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CruiseHabit Ric

Mariner of the Seas Live(ish)Blog 9/17-9/22

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Far too early in the morning on July 4th of this year, I was checking prices on cruises. Prices tend to drop when kids go back to school, so I searched for cruises out of Florida between the Friday after Labor Day and the end of September. One of the best rates that came up was a 4-night cruise on Mariner of the Seas out of Port Miami. I’ve followed the news on Mariner’s renovation and the other ships receiving upgrades as part of the Royal Amplified initiative. Seeing what Royal Caribbean had planned, I thought this could be a ship for me.

My other requirement was getting a real bargain on the fare. It looked like I would be sailing solo, and I resigned myself to paying a 200% single supplement — that is, covering the price of double occupancy even if only one person sailed. In the case only one person sails, Royal Caribbean collects taxes and fees for only one person. To make sure I was seeing this rate, I would select 1 passenger when pricing out a sailing. Usually, I’d see the base fare for one person at the same as when priced for two people, but one time… I didn’t. The price was much lower. I found a rare solo cruiser cabin and there was no single supplement at all.

I’m a big proponent of travel agents, but 4am on July 4th is not quite the time to get someone on the phone. I decided I needed to book this cruise directly through the Royal Caribbean site or else someone else would. My Crown & Anchor account already had my contact information, so all I had to enter was my credit card. Well, that didn’t work for some reason. After a couple of other hiccups, I decided to call a Royal Caribbean agent. This turned out to be the right move.

A really friendly guy saw that the cabin I wanted had a reservation lock from a purchase in progress. I chuckled and told him that was probably me. I gave him the email address on my Crown & Anchor membership and he was able to confirm my contact information. He put me on hold for a little under a minute to talk to someone who could release the reservation lock and allow him to complete the booking over the phone.

Before this time when I needed to book at 4am on July 4th, I had worked with the same travel agent on all but my first cruise. When you find a travel agent who is a good match for you, there are benefits. Over time, your agent will get to know your cruising preferences. At the same time, I’m glad to know that when I needed them at an odd hour, there was a Royal Caribbean agent there to help me make the booking I wanted. In my case, I was after final payment date, but if I hadn’t been, and I had not yet paid for the cruise in full, I would have been able to transfer the booking to my usual travel agent.

I’ve noticed my Crown & Anchor membership already saved me time twice making this reservation. It occurs to me that even though we affectionately tease the Pre-Gold membership, in my case, even being Pre-Gold would have saved me time when I was on the phone with the Royal Caribbean agent.

If you’ve taken a Royal Caribbean cruise and you haven’t signed up for a Crown & Anchor membership, it’s an easy recommendation. I can’t think of any downside. You might get a gift in the room. You’ll get some onboard offers loaded onto your Sea Pass card the next time you sail. I guess I’m also saying if you’re reading this blog because you think you might take a Royal Caribbean cruise, but you haven’t booked yet, go ahead and sign up for a Pre-Gold membership. (All of this is free.) You might find the emails to be another source of Royal Caribbean news.

Celebrity Constellation and Disney Magic, both medium-size ships, have been my favorite experiences so far. When I cruised solo this past December, I was on the mega-ship Norwegian Epic. I’m curious to see how those two experiences come together cruising solo on the medium-size Mariner of the Seas. If you’d like, you can read my liveblog from the Norwegian Epic sailing.

Follow along as I liveblog here this week. That drink package was paired with streaming internet access, so I’ll also be on Periscope. If staying connected is important t you I recommend checking out the below posts:
Keeping in Touch on Ship and Shore & How to Stay in Touch with Someone on Your Royal Caribbean Cruise

You can follow me @cruisehabitric and while you’re at it, follow the main account @cruisehabit where Billy covers sail-aways from Port Everglades and Port Miami. Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to track down some answers. I’ll be on Mariner of the Seas to Nassau and Coco Cay with one sea day starting Monday, September 17th.

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40 minutes ago, Matt said:

Looking forward to following along your adventure! I've been dying to get on Mariner since her refurb.

This must be so painful for you! #poorpoorMatt

Following along @CruiseHabit Ric! You're sailing with @twangster 😊

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29 minutes ago, cruiselife said:

I'm honestly shocked you haven't already sailed her. You know, for research...

I have her booked for the GC next year, but I admit that I did not fully comprehend the significance of her refurbishment. Also, she's in Miami currently.

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Just now, Matt said:

I have her booked for the GC next year, but I admit that I did not fully comprehend the significance of her refurbishment. Also, she's in Miami currently.

I don't think I fully understood the significance either. It looks absolutely incredible. My bank account is shaking in it's boots for when Galveston has a similar offering for weekend getaways.

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20 minutes ago, monorailmedic said:

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Is it really that much of a problem?

Clearly some higher power thought enough to place a great deli conveniently on the way to the South Florida cruise ports.

13 minutes ago, twangster said:

Tampa for the #rcpersicopers SBGC is too far for Matt.  Miami?  

In that situation, @mpoole3 didn't invite me 😞

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Some of my thoughts before getting on Mariner of the Seas:

Connecticut Gots’ta’s Are Florida Must-Do’s

 

I’m excited to see what Royal Caribbean has packed into a medium-size ship as part of the Royal Amplified initiative. There are six new things on Mariner that Matt would call his gots’ta’s, for me, they’re my must-do’s:

Jamie’s Italian

The Perfect Storm water slides

Playmakers

The Bamboo Room tiki bar

LaserTag

SkyPad

Jamie’s Italian sits at the top of my list of memorable meals on Harmony of the Seas. My friends and I enjoyed it there so much, we made it a point to get a second dinner there during our 7-night cruise. On our first visit, I ordered the lamb scottadita. This dish was so good I had to share it with my friends. On our second visit, we all ordered the lamb scottadita. My plan is to go by Jamie’s Italian after the muster drill and see if they have any promotions for dining on the first evening of the cruise.

Everything else on my must-do list is new to me and (maybe not the waterslides) new to Royal Caribbean. Some friends of mine who I recently caught up with at a wedding went on the first sailing of Symphony of the Seas in the Mediterranean. They told me about Playmakers on that ship, so I know a little bit of what to expect from a firsthand account, but it’s tough to say that it would be exactly the same in a different space. I’d expect this venue to get rolled out to most, if not all, the Royal Amplified ships from here on out.

When I told a friend of mine, who I’ve gone on three cruises with, about the Bamboo Room, he texted me back “Just when you think a cruise can't get more laid back, they add a tiki bar.” I could not have said it any better. The menu for the Bamboo Room looks great with at least three drinks I’d like to try. Wanting to sample from the menu here convinced me to get a drink package. Truth be told, I needed no convincing, but if you’re on the fence, have a look at the menu here. There’s a list of $12 drinks, which would be covered by the package, and there’s a list of $14 drinks that would be a charge of $2, since the drink package covers drinks up to $12 on this ship ($13 on Quantum class and Oasis class ships [Matt, check me on that]).

I haven’t played LaserTag since the 80’s most likely. I have to start telling myself now, “I’m just happy to be here. I’m just happy to be here.” I’ll probably last 3 minutes. Hey kids, this is why grandpa buys the travel insurance. I think the arena has fluorescent blacklight, so I’ll have to remember to wear dark colors and not stop by on my way to the glow party.

When I read the description of the SkyPad, I don’t know what to think. Seeing a picture of the SkyPad does nothing to clear things up. I have no idea what to expect out of the SkyPad except that I will have tried out the SkyPad. What I do know about it is: trampoline, bungee cord, virtual reality (?). Sure. I’ll do this.

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1 hour ago, redchacalit29 said:

I'm booked for next week. Cabin 9390. I would love to know if the obstructed view is really bad or not.

Welcome @redchacalit29 to the message boards!

I'm in 9392 right next door as I write this.  

The balcony of 9390 is triangular shaped.  The balcony of 9390 has a door that swings open and a round window aft compared to other aft balconies that have a sliding patio style door.

Your view aft will look like this:

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The obstruction is a beam that runs through the balcony but the beam is very close to the divider wall between 9390 and 9392.  It's approx. 1 foot away from this divider leaving the bulk of the balcony open.  

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Your balcony will have two chairs and a table.

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All in all it's a pretty great balcony.

Apologies to @CruiseHabit Ric for hijacking his blog temporarily.  

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11 minutes ago, CruiseHabit Ric said:

There’s a list of $12 drinks, which would be covered by the package, and there’s a list of $14 drinks that would be a charge of $2, since the drink package covers drinks up to $12 on this ship ($13 on Quantum class and Oasis class ships [Matt, check me on that]).

Confirmed drinks up to $12 are covered.  Tiki bar drinks priced at $14 are $2 for those with the deluxe drink package.  

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Checking in using the Royal Caribbean app has streamlined check-in for Mariner of the Seas. I was able to load my passport information and then use my iPhone’s camera to take a selfie for the ship’s records. I selected the time I expected to arrive at the port and the app produced a SetSail pass that could be scanned at the port. The new process looked good and it worked well.

Around 10am on Monday, I departed from the CruiseHabit.com Global Headquarters (aka Billy and Larissa’s place) and drove to the port. This a drive I’ve made a few times now, but I still use Waze to get me there. Upon arrival, I promptly forgot the order of the letters in the alphabet, and even though Mariner of the Seas was at Terminal G, I drove to the Terminal A-D parking garage. Thankfully, Port Miami is one big loop. After a course correction of my own, I was able to get a parking spot, cross the street, drop of my checked baggage with the porter, and proceed through security. Once in the terminal, a Royal Caribbean agent noted the Gold status on my SetSail pass and directed me to the line for Gold members and fortunately, I was next to be checked in. After asking me a couple of public health questions, I got my SeaPass card and I walked right onto the ship. Easily the smoothest and quickest check-in process I’ve ever experienced.

My first stop was of course the Windjammer, and of course, it was packed. After loading up a plate with some curries and chile con carne, I found a table with a young woman sitting alone and, with no other tables available, I asked if I could join her. I also got to meet her husband and learned they were on a vacation with the kids back at home. We had a great conversation (minor spoiler, I’ve run into both of them a few times on the cruise, and we have great conversations every time).

Once the staterooms were available, I made my way down to Deck 2, where I’m staying in one of the four new single-occupancy staterooms. The staterooms are tucked away behind the Loyalty Ambassador’s desk, so there’s a feeling of being in a private space that no one else knows about. Having seen how small the interior staterooms on other lines can get, I was nervous. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The bed is approximately full-size and the bathroom is a standard size bathroom for a cruise ship. Given the chance, I would book this cabin again without hesitation.

After staying up so late catching up with Billy and Larissa the night before, I was pretty beat, so I decided to set an alarm for 3:30pm and get a nap in before muster. Once I was up and moving around, I did a walk around the Royal Promenade and got to compare the area to the one on Harmony of the Seas. I sought out Playmakers to get a drink and see what Royal Caribbean’s new concept was all about. At 5:45pm, I went down to the Main Dining Room for an early dinner.

The waiter assigned to my table, Rowen from India, was great. As I was dining by myself, I didn’t want dinner to go on too long. He picked up on this and made sure my courses came out with very little time in between. I started with the crab cake and the mushroom soup (both hits), and then had the fried seafood mix. The fish and shrimp on the platter worked just fine, but the breading on the scallop didn’t stick — still an enjoyable dish.

After dinner, I went to The Bamboo Room and ordered a Saturn Landing. The flavors in this drink were unexpected, but all worked well together. I think the ginger syrup and the allspice liquor were flavors I’d never tasted in a drink before, but they were a hit. I’ll probably get another one of those before the last night of the cruise.

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38 minutes ago, twangster said:

Confirmed drinks up to $12 are covered.  Tiki bar drinks priced at $14 are $2 for those with the deluxe drink package.  

@twangster That was my expectation, but when I got my tab for a $14 drink, there was a $13 discount on it, so the total was $1.18. Pleasant surprise.

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Edited by CruiseHabit Ric
Added photo of receipt

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7 minutes ago, CruiseHabit Ric said:

@twangster That was my expectation, but when I got my tab for a $14 drink, there was a $13 discount on it, so the total was $1.18. Pleasant surprise.

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The $12/$13 threshold is one I've seen vary by sailing.  I think it was Allure that we experienced all the drink prices being $1 higher than we expected...but the package covered drinks up to $13 on that sailing.  Like many things, it seems it may be up to the ship to manage this revenue.

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Just now, monorailmedic said:

The $12/$13 threshold is one I've seen vary by sailing.  I think it was Allure that we experienced all the drink prices being $1 higher than we expected...but the package covered drinks up to $13 on that sailing.  Like many things, it seems it may be up to the ship to manage this revenue.

Indeed.  Kraken is 23% more expensive on Mariner compared to other recent ships including Radiance a few weeks ago, yet a Kraken Lavaflow is the same price.  

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2 hours ago, CruiseHabit Ric said:

There’s a list of $12 drinks, which would be covered by the package, and there’s a list of $14 drinks that would be a charge of $2, since the drink package covers drinks up to $12 on this ship ($13 on Quantum class and Oasis class ships [Matt, check me on that]).

Correct

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Haha, I love this paragraph -

" When I read the description of the SkyPad, I don’t know what to think. Seeing a picture of the SkyPad does nothing to clear things up. I have no idea what to expect out of the SkyPad except that I will have tried out the SkyPad. What I do know about it is: trampoline, bungee cord, virtual reality (?). Sure. I’ll do this. "

Great attitude. One of my favourite sayings - "Always say Yes, unless you know better."

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