Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Mariner of the Seas
Sailing Date: February 20th, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Sailing Date: February 20th, 2005
Beautiful ship, great experience. This in the second cruise (first on sister ship Voyager of the Seas 4 years ago). On that cruise my husband and I were celebrating an anniversary. On this cruise, it was just myself and my mom (63). I partly chose this cruise because of the positive experience on Voyager.
Mariner did not disappoint. The ship was full with 800 kids on board. A few times (looking for a chair on deck) it felt crowded. Most of the time, it was fine. I was not at all bothered by the kids on board.
The top 2 experiences on board the ship were:
#1 Great entertainment. We had guest performances by the "Oiginal Drifters", very good and an amazing performance by Ben Vereen, just outstanding. The ice show was impressive and very beautifully produced. The production shows were good, I enjoyed the second show with music from the 80's more. Another comedy night was good as well.
#2 Portifino's. The $20 surcharge/person was very well spent. It is true 5 star dining. We went twice! I also heard excellent reviews of the other surcharge restaurant, Chops, as well. Definitely worth it.
Our ports of call were Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Nice ports, but we were 3 hours late getting to St. Thomas due to a medical emergency after leaving Nassau. We did all ship excursions. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that. Because it was just my mom and I, we went the safe route. Next time, I'd rent a car or get a private taxi or tour. In Nassau, we did "Harbour Cruise and Atlantis Tour". This was a lot of walking, many people on the tour weren't prepared. Also, another couple we met paid $20 each for a taxi island tour. They stopped at Atlantis where the casino and lobby area with aquariums are apparantly open to the public. We had bracelets that allowed us to walk the grounds, but did not give any pool access. So we basically had the same tour!
In St. Thomas, I had to cancel a morning dive I had scheduled online from home. However, we took the skyride, $16 per adult for a beautiful view. Worth it?...the view WAS nice. Then we took our excursion, the "St. John Island Tour". This is a variation of the "St. John Beach Tour"...you take the same ferry over and split into groups in St. John. The beach people felt they didn't have enough beach time, although is was nice. Our tour group consisted of ten (some large) adults sitting on two bench seats in the back of a full size pick up. This is described as an "open air safari vehicle". Anyway, we drove the road through the center of the island, very steep with hairpin turns. Our driver actually pointed out the Subway restaurant and the Texaco station leaving town, I am not kidding. He stopped for ten minutes and talked about a termite nest in the tree. We stopped about 4 times to briefly get out for a photo, but it was more "look from afar" than "experience" St. John. I have no idea what any of the hotels look like.
In St. Maarten, we signed up for the recommended Golden Eagle Catamaran. I must say, it was a lot of fun. Be aware, that even though you leave at 8:15 in the morning, the free beer, rum punch is flowing. By the time you cruise back at noon, everyone on board was dancing and generally having a good time. Also, the snorkel stop was difficult because you had to get off the boat in water over your head. The snorkeling wasn't good (no live reef, some assorted fish), but the water was clear and beautiful. Both my mom and I had a very nice time.
I found the crew, waiters, etc. to be very friendly and helpful. We ate at Johnny Rocketts, and it was fair...the fries and onion rings are awesome though. There is plenty to do and the days at sea are really nice to relax and actually feel like you are on vacation. I'd love to go again with my whole family, my 13 and 15 year old would just love it. Highly recommended.