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Age: 28

Occupation:Data Entry/Customer Service-Insurance Industry

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Mariner of the Seas

Sailing Date: March 13th, 2005

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Sailing Date: March 13th, 2005

My husband and I went on our first cruise recently. We had a good time, and generally learned a lot that you just don’t know when you haven’t cruised before. The flight down to Orlando was turbulent and I was already motion sick. After retrieving our luggage, we found the RCI reps and they directed us to the meet and greet lounge for RCI guests. We ended up waiting there for quite awhile for a bus to the dock. The bus was nice, except there was almost nil leg room (and I’m only 5’2!). The driver flew down the road, then slammed on the brakes at the toll booths. This made me even sicker than the plane had. The actual check-in process was pretty easy and moved somewhat quickly. We were in our room by 2 when our plane had only landed at 11:30. The bus driver had said our bags would be at our room within 2 hours, but that was not true. They showed up after dinner, which was fine with us. We went to eat lunch at Windjammer, which we were pleasantly surprised by. There was a great variety, and the food was hot and not dried out. We went back to the cabin, since I was still feeling a little ill. We had a balcony room, which was great!! I would never get an interior room after having a balcony-we ended up spending a lot of time out there, people-watching, sun-bathing, and just relaxing. We watched the ship leave port and waved to all the Floridians watching us go. As soon as the ship got up to speed, my stomach started its thing again. I started Dramamine the next morning and never went a day without it-my advice-start it on the morning before you leave and don’t stop it! Every morning I felt my stomach start to roll right before I took my next dose. We saw the beautiful sunset that evening, which was the only one we saw since we had main seating for dinner.

The next morning we got up early and explored the ship. It is quite amazing! I had read all the reviews and seen pictures, but there was nothing like seeing it in person. We walked the jogging track for awhile around the pool area and saw the helipad landing area and Peek-A-Boo bridge. I was very amazed by the wind! It was so strong and persistent……I couldn’t see half the time on the open decks due to my hair flying around my face and my husband was chasing his hat. I thought maybe this was a rare occurrence, but we dealt with the wind almost our entire cruise! This was our first day “at sea”. We ate breakfast and I was laying out by 7:55 a.m.! You can’t do that in Ohio! It was relaxing if slightly chilly in all that wind….and you couldn’t even leave towels or clothes on your chair without pushing them thru the chair slats as the wind would blow them away! Later on in the cruise I ended up sunning on my balcony (pushed the 2 chairs together) as the sun/pool decks were too crowded and windy. Or too much in the shade, which was too cold with the wind. I also was disappointed that the pools were salt water. And the adult pool was not heated. Basically it was unusable because it was so cold, and everyone ended up at the main (kiddie) pool anyway.

Some thoughts on the dining……the dining room was amazing! Very pretty and elegant. The waitstaff was very friendly and helpful, if a little hard to understand. The food was very good and I found something I wanted every night. I’m not a seafood person, and there was quite a bit of that every night. There were nice alternative choices offered though. Try the chilled fruit soups-they are great! We ate there every night for dinner. There was quite a wait between starter and dinner, dinner and dessert, but the waiters did well considering the number of people they were responsible for. Windjammer & Jade, as I mentioned, were pleasant, but we were a little tired of it at the end of 7 days. And the staff are very annoying at breakfast, interrupting every 2 minutes with offers of oj, water, green tea, coffee, when you obviously already have what you need. We didn’t go to Chops or Portofino’s. We went to Johnny Rockets once….good food, but we ended up paying $20 for the service charge, 2 milkshakes, and a tip (the food was free). The wait staff sings and dances, which was funny the first time, obnoxious the second time we were interrupted. A little too loud and “in your face”. But the food was good everywhere, we ate way too much and in fact took a nap after lunch every day.

Onto the ports of call…..We enjoyed their private island, Labadee (Haiti) immensely. Mostly a beach day. It was supposed to be 94 degrees that day, but once again, due to the wind, it felt barely 70. I kept pulling my chair out of the shade and into the sun to warm up…….Another thing we did not know-the sun will burn you there even if you are under shade. My husband stayed under a tree all day with no suntan lotion, and ended up much more burned than me, who was out in the sun with suntan lotion. His legs stayed red for a week! We visited the market RC has set up there, but the vendors were very very aggressive and all had the same things in their stalls. We went to the beach after 20 minutes. We had a BBQ on the island that day. Had to wait in quite a long line to get tendered back to the boat. The next day was Jamaica-we didn’t enjoy that at all……It was hot and hazy and we were accosted by potential taxi drivers at every turn when we just wanted to walk around ourselves. We returned to the boat after 2 hours and hung out by the nearly deserted pool. We hadn’t booked any excursions on any port, as we just wanted to check out the islands ourselves. My husband doesn’t’ swim so that cut out a lot. One note about people who did book excursions-they would block up the docks waiting to depart on their trips at every pier and some tours did not return by the set time and held up the boat from leaving at its designated time. Quite an irritant to those of us who HAD made it back in time. Royal Caribbean should not recommend those excursions that cannot bring people back on time! . We were also surprised by the stores. They were all mostly “high-brow” and expensive and not what we were looking for at all. We were hesitant to take taxis to the local markets with all the kidnapping items in the news lately and stuck to what we could walk to from the pier. The next day was Grand Cayman. There were 7 cruise ships in port that day and it was very crowded. Once again, the stores were not our cup of tea. We took a taxi to 7 mile beach. Had a fun day there sunning and relaxing. The tenders had been a little rough when we got off the ship that morning, and unbeknownst to us, it had grown much worse in the afternoon. They quit letting people go ashore at noon, but still had to bring those of us already off back. When we tried to reboard about 2 o’clock, the waves were 9-10 feet!! This was very dangerous…..the gangplank between the tender boat and the Mariner was violently sliding left to right and up and down with the swells….When it would calm for a second, they would instruct us to RUN across to the ship. Very scary and I felt sorry for the 90 year old women and families with babies who were trying to get back on board. I think the captain would not have let anyone off that morning if they had known how bad it was going to get. We didn’t leave at the specified time that night as they were having a hard time getting everyone back on board…..even in our room several decks away, we felt the whole ship shudder as the tender boat would slam into it from the waves. I think the captain was going extra fast that night to make up time….the ship was so rocky I could not sleep. Not a gentle rolling rocky either…..this was like someone violently shaking your shoulder to wake you……then there would be calm for several seconds, then the shaking would start again. I didn’t sleep at all that night. My husband and I both woke up with colds also. The final port was Cozumel , which was our favorite for shopping. The prices were much more in our range and the items were more what were searching for anyway. The vendors were less aggressive and more pleasant to work with. Every day we had returned to the boat for lunch, and this was the only port where we went back on land after we ate instead of staying on the ship.
The shows on board were good, we really enjoyed the comedians, and watched a movie also. We aren’t drinkers, so we didn’t go to the lounges. Some of the shows and activities we might have liked to do were just a little too late at night for us. We are early risers, and were ready to hit the hay by 10:30 every night. We watched the speed climbing competition at the rock wall, played putt-putt, and people-watched.

The room attendant was fantastic… guy to talk too, and had our room sparkling even when we had only been gone for 30 minutes or so. The towel animals were cute. We were pleased with how clean our room and the entire ship was….all week we saw evidence of the upkeep program-carpets being shampooed, our balcony rail was re-varnished, and everything was clean and new looking.

All in all, we had a good, relaxing trip. If I cruise again, I will know about the boat movement almost every night (you wouldn’t think on a ship that big), the wind, and to avoid certain stores. Even with 3500 passengers, the boat only seemed crowded during the “at sea” days and at the elevators. I think I will try a resort next, and see how that compares to the cruise experience.

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