wait staff was very personable, but all seemed to be stretched too thin to give any illusion of what we'd come to expect on a cruise ship dining room. We'd usually wait 10minutes or more with dessert in front of us before we'd even see a waiter for tea or coffee. One night, there was a chef's sampler plate of desserts. Some tables were also offered the dessert menu at the same time, others never saw the menu. I wonder if this is a trend being brought on by the "extra charge" dining options. It seems if you want the former excellent service and cuisine, you have to pay extra.
The appetizers were the best parts of most meals. The "Healthy Alternative" entrees seldom changed. Desserts were for the most part very bland and disappointing, even at the Gala Midnight Buffet, where they looked fabulous and all tasted like they were made from the same mix. I sent back a totally inedible plate of Eggs Benedict for breakfast one morning, the only flavour came from the meat which I had to discretely (I hope) spit out as it tasted just plain rotten.
On the whole, we enjoyed our cruise, the ship, the ports, and the people but found the food and food service has deteriorated in 2 years.
We are veterans of many, many cruises, but had never sailed on any Voyager class ships, so were looking forward to the experience.
Upon arriving at Port Canaveral, we found that the line to drop luggage was nearly an hour long. We were told that there was a "problem" with debarkation of the previous weeks cruise. As a result, there were only three porters unloading vehicles, and the resulting line up was very lengthy. After dropping the luggage, the embarkation went very quickly, and smoothly.
The ship is beautiful, and the crew one of the best we've ever experienced, however with 3,000 passengers, everything, and I mean everything was crowded. The wait for elevators was maddening, and when they did arrive, more often than not they were already filled to the limit. Be prepared to walk the stairs often.
The food was good, to very good, however the selection seemed limited. The menu did include several items that were available at every evening meal, and these were O.K., but not outstanding. The food in the Windjammer was good for buffet food, but once again, somewhat limited in selection. Deserts were good to excellentin my opinion.
Our cabin on deck 8 was clean, and neat. It was very small, and had very limited closet and drawer space,however this was one of very few cabins I've ever had where the thermostat actually worked! If you turned it to "cooler" it got really cold in the cabin. Excellent!
Entertainment was average, at best. The big production shows were somewhat bland. One of them had music of the 80's. I didn't like it then, and I like it less now! I heard more than once, that the best shows on the entire ship were the ice show, and the Karaoke SuperStar show, which was the passengers performing. I tend to agree. If you didn't have tickets to the first Ice Show, (only a few hundred available) then there was absolutely nothing else to do. That left over 2,000 passengers twiddeling their thumbs! Very poor planing by the Cruise Directors Staff.
Debarkation back at Port Canaveral was very good, and very quick. We are Platinum, got early baggage tags, and were back on the pier by 0730.
Overall, an average, at best, cruise. Way too many screaming uncontrolled children. Way too many passengers all trying to go the same places, and do the same things at the same time. Average food, but excellent service, and a beautiful ship. Will I sail the Voyager Class ships again? Only if the price is near give away, or if they happen to sail to some port that I absolutely don't want to miss.
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 heardof 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 Cococay 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.
This sailing on Mariner of the Seas was the western Caribbean itinerary. There were 11 of us total in our group and we had taken an extra day at the start of the cruise and stayed at the RCCL hotel in Orlando near Universal Studios. We were met at the airport by a RC rep… that assisted us in getting the shuttle van to the hotel. Sunday morning we left the hotel at 10:30am enroute to Port Canaveral and the ship.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the port shortly after 11:15, and the whole process of getting on board went very smoothly. We had all printed the Set Sail pass before leaving and the whole process was quick and painless. From the time we got off the bus, it took no longer than 15 minutes to get our SeaPass, picture taken and be onboard. We were told cabins would not be available until 1 PM, and we proceeded to the Windjammer for a quick bite to eat and then went to sit poolside. Luggage arrived by 3 PM for most everyone in our group, however, my luggage did not arrive untilafter 4:30 PMSTATEROOMS Cabins were small… but this is expected. Overall, cabins were clean and furniture and bedding in good shape. There is plenty of hanging space in closet… and also lots of shelves and drawers in closet and desk/bureau. Bathrooms are decent sized… lighting is a little harsh when looking in the mirror. Shower capsule could be bigger as there is just enough room to turn around. Had one problem, the previous guests had locked the safe before leaving, and Stephen the stateroom attendant had already put a call into maintenance to unlock it for me when we met. Stephen was very personable and would spend time chatting and getting to know his guests.
FOOD Ate in the dining room every night and was pleased with our dinners. Selections and portions were ample. The appetizers were always tasty. Prime rib dinner on first night was just good, but the cut of meat was not as tender as you can get in most restaurants. Lobster was excellent!! There was only one meal that I was not impressed with in the dining room and that was the evening when pork chops was on the menu. I order from the alternative menu that evening (Cod fillet), and found it lacking in flavor. Waiter was exceptional and had great attitude in adjusting to our group. She called us all by our names throughout the cruise and always made sure that the children in our group enjoyed their meals. She learned they like mozzarella sticks and bought a plate each night for each of them along with any of the other appetizers they wanted to try.
Bar service was exceptional in the dining room. After the first night, Beto our bartender asked if everyone would like the same drink the next night… and we all did. Each night thereafter, our drinks were waiting for us at the table when we arrived. If we wanted a different drink, he would take care of it… at no charge. The head waiter was exceptional! We had a birthday at our table the first night. He made due with something from the dessert menu to make sure we could celebrate. Some of us from the table ordered just the iceberg of lettuce (which is not on the menu) and he would stop and cut the head of lettuce up. He also did this several other nights when there were “tricky” selections on the menu (lobster tail, shrimp). Only complaint in the dining room was the assist waiter was somewhat slow. Regularly had to ask for a second round of breads, and he repeatedly refilled one of the girls Sprite with water.
Usually ate breakfast in the Windjammer, which had ample selections of eggs, fruits and other breakfast essentials. Selections here were always ample. Could never find fresh strawberries in the fruit assortment which was sort of disappointing. Staff was always ready to take care of any requests you may have. Also had late afternoon snack on the Promenade Cafe, which served pizza, finger sandwiches, tortes and cookies. Pizza was OK, but desserts were very tasty.
ENTERTAINMENT We missed the welcome show due to our dinner the first night, but we did see the other shows. There were two big production shows by RC singers and dancers. Both shows were well done and very professional. The second show which focused on music of the 80s may have lost some people from the older generation, but that was made up by one of the best bookings I have ever seen. Revolution, which is a Beatles revue, was without a doubt the best show of the week. The comedian/musical impressionist was also very entertaining and left us all with sore sides from laughing so hard. The ice show is a must see… and won’t say much other than it is truly incredible what they can do on a moving ship!!
Nightlife on board was great as well. A couple of us sampled each bar the first night and found the Schooner Bar our favorite. The bartender Charmie was one of the best bartenders I have ever had on a cruise. He was a true entertainer… not just your bartender. This bar was filled every night of the cruise… with many of the same passengers each night. The piano player was also very good… getting the crowd involved. The Dragon’s Liar disco was also very popular place, especially with the many college students on board.
The Quest show was very funny and should not be missed. James Andrews is the cruise director and he did a great job. His staff was also very easygoing and accommodating and everyone wanted to make sure you had a great cruise experience.
PORTS OF CALL Labadee was beautiful and the best stop in the itinerary. BBQ lunch on the beach and temps in the 90s made it perfect. Jamaica was nice… some of us did Dunn’s River Falls… I did the Canopy Tour, which was a blast. Tour lasted about an hour longer than it was supposed to which cut into time doing exploring in Ocho Rios. Grand Caymen was very disappointing. We all did the Stingray City excursion, which was over crowded as there were 6 ships in port on this particular day. Stingrays seemed to be very scarce and we were told that it was an unusual occurrence. Cozumel was nice and is recovering from the hurricane damage. Some of us did scuba diving and I was pleasantly surprised that the reefs was not damaged and the fish plentiful. Was a better diving experience than I had in St Thomas the previous year.
MISCELLANEOUS Captain Johnny – what a character. His noon announcement was a highlight every day! Ship was beautiful and well taken care of. When people left room service trays outside cabins, staff quickly picked it up. Biggest annoyance was at the pool deck with the bar staff selling drinks during the day. At times it became obnoxious and over the top. Please no more pina coladas.
DISEMBARKATION Excellent. Took a total of 15 minutes to get off ship, go through customs and retrieve baggage from the carousel.
Review for Mariner of the Seas, Nov. 28, 2005, Eastern Caribbean. My wife and I and her parents had a wonderful time on the Mariner. The embarkation process was quick and the staff actually seemed happy to welcome us aboard as we checked in. We were in our stateroom in less than 35 minutes by the time we parked our car in the garage. The ship is new so the look is very fresh and clean. Our balcony room was clean and bright. Our cabin steward greeted us as we arrived at our stateroom and introduced himself. He provided us with impeccable service for the week. We had room service for breakfast on days of shore excursions, and they would call the room just before the requested time you asked for to make sure it is ok to bring your food to your cabin, Carnival are you listening???
The décor is extraordinary with beautiful art throughout the ship, marble floors, a huge atrium on the Promenade filled with shops and cafes. A wonderful feeling of space in the middle of the ship. There were few kids, young or teens, on thiscruise. I found the days of the week on the floor (carpet) of the elevators a unique way to keep track of the days. I was having so much fun, I found it easy to forget the day of the week.
Dining was a delight. The service was impeccable, and the food was fantastic. We ate in one of the specialty restaurants ( a $20.00 charge pp) one evening and the service as well as the food was the highlight of the week.
Entertainment in the main Theater was very good. The Las Vegas style show and the comedians were great. There was plenty to do also, rock wall, ice skating, mini golf, basketball, and so on. If you are board, it's your own fault.
Ports of call: 1st Nassau, Bahamas. We walked around town and window shopped then took a taxi to the Atlantis Resort and Casino. Better shopping and prices on other ports.
2nd: Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI. Tram ride overlooking the harbor, then ferry ride to Water Island for ATB Bike Adventure. Lots of fun. Then cab into town for some shopping.
3rd: Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. High speed ferry to St. Barths, walked around Gustavia on our own, lunch in French café, shopping in designer stores. Everything is in Euros and everything is in French on St. Barths. I would also suggest renting a car and driving around the island to see more. Taxi tours were available but expensive. Everything on St. Barths is expensive, but we felt like we were in the south of France and not on a Caribbean island. Ferry back to St. Maarten, then a short walk (10 minutes) to shopping in town.
The staff of the Mariner was very friendly and attentive and helped make the cruise experience even better. We will book again. We thoroughly enjoyed this ship and cruise.
I enjoyed myself so much 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.
Our First Time
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. We flew down from New York (JFK) on July 3rd-my birthday. Once we landed at Orlando International we found the representative from Royal Caribbean with no problem. However, he was not especially friendly or helpful. But as met the crew that would check our transfer vouchers and lead us to the bus, we found that his attitude was an isolated incident. The bus driver and other representatives were very nice and very helpful.
Off we were for the 45-minute ride to Port Canaveral, arriving at 12:30 p.m. The bus was very clean, comfortable and the temperature was not too hot, not too cold. Driving up and seeing the Mariner gave us goose bumps, as it is a beauty. We walked into the terminaland had to go through metal detectors and then up the escalators, where we encountered a long line to check in. However, the line moved quickly, and check-in was quick and painless. Next we were having our welcome aboard photo taken. The whole process took about 20 minutes.
When we first boarded we were in awe. By now it was 1:00 and access to cabins was permitted, so we dropped off our carry-ons and headed to the Windjammer for lunch. When we first entered our cabin we were shocked at the size, since it was small. However, the cabins are lovely and clean. There are many storage compartments and the beds are most comfortable. After the initial shock wears off, the cabin size is not bad at all.
Our welcome aboard lunch would be the first of many good lunches at the Windjammer. There was a great variety of items: delicious hamburgers, hotdogs, and fries; several hot dishes of meats, veggies, potatoes, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and an Asian food area (Jade). There were several drink stations serving complimentary iced tea, lemonade, and water. Soda was available to purchase, and waiters were going back and forth selling the famous "welcome aboard" drinks for $5.95. 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.
When we returned from the muster drill we saw our luggage outside the cabin, and with three women traveling there was a lot. We unpacked and got ready for dinner. Then we met our cabin steward, Lloyd, who was professional and nice. He did his job very well.
We had early sitting in the Rhapsody of Blue dining room on the first level. This in my opinion was the best one -- the most spacious, and where Captain Johnny's table was located. We met our waiter Mario and assistant waiter Melvin. Mario was efficient and funny, although there were one or two things that could've been improved upon. But kudos to Melvin-he was exceptional. He remembered all our drink and bread preferences. I felt he should've gotten the most gratuities.
The food was hit-or-miss. I have to admit, this was one area that disappointed me. I won't go into everything, 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 (virgin 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 one in the dining one; one night we ate at Windjammer. We ate all lunches and half 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 I enjoyed were the burgers, hot dogs and fries, a rum cake dessert, the pasta, barbecued ribs and the honey fried chicken. And for breakfast the ham, grits, and French toast were good. Overall 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 see the point in paying extra for food when there was so much. One thing for sure, you will find something you like.
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 in the Royal Promenade and shopping in the stores. We also hit the casino one day, and we tried bingo ($35 a pop) and were disappointed 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 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.
Now for our port days...well, Hurricane Dennis put a damper on things. We were originally scheduled to go to Labadee, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel. We did get to Labadee and Jamaica. But 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 barbecue lunch was all right. However, the vendors at the outdoor markets were horrendous. I've never experienced anything like that before.
Jamaica was great! We booked an independent excursion with Peat Taylor Tours and it was 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 to Fern Gulley, which was basically a rain forest with lots of greenery. We then headed to Dunn's River Falls. Valerie climbed along with others; Tawanna and I decided not to.
We stayed at the falls for about two hours. While exiting we went the wrong way and were hassled by vendors wanting to sell us "gifts." However, a polite but firm "no thank you" was all we needed to say. From there Mr. Taylor dropped us off for lunch. Some went to Margaritaville; we opted for the "Jerk Center" after reading some reviews. The food was fantastic. After lunch Mr. Taylor picked us up and dropped us off to shop at Island Village, which was a 10-15 minute walk from our ship. There I was able to do most of my souvenir shopping. There were great prices on spices, vanilla, alcohol and tee-shirts. However, the Bob Marley tee-shirts were a bit overpriced. It was a great day; we enjoyed Jamaica so much that I am thinking about going there next summer for a land vacation.
That night we got word from Capt. Johnny that there would be an itinerary change. We thus had the next two 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; there was rain, thunder and lightning. It was quite scary, but it passed.
We arrived at Nassau, Bahamas as planned. Tawanna and I were a little disappointed with the Bahamas. I don't think I'd ever go back there unless I stayed at one of the nice resorts like Atlantis. We walked around and bought a few souvenirs and headed back to the ship to begin the sad task of packing up and preparing to disembark.
The disembarking process wasn't too bad, just a lot of waiting around. We had a 1:45 p.m. flight to New York, and therefore our colored tags were for the later disembarkation. We were finally called at 10:30 a.m. although everyone had to clear out of their cabins by 8 a.m. Clearing Customs was really quick and painless. Next we were led into a warehouse to claim our luggage, then boarded our bus 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 so long was at an end. We are definitely planning to sail again, and only on Royal Caribbean. I highly recommend the Mariner of the Seas.
Some final thoughts and tips: 1. Add your gratuities to your Sea Pass (much more convenient). 2. Bring Dramamine or bonine, or the sea-sickness bands. 3. In the dining room try the savarin for dessert. 4. Bring plenty of $1 bills. 5. Do not miss the Quest, welcome aboard or farewell shows.
We just returned from a 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise aboard the Mariner of the Seas. We had sailed on the Legend of the Seas Mexican Riviera last year. Both were wonderful, but our experiences on the Mariner were fantastic. We highly recommend this ship. All personnel we encountered were extremely professional and friendly.
The food was exceptional in both the dining room as well as the Windjammer Cafe. The ice skating show was wonderful, the fitness center was very nicely laid out, the pools, entertainment, James the Cruise Director, I can't say enough. Royal Caribbean really goes out of their way to be on top, and they hit their target with this cruise. Our only smallest trivial suggestion is that the soft serve yogurt/ice cream out by the pool was a bit on the icy side; much different than what we experienced on the Legend of the Seas. If that is the only thing we could think of for improvement, I would say that is pretty good! Definitely a winning cruise, and we'll be back again.
The weather turned very cold and windy on the day we left Charlotte, North Carolina for a seven-day cruise on the Royal Caribbean, "Mariner of the Seas." Ah perfect! We would escape to the Caribbean for seven days while old man winter played his chilly games with our neighbors who were left behind. Unfortunately, the bad weather was an omen for a cruise on which a lot of things went wrong.
The January 16 -23,rd 2005 cruise was the third for my wife Debbie and myself. Two of our earlier cruises were aboard Royal Caribbean ships. This time we wanted to experience a "super ship" and the "Mariner" is the youngest of this class that was sailing to the Western Caribbean. At 138,000 tons it is the second largest cruise ship afloat. Embarkation at the Port Canaveral terminal went smoothly. Although the lines were long, they moved quickly and once we got to the ticket agent, the final paper work took less than three minutes.
The ship itself is breathtaking; clean, interesting, fun and oh so large. The shops and bars at the indoor mall, The Promenade, offer everything from cologne to cocktails.Art work throughout the ship makes a walk on any deck a pleasant, interesting experience.
After a quick tour of the ship we decided to go to the Windjammer Cafe for a light snack. At the entrance a crewmember gave friendly directions to the cafeteria-style buffet lines. Just in front of her was a dispenser of quick drying anti bacterial soap, but few passengers were using it. This would change during the course of the trip.
It was windy and wet when we left Port Canaveral and this ugly weather followed us into the Caribbean. It was pouring when we arrived at Labadee, the first port of call. Tender boats dutifully pulled alongside and some passengers got off the ship, apparently assuming the weather would clear up. It didn't. To make matters worse, the wind blew so hard against the huge side of the ship that one of the mooring lines broke. That was enough for Captain Johnny Faevelen who decided to pull up anchor and set sail after only about two hours.
The glum news that we were skipping a port of call was soon accompanied by a more ominous announcement from the Captain. A gastrointestinal virus was onboard the ship and passengers needed to be scrupulous about keeping their hands clean and minimizing contact with others on board. Captain Faevelen announced that crew members were not to shake hands with passengers, a rule that he followed but one that was routinely overlooked by the dinning room staff especially on the last night as passengers said their goodbyes and handed out tip envelopes.
Up at the Windjammer the greeters were friendly but more insistent that passengers use the soap before entering. On the serving lines, utensils handled by passengers were replaced every few minutes. Crewmembers could now be seen all over the ship with bottles of disinfectant in hand cleaning, cleaning, cleaning everything the passengers came in contact with. Elevator buttons, handrails, doorknobs and even poker chips were cleaned with what smelled like bleach.
The cleaning regimen wasn't really a nuisance and being stuck on the ship for an extra day was made more palatable by a list of activities that the cruise director's staff put together on a moments notice.
Down on deck one, in the infirmary, things weren't going quite as smoothly. It was rapidly filling with people who all displayed the symptoms of fever, dehydration and gastrointestinal distress common to the Norwalk virus. The prescription for the 260 or so who got sick was plenty of fluids and confinement to the cabin for 72 hours. Family members who weren't sick were likewise confined, usually for 24 hours.
Passengers who got confined said the crew was helpful, offering things like free movies, refunds for missed excursions and credits for future cruises for days lost. But there was an iron hand inside that velvet glove of kindness. One quarantined passenger who asked what would happen if she ventured outside the cabin was told that she, her family and their luggage would be dumped at the next port of call if they were caught breaking the quarantine.
Being confined to a cabin above the topaz blue water of the Caribbean may seem cruel but for those of us who didn't come down with the flu, life onboard was gay. The food and service were excellent and the staples of cruise life; pool games, bingo, spa treatments and shopping went on as normal for the majority of the 3,400 passengers. One of the evening shows, a musical review, was cancelled, apparently some of the dancers were ill, but once again the cruise staff pulled together some passable entertainment that included singing, a comic and an illusionist. The ice show was not affected by the flu and it was spectacular.
The sick passengers were allowed to emerge from their cabins on Thursday and Friday, but were not allowed to visit the ports of call of Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Saturday was a scheduled day at sea. The passengers we talked to who were waylaid by the illness had little criticism of the way the crew handled the situation. Still, they weren't happy about losing a vacation in paradise and none were talking about cruising again anytime soon. For the majority of those on board this ill fated cruise the quarantine of the few allowed for a typical cruise experience of good food, great service and interesting ports of call.
David Hains David@tvdave.com
My wife Pam, my two boys, ages 15 and 11, as well as my parents just returned from a Thanksgiving cruise on the Mariner of the Seas. We had a great time and the Mariner was the best ship out of 8 that we have ever sailed on. There is so much to do on the ship that the days at sea for us were the most enjoyable. The captain and the crew were great, the entertainment outstanding, and the food and service very good and consistent. We had heard that the food was only so-so but we had no complaints. The boys were able to be with us at dinners but they had their own activities during the day. My 15 year old, Chad said it was the best vacation he ever had and often just "hung out" with the other teenages on board. We had no problems with check-in on Sunday at 12:30pm, our luggage got to us in a timely manner and a great first day. Our only complaint on the entire cruise was that my wife and our youngest son, Parker had very poor serviceat "Johnny Rockets." I believe RC realized they had issues because someone in management came and tried to improve speed of service and observe the issues.
The casino was great, bingo was fun although they seem to have a difficult time, even on the last day with the big payoff, letting people know the amount they had won. Some issue with the computer they said.
We had a great week with super weather and stops along the way. They had a new departure plan in place that you can do express check-out. We were driving back to Atlanta so we wanted to depart the ship in get on the road as soon as possible. We were able to keep our luggage in our room the last night and leave the ship and go through customs at 7:00am. We were in our car and on the road by 7:35am.
Just a fantastic vacation for all from kids, to parents, to grandparents and we are now talking about another cruise with a lot of our friends on the Mariner on Spring Break 2006.