Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas finished a multiweek dry dock earlier this month, but what exactly has changed?
Every five years or so, cruise ships are temporarily taken out of service so that they can go in for maintenance work.
Unlike a Royal Amplification, Royal Caribbean doesn't discuss the details of a dry dock, which leaves many cruisers wondering what's new or different about the ship once it returns to service.
I boarded Mariner of the Seas today and walked around the ship to see what noticeable changes are present for anyone else sailing on her.
Dry dock vs Amplification
Depending on the cruise line's plan, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship could get a number of enhancements and changes. Or, it could simply go in for maintenance without real changes the average guest would notice.
There are two terms for these kind of services: refurbishment and amplification.
A refurbishment is when a ship is taken to dry dock for a shorter period of time to do primarily cosmetic changes and maintenance work.
During an amplification, the same cosmetic and maintenance work is done, but there are also enhancements made to the ship, such as adding new restaurants, activities, bars and more.
When Mariner of the Seas went in for dry dock in 2018, she had a $120 million Amplification, but this time around in 2023, it was a dry dock.
Mariner of the Seas updates and changes
I walked around Mariner of the Seas to see what's new, different, or generally noticeable.
First and foremost, the outside of the ship has a new paint job.
During a dry dock, the ship is taken out of the water so that not only can its engines, propellors, and other systems be attended to, but the hull can be repainted. All that sea water and humid air from the ocean takes a toll on the aesthetics of the ship.
Speaking of the hull, Royal Caribbean also took the opportunity to fix a hole in the aft of the ship that occurred when a cargo vessel drifted into Mariner while in Freeport, Bahamas.
In April 2022, a cargo vessel made contact with the ship while Mariner of the Seas was docked in Freeport.
A small, superficial gash was left near the jogging track on the back of the ship and it was temporarily covered up with some steel.
During the dry dock, this is now completely fixed.
Another change Royal Caribbean made to Mariner of the Seas (and every other ship that has a SkyPad) was to remove the trampolines and supporting equipment for the SkyPad.
Last month, Royal Caribbean announced it was getting rid of the SkyPad on all of its ships.
The SkyPad structure is still there, but the area is now being used for various complimentary activities such as bean bag toss and dance classes.
The SkyPad was also re-painted.
Both pool decks on 11 and 12 were re-surfaced.
Not directly related to the refurbishment, but the pool chairs have signs on them about not reserving them all day.
We've seen this on other cruise ships in the fleet as an attempt to prevent the chair hog problem, which has been an issue for many years.
The door on deck 13 to the sports deck was replaced. It used to be a heavy door with a handle and is now a sliding automatic door.
The water slides were re-painted.
The ending area where you splash in when the ride is also remodeled.
Speaking of aquatic fun, the FlowRider received a new pump.
Underneath the ship is where most of the maintenance occurred, with the ship's azipods, engines and other critical systems serviced.
One incredibly small change was the aft stairwell had their wallpaper replaced.
There were no changes to the cabins, and also no carpeting was replaced on the ship.
Since dry dock, Mariner of the Seas has been experimenting with a complimentary lunch open to all guests in the main dining room on deck 3.
The goal is to alleviate pressure on the Windjammer buffet, but from what I've heard from crew members, it's still a test and not a fleetwide policy.