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Mariner of the Seas Review 3/2-3/9/08


chas

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We have recently returned from our Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Mariner of the Seas and I wanted to take some time to tell you about it.

 

PRE CRUISE:

 

Our cruise started on Sunday March, 2nd, but we arrived in Cape Canaveral two days prior and stayed at the Radisson at the Port. That worked out real well. The room was very nice with “Sleep Number” beds, nice grounds, good location and close proximity to the dock (about 2 miles), free parking for the duration of your cruise and free shuttle to and from the ship, etc. There was some construction going on that did not bother us, however, depending on where your room was it my have been an issue. We would not hesitate to stay there again.

 

We rented a car from Thrifty at the Orlando airport and dropped it off at the Canaveral branch, a few miles from the Radisson. After the cruise we did the opposite to return to the airport. This Thrifty/Dollar location has a BIG problem with their shuttle service, especially when it comes to picking people up from the pier after the cruise. They had one medium-size van that serviced all 3 ships in port that Sunday morning. There is no organization to how people get picked up in the parking lot. Many folks who had been waiting a ½ hour or so were left behind again when people who had just left the terminal jumped in front of the “line” to board. Their van holds maybe 15 people and once it left it would not return for another 20-30 minutes. I do not recommend this rental car location based on this. We ended up waiting so long that we decided to jump on the Radisson shuttle and have someone else in our group, who had a car parked there, drive us to the local Thrifty office.

 

The location around Cape Canaveral offers several things to do. The first that may come to mind is Kennedy Space Center. Having been there a dozen years ago, and very disappointed with the tour offered, I was reluctant to return. It was my fascination with the space program that forced me to go back. KSC has changed quite a bit since my last visit. It almost has that “theme-park” feel (and theme-park prices to match). The displays are better, the Apollo/ Saturn 5 display is great, and the NASA “Up Close” tour (which ads $21 to your $38 admission) takes you to some pretty interesting places. Should you decide not to go to KSC, just go to the top deck of the Mariner and look north. You can’t miss the 500+ foot-tall Vehicle assembly building, and off to the right shuttle launch pads 39 A&B.

 

Based on info gathered here, we tried 2 restaurants down on the pier. One was “Fishlips” and the other one was “Grills”. Both are a short walk from each other and located on the channel that the cruise ships exit through. If you get down there around 4-5PM on the weekends, you can watch Disney, Carnival, or RCCL ships start their voyage.

Of the 2, I would say that Grills is much better. They had a real nice outdoor deck and bar that was really hopping. Fishlips had decent food but, poor service and not the great outdoor atmosphere that Grills offered.

 

EMBARKATION:

We arrived at the pier at about 11:30 on Sunday Morning. The terminal was very nice, the lines moved quickly, and we were on the Mariner by 11:45. I was told that people had been able to board as early as 11:20 that morning. Make sure that you have your ID and printed online registration in hand to speed things along.

 

THE SHIP:

 

I can’t say enough good things about this ship, the crew, the food, the service, etc.

Even though was have sailed on her sister ship, Adventure, Mariner has to be the nicest all-around ship that we have sailed on. While other ships are very strong in one area or another, the Mariner seemed to be consistently very good across the board. Not excellent across the board, but very good.

The Royal Promenade has to be one of the coolest innovations to be incorporated into a cruise ship. You feel like you are walking down a city street while at sea.

 

The cruise director, Graham Seymour, is quite funny and likeable. Captain “Per” seems decent and was very candid during the Q&A session that was held one morning in the theatre. I did find it strange though that the Captain, after his daily noon address, would then read the plugs for the acts appearing later in the evening. To hear him, with his Norwegian accent, saying: “don’t miss the zany comedy of **** tonight” seemed odd.

The crew of the Mariner is what you want and expect on a cruise. Most all of them look up, smile and say hello to you as you pass them in the halls, dining rooms, or other areas of the ship.

 

OUR CABIN:

 

We had a deck 6 Promenade-view room, about mid-ship. The room was nice. We have had cabins that felt and seemed larger, and offered better storage, but this was fine.

The Promenade view is both good and bad. There is always something to see outside and there is always something outside to see in- especially your neighbors across the way. You may find that you keep the drapes drawn more than you expected. It is definitely better than an inside cabin and at times maybe better than a non-balcony outside cabin (at night an outside cabin just sees black).

We did find the cabin to be noisy during the parades and such. The cabin was also noisy at night during rougher sea conditions, where it would flex and creak.

The bed was very firm and probably one of the best we’ve slept on while sailing. The way it is situated in the room doesn’t leave much room around the end to walk, but they have rounded the corners to try to help the problem.

Our cabin steward, Yvette, was very good and friendly. Our cabin actually got cleaned (unlike our NCLA cruise in Hawaii). Nice towel animals.

I would book this type of room again.

 

THE FOOD:

 

Good/Very Good!

The Windjammer and Jade buffets always had a good selection for breakfast and lunch that had some variances day to day. The Café Promenade is a 24 hour operation that offers coffee, sandwiches, pizza, pastries, desserts, etc. Real convenient and real good.

The main dining room was very good all week long and the selections offered something for everyone. The menus seemed to be a mix of old and new, as some would have the dessert selections on them and others required another menu after dinner. Also, this is the first time that I have seen a “mandatory” family-style salad served one evening.

A few items that come to mind: Garlicky Shrimp, Onion Tart, Artichoke Dip.

Our wait staff, Maurice and Jude, took good care of us.

 

THE ENTERTAINMENT:

 

The ice show was by far the best show of the week. They featured a Russian couple that was out of this world!

In the Savoy theatre the stuff ranged from fair to good. The comedy was decent, the production shows pretty good, the juggler was fair, and the ventriloquist we avoided altogether.

 

THE PORTS:

 

Since we have been to the ports before, this was a repeat for us. But one we welcomed.

I won’t fill you with too much detail as my wife likes to shop in most ports, I tend to get plenty of exercise walking while she is in the stores.

In San Juan, you get there around 3PM, which offered us about 4 hours of daylight. Whiles the girls shopped, the guys walked to the fort, which is about a mile from the ship. The fort was $3 admission and worth the trip. The rest of Old San Juan doesn’t do much for me.

 

St Maarten offers a very pretty bay and colorful beach area with many blocks of shopping behind it. Pay $6 for the full day of water taxi use so that you can easily get back to the ship from the beach area. We have found that this port tends to be one of the best for prices on Liquor. The ship is kind enough to hold it for you when you come back to the ship with it and then give it back to you on your last night of the cruise. Perhaps they are afraid that adults will do adult things with adult beverages (or not spend enough money in the ship’s bars).

We had considered doing the Orient beach thing, but I like to be in control of who I have to look at naked.

 

St Thomas is where you will go through customs while on the ship, so you do not have to when you get off back in Canaveral. It goes fast.

They have done this really great thing at this port. In case you don’t have the time to take a taxi 3 miles to the downtown area to walk around and shop, they have put a duplicate of most of those stores in long steel sheds right at the pier. God bless them. Now my wife can spend twice as much time shopping and see nothing new!

 

DISEMBARKATION:

There seems to have been some improvements made here to smooth the flow of traffic exiting the ship. We all know the only thing more important than being the first one on the ship is being the first one off!

When our colored tag was called (NOT BEFORE) we were able to walk right off of the ship with no log-jamb of people. The only real problem was getting your luggage. Here it is done similar to an airport with the belt-system in a small room. When your color is called to leave the ship your luggage is put on the belt (ideally). It took about 10-15 mins. for our luggage to show up. Once you find it, fight your way through the crowd, and pull it off of the belt, you are free to leave. No customs lines. Just hand your filled-out form to them as you leave (unless you have excessive declarations).

 

FINAL ACT:

 

To sum it up, this cruise was great and I would do it over (and over) in a heartbeat. Our entire group of 14 people all had an enjoyable time. The few things that were negatives along the way made little to no difference: Gee, this is the first cruise that I have been on where some idiot goes out at 7AM to put towels and beach bags on deck chairs in prime locations, only to show up 3 hours later to use them. Well, I hope you found your stuff after I moved it and sat down!!!

 

 

I’ll check back for a few days to answer any questions.

 

 

Chas

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Thank you for the beautiful report.

We have very similar plans to your vacation.

We will be staying at the Raddison also.

Do you think it is worth it to take a cab to the ship? Or use the shuttle?

On board, do they have food trays that you can take your food and beverages back to your room or on deck to eat?

Did you do the soda card?

Any extra info would be greatly appreciated.

Later

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Hi Sue,

 

Radisson seems to have a pretty good shuttle system in place and I would say to use them unless you want to get to the ship earlier than they can get you there. You have to sign-up for a shuttle time, and if the earlier ones are taken and you don't want to wait for a later one call a cab.

 

There are no trays used in the Windjammer or Cafe Promenade, which does make it a little akward even when eating right there. You end up making additional trips for beverages, desserts, etc. I can't remember the last time I saw trays being used on ships for other than room service?

 

We did not do the soda card, but some others in our group did ( I think it was about $45?). The Windjammer has Apple and Orange juice in the AM and Iced Tea and Lemonade at lunch (at no charge).

 

Enjoy your cruise!

 

Chas

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Nice positive review. Thanks.

 

We are taking her Dec 7th and have a hump balcony on the 8th. I originally intended to do a Prominade and still might sometime in the future.

 

Unfortunately, we booked with Thrifty already but are saving some money by taking a motel closer to I95 and keeping the rental until the next AM. I hope thier shuttle to the ship is better than thier one from the ship was for you.

 

You give us high hopes for the rest of the cruise. We've done NOS once so I'm sure we'll see some simularities. Graham Seymour was our CD also so I hope he's still there. What a bundle of energy he is.

 

I think you also talked me into into paying $6 for the water taxi in St Maartin.

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Hi Mamaza,

 

Thrifty was not too bad when it came to getting us to the ship because we arived early (11AM) at their location on Sunday morning to drop our car before boarding the ship. At that time they were still bringing people back from the pier that were getting off the ships that had just come in. That meant that the shuttles going to the ship were not overfull.

 

It was the day our cruise ended that we had the most problems, when they could not accomodate the amount of people getting off of 3 ships who needed rides back to pick up a rental car. They had an excuse both weekends in a row that their second shuttle had mechanical problems and was not running. First week bad battery, second week fluid leak.

 

Avis and Hertz were making multiple trips while we were waiting for Thrifty/Dollar to come back once. There are no lines or "corrals" to keep people that are waiting in an orderly fashion-first people to arrive should be first on shuttle. None of the rental companies are set up this way at the pier. Nor is there a representative standing there to issue people numbers to board. All that you have is a parking lot with areas marked for each company to pick people up in.

 

The water taxi in St Maarten was $4 one way or $6 to ride all-day. It was a no-brainer, especially if you want to return to the ship for lunch or to drop off some bags.

 

Have fun. Mariner is great!

 

Chas

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this is the first cruise that I have been on where some idiot goes out at 7AM to put towels and beach bags on deck chairs in prime locations, only to show up 3 hours later to use them. Well, I hope you found your stuff after I moved it and sat down!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was it that bad?? Whilst on the Mariner Dec/Jan there were loads of deck chairs with bag, books etc and nobody in sight it really irritated me

 

Glad you had a great cruise :D

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this is the first cruise that I have been on where some idiot goes out at 7AM to put towels and beach bags on deck chairs in prime locations, only to show up 3 hours later to use them. Well, I hope you found your stuff after I moved it and sat down!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was it that bad?? Whilst on the Mariner Dec/Jan there were loads of deck chairs with bag, books etc and nobody in sight it really irritated me

 

Glad you had a great cruise :D

 

 

Hi Deb,

 

No it wasn't that bad, but close.

 

That was my lame attempt at humor

 

Take care,

Chas

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Thank you to all who have read this.

 

One little tidbit for those of you who have portable, handheld "police" scanners: It is interesting to listen to all of the communication going on as the ship docks and un-docks. Set your scanner to 467.7750, stand out on deck while coming into or leaving a port and get the inside scoop.

 

Chas

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I concur with almost everything Chas said.

 

We stayed at the Radisson. We were, unfortunately, not impressed with our room at all. Our room was incredibly hot (and it was January). The air was not working too well. The fan was dusty and blew dust bunnies all over our beds. The fan sounded and looked like it was going to fall out of the ceiling. I had to ask them to send housekeeping to vacuum all the dust in our room. It was really bad. The vents looked like they hadn't been cleaned in at least six months. My brother and SIL stayed there too and said their room was wonderful. So it must have just been ours.

 

As to the dining (free breakfast), they are pretty tight on time and will watch you like a hawk. IF you have your free breakfast passes, put them on your table immediately when you sit down at the table. Otherwise, you will be hounded for your passes or asked if you have paid. Our waitress, a little blonde lady, was very nice. There was another waitress who was VERY rude to the people at the next table. She came over to us and asked us to leave because we were "taking up space." There was NO ONE waiting to come in. We were late down for breakfast and there was at least 30 minutes before lunch started.

 

I say take the shuttle. We had a great experience with the shuttle. No need to spend extra money (even a few dollars) on a cab unless you just want to get to the ship before you can take a shuttle. We were allowed to book in advance. So call the hotel and book your shuttle time.

 

The cruise was fantastic. We were on late seating so we got to relax a little bit with our dining. We did get a table way too big for our party. We were supposed to be a party of 7 but ended up a party of five. Two of our party had to cancel because of a death in the family. We were seated at a table for 10 in the way back section. We had fantastic waiters though. Aunario and Joel were our heroes. Our head waiter I believe was Frederico. He was super as well. And then our extra "water waiter" Donovan. Star of the show as far as my little niece was concerned. She LOVED him. He was from Jamaica and very dark complexion. So everyone is Jamaica was "Donovan" as far as she was concerned.

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It sounds like I am doing almost the same same thing - but we are doing Western... I am flying in just one day early - we are renting through Budget, though. Staying at the Radisson. I loved readng your report. SOunds like you had a good time. I am not going until the end of May, but am really glad. We also booked a Promenade room, but on the 8th floor, midship.

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Am interested that you stopped in San Juan....we've done the eastern Mariner out of PC twice but have only stopped in CocoCay, St.Martin and St.Thomas. Was SJ on the itinerary when you booked or was there a change due to weather/medical/other issues? Doing this again with extended family in July and would appreciate your feedback. Thanks

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San Juan was a scheduled stop. Kind of a waste, really, since we got in at 3:00 - no time to go to the rain forest or do much of anything. We ended up staying onboard.

 

Legaljen, you must have been seated near us - Frederico was our HW as well, and I think he was the best we've ever had - he really stepped in when our AW was overwhelmed - he had a table for 18 (3 tables consolidated after the first night), and it seemed as if each person had his or her own bottle of wine - my kind of people!

 

Whenever I wandered through the Solarium every single chair had a towel on it. Only about every third chair had a body on it, though. Since I wasn't staying I didn't do more than notice it, but I think I might have gotten up the nerve to take a few towels away if I had been looking for a seat. It was pretty obnoxious.

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Thanks and enjoyed your review, will be going back on Mariner for the second time June 8, 2008.

 

Would like to know more about how the customs works in St. Thomas as you talked about. Do you do this while in port or on the ship and if you go through customs in St. Thomas, what about your shopping to claim in St. Martain's port that you have not reached yet. Let me make sure I understand this correct. So your saying that when we arrive back in Orlando and they call our color that we just go right to the luggage pick up area and no customs line.

 

 

"St Thomas is where you will go through customs while on the ship, so you do not have to when you get off back in Canaveral. It goes fast."

 

 

Thanks,

Marcy

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Chas,

 

We were on the same sailing as you. We did the Western route last May (right out of drydock). We too found boarding to go very quickly.

 

We were thrilled to find out Graham was going to be on this sailing since this is not his ship. I believe he left Mariner Sundady (3/16). He is hysterical. It think anyone that enjoys Monty Python style humor would probably love his. The Love & marriage game was a riot. And of course Quest was great. And for those that caught it, his 'Morning Shows' were a riot. We joked about his comments/faces on the drinks of the day and 'Good luck with that' all week.

 

You are right the ice show was very good, but the special guests (the Russian couple) were AMAZING! I did feel bad for that one skater that wiped out a couple times. But he did a fantastic job getting right back on track.

 

We were on deck 8 (both sailings, same cabin,LOL) and our steward, Clova from Jamaica was GREAT!

 

As far as dining was concerned, we had a good waiter and our assistant waiter was nice but I suspect he had to many tables, but he tried hard. The head waiter was very nice. We went on the night they had escargot in the dining hall. When my mom found out and stated she was dissappointed, the next night the head waiter made a point of having our waiter bring her (and dad) each a serving.

 

To back up a minute, the first day, my mom wanted to switch tables. She went to speak to the Maitre D (who interestingly enough was our head waiter from the last cruise) and he was very short with her. He told her she had main dining and that should be all that mattered. Then he told her to come back at 6pm. When she got there, he just kept trying to tell everyone to get back from the podium (except the person being helped). When we were in line we spoke the folks behind us. They had a party of 4 assigned to a large table and wanted a table for 4. We had a party of 4 assigned to a 4 top and wanted to be at a larger table. We thought they could just switch us. The guy helping him finally moved us to another table. The party behind us asked for our table and they were just told NO there's nothing available. They pushed and TOLD him they knew our table was now avaiable so he finally gave it to them. That guy was RUDE!

 

In SJ we took a bus tour. It was interesting to see the city. Other than that SJ didn't do anything for us.

 

St. Martin was nice. We ended up doing a tour with other folks. They have mapped set prices for tours of the island. We did the outter island tour. It would have been $45 per person but since we waited (about 5 minutes) it only cost us $25 per person. Well worth it.

 

We also did the Segway Tour on the boardwalk. THAT WAS FUN! I thought for sure I would brake my leg but I had a blast. Our tour Guide Tayna was fantastic!

 

In St. Thomas we did the Atlantis sub. We enjoyed that alot. We also went up the Skyride and saw the bird show. What a great view.

 

 

Other than that we had a super time! I will definitely miss Mariner when she goes West. Might just have to book a tour out of CA sometime.

Erika

(p.s. Soda card was $7 a day plus tip - total $49.30 per adult. IF you drink 3 soda's a day, well worth it.)

 

(p.p.s. Bellatrix - Western was great. We ended up LOVING Labadee. Who would have thought. Seriously consider doing the Stingray excursion in Grand Caymen and absolutely do the Royal Swim in Cozumel!)

 

(p.p.p.s. - Marcy - The morning of St. Thomas, Imigration(?) boards the ship and you go to the dining hall with your passport. You walk through, and they look at your passport. My guy say my passport expires next month and mentioned it and we were done. Including waiting in line, took maybe 15 minutes. Then in Port Canaveral when you get your luggage, you hand your customs declaration to an agent, he looks and away you go. Amazingly quick, both processes.)

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birdylady--can you tell me if you have to have a pass port for the St. Thomas inmagation(spelled wrong?) We were told we did not have to have pass ports for our cruise on May 11. We are using our drivier license for our cruise. Thanks, knbb

We are in trouble if we have to have pass ports, to get off the boat. Let me know!

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I concur with almost everything Chas said.

 

We stayed at the Radisson. We were, unfortunately, not impressed with our room at all. Our room was incredibly hot (and it was January). The air was not working too well. The fan was dusty and blew dust bunnies all over our beds. The fan sounded and looked like it was going to fall out of the ceiling. I had to ask them to send housekeeping to vacuum all the dust in our room. It was really bad. The vents looked like they hadn't been cleaned in at least six months. My brother and SIL stayed there too and said their room was wonderful. So it must have just been ours.

 

Our head waiter I believe was Frederico. He was super as well. QUOTE]

 

 

Our room at the Radisson looked to be newly renovated and was very clean annd nice. It looks like they are in the process of "gutting" all the rooms, installing new front windows and doing a total inside makeover.

 

Frederico, from the Philipines, was also our head waiter. He helped us out a great deal on the San Juan day when we figured that we would miss our main seating and had just planned on a Windjammer dinner. He was able to switch our entire table over to late seating for that one night only and keep us with our same waitstaff. I was pleased and impressed. That's taking care of the customer!

 

Am interested that you stopped in San Juan....we've done the eastern Mariner out of PC twice but have only stopped in CocoCay, St.Martin and St.Thomas. Was SJ on the itinerary when you booked or was there a change due to weather/medical/other issues? Doing this again with extended family in July and would appreciate your feedback. Thanks

 

There was a little confusion when we first booked as some books Had Coco Cay and others showed San Juan. We did find out that Coco Cay had been replaced with SJ. Having been to both places previously, I would have preffered Coco Cay.

 

Thanks and enjoyed your review, will be going back on Mariner for the second time June 8, 2008.

 

Would like to know more about how the customs works in St. Thomas as you talked about. Do you do this while in port or on the ship and if you go through customs in St. Thomas, what about your shopping to claim in St. Martain's port that you have not reached yet. Let me make sure I understand this correct. So your saying that when we arrive back in Orlando and they call our color that we just go right to the luggage pick up area and no customs line.

 

 

"St Thomas is where you will go through customs while on the ship, so you do not have to when you get off back in Canaveral. It goes fast."

 

 

Thanks,

Marcy

 

Marcy,

 

The morning that you arrive in St. Thomas they have you go to one of the main dinning rooms from about 8-9:30 AM, even if you are not getting off of the ship that day. You take your room card and your Passport (ID) and you basically walk around in a big circle and stop at 3 different check points very breifly and then you are done. If you don't need to be off of the ship first thing, the line is almost nothing towards the end of the customs inspection.

 

You end up filling out that blue declarations card on your last day, so you can claim your St. Thomas purchases if necessary. If you are over on what you are declaring then you need to make it known when you are getting off of the ship and handing your form in.

 

The luggage deal is pretty straightforward. Let's say you are assigned "Yellow-1" for your bag tags. You put those on your bags the last night and put them in the hallway. On the last morning when Yellow-1 is called, you proceed off of the ship and to the baggage area where (hopefully) all of the Yellow-1 bags are just being loaded on the conveyor for you. When you find your bags, it's just like the airport, pull 'em off and leave. On the way out there is one customs agent collecting declaration forms "on the fly" as people pass by him. No interview, no sweating, nothing. First time it has ever been that easy.

 

 

Chas

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birdylady--can you tell me if you have to have a pass port for the St. Thomas inmagation(spelled wrong?) We were told we did not have to have pass ports for our cruise on May 11. We are using our drivier license for our cruise. Thanks, knbb

We are in trouble if we have to have pass ports, to get off the boat. Let me know!

 

You don't need a passport, but you do need a birth certificate (original or certified copy) in addition to your driver's license or other government-issued photo ID. You won't be able to board the ship without the BC or passport, never mind coming back home!:eek:

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