I know this is a month later, but we had a great time on the Mariner of the Seas as part of a charter by ECP Productions for Star Trek The Cruise V in late Feb/early March 2022. This is the second charter by ECP with Royal Caribbean. The last one was in March of 2020, just before the world shut down (we were on that one too. Prior to that they use NCL. The next ST cruise will be on Navigator of the Seas out of LA in Feb. 2023.
We are big Royal fans, so when they moved the ST cruises to RC, we were so happy. The biggest difference with a standard Royal Cruise vs. a charter, is the ECP staff take over the role of the cruise director and staff, and run all the entertainment on board. Hotel/Food/Beverage remained fully under RC crew domain. For the charter, you do not get any of the Crown & Anchor benefits on-board. You did get priority boarding, but with the way boarding was this year with timed arrivals, it did not make a difference. However, we did get Crown & Anchor points. And because we booked last year, we even got the double-point promotion which was a surprise. One other item was there were not real discounts or sales to pre-book shore excursions or the drink package. There was a one time promotion of the drink package, which i got, but not as cheap as your typical sales. They did over the speciality dining package, we got the 3-night package.
They did use the ship's band for a couple of the main stage events, as used one for the Pub and for the Schooner Bar.
ECP redecorates the ship and re-themes some of the bars and restaurants. Here is what they did for Mariner:
- Star Lounge became 5-Forward (Like TNG 10-Forward)
- The Pub became the Gregarious Gorn
- Schooner Bar - The Captains Retreat
- Bamboo Room - Trekkie-Tiki
- Boleros - Khan's Kantina
- Playmakers - TNG35 (They played TNG episodes non-stop
- Royal Casino - Quark's Casino
- Izumi - Hikaru's
Each had artwork put over the ships appropriate to the theme. Menu items were also adapted to the theme.
The entertainment were all the Star Trek actors that were on-board with shows and panels. There were two main shows a night, one for red cards, one for blue cards. Blue was first show, red for second. You chose which show you wanted during the reservation process. Plus the convention style photos and autograph sessions. Each night had a different Star Trek themed party.
The one big difference on the ship was the Main Dining Room. There wasn't any fixed seating times, so more like my time dining, but no reservations, and they only used the lowest level of the dining room.
Shore excursions were thru Royal. In 2020 and earlier, there were actor led shore excursions, but COVID restrictions on capacity of the excursions made them a no-go.
We enjoyed the ship. Mariner was a step up from Explorer from 2020. Better amenities. For dining, I was very disappointed in Jamie's Italian. We had Jamie's on Ovation and loved it. But the menu changed a bit. And the lasagna I had tasted burnt. I had to send it back. I can count on less than one-hand the amount of times I have done that in any restaurant in my life. They did give me a different pasta dish, which was okay. Izumi's (in this case Hikaru's) Hibachi was good. The rest of the group at the grill did not get into the jokes as much, so not quite as fun, but not because of the chef. My steak was good, but I have had better hibachi at a place by my home which unfortunately closed during COVID. Chops exceeded my expectations. I kind of thought Chops was over-rated when I had it a few times on other ships. But this time it was the best meal we had. The MDR food was good. I like that the portions seemed smaller. Less food waste.
For those interested some of the actors on board were: George Takei, Walter Koenig, Sonequa Martin-Green, Denise Crosby, John De Lancie, Terry Farrell, Nana Visitor, Max Grodenchik, Robert Picardo, Garrett Wang, John Billingsley, Connor Trinneer, Anthony Montgomery, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo, Casey Biggs, and several more...
We look forward to Navigator of the Seas next year. We are trying to figure out if we can swing the RC-Blog Group Cruise on Wonder of the Seas this December.