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There is only one First Time - Mariner of the Seas B2B Oct 14-18, 18-21


Marc Van Niekerk
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This is our first ever back to back cruise, our first as diamond, our first cruise on Mariner and out first visit to the newly renovated Coco Cay.  We chose this cruise for the ship and the chance to visit Coco Cay since it seems EVERYONE has already had the opportunity.

We managed to get the same aft corner balcony for both legs of the cruise so that is a definite bonus.

I will try to keep this up as we cruise but I am also trying to focus on relaxation.  

I will begin at Day 0 in my next post.

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We began out vacation a day before as @Matt always suggests, and took advantage of the day in the Port Canaveral Area to tour Kennedy Space Center.  It was an interesting visit, but I'm just not sure it was worth the cost.  We booked our admission in advance and feel that the $52 USD admission was a bit high for what we experienced.  It was interesting but not blow your mind.  I managed a few photos on the bus tour but the 2 hour wait was longer than the tour itself.  The highlight was probably the Apollo/Saturn V Center where you can experience a simulation of the launch as well as tour an arena where a Saturn V rocket is on display.  The bus tour also took us past SpaceX and their launch facilities as well as the massive Vehicle Assembly Building.

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Redstone Rocket

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Space X Launch pad

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NASA SLS Launch pad

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Transport Crawler

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Cralwer Path

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Orion launch abort module

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Vehicle Assembly Building

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Apollo / Saturn V Control Room

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Saturn V Rocket

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Atlantis Pavillion

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2 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Have a fun B2B! Does this mean you're getting a total of 3 days in Coco Cay (2 on the first leg, 1 on the second), or is each leg only doing a single stop?

Unfortunately, we only have 2 days at Coco Cay.  Real time, it is presently Day 2 and we are at sea coasting to Nassau.

Sea day is  a great way to relax though.

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Continuing on, I realize that I didn't discuss itinerary.  Both sailings are going to Nassau and Coco Cay.  The 4nt (first leg) has us embarking on Monday, a Sea day Tuesday, Nassau Wednesday, Coco Cay Thursday and back to Port Canaveral on Friday.  Our second leg omits the sea day an visits Nassau and Coco Cay in that order.

For the first visit to Nassau, we have scheduled a sunset cruise.  We figure this will give us a nice opportunity to see Nassau from a different perspective since we have been there so many times.  In Coco Cay we managed to snag a great deal on an Oasis Lagoon Cabana.  We have never had a cabana so that will be a nice experience.

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Day 1

Embarkation Day!  

We finally made it to embarkation day and thanks to the advice of many we had one of the smoothest experiences ever.  We had rented a car from the Orlando Airport and driven ourselves to KSC and later in the day our hotel and diner with some friends at Grills.

In the morning we loaded our luggage into the rental car, drove to the port and left the luggage with a porter before returning the rental.  We took the rental shuttle back to the port and simple as all that we were done.  Facial recognition got us up to the lounge quickly where between Diamond status, the Key and Priority Embarkation we were amount the first to be called to board.

Our first order of business was to check out the Diamond Club loungswhich we found to be completely empty!

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From there we headed down to the Solarium where we relaxed on a cabana style bed.

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We then went in search of our lunch which was Chops menu served in the main dining room.

I can see why they do this.  It gives them much more space to handle the luggage drop off as well as get you all the information that goes along with The Key.

We enjoyed our lunch immensely with a complimentary mimosa.

I'm not much for food and menu photos so those will be scarce in this blog.

With lunch completed we headed to our cabin.  As I may have mentioned we managed to get the same aft corner balcony (9690) for both sailings.

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The balcony is spacious, although those not on the corner are a more regular shape.  There is some superstructure in the area but I haven't hit my head on it yet....

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One other item to note is that this cabin does not have the conventional slider, but rather a hinged door heading to the balcony.

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After muster, we headed to up top to catch sail away.  I don't find the scenery from Port Canaveral too compelling so just a few photos here.

Probably the most interesting here is that Mariner had pulled in bow first and so to exit we had to use the turning basin to properly orient the ship.

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Day 2

Day 2 is a sea day and kind of a lazy one.  We started with breakfast in the windjammer, followed by his and hers pedicures,.

The windjammer on Mariner is quite nice and wasn't too busy when we arrived.

Afterwards we made our way once again to the Diamond lounge for a little quiet time, and ten to our cabin to enjoy our balcony.  I took some time to start this blog and try out the new notebook I had gotten.  This is our first trip with the new notebook and the key is that it is powerful enough to process photos ant small and portable enough to carry in my camera bag which is only advertised to carry a tablet.  It is performing admirably.

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Of course, the view from the balcony was not hard to take either!

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Finally the time rolled around to 1PM, the reserved time for Key guests at the Flow Rider.  During the 1 hour session I was able to ride 3 times which is pretty good for that span of time.

There were some younger people there showing how its done.

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When my turn came up, I tried starting on my own for the first time.  I have use d the FlowRider on several cruises before and always started with staff helping me.  It all worked out just fine and I was able to get going for several seconds on my first try.

I will upload videos of the first two runs later (VOOM isn't exactly cooperative right now)

On my final try I had a good run and my wife was taking still photos from start to eventual fall.

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One note about FlowRider on Mariner compared to other ships is that they have riders lining up across the top of the FlowRider and call the next person down as the current gets started.  On most other ships people have been lined up beside.  Also the staff were making first time riders do a Boogie Board session before stand up.  Riders who had done that first run were given blue wristbands.  I somehow managed not to be made to do the Boogie Board on my first try, then on my second since I didn't have the  wristband they wanted me to do boogie.  I explained that they had already let me do stand up and they just gave me the blue band and let me continue stand up.

That was most of our activity for the Sea Day.  I did manage one more run on the FlowRider before our dinner reservation at Chops and the time spent in line for one turn was about an hour.


 

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4 hours ago, Marc Van Niekerk said:

  During the 1 hour session I was able to ride 3 times which is pretty good for that span of time.

 

Was That Boggie Or Standup? Last Cruise On Harmony I Had The Standup Wave To My Self For A Whole Hour.

4 hours ago, Marc Van Niekerk said:

Also the staff were making first time riders do a Boogie Board session before stand up.

This Is Fleet Wide. 

 

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On 10/15/2019 at 12:12 PM, Marc Van Niekerk said:

This is our first ever back to back cruise, our first as diamond, our first cruise on Mariner and out first visit to the newly renovated Coco Cay.  We chose this cruise for the ship and the chance to visit Coco Cay since it seems EVERYONE has already had the opportunity.

We managed to get the same aft corner balcony for both legs of the cruise so that is a definite bonus.

I will try to keep this up as we cruise but I am also trying to focus on relaxation.  

I will begin at Day 0 in my next post.

We leave this Friday on Mariner, also in an Aft Balcony #8390

Its also our first Diamond cruise too! 

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We are now off Mariner and as I wait at the airport, I am able to post photos so, here we go!

Continuing with day 3 we had a relatively quiet day planned with a Sunset Cruise around Paradise Island for the evening.

We left the ship around lunch with the primary goal of looking for some new sandals for me.  As we exited the ship there were some great opportunities for photos of Mariner as there were only 2 ships in port and we had docked nose in.  One issue I have been encountering is that my camera fogs up when leaving the ship for excursions due to the transition from air conditioning to the heat and humidity of the island.  Not sure how others manage this but I'm searching for ideas.

My camera was much more agreeable on return to the ship so I snapped a couple shots on the way in.

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Our sunset cruise departed around 6 PM with sunset being around 6:45.

We made our way up the pier and round to the far end of King George Wharf where we boarded our tour boat.

The boat cruised past the British Colonial Hilton and around the cruise ships toward the lighthouse at the end of Paradise Island before heading under the causeways connecting the island to New Providence. 

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This route provided some water perspective on Mariner and Carnival Liberty in port,

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a closer view of the lighthouse at the end of Paradise Island,

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and a pre-sunset view of the Nassau skyline.

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There was also a replica pirate vessel heading out of the port

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We passed by the Atlantis resort properties.

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There are some really colorful homes along the way reminiscent of those in Curacao.

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The sky was relatively overcast as we left that area of the port so we were unsure how much sunset we were going to be able to see.

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There were some other interesting structures along the way such as this Fort build near the water

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I will continue the sunset pictures in the next post.

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Day 3 Continued

The sun had not quite set but the sky was showing some promise.

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We then approached Pearl Island which was our destination for our next visit to Nassau, but more on that later (Day 6)

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It was about here that the boat turned back toward the cruise port and directly into the setting sun.

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Meanwhile on the Horizon we could see the departing Carnival Sunshine.

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I think the overcast sky ended up being a bit of a blessing with even more dramatic contrast for the setting sun.

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We grabbed a few Sunset Selfies.

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Then the sun really started to approach the horizon quickly.

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Meanwhile, we were back alongside the ships on the outside of Paradise Island.

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And the sun reached the horizon.

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Bathing the Atlantis resort in a golden glow

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Back to the setting sun....

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A great chance to see Mariner lit up in the dim light

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and a last look at the setting sun

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Upon return to the ship, Mariner was looking gorgeous all lit up.

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We had missed our dining window so we settled for a quick bite in the windjammer before returning to our cabin where we found a cute frog waiting for us.

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Up next is Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

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44 minutes ago, Marc Van Niekerk said:

One issue I have been encountering is that my camera fogs up when leaving the ship for excursions due to the transition from air conditioning to the heat and humidity of the island.  Not sure how others manage this but I'm searching for ideas.

Common problem in humid areas.  The only thing you can do is try to acclimate your camera gear well before you think you'll need it. 

When I have a balcony I'll sit them out there for 15 or 20 minutes before heading out.

If we are arriving in port or I am going to take pictures around the ship I leave the cabin well ahead and let my camera gear adjust before I start shooting.  

You have to be even more careful if changing lens when the camera is cold.  Opening the body to remove a lens will cause condensation to build on the sensor and once that is allowed to happen all of your pictures can have small dark spots even after the condensation has dried.  At that point you have to clean your sensor.  I do that myself but those not comfortable with the task will need to visit a camera store back home to have it done.

Sometimes I pick a lens before leaving my cabin and go with it for the day just to avoid having to expose my camera guts to the elements.   

If you like your cabin really cold and crank the A/C it's even worse.  

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20 hours ago, twangster said:

When I have a balcony I'll sit them out there for 15 or 20 minutes before heading out.

I have done this too and forgot to open my camera bag a bit which caused it to act as an insulated bag keeping the camera cool much longer than I expected and resulting in fogging ater all.

20 hours ago, twangster said:

You have to be even more careful if changing lens when the camera is cold.  Opening the body to remove a lens will cause condensation to build on the sensor and once that is allowed to happen all of your pictures can have small dark spots even after the condensation has dried.  At that point you have to clean your sensor.  I do that myself but those not comfortable with the task will need to visit a camera store back home to have it done.

This is a very important and wise piece of advice.  I hadn't considered the implications of this.

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Day 4, Perfect Day at Coco Cay

Apologies for taking so long to get more posted, it has been some busy times since returning home.

The good news is that by taking some time to post more photos it allows me to relive the trip.

 

I will begin by saying that the first glimpse of Coco Cay post renovation was very exciting.  We have been here several times before and only missed it a couple due to weather but the renovated island is seriously impressive!  Due to our aft balcony we had a fantastic view!

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I will also state for the record that I forgot to change the ISO setting on my camera from the sunset photos the night before (NEWB move!) and the sun was so bright it took me a while before I was able to review them on the camera to see the error of my ways.  As a result things may be a little grainy and overexposed.  The saving grace is that a few days later I will be back at Coco Cay to do it all over again!

When we exited the ship there were carts at the ready to whisk us down the pier to the island proper.  This is something we greatly appreciate due to the fact that my wife has very bad knees.  It allowed us to save some time and energy.  I will also note that some of the carts have ramps and space for strollers and wheelchairs which is an incredible plus for those who need such special accommodation.

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Signs abound on the island to help you find your way and the paths are paved with specifically colored pave stone to aid in navigation.

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From this point we elected to walk becuase there were no shuttles waiting and we were impatient to get to Oasis Lagoon.  In hindsight we could have waited to again save some time.  IT was hot already before 8AM for this Canadian.

Along our walk was the entry to the Thrill Waterpark

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and our path was along Sandy Lane which was paved in red.

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This took us past Splashaway Bay

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and to Oasis Lagoon where Up, Up and Away loomed large over the chairs.

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We were looking for the Oasis Lagoon Cabanas which were over the bridge and past the Swim Up Bar which at this hour was pretty quiet.

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In fact, the whole pool area was very quiet still.

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We reached the cabana area and our attendant gave us wristbands and led us to our cabana.

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The cabana amenities are fantastic.  We found several chairs,

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a sofa with towels, a table with an unlocked and lockable cubby in it

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as well as  cooler filled with ice cold water.

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The view from the cabana was rather nice but no direct line of sight to the pool.

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On the table were menus for food and drink

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as well as a call button to page your cabana attendant.  I pressed this before it was explained to me and I was surprised just how fast they responded.

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We preceded to relax for a while and take advantage of the pool area.

We did press the button intentionally to order the island specialty Coco Loco as well as lunch which was prepared at the Snack Shack and delivered to us.

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I will add that the food was incredible and certainly lived up to the hype from those we had spoken to who had visited the island before.

After a very satisfying lunch, I set out on a little photo safari around the island to see some of the other changes while my wife took full advantage our our shady cabana to relax and read.

By this time the pool was much busier but not what I would consider crowded.  I will also add that a DJ plays poolside and you could definitely hear that in the cabana area.

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The beach areas were fairly populated and the floating bar was too.

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The Beach Beds were along the Tram Route near where the construction was ongoing for the Coco Beach Club and looked quite comfortable as well.

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Chill Grill received some attention too since we were here last with fresh awnings paint and food selections.

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I made my way around the island and found a great view of Mariner at the pier 

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as well as a pretty gazebo where weddings are held.

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Daredevil Tower in the water park is certainly what I consider on of the defining landmarks of the island

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There are ample locations to get wonderful photos of the ship

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and I managed to grab a quick shot of some people on the Zip Line

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That pretty much ended my photos for the day.   I returned to the Cabana and we visited the pool a couple more times before heading back to the ship around 4:00.

This blog will pick up with a brief description of our experience with turnaround on the Back to Back before I return with more photos from our second day in Nassau and an excursion to Pearl Island.

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3 hours ago, Marc Van Niekerk said:

I return with more photos from our second day in Nassau and an excursion to Pearl Island.

Your Coco Cay photos are amazing! (even the overexposed! haha) Thanks so much for the island reconnaissance. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Pearl Island as it's at the top of my Nassau excursion options list. 

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39 minutes ago, DDaley said:

Your Coco Cay photos are amazing! (even the overexposed! haha) Thanks so much for the island reconnaissance. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Pearl Island as it's at the top of my Nassau excursion options list. 

Thanks.  The wonders of post processing in Adobe Lightroom, you can really rescue things. 

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17 hours ago, Marc Van Niekerk said:

as well as a call button to page your cabana attendant.  I pressed this before it was explained to me and I was surprised just how fast they responded.

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I don't recall seeing this before. Granted, we haven't done an Oasis Lagoon cabana yet. But they did not have this in the Thrill Waterpark cabanas on last check.

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Day 5 / Day 1

Today was turnaround day and since this was our first B2B it was a new experience.

We purchased The Key for our first leg at a sale price since it included VOOM usage, priority lines for FlowRider, as well as embarkation lunch and special disembarkation meal.  We knew all along that the priority disembarkation wouldn't be used.

Breakfast was served in the main dining room on deck 5 and this was also the staging area for the disembarkation.  The menu was a slightly modified MDR breakfast menu and included Salmon Benedict.  This was a very enjoyable meal in a much more relaxed atmosphere than the usual Windjammer breakfast on disembarkation day.

The directions for consecutive cruisers had been delivered to us and as we had the same cabin it really couldn't have been easier.  We left all our belongings exactly where we had unpacked them and that was that.

Our cabin steward for the first leg had informed us that he would not be with us for the second leg as his contract was ending and he was returning home to his family until his next contract.  We made sure to leave him his gratuity on night 4.

From the MDR in the back of deck 5 we headed to the Star Lounge at the bow of deck 5 which was the designated location for consecutive cruisers.  There we were joined by about 15-20 others who were returning aboard.  After a short wait, the Loyalty Ambassador and another crew member came around to give us our new seapass cards and explain the process.  Once the ship was near 0, we would be escorted to deck 4 to exit the ship and be scanned out with our old seapass cards.  We would them visit with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and wait in a lounge area for the ship to reach 0 passengers.  Once that was completed we would be escorted back onto the ship where we would be required to scan in with our new cards. 

Everything went exactly as described and was even easier due to the Facial Recognition system in Port Canaveral cruise port.  After a short wait in the lounge we returned and headed directly to the Solarium to enjoy the quiet ship to ourselves.

We were back on board the ship by approximately 10:15.

After an hour, we started to notice people walking through the Solarium and surmised that general boarding had begun.

One item to note is that the letter we received indicated that we would have access to our stateroom before the general call.  We found that the doors to the corridors were closed but I was able to open them and we could return to our cabin where I wanted to change to swimwear to get some time on the FlowRider.

This come back to one of @Matt's pieces of advice that the best time to use some of those features is on embarkation day when people are still getting their bearings and possibly not dressed for the activity.

This hits most of the highlights of the day.  Not a day that I took photos but as with any day on a cruise it was very enjoyable.

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3 hours ago, Matt said:

I don't recall seeing this before. Granted, we haven't done an Oasis Lagoon cabana yet. But they did not have this in the Thrill Waterpark cabanas on last check.

Funny thing, I thought maybe it was a USB battery pack and so I was looking it over for the ports when I accidentally pressed it in turn calling the attendant.

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Day 6 / Day 2

Today was a port stop in Nassau.  This is a cruise port we have visited several times and so we decided to go for an excursion booked through RCL to a place we hadn't visited before, Pearl Island.  Part of our decision was that we discovered there were to be 5 ships in port that day and we didn't want the crowds generally associated with that number.  Upon arriving we discovered that there was to be another ship in port bringing the total to 6.

Ships in port this day were the Grand Classica (Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line), Carnival Ecstasy and Liberty, AIDAluna, Disney Dream and of course Mariner.

When we had booked the excursion the initial time was from 9AM - 2PM however when we received out tickets on board the start time had been changed to 10:45.  While waiting for the excursion to begin I had the opportunity to take some photos of AIDAluna and Carnival Ecstasy which were docked back to back on the outermost berth.

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As we started up the pier we passed the Mariner and then Disney Dream.

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We were lead to an area to the left of the usual exit point for the port area where we boarded the launch to get to the island. From here we had some pretty good views of all the ships in port.

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After about a half hour ride we reached Pearl Island and exited the boat.

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Once there it was apparent that a LARGE number of tickets for this excursion were sold on the AIDA ship as there were many people already taking some of the prime seats along the beach areas and the towels were not those of Disney, Carnival or RCL ships.

We managed to find some nice seats on the opposite side of the island under a thatched umbrella structure.

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The view wasn't bad and it was a great spot to watch small birds on the rocks as well as some hermit crabs scurrying around while getting some sun.

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The island appears to have been claimed from a section of coral where they built some rock retaining walls and paths and brought in some sand.  A very pleasant location with not too many people.

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There were also some seating areas under awnings that would have been quite comfortable.

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One unique feature of the island is the lighthouse which is open for visitors to go to the top for a view.

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There are also some water side seating areas.

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The beach area was a few steps down and had some very clear water and a number of water toys available for use.

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There are also some over water cabanas, but it did not appear that anyone had purchased those on this day.

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From the ocean facing seats we had we were able to see some passing traffic of tour boats.

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The top of the lighthouse was a nice place to take some overall photos of the island.

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Including the seating area outside of where the lunch was served.

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The included lunch consisted of Rice and Peas, fried fish, chicken breast, fried plantains and some punch drinks.  The was a bar as well for additional cost.  The food was good but the chicken was a bit challenging to eat as they had forks but no knives.

The stairs up the lighthouse are steep and narrow with partial railings.  Certainly not for those with accessibility issues.

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There was also a little table part way up the lighthouse.  Not quite sure it had much purpose other than decorative, but I suppose you could sit in the chairs if you wanted.

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There were plenty of little birds around.

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Here is a picture of the outer stairs to get to the lighthouse.

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This mostly concludes the tour of the island.  Once the passengers / visitors who had arrived first had to catch their ride back to the cruise port, we moved in to the prime seating by the beach to enjoy the water for a couple of hours.

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We left the island about 3:15 so we had a total of 4 hours in the island itself.

Upon return to Nassau harbor we were dropped off outside the security area, very near the Pirate Republic bar.

Returning to the port area, I had a chance to get some photos of the other ships in port.

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We then returned to the ship to prepare shower, relax and prepare for dinner.

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A note on the dining choices we made on this trip.  On the 4 night, we purchase the Chops +1 on board after we talked them into including Izumi Hibachi.  That was our dining sorted for the first 2 nights.  We had selected My Time and had a later dinner planned for night 3 anyway but the sunset cruise made us too late for that so we ate in the Windjammer.  On the final night we made it to the MDR and found that we felt like we had completely missed on one of the hallmarks of cruising, meeting new people over a meal, having a great conversation and the superb service of the MDR staff.  Out waiter asked why we hadn't been and was understanding of the choices but as I say, we felt like we missed out.  We resolved that on the second leg we would not repeat that and were we ever glad.  For the 3 night cruise we also had My Time, but since we had a consistent time we were able to be seated in the same section of tables with the same servers and passengers seated around us.  It was one of the best dining experiences we have ever had.  I will say that we find some of the menu choices not to our liking but we can generally fond something to eat.  The food quality was good and never a problem but the company and service are where this experience really shined.

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Day 7 / Day 3

Whats better than visiting Coco Cay?  Visiting it again a few days later!

This time I was a little more prepared and looking to take some photos of parts I had missed previously.  We also didn't have a Cabana so we knew the experience was going to be a little different.  Mariner docked back in again, but on the opposite side of the pier.  Thankfully this once again gave us a great view of the island from out balcony.

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One thing we had learned from or previous visit was that the shuttles they had taking us ashore were easier to get into the rear facing seat at the back of the cart.  This also gave a neat perspective for photos.

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Today we also used the tram once on the island to head to a beach area near the upcoming Coco Beach Club and check out the water there.  This also provided a nice view of the Beach Beds which were at this point uninhabited.

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We placed our belongings on a couple of chairs and ventured into the water.  Unfortunately the luxury of the pool from a few days earlier had spoiled us and due to the recent churn from hurricanes in the area there was still a lot of sea grass.  We got in up to just past our knees but that was the extent of before we decided the pool was calling us.

We took a very short walk from the beach area to the pool and found two well placed chairs under an umbrella with a small table and near the stairs into the pool.

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This was a Sunday and the cruise was populated with many young people and a few bachelor and bachelorette groups.  As a result the bar area of the pool was quite busy.

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One other benefit of the location we had chosen was a very close proximity to the Snack Shack.  I really must say those chicken sandwiches are incredible.

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For the record you MUST order the Shack Crispy Chicken.  The simple Crispy Chicken just isn't the same.

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Pictures following are from another photo walk of the island.

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Chill Island Cabanas

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Island Tram

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Up Up and Away

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Straw Market

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Harbor Beach

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Wedding Pavillion

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Mariner of the Seas

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Coco Cay Pier and Entrance

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Snorkeling Area Beach

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Captain Jack's

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Skipper's Grill

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Island wildlife

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Decorative Entryway's

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That bring us to the end of most of our photos.  There are a few photos taken using my iPhone that I need to sort through and will post later.

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