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Annette Wiseman

Age: 28

Occupation:auditor

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Mariner of the Seas

Sailing Date: April 9th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

My husband and I cruised on the Mariner of the Seas (Western Caribbean) April 9-16, 2006. It was our first cruise and we couldn’t have been more impressed. The ship is spectacular. I’m hoping that my review will provide you with some information that I hoped I had prior to leaving.

The boarding process was quite smooth considering the number of people that they had to go through. We arrived around 1:30 and were in our rooms by 2:45. They keep your passports when you board the ship and return them to you later in the cruise. We got ours back on day 5. Be sure to keep the receipt you get for your passport or you won’t be getting yours back.

The activities on board are great. They really do have something for everyone. Make sure you get to the skating show. It’s hard to believe that they can do such spectacular tricks on such a small ice surface. You have to get tickets for this show (no cost, it’s just a small seating area and a lot of people want to attend). They were available for pick-up on the first day at sea. A long line for them, but it moved quickly.

There are two formal nights on board the ship. Most men wear dark suits or tuxes and the women wore everything from cocktail dresses to elegant gowns. The formal dinners are held in the elegant three story dinning room so take advantage of a great opportunity to get dressed up for the night.

On the formal nights, there are photographers available to take your photo before and after dinner (the line is much shorter after dinner, then before dinner). There are two different back drops in front of each of the three dining room entrances, so look around and find the background you like. We had pictures done at several locations and then just bought the ones we liked best. The photos are 8x10 and cost $19.95 each. They’re not cheap, but they are beautiful. You get a free frame if you buy a certain number (4, I think) of the 8x10 photos. If you are planning on buying a lot of these photos, you might want to wait until later in the week so you can take advantage of the free frame.

There are also photographers taking your photos all over the ship and on land. These pictures come in 5x7 and are $9.95 each. If you want a photo of something special, ask one of the photographers and they’ll be happy to do it for you (with their camera of course).

There are two restaurants on the ship that have an extra cost. We thought that they were worth every penny. The Italian restaurant is only $15 per person the first night and is almost empty as most people don’t think to go there the first night. Make sure you book reservations as soon as you get on the ship as they book up quickly.

Other than the two formal nights, dress is “smart casual”. My husband wore a dress shirt and sports coat and I wore a simple black dress, but there were some men wearing golf shirts and women in sundresses, so pretty much anything goes. As I said before, the décor is so elegant that formal clothing works any night of the week.

Our cruise involved stops in Labadee, Jamaica, Grand Caymen and Cozumel. We had to tender to shore for all stops except Jamaica. The tender holds about 350 people at a time. If you have one of the first excursions of the day, you will be assigned a meeting place and will be on the first tender off the ship. The busiest times are from 9:30-11:00, so you can count on a longer wait if you go then. We usually headed off the ship as early as possible and it took about 30 minutes to get to shore.

You can book your excursions online prior to the cruise. Do this as they sell out quickly. Be prepared for some changes in the excursions as they are cancelled due to mechanical problems, poor weather, etc.

Labadee is a beach day. There isn’t much to see or do there. There is an excursion that takes you away to a private beach. Unless you really don’t want to be around a lot of people, I wouldn’t bother as there are several separate beaches for you to use and tons of lounge chairs for no extra cost.

Jamaica really is the only country where you should do an excursion. It’s not very safe there and there is a lot of crime. I’m not sure how safe you would be trying to get around and see things on your own. The hike up Dunn’s River Falls is a must. It’s not a difficult climb (all ages and athletic abilities can do it). They have guides that will take you up the falls. We started with a guide, but it is a very slow process and you spend a lot of time waiting for others to catch up. About half way up, we left our group and climbed by ourselves. It was a lot better and we could move at our own pace.

Grand Cayman is a fun place; lots of shopping. Very safe to go about on your own, without a group if you wish. We heard from others on the ship that the snorkeling isn’t as good as it is in Cozumel, so if you are planning only one snorkeling trip, you might want to wait.

Cozumel still has a lot of damage from last year’s hurricanes, however, it doesn’t cut into any of the fun that you can have there. Beware of drinking too much as the wait for a tender can be long and there is no shade on the dock. We saw several people passed out on the dock or too sick to crawl back to the tender dock.

If you are looking for diamonds or tanzanite, Grand Cayman and Cozumel are the best places for this. We found Cozumel to be cheaper; however, most of the jewelry is set in silver, or a silver/gold mixture. If you have your heart set on a large tanzanite or diamond, you can buy the loose stones and set them however, you want when you get home. If you buy loose stones, you don’t have to pay any duty on them as they are classified as gravel, not jewelry. Some of the stores give away a free sapphire or opal to the first few customers. Don’t waste your time as the stones are of such poor quality, you would never use them in jewelry.

Overall, the cruise was everything we hoped it would be. The staff and service is the best I have experienced. I’ll be heading back for another one asap. Oh, don’t forget to bring something to cover your shoulders as it gets a little cool up on deck in the evening. Enjoy your trip!!!

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