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REVIEW - Mariner of the Seas 4-Nights 7/9/18 – 7/13/18


antarec
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Hello all, long-time lurker - first time making a big post - just got back from a 4-night cruise on the “new” Mariner of the Seas – I’ve seen some posts on here regarding new features, rooms, dining attire, etc. Hopefully this post can answer some of your questions, or if you have any, feel free to ask and I can possibly answer. Having been on the Allure and most recently the Harmony, Mariner was my first “smaller” class-ship. I was excited to try something new and tried so hard to keep an open mind.

Embarkation Day - It was pretty stress free embarkation at Port Miami. You cannot miss the ship, as it’s visible from the main highway leading into the port.  We (my fiancé and I) love to take advantage of early boarding, we used Lyft from a Marriot Courtyard near MIA (Lyft trip was under $25) and the driver took us right up front to the Cruise Terminal G – where the ship was located. The porters we right at the curb ready to take our check-in bags (don’t forget to tip).

We arrived at 10am, proceeded to walk to the far left of the terminal into the double doors, where you will present your Passports and Set-Sail pass. Keep these out & ready to present, as you will need them a few more times. You will head up to the security checkpoint to scan your carry-on bags and ultimately the cruise check-in desk where you will receive your physical Sea-Pass cards. Since we were early, we were lead into a room full of chairs, waiting for the ship to be cleared to board. First boarding happened at 11am.

Once on the ship you are on Deck 4 – Windjammer is on Deck 11. First thing we noticed, the elevators are extremely SLOW. The stairs will be your friend on this ship. We made the trek up from Deck 4 to Deck 11 – only to find out that the Windjammer opens at 11:30a. We didn’t wait too long, there was a drink stand right there to take advantage of our first drinks on board (DX Drink Package purchased x2). 

The WJ food was typical of any RC WJ offering---American, Asian, Indian food selections.  There was a lot of Indian curry dishes offered which were excellent. Coca Cola Freestyle machines were located on either side of the WJ next to a window and a drink station. The WJ seating and tables look to be updated, as well.  We loved the WJ offering so much, we only ate at the MDR on Day 1 and elected to eat at the WJ for breakfast, lunches (sans snack at Playmakers), dinners and late-night snacks. Late Night Snacks from 10:30p-12:30p consist mostly of burgers, fries, fried chicken (with bone) and some desserts---American fare.

Mariner Re-Vitalize Quick Takes:

Skypad – If you tend to get dizzy real fast – elect NOT to wear the VR mask. I wish I knew before hand – I got dizzy in less than 1 min, had to stop and take it off or else it would not have been pretty. You get a decent amount of time on the bungee cords. Kids would probably enjoy this more than adults

Playmakers – Pretty cool concept, full bar selection along with sit down tables with separate menu, which costs extra—like a cheaper specialty dining. We ate here once and got the Buffalo wings and loaded nachos. Wings were very tasty and you can’t beat the price for 12 wings for $8. Nachos at $7 were decent, but I liked the wings more. There was also a small pool table and some connect 4 boards.

The Bamboo Room – Yet another cool concept, with a full bar and sit down tables + menus. The atmosphere is as expected, Hawaiian themed but dark and much quieter than Playmakers. This is a great place to just relax and chat. Bamboo Room specialty drinks are NOT included in the DX Drink Package (If you have the DX you do get a $12 credit and you can pay the difference)

Movies/Sports at the Pool Deck – World Cup soccer was shown, also recent movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji.

Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z – This is FREE on the Mariner, compared to Harmony—where they charged a fee. We did it once, fun for kids for sure. Not sure if I would ever pay to do this. Line up about 20 min before opening to get-in on the first play of the day. The line does get long.

We did not see the ice skating show/do ice skating, Flowride, or watersides. The Flowrider, SkyPad, and Waterslides are all on the Activities Deck – Deck 13. (Main Pool, Solarium, are on Deck 11). We also did not do any specialty dining this time around. Having just got off the Harmony in February - we already had Jamie’s Italian and Chops Grill.

The Bridge - Deck 11 Forward, left side – Nice views of the control center. No action happening while docked – come back again when the ship is moving to see “action”.

Solarium – Deck 11 Forward –I believe they added new chairs and day beds---first come, first serve. Very quiet and soothing music compared to the main pool deck.

New Rooms – Deck 11 Forward – There are new rooms, I believe suites are located here. The rooms are right next to the Vitality Gym. There are actually 2 entrances to these rooms --- you may miss it if you weren’t paying attention 1. Main entrance on Deck 11 Forward-right side, before exiting to Solarium 2. There is an entrance/exit directly inside the gym. After taking a quick peak into 1 of these rooms from the hallway with a window - it looked like an updated room, as you would see in the Harmony. I was able to take some pics, see below.

Rooms (not the new rooms on Deck 11) – These were NOT re-vitalized. The rooms still had the outdated green interior with standard bathrooms we are all familiar with. We had an interior stateroom, served its purpose as we just slept in there.

Starbucks – Deck 4 – typical Sbux located right next to Casino Royale and across from Boleros.

VOOM – I purchased 2-devices VOOM Surf and Stream during the last sale. Speeds were definitely not as fast as Harmony. Per Speedtest – DL: 3.89 mbps/ UP: 1.93. This was not bad for texting, surfing basic websites, and emails. Pulling up a video or sending a picture via text message ---  was very slow. For whatever reason, If you had your heart set on watching Netflix or streaming YouTube videos during your cruise-- I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

DX Drink Pkg – I purchased this also during one of the sales. $47/day. Worth it if you like to drink (not just alcohol). Stock up on those water bottles to cover your daily costs! Be sure to ask for a shot of Baileys in your coffee at Café Promenade.

Suite Lounge and Diamond Lounge - were up in Deck 14 by Ellingtons – wasn’t able to partake in these. Working my way up.

Coca-Cola Freestyle – 2 in the WJ and 2 by Café Promenade.

“Honey Stung Chicken” / “Chicken Fingers”– Back on the Allure in 2012 I was able to taste these original beauties. In the WJ for dinner they did have “Chicken Fingers” on multiple nights Days 2 and 4 I believe.  While it wasn’t exact, this had the same amount of crisp and taste—regardless I filled my plate and went back for seconds.

Dog House – Located Deck 11 right corner – AFT.  If you weren’t looking for it, you would miss it.  I had the bratwurst and the cheese bread dog bun. Not bad at all if looking for an extremely quick snack.

Windjammer – “Wash your hands…” station.  There is an attendant whose sole job is to get you to wash your hands before entering the WJ.  You will catch yourself saying “washy-washy” to yourself or to others before your cruise is over.

Journey Cover Band – Day 3 – If you like Journey, this was an excellent cover band. The guy actually sings like Steve Perry and tries to look like him too. If you just want to hear Don’t Stop Believing and Anyway You Want It – come into the show 40 min-in. (1hr show)

Random Piano Guy with Piano - in the Elevators – you’ll spot him. Plays pretty good in tight quarters. Takes trips to random areas on the ship throughout the cruise.

Shopping – Typical watch sales and $10 item sales are in full effect. Just on a smaller scale compared to Oasis-class ships. The 2 for $20 shirt sale is savage as-ever. They roll the carts out exactly when the sale begins.  There is a ship gift shop, fancy watch/jewelry store, make-up shop, liquor shop. All the basics.

Port Quick Takes:
Nassau, Bahamas – We got tickets to the Aquaventure at Atlantis. We had pre-purchased these during sale, tickets were waiting in the stateroom upon arrival. Waiting around till 9am – walking out of port with a hoard of people to be put on buses to Atlantis – then walking into Atlantis and ultimately to the waterpark and then waiting to get a $17.00 locker ----you weren’t really settled into the park till 11:00am. It was crowded; there were 2 other ships at port (Adventure of the Seas and Disney Dream). It was super hot. We rode The Serpent and the Rapids. I think that’s all we did, it was so crowded and hot, we elected to explore the grounds and hotel and head back to the port by 1:30p. Atlantis campus was beautiful, but if I ever go back, it won’t be on a cruise trip.

Cococay – Talk about construction overhaul. The dock looks nowhere completed, it looks like they haven’t put a dent into the construction or they just hide it real well with the tarps and fences. I personally wouldn’t book a “Perfect Day” trip until 2020—just to be on the safe side. I read on here that they are already canceling trips to “Perfect Day” and replacing it with Miami---WHAT?? Overall we went to the beach for a small amount of time – it was low tide – walked around the shops. Having been to Labadee twice, I think I enjoyed the beach and atmosphere there much better.

Debarkation Day – We elected to self-service. Had breakfast at the WJ at 7 and was out of our rooms by 9am. There was barely any line at Customs, there was no Global Entry or Mobile Passport apps.  We took a Lyft to FLL about $37 before tip. If using ride share – chose to be picked up at Terminal F – you will be away from the chaos at Terminal G.

Overall – Not a bad ship at all to get a short cruise fix-in. There are no formal nights, you can wear shorts and t-shirts to the MDR if you want too. The Late Night Snacking was a great option. While I wish the rooms were updated, it served its purpose. The elevators were quite slow, and the A/C in elevators and other some other common areas could’ve worked a lot better. We loved the WJ, it was clean and offerings were excellent for a 4-day cruise---all meals.  Bars were plentiful and it was easy to get drinks and never a bottleneck.

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Some great opinions on Mariner, I really would love to go on this ship but flying all the way from the UK involves a long flight and with the 2019 schedule full it will have to be put on hold! Personally I think this will be a huge hit with cruisers and would certainly do the weekend sailing is I lived in Miami / Florida

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8 hours ago, antarec said:

Bamboo Room specialty drinks are NOT included in the DX Drink Package

How much are the drinks listed here?

8 hours ago, antarec said:

Dog House – Located Deck 11 right corner – AFT

Is this in the Windjammer? Or somewhere else?

 

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9 hours ago, antarec said:

Bamboo Room specialty drinks are NOT included in the DX Drink Package (If you have the DX you do get a $12 credit and you can pay the difference

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Awesome review of your cruise! I really love the additions to Mariner and can't wait to get on it one day.  The Bamboo Room looks awesome, but I hate to hear that there are drinks that aren't included in the drink package. That kind of defeats the purpose of the package. I understand a 30 year old scotch or something like that not being included, but cocktails?

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Just now, cruiselife said:

Awesome review of your cruise! The Bamboo Room looks awesome, but I hate to hear that there are drinks that aren't included in the drink package. That kind of defeats the purpose of the package. I understand a 30 year old scotch or something like that not being included, but cocktails?

I suspect it's their special concoctions that are priced above the package that are not covered, just like special drinks on all ships that are not fully covered by the package and you must pay the difference.  I'm betting you can order a Kraken and Coke and it will be covered.

@Lovetocruise2002 will be on soon enough and I'm sure she will verify.  If not I'm on Mariner mid-September.

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1 hour ago, Matt said:

How much are the drinks listed here?

Is this in the Windjammer? Or somewhere else?

 

@cruiselife, @twangster @Matt - Sorry should have been clearer! Here is a pic of the menu in The Bamboo Room. Left side contains “Speciality Drinks” - at $14. If you have the DX drink pkg you can pay the $2 difference. The “Classic Cocktails” on the top right side of the page are all included and any standard/typical alcoholic drinks you would want to order at any other bars on the ship IS included. The fish bowls are not included in the drink pkg...but you can pay the difference if you do have it.

@MattThe Dog House is located outside at the Pool deck in the deep back corner. Easy to miss. The opposite side corner has the soft serve ice cream machines.

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11 hours ago, antarec said:

First thing we noticed, the elevators are extremely SLOW. The stairs will be your friend on this ship.

I was on the Mariner the previous week (July 2-6). I wouldn't say that the elevators were particularly slow in terms of moving X feet per second, but rather in other ways. For example, when you press the button to call an elevator, it only calls the two elevators immediately next to the buttons. The other two elevators (six feet in back of you) are unaware that you are there, so you have two choices: (a) wait a long time for one of the two elevators in front of you, or (b) press the call button for the elevators behind you also. If you choose option B, you'll get an elevator in half the time, but you slow down the system for others because the elevator will stop on your floor and you're already gone.

Yes, the stairs will indeed be your friends. At least, they were mine. I was fortunate to get a cabin on Deck 8, exactly 3 decks above the Promenade, and 3 decks below the pools/Windjammer. So I frequently used the stairs to go down, and occasionally up too.

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24 minutes ago, Keeves said:

The other two elevators (six feet in back of you) are unaware that you are there, so you have two choices: (a) wait a long time for one of the two elevators in front of you, or (b) press the call button for the elevators behind you also.

This is the same setup that is on  Grandeur.  The elevator systems are completely autonomous so you have to push buttons for both systems, and as you suggest, it ends up monopolizing both systems.  Additionally, only 1 set of the elevators goes all the way to the "top" so if you're going to the Viking Crown Room, the Concierge Club or Izumi, you have only 1 option for getting there unless you want to walk up to the top from the deck below.

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10 hours ago, Keeves said:

I was on the Mariner the previous week (July 2-6). I wouldn't say that the elevators were particularly slow in terms of moving X feet per second, but rather in other ways. For example, when you press the button to call an elevator, it only calls the two elevators immediately next to the buttons. The other two elevators (six feet in back of you) are unaware that you are there, so you have two choices: (a) wait a long time for one of the two elevators in front of you, or (b) press the call button for the elevators behind you also. If you choose option B, you'll get an elevator in half the time, but you slow down the system for others because the elevator will stop on your floor and you're already gone.

Yes, the stairs will indeed be your friends. At least, they were mine. I was fortunate to get a cabin on Deck 8, exactly 3 decks above the Promenade, and 3 decks below the pools/Windjammer. So I frequently used the stairs to go down, and occasionally up too.

You are correct, not as slow as in actual speed, per say. Ah-ha! That makes total sense with the elevators! 

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21 hours ago, antarec said:

Here is a pic of the menu in The Bamboo Room. Left side contains “Speciality Drinks” - at $14. If you have the DX drink pkg you can pay the $2 difference. The “Classic Cocktails” on the top right side of the page are all included and any standard/typical alcoholic drinks you would want to order at any other bars on the ship IS included.

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First of all those specialty cocktails look incredible! I guess what I don't understand about the drink package is if I can order any drink with premium liquor in it and it's covered then what makes these an extra charge? It seems like they're charging $2 extra for a dash of bitters and some simple syrup. I can understand when they come in a souvenir glass or something that comes with it, but outside of that I think all cocktails should be included in the package. It's not a huge deal, I probably just wouldn't order those drinks often but it is frustrating after paying such big money for the drink package specifically to not worry about a bar tab. I completely understand finding ways to generate more revenue, but I wish they would find ways to generate it from people who aren't already paying for the drink package. I hope they change that policy because those look really good and I'm a sucker and will end up paying it anyways! haha

 

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Just now, cruiselife said:

It seems like they're charging $2 extra for a dash of bitters and some simple syrup.

I know several people in the food service industry, and I have come to learn something interesting:  Customers tend to estimate value by the type and amount of food, and are blissfully ignorant of the labor involved. For the providers , it is all about labor costs, and the food itself is a distant second.

This is why your restaurant plate will tend to be overflowing, which seems almost wasteful to the customer. But to the restaurant, they can make you very happy with a lot of food, and it costs them only a little more than a regular plateful.

So in the case of cocktails, they're not charging for a dash of bitters and a bit of syrup. They're charging extra because it takes three times as long to mix a fancy cocktail, compared to pouring a shot of whatever.

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20 minutes ago, Keeves said:

I know several people in the food service industry, and I have come to learn something interesting:  Customers tend to estimate value by the type and amount of food, and are blissfully ignorant of the labor involved. For the providers , it is all about labor costs, and the food itself is a distant second.

This is why your restaurant plate will tend to be overflowing, which seems almost wasteful to the customer. But to the restaurant, they can make you very happy with a lot of food, and it costs them only a little more than a regular plateful.

So in the case of cocktails, they're not charging for a dash of bitters and a bit of syrup. They're charging extra because it takes three times as long to mix a fancy cocktail, compared to pouring a shot of whatever.

I certainly understand the extra labor involved coming from a food and beverage background in college and a cost accounting background now. I just think it's a little ridiculous to have cocktails on the menu that aren't included in the drink package. The more drinks they add that aren't included the more it devalues the package. If it takes 3 times as long to make a cocktail and you have to charge $14 for it then simply don't have it on the menu or find a way to make it cheaper. This isn't a new problem, I just don't like the way they've chosen to solve it. If they can't include it at the current price then I would honestly rather them raise the price of the package to include everything. I'm not trying to complain about nickle and diming, I just find it annoying to constantly have to ask, "Does this cost extra?" after purchasing the drink package specifically to not worry about that.

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21 minutes ago, cruiselife said:

I completely understand finding ways to generate more revenue, but I wish they would find ways to generate it from people who aren't already paying for the drink package. I hope they change that policy because those look really good and I'm a sucker and will end up paying it anyways! haha

 

I'm not convinced it's a revenue thing.  A $2 charge is likely on the threshold of just breaking even given the costs for extra billing any item, dealing with issues at guest services, paper, cost of billing system itself, etc.

It's likely influenced by crowd control.  If they were included, that is all people would order, over and over and over.  There wouldn't be enough bar staff given the effort involved.    Hiring more bartenders seems like an easy fix but that increases costs and at times there would be idle bartenders doing little which is a waste of resources.

As annoying as it may be, a small charge throttles the volume of demand to a manageable level.  

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1 minute ago, twangster said:

It's likely influenced by crowd control.  If they were included, that is all people would order, over and over and over.  There wouldn't be enough bar staff given the effort involved.    Hiring more bartenders seems like an easy fix but that increases costs and at times there would be idle bartenders doing little which is a waste of resources.

As annoying as it may be, a small charge throttles the volume of demand to a manageable level.  

It will certainly throttle my demand! If that is the case it would make sense, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!

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Keep in mind these aren't the only drinks not fully covered by the package. Go to Vintages and check out the wine list, you will find many a wine there sold by the glass that isn't fully covered and can range from a mere $1 or $2 over to tens of dollars over! And there is certainly no extra labor involved there, those are just old vintages or wines considered ultra-high-end by whoever judges these things.

I'd also love it if the package covered absolutely everything under the sun, but I can also see how with something like the Vintages offerings they would then find everyone with a package ordering glasses of the $60/glass wine, tasting it and leaving the glass on the bar just to say they tasted $60 a glass wine; and now Royal is out a lot of money (even allowing for the absolutely ridiculous markup they charge compared to land prices).

As a wine drinker, it's what I absolutely loved the most about the Chef's Table experience: I found a wine I liked at that event that I discovered was $30 a glass at Vintages. Having paid for the meal, it didn't matter if I had the drink package or not; I could (and did!) have four glasses of that wine, on top of all the other wines I had that evening that were also moderately to well above the drink package limit, enjoyed every drop of them, and that's all money Royal had to leave on the table, whether they liked it or not.

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25 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Keep in mind these aren't the only drinks not fully covered by the package. Go to Vintages and check out the wine list, you will find many a wine there sold by the glass that isn't fully covered and can range from a mere $1 or $2 over to tens of dollars over! And there is certainly no extra labor involved there, those are just old vintages or wines considered ultra-high-end by whoever judges these things.

I'd also love it if the package covered absolutely everything under the sun, but I can also see how with something like the Vintages offerings they would then find everyone with a package ordering glasses of the $60/glass wine, tasting it and leaving the glass on the bar just to say they tasted $60 a glass wine; and now Royal is out a lot of money (even allowing for the absolutely ridiculous markup they charge compared to land prices).

As a wine drinker, it's what I absolutely loved the most about the Chef's Table experience: I found a wine I liked at that event that I discovered was $30 a glass at Vintages. Having paid for the meal, it didn't matter if I had the drink package or not; I could (and did!) have four glasses of that wine, on top of all the other wines I had that evening that were also moderately to well above the drink package limit, enjoyed every drop of them, and that's all money Royal had to leave on the table, whether they liked it or not.

Exactly.  The small charges serve to prevent everyone from finding the most expensive wine and only ordering it.  

As a frequent business traveler who has bought an occasional glass of wine in a hotel bar across the country,  Royal is cheaper than most hotel bars when it come to wine, beer and mixed drinks.  I spent a few weeks in Plainsboro, NJ.   $14 was the cheapest wine in the hotel bar and it wasn't very good.  The cost for a hotel to provide a glass of wine is much lower - they don't have to load it on a ship and haul it all around ocean with them.  They don't need to maintain very much inventory either.  When a hotel runs low they pick up the phone and more is delivered the next day.  Their cost per drink is much lower than a cruise ship.

At the same hotel my nightly room rate was higher than I pay on most cruises (and it didn't include meals or entertainment).  

So I've come to appreciate how great Royal bar prices are compared to land bar prices.  Thankfully someone else pays for my business travel.  

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