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Recap - Mariner 4 Night Bahamas - Sept. 21, 2018


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I chose to write this blog after the cruise is over.  This allows me to focus on the cruise during the cruise, live in the moment and go through a thousand photos looking for the best ones after the cruise is over in the comfort of my favorite chair and large computer monitors.

Itinerary is Miami - Nassau - Cococay - Sea Day - Miami

Here are some other live blogs worthy of a read from other blog users who have recently sailed the newly AMPED Mariner of the Seas.

@Lovetocruise2002 - https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/boards/index.php?/topic/8955-“moments-on-mariner”-–-mariner-of-the-seas–-august-13-17-2018/

@CruiseHabit Ric - https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/boards/index.php?/topic/9322-mariner-of-the-seas-liveishblog-917-922/

Given their excellent work I won't repeat everything they have blogged about so if you haven't already, give their blogs a quick read.

 

For this Miami based cruise I flew into Miami the day before and stayed at the Hilton Blue Lagoon near Miami airport.

Post cruise my plan will be a rental car to drive up to Port Canaveral where I'll jump on Enchantment of the Seas.  Since I have to fly to Florida, a 4 night cruise typically isn't worth it given the cost of airfare so adding a back-to-back or in this case a side-to-side extends the cruise length making the additional cost of airfare worth it.

Both cruises have the same ports so I'll be doing a double dip to both Nassau and Cococay.  

For this cruise my only excursion booked through Royal is a certified scuba dive in Cococay.  On sale from a normal price of $68 I paid just $57.  It's a one tank shore dive to a maximum depth of 37 feet so it's also a great way to keep my scuba certification and my diving brain current without committing a huge block of time to the excursion.  While I have visited Cococay before, I've never dove here before.  I'm looking forward to exploring the portion of Cococay below the waves.

For Nassau, I booked a 737 airline simulator experience in Nassau as a private excursion not offered through the cruise line.

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I chose to write this blog after the cruise is over.  This allows me to focus on the cruise during the cruise, live in the moment and go through a thousand photos looking for the best ones after the c

I took a number of night shots from different angles.  Some are long exposure to blur the reflections in the water.  The first one is a normal exposure.  I tried experimenting with zooming during the

Summary I had heard great things about Mariner and they were all true.  Having now seen what "AMPED" means I'm looking forward to Navigator and beyond. There is nothing that would prevent me

14 hours ago, twangster said:

This allows me to focus on the cruise during the cruise, live in the moment and go through a thousand photos looking for the best ones after the cruise is over in the comfort of my favorite chair and large computer monitors.

Translation: @twangster wanted to make sure his photos were even more impressive 

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Just now, ZOKUEL said:

does mariner offer dive certification course in royals things to do on mariner it says they do but mariner is not listed of the ships that provide it?

 

Mariner has a PADI 5 Star Dive Center on board.  I observed the instructor in a pool early one morning with two guests doing what appeared to be the first of two mandatory check dives in the PADI OWD certification process.  That same dive instructor would later lead our dive on Cococay, but that's getting ahead of myself.  

I suspect Mariner is absent from the website list of ships because Mariner was until recently home ported in Asia.  My guess is they haven't updated the website.  Suggest you call them for clarification.

 

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Day 0 - Miami Arrival

Vested in the Hilton brand of hotels for business travel I often find myself in one when vacationing.  On this occasion the Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon is close to the airport and features a free hotel airport shuttle.  

It's a nice property with a nice outdoor pool and patio area set in a lagoon across the highway from the airport.  Far enough away that airport noise wasn't an issue but close enough for the shuttle ride to be short.

Standard king bed room.

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The view towards downtown.

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The windows were a little dirty or I might have captured some nice nighttime Miami skyline photos. 

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Set on a peninsula into this small lagoon there are no other restaurants or bars nearby within walking distance.  Fortunately they had a lobby bar, restaurant and room service at typical hotel prices.  Food was good.  

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15 hours ago, twangster said:

For this cruise my only excursion booked through Royal is a certified scuba dive in Cococay.  On sale from a normal price of $68 I paid just $57.  It's a one tank shore dive to a maximum depth of 37 feet so it's also a great way to keep my scuba certification and my diving brain current without committing a huge block of time to the excursion.  While I have visited Cococay before, I've never dove here before.  I'm looking forward to exploring the portion of Cococay below the waves. 

I'm very interested to hear what you thought of the dive, I'm doing the same excursion next weekend.

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Day 1

IT'S CRUISE DAY!!!

I checked Lyft the night before and it looked like about 20-25 minutes to the port in some traffic.  I usually check both Uber and Lyft because sometime one can be cheaper than the other.

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For the Port of Miami you can use their website to determine the exact terminal your ship will be using:

https://seaport2.miamidade.gov/dailydock/Default.aspx

Currently Mariner appears to use Terminal G.

I left the hotel 9:35 by Lyft and arrived at the terminal at 9:58am.  

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With just a few guests ahead of me there were few lines. 

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I was checked in and waiting by 10:15am.  The waiting area for top tier (Platinum through Diamond Plus).

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Consecutive cruises were escorted off at 10:30am (heard on radio used by terminal personnel). 

Wedding party escorted upstairs at 10:33am.

In the waiting area were several travel agents.  Apparently Royal had extended a $200 deal to 100 travel agents for a balcony.

11:05am boarding started.  

Upon boarding I saw they had carry on storage.

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1pm cabins became available.

1:45pm my luggage was down the hall so I walked down and grabbed it. 

With luggage unpacked I grabbed my camera and began exploring the ship.

Great views of Miami from this spot in port.

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4pm Muster Drill.  Noted new graphics on the ship displays for muster.

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Make sure you find the muster crew member taking attendance and give them your cabin number.

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After that sail away!

Because we were pointed West we had to make the turn in the turning basin before heading out to sea.  

Mariner is part of the Voyager class of ships which feature the Peak-a-boo bridge where you can look down into the bridge.  I believe the man in the blue shirt is the local port pilot.  

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Sail away time lapse:

Sail away scope:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1eaJbVQPEYoJX

Peak-a-boo bridge scope:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1YqGogQWzjMGv

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Day 1 - Dinner

Changing for dinner I noticed a nice sunset over Miami

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If you look closely you can see the Miami skyline within the clouds.

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My Time Dining Room

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I don't normally order the regular steaks in the MDR but the table beside raved about the NY Strip so I figured why not?  I can always ask for something else...

It was pretty good for a cruise ship dining room steak.

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Key Lime Pie for dessert.  Yum.

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I noticed in the app that the ice skating show was tonight.  Normally held later in a cruise I guess with the short 3/4 night cruises they've placed it on night one.

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I'm not a huge figure skating fan.  However I'm always amazed how they can perform as much as they do on a small sheet of ice on a ship, moving in the ocean.  Amazing.

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Spinning around hanging on a rope in mid-air with skates on.  Wow!

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It's a fun show where in some parts they skate right up to the railings and lean over almost into your lap.  Having scored a front row seat is was pretty cool.  

I always try to make it to the ice skating shows on the ships that have them and "Ice Under the Big Top" on Mariner did not disappoint.

On this 4 night cruise it was also available later in the cruise on another day (day 4, sea day, 3pm)

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Wandering the ship I came across The Bamboo Room.  I'll add more pictures later but wanted to see if I could find @CruiseLifeRick's photo on the net.  

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Found it!  @mpoole3 tried to bribe me with an offer to remove it but rest assured, I left it in place.  

I spent some time exploring the ship and planning how I might take some pictures on another day.  

I noted in the Diamond Lounge they had removed the bar from within the lounge.  Two waiters were serving drinks from a pantry service bar down the hall.  It felt pretty awkward standing around waiting to place an order for 20 minutes so I left and used by diamond happy hour 'coupons' at the pool bar.   

The Viking Crown Lounge had a private party - the wedding party that boarded today I presume.  

I'm not sure where the time went but it was getting late. 

I checked the MarineTraffic.com app for our position.  At nearly 1am we were approaching Freeport getting ready to make the turn into the shipping channel towards Nassau.

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With that, day one was complete.  Time for bed.

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Day 2 - Nassau

Our arrival was slated for 8am.  I woke early and saw the making of a sunrise.  I hadn't even thought of visiting the sports deck the day before so I though there might be some photo ops with the sunrise and lack of other guests.

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Walking around I noticed how they really amped up the LED lighting around the ship.  The viewing seats for the Flowrider for example:

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A light rain started from a small rain cloud we passed under so I took cover up by the Diamond Lounge outdoor sitting area.

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They've done a really nice job on the sports deck and I was looking forward to trying a lot of it.   

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My intention was to head to the Windjammer for breakfast but the morning sunrise and pool deck caught me eye.

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They've done a really nice job with the upgrades.  If the rest of the ships scheduled to get AMPED turn out as well I can see myself spending a lot of time of Voyager class ships.

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Once again I checked the free MarineTraffic.com app and saw we were approaching Nassau.

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Breakfast can wait, down to deck 4 to catch the lighthouse as we enter port.

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Not the best lighting or sunrise but what can you do? 

The scope of our arrival into Nassau:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1BRJjeQLwdRGw

My stomach was letting me know it's time for breakfast.

The entrance to the Windjammer has been updated in a style somewhat similar to Harmony.  Hand washing stations were installed instead of just having hand sanitizing stations.  

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Very fresh and modern, another upgrade I like.   

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

It's a fun show where in some parts they skate right up to the railings and lean over almost into your lap.  Having scored a front row seat is was pretty cool.  

 

I thought this was the best ice show so far that I've seen. We had front row seats too. My daughter loved being so close! 

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As an aviation geek my intention today was an experience in a 737 simulator open to the public in Nassau.  While I was at the hotel in Miami I got a call. 

A bulb had blown in a projector.  Being in Nassau they don't have access to resources like we do in the U.S. so they had to cancel my reservation.  Fortunately because of my double dip I had already booked a second appointment during my Enchantment visit to Nassau. 

I have a projector in my home theater and have gone through this myself.  Just like they did, I had a spare on hand from Amazon and just like me, their Amazon spare bulb lasted 10 seconds.  I totality felt their pain - been there, done that.   In their case it was costing them money.  In my case it was just annoying and I ordered a bulb from a real projector outlet instead of Amazon.  'No problem' I told them and they were super nice and apologetic about it all.  They assured me it would be fixed before my Enchantment stop a few days later.

That left me without an excursion.  Since it was a weekday I decided to work.  Gotta pay for these cruises...

After a few hours of work I needed to stretch my legs and I was hoping I might get some pictures in the AMPED adult only solarium without interrupting any fellow guests.

On my way there...

Pool deck surfer dude:

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Saw the ice cream machine on the pool deck close to the Windjammer so adding that here as well.

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Flowrider in action.

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The Solarium is for adults only.  It has it's own pool and hot tubs, plus its own bar.  The pool area is open to the sky but there are also covered areas for those who want to stay out of the sun.  

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I noted the cubby holes on the wall where you can put towels, shoes, etc while in the tub.  Another great addition instead of using a longer or chair to put your stuff on even though you aren't using that lounger or chair.

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Some of the solarium is similar to other ships albeit with a modern and fresh color design.

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However they have also added these new beach bungalow type beds.  Very nice! 

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Wow!  Super great upgrades to the solarium.  I hope they continue this on other ships getting ready to be AMPED.

Of course just off the solarium forward port side is the door that leads to the Peak-a-boo bridge mentioned earlier, or you can just step out onto a small balcony/walkway to look around outside.

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The new solarium updates should be a big hit.

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Off to The Bamboo Room to sample some of their unique cocktails:

Here is 'On The Run" served in a plastic pouch with handles so you can carry it around the ship.

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Next to Playmakers.  Playmakers participate in Diamond Happy Hour for those Diamond or higher in the Crown and Anchor Society.  

We were here in Nassau until 11:30pm and with it now being dark I wanted to get some night photos of the ship so off I went to grab my camera and head off.  

The promenade aft while I was on my way out.

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I took a number of night shots from different angles.  Some are long exposure to blur the reflections in the water.  The first one is a normal exposure.  I tried experimenting with zooming during the long exposure on some.

I can't decide which I like the most so here are some of the best ones.

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At 11pm the Bahama Breeze Pool Deck party commences.

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Mariner features "Late Night Snacks" in the Windjammer from 10:30pm to 12:30am.  A few ships have dabbled with this concept on a limited basis but Mariner has it consistently so I wanted to see what it is all about.

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On this occasion it was burgers and hot dogs, roasted chicken, Cous Cous, tortilla and fajitas.  This was shortly before it closed so I'm not sure if I missed more that might have been available earlier.  

I observed around 15-20 guests digging in on this quick stop after midnight.

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Day 3 - Cococay

Cococay isn't very far from Nassau so with an 11:30pm sail away from Nassau it's pretty easy to get there on time.

I woke to this.  Not bad.

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On Mariner you can't use your cabin TV to review your SeaPass account so I used the free Royal Caribbean app to keep an eye on charges.

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So far, so good.  All charges are as expected.  

My Certified Dive excursion through Royal comes with the added benefit of a dedicated tender boat transfer before the general tenders start running.  

A pier is under construction but for now, smaller tender boats transfer guests from ship to shore.  It's been this way for decades.  The new pier will be change all that... soon.

A note about the a certified dive excursion:

On day one I found a letter in my cabin explaining I needed to stop by the PADI Dive Center on boarding day by 6pm.  That's easy to miss on boarding day.  They need to see your C-Card and ask a few questions such as how much weight you need, what equipment you need and sizes.  Only then do you get your actual excursion ticket.  

Having done that my excursion ticket said to meet at 7:45am in the Schooner Bar.  Here our dive instructor from the onboard PADI 5 Star dive shop met us and we signed a waiver.  Before 8am we headed down to a waiting tender.  Normal tenders start at 8:30am and from deck 4 I could hear some people complaining "why do they get to go first?".

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Day 3 - Cococay Certified Scuba Dive

The certified scuba dive was on sale a couple months before sailing for $11 off so I jumped at it.  It is single tank shore dive but it's inexpensive and it's always good to keep current by diving often.  

After we arrived from the tender it's a short walk to the dive shop. 

 

There they match you up with the equipment you previously identified.  I brought my mask and snorkel but didn't want to pack my big scuba fins for just one dive so I requested fins from them.  The tank, regulator and buoyancy compensator were all included as well.   They had defogging spray on hand.

They locked the shop while we were diving so we were able to leave anything we needed to inside.

We all prepared our own gear and then our dive master brought us to a picnic table to go over the dive profile and confirm hand signals.  We were assigned dive buddies even though we would stay in a close group.

 

Next we put on our BC's and carried our fins and mask over to the beach.  We waded in waist deep and put on our fins and mask.  From here they have a couple of Jetskis with floating baskets they towed behind them.  We slid on and grabbed a rope to be slowly pulled over to the dive site away from the snorkel area.

There our instructor verified we had appropriate weight and could control our buoyancy before signaling for us all to submerge.

Soon we began to see various marine life and our dive master led us along the route she had outlined in the briefing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maximum depth was around 37 feet which is nothing.  Visibility was good and there was little to no current.  We had been advised we might see nurse sharks but there were none on this occasion.

After the dive the Jetskis returned to pull us back one by one to shore.

I did not wear a shorty but had brought my full rash guard which is a lightweight lycra material good in case of jellies or accidentally brushing against coral.  Some of the women wore shorty wet suits.  

It was a very easy dive and for the money well worth it.  We were done by 10am so it left lots of time for people to join back with family and still have ample time to enjoy Cococay.

Condensed video here:

 

 

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Day 3 - Continued

After the dive I headed back to the ship to change and get my good camera.  

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The seas were very flat and looked beautiful in the sunshine today.

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@Boston Babe - note the scooter parking to the left.  This is right where the tenders operate from now today. In the coming phots you can see how the area is pretty sandy and I'm not sure a scooter would do well in it.

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This remains the map they are using for Cococay.

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I've seen people ask about lockers:

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The straw market:

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By this time lunch was served:

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Lots of fresh fruit.

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Ice Tea, Lemonade, Fruit Punch and water are included.

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Cookies and other desserts.

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Not far away is a bar with a large covered area to escape the sun if you need to.

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One of the trams to get around.

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They had a ballon toss and other family friendly activities going on.

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The new pier under construction.

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