Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: 35+
Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas
Ship: Seven Seas Mariner
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Panama Canal
Age: Baby Boomer
Occupation: Travel Professional
Number of Cruises: 35+
Cruise Line: Radisson Seven Seas
Ship: Seven Seas Mariner
Itinerary: Panama Canal
The Group on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner
Full of anticipation and excitement, on March 16, I boarded my plane from Cleveland for an early morning flight to Chicago and then on to Los Angeles. There I would connect with some good friends for a pre-cruise night stay at the Sheraton LA Harbor in San Pedro, before we boarded the Radisson Mariner the next day. As members of a travel professional group, we would be attending a “Seminar-at-Sea” on board the luxury ship. This was my first cruise on this ultra-deluxe cruise line and I could not wait to experience what I had been promised would be a very special treat. A dear friend and I have a running “argument” as to whether Crystal or Radisson is better. Now, truth be told, he has only sailed on Radisson and I had only sailed on Crystal. So, now I would truly be able to compare them and make a more factual assessment. This would also be my first full transit Panama Canal cruise. Although I had been on two previous Panama Canal cruises, they were both round-trip cruises from Florida that made only a partial transit to Gatun Lake. I was eager to compare the two different types of experiences.
Although my friends and I were all flying from different destinations, we arrived at the Los Angeles airport within minutes of each other. Jerry, Janet and Pat met in their terminal, secured a private shuttle van ($72 with Super Shuttle) and proceeded to the United terminal to gather me and my belongings. Within minutes of touching down at LAX, we were on our way to our hotel. The 20 minute ride was pleasant and we encountered only a small amount of highway congestion (a fortunate occurrence when traveling in and around LA). The hotel was ideally situated within walking distance of Port o’ Call and our room offered a view of the ships coming into port. There was a nice pool and Jacuzzi, an adequate fitness center, nice restaurant and lounge and even a self-service laundry. I would not hesitate to stay there again and can recommend it as a perfect pre-cruise location. After checking into our rooms, we ventured downstairs for a “pre-cruise toast” and light lunch, which was quickly followed by a short rest before gearing up for the evening. Another friend was driving up from San Diego to join us for dinner and wish us “Bon Voyage”. Although, she frequently travels with us, prior commitments (work!!) prevented her from accompanying us. We had a very nice meal at the Port O’ Call Restaurant and talked until the wee hours.
The Seven Seas Mariner Docked
We checked out of the hotel at 11:30 and used the services of the complimentary hotel shuttle for the very short trip to the ship. We left our luggage with the porter and passed immediately through security. As we were a bit early, the check-in process had not yet begun, requiring us to remain in the waiting area for a short while. Fortunately, it was only a matter of about 15 minutes before the embarkation process commenced, and just a few minutes later we boarded the ship. Interestingly, the staff that services check-in was also the onboard entertainment staff. Providing a warm welcome, they immediately established a connection to the passengers and created a bond that was reinforced throughout the cruise. Although we were permitted to board, the staterooms were not yet ready, thus we were greeted with a flute of champagne and directed to the Pool Grill on deck 11 to enjoy lunch while we waited. (It is here that I made a distinct comparison between my Crystal and Radisson experience that I detail in Day 1 of my travelogue.)
Flowers Around the Ship
As I entered the Seven Seas Mariner I was not overly impressed with my first glimpse of this 700 guest, 50,000 ton ship. It was nice, but nothing struck me as spectacular or extraordinary. But, as I roamed the ship and took a closer look, I realized that it exudes a very subtle, understated classiness. It is the tiny details that get overlooked at first glance that sets the Mariner apart from other ships. Small touches like fresh flowers arranged in casual elegance and artwork selectively placed inconspicuously throughout the ship create a very refined, yet comfortable, appeal unique to the Radisson Mariner.
Everyone in the group was assigned a Category D suite on deck 10. Pat & I were to occupy Suite 1071, and Jerry and Janet were our neighbors in 1073. As the Mariner was the first ship to be designed as an all-suite, all-balcony vessel, there is no such thing as an inferior stateroom. As I entered my suite I was impressed with both the physical layout and the décor. A color theme of gold and rust, complemented by touches of mint green were embellished by rich polished wood molding from floor to ceiling. Measuring 301 square feet the suite provided ample space. The corridor into the stateroom was flanked by a full length mirror on one side and the bathroom on the other. And what a bathroom it was!
The spacious marble appointed bathroom was equipped with a full size deep bathtub and shower that offered excellent water pressure. There was a full mirror across the sink with corner shelving on each side, plus additional shelving for storage below. The shelves were stocked with a complete complement of Aveeda toiletries that were replenished regularly. In addition to regular size towels, plush bath sheets were provided, as were terrycloth robes. Now that I have painted a picture of this wonderful bathroom, I need to add a point of clarification for those of you who may be sailing on the Mariner in the near future. My neighbors in 1073 did not have a bathtub, but an oversized shower stall. Apparently, the Mariner is undergoing some remodeling, and plans have already been implemented to remove all of the bathtubs and replace them with these shower stalls. This could be either good news or bad news depending on your personal preference.
Along the same wall as the bathroom, the corridor begins to curve outward forming a perfect nook for a full vanity. Mirrors encased the vanity on all three sides and I thank the designer who chose the diffused side lighting that was set between the mirrored panes, rather than the typical harsh overhead lighting. It made applying my make-up, a much more pleasant task! There was also a divided drawer below the vanity for storage that contained an excellent hair dryer with multiple heat settings. The hair dryer plugged into its own separate outlet, leaving the two other 110-volt outlets available for other appliances. Another bonus of this space was the perfect placement of the mirrors of the vanity and the full length mirror on the opposite wall. It allowed for perfect viewing to coif the back of your hair. An inlaid wood frame provided an entranceway into the actual bedroom area of the suite. Two very comfortable beds with down comforters and pillows could be configured as two twins or one European king bed. The beds were high enough to store all of our luggage underneath them. They were flanked by two small two-drawer nightstands (a phone sits atop one of them). Two small nightlights/reading lights were on the wall above the beds. Along the sidewall of the bedroom next to the vanity was a walk-in closet providing all the storage one would need for longer voyages and extended itineraries. There were a total of three clothes racks, one full length for longer garments and two half-racks for shorter garments. Ample hangers were provided. The closet also provided a shoe rack, a built-in six drawer dresser with three open shelves above it and an additional shelf along the ceiling for extra storage. A small safe occupied one of the open shelves. Another inlaid wood frame separated the bedroom from the living space. This frame, however, was equipped with a full length drape that could enclose the bedroom in total darkness while leaving the living area and balcony open to lighting. The living area had a full size couch, comfortable matching accent chair, glass-top convertible cocktail/dining table and very attractive entertainment center/desk area. There were two matching glass enclosed double shelves, separated by one long open shelf. Fine glassware and a silver champagne bucket were provided, as well as your choice of 2 complimentary bottles of liquor for your in-room bar. Below one of the glass shelves was a large TV (not interactive) that offered limited selections. It included 3 movie channels that changed daily and ran continuously, CNN, a satellite sports channel, a shore excursion channel, a view from the bridge and one that provided the evening menu selections for each dining room. Below the TV there was a VCR and 4 more nice size drawers. The desk area was located in the middle, below the long open shelf. It was equipped with a desk drawer, comfortable desk chair, another telephone and one outlet. (By the way, the telephone does have voicemail.) Below the other glass shelving unit were additional desk/table space and the mini-fridge. It was stocked with beer, water and soft drinks. Water and soft drinks were always complimentary and restocked daily. The first 4 beers were complimentary, but there was a charge if you wished to have those replaced. (I am not a beer drinker, however, so I do not know the restocking price.) Fresh flowers and fruit were also stateroom amenities. There was ample lighting throughout the cabin. The workstation/entertainment center had separate lighting; there was soft overhead lights in the living area, two wall lamps above the sofa, and full cabin overhead lighting, in addition to the other lights I have already mentioned. The balcony was not large, but had room for 2 cushioned chairs that reclined and a table.
The balconies have open railings, but interestingly, we had a small child occupying a cabin a few doors down from us and a plexi-glass partition had been attached to their railing for safety. This is just one of the many examples that I was to discover during my voyage of the special accommodations Radisson makes for the comfort of their guests.
The Seven Seas Mariner Bow
The eight decks on the Mariner devoted to passenger space were designed to provide the highest space to guest ratios of any ship afloat (71.4) and was accomplished quite successfully. I invite you to join me on a tour of the ship beginning with Deck 12, the highest point of the Seven Seas Mariner. Located all the way forward, impressive views of the passing scenery was the focal point of The Observation Lounge. Comfortable seating was arranged to allow for limitless views from every vantage point in a tranquil environment.
The Observation Lounge
The Observation Lounge also served as the perfect spot to enjoy a continental breakfast or midday tea, and throughout the cruise a pianist and harpist took turns entertaining us at various times. This was obviously a very popular spot during our canal transit. Moving aft, there was a full circuit jogging track mid-ship (11 laps equaled 1 mile).
The Shuffleboard Court
The rear of Deck 12 was devoted to sports venues including a golf net, shuffleboard and paddle tennis court.
Paddle Tennis Court
Taking the stairs behind the paddle tennis court leads to the outdoor dining area of La Veranda.
The La Veranda Outside Dining Area
The La Veranda Buffet
This restaurant provided a breakfast and lunch buffet during the day and was turned into a bistro/steakhouse in the evening.
The Pool Grill
Exiting La Veranda, a paddle tennis table was located on the starboard side and an excellent Pool Grill was port side.
The Pool Grill Dining Area and Pool Deck
The Pool Grill was definitely more than the typical poolside dining venue, but I will save the details for the Dining Section of this review. Moving forward, a Pool Bar and a wonderful alfresco dining area of teak tables with blue umbrellas opened to the pool deck.
The saltwater pool and 3 Jacuzzi’s took center stage, but the real treat was the thick cushioned lounge chairs encircling the pool. Not only were they extremely comfortable, but this was one area that attested to the impressive guest to space ratio. A table and SPACE between each chair was a welcomed deviation from the mainstream cruise scenario. The remaining portion of Deck 11 was allocated to 2 Grand Suites (987 sq. ft.) and a number of Penthouse Suites (449 sq. ft.).
The Passenger's Laundry Room
Decks 10, 9 and 8 were completely relegated to passenger suites, with the exception of a self-service laundry room on each deck. Washers, dryers and ironing facilities were provided at no cost, and even complimentary laundry detergent was supplied.
The remaining passenger suites were located on the rear half of Deck 7. Continuing forward along the corridor there was a small, but adequate, Casino port side.
The Casino Slot Machines
The Casino was actually divided into two areas, one housing the table games and the other all of the slot machines.
The Mariner Boutiques
Opposite the Casino along the same corridor were the boutiques. Although somewhat limited, Tommy Bahama sportswear was featured and proved to be quite popular with a number of our group members. Mid-ship, the Photo Shop occupied the area around the Atrium. Forward, the remaining portion of Deck 7 was devoted to fitness and beauty.
The Entrance to the Carita of Paris Spa
Occupying the starboard side, a Carita of Paris Spa & Sauna provided the ultimate in pampering. It offered both a dry sauna and steam bath, as well as an array of beauty and body treatments. I have included the Spa Menu in this review, however, whether it was hairstyling or a manicure, facial treatment or body massage the staff was there to indulge your needs.
The Fitness Center
Adjacent to the Spa, was the Fitness Center. The Fitness Center was divided into two rooms, one housing a range of exercise equipment and the other devoted to floor exercises and fitness classes. Although there was a variety of standard machines (treadmills, recumbent bikes, elliptical, stair climbing, universal weight machine and free weights), the area is not very large and on this cruise often became quite crowded. A very full schedule of aerobics, stretching, body toning, circuit, fitball and Pilates classes were provided throughout the cruise by Jacquie, an excellent fitness instructor. Here is a list of the various classes that were available on the cruise.Again, although she was a great instructor, the space was somewhat limited and much too small to accommodate the number of participants. I am not sure if this was unique to our cruise, or whether it is an ongoing situation, but it definitely affected the quality of the workout.
The Constellation Theater
Moving down to Deck 6 from the fitness area, was the upper level of the Constellation Theater. This two-tiered theater was the main entertainment venue for the various production shows and guest performances that were provided for our enjoyment nightly. A single performance was scheduled nightly at 9:45, but was never crowded and there was always ample seating available (even if you arrived at the last minute). Seating was comfortable, aisles were wide and tables were strategically placed between rows. For most performances we sat near the front of the theater, but it appeared that sight lines and acoustics were excellent from any seat.
Moving aft to the Atrium, a small shop sat in the starboard corner. Although it was identified as the souvenir shop, it primarily sold jewelry.
The Garden Promenade
Continuing aft along the single starboard corridor, aptly named the Garden Promenade, was Stars Nightclub.
This was the disco and actually became quite lively many evenings during the cruise (particularly on karaoke nights).
The Circular Stairs Leading to the Casino
Circular stairs in the center of the room led to the Casino directly above and provided an added dimension to the visual appeal of the space. We are now beginning to venture into the area that I found to be the most visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing area of the ship. Continuing along the Garden Promenade, the space opens to include a row of attractive chairs and tables arranged along the windows on the starboard side. Some were designed for reading, some for quiet board games and yet others were utilized as the “puzzle corner”. A very impressive library was on the port side. A cappuccino/latte machine, tea sandwiches and cookies were available in a small corner, while rather large number of shelves offered substantial reading material, a generous quantity of videos (for personal use in-suite) and a few multi-media computers.
This was also the location of Club.com, the Internet café. There were 14 computer stations available, but this was one of the most disappointing aspects of the Mariner. While other Radisson ships offer package pricing making Internet access reasonable, this was not the case on the Mariner. The only option was a standard, $.75 per minute charge. In and of itself, this might not have been bad, but the service was extremely slow and highly unreliable. It was not unusual to accrue charges of $8.00 or more, just attempting to get to your mailbox and then still not being able to access your mail. For many, adding to the frustration was a less than sympathetic or helpful staff making for very disgruntled passengers.
Tucked behind the library was the Conference Center and Card Room.
The Conference Center
A movable partition separated these two facilities, allowing them to be utilized as two separate venues or combined into one larger space, should the need arise.
The Card Room
Still continuing our trek aft along the Garden Promenade passed the small selection of art that was on display for purchase was the Connoisseur Club.
This very attractive room, which was actually an enclosed annex to the Horizon Lounge, appeared to be the “cigar bar”, but never once during the cruise did I see this space occupied.
The Connoisseur Club
All the way aft, the Horizon Lounge provided a great place to watch the sunset, enjoy afternoon tea, or spend the evening dancing.
The Horizon Lounge
Two dance hosts were usually in attendance for any ladies who were in need of a dance partner.
Signatures Place Setting
Adjacent to the Horizon Lounge and opposite the Card Room, was Signatures, a very intimate restaurant offering “Le Cordon Bleu” cuisine.
This elegant dining venue was quite popular and reservations were required.
Compass Rose Restaurant Entrance
Exiting the restaurant and traversing the stairs, we have descended to Deck 5 aft, the lowest of the passenger decks. This was the rear entrance to the Compass Rose Restaurant, the traditional main dining venue. Staff was available at both the rear and main entrances to greet and seat guests in this refined and tastefully appointed setting.
The Compass Rose Restaurant
Tables were arranged to accommodate parties of two to ten. Moving forward to the main entrance, the small conclave was shared by Latitudes, a reservations-only intimate hideaway featuring an interesting cuisine in a unique style. Here are two samples menus from Lattitudes.
Continuing forward was the Mariner Lounge, where the piano player typically entertained for our pre-dinner pleasure.
This led to the main floor of the unassuming, 8-deck Atrium.
The Reception Area
Arranged around the Atrium was the Tour Office, Cruise Sales Office, Reception Area and Concierge Desk. The main level of the Constellation Theater occupied the remaining forward section of Deck 5.
The Doctor’s office was located on Deck 4, forward. Two banks of elevators serviced the passengers. A glass enclosed set of three were located in the Atrium section and a set of two elevators were located in the aft area. Be aware that if you choose to use the aft elevators and exit on Deck 5, you must go through the Compass Rose restaurant to reach the other areas of the ship.
The freedom of open seating at all meals, elegant settings, tantalizing menus, and exquisite presentation combine to make dining onboard the Mariner a gourmet experience. Unfortunately, I became quite ill midway through the cruise (NO it was not the noro-virus or anything like that) and did not derive the same pleasure I usually enjoy from long leisure meals while cruising. But, truth be told, if I had to be sick on any ship, I am glad it was on one that provided phenomenal room service. And while on the subject of room service, let’s look at that option first. A rather extensive room service menu, including snacks, soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, main courses and desserts was available 24 hours. During dinner hours any item on the menu in Compass Rose was also available for room service (even complimentary wine). A full breakfast menu was also served from 6:30AM to10AM (see menu included). Since I did use this option more than I have on any other cruise, I can honestly say service, presentation and quality of food were all excellent.
Signatures was open for dinner only (6:30PM – 9PM) and required reservations. It had a set menu that remained the same nightly and changed only once midday through the cruise. Signatures offered superb fare prepared by Le Cordon-Bleu trained chefs in elegant fashion with service to match. Classically French, with culinary twists, I have included both a la carte menus (menu #1 and menu #2) that were offered on our cruise, but can highly recommend the fillet of beef. Now, I am not a very adventurous diner and my tastes are rather basic, but this was truly a dining experience not to be missed on a Mariner cruise.
Latitudes was the smallest and most intimate of the restaurants onboard. It was similar to Signatures in that it required reservations, open only for dinner and had a set menu that changed only once through the cruise. However, it offered a truly distinctive dining experience that proved to be the favorite of many in our group (Not me, but then I am not a fan of Asian fusion cuisine.) However, the Asian inspired menu was served in a unique fashion that I found to be quite appealing. All three of the appetizers, soups and desserts were served to everyone in small sampler portions allowing guests the opportunity a taste of each. Selecting between the two main courses was the only choice that each guest made for themselves. For someone like me, this was a perfect way to expand my taste repertoire. This was definitely another “not to be missed” dining venue.
La Veranda Restaurant
LaVeranda served a breakfast (7:30AM – 10AM) and lunch (12 – 2PM) buffet each day. Seating was available on the outside terrace or inside the air-conditioned restaurant. At breakfast the basic buffet choices remained the same throughout the entire cruise (breakfast pastries, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, cereals, French toast, etc.) but eggs cooked to order or actually anything else that a guest wanted was prepared on request. The luncheon buffet was varied, but jumbo shrimp, baked fish, fresh vegetables and marvelous salads were offered daily. In the evening the port side of the restaurant was transformed into an informal Mediterranean bistro or Italian steakhouse (rotated on a nightly basis) serving diners from 7-9 PM on a first come-first served basis. Appetizers and desserts were chosen from a buffet but the rest of the meal was ordered through your server. I sampled the fare at the Mediterranean bistro, but never did manage to test the Italian steakhouse menu. Although we did try, due to its popularity on this cruise we were never able to be seated. (I strongly suggest you plan to arrive before 8PM if you wish to dine there.)
Compass Rose, the largest of the restaurants, was the traditional dining venue on the Mariner. Breakfast was served from 8AM – 9:30AM, lunch from 12 – 1:30PM and dinner from 6:30PM – 9PM daily. Dinner menus changed nightly and offered a wide variety of choices. Different standard, vegetarian and low-salt menus were provided and a filet mignon, strip steak, chicken breast and fish prepared to order could always be requested. Actually, my friends and I preferred this restaurant because it always offered a choice that appealed to our combined eclectic tastes. Lunch, however, was a disappointment. The menu offered little variety and service (according to a consensus of those in the group) was somewhat inconsistent.
The Pool Grill offered a continental breakfast from 6:30AM – 9:30AM and began serving hot dogs, burgers, fries, etc from 11AM – 4PM. By the way, the burgers were cooked to order (yes, you can get a burger on the rare side) as well as being thick and juicy. Excellent!! Pizza and fruit plates were also available. However, the Pool Grill was often the scene of some rather extensive and unique poolside luncheon buffets. On this cruise a Mexican BBQ, Fish Al Fresco, Mongolian Wok, Asian Delight and American BBQ were just some of the featured luncheon delights.
If these options were not enough a continental breakfast was also served in the Observation Lounge from 6:30AM – 11AM and an afternoon tea was served from 4PM – 5PM in both the Horizon and Observation Lounges. There was no “midnight buffet”, but it was certainly not missed! Both a white and red wine chosen to complement the menu selections for that evening were served complimentary in each of the dining venues at dinner. You could always request your favorite wine if the evening’s selection was not to your liking. FYI: Although it is not publicly announced, you can also order complimentary cocktails during dinner.
Staff and Service:
The Seven Seas Voyager Staff on Stage
For the most part, I found the staff on the Mariner to be more than accommodating. Guests were treated with a friendly respect and special requests were patiently and promptly serviced. The stateroom attendants were particularly attentive to guests needs. I found it particularly pleasant to not be subjected to the invasive noise generated by the early morning cleaning schedule of staterooms so typical of mainstream cruise lines. Room service, (here is a copy of the room service menu)as I have already mentioned, was exceptional. Most staff members greeted me with a warm greeting and a smile, and even a number that greeted me by name. A few even anticipated my requests based on past preferences. However, there were some unsolicitous and less than friendly staff members in pockets of the ship that influenced the group’s overall assessment. For the most part they were minor infractions, that appeared to stem from a lack of attention to detail rather than attitude and were the exception rather than the norm, but nonetheless it did negatively impact the overall experience.
For a ship this size they offered a wide variety of entertainment to appeal to broad range of tastes and interests. Musical genres from classical to modern rock were showcased in different venues each day. From harpist and pianist, to vocal duo and DJ the entertainment staff did their best to keep us entertained. The Peter Terhune Singers and Dancers were not the most polished and seasoned troupe of performers at sea. But, they exuded a youth, vitality and effervescence that was infectious and appealing. Although they were not a full blown orchestra, The Mariner Five quite competently handled the role of ship band accompanying the guest performers and providing background music at social functions. And speaking of guest performers, there were outstanding offerings (the impressionist and Holly Lipton in particular) and those that were received with less enthusiasm, but there is no question that there was definitely substantial variety.
Day 1, Thursday (Los Angeles):
The Port of Los Angeles
We had boarded at noon and our staterooms were not yet ready, so we were directed to the Pool Grill on deck 11 to enjoy lunch while we waited. Since I boarded the ship with intentions of comparing this cruise to my Crystal, I was a bit disappointed with our initial greeting. On Crystal we were escorted to the dining room where we were presented with a full course luncheon menu while champagne flowed freely awaiting access to our staterooms. In all fairness, Radisson cruise documents stated a 2:30 PM boarding time; therefore they were not under no obligation to accommodate our early arrival. It just fell short of my preconception. Unfortunately, the fact that we were unable to get into our suites until 3 PM did nothing to enhance my initial impression. However, the Radisson Mariner redeemed itself immeasurably by conducting one of the most efficient and well conducted emergency lifeboat drills I have encountered. When we were able to occupy our staterooms, our luggage had already been delivered. So, after the lifeboat drill, Pat and I returned to the suite to begin unpacking. We had planned to join the Bon Voyage get together on the pool deck; but the view from our balcony was so inviting, we decided to have our own private SailAway.
Leaving Los Angeles Harbor
Earlier my friends and I had connected with two other members of the travel professionals group that we had cruised with in the past and were able to secure reservations at 8 PM for the 6 of us to enjoy our first dinner on board at Signatures. And what a fantastic meal it was! Ravioli stuffed with escargots, a very tender filet of beef, crème brulee for dessert and French wine. Now, this was the way to start a cruise! After dinner we went next door to the Horizon lounge for trivia and dancing at an energetic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. (By the way, this made my roommate very happy since she would have been sorely disappointed if the ship had not planned any St. Patrick Day activity.) While there, we met a number of the entertainment staff. In fact, it was the entertainment staff that had checked us in when we boarded. The young lady who had taken care of us remembered us and greeted us by name. Each of the performers in this young troupe was quite personable and exuded an enigmatic charm as they interacted with guests throughout the cruise. Ah, there is definitely something to be said for a small ship experience. By now, the evening was waning and we were all getting weary, so we retired for the evening.
Day 2, Friday (San Diego - Docked):
Port of San Diego (Taken From the Ship)
Since my body clock was still on EST, I was ready to begin my day by 6:30 AM. When we arrived in port on schedule at 8 AM it was cloudy and looked like rain, but by the 9 AM the sun began to peak through. My 3 traveling companions live in California and my “cruise buddy” who had met us in LA pre-cruise is from San Diego, therefore this was not a new destination for any of us. Since we already familiar with the area from other trips Janet, Jerry, Pat and I left the ship about 10:30 enroute to the Hotel Del Coronado. Janet and Pat had both made arrangements to meet members of their families for lunch. We had planned to take the ferry to Coronado, but by the time we dawdled our way to the ferry terminal we had just missed the 11 AM ferry.
Hotel Del Coronado
Rather than waiting around until noon for the next ferry, we grabbed a taxi ($17.50 + tip).
The Hotel Del Coronado Grounds
We managed to have a leisure lunch and still squeeze in a little time for some shopping before returning to the ship for our 5 PM departure. We joined a few members of the travel group, before our group’s scheduled cocktail party at 6:30 in the Horizon Lounge. Captain Jean-Marie Guillou and some of the other officers stopped by the cocktail party which was a very nice gesture and well appreciated. After the cocktail party, I joined others from our group for dinner at La Veranda to sample the Mediterranean Bistro. Appetizers and desserts were served buffet style, while the rest of the meal was ordered from the menu. Wine flowed freely as we engaged in lively conversation. At dinner’s end, some of group went to the Constellation Theater for the evening’s main entertainment, comedian Fred Klett. Since my body had not yet adjusted to the 3 hour time difference, I chose to retire for the evening. According to my traveling companions, I did not miss much as consensus of opinion rated his performance as marginal.
San Diego Port Suggestions: For those of you who have not been to San Diego before, here are some recommended activities and excursions you might find of interest.
•The Trolley Tour offered as a ship’s excursion was excellent and provided a great overview of the city for first timers.
•Horton Plaza is within walking distance (the ship also provided complimentary shuttle service) and is a great shopping complex.
•“The Midway” is at the port and well worth exploring if you find such vessels of interest.
•Old Town and Presidio Park are “must-do’s” if you have never visited San Diego.
•The San Diego Zoo is one of the best in the country.
•Take the ferry to Coronado or make a trek to La Jolla – both are fabulous destinations and provide a different view of the area. If you are a beach person and looking for one of those spectacular San Diego beaches, then make a point of visiting either of these spots.
Day 3, Saturday (At Sea):
The Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party
I woke early, but began the morning a bit disappointed since the weather was definitely not promising. It was cold, cloudy and very windy. Sine a power walk on deck was not an option, I chose to visit the fitness center. It was very crowded and I was unable to locate an available treadmill. Fortunately, however, I had arrived just in time for the morning stretch class. I had just enough time to grab a latté before returning to my cabin to freshen up for the fist of our scheduled seminars. There was an excellent synergy that evolved during the seminar and we left the meeting charged with a task that I found quite intriguing. Since the weather had continued to deteriorate, we chose to participate in the wine and cheese paring seminar. After the wine tasting, I decided to take advantage of the inclement weather to begin collecting some of the interior photos of the ship for the review, followed by a relaxing lunch at La Veranda. Knowing there would be many sun-filled days ahead, I returned to the cabin to work. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the sun had finally decided to make an appearance. Protected from the wind, I was able to work while gathering the first of the sun’s rays on my balcony. Ah, life was looking good! This was the first of the two formal nights scheduled for our 14 day cruise. The Captain’s Welcome Reception was held on decks 5 and 6 of the Atrium. We mingled with the staff, enjoying cocktails and conversation, while the Mariner Five played for our listening pleasure. Following the festivities, we decided to dine at Compass Rose. I thoroughly enjoyed my small lobster tail poached in butter as I became better acquainted with some of the members of our travel group. This evening’s entertainment was the first of the production shows performed by the Peter Terhune Singers and Dancers. Having actually met a number of the performers, I was looking forward to seeing them display their talents. “Beyond Imagination” was interesting and different than many of the production shows I have seen of
late. While I truly enjoyed “Beyond Imagination”, it was not without its flaws. The production was a bit disjointed as it appeared to have no real theme and there were some uneven transitions. There were also some mismatches between vocalist and song choice, but, on the other hand, there were also some very exceptional solo performances. Overall, I found the show to be quite pleasant. While some of the group left the theater in search of more late night activity, I chose to retire. It appeared that many passengers had a similar mindset to mine, as late night activity was at a minimum (or so my friends thought – but more about that later).
(I was to discover later that due to unexpected personal matters and serious injuries to a few of the key performers in the ensemble, other members of the group were called upon as last minute replacements during our cruise. This would certainly explain the unevenness and mismatches I mentioned. I applaud the performers who did their best under extenuating circumstances.)
Day 4, Sunday (Cabo San Lucas – Tender Port):
Absolutely glorious day! Not a cloud in the sky and the promise of perfect weather. This morning I was able to enjoy a vigorous power walk and light breakfast before preparing for my day in Cabo. The Mariner arrived a bit ahead of its 9 AM scheduled arrival. I love Cabo and was looking forward to engaging in my favorite Cabo activity, a visit to Medano Beach. As Internet access on board was such a disappointment (both for cost and accessibility), locating an Internet café was a primary goal. So, a few of us arranged to secure the first of the tender tickets to be disseminated. Once we disembarked we remembered it was Palm Sunday, so many things were closed (including most of the internet cafés). Thus we changed our itinerary and decided to walk to the beach and look for internet access on our return to the ship. (By the way, it is very easy to secure a water taxi at the pier to take you directly to the beach.)
Arriving at Medano Beach
This turned out to be a wise move, as we had arrived early enough at Billigan’s on Medano Beach to acquire 4 chaises and an umbrella in a prime beach location. We settled in for a day of relaxing in the sun, enjoying lunch at “The Office”, and sipping liquid refreshment at the “All Day Happy-Hour”. This is absolutely a great party spot, so early in the afternoon the spring break crowd began filtering in and by mid-afternoon the beach was a sea of young college students ready to indulge in the standard “spring break party rituals”.
By the time we left at 3:30, I am not sure how any more bodies would fit on this small stretch of sand. Joanie and I did manage to find an internet café as we walked through town and back to the tender pier, before boarding the last tender. I don’t know about you, but a day at the beach can really tire me out. So, the ordeal of dressing for dinner, and then sitting through a full course meal was just more than I wanted to deal with at this point. One of the pleasures of a Radisson cruise is that I had an alternative. I wandered down to the library, selected a “chick flick” video, returned to my cabin, ordered room service from the very extensive room service menu and settled in for the night. Dining in your stateroom is truly one of the luxuries of a Radisson cruise; simply delightful! Your coffee table is converted into a dining table adorned with a white linen tablecloth and fine china place setting. I would suggest everyone opt for this alternative at least once on a Radisson cruise.
Cabo San Lucas Port Suggestions: Since many of you might prefer to do something other than spend the day at the beach, here are some alternative suggestions.
•If your ship is in port early (and long enough), schedule a fishing trip. This is one of the best ports for this sport.
•Rent an ATV and do some exploring.
•Horseback riding is also very popular.
•Kayak to Lover’s Beach (if the water is not too rough). An alternative is to just hire a water taxi.
•Renting a car was not recommended as it tends to be expensive and rentals are not conveniently located at the pier.
Day 5, Monday (At Sea):
Another marvelous weather day was forecast and I was not disappointed. I awoke with sun basking my balcony and knew that another stellar day was ahead. By 9:00 AM I was already at the pool area staking my claim to a perfectly located lounge chair. I was able to complete a 2 ½ mile power walk (11 laps = 1 mile) before “vegging” in the sun for the rest of the day. Members of our travel group came and went during the day, leaving periodically to participate in other scheduled activities around the ship. Two members of our group were fortunate enough to have signed up for the Cordon Bleu cooking class that was being conducted by a Master Chef others went to bridge lessons, cooking demonstrations, or one of the enrichment lectures. By late afternoon, the sun had tired me out and I chose to take a short nap in preparation for a full evening. We had dinner reservations at Latitudes for 8:00 PM. Many from our travel group met at the Horizon Lounge for cocktails and dancing before dinner, then went our separate ways for dinner, before reconnecting later that evening. The meal at Latitudes was great. Its unique presentation style was definitely a major part of its appeal, not to mention the excellent selections that were offered. The evening entertainment was songstress Holly Lipton. Her performance was excellent. Each of the headline acts was scheduled for two shows during the cruise, and we were all definitely looking forward to her second performance. Well, after bailing early the last few nights, I had promised to join my fellow partiers for some late night activity. Thus, we headed off to Stars disco for karaoke and dancing. Now, karaoke is not normally “my thing”, but I must admit that on this particular night, even I was coerced into performing with “the girls”. After our “stellar performances”, karaoke led to disco dancing and it turned into a very late night for most of us. It was all good, however, as everyone had a great time. (Oh! By the way, I had mentioned that my friends were complaining that there was not much activity on board the ship at night. Well, apparently they had missed the disco in their quest, as we met a group of guests that had been there every night.)
Day 6, Tuesday (Acapulco):
Port of Acapulco
Joanie and I had made plans to meet early that morning to disembark the ship together. As this was not the first time either of us had been to Acapulco, we had no plans other than to locate an Internet café, and then head to the beach. (Am I beginning to sound like a broken record?) Fortunately, there was an Internet café in the terminal at reasonable rates ($3 for ½ hour). Then, it was off to the beach. We walked the short distance to the beach and were lucky enough to locate a couple of lounge chairs to rent for the day. This was not an easy task, as most of the rentals were for umbrellas and straight back chairs. By the time we had settled in for the day, the beach was becoming crowded. Since this was Holy Week, the residents of Mexico City flock to Acapulco in droves for vacation. Now, I forgot to mention that I was beginning to come down with some sort of cold (or so I thought) for when I woke this morning, my throat was quite scratchy and I had lost my voice. (Now I know what you are thinking, but NO, it was not due to my late night revelry the night before.)
The Beach at Acapulco
So after lounging a while on the beach, I took a break to find a pharmacy to purchase some cold and throat medicine. Well, if I thought the beach was becoming crowded, that was nothing compared to the scene on the roads. Traffic was horrendous and there appeared to be gridlock in every direction. I was quite glad we had chosen to forego any sightseeing and had chosen to walk to the beach. By the time I returned, it had become very hot and humid. We attempted to cool off in the water, but, surprisingly, the water was quite chilly. It wasn’t long before we were both uncomfortable, not to mention getting hungry. Rather than try to find a restaurant in town and fight the sea of people, we decided just to return to the ship and finish our day at the pool area on board. When I returned, Joanie and I decided to return to the ship for lunch and finish our day at the pool on board. Well, with the ship in port there was not a hint of a breeze on the pool deck, so our afternoon plan was foiled a bit. I decided to take advantage of the empty ship to take pictures for this review, while Joanie retired to her cabin to do some work. My roommate, Pat, had ventured off with other friends but returned shortly after me. Some from our group had gone to see the cliff divers (a must do in Acapulco for first timers), others went to the central market and yet others participated in one the ship’s shore excursions. Once again we met at Horizons for pre-dinner cocktails and dined at Compass Rose. The evening entertainment was Fred Klett (the comedian) and so many from our group had been disappointed in his first performance; we opted to pass on that evening activity. Pat, Janet and Jerry decided to venture to the Observation Lounge to listen to the piano playing of Mr. Jordan Heppner and found it quite pleasant (there were only about 5 other people in the lounge, however). My throat condition was worsening and it’s not much fun conversing with no voice (anyone who knows me can appreciate that the inability to talk would be quite frustrating for me), so I chose to retire early again.
Acapulco Port Suggestions: I have already mentioned some of the excursions that you might want to consider, but here is a compilation of suggestions from the group.
•One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Acapulco Cliff Divers. It is easy to grab a taxi from the pier and catch one of the afternoon or evening shows.
•The San Diego Fort is directly across from the cruise terminal and makes for an interesting tour.
•The ship sponsored Cross and Fort Tour was good and very interesting. The highlight is the view of Acapulco from the summit of Las Brisas.
•If you are a shopper and have honed up on your bartering skills, then the Central Market is a great place to get all your typical Mexican crafts and souvenirs.
•Papagyo Park is a nice municipal park within walking distance of the pier, but if you are expecting to do some shopping all the vendor’s stalls are no longer there.
Day 7, Wednesday (Huatulco):
The Port of Huatulco
I awoke still not feeling well, but my voice seemed to be coming back, so I was anticipating a rapid recovery. I was able to do an abbreviated power walk (my energy level was still down) before enjoying a light breakfast in La Veranda. This was my first visit to Huatulco and I was thoroughly impressed!! What was once a sleepy fishing community until it was discovered by developers in the 1960’s remains quietly charming.
The Seven Seas Mariner in Huatulco
Although this area is beginning to emerge as a popular resort destination, its secluded beaches and idyllic setting provide a relaxed environment much different from other major resort areas in Mexico. It was very quiet (particularly after our last two ports) and extremely clean.