My review: Mariner of the Seas 8/9-8/16/2009

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#1
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Hi everyone. I'm working on my Mariner review but thought I'd go ahead and put up what I have. The beginning is more narrative than review, but I'll get there. Hope you enjoy and I'll add more as I get it written. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll answer what I can.

Quips, quirks, and biases

One of the great things about cruise vacations is that, in many cases, they are what you make of them. Because of that, I always like to include this little introductory section where I describe where I'm coming from, as context definitely colors any review. This was my 14th cruise on Royal Caribbean, and 24th cruise overall. I've been "loyal to Royal" lately because I like their ships, have received competitive pricing, enjoy the C&A Diamond perks. I sailed on the Mariner in May when she went on her single Astoria Pacific NW run and was glad to be returning to her. I sailed this time with my father who just retired and is also a frequent cruiser.
This cruise was booked in early July, so about a month from the sailing date. I used that site for competing prices and found a travel agent that offered both a fare discount and prepaid tips on top of the military rate that my dad made us eligible for. I was a bit skeptical, but after talking to the guy over the phone, decided to give it a shot. Thankfully the booking was genuine, though those onboard credits … who knows until you’re there. Oh … and one other note … once we made the booking, my dad forwarded his stockholder information to customer relations for OBC. We found out, however, that the discount given to us by the agent was some sort of RCCL-based promotion and we had the choice of either $100 off the fare (the original offer) or $100 OBC with the stock. No surprise, we took the money-in-pocket option. This gummed up the booking for a few days so I learned a new lesson … I need to mention stockholder credit to the travel agent I’m using before just sending it along just in case the fare is coming from a promotion I’m not aware of.

Pre-Cruise

On my May Mariner cruise, we were forced to fly in day-of and, of course, United decided to lose our lone checked bag in Denver, leaving us with few clothes options (and fewer warm clothes options) for a few days until our bag caught up with us in Oregon. This time we were able to fly in the day before and we took the opportunity. Our American flight left Indianapolis with a connection in Dallas to LAX. There was a one hour, on-tarmac delay in Dallas because of a warning light that needed to be checked out, but we still made it to LAX by about 1 PM on the Saturday before the cruise. We collected our bags ($15 apiece, but now $20 I guess with American and I’m sure others soon) and went out to catch the shuttle I had booked online.

**Needless rant** OK … I’m sure this is unnecessary, but still … I HATE checked bag fees. I know they exist and I know the airlines are struggling to make a profit, but I still wish they would just add those fees to the fare. Of course, airlines are now at the mercy of the fare aggregators (like Kayak, Sidestep, etc), so appearing to have the lowest price is the goal. The side effect of this, of course, is also that people are bringing more luggage as carry-ons, including pieces that have no business inside an airplane cabin. American tried to enforce carry-on policies, the biggest seeming to be the 2 limit as many people tended to have a large bag, a smaller bag, then other handbags on top of that. All-in-all, carry-on baggage has gotten more ridiculous with each flight I’ve taken this year. Don’t even get me started on the mass of people waiting to board that block all other people (foot traffic, those already cleared to board, etc), which is, of course, made worse by the people AND their huge carry-ons ….. OK, it’s out of my system.


Transportation

With only two of us, a shared-ride shuttle seemed the best option for getting to our San Pedro hotel. Researching the two shuttle companies I’ve used in LA, I found that PrimeTime charges $16/pp from LAX to San Pedro while SuperShuttle charges $17/pp. Not really having encountered any differences between the two, I prepaid with PrimeTime. Upon receiving our bags (quite quickly by LAX standards), we went to the ground transportation area and found the shuttle representatives on the island across the street from the baggage claim. We waited perhaps 5 minutes for our shuttle and the one that arrived was full except for two seats right inside the door. All-in-all we won the shared-ride lottery … we were the last picked up and in the first group dropped off 30-40 minutes later in San Pedro. I made note that all shuttles appeared to have a sign stating that they would circle the airport only once before heading to a destination, so if you are the first on a shuttle, be prepared for a bit of a wait which is par for the course with shared-ride.

Lodging

I typically use Priceline and tried to get the Crown Plaza San Pedro for the usual $65 bid that wins it. I could not get it after a couple of attempts, however, so I went ahead and purchased a $70 3-star Hotwire hotel which I assumed and turned out to be the DoubleTree at the marina. Upon arrival to the hotel at about 2 PM, I was told by the desk that there were no rooms ready and that check-in was 3 PM, so kindly sit and wait. We sat and waited until about 2:40 or so and noted that others were getting rooms so I went up and was able to check-in.

** Note: I’ve been unhappy in the past with Hotwire and room configurations as I’ve booked rooms for 3 (and paid extra for the third) and was still given a single king bed and charged for a roll-away. This time I booked a room for 4 (though it was only the two of us) as there was no increase in price (added 2 children instead of adults) and there was no way they were going to force 4 people into a single queen or king bed.


Our room was on the second floor overlooking the pool and next to the stairwell overlooking pool. The room seemed bright with interesting art. There was supposedly wired Internet available but it didn’t seem to work. The pool was a bit loud at times, as were the children and adults who liked to jump down the interior stairs. The room seemed clean, though in between my before-bed shower and morning shower my feet mysteriously got dirty, so perhaps the carpet needs a little attention.
The area around the marina seemed decent though there didn’t seem to be an abundance to do. We walked around the marina (to the left when you exit the hotel) until we reached the 22nd Street Landing which is where we had dinner. It was a little pricey but in line with the hotel and I had a feeling that this kitchen was probably better than the hotel’s “mystery” kitchen. Our food was very good and we watched the fishing ships come in and clean their catch.

**Note: The shuttle driver told us this was the best hotel in the area. I mentioned that I had stayed in the Crown Plaza before and he asked me if I had needed my running shoes. I said no, I only walked around the area in the day, which he said was a smart move. He also noted that there was a small turf-war going on in San Pedro along a few streets between rival gangs. Just FYI and passing along with no proof or personal experience.


To the ship

If you stay at the DoubleTree, make sure that you talk to the bellman about signing up for the complimentary shuttle to the port. The large rush seemed to be around 11 AM but I got on the first shuttle at 10:30. The shuttle was not at all full, and we arrived while there was still quite a bit of activity. We were directed to a small booth to get baggage tags, and then tracked down a porter for our suitcases. After that, we made our way through security (you need SetSail and passports out). This led to the check-in lines which we bypassed to go to the C&A priority line. We were checked in very quickly as we filled in our H1N1 flu declarations (ie, we are not sick or have been around people who were), and were then sent over to a gated waiting area for priority boarding (standard boarding required numbered tickets). Most people went to the far right when facing the area as there was an agent and door there, but we went to the far left which is where you actually board the ship once they move the gates. At 11:30, the gates were moved aside and we boarded the Mariner ….
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

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#3
Philly Suburbs, PA
1,809 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
"**Needless rant** OK … I’m sure this is unnecessary, but still … I HATE checked bag fees. I know they exist and I know the airlines are struggling to make a profit, but I still wish they would just add those fees to the fare. Of course, airlines are now at the mercy of the fare aggregators (like Kayak, Sidestep, etc), so appearing to have the lowest price is the goal. The side effect of this, of course, is also that people are bringing more luggage as carry-ons, including pieces that have no business inside an airplane cabin. American tried to enforce carry-on policies, the biggest seeming to be the 2 limit as many people tended to have a large bag, a smaller bag, then other handbags on top of that. All-in-all, carry-on baggage has gotten more ridiculous with each flight I’ve taken this year. Don’t even get me started on the mass of people waiting to board that block all other people (foot traffic, those already cleared to board, etc), which is, of course, made worse by the people AND their huge carry-ons ….. OK, it’s out of my system. "


Very nice review so far. I COMPLETELY agree with your above "rant". I absolutely can't believe the amount of crap people drag onto the plane with them and don't check. I only bring a tote bag which I "try" to store above our seats but it is getting more difficult to find any room with all the suitcases people are bringing on, not to mention clogging up the aisle trying to lift to heavy bags over their heads to get in the compartment and blocking the aisle in the process.

Looking forward to the rest of your review.
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#4
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Embarkation day

Early embarkation

As was stated when we checked in, we were let on the ship at 11:30 (documents indicated that boarding started at noon). In the information sheet about the ship, it stated that the Windjammer would be opening at 11:30, however when we arrived at about 11:35, it was closed and we were told it would open in 15 minutes or so. When we came back around noon it was open, though only about 25% of the food was out and the manager was apologizing over the loudspeaker and asking people to sit tight for another 15 minutes or so for food to be placed out. This didn’t really happen as people started grabbing food as soon as it was set out, but I was surprised that the Windjammer was not ready when people boarded. I grabbed some of the traditional honey stung chicken (which was one of the first items placed out) and had a nice meal.

Cabins are closed to guests until 1 PM. Believe it or not, they really do mean everyone needs to stay out until 1, though many special people tried to get to their cabins to drop their luggage (as if everyone else wasn’t lugging stuff around too). Most landings had staff posted to keep people out of the hallways, but I sometimes find it frustrating how people start off arguing about what they should be allowed to do or that they just want to do whatever …. in my eyes, the price of early embarkation is lugging your carry-ons for an hour or so.

My single instance of “upsetting” service happened during this time and is very minor, but it made me mad, so here it is … we sat in the couch at Vintages on the Promenade with our bags at 12:40 or so to people-watch for a few minutes before we were allowed to go to our cabins. We had our bags with us, so obviously we were just hanging out, and were approached by a waiter at about 12:55 and asked to purchase a drink. When we politely refused, he stomped away, smacking the back of one of the nearby couches. I understand people having bad days so I never looked for his name or included him on the comment card or anything, but I’m glad to say that service only improved for the rest of the cruise.

Cabin

We booked an inside guarantee and were placed in 6509 which is an inside cabin at the very front of the ship. Some might moan about the location, but I found it to be very quiet except for the running children on the deck above (yes, when children run, everyone on the deck below can hear it). I also didn’t notice any disproportionate movement up front. It was a bit of a walk, but hey, that’s healthy right?

The cabin seemed to be kept in good shape. It felt slightly roomier than the inside promenade room I had had on my last voyage, probably because the beds fit better in the room. There was plenty of storage space for everything, and the cabin had what appeared to be a new safe. The bathroom included the Voyager-class and above standard shower door which I truly appreciate. Water was clean and the temperature control worked well … all great. There was a mini-bar with the usual sodas and candy that we left alone.

Muster Drill

I typically don’t write much about the muster drill, but I thought this one warranted reflection. I’ve had an intense summer job so I’ve not been on Cruise Critic much this summer and feel a bit out of the loop. However, we were told that we were the first cruise on the Mariner where passengers were asked to leave their life vests in their cabins and just report to their muster stations (which were printed very largely on the SeaPass).

I may have differing opinions on this than others, but by not taking the life vest, the whole thing seemed completely worthless. Perhaps it makes a difference because we were seated in a lounge, but no one paid attention during the entire drill. Seriously, everyone was chatting with traveling companions or on the phone during the entire drill, even when the cruise director or captain was talking. When it came time for a crew member to demonstrate putting on a life vest, our station’s crew member (who I was sitting next to), grabbed the vest, started to unhook it, then noticed that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE was paying attention to him and simply set the vest back down. I don’t know if it was different out on the decks or in different venues, but I know in the Lotus Lounge that the room was lost. No one wanted to or could control the room, and thus none of the passengers took it seriously. Personally, I felt this was a failure of this more lax program. Yes, it’s wonderful not to have to wear the vest or worry about tripping over it or hearing people blow on their darn whistles, but the cost seemed to be even more loss of attention at an important and mandatory event that already had only a tenuous grasp on people’s attentions as it was.
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#5
"but it's a DRY heat" CA
1,273 Posts
Joined Mar 2005
Originally posted by silentbob007

Muster Drill

I typically don’t write much about the muster drill, but I thought this one warranted reflection. I’ve had an intense summer job so I’ve not been on Cruise Critic much this summer and feel a bit out of the loop. However, we were told that we were the first cruise on the Mariner where passengers were asked to leave their life vests in their cabins and just report to their muster stations (which were printed very largely on the SeaPass).

I may have differing opinions on this than others, but by not taking the life vest, the whole thing seemed completely worthless. Perhaps it makes a difference because we were seated in a lounge, but no one paid attention during the entire drill. Seriously, everyone was chatting with traveling companions or on the phone during the entire drill, even when the cruise director or captain was talking. When it came time for a crew member to demonstrate putting on a life vest, our station’s crew member (who I was sitting next to), grabbed the vest, started to unhook it, then noticed that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE was paying attention to him and simply set the vest back down. I don’t know if it was different out on the decks or in different venues, but I know in the Lotus Lounge that the room was lost. No one wanted to or could control the room, and thus none of the passengers took it seriously. Personally, I felt this was a failure of this more lax program. Yes, it’s wonderful not to have to wear the vest or worry about tripping over it or hearing people blow on their darn whistles, but the cost seemed to be even more loss of attention at an important and mandatory event that already had only a tenuous grasp on people’s attentions as it was.
Wow - we were on the Mariner cruise just before you (8/02-8/09). I am soooo glad I got the "last" pics of us in our ugly orange life-vests . I think I'm gonna miss those times of grinning at your partner because you know you look ridiculous, but it's only for a few minutes. Think I'll scrapbook these right away !!!

Nice review so far BTW!
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#6
San Diego, CA, USA
82 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
We will be on the Mariner next week and really appreciate the amount of detail you put into your review so far.

BTW, do you recall what time the ship docked in Puerto Vallarta? The itinerary says 8:00 am (ship time), but I'm hoping we might arrive a little bit earlier, since our shore excursion pickup is also at 8:00.
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#7
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
It seems to me that we docked in Puerto Vallarta a little early but I can't tell you excactly. Tour operators there though should be on top of when the ship arrives and give you leeway if you are a little late (as long as you are of the gangway ASAP).
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#8
San Antonio, Texas
1,259 Posts
Joined Sep 2003
We are doing this cruise next spring break I look forward ro the rest of your review!
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#9
Dallas Tx
8,508 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
So great to get a good old fashioned storyteller review. Thanks! Looking forward to more.
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#10
462 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
This is my first cruise platinum in Dec. Will my DD (gold) be able to board priority with us if our reservations are linked? Anyone know? TIA
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#11
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Originally posted by mtncouple
This is my first cruise platinum in Dec. Will my DD (gold) be able to board priority with us if our reservations are linked? Anyone know? TIA
They didn't really check when I checked in so I'd say yes though there's always the possibility you will get a stickler at the gate.
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Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr
#13
Parma, Ohio
995 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Hi Bob-

We're enjoying your review a lot and have a related question. We're on the Mariner in October and already have a Fly & Sail Package booked with the Crowne Plaza. We are, however, staying a night after the Mariner and getting onto a Carnival cruise the next day in Long Beach. We'd like to stay that in-between night at the Crowne Plaza too. Can you tell on Priceline that you're bidding on a specific hotel or are there exact criteria that you're putiing in to get only the Crowne Plaza as a result? Right now, the rack rate for the CP is at about $130 including tax, and we're really hoping to get it at closer to the $65-$70 price range that you mentioned.

Any help or tips you can give us will be greatly appreciated.

Happy sailing.
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#14
Chicago, IL
2,568 Posts
Joined Sep 2004
I'm enjoying your review. I really wish I had cruised on Mariner before she left Florida.

Maggie
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#15
Cornleius, NC
509 Posts
Joined Jun 2007
Looking forward to the rest of the review. Considering the prices of the balcony cabins for most of these cruises, I'm stoked that we might get to cruise early next spring on her. I have to say my last cruise on her when she was in Florida got me hooked again. She's a great ship and the crew is fantastic.
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#16
AZ
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Joined Aug 2002
Thanks for you review! I will be on the Mariner next month so this is filling the time
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#18
Lafayette, IN
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Joined Jan 2005
Originally posted by RayJacki
Hi Bob-

We're enjoying your review a lot and have a related question. We're on the Mariner in October and already have a Fly & Sail Package booked with the Crowne Plaza. We are, however, staying a night after the Mariner and getting onto a Carnival cruise the next day in Long Beach. We'd like to stay that in-between night at the Crowne Plaza too. Can you tell on Priceline that you're bidding on a specific hotel or are there exact criteria that you're putiing in to get only the Crowne Plaza as a result? Right now, the rack rate for the CP is at about $130 including tax, and we're really hoping to get it at closer to the $65-$70 price range that you mentioned.

Any help or tips you can give us will be greatly appreciated.

Happy sailing.
If you go to Priceline and put in San Pedro, CA you should get maybe 4 areas for bidding (Long Beach, etc). You can select San Pedro and 3.5* and that will probably only get you the Crowne Plaza. With Priceline you can never be 100% of course but in that area and level, you will probably only get the CP or DT (which doesn't seem to come up much on PL).
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Oasis of the Seas - 11/2015, Brilliance of the Seas - 5/2015, Quantum of the Seas - 11/2014, Brilliance of the Seas - 4/2014, Carnival Legend - 5/2013, Celebrity Solstice - 5/2013, Celebrity Eclipse - 12/2012, Allure of the Seas - 7/2012, Serenade of the Seas - 5/2012, Voyager of the Seas - 12/2011, Liberty of the Seas - 12/2011, Freedom of the Seas - 10/2011, Oasis of the Seas - 5/2011, Celebrity Eclipse - 3/2011, Celebrity Millennium - 12/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas B2B 11/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 3/2010, Rhapsody of the Seas - 12/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 8/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 5/2009, Navigator of the Seas - 2/2009, Jewel of the Seas - 12/2008, Navigator of the Seas - 11/2008, Majesty of the Seas - 9/2008, Explorer of the Seas - 7/2008, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2008, Grandeur of the Seas - 3/2008, Brilliance of the Seas - 12/2007, Carnival Glory - 6/2007, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2007, Voyager of the Seas - 3/2007, Grandeur of the Seas - 12/2006, Carnival Miracle - 9/2006, Carnival Valor - 12/2005, Carnival Glory - 3/2005, Carnival Glory - 7/2003, Sovereign of the Seas - 7/2000, CCL Sensation - 12/1999, CCL Ecstasy - 12/1997, NCL ?? - 6/1996, Hawaiian American Independence - 1992, Premier Atlantic - 1991


Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

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#19
Lafayette, IN
10,319 Posts
Joined Jan 2005
Originally posted by Kurbanfan
Are ya gonna finish
Yes, as soon as my profs stop flooding me with work ... so 2 years? Hopefully today.

BTW, I do have my photos up and in the link in my sig. I didn't take many ship interior ones this time (see my May one for those).
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Oasis of the Seas - 11/2015, Brilliance of the Seas - 5/2015, Quantum of the Seas - 11/2014, Brilliance of the Seas - 4/2014, Carnival Legend - 5/2013, Celebrity Solstice - 5/2013, Celebrity Eclipse - 12/2012, Allure of the Seas - 7/2012, Serenade of the Seas - 5/2012, Voyager of the Seas - 12/2011, Liberty of the Seas - 12/2011, Freedom of the Seas - 10/2011, Oasis of the Seas - 5/2011, Celebrity Eclipse - 3/2011, Celebrity Millennium - 12/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas - 12/2010, Majesty of the Seas B2B 11/2010, Radiance of the Seas - 3/2010, Rhapsody of the Seas - 12/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 8/2009, Mariner of the Seas - 5/2009, Navigator of the Seas - 2/2009, Jewel of the Seas - 12/2008, Navigator of the Seas - 11/2008, Majesty of the Seas - 9/2008, Explorer of the Seas - 7/2008, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2008, Grandeur of the Seas - 3/2008, Brilliance of the Seas - 12/2007, Carnival Glory - 6/2007, Monarch of the Seas - 5/2007, Voyager of the Seas - 3/2007, Grandeur of the Seas - 12/2006, Carnival Miracle - 9/2006, Carnival Valor - 12/2005, Carnival Glory - 3/2005, Carnival Glory - 7/2003, Sovereign of the Seas - 7/2000, CCL Sensation - 12/1999, CCL Ecstasy - 12/1997, NCL ?? - 6/1996, Hawaiian American Independence - 1992, Premier Atlantic - 1991


Chris's guide for budget travel - Made for conferences (may make a cruise version some time) but airline, shuttle, Priceline, and Hotwire tips should remain the same

Cruise Albums on Flickr