Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - CocoCay

By: Matt Hochberg

As I mentioned in yesterday's live blog entry, when we went to bed the night before we assumed our visit to CocoCay had been cancelled and we would spend the day in Nassau.

At around 7:45am or so, the Captain made an announcement that woke many of us up to inform us that the weather forecast had dramatically improved and that we would indeed visit CocoCay. He indicated we would depart immediately and arrive at CocoCay around noon.

I cannot recall an instance of a stop being cancelled and then uncancelled.  Nonetheless, everyone onboard was quite happy to have the opportunity to visit CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas quickly departed Nassau and we were on our way to CocoCay. 

There was not a ton of time or activities scheduled for the couple hours before we arrived, so we spent some time lounging on the pool deck. After, we started getting ready for the beach.

We arrived at CocoCay right around 11:45am and the ship was cleared by local authorities around 12:30 or so. Of course, with such a late arrival time, everyone wanted to depart immediately so it made for slow going to disembark. We eventually got off the ship and onto CocoCay.

Walking down the pier, I quickly took notice of a few changes made since our last visit, primarily related to the progress being made behind the construction walls.

Our plan was to head right to the Oasis Lagoon pool, and I was quite happy to spot umbrellas added to the area.  

We spent our day in and out of the pool, enjoying a relaxing day at Oasis Lagoon.  Once again, it seemed everyone I spoke with was quite impressed with the state of CocoCay and excited to see the next stages open.

The all aboard time was 7pm, but we had reservations for the escape room on Mariner, so we departed CocoCay a bit earlier than I would have liked.

Back onboard, we showered and dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean before heading up to deck 14 for the Observatorium escape room.

The escape room game on Mariner of the Seas is unlike the one on Harmony or Anthem or Symphony of the Seas.  We tried our best, but failed to escape in time.  Regardless, it was a fun challenge and I recommend it to others to try, especially if you are in a group.

Dinner brought us to the Windjammer, followed by some time at the pub prior to another round of The Quest in Studio B.

I am happy to report our group, represented by captains Claire and Michael, where triumphant in winning the Quest once again!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Nassau

By: Matt Hochberg

We are back in Nassau for our first full day of the second leg of this sailing. Having been in Nassau two days earlier, it was kind of interesting to be back in a port of call quite so quickly.

I had booked a shore excursion for today to try out a flight simulator experience that I booked via Royal Caribbean.  Yes, flight simulator and yes, I am that geeky.

The excursion is run by Jetline Simulations, where they take you into a full Boeing 737 NG simulator to try to fly the airliner from gate to takeoff to landing and to gate again.

You get the full experience of flying the plane, from programming the flight computer, to adjusting the flaps, to taking off and landing.

They allow you to pick from a variety of airports to fly to or from, and it was a ton of fun.  I loved every second of it, and the staff were terrific too!

After the excursion, I headed back to the ship for lunch and to meet up with the family.

We had lunch in the Windjammer and then my wife went to the salon for a haircut, while I took the kids to play mini golf, and play around the ship.

My fun with the kids included a requisite stop at Ben & Jerry's for some ice cream.

We were scheduled to be in Nassau until midnight, so a few of us from the group opted to have dinner in Nassau at a place called Meze Grill.

It was about a 10 minute taxi ride away, very close to the Baha Mar resort on the western end of the island.  

The restaurant was quite lovely, and it had that industrial chic look that a lot of happening spots in the United States tend to have.  Their menu is what I would consider to be nouveau American. Steaks, pasta, shrimp, salads, are typical of the menu.

It was a great meal, albeit a bit pricey. Nonetheless, it was a good time and I was glad to try it out.

We walked back onto Mariner and enjoyed a great view of the ship.

Once onboard, the Captain announced that unfortunately due to the weather forecast we would have to cancel our scheduled stop tomorrow in CocoCay.

As you might imagine, many of us were disappointed to hear that news.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, the Captain announced we would indeed head to CocoCay and be there by noon! Tomorrow's live blog will have more CocoCay fun!

Stray Observations

  • Since the ship was staying in Nassau so late, the ship received special clearance to open up the shops and casino by 7pm.  Usually when in port, shops and casino must remain closed.

Radiance of the Seas to sail from Brisbane, Australia in 2020

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will offer over 20 sailings out of Brisbane, Australia from November 2020 to destinations in the South Pacific. 

Radiance will first under go a multi-million dollar dry-dock in 2020 and then homeport from Brisbane.

Radiance of the Seas will be the largest ship to sail from the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal in late-2020.

Video: Amped Up Navigator of the Seas Arrives in Homeport of Miami

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean International’s newly amplified Navigator of the Seas is now sailing from her new year-round home in Miami with a $115 million new look. With a thrilling combination of bold, new adventures and Royal Caribbean favorites, including adrenaline-inducing experiences, an array of elevated dining and nightlife and memory-making moments, Navigator has been reimagined into the ultimate short Caribbean getaway from South Florida. The 3,386-guest ship offers sail 5- and 9-night Caribbean itineraries through May 2019, and then sets course for The Bahamas with 3-night weekend and 4-night weekday cruises, including visits to the cruise line’s new, highly anticipated private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay – the unparalleled thrill and chill destination.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Turnaround day

By: Matt Hochberg

The second leg of our cruise begins today and that means a turnaround day in Miami.

When you do a back to back cruise, you get to stay onboard and then be escorted by Royal Caribbean through the re-boarding process. In my case, I had to actually disembark on my own because I had a meeting to go to in Miami.  As a result, I went down to Guest Services to get my new SeaPass card for the next sailing, along with my consecutive cruiser card.  This would allow me to bypass some of the normal embarkation process later.

I walked off the ship at around 8am and it was a very smooth process, thanks in part to the efficiency of Terminal A. 

Following my meeting, I returned to Terminal A and was able to bypass the regular check-in process for a special line for those that are doing consecutive cruises.  Shortly thereafter I was back on Mariner of the Seas for my second sailing!

Back on the ship, we celebrated the start of leg two with some drinks at Playmakers.  To my surprise, I evidently forgot to purchase the drink package for this leg, so bought it at the bar.  

Despite being a consecutive cruiser, there is still a lot to do on embarkation day.  We started off at the pool to take advantage of the lower crowds, but then had to still check-in for Adventure Ocean and arrange our dining plans.

We had lunch at Playmakers, which took a bit longer than I thought it would. Nonetheless, the food was great and I really enjoyed the nachos and chicken sandwich.

Muster drill came and went and it was time to sail away…again!

A few of us headed down the Bamboo Lounge for some drinks and I decided to try out the small plates on the menu.

As a sushi fan, the ahi tuna was my favorite, but the pork sliders were highly rated.

For dinner we decided to keep it casual tonight and hit up the Windjammer. Great spread and they always have my favorite, which is Indian curry.

After dinner, we played love music movie trivia (obviously my wheelhouse) and then hit up the Pub for some drinks and Jenga! A fun time was had by all, especially Michael Poole.

Royal Caribbean teases upcoming announcement in Australia

By: Matt Hochberg

The Royal Caribbean marketing department down under has got a lot of Aussies excited for some sort of news. 

In an email to guests, Royal Caribbean simply included an image of the aft of a ship with the words, “Big news is coming”.

The Royal Caribbean Australia & New Zealand Instagram account shared an indication the answer is coming “this week”.

What do you think the announcement is about? Share your guesses in the comments!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau

By: Matt Hochberg

Our second port stop brings us to Nassau, Bahamas and it is St. Patrick's Day as well!

Before our celebration of St. Patrick's Day could commence, we needed to jump-start our morning with some good old coffee.  Luckily, Mariner of the Seas features a standalone Starbucks kiosk.

Drinks are not included with the drink packages at any Starbucks kiosks, but I am more than happy to pay for top quality coffee to get me going.

We had breakfast in the Windjammer at around 9:30, and then dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean.  Adventure Ocean is open non-stop while the ship is in any port, so the kids got to play while we celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

Prior to the cruise we found an Irish Bar very close to the port that was easily walkable called Shenanigans.

We headed over there and they opened a few mintues after 11am.

As you might imagine, an Irish Bar on St. Patrick's Day is a hub of activity, and we enjoyed a few drinks while celebrating together.

Shenanigans was great, but the drink prices were quite steep.  By the afternoon we walked around Nassau a bit, with a pit stop at Senor Frogs and Pirate Republic Brewing.  After that, it was time to head back to the ship for some much-needed pizza!

Onboard, we picked the kids up and relaxed in our rooms for a bit. I took my oldest daughter to the Perfect Storm water slides, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I took in the sights of Nassau as our ship set sail back for Miami.

Being St. Patrick's Day, there was a lot of decorations on the Royal Promenade in celebration of the holiday. In addition, there was a special edition of St. Patrick's Day trivia.

Dinner this evening was at Jamie's Italian, and the service was impeccable.  Of course, the food was great too and like so many other visits to Jamie's, we had a lot to food on the table at any given time.

After dinner, many of us from the group headed down to the Pub on the Royal Promenade to enjoy music, drinks and a couple rounds of Jenga!

Stray Observations

  • Since we are staying onboard for the next sailing, a letter was delivered to our room with instructions on what to do tomorrow when one sailing ends and the other begins.
  • Speaking of turnaround day, it is definitely a weird feeling when you know it is the last day of a cruise but since you are not getting off the ship, there is no feeling of dismay associated with the end of a cruise.

Tomorrow is turn-around day in Miami.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - CocoCay

By: Matt Hochberg

Our second day on Mariner of the Seas is taking us to the beautiful private island of CocoCay, and today we have a real surprise.

Our visit today marks the first time a Royal Caribbean ship is able to dock and disembark guests via the new pier.  After months of anticipation, the pier is operational and I was excited to disembark in a much simpler fashion.

The pier was not the only big change, as three new venues were in a “soft opening” for guests today that are part of the massive Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover: Oasis Lagoon pool, Chill Grill and Snack Shack.

I posted a ton of photos of these three venues here, so be sure to check them out if you have not seen them yet.

Oasis Lagoon is as impressive as it is large. It was fully open, including its giant swim up bar and water features.  As a “pool guy” (as in I prefer pools over the ocean), Oasis Lagoon might just be my new favorite spot! 

My daughters loved splashing at the pool, and we spent our afternoon enjoying the new venue.  I do hope they add more shade, because there is little to none to be found. Of course, this is a soft opening so changes are to be expected.

I am pretty sure when we come back to CocoCay next week we will spend most of our day at Oasis Lagoon.

During lunch I checked out the spread at Chill Grill, and was delighted to see more than just the typical CocoCay lunch fare.  In addition to hot dogs, burgers and ribs, there were Cuban sandwiches, build your own tacos, salsa bar, and more.  Great spread!

Prior to the cruise I booked a cabana and it was my first time trying a cabana at CocoCay. In years past, the cabanas were located elsewhere but these new cabanas are located just about in the middle of the beach area, with private beach and swimming area, exclusive buffet lunch, and the usual cabana amenities. 

I was able to snag the cabana for a steal of a price during a Cruise Planner sale, and it was worth every penny.

Weather-wise, today was perfect.  High temperatures in the low 80s, a gentle breeze and barely any clouds. 

Having walked CocoCay and checked out some of the progress being made, it is getting exciting seeing all of this come together.

All aboard was at 4:30pm and I think I got back onboard at 4pm, which is so much later than usual.  

The kids I think fell asleep before their head hit the bed for a nap while we got ready for dinner.

I promised my kids some time to check out the signature activities, so they got showered and changed quickly and we headed up to the SkyPad.

Luckily when we got there it was open exclusively to The Key guests, so we had no wait.  My oldest got to do try it out, while my four year old was too young/small to do the SkyPad but the staff allowed her to sit down and put on the virtual reality headset so she could see what her big sister was seeing. 

After the SkyPad we fed the kids and dropped them off at Adventure Ocean.

We had no dinner plans, but were able to get into Chops Grille and use our Diamond Plus BOGO free offer. It was a great meal and our waiter was terrific.

After dinner we enjoyed some beverages in the Bamboo Room, followed by The Quest!

The Quest is best described as an adult scavenger hunt, and I am proud to announce Michael and Sara from our group were victorious in representing our group and winning it all!

Stray Observations

  • This was a sign on some food to be delivered to the island, but I wanted to have a copy to affix to myself when I am stuck at home and missing a day like today.
  • Speaking of clever signs, I like this one too.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau, Bahamas.

First look at first new venues at Perfect Day at CocoCay

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean opened the first part of its major enhancement of its private island in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas docked at CocoCay today, marking the first time a Royal Caribbean ship docked and disembarked guests on the island.  The pier allows ships to forgo the tendering process.

We got a chance to look around at the three major new venues open on Perfect Day at CocoCay, the Oasis Lagoon pool, Snack Shack and Chill Grill.

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay


Walkway from pier to the beach

Straw market shopping

Oasis Lagoon - the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean

Snack Shack

Chill Grill

The new pier, Oasis Lagoon and dining venues represent a major step in the private destination's transformation into Perfect Day at CocoCay.  The first phase of Perfect Day at CocoCay is officially scheduled to open in May with Thrill Waterpark, the Zip Line, Splashaway Bay aqua park, Up, Up and Away helium balloon, Captain Jack’s Galleon, Skipper’s Grill dining, Captain Jack’s dining, Chill Island, Chill Grill dining, and Oasis Lagoon freshwater pool slated to open. 

South Beach, Coco Beach Club and the overwater cabanas will open in December 2019.

Please note that these dates might be subject to change depending on the progress of construction.

Perfect Day at CocoCay is a $200 million upgrade to the cruise line's private island in the Bahamas that was first announced in March 2018.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

By: Matt Hochberg

Our next Royal Caribbean cruise is here and we are boarding the recently refurbished Mariner of the Seas for three sailings in a row!

We started off our day by staying in a Hampton Inn and Suites in Coconut Creek, which is about an hour north of downtown Miami.  Great hotel and served its purpose for a good pre-cruise hotel.

We hopped in the car in the morning and got to Terminal A at PortMiami by 9:45am and to my surprise the terminal was already open and allowing guests to check in.

We had completed the check-in via the Royal Caribbean app, so check-in was a breeze and boarding began right around 10:30am.

The last time we were on Mariner of the Seas was 10 years ago for our honeymoon, so returning to the ship is a bit of a homecoming for us.

In addition, we purchased The Key for this sailing to try it out.  For embarkation they invited Key guests to board in the same group as Diamond Plus and Diamond.  Since I’m Diamond Plus, it did not benefit us much.

One really nice benefit of The Key is you can drop off carry-on luggage and they will deliver it to your room.  I really loved this perk, because typically we end up hauling a bunch of things around until the room is ready.

Another Key benefit is we get lunch at Chops Grille.  I had just done Chops for lunch on Brilliance of the Seas last month, so I had a decent frame of reference for this meal.  The food was as good as always, but unfortunately the service was quite slow.  

After lunch the kids were biting at the chomp to do something more their speed, so we put on our swim suits and enjoyed a bit of pool time.  It was a bit rainy, but the sun was starting break through.

By this point the rooms were ready, so we went up to our room on deck 8.  We have a balcony stateroom towards the aft of the ship, and will be our room for the next three sailings. Our stateroom attendant, William, is terrific and very attentive.

Following muster drill, we started out enjoying sail away on a now much sunnier day on the helipad, but moved to the pool deck to get a bit of shade.

Being a three-night cruise, there is a lot of activities packed into the first day of the cruise.  Ice show, 70’s night, balloon drop, just to name a few. 

I took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean promptly at 7pm.

Next up was the ice show in Studio B. I cannot recall if it is the same show that we saw 10 years ago, but we got great seats.  With The Key, there was reserved seating but I found available seats that I preferred elsewhere.

The show was fun, and I generally enjoy the ice skating shows.  Good performers and a fun premise.

After the show it was up to the main dining room for dinner.  The waitress was able to bring my a serving of Indian curry, along with my favorite dish on the menu – spaghetti Bolognese.

Since we had second seating dinner at 8:30pm, once we were out of dinner it was time for music around the ship.  In lieu of the 70’s party on the Royal Promenade, we headed down the Schooner Bar for some sing along favorites.

Stray Observations

  • Cafe Promenade has a line for pizza and a line for everything else. 
  • Embarkation day cake is the best kind of cake.
  • We had a missing suitcase for quite a while, but luckily it showed up after our stateroom attendant tracked it down.
  • If you happened to be a Diamond Plus or higher, someone figured out you could buy a Voom package on day one and get a first day discount combined with the Diamond Plus discount for a grand total of $2 for the duration of the 3 night sailing.