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Tom Ogg

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:Self Employed

Number of Cruises: Lots

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Mariner of the Seas

Sailing Date: March 12th, 2004

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

The setup:
I was the seminar leader and group escort for a group of 38 travel professionals on a Western Caribbean sailing of the Mariner of the Seas. I flew from San Diego to Orlando the day before the cruise and then spent the evening by the airport in Orlando and wanted to board the ship early, as there had been an itinerary change due to the uprising in Haiti and I needed to reschedule a seminar. I called for a taxi at around 10am and was told that the Mariner had not yet arrived at Port Canaveral. It seems that they had a medical emergency returning to Port Canaveral from Cozumel and had to divert the ship to Nassau in the Bahamas to get the poor fellow to the hospital. I am sure it was a very difficult decision for the Captain to make, but as he said once we had departed Port Canaveral “you have to do everything you can to save a life” and he was absolutely correct. Just imagine if it were your loved one that needed immediate medical attention or would face possible death. I would like to think every person would make the choice that the Captain did.

I decided to return to the airport and purchase Royal Caribbean transfers and simply commit my day to making it to the ship. Of course, it was chaos for both the debarking passengers and those arriving for their cruise. Royal Caribbean’s staff did a wonderful job of keeping their tempers and smiles going and successfully defused what could have been a very difficult situation. The employees of the Mariner of the Seas deserve a huge “thank you” for their professional handling of a challenging situation. After hours waiting in a motor coach, we finally were able to board the ship.

Summary in Advance
This review is more of a pictorial of the Mariner of the Seas than a thorough review of the ship. I did it this way so you can see the diversity of activities the ship offers and get a feel for the ship itself. You could actually sail on the Mariner of the Seas and never get off the ship and have the best cruise of your life. The Mariner of the Seas (and the other Voyager class vessels) truly have no competition and are unique onto them selves. They are destination enough to warrant taking the cruise. Any ports that you might visit are just an added bonus to the experience. If you are comparison pping for a cruise, here is how to tell if you should pick this ship. The Mariner of the Seas is without question the best choice if you fit any of the following profiles.

Families or Family Reunions: Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about another ship. There is such a diverse amount of activities and entertainment on the Mariner of the Seas, that there is lots to do for everyone. I saw families bonding everywhere. I only regret that the Voyager class ships didn’t exist when our son was younger. I just don't think there could be a better choice for family reunions.

Honeymooners: There were 60 some honeymoon couples on this cruise and they were all ecstatic. Royal Caribbean has many amenities for honeymooners that make this an excellent choice. The ship is large and diverse enough to satisfy anyone’s tastes, but it also offers a level of privacy that honeymooners sometimes do not get on smaller ships.

Business Meetings: For the same reason this is the best choice for family reunions, it would be the best choice for meetings. There are so many team building opportunities on the Mariner that it is almost unbelievable. The Conference Center is state of the art (as good as you would find in any hotel) and the idea that costs are controlled makes the Mariner of the Seas an incredible meeting venue.

Groups and Friends Traveling Together: If you belong to a group of some sort or travel with other couples, the Mariner of the Seas offers enough diverse opportunities for activities and entertainment, that everyone will be pleased. Having the group come together for meetings and meals, shore excursions and cocktail parties while pursuing individual tastes makes for a happy cruise.

About the only folks I wouldn’t recommend the Mariner of the Seas as the best choice would be those that prefer smaller, more intimate ships and singles traveling by themselves. Because of the number of passengers, number of entertainment venues and overall size of the ship, it would much more difficult to make a connection with other singles. However, Royal Caribbean does an excellent job of offering singles events, so it just might be my observation rather than a matter of fact.

One thing is guaranteed. You will be in awe of this ship and remember your cruise for a good long time.


The Mariner of the Seas Docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The Ship:
The Mariner of the Seas is the fifth in Royal Caribbean’s Eagle services of MEGA ships. At 142,000 gross tons, she is massive. She is also well evolved as every detail in her manufacture and décor is simply beautiful. Certainly the best Voyager class ship yet. The attention to detail (in the flooring, walls, ceilings, wall coverings and art work) is simply awe-inspiring. Everywhere you look you are treated to visually stimulating design. For this reason I have included a good number of pictures so you can begin the visual experience with this review before you get on the ship.

Cabin 3085:
I was located in cabin 3085 located on deck 3. I enjoyed a porthole cabin, however, the porthole was gigantic (almost the size of a typical window in a normal cabin) I had a very comfortable queen sized bed with excellent bedding. There were two nightstands and two reading lights that were quite effective. There was a large sitting area and coffee table. Across from the sitting area was a large desk area with 2 110v outlets (American) and 2 110v outlets (European). This proved to be an excellent feature as I had forgotten my extension cord and needed the two American outlets for my computer and printer. The Mariner offered “in cabin” Internet access for only $100 with unlimited access for the entire cruise. Of course, I immediately took advantage of the offer and the good news was that the telephone used to gain access came equipped with European sockets that worked perfectly. There is a television with a substantial amount of programming, a safe and ample storage for clothing items and miscellaneous items. A closet lines the cabin entraneway and offers a good amount of storage for hanging clothes as well as shoe and miscellaneous storage in the shelves on the right hand side.

The bathroom was well-designed and offered ample storage for toiletries and other items. The shower offered excellent temperature and water flow controls and I very much liked the sliding door that allowed you to completely enclose yourself while showering. There was no shower curtain interfering with your shower. I don’t understand why every cruise line doesn’t adopt this feature, as it makes showering so much more enjoyable.

Exploring the Mariner of the Seas
The best way to explore the Mariner is to start at the very top and work our way to the bottom, so that is how I will conduct the visual tour. So, if you will join me for a ride up the aft elevator to deck 14 and then walk up the stairwell to deck 15, this is where we will begin.
The Intimate Skylight Chapel Deck 15
Up the stairway from Ellington’s one finds the intimate Skylight Chapel. It gets its name from the stained glass skylight that resides over the pulpit.
Ellington's Deck 14
The main lounge here is named Ellington’s and it offers music, dancing and a good number of places to hang out and enjoy a cocktail. Ellington’s is just part of the Viking Crown Lounge. We had our “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party here at Ellington’s as it was a wonderful place to meet everyone. We also met here one night for a computer session and it was not at all crowded and proved to be an excellent place for an impromptu meeting that could easily accommodate all of us.
The 19th Hole To the rear on the starboard side lies another wonderful bar, the 19th Hole. On the port side of Ellington’s is a very intimate room with a piano bar named Cloud Nine that is used for receptions and is a popular place for a post wedding reception. It is very private. Just aft of Cloud Nine is the “Seven Hearts” card room. I never saw it busy at all.
The Mariner of the Seas Miniature Golf Course Deck 13
When I hear someone say ”I don’t know, I think I might get bored on a cruise” I think of deck 13. First let’s go all the way aft to the golf course. The Mariner offers a wonderful miniature golf course. You can simply grab a putter and a ball and play all you want. It is expansive and a downright fun course. On the port side of the gold course is the inline skating track where one can race around the Le Mans type track as much as they would like. Directly in front of the miniature golf course is the golf simulator. While I didn’t get a chance to use it, those that did really enjoyed it.
The Basket Ball Court and Royal Caribbean's Signature Rock Wall Standing in front of the golf simulator you can here the cheers from those climbing the rock wall that towers above you, but also the cheers from those playing basketball on the full basketball court (it is heavily used). Surrounding the area is a number of ping pong tables. I noticed a good number of families that were using them and having the time of their lives.
Another View of the Rock Wall This entire area of the ship is dedicated to sports and activities that you normally would not find on any other ship. Moving down the aft stairwell to deck 12, we enter the first deck that traverses the entire ship.
The "Back Deck" No Adults Allowed Deck 12
The very aft section of deck 12 (The Back Deck) is dedicated strictly for teenagers with no adults allowed.
Johnny Rockets Main Entrance Johnny Rockets is a favorite with the teens and offers a full selection of burgers, fries, onion rings and malts. It has implemented a $3.95 cover charge per person for dining.
Dining Inside Johnny Rockets There are both typical indoor and outdoor dining options. The entire structure on the aft section of the ship contains the various kid’s clubs.
The Living Room, Part of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program The Living Room is designated specifically for the teens; but on the Mariner, all youth between the ages of 3 and 17 have a unique, fun and safe environment designed just for them.
Ocean's Video Zone Altogether, there is over 22,000 square feet dedicated to the Adventure Ocean Youth Program.


The Walking and/or Jogging Track

Between the aft building and the forward building on deck 12 is a large area for sunbathing and a jogging/walking track that is heavily used.


Britta's Sky Bar

Britta’s Sky Bar resides in the center of the jogging track and is a great place for a refreshment out of doors.


The Mariner's ShipShape Spa

The Mariner’s “ShipShape Day Spa” resides in the forward section offering a full beauty salon and spa services.


"Peek-a-Boo Bridge"

Deck 11
Deck 11 is the first ship length deck on the Mariner and is also full of leisure opportunities. If we move down to deck 11 from deck 12 and go all the way forward, we are on top of the bridge and there is a very outstanding area where you can watch what is going on in the bridge area. Known as “Peek-a-Boo Bridge”, it is well worth a visit if you are interested in the operations of the ship.
ShipShape Fitness Center The ship’s “Ship Shape Fitness Center” resides on deck 11 and can be accessed either here or from the “Ship Shape Day Spa” on deck 12.
The Free Weight Area of the ShipeShape Fitness Center There is ample equipment for a good work out, but be aware, it can get crowded during the most popular times.
The ShipShape Fitness Center Don't miss the large Jacuzzi at the entrance to the Fitness Center if you want a little peace and quiet.
Solarium Pool and Jacuzzis Heading aft, one enters the Solarium. This is truly an excellent area, as the pool was open to the sunlight the entire trip while the surrounding lounge chairs were covered and offered protection from the sun. There are two large (I mean LARGE) Jacuzzis in the Solarium area and an active bar as well.
The Solarium Bar The Solarium Bar is always busy and well located within Solarium area. Aft of the Solarium is the main swimming pool/sunning area of the ship.


The Mariner of the Sea's Pool Area

The pool area just doesn’t seem large enough for a ship this size, yet it was never so crowded that I couldn’t find a lounge chair. The Mariner has an interesting towel policy, as you are issued two beach/pool towels in your cabin at the beginning of the cruise, but are charged $20 if you lose one. While I am sure the ship is trying to control costs from laundering and replacing towels, the byproduct is that very few folks leave them on deck chairs when they depart. For this reason, it always seemed easy to locate an available lounge.


Another View of the Pool Area

There are 4 Jacuzzis (2 are huge) that are heavily used by everyone.


The Pool Bar

The pool area is always served by the bar staff and you never have to wait long if you want to order a drink.


Entrance to the Windjammer Cafe

Aft of the pool area is one of the main dining venues on the Mariner of the Seas.


Portofino Restaurant

Upon entering the Windjammer Café, you will see the Portofino Restaurant on the port side and the entrance to Chops Grille on the starboard side.


Chops Grille

Both of these are specialty restaurants that require reservations and an extra gratuity. I did not get an opportunity to dine at either restaurant, but those that did raved about them. Moving aft we enter the area of the Windjammer buffet known as “Jade”. I loved this spot and ate here more than anywhere else. Jade offers Asian delicacies daily. One day might be Japanese sushi, the next Thai cuisine and the next curry dishes. There is always a noodle soup and several excellent choices of entrees daily. If you like Asian food, you will love Jade.


Windjammer Cafe

Aft of Jade is Royal Caribbean’s signature buffet, the Windjammer Café. The Windjammer is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers numerous choices. It is a major buffet with lots of different areas so you will want to explore it before settling into a line to start picking your dishes for your meal. The salad bar is good and there is always healthy choices offered at each meal. The Plaza Bar serves the entire area and there are always waiters on hand if you want a cocktail or glass of wine.

Deck 10
Deck 10 is entirely made up of passenger cabins. Deck 9
With the exception of the Concierge Club, deck 9 is made up of all passenger cabins. The Concierge Club actually wears two different hats.
The Concierge Club By day, it is where folks staying in suites at the Concierge level can make reservations for various things and use the concierge to help make their cruise more enjoyable. In the evening, it turns into a lounge where cocktails and other beverages, along with hot appetizers are served to those in the concierge level suites, as well as Diamond loyalty members.
Royal Caribbean On-Line Deck 8
With the exception of “Royal Caribbean Online”, the Mariner of the Sea’s Internet Café, the balance of deck 8 is made up of passenger cabins. The Internet Café itself is slow and cumbersome, but The Mariner of the Seas offers “in cabin” Internet access for a flat fee. I paid $100 for the cruise and was able to go on-line 24 hours a day with unlimited access. It is truly a great deal. However, they only have a limited number of sets of equipment to make it happen. If you want to get access, visit the Registration Desk as soon as you board to sign up for the service. While access is still slow, it doesn’t matter because you enjoy unlimited access for one low rate.
The Mariner of the Seas Library Deck 7
With the exception of the library, deck 7 is made up of all passenger cabins. The library offers a good selection of books, but is smaller than one would expect on a ship of this size. Deck 6
Once again, deck 6 features primarily passenger cabins. However, here is where you will find the Loyalty Ambassador and the ability to sign up for Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society. I would highly recommend that you do sign up as the benefits are excellent. The Mariner of the Sea’s Business Service Center is located adjacent to the Loyalty Ambassador’s office as well.
The Royal Promenade Deck 5
Oh boy! This is the deck that you will remember from this cruise (well, I am sure you will remember everything about this cruise). When you first see the Royal Promenade, it is simply breathtaking. It is difficult to believe that you are on a ship.


Three Stories of Wonderful Restaurants

Starting with the Sound of Music Dining Room at the very aft end of the ship. You realize that this is something special. The three-story dining room carries a different name on each deck to make it easier for folks to remember where their restaurant is. The dining room is simply beautiful and while large, is quite intimate.


Guest Relations and the Tour Desk

Moving forward past the elevator banks, you enter the main part of the Royal Promenade. On your left is the popular Champagne Bar. This was one of my favorites, as they also have an excellent wine list to go with the Champagne that they serve. The bar is broken into small intimate areas for casual conversation. On the right and in front of the Champagne Bar, is the Centrum and on the starboard side you will find Guest Relations and the Tour Desk.

Moving forward, you pass the General Store on your starboard side and the Tommy Hilfiger logo store on your port side. Next to the General Store is the Royal Caribbean Logo Souvenir Shop where you can find everything imaginable with Royal Caribbean logos on it.


Vintages Wine Bar

Vintages Wine bar is directly across from the Logo Shop and I loved this particular venue. It is set up with a wonderful bar and several areas to sit in and relax. They have an excellent wine list and always have several chilled bottles available to try by the glass. If you like to drink wine, don’t miss this little jewel.


The Wig and Gavel

A tad forward and on the port side is another lounge venue, the Wig and Gavel. This pub like atmosphere serves ales, beers and a full mixed drink venue and normally has a guitarist/singer playing in the evening to add some entertainment. While I didn’t use this particular lounge, it always was packed with people.


The Cafe Promenade

On the Starboard side is the Café Promenade forward (under the bridge). This is a great spot. There is coffee and tea set up all day and a bakery serving freshly baked coffee cakes and such in the morning and then turns to fresh cookies during the day and other dessert treats during the evening. There is no charge for the bakery goods. Fresh sandwiches are made right next to the bakery and are available all day long. The adjoining bar features specialty coffee drinks, as well as a full assortment of cocktails, beer and wine. A Ben and Jerry’s ice cream outlet is right next to the Café Promenade.


The Lotus Lounge

Leaving the Royal Promenade, you enter the Lotus Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues and is always active.


The Connoisseur Club

The Connoisseur Cigar Club resides just outside of the entrance to the Lotus Lounge and has that “club” feeling for those that want to enjoy a glass of brandy and their favorite cigar.


The Savoy Theater

Deck 4
Heading down the forward stairwell we arrive at the upper entrance to the Savoy Theater. This is the main showroom on the Mariner and it is beautiful indeed. You can enter the theater from three different decks, but I found this was the best way to enter the showroom. Just aft of the Savoy is the Schooner Bar.
The Schooner Bar The Schooner Bars are the signature bars of the Royal Caribbean fleet and this particular one is superb. We met here on a number of evenings and had a great time. There is always a pianist/singer here entertaining everyone and the mood is fun and jovial with sing-a-longs after dinner.
Dragon's Lair Entrance from Deck 4 On the port side, one sees a weird doorway entitled “Dragon’s Lair”. I didn’t explore it until later in the cruise, but you should walk into it the second you see it, as it leads you into the ship’s 2-story disco area, which is surreal.
The Casino Royale Moving aft, we enter the Casino Royale. This is a major casino that offers much gaming opportunities and I heard a number of people say that the slots were somewhat loose.


Boleros

If you like Latin music, song and refreshments, then you will love Boleros. This restaurant and lounge is lots of fun and filled with salsa atmosphere. Aft of Boleros is the second level of the dinning room, the Top Hat and Tails Dining Room.

Deck 3
The lower level of the restaurant, the Rhapsody in Blue Dining Room resides on deck 3 aft.
The Photo Gallery In order to get to the other parts of deck three, one must move up to deck 4 and move forward to the Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3 where they will find the Photo Gallery. You can imagine, with 3,500 people on board, how many photographs must be taken on each cruise. Finding them requires some time and energy, but they have them organized in a way that makes them logical.
A Small Part of the Fabulous Centrum The Centrum is simply breathtaking, but was very difficult to photograph. This area is huge.


Studio B Ice Arena

The entrance to Studio B resides just forward of the Photo Gallery and what an impressive feature on a ship. While I didn’t attend any of the ice shows that were put on during the cruise (which I heard were excellent) I did sneak in one afternoon to watch folks skating their hearts out. It looked like so much fun!


Stained Glass in the Dragon's Lair

In order to move forward on the ship, you will need to go up to deck 4 and go forward to the forward Centrum and then descend back down to deck 3. If your destination is the ship’s disco, the Dragon’s Lair, you can enter it on the upper floor through the tunneled entrance. Once back down to deck 3, you will see the main entrance to the Dragon’s Lair.


The Dragon's Lair Dance Floor

This is a really excellent disco. There is a great sound system, plenty of seats and great service. Forward, you will find the forward entrance to the Savoy Theater.

Deck 2
Deck 2 is primarily all passenger cabins with the exception of the lowest floor of the Savoy Theater all the way forward and the Conference Center directly aft of the Savoy Theater.


Entrance to the Conference Center

The Conference Center is awesome. It has several break-out rooms (I counted 5) that are excellent for groups of 3- to 40.


One of the Conference Center's Break-Out Rooms

They also can be combined into two large rooms that could house a very good sized meeting.


The Conference Center's Screening Room

They offer all of the techno stuff one could possibly want for presentations and they are set up for professional level meetings.


The Boardroom

The Boardroom is on the starboard side and seats about 16 people comfortably for more formal meetings and negotiations. All in all, if you are looking for a ship to have a meeting on, this is the one!

The Cruise
Sunday, March 12th, 2004; Port Canaveral, Florida

I flew into Orlando the day before the cruise and stayed at one of the hotels near the airport. It was my intention to rise early and grab a taxi out to the port and try to be one of the first to board the Mariner of the Seas. We had had some last minute changes that I needed to straighten out with the group coordinator and Maitre d’. After I had checked out, I had the front desk call for a taxi.

The taxi driver advised me that the Mariner had not yet returned to Port Canaveral and that it was going to be quite late on this day. He said it was chaos at the port and did not recommend that I take a taxi at this time. I decided to take a shuttle back to the airport and arrange to take one of the Royal Caribbean transfers, which I ended up doing.

It turns out that there had been a medical emergency on the Mariner’s return trip to Port Canaveral and she had to detour to Nassau to get the gentleman to a hospital for immediate care. This action set her arrival back about five hours. Needless to say, thousands of debarking passengers had missed their flights and thousands of embarking passengers didn’t understand why they could not board the ship when they got there. As we found out later in the cruise, Royal Caribbean had a “crisis team” come up from Miami to handle the situation and managed to not only accommodate all of the debarking passengers, making sure they got flights and transfers, but they also turned the ship completely around in about two hours. Everyone in our group had nothing but kudos for Royal Caribbean’s actions during the crisis. My personal experience was excellent, even down to the lady that processed me onto the ship. She was all smiles and showed absolutely no signs of stress, even though everyone knew it had to be one of the most stressful mornings they had ever had.

However the same could not be said for the Port of Canaveral port authority. Motor coaches were backed up for miles when the gates were finally opened to let the new passengers into the terminal. Instead of putting additional people on to help process the luggage and passengers, they simply went with their normal staffing. It was ridiculous watching to rasta guys take bags out of the pit of our motor coach so slowly it was painful. I looked at the motor coaches lined up behind ours and it didn’t seem that these guys could have cared less.

Once on board, I met with the group coordinator who had already anticipated the changes I was going to make and confirmed everything. She was an excellent employee of Royal Caribbean and was one step ahead of me all the way along the line. After making flyers for the group and delivering them to their cabins, I unpacked, attended the muster drill and began getting ready for the evening’s cocktail reception with the group.

We met in Ellington’s for a one-hour cocktail party with hot and cold appetizers. The group was made up of agents from all over the United States and they seemed to be compatible from the very beginning. We departed Ellington’s for the first of what would be seven wonderful dinners together. Our table enjoyed one another so much that we stayed until we were the last table left in the entire restaurant. We had missed the welcome aboard show, but decided to continue to Ellington’s for a nightcap.

Monday, March 13th, 2004; Freeport, Bahamas
Because of the turmoil in Haiti, Royal Caribbean had substituted a stop in Freeport for a call at their “private island” in Haiti. It was the first time that the Mariner of the Seas had called on Freeport and the Captain later said they had numerous favorable reports. It was my first time in Freeport as well. I had been to Nassau what seems a million times and just didn’t care to explore the Bahamas any further. I found Freeport to be an outstanding destination. The island was clean, the people so friendly I couldn’t believe it and entire experience a positive.

I simply left the ship and took a long walk (it is miles into the main part of town) and then made my way back into the port where I grabbed a taxi out to the main shopping area. I wandered around the International bazaar, the casino, and the hotels in the area and then just walked around talking with folks. I came away very impressed and made a mental note to go back to Freeport.

Back on the ship, I spent the afternoon by the pool doing some work and then prepared for the evening’s formal night, the first of the cruise. I had arranged to meets some of the folks from our group so that we could all attend the Captain’s Welcome Aboard cocktail party together. The Captain was quite a character and everyone liked him very much, enjoying his humor and wit. We left the cocktail party making our way to dinner, where once again, we talked right through the evening’s entertainment. Some of our tables were having so much fun that even our waiters were laughing.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2004; Day at Sea
I was up early, hit the gym for a quick workout, ate in the Windjammer Café and then got ready for our first seminar of the trip in the Conference Center. The Mariner of the Seas has an entire conference room complex that is made up of five breakout rooms (that can be combined to make two large meeting rooms) and a screening room. There is a central conference center reception desk that is manned when there are several meetings taking place concurrently.

Once again, the group coordinator was right on top of setting up our meeting room and coffee, tea, juice and Danish. The seminar went very smoothly and we ended right at 12 noon on the button. After a wonderful salad I spent the afternoon in the sun by the pool. Even with 3,500 people aboard the ship, it just didn’t seem like it was at all crowded and I had no trouble getting a lounge chair by the Jacuzzi. I suspect that the Mariner’s towel policy contributes much to this, as each guest on the ship is issued a towel in their stateroom that is used for both the pool area and the beach. You may exchange a used towel for a fresh one by the pool all day long, but if you lose your towel, you will be charged $20 for it. This policy seems to encourage everyone not to leave their towels when they vacate their lounge chair. I am sure this wasn’t the intended result from the policy, but it is certainly nice to be able to find lounge chairs mid-day. I lingered so long enjoying the late afternoon that I missed the opportunity to go to the evening’s show that was a pre-dinner performance by “Billy Richard’s Coasters”. I heard that the performance was wonderful from those that went at dinner. We enjoyed another wonderful dining experience in the restaurant.

While I was tired from the day in the sun, I decided to wander around the ship and check out the various entertainment venues. The Royal Promenade is just an amazing feature. Its shops and bars were packed with people having a great time, yet it wasn’t crowded. It is such a visual treat that it is hard to believe that you are actually on a cruise ship. There was an event “Dancin’ through the Decades” in Studio B, so I dropped in and watched for a bit. Everyone was having a great time and the entire ship was alive with activity. I slept like a rock.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2004; Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We arrived in Ocho Rios right on schedule and the massive size of the Mariner of the Seas seemed to dwarf Ocho Rios. There was a gentleman with our group that had become ill and needed to debark the ship in Ocho Rios so I had decided to stay with him to make sure he was taken care of. It went from bad to worse and the doctor called in a medical evacuation for the gentleman. I helped him pack his things and stayed with him until the ambulance arrived. I had fully intended on going with him to Montego Bay to check him into the hospital, but because of delays, it became apparent that I could not make it back to the ship in time for sailing and the purser asked that I debark with the gentleman. This would have added much needed time onto the process, so I bid him good luck once he was in the ambulance, I watched as the ambulance took off and wondered how he would fare.

By this time it was almost 1:30 pm so I had a quick lunch and I decided to take a walk around town to take some pictures for PortReviews.com. I was surprised at the changes in Ocho Rios. Most notable was that the population seemed much more subdued than in past visits. While there were still the same rasta guys walking around trying to sell drugs and vendors were still reasonably aggressive, the out-and-out disrespect for tourists seemed to have mellowed a bit. I enjoyed walking through the Ocean Village flea market and got a great shot of the Mariner of the Seas from Mallard Beach. The new Island Village Shopping Center right at the foot of the main pier is also a wonderful new addition to Ocho Rios. The Margaritaville located there offers a great little beach and is as much fun as Margaritaville in Montego Bay. The Island Village Shopping Center has numerous shops, restaurants and other stores of interest. Also, as you depart the main pier, look for the walkway that parallels the beach all the way to Ocean Village.

I was back on the ship for departure and relaxed in the Jacuzzi for the late afternoon. I couldn’t stop thinking how the gentleman that had been evacuated was doing. A group of us had arranged to meet in the Lord Nelson Pub before dinner for a cocktail and I rushed to make the meeting on time. It was great fun to have a social hour before going to dinner. Dinner was another excellent experience and by now, our waiters were bonding with out group. Most of our group decide to attend the “Dancing Under the Stars” party that was taking place on the pool deck, but I decided to simply turn in for the evening.

Thursday, March 16th, 2004; Grand Cayman
I slept quite nicely and awoke refreshed and ready for the day. After a lingering breakfast, I made the decision to simply spend the day onboard the Mariner of the Seas. I was enjoying the ship so much, that I wanted to explore it even more. I also wanted to take some photographs of the ship for this review, so planned my day accordingly. While it was a nice day in Grand Cayman, I had been there numerous times before and thought I would enjoy the ship more than going ashore. I suspect that this says volumes for the Voyager class ships. They are a destination in themselves. I secured a lounge chair by the pool and was settling in for the day. The Windjammer is such a great place for breakfast and lunch. It is easy to navigate and offers excellent choices. I made good use of the salad bar during the cruise and it was always enjoyable.

The day went by quickly and before I knew it, it was time to meet the group in Ellington’s for pre-dinner cocktails. Since it was the second formal night, we proceeded to our group photo before heading off to our restaurant for dinner. Once again, the Mariner of the Seas presented a wonderful dining experience and by now, the group had bonded quite closely and was thoroughly enjoying one another. We made an effort to finish dinner in time for the evening’s show “Front Row” presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. What an excellent production! Don’t miss it on your cruise. After the show I stopped Vintages Wine Bar on the Promenade and enjoyed a wonderful glass of Chardonnay before turning in for the evening. I made a mental note to return to Vintages Wine Bar, as it was such an excellent experience.

Friday, March 17th, 2004; Cozumel, Mexico
We arrived in Cozumel at 10 am and I had planned to visit Cozumel’s east coast beaches for an article I was writing about Cozumel’s beaches for PortReviews.com. One of the agents had agreed to accompany me on the journey so we debarked the Mariner of the Seas and negotiated for a taxi to take us to the various beaches. It was a great day and we found several wonderful beaches that I had never visited before.

I was back on the ship for a late lunch, some pool time and then spent the late afternoon in my cabin working. I hadn’t really used the Diamond Member privileges on this cruise, but invited some of the agents up to the private Concierge Lounge (I had explained to the gentleman on duty that they were travel agents and he approved their visit. The Lounge is just one of the many benefits in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program. We enjoyed a glass of wine and some nice conversation and then made our way to dinner and yet another wonderful dining experience. We stayed late and missed the evening’s entertainment, a Mr. Bobby Arvon. We learned at dinner on the last night, that everyone loved his performance. I regret not making it.

Saturday, March 18th, 2004; Day at Sea
I woke up to a bright and sun shiny day. We had calm seas so flat that one would have thought they were on a lake. Our second seminar for the cruise was scheduled for this morning and after a quick breakfast in the Windjammer, I made my way to the conference Center to make sure everything was on schedule. Once again, Mariet Vonk, the Mariner’s Group Coordinator, had taken care of everything. The seminar went excellent and when it was time to break at 12 noon, everyone wanted to continue on. We stayed until almost 2 pm and decided to break for lunch before the restaurants closed. I spent the afternoon enjoying the sun and stayed until the last possible minute before going to my cabin to dress for our last cocktail meeting and business card exchange. It was amazing what good friends we had become. Dinner lingered as usual until our table was the last to leave the dinning room. I decided to return to my cabin to pack for the morning’s departure.

Sunday, March 19th, 2004; Port Canaveral, Florida
As hectic as boarding the Mariner of the Seas was only 8 days before, was as easy the debarkations process was upon our return to Cape Canaveral. Another great benefit of achieving “Diamond” status in Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program is priority embarkation and debarkation. You simply report to a designated lounge and as soon as the ship is cleared, you may disembark. This gives you such an advantage, not only in getting off the ship, but getting a transfer, checking in at the airport and generally just having a stress free experience.

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