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jrh20 03-17-2011 07:46 PM

First time cruise - think twice
I went on the Mexican Riviera Cruse (Mariner of the Sea) with my family of 5
(3 boys and two adults) and was hoping for a fun family vacation. An opportunity for us to all be together but have time to do our own thing too. A couple of observations I came away with:
1) Cruising is way more expensive than you think. Not only do you pay for all the up front charges but you aren't even on the ship for the days you are in port. This means you need to not only pay for excursions but also for food while in port.
2) The tipping situation is completely out of control. The expectation is that you will tip your head waiter, waiter, asst waiter, room attendant, asst room attendant and anyone that helps you with your luggage. IN addition, you tip your excursion guides and anyone you purchase any drinks or food from on the ship. Our room attendat stopped by our room 4 times on the last day looking for my husband so she could thank him???? I think she was wanting to ensure she got a tip. We generously tip her along with the asst room attendant and the waiter and asst waiter but never even saw the head waiter.
3) Food on the ship is marginal - really marginal. Everything is just a bit off. I've heard 15 years ago it was much better. I could not even walk in the Windjammer Cafe without my stomach churning.
4) Free coffee in the Promenade Cafe smelled very strange. I think it is made with salt water converted to fresh water and that process makes the coffee smell like cigarette smoke. Very weird but I was clearly not the only one to notice.
5) Hot tubs - forget getting space in one because the same people sit in them all day. Unless you want to be in a very small hot tub with 25 people.
6) The teen/kid activities were not inviting to any of my kids. They tried but really no one went.
7) The workout facility was mobbed the first day but after that everyone was either hung over or doing something else. The spa services were pushed really hard.
8) Internet service is really tough to get and the cost to use the RCL internet connection is outrageous. It was a per minute charge but it would take 7 min to connect to gmail. This put them in the dark ages.
8) Best part of the entire cruise was the ice show. Hard to believe but it was very professional.

Sandy 03-17-2011 08:30 PM

Hi jrh20 and welcome back from your cruise. A couple of observations about some of your observations:

1. It sounds like you were surprised by the extra things for which you paid on your trip. These should not have been a surprise. Before you booked, your travel agent should have explained what's included in the price, what is not included, and how much the "extras" are likely to cost. There are some cruise lines that are actually "all-inclusive" of drinks and tips, and even a couple that include shore excursions. Of course, these cruise lines are a lot more expensive than Royal Caribbean.

2. In general, it's nice to tip for good service, just like on land. The three people whom I feel are the most hard working and deserving of tips are your room attendant, your waiter and assistant waiter, plus anyone who has given you special service. I've never heard of an assistant room attendant. Bar waiter tips are always included in the bar bill each time you sign one. I'm not sure from whom you purchased food onboard and left a tip? Are you talking about the specialty restaurant? Most people give a couple of dollars to room service waiters as well. Again, there are suggested amounts for tips that you should have been told about before you booked, so you would know what to expect.

3. We have had a lot of discussions here about cruise ship food. There are those who love it, hate it, and everything in between after all being on the same cruise. I hope you and your family were able to find some things you liked at each meal. I often find the food too salty.

4. ALL of the potable water you encountered on the ship, other than bottled water, is sea water put through the ship's desalination and filtration system. That's typical of all ships. This includes tap water, water from which coffee, tea and reconstituted juices are made, etc. I'm not sure what was the problem with the coffee on the Promenade but I hope they fix it!

5 & 6. Sounds disappointing!

7. I'm not sure what you're saying about the workout facility. Are you sorry it wasn't more crowded after Day 1? At least hopefully you didn't have any problems getting on the machine(s) you wanted. Spa services are money makers for the cruise lines, so I'm sure you had flyers in your room every day advertising the spa and the various shops onboard.

8. Poor internet connection is very typical of all cruise lines. When you're in the middle of the ocean, the ships all use satellite connections to the internet, which are exceedingly slow. This is especially true during the more popular times to use the computer. It's very frustrating compared to what we're used to on land. All cruise lines charge a high per-minute rate, but packages are usually available that allow a slightly lower per-minute rate. Then, of course, you have to guess at how many minutes you think you'll use during the course of the cruise, and if you have minutes left over, that money is gone anyway. A lot of people choose to wait until they're in port, and go to an internet cafe, which is always much cheaper and usually a must faster connection. Most ports I've visited have internet cafes that are walking distance from where the ship or tender come in.

8. Agreed! I love the ice shows. It's amazing what they can do on a small rink.

Sonny V 03-17-2011 09:32 PM

Would you like some cheese with all that whining? I've been on over 60 Royal Caribbean Cruises and one of my favorite ships is the Mariner of the Seas. Never ever had an assistant room attendant - never smelled coffee that smelled like cigarette smoke anywhere on any ship. I like good food, and very rarely have any complaints on a cruise ship. I can always find something I like in Windjammer because there is such a large selection of food--there would have to be something wrong with a person that couldn't walk past the Windjammer with out their stomach churning. While in a port I always come back to the ship for lunch unless I'm on an excursion which usually includes something to eat and drink. If I ever have to pay for a meal while off the ship in some port, I'm certainly not going to blame the ship for my unforeseen expense.

As far and the internet on the Mariner being slow, do you actually think it's faster on another cruise line? It's hard for me to believe that anyone would think an ice show wouldn't be professional--but then takes all kinds. Maybe you're just to high class for cruising. I'm just a little confused why you would even bother spending the time to write a post just to irritate people like me that love to cruise--especially after it's been 3 months since the last Mexican Riviera Cruise sailed by the Mariner?


Dwayne 03-17-2011 10:29 PM

Not to drift too much here, but Carnival has assistant Stewards. I think the main Steward shares tips with them. They mostly bring things like ice and make the bed, vacuum etc. They don't have as much interaction with the guests as the main Steward does though. Sometimes you don't even know about them if you are at dinner etc.

I had the nicest assistant Stewardess once. She had helped service the cabin while I was at breakfast. I went down to the cabin to get something and she was there cleaning. Much later, 2am she was in the casino cleaning the slot machines. She recognized me and ask if everything was alright with my cabin and did I need any ice tonight? She would also empty my ashtray in the casino. Needless to say I tipped her extra besides what I gave the Main Steward to share. I'll never forget her, she called me Mr. Dwon.

penny3333 03-18-2011 06:13 AM

Hi jrh20, welcome to CruiseReviews. Sorry to hear that you were not well prepared for your cruise and that you did not enjoy it.

You can stay on the ship while you're in port, but that usually isn't what people enjoy doing. Sorry you didn't like the food, we've never had any problem finding something good. If you had done some research on sites like this, you would have known about the tipping policy. Each cruise line has the option of auto-tipping, except the ones that are all-inclusive.

Next time you try a cruise, take a look at Seaborn, Crystal or Cunard. These may be more your standard.

Hope you at least enjoyed your ports.

Sandy 03-18-2011 06:39 AM

(Carnival has assistant Stewards. I think the main Steward shares tips with them. They mostly bring things like ice and make the bed, vacuum etc.)

What does the main Room Steward do, then?

Todd41 03-18-2011 09:38 AM

A couple of my observations and experiences:

I agree with you, cruising can be expensive. However, not any more than flying to a destination and staying there in a hotel. The question is do you like cruising enough to pay for it. We love much so, it has it's own separate line item in our family budget.

You can control the levels of tipping. They are not set in stone. We pay for good service and reduce the tip if the service wasn't very good.

The main dining room food is not a five star restuarant. We are foodies and would rate the food at 3.5 to 4 depending on the cuisine that day. That's still pretty good. The Windjammer is your typical buffet with that type of quality of food, ableit with a nice variety.

I agree, hot tubs and getting deck chairs are sometimes hard to come by on the ship. This can be annoying. I wish the Royal would more agressively enforce their 30 minute rule. This rule is suppose to reduce the "saving" of deck chairs.

Our kids (ages 10 and 17) went to the kids activities and had a blast. This was on Liberty of the Seas. I'm not sure if Mariner is any different.

I think the work out facility is at or near the same level as your typical gym... Except, the cruise's facilities have much better views out the front of the ship!

Jim1012 03-18-2011 10:35 AM

I'm with SonnyV on this one-it doesn't appear that crusing will be high on your list of next vacations, and that is fine. To each their own. Since this appears, or sounds like, your second cruise (that being your first and last), it would seem to me that maybe an "All-Inclusive" vacation resort would be more to your liking. Mariner is still my wife's and my favorite ship; with good food and a wide selection, and generally great service. Tipping is supposed to be what YOU want to give. Tip a lot, or not at all; it's YOUR call. We were just on Liberty last Sept, and the internet access, although expensive, was excellent. We were able to scype with our daughter in Memphis, Tenn. from the middle of the ocean on an Eastern cruise. I've spent way more than what you state for a 7 day vacation, travel, room-and-board, food, etc., and I have the same size family you state. Nobody said that a cruise was cheap; not if you paid attention to any of the postings here; reserach whatever you choose to do on a vacation. If you are surprised by EVERYTHING that happened on a vacation, you clearly weren't paying attention.

peter l 03-18-2011 10:50 AM

jrh20, sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your cruising experience...I would have to say that your first three lines of sentence are exactly why we look to cruise as often as we can. We have done all inclusives and stayed in time shares and find that cruising really does it for us..It is obvious that it does nothing for you..We sailed with a party of 6 others in February and found all the time in the world to enjoy each other, try different foods in the dining rooms and specialty restaurants, and do tours and activities that we could only experience on some of the islands we visited. I feel that the tipping is very much in line with what I would expect to pay for services in other venues. Again, cruising is not for everyone.


Sonny V 03-18-2011 11:43 AM

Another point is that besides gratuity, you don't have to spend a dime on a cruise ship. Some people look for faults so they have something to rant about - others enjoy their vacation and return to tell people about the wonderful time they had. I don't know of anyone that doesn't favor the Mariner of the Seas (until now). There are certain people that I stay clear of so I don't develop a negative attitude and ruin my day. Some of my best friends are those I met on a cruise. Usually people on a cruise ship are happy and enjoying their vacation even when things go wrong. I'm sure most people on this forum would say Amen to that.


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