Review - RCCL Mariner of the Seas cruise of May 27, 2007.
Iím writing this primarily from a perspective of a comparison between Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. We have been on 5 CCL cruises, a NCL cruise and now a RCCL cruise. I have had a couple of people interested in hearing first hand about the differences between CCL and RCCL, so thatís going to be the main theme here. I will also try to give some overall impressions on the Mariner.
First off, let me say this. The Mariner OTS is a beautiful ship. She is very well appointed and very clean. The crew was excellent and the service was to the level that I was expecting it to be. Nothing that I will say in the rest of this rambling will change that. The wife and I discussed picking cruise lines with several people on the cruise and came to the conclusion that you tend to like the cruise line that your first cruise was taken on. This is mainly because you tend to compare the rest of the cruises with that first one. Iím not saying we did not have a wonderful time, but we found ourselves saying ďwell, Carnival doesnít do it that way.Ē Not because anything was worse, more because it was different than what we were used to. So, in that light, letís jump in to it.
Embarkation- We flew in on embarkation day. This is something we try NOT to do. We normally fly in the day before so that we are refreshed and early the first day. But, our schedules did not allow it this time. Fortunately everything went fine with the flight. We got into Orlando, grabbed our luggage and were in the rental car by 10:15AM. The trip to Port Canaveral was quick. (about 45 minutes) We dropped off the rental car and were shuttled to the ship before 11:30am. Check in went very smoothly. We were on the ship by noon. I canít say enough about the Port staff, they were wonderful. It was a far cry from other embarkations (the Port of Houston was the only other embarkation that went as smoothly and quickly).
While we were not able to get to our rooms right away, we took in a lunch at the Windjammer and waited for our room to be ready. This is where the first comparison happened. The buffet food- While the food was good, we felt it not to be any better than Carnivalís buffet. The selections were not as good and it seemed like the food was dry. The actual buffet was fairly well organized though. However, I really like Carnivalís deli and 24 hour pizzaÖ neither of which are to be found on MOTS
After lunch, we headed to the cabin, second comparison- Cabin size. I was fairly disappointed in the cabin size. It was smaller than we typically get with Carnival. I felt that with a ship the size of the Mariner, that the cabins would be larger. Not true I guess. The storage space seemed to be lacking too. We unpacked, cramming things in where ever we could. There is more drawer space and closet space on a CCL ship (Conquest).
After that we went exploring. The layout of the ship was fairly straight forward. We found everything quickly. We took in a game of putt-putt golf and then continued our exploration. The Royal Promenade was a nice feature, but it seemed to waste a lot of space. The main theater entrance was either poorly planned out or brilliantly planned out. I say this because in order to exit or enter the theater you had to climb a flight of stairs and walk through the casino or climb two flights and walk through the Promenade shops. In either case, it was a mad house with everyone trying to get out of the theater at once. There was also no way to get from the main floor of the theater to the balcony seating inside the theater. You had to leave and go up a floor and then come back it. (Not a killer, but still frustrating)
While I am on the topic of the theater, let me say that the entertainment was great. I would say both RCCL and CCL tie in this department. Carnival has just a bit more variety of ďguestĒ entertainment on their cruises but it could have been a slow week. They did have an ďadultĒ comedy show late one evening where they said that no one under 18 was allowed in, but there were kids sitting in the front row. The comedian had to put an obvious brake on his show because of them. They should have been asked to leave but were not and it spoiled it for the rest of the guests.
Service staff- The entire service staff top notch. I donít have any complaints except for our cabin stewards. I saw them once or twice for the entire cruise. They did a great job of cleaning the cabin, but I like a bit more personable service. Other cruisers sad that this wasnít true for their stewards, so maybe we just got a newbie or something. Or maybe his style was to do a great job but not be seen. (I started calling him the Stealth Steward by day 3)
The Casino- I spend a lot of time in the casino. If there is one place I can safely say I can give a good comparison on, it is the casino. I was disappointed. The casino staff was EXCELLENT. The dealers, the pit crew etc were very personable and helpful. If you are cruising on the Mariner soon, tell Edwin in the casino that Jimmy said Hi! My disappointment was with the games themselves. The craps table only allowed 1X odds. This is the first and only time I have seen such a poor setup. CCL casinos have 2X and NCL had 3x,4x,5x odds. (For those who donít play craps, you wonít understand this part so, just skim overÖ.) You canít possible get ahead with 1x odds. This is designed to take your money, plain and simple. When I asked them why they only offered 1x, the response was ďbecause we donít need to offer moreĒ. I felt taken advantage of. (I know what you are going to say.. ďWell you didnít HAVE TO playÖĒ and to that I say, then you just donít like craps. It is the crack cocaine of casino games) One night, they had 2X odds. I did very well that night. The rest of the cruise I Ėplayed mostly blackjack. But, I did find one Craps buddy that had me playing despite the odds issue, just for the fun of it. Bill, if you read this, bet the 10.
Dinning - The food was good. Carnival may have a slight edge here too, but I certainly can not complain. You can always order a steak if you donít like the menu choices, this is something CCL does not offer. But, the dessert menu was just not up to our standards. CCL has desserts down to an art form. The dinning staff was great, at the level I was expecting. We had a big table (with great table mates) that slowed dinner down. It seemed like we were always one of the last tables to finish up. Chops- We managed to get into Chops for one dinner. (We were so busy exploring the ship that we didnít get our reservations in the first day. We went Monday morning and got on the waiting list.)
All I can say is ĖOutstanding! Do NOT miss this if you go. For the price, you will never have a steak like that anywhere else. The filet I had actually melted in my mouth. Wow..
Kid activities- I have a 13 and a 11 year old (which was close enough to 12 to get put into the same group as my 13 year old.) They had a great time. There is plenty of activities for them to do. They did do the rock wall and ice rink, but not as much as I thought. The remainder of the activities did not seem to have a large variety, but they still had fun. Again, the comparison is a close one here.
Bottom line- I did enjoy myself. (but then again, I could cruise on a garbage barge and it would be better than being at work). BUT, after this cruise we decided that we are just Carnival Cruisers. Yes, the rock wall, ice show, ice rink, and promenade were cool things to have on a cruise ship, but for the extra cost of cruising on RCCL, Iím not sure they warrant the price. If I had the money where I didnít care what the cost was, I would pick RCCL just for the extra activity choices. But, I donít have money to burn. I can spend 1/3 to Ĺ less on a Carnival Cruise and have as much fun. Now, the die-hard RCCL fans will call me nuts. But, like I said, they make different cruise products for different tastes. So if you like RCCL, fine, I donít disagree that it was a great cruise. But, I can spend less on a CCL cruise and have nearly the same product (in my opinion)
I wonít tell anybody which cruise line they should enjoy, I only present this information for those that are looking for information.
Jim C-Thank You for your fine review! I/We are glad you enjoyed the cruise and I/We found your comparison very enlightening. I/We like cruising above all other things and we enjoy cruiseline comparisons-as we are multiple line cruisers! Chops Grills are great-those steaks are something else! I/We wish you many happy future voyages!
I thought the review was very well put together and fairly stated, i was wondering if it was somewhat true that the first cruise line is the one you tend to like most because that is what you compare to, i will be trying Carnival maybe sometime next May, my first cruise was on the FOS so we'll see how I like the CCL, again very good review.
I would (if you don't mind) make a point on pricing. I am port and price driven when it comes to selecting a cruise and I have found that if you look for bargains you can find them on every cruise line. I would just like to point out that RCL is not necessarily always more expensive. Example: My 14 day cruise on BOTS last month for a balcony cabin was $799 (or $57 per day) before port charges. An outside cabin on that same sailing was $530 (or $38 per day) before port charges of about $200.
I heartily agree with you that any cruise is better than no cruise. I have sailed on four other cruise lines ( no barges yet...but they do use them on river cruises in Provence)and have enjoyed them all. I have not sailed on Carnival yet...simply because I have found the best deals on other lines.
But I keep your review handy in case a deal on Carnival springs up.
SailorJack, you make an excellent point. Great cruise prices can be found on many cruise lines. Including RCCL (I sent my mother in law and her sister and their mother on a RCCL cruise on the Majesty of the Seas since it was an unbeatable price.) So, please don't take my comments to mean you can't get a good price on RCCL. However, being past cruisers on Carnival we tend to get good offers from them. I'm sure RCCL will start offering me good deals now that I'm Crown and Anchor.
Like I said, the prodcuts are very similar, RCCL has some nice features on their ships, but if the price difference is large enough, they may not make up for it. I wouldn't have any problem spending a $100 or so extra to sail on RCCL (provided we are talking Voyager class versus Conquest class)
Spritfilled..... After sailing on FOS,its all going to be downhill from now on! Pretend this cruise was just an experience and your next cruise is your first one so you can be fair in future comparisons!
JimC - thanks so much for the review!!!!
NEXT: CCL Elation 10-15-11
03-11 CCL Triumph
10-10 CCL Triumph
01-10 CCL Triumph
10-08 CCL Fantasy
03-08 CCL Fantasy
10-07 CCL Holiday
03-07 CCL Holiday
11-06 CCL Triumph
03-06 Caribbean Princess
01-04 CCL Victory
09-03 CCL Destiny
05-03 CCL Imagination
11-02 CCL Imagination
01-02 RCCL Rhapsody of Seas
02-01 RCCL Sovereign of Seas
02-00 RCCL Empress of Seas
01-99 RCCL Sovereign of Seas
01-98 RCCL Majesty of Seas
Excellent review Jim C. Sometime y'all need to try Costa or Princess. Costa's rooms were large on the Magica, about the size of a Princess balcony room with the balcony inside of the room and the prices were great. You know Princess is my favorite, but in all honesty, I think you'd love their pizza and I think you'd enjoy the food. They don't have a chocolate melting cake, but they have some wonderful deserts and entrees. It sounds like all in all you had a great time, which I'm glad to hear. You need to book your next cruise soon, it'll make things better! Thanks again for an honest opinion and great comparison. Did you play any video poker?
Jim C, what a great review and a great way to approach the review. I'd like to see more of this type of comparison. It will be interesting when f-mattox gives his next review. He's doing HAL next time. Maybe we can get Sonny on Princess for a review.
The perspective of cruiseline loyals who make the switch is facinating, to me anyway.
Thanks for the unbias review. I would like to correct one thing though. You can order steak any night on Carnival. You can also order shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and Ceasar salad on any night even though it may not be on the menu.
Hmmmm.. thanks Cruise Fanatic.. I wasn't aware of that. I never needed to order "just a steak" since there always seems to be something I want off of the main menu. But the same applied on the Mariner. I can get a steak at home.. I'm not going to waste good cruising dinning on a steak. But, its nice to know that I have the option.
Penny3333, yes, I played some video poker, but not much... I think I broke even after a comeback from losing about half of the money I put into the machine.