We just returned from the New Year's Cruise. Wow! What a wonderful job the cruise director, Ken Rush, and his staff did. They had so much to see and do, but there was just not enough time. Every show that we saw was great. The colors of the parade and ice show were wonderful. Be sure to see the ice show! The Quest game is a must see. We were lucky and saw Ronald P. If you want to know more, make sure you ask Ken when you get on board. Believe me, he will know what you are talking about.
They had small parties all over the ship for New Year's along with a midnight buffet. The food there was average.
There were a lot of kids on board and it seemed they took over the pool. We went to the back of the ship to lay out because there were no more chairs left because of all the kids by the pool. The back of the ship is for kids only, but we figured since all the kids were up front, that we could go back there.While back there, we saw one kid playing and no one else. We laid out about 25 minutes before a staff memeber ran us out because the section was for kids only. We weren't very happy with this because no kids were using it at the time and we just wanted to lay out.
The dining room service was excellent and served the food almost too fast. We finally asked them to slow down a little so that we could enjoy our meal. The food was great (gained quite a bit). The Windjammer was OK. I have had worse on other cruises. The Cafe Promenade offered a varity of snacks daily. Everything there was great.
If you are going on the cruise, go to the Schooner Lounge and meet Prasad. He was the nicest and best bartender that we have ever met. From the first day, he knew our names, what we drank, and offered tips to us about the ports and shows. Everytime we walked by he would wave and say hi. He also makes a very good Miami Vice and Chocolate Martini.
Leaving the ship went amazingly fast. We were the third color called. From the time we were called until the time I touched the car was 24 minutes. This was by far the qucikest I have ever left a ship.
I hope you visit the Mariner. There is tons to do for all ages.
Just back from inaugural sailing on board Mariner of the Seas. The ship is beautiful inside and out. Like all Voyager class ships. The Ship is much like the other Voyager class ships with some small changes. The Dining room staff was a little slow, but still served over all good food. The Windjammer cafe's food was terrible!!!! ( the two times my wife & I ate there). Johnny's Rockets food and service was both very good. (Two thumbs up to the manager)She was very personable and loved her job it was easy to see. Cafe Promenade was well managed with good food & service also (very good cookies and sandwiches).
All the Bars were fast and served good drinks should I say more. Now for the staff "The Captain is Johnny Faevelen who is very nice and starts the day with good moring, good moring , good moring, over the ships P.A. system witch is quit funny ( you would have to be there to understand) The Cruise Director is Ken Rush, Who by the way is great! and Funny (this is the second cruise he has been the Directorthat we have been on.) The shows were very good with great singing and dancing. ( very nice costumes ) The Ice skating show was simpley great a must see! Over all the cruise and staff were great, if you are going soon you are sure to have a great time.
Mariner of the Seas Inaugural
What a cruise! I've never been on a maiden voyage before. This one was a blast!
A quick, one-word review for the major items:
Crew: excellent Food: excellent Service: very good Entertainment: good (we didn't go to any shows, but they looked good) Ports: very good (Port Canaveral, Nassau, San Juan, St. Martin, Port Canaveral) Ship: Beautiful!
Mariner of the Seas literally gleamed as we pulled up to the port. Fresh from her journey across the Atlantic and her 2-day cruise to nowhere, she awaited her first real boarding of passengers.
Our group consisted of 6 friends. Four of us had cruised before. Two of us had been on 5 RCI cruises before this one, one of those on Explorer, so we were familiar with the Voyager-class ships.
Our trip started the Thursday before the cruise. We went to Orlando and visited Disneyworld on Friday. Had a good time there. Saturday we drove to Port Canaveral. We stayed at the Radisson Resort. It has a great pool area. I thought it had a view of the port, but it doesn't.
Almost immediately we started meeting people who were also on thecruise. There were quite a few there. Some of them we had already met online, but we had no idea what they looked like. It was fun to put faces to names.
That evening we went to Grill's, a bar & grill type place that the ships pass as they take out. We were supposed to meet some of our online friends there. After meeting up with them we all sat around several tables drinking, eating, and getting to know one another. Soon we watched Disney Magic and HAL Maasdam sail out and begin their journeys. The next day would be our chance.
Sunday morning we dropped of our rental car and took their shuttle to the pier at 10:45. Mariner was waiting. We flew through the security entrance and went directly to the check-in lines. Something new that I hadn't seen before was that RCI had different lines for different cabin levels. Decks 2-4 had one line, 5-7 another, etc. We checked in at the Platinum & Diamond counter. The line there was the same as any other, so it wasn't much of an advantage to check in at this counter. Later in the day it was probably more of a benefit. We were told we would board first, but at 11:30 they actually opened up all boarding.
After taking the obligatory boarding picture, we made our way down the hallway and boarded Mariner of the Seas.
As could be expected, everything was shining like new. We made our way to cabin 9390, a starboard aft cabin on the corner. I had thought the balcony would be larger, being an aft cabin, but it was a quarter-pie-wedge shape that didn't stretch back too far. The balcony also had no cover, which I kind of liked, because you could lay out on your balcony with no shadows. One drawback, though, was that the balcony above could look down on you.
One thing I did like was the access to the balcony. No sliding door. Instead there was a regular, half-glass door situated next to a large round window. I always thought the sliders were a little cumbersome to open and close quickly.
You can peek around the balcony dividers easily, and I could see that the balcony in the identical E1 cabin next to ours was at least twice as large. While we had just 2 chairs and a small table on our balcony, the balcony next to ours accommodated 2 lounge chairs from the pool area. Still, I enjoyed our balcony.
We walked down to the Royal Promenade and looked around. Vintages, the wine bar, looked cozy. The Wig & Gavel also appeared like your bar around the corner. All the other stores had their usual RCI appearance. Café Promenade already had their snacks stocked.
We ate in the Windjammer. This Windjammer reminded me of the one on Brilliance. It was very warm and welcoming. The entry foyer had teak benches arranged for conversation. The layout of the Windjammer was easier for large groups, with food spread out all over. It took people a while to realize that the first line they came to was not necessarily the line they wanted to be in.
Jade is the first are of the Windjammer. It serves up Asian-inspired cuisine, complete with square trays and chopsticks. Portofino and Chops are also at the entry to the Windjammer. Prices for these two alternative restaurants is $20/person. We never got to eat there, so I can't tell you how it was.
Past Jade is the usual Windjammer, again with different lines of food, some serving the same things to ease the flow of traffic. We only ate there this first day, and on the last day before debarkation.
We went up top for sailaway and met up with our new friends. Protesters were making their presence known by flying a banner behind a plane saying "Got sewage? RCI dumps their daily." It was a little humorous, actually. Sailaway was delayed due to a late produce truck. We watched it unload its foodstuffs onto the ship, and then we were off. We again encountered protesters alongside the channel, but their small group seemed impotent juxtaposed against a behemoth like Mariner. I would never begrudge anyone their right to voice their protests, but it wasn't going to get me off that ship!
Dinner that night was served very late -- 9:00pm. Didn't bother me, though. The dining room is just incredible. At the landing between floors 1 and 2, there are bronze statues of Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews as the Captain and Maria von Trapp from "The Sound of Music." Behind them is a mural of the large staircase inside the mansion that was von Trapp's home.
There are deep wood columns with beautiful light fixtures, but the crown jewel of the dining room was the chandelier. I understand the one on Voyager is a sight to behold, but this one was breathtaking. The dining room had a very formal feel to it, more than any I've experienced. I liked it.
It was soon clear that the waters were going to be a little rough. Motion was certainly detectable, although it wasn't too harsh. The captain warned us it would be rough for a while. In fact, it was still so rough on the 2nd sea day that the pools had to be shut down. The water was being tossed around so roughly that it was spewing out of the pools in huge sprays.
Monday saw us in Nassau. Just did some shopping here. The next day was at sea. The winds had picked up the night before, and they continued on this day at sea. It was also pretty cloudy. These factors combined with the rough seas made for a tough time to lay out and get some good sun. But it was still possible.
San Juan and St. Martin were fun. Saw San Juan with a small tour bus group that included the Bacardi factory, and we hired a cab in St. Martin. A word about rental car agencies: one of our friends had reserved a rental car with Budget for St. Martin. He arrived at their booth at the pier to pick up his car, only to find the booth unmanned. He was told by someone that hardly anyone was ever there. He called Budget, and they told him he would have to take a cab to their other location. He canceled the order and used another agency that was at the pier.
A tip about the Bacardi factory: you never actually get to see rum being made or processed. The free tour is just a stop at their visitor center, which has staged replicas of the original factories and a short movie about the Bacardi family and their history.
I worked out almost every morning in the Shipshape Center. One thing that was a small inconvenience there was the fact that to get a key for a locker, one had to go upstairs to the Shipshape Spa. Not that far, but the spa opened at 8:00, while the workout area and lockerrooms opened at 7:00. So if you don't trust your items in an unlocked locker for an hour, you'll have to carry them around in the Shipshape Center.
There were plenty of cross-training machines and treadmills. There are weight machines and free weights. All the machines are by LifeFitness, and you can probably see them on their site.
There were 2 parades during the cruise, both on the Royal Promenade. There was to be a Caribbean party on the pool deck on Caribbean night, but it was too windy and rough, so they moved it to the Royal Promenade.
There were different theme nights for dress. They are as follows, along with the entertainment for that night.
Day 1 - Casual; Comedian Jeff Jana Day 2 - Casual or Colorful Caribbean; Comedian Rondell Sheridan Day 3 - Formal; RCI Singers and Dancers, "Front Row" Day 4 - Smart casual; Ice Under the Big Top, ice show Day 5 - Casual or 50s-80s attire; RCI Singers and Dancers, "Pure Energy" Day 6 - Formal; The Original Drifters Day 7 - Casual; Farewell Variety Show and comedian Tim Jones
One budget-tightening move I noticed, which was probably a good one: instead of printing a "Cruise Compass" AND a daily planner, the planner was incorporated into the "Compass" and could be torn from the "Compass," resulting in a pocket planner.
I liked that RCI left a form in your cabin, allowing you to elect to pay gratuities via your SeaPass account OR allowed you to pay via cash on your own. This way you didn't have to stand in line at the Guest Services desk to let them know which one you wanted to do.
A nice surprise was that everyone received in their cabins one night a certificate certifying that they were a guest on the inaugural sailing of Mariner. Each certificate was accompanied by a photo of Mariner, similar to the type you'd buy in the photo shop. Also, we were given fanny packs with the RCI logo and name of the ship embroidered on it.
One entertainer you can't miss while onboard is Matt Yee. He is the piano entertainer at the Schooner Bar. He is HILARIOUS! He's a great singer, but his big thing is audience participation, and he get people involved almost to the point of embarrassment. I attended his show on more than one night. He plays great sing-a-long tunes, and everyone has a great time.
The captain is Johnny Faevelan and he is the best captain I've experienced. He's personable, outgoing, funny, and a great speaker. Ken Rush was the Cruise Director, and he's also tops, constantly facilitating activities and getting passengers involved.
While there were some kinks on this cruise, they were to be expected on a first sailing. It was never enough to mar the fun of a cruise. This was my 6th RCI cruise, and I know I'll be back for more.
Pictures are posted on the following 3 web pages:
Philip Austin, TX
Awesome, Amazing, Fabulous! Those are a few words I would choose to describe the beautiful Mariner of the Seas. This was the second cruise for my husband and I (our first was eleven years ago for our honeymoon) and we were blown away by this wonderful ship. When we arrived at the pier everyone on the bus was in awe of Mariner's size. We couldn't wait to get on and start exploring the ship. Below is a day by day account of our cruise.
Day One (Sea Day) - Arrived in Orlando at 11:15am and we were on the bus by 11:45am. We left the airport at 12:15pm and we were at the pier a little after 1:00pm. The lines to check in were pretty long when we arrived but we were on board by 2:00pm. We went to our cabin and unloaded our carryon luggage. The room was small but big enough to move around in. We had an inside stateroom (next time we will go for a balcony) and were pleasantly surprised with all the storage space. The bathroom was small but the shower had great water pressure.The showerhead was removable and you could also adjust it to go higher or lower (important for tall people like my husband)! We met Jeff's brother,Rod and his wife,Karyn at their cabin, which was just around the corner from us. We all went to the Windjammer for a late lunch.
There was plenty of food to choose from and it was good. At 4:15pm we had the mandatory Muster Drill. It lasted about 20 minutes and then we headed up to the top of the ship for the sail away. We left port about 5:45pm and there was much cheering going on. We headed up to dinner (we had main dining - which we would highly recommend) at 6pm and met our waiter, Cristian who was awesome. He is from Romania so we had a hard time understanding him the first few days but we eventually picked up on his accent. We also met our tablemates, Elena and Norma from Chicago. We all enjoyed dinner and had great conversation. We were told there are over 67 countries represented on the Mariner. We thought that was pretty cool. We left for the Welcome Aboard show at 8:00pm. The Cruise Director, Ken Rush, hosted the show and Jeff Jana was a very funny comedian who kept us laughing till our sides hurt! We went back to our room and found that our luggage had arrived and we also met our stateroom attendant, Elfina. We unpacked and hung out in our cabin till 10:45pm and then we went down to the Royal Promenade to see the Parade. It was fantastic - the costumes were amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We headed back to our room and crashed into bed at 11:30pm.
Day Two (Nassau, Bahamas) - We ordered room service this morning to save time. We got a ham and cheese omelet, bacon and some juice. The food was ok, but not great. We had some things sent to be ironed (very good prices and they did a great job - it takes about a day or two to get your clothes back so send things a head of time). We went on shore around 9am and walked around the island and shopped. We went to lunch at Senor Frog and then out to Long Warf beach. We hung out on the beach for about an hour or two and then headed back on board around 3:00pm. Today was the day to get tickets for the Ice show so Karyn and I headed up to Studio B to wait in line for ours. It was a good thing we went early because about an hour later almost all the tickets were gone. At 4:00pm we went to the Lotus Lounge to play Bingo. by this time the ship was really beginning to rock because of high winds. It didn't bother us (though Karyn had to take Dramamine so she wouldn't get seasick). Went to Dinner at 6:00pm and once again the service was great and the dinner was very delicious. We headed up to the Photo Gallery to see our welcome aboard pictures and of course I had to buy ours (Pictures range in price from $6.95 to $19.95). We were then off to the Savoy Theater to see the comedian Rondell Sheridan. He was hilarious and we enjoyed the show. After that it was the Ice Show in Studio B - the show was called "Ice under the Big Top" and was absolutely amazing! It is definitely a must see. At 11:45pm we headed to the Royal Promenade for the "Dancing in the Street" party and had a great time. We got to bed about 1:00am.
Day Three (Sea Day) - The boat was still rocking when we woke up and it was funny watching everyone try to walk straight as we headed to the Windjammer for a late breakfast. We went and played Bingo again - still didn't win, but was only one number away from winning the free cruise they give away - what a bummer that we we so close, but yet so far!! That afternoon Jeff and Rod entered the Mr. Sexy legs contest. They didn't win but Karyn and I had a great time watching them try! They had horse racing out by the pool after the contest and Jeff and I won the second race (only $6.00 but that's better than nothing, right?) We then went up to the Peek A Boo bridge to see where the captain controls the ship. It was very interesting but at the same time so windy that we were almost blown over so we didn't stay very long. Tonight was the first Formal night and it was great to see everyone in their fancy dudes! We had our picture taken and then we headed into dinner. Once again we really enjoyed the food and our time at dinner with our tablemates. Afterwards we went to the Theater to watch "Front Row". It was a Broadway type musical and was ok. We didn't enjoy it as much because we didn't know any of the songs and Karyn and I love to sing along. We turned in early today because tomorrow we dock early in San Juan.
Day Four (San Juan, Puerto Rico) - We ordered room service again but were disappointed when they called and said we couldn't have the French Toast we had written (the choices they had listed on the room service form were very limited and I was told you could write in anything you can get in the other eating places) so Jeff went and got French Toast from the Windjammer (it was very yummy) and we ate it in our room. We had to go through customs and that only took 15 minutes. We then had to wait in Studio B with everyone else who was going on an excursion. We waited about 30 minutes and then we were all let off at the same time (kind of felt like herded cattle - moo!) We went on the El Yunque Rain Forest tour and enjoyed it. It took an hour to get to the rain forest but it was worth the ride. On our way back we had our tour guide drop us off at San Cristobol Fort were we had an amazing view of San Juan. We went shopping at a few stores and then headed back on board. Dinner was fabulous and afterwards we went to listen to Big Band music in the Lotus Lounge. We saw the Captain (Johnny Faevelen) and had our picture taken with him and then it was off to the Savoy to see the Love & Marriage show. They picked 3 couples from the audience and had a "Newlywed" type show. It was hilarious and we laughed and at the same time amazed that the couple who had been married 66 years got almost every answer right! At 11:45pm we went to the Royal Promenade for the "Enchanted Knights" Parade. The costumes were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed it. When we got back to our cabin, Elfina had made our first of many towel animals - a rabbit. We finally went to bed at 12:30am.
Day Five (Phillipsburg, St. Maarten) - We went to the Windjammer for breakfast and then headed ashore for our 4 X 4 Jeep Safari of the island. We were really looking forward to this excursion and it was everything we thought it would be and more. It lasted the whole day and we were able to go to two different beaches (including the Orient beach which was breathtakingly beautiful), shopping in Marigot and a trip up to the top of Fort St. Louis to catch an awesome view of the city of Marigot and it's harbor. This excursion was definitely the highlight of our trip. We got back on board about 5:30pm and got ready for dinner. Tonight all the waiters sang for us and that was a fun sight to see. After dinner we went to the theater to see "Pure Energy" another Broadway type production. We enjoyed this show much more because all the songs were familiar to us and we had a great time singing along. At 10:00pm we went to the Schooner Bar for a sing along with Matt Yee. It was a ton of fun and we finally fell into bed exhausted from the long day at 12:30am
Day Six (Sea Day) - We slept in late and once we got up we went for a walk on deck. The ship wasn't rocking as much today. We skipped breakfast and had an early lunch in Johnny Rockets. It was great - the waiters saing two or three different songs while we were eating and the food was delicious, especially the apple pie and shakes. There is always a line at lunch time so if you want to get a booth you need to get there early! Afterwards we laid out by the pool and watched horse racing and the Belly Flop contest. Then Jeff and Rod went rock climbing for an hour or so. Amazing that they have a rock climbing wall on a ship! That afternoon we went to the very front of the ship and had fun pretending we were "King or Queen of the World"! Dinner was formal again tonight so we got all dressed up and had a great time. We then headed to the karaoke Idol finals and were pleasantly surprised by some of the talent we heard. Later it was back to the Savoy to see The Drifters. They were awesome and received many standing ovations from the crowd. At Midnight the Gala Buffet was open for everyone to see all the amazing food carvings the chef's had spent over 300 hours working on. It was too cool. Afterwards we got to eat all the amazing creations and they were too delicious - especially the white chocolate covered strawberries. We got to bed at 1:30am
Day Seven (Sea Day) This was our last full day and we couldn't believe how fast the week had gone by! We went and played Bingo again - no luck! We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets and went back to the room to pack. At 1:30pm we went to "Behind the Name Tags" which featured the captain, the cruise director, head chef, and a few other people who answered the cruisers questions. It was very informative. Then it was back for the final Bingo of the cruise. The jackpot was $7800 and we sure would have liked to have won it, but it went to another very happy woman! Around 5pm we went up on deck to watch the sunset. It was beautiful. Headed to dinner where the staff sang again and then it was off to the Savoy for the Farewell variety show. Afterwards we made sure all our luggage was ready to go and we put it outside our room. We went to the casino for an hour where we made a $30 donation and then we went to the late night comedy show featuring comedian Tim Jones. He was very funny and we enjoyed the show. We hit the sack about 12:30am.
Day Eight (Back in Port Canaveral) - We had to be out of our room by 8am so we met Rod and Karyn up in the Windjammer for breakfast and then waited in the Champagne lounge until our tag color was called. We waited about an hour and a half and then when we were called we headed off the ship where we easily found our luggage (the yellow bows we tied on them worked very well) and headed to the bus to take us back to Orlando. We were so sad to be going - what an awesome time we had!
A little more on the ship - It was beautiful and full of wonderful artwork. The ship was very easy to get around and there were plenty of signs posted for those of us who are directionally challenged. The elevators were very slow so 9 out of 10 times we took the stairs, which was a great way to see all the artwork and we got some exercise at the same time. We are still in awe of the size of the Mariner. Even though there were 3,000 cruisers and over 1,000 crew members it rarely felt crowed as we made our way around the ship. Since this is a brand new ship it was definitely sparkling clean and you could smell the "newness" everywhere. It was so awesome to be on the maiden voyage of Mariner and we would definitely recommend this ship to anyone who likes to cruise and have lots to do - your choices are almost unlimited!Can't wait to book our next cruise - we are hooked!
The ship was beautiful and so big. If you want a ship with many places to go and things to do, this is it. You will get plenty of exercise getting around, when you see how big it really is you'll know what we mean. After a day or so you do get used to the ship. Easy to find your way around.
Cabin personnel were awesome as were dining room staff. Windjammer/Jade had very good food. Portifino was excellent. We hate to part with the kids,(boy 7 and little woman of 4) but they tried to kids club and loved it. They do very good job with the children. The Promenade was freaky. It actually looks like a street in a village. Big enough for a parade. Always something going on there. Amazing all by itself. Elevators were pretty quick. Decor is neutral but pretty. They did a great job with holiday themes and Santa. Midnight mass was beautiful and the Christmas singing was very nice. (except for the drunk father and his two sons who were screaming and changing the songs into vulgar things). Our tablemates were all wonderful.Our waiter and his assitant were great. Dining room food was average and nicely presented.
A big drawback was the amount of drunk teenagers onboard. They were very annoying. Obviously as kids will do, they found ways to get alcohol. Not a difficult task. A few fights broke out and I am sure a few family's vacations were ruined. It seems like the parents just let them run rampant. Foul language and stupidity was abundant. I felt sorry for the older folks and people like ourselves with little ones.
Johnny Rockets was pretty cool, the kids loved it. The hot tubs were great. We were in heavy seas and the water in the pools was emptying itself out because of waves in the pool. the ship rides hard for it's size, real hard. The arcade as any parent and obviously RCI knows is a big draw. Most games were over $1.00, that was a bit much. The mini golf and skating was nice. Ice show tickets are limited, so get them early. The shows and parades were very good. We had a balcony, 6th cruise and first balcony. I'd save the money unless you spend allot of time in the room. If you are an early riser and do the coffee at sunrise thing, you'll like it. With two kids it was more of an up and out kind of deal. We got the balcony out of our system though. The king size bed was confortable and so was the couch/bed for the kids. Rooms had enough space, storage was great. A/C was very good. No more shower curtains, replaced with a Star Trek tube with two doors that meet in the middle. The casino was very nice, we actually broke even. Someone walked away with $17000 from a dollar slot.
The ports were nice. St. Thomas was beautiful. St. Martin was closed for Christmas day. that was a bit of a dissapointment. Since folks paid a premium for a holiday cruise, an open port would have been nice. St.Thomas was open on Christmas, so switching around ahead of time would have been great. I know easier said than done with all the ships in and out.
Nassau was well, Nassau. Been there and done that. Straw pocket books and hair braiding.
Leaving from Port Canaveral with the iffy December weather would probably make us leave from Puerto Rico next time,it was pretty cold and nasty a few days.
The coffee was the worst I have ever had. They call it Seattle's Best? More like paint.
The Mariner was a cool ship and knowing we sailed on the biggest was neat. It just seemed like something was missing, maybe the intimacy of the smaller ships? Can't quite put our finger on it.
Getting off the ship was the strangest, most whacked out thing I have ever seen. Took forever and appeared to be the first day of such an event. Surprised us. Took over two hours to get off. The return to the airport bus driver was clueless and confused. Dropped us off at the wrong spot twice.
Our last cruise was Disney. I have to admit, as far as fit and finish goes, Mickey has a handle on it. Even the older kids and adults said Disney was amazing compared to anything else. Some of them were able to do whatever they wanted price wise and said the Wonder and Magic were pretty incredible.
I guess if you are just a couple it may be different. Go and enjoy the Mariner, you will not be bored trust us.
Any questions feel free to ask.
I must begin my review of the absolutely stunning Mariner of the Seas by thanking Captain Johnny for a perfect week. This captain is friendly, personable and a bit "off the wall" in a good way! His wonderful relationship with every one of the crew members made this my favorite cruise to date! A few of the staff told me that when other captains call a meeting, they dread attending, but when Capt. Johnny calls one, they can't wait to get there! It's amazing how this attitude is passed on down to the passengers. This is the first time I did not hear one complaint from any fellow cruisers!
We awoke to hear that Saddam Hussein had been captured! What a way to start a vacation! We began the 2-1/2 hour drive to the port in weather that was bad. Rain and winds made for a difficult drive. We arrived at Port Canaveral about 1 p.m. Parking and unloading is a disaster, but there is a lot of construction in that area now and I am sure all will be smooth in no time! Parking is $10 per day, prepaid. Youmay use cash, MasterCard or Visa but not American Express.
We entered the terminal through x-ray with our carryon bags, one of which contained a bottle of champagne, a bottle of wine and a bottle of Kirshwasser (horrid stuff). The latter was a gift to a couple of Swiss guys we had met on message boards before our trip. We were nervous about this being confiscated but our fears were calmed when we reached the end of the belt and the x-ray tech smiled and said "Good Stuff."
Although the lines were long they moved quickly. Our Seapass card was misplaced so we waited while new ones were made. From the time we arrived at the port until we boarded was about 1-1/2 hours. We entered the ship and went to check out our first-ever balcony cabin, which was beautiful, clean, fresh and new! But we didn't linger, as we needed to check out other parts of the ship and make our way to Ellington's (part of the Viking Crown) to meet up with Meet and Mingle members for an ornament exchange. It was so great to finally put humans to pen names!
We went back to our cabin and grabbed life jackets for the most painless muster drill ever -- it was over almost before it began. We returned to our cabin for sail-away with champagne on the balcony. We took a moment to adorn our balcony with Christmas lights we had packed for this purpose! We met one of our next door neighbors, whom I spoke with several times although we never did exchange names. The whole week was like that -- everyone friendly and happy, one big block party all week!
Our luggage had been placed in our cabin so we unpacked and settled in for the week, and got ready for late dinner, which was 9 p.m. this evening but 8:30 the rest of the week. Dress was casual this evening. Our table #550 was just wonderful! I don't know how Royal Caribbean does it, but we were at a table for eight and all got along wonderfully! Our waiter Alex and assistant Cruz were terrific. The atmosphere at our table and all the others nearby was fun the entire week.
One thing about the "wine and dine package" -- it was $160 plus 15% gratuity for seven nights. We ran into a problem one evening when we decided to dine more casually in the Windjammer. Our head waitress, Marianna (who was wonderful), told us the evening before that we just needed to show up at the Windjammer and give our table number and name, and there would be no problem enjoying a bottle of wine with our dinner. Not so. I don't think we will purchase this package when we return in April; it would be easier to order wine by the glass.
After dinner we went back to our cabin to meet our Steward Hussein (imagine the ribbing he got all week!). I requested a larger ice bucket and from then on found not one but two ice buckets in our cabin, always full. We checked out the ship a bit and finally succumbed to much-needed sleep. We slept that night with our balcony door open.
We awoke to room service calling to see if it was OK to bring our order, and had breakfast on the balcony. We went to the upper level of the ship and walked the mile loop along with about 60 other folks, then did some exploring. We went to the duty-free shop and bought some rum and Absolut to take back to our cabin. After learning there is a $9.50 per BOTTLE charge for bringing it to our room we opted to save all but two bottles until departure day.
We ate lunch at Johnny Rockets -- very good, but the double burger wouldn't fit in King Kong's mouth! Then at 1 p.m. it was off to our Meet and Mingle once again in Ellington's Lounge. We met Tracy, the ship's social hostess. She is very sweet, from York, England! Considering that she was in need of a root canal that week and had to wait until we reached Cozumel, she did a wonderful job! Then we strolled around the main pool area and got there in time to see Mr. Skinny Legs! I am not a huge fan of this type of activity but it was the funniest thing I had seen in a long time! At 3 p.m. we met my Mom at the wine tasting (don't waste your time).
Because it was formal night and I had never had an "up" do, I made a spa appointment for 7:00. Another word: Do NOT have too many cocktails before you get your hair done! The price for the do wasn't too bad but I am now the proud owner of a diamond barrette that I need to lock in a safe! I won't even tell you what I paid for it!
I scrambled to get dressed and get out of our cabin to watch Captain Johnny welcome us aboard -- what a show! Then it was off to dinner and the Karaoke talent contest (more laughs), then to bed since tomorrow we would be at Labadee and we wanted to get up early to watch the ship sail in!
Haiti is absolutely beautiful from the ship, with lush green mountains rushing down to meet the blue Caribbean Sea. The tenders here are huge and there's virtually no waiting to get off the ship. Labadee is very pretty. The area is broken up into coves and beaches. The far side of the island has a longer beach but because of the steep incline it really isn't the type of beach to take a nice long walk on! Don't rush to be the first one off the ship -- there are lots of people just waiting to set up lounge chairs for you -- for a tip, of course! (If you wait a while, many lounges are abandoned and you can just ease into one!) After the BBQ lunch we headed back to the ship so we could be chair hogs!
Tonight was 50's night. There was a C&A repeaters' party in the Lotus Lounge starring Ken Rush and Capt. Johnny! We learned that the new Ultra Voyager would be about 100 yards longer than the Mariner! When asked what the new ship might have to fill in the extra space, Capt. Johnny suggested tennis and a bowling alley! After dinner was the Quest! I can't say too much about it...I laughed so hard it hurt!
I was hesitant about this port, but don't believe all that you read. Jamaica is beautiful. In our usual "vacation" mode of strolling off the ship we were a bit late for our Peat Taylor tour. But Peat arrived within minutes and gave us a special ride over to Dunn's River Falls! I had e-mailed him back in August. It amazed me that when we got on his bus he greeted me by my name. We were careful to walk the way Peat told us to, avoiding the hagglers who lurked off to the right and left of the park. There is one comical man dressed up as a woman who has a donkey covered in flowers. DO NOT take his picture...it will cost you!
We met our group and proceeded to the bottom of the falls. This is a spectacular sight -- the river flowing out to the open sea. We held hands in a human chain and proceeded to ascend the falls. What great fun! As you leave the park you must be careful not to stray. A couple on our bus was told they HAD to go through the marketplace. One of the young men was asked his name and the next thing he knew his name was engraved on a wooden statue! Lucky thing for him his wife had all their money and she was able to get him out of his jam!
Peat then took us on a wonderful ride/tour through the fern gulley and up into the mountains. Then it was back to the ship for a quick lunch. We decided to go to Margaritaville after lunch, where there were lots of folks having lots of fun! There is a new shopping area called Island Village where I got a really different wooden wind chime. We walked back to the ship and found an invitation to join some of our friends in their owner's suite for sail away! After dinner this night we were beat and never made it to the Caribbean pool party on deck.
This was the day I had waited months for -- Grand Cayman and swimming with the sting rays! But one look at the shoreline and I knew we weren't going to Grand Cayman today. The waves breaking on shore must have been 40 feet high.
To compensate Capt. Johnny bought us drinks for one hour! We visited the Solarium pool -- no retractable roof and it gets quite stuffy during warmer weather. Then it was up to the gym, which has tons of modern equipment. There is no better feeling than pedaling and looking out over the front of the ship. The weather wasn't too great this day so we visited the casino, had a Molito at Boleros and checked out the ship some more. Tonight was the Platnuim/Diamond repeaters party -- very nice and Ken, Johnny and Tracy were all there to chat with us.
We got off the ship, met our Swiss friends and hopped a cab to XelHa, but found there really is nothing there and headed back to the pier. The water was still rough from the storm that passed through the day before. We decided to rent a car for the day, which turned out to be a great idea. It was $85.00 for a Hertz Jeep Wrangler. We headed out along the coast and found Paradise Beach. A very large green lawn leads up to a manicured parking area! They must have imported the sand...soft and white. There were chaise lounges there with small tables and umbrellas. It had a great bar and new, clean bathrooms. The service was great!
Chi was our waiter for the day and he made sure we had plenty of beer. We snorkled and lounged and drank and ate had a very nice day. The time was up before we knew it and we decided to take the long way back to the ship. There are so many pristine beaches along the south side of the island -- very picturesque. We decided to make a pit stop at the Mayan Ruins, but don't bother – it's a waste of time and money (although I did get a great photo of an iguana).
We made it back to the ship for sail away! The first time I was in Cozumel I didn't care for it, but now I can't wait to go back. We were so exhausted from the daytime activities that we skipped dinner.
Time to pack up, say goodbyes, hand out tips and promise to e-mail everyone! And don't forget, it's Snowball Bingo! I went down to play for the jackpot. A lucky lady from Colorado won over $8,000. The weather was cold as we sailed past Cuba, so we stuck to indoor stuff today.
Final words -- make your way into the Dragons Liar at least once and say hi to the Bartenders (we witnessed a Michael Jackson dance contest one evening…these guys were professionals); also Kevin and the boys up in Ellington's as well as the folks in the Plaza bar. There wasn't enough time to sample all the different bars. We never did make it to the Vintages Wine Bar, the Champagne Bar, the English Tavern or The 19th Hole. Boy, there are a lot of bars on this ship.
The staff in the Windjammers was helpful, friendly and happy! The entire atmosphere of this ship just blew my mind -- so much so that we are going back in April!
Sun/Dec 7: embark Mon/Dec 8: Nassau, Bahamas Tues/Dec 9: at sea Wed/Dec 10: St. Thomas, USVI Thu/Dec 11: Phillipsburg, St. Marteen Fri/Dec 12: at sea Sat/Dec 13: at sea Sun/Dec 14: disembark
On the whole, a rather nice cruise, good value for the money and providing pretty much what we needed and expected from a cruise to the Caribbean.
On the PLUS side:
(1) The ship was superbly clean and beautiful - after all, it is brand new. (2) The service crew (room stewards, waiters, bar tenders) was perhaps the best I have encountered in decades of cruising - they smiled, greeted and assisted, constantly - probably hand-picked from the best in the fleet for a new ship. (3) Food: The dining room was typical fare - quite acceptable but nothing extraordinary. We found the Windjammer food, though, to be surprisingly good. (4) Entertainment: We did not do any of the shows, but from what we heard, entertainment was typical. I did see the Krooze Komics perform a couple of times and found them neither entertaining nor funny. (5) Cabin: We were in a Junior Suite on Deck 9 - a very nicecabin, well designed with pleasant furniture. Only wish that the curtain ran all the way across the cabin (dividing sleeper couch from bed area) as the curtains do on the RCCL Radiance class.
On the MINUS side:
(1) Probably the worst embarkation/disembarkation in my history of 25+ cruises. On arrival at Port Canaveral, the crowded arrival drive couldn't handle the volume of cars/buses and became gridlock. The Diamond boarding line (which is usually fast/instant) was long and slow. On disembarkation, we were among the first off of the ship and then waited 55 minutes in a warm bus until enough other passengers arrived to fill up our bus destined for the airport. I won't sail from Port Canaveral again, anytime soon. (2) Elevators: They were having some problems with elevators - at times all of them went to Deck 1 and locked. Crew responded quickly to get them back into service, but at times the elevator waits remained surprisingly long.