Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Nassau, Bahamas

In:
23 Apr 2022

It’s the final day of our 4-night Bahamas getaway cruise, which means we are sadly packing up our bags and getting ready to drive back home tomorrow.

Why can’t every week go as quickly as it does when you’re on vacation?

Today, we arrived early in the morning to Nassau, Bahamas. Angie and I were responsible today and set our alarms for a gnarly 8:30 AM to ensure we wouldn’t sleep another morning away.

I was again surprised to see the ship was already noticeably quiet, meaning most people were up earlier than we were to start their Nassau day. We didn’t have any issues with getting a seat in the Windjammer and the coffee bar was wide open - all good ways to start our morning.

We allocated 30 minutes to have breakfast and another 30 minutes to get ready for the day. Our goal was to be off the ship by 9:30 and we were successfully off the ship right around that time. 

Good Morning, Nassau

As I mentioned yesterday, we had Resort for a Day passes to the RIU Palace in Nassau. This all-inclusive resort is located on Paradise Island right next to Atlantis. It looked to be about a 10 minute drive from the port to the resort.

Our passes for the day were around $100 each and included access to the pools (including chairs and towels), unlimited alcoholic drinks and unlimited food. The pass was valid from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, but Mariner’s gangway up time was 3:00 PM for all aboard.

I don’t like to play with fire when it comes to all aboard time. You won’t see me cutting it close.

During my Semester at Sea abroad program, we would be punished with ‘dock time’ if we were late to the ship. Dock time was the ultimate punishment because for every 15 minutes you were late for all aboard time, you’d lose an hour of port time at the next stop. Needless to say, it’s engrained in me to give at least 30-60 minutes of buffer time for returning to the ship.

As we walked off the ship in Nassau, we were docked next to Carnival Freedom and Disney Magic. I might be biased, but Mariner looked to be in the best shape of the 3 ships.

There was a ton of construction, apparently for a new cruise port terminal in Nassau that’s being built. We probably had a solid 10 minute walk as we zigzagged through the construction. Finally, we reached the main road outside of the current terminal, which is basically a few tents.

A lady wearing an official looking vest asked if we were going to Paradise Island and we told her we were headed to the RIU Palace. She had us join a large group of others heading to Paradise Island. I was actually fine with this - as two women traveling together, I prefer to be in a larger group just to be safe.

RIU Palace - Resort for a Day

The drive was a quick 10 minutes and I initially was very impressed with Paradise Island’s curb appeal. We walked into the RIU Palace right at 10:00 AM, as we had hoped, and waited in line to check in. The lobby was beautiful with plenty of views of the pool and ocean.

In alignment with our theme this entire cruise, it was quite windy as we walked outside to the pool area. There were 2 pools, one of which was an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. There was a swim-up bar and plenty of chairs to choose from.

The wind was a bit overwhelming when we first arrived, so we walked around the resort for a bit to see what it looked like. As you can guess, we are loyal cruisers so we haven’t really been to an all-inclusive resort before.

Angie ordered a vanilla milkshake from the snack bar inside - a wild start to our unlimited drinking! We noticed that people seemed to be enjoying the infinity pool without getting blown over, so I grabbed a drink and we snagged a spot on the corner near the infinity's edge.

The infinity pool had a gorgeous view of the ocean with some lounging chairs partially submerged in the water. The pool was super nice and the bar was blocking us from the majority of the wind. The temperature was perfect. We settled nicely into the infinity pool and had a mini photoshoot with the picturesque views.

The other pool appeared to be less protected from the wind, so we stayed comfortable in the infinity pool near the swim-up bar. The RIU Palace also has a private, direct access to the beach. The water was gorgeously blue, but the red flag and giant waves made us appreciate the infinity pool.

We also met some nice gals traveling from Las Vegas. This is one of my favorite parts of traveling - getting to meet and connect people from all over the world!

Between the views, pina coladas and new found friends, it seemed like the time really flew by.

Lunch was being served both poolside and in the buffet. Since cruising is essentially one big buffet, we opted to try the Caribbean-style buffet poolside. We tried the rice, jerk pork and jerk chicken. All of it was delicious and hit the spot.

Since we needed to return to the ship by 3:00 PM, we started to pack up around 1:30 PM. We had to check-out of the resort, in which the front desk would return my ID that they held and would cut off our wristbands.

The line, unfortunately, wasn’t moving quickly as many people had now arrived to check-in to their rooms at the resort. We waited probably 15 minutes before I approached the bellhop to ask if he could arrange a taxi for us to go back to the ship.

The bellhop went behind the front desk and returned my ID while also cutting off our wristbands. I wasn’t getting too worried about the time at this point, as we had an hour to get back on the ship.

Our taxi driver promptly returned us to the port where we walked and zigzagged through the construction again.

We made it back to the ship by 2:15 PM, which was still plenty of time.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time at RIU Resort. It had a party-vibe with lots of groups and friends traveling together, perhaps for bachelor and bachelorette parties. There was a wide array of people there though, so I think people of all ages would enjoy this. The unlimited food and drink is a great perk. The infinity pool and beach access are also great amenities.

I would check to see how long you have in port and how early you can check in for your resort pass. We could check in at 10:00 AM and needed to be back on the ship by 3:00PM, which only gave us about 4 solid hours of the 8 hour pass. If our ship was in port longer, or if the resort had let us in earlier, we would have gotten more of our money’s worth.

Three Strikes on the SkyPad

Back on the ship, I made one final attempt for the SkyPad. I dressed in workout gear and put on my closed toe shoes. I even tried to yank off my wedding ring to make sure I didn’t have any jewelry. To no one’s surprise, my fingers were swollen from the heat, eating and alcohol so I was not successful at removing all my jewelry.

As I trekked up to the SkyPad, I saw the long line coming around the stairs. Filled with determination, I made my way to the line where the employee would approve my outfit. I guess my ring was no problem but Angie’s shorts were too short and my top didn’t cover enough of my arms. We discretely traded shirts so Angie could capture me doing the SkyPad.

I think the universe was laughing when I wrote the SkyPad was on my top 3 things I wanted to do for this cruise. They only had 1 trampoline in use and there were probably 12 adolescents in front of me. A storm was brewing in the distance and the employees told everyone they could stay in line but the SkyPad would close if it started to rain.

At this point, I accepted that I wasn’t meant to do the SkyPad. Most of the people in line were significantly younger than I, so I also didn’t want to take a spot from one of the kids if the line happened to magically move fast and the rain stayed away.

We made our way to the Solarium to grab a cocktail and drown my sorrows of 3 failed attempts at the SkyPad. Angie said how she hoped maybe we could grab one of the daybeds in the Solarium to watch the sail away from port.

Well, fate just wasn’t on our side again because all of the daybeds were taken. What made me super frustrated was that all 3 daybeds on one side of the Solarium were ‘taken’ but no one was using them.

Cruising is officially back because the chair hogs are back in full swing!

As we sailed away from port, Angie and I waited at least 20 minutes and no one returned to the daybeds. One of the beds simply had a beach bag on the corner so we sat on the opposite side while watching the ship sail off.

We agreed if the person came back to the bed, we would just move to another spot. After sitting on the edge for some time, we hear a voice that says “uhm, can you not sit by my stuff?”

I responded that I was sorry, but no one was using it. She grabbed a towel from the adjacent daybed (that no one was currently using either) and draped it across the entire bed to claim her territory.

Essentially, she was hogging 2 of the coveted daybeds and walked away!

Angie and I were pretty surprised that she was blatantly hogging the beds and didn’t even use the daybed after telling us not to sit ‘by’ her stuff.

I wish people could be more considerate on these packed sailings. In the full hour that we were in the Solarium, not one person laid on the daybeds that they were saving.

Jamie's Italian for Dinner

All the chair hogging got me worked up, so we went back to our cabin and got ready for dinner. We had a reservation for Jamie’s Italian tonight and we were both very excited. Our reservation wasn’t until 6:00 PM but we arrived a little early and were accommodated without problem.

The first time we ate at Jamie’s was on Spectrum of the Seas during our China sailing. We had been craving a sense of cruise normalcy during that time, so Jamie’s really hit the spot and knocked it out of the park on our first impressions. We also dined back in February at Jamie’s with our parents on Harmony of the Seas.

Angie and I die for good Italian food, so we came hungry. We started with the black truffle arancini and ultimate garlic cheese bread. Both of these were delicious. We’ve also enjoyed the meat plank before, but we skipped this time around since it was just the two of us.

For pastas, we ordered the carbonara, truffle tagliatelle and bolognese in the smaller portions. We both agreed that the truffle pasta was the winner, which was also our favorite last time.

Angie ordered the lasagne for an entree and I ordered the beef short rib. Angie’s lasagne was delightful, rich in sauce and plenty of cheesy layers. My short rib was tender and very flavorful. We opted to polish off our meals with the pavlova and epic brownie. The pavlova is always a hit and Angie hoarded it mostly to herself; I wasn’t mad though, because the brownie was also rich, fudgy and decadent.

The service was excellent again and we commented how we’ve had such fast services during all of our meals.

The two of us got talking to the table next to us - an older couple from Chicago area. We were chatting away until we realized it was nearly 7:00 PM and we had to go to the Royal Theatre for the show. The final headliner tonight was a variety show featuring the previous night’s juggler and the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. It was a lovely show to end the cruise.

And yes, the family-friendly juggler comedian mentioned flatulence (as I predicted) multiple times.

We finished our night with one final drink at The Bamboo Room. Angie and I both enjoyed a mojito. I also wanted to say goodbye to our Ukranian bartender we met, as he really tugged at my heartstrings the first day.

Here we all are on this cruise, a carefree vacation, while some of the crew members have families in an active war zone. The crew work so hard while sailing on these cruise ships and they receive very little time off. Most of the time, these crew members are working to support their families back in their home countries.

With a deployed spouse myself, I empathize greatly with the sacrifices they make being away from family. I know personally how hard that is to be separated from your family and miss milestones, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. 

I always keep this on my mind and in my heart when I finalize my gratuities on the last day. I want to recognize the crew members that really make cruising so special for us and reward those who go above and beyond to cater to our needs. 

After our last mojito and a farewell to The Bamboo Room, we came back to our stateroom and packed our bags. The saddest moment of the cruise - truly!

So that brings us to the end of our sister cruise! We had the best time sharing this experience together and capturing all the incredible (and unexpected!) moments. We still can’t believe our ship was hit by a cargo ship on the first day - nonetheless that our first day was meant to be a sea day.

Thanks for following along and hope to see you all back at sea soon!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
22 Apr 2022

Today we arrived at the beautiful island of CocoCay, Bahamas, which is Royal Caribbean’s private island.

Back in February, we had visited Perfect Day at CocoCay for the first time in nearly 13 years. We were super impressed with how the island had been transformed into a private island oasis.

Needless to say, Angie and I were super excited to return to CocoCay. It’s such a fun stop with great music, delicious food and tropical vibes around every corner. It’s an easy going day with everything all in one convenient spot.

Late Morning

I’m embarrassed to say we had a late start to our day - to the point that we missed breakfast in the Windjammer! I must have jinxed myself yesterday because I really didn’t sleep well last night, which is unusual for me on a cruise. I was awake throughout the night and finally fell back asleep in the early morning.

I could feel the ship swaying and waves were crashing against the ship’s hull, so I was in no rush to wake up. Angie had reported that we might arrive late into port today because of the wind, so I was convinced all morning that we simply hadn’t arrived to port yet because I could feel the ship moving.

Low and behold, when we finally awoke from our pitch-black slumber, we had no idea where we were or what time it was. We turned on the TV map to confirm that we had indeed arrived in CocoCay and it was 11:00 AM. I guess the wind must have been substantial enough to make the ship continue to sway even while docked.

That’s one of the downsides on an inside cabin I suppose, we really have no concept of time or location without a window.

Everyone must have been ashore by the time we left our cabin because the ship was virtually dead as we made our way to deck 1 and onto CocoCay.

It was certainly a bit windy as we walked along the shoreline, but it was very comfortable once we reached the island. The sun started to peak out and it really was a perfect day.

Allure of the Seas was supposed to dock with us today but was unable to make it due to reported medical emergencies. Therefore, the island felt pretty empty with only our ship docked.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Since we had missed breakfast, we were very ready to grab some lunch. Snack Shack is a great spot for food, so we made our way across the island for a quick bite to eat.

Angie and I had the crispy chicken sandwich with basil mayo - it’s deliciousness reminded us both of Chick Fil A. Per recommendations, we also ordered the cheese sticks, which were equally as cheesy as they were crispy.

We polished off our meal with a funnel cake, which I have deemed an absolute must-have when visiting CocoCay. Deep fried sweet dough covered in powdered sugar. How often can you get a funnel cake these days anyway… unless you’re dragging yourself to your local state fair in the summer?! Just go for it and thank us later!

The party tunes were blasting from Oasis Lagoon, so we made our way over to the swim-up bar. This was our favorite spot when we visited in February - it’s such a fun atmosphere and everyone’s always having a good time drinking to the DJ’s remixes.

We also had it on our agenda to try out the floating tiki bar on South Beach. We weren’t entirely sure where the bar was located, so we started wandering around towards the hot air balloon (which wasn’t running today because of wind).

Eventually, we found rows of beach chairs and umbrellas on South Beach with the famous floating tiki bar off in the distance.

The water was turquoise blue and felt refreshing after walking in the sand and heat. South Beach was much quieter and felt very low key, so this would be a great place to relax if you prefer a more serene beach experience.

We did, indeed, have to swim a bit to get to the floating bar. As we hoisted ourselves up on the bar, it was pretty packed with other cruisers. We waited for a bit while the bartender left the bar and started to make a few calls.

Someone told us the bar had ran out of ice, which was bad luck timing for us. We didn’t feel like waiting for the logistics to play out regarding how exactly more ice would be transported to the floating tiki bar, so we swam back to the beach.

Since we love Oasis Lagoon so much, we went back for a few more drinks and to enjoy the DJ again. Angie opted for a Bahama mama while I tried out the watermelon margarita. It’s dangerously easy to access your Diamond + vouchers at the swim-up bar!

Drinks were flowing and the tunes were bopping as we soaked in the sun in the freshwater pool.

Back Onboard

By now, it was around 3:00 PM so we decided to return back to our ship and get ready for the evening. We could see the waterslides were running, so we thought that would be fun since we were already in our swimsuits.

Angie and I both took our turns on the waterslides, twisting and turning through the tunnels. We agreed that the slide didn’t go as fast as we were expecting. Angie said the slides on Harmony of the Seas were faster and a bit more thrilling. Perhaps the slides are meant for younger (and smaller) cruisers.  Still fun to try though!

It was nice that we didn’t have to wait in any lines - we actually saw some people going multiple times in a row. Long lines have been a recurring theme on this cruise, so it was nice to see this. This pre-departure timeframe seemed like the opportune time to try out the onboard thrills with minimal waiting required.

To my surprise, the SkyPad trampoline experience was open! I figured with the winds that it wouldn’t be open today. Drenched in both beach and pool water, I wasn’t equipped to seize the opportunity and jump in line (that was punny, eh?!). I am determined to do the SkyPad tomorrow and I’ll be angsty if it’s too windy when I try again.

Famished Tummies

Angie and I returned to our cabin for a quick change and grabbed our laptops. We were hoping to get on the internet to catch up on work emails while grabbing a snack at the Cafe Promenade.

Well, apparently everyone had the same idea because the line was wrapped around to Ben and Jerry’s again and the Internet virtually crashed simultaneously. Big bummer.

Angie had a great idea to head to the Diamond Lounge - it would probably be quieter and we could grab some hors d'oeuvres. Since it was about 45 minutes before these would be served, we sat in the lounge and caught up on our work emails.

The hors d'oeuvres were served promptly at 5:00 PM, consisting of more cheesy sticks, corn fritters and chicken wings. By this time, I was basically famished by cruising standards so the snacks were devoured.

I was a little nervous about how our dinner situation would play out again. Again, we didn’t feel like sitting with strangers so we asked the hostess if we could sit elsewhere just the two of us. He was a bit frazzled, but ended up accommodating us at an empty table of 8.

Angie and I both ordered the chicken parmesan and Mississippi mudslide pie for dessert. I started with some needed greenery by ordering Cesar salad. Angie ordered the mushroom risotto (which is funny, since she claims she doesn’t like mushrooms). This was actually and entree tonight but she requested it as an appetizer. Angie also splurged on a second dessert and tried the apple blossom. Everything was delicious!

It was probably the fastest meal we’ve ever eaten in the dining room; we were in and out within 30 minutes! Our waiters were hilarious - I wish we could have had them every night.

Our originally assigned table was around the corner and it didn’t seem to be the liveliest bunch. Cruising is certainly back if they’re sitting strangers together again!

Right after dinner, we had some RoyalCaribbeanBlog fans introduce themselves to us! This was our first time meeting blog fans in real life; it was such a special moment!

Evening Fun

After blushing in my new found stardom (joking!), we made our way to the Royal Theatre for the nightly show. Tonight’s entertainment was a dual show starting with a family-friendly comedian and followed by a juggler. We both loved the variety show and laughed many times!

If there’s one topic that’s going to come up during a family-friendly comedy show, I guarantee it will be flatulence! Mark my words, the next time you go to one of these shows, it’s not a matter of if, but when, the topic comes up.

When the show concluded, we took a spin at the casino to use our free Diamond + free spins. Last night, Angie won $20 on her free spins so she was anxious for me to use mine. As my luck would have it, I won absolutely nothing.

I forgot that smoking was back in the casino, which I really didn’t miss as one of the pandemic protocols.

We also picked out our free Diamond + photo from the gallery tonight with hopes of avoiding congestion tomorrow. We each get a free photo, so we selected the pictures that should be ready for pickup tomorrow evening. This seems to be way more sustainable than printing every single photo like Royal Caribbean used to!

Tomorrow we will be docked in Nassau on our final day. We have a resort day pass booked for the RIU Palace in Nassau - this is our first time doing a resort day pass while cruising! I just discovered our vouchers needed to be printed for tomorrow - which prompted us to panic about where we can print something onboard.

Mariner has a library located on deck 5 with computers and a printer. We were able to access my email by using the internet package login, so that worked nicely.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Freeport, Bahamas

In:
21 Apr 2022

Today was a very eventful day onboard Mariner of the Seas!

To start, we were meant to have a sea day on the original itinerary. Yesterday, we found out we would instead be docking in Freeport, Bahamas for the ship to undergo routine maintenance.

As such, Angie and I were excited to visit a new port in the Bahamas. We’ve only visited Nassau and CocoCay, so we welcomed the unexpected opportunity to visit somewhere new. I think this scenario, receiving a bonus port, is probably the best case scenario when you see there’s been an itinerary change last minute.

Royal Caribbean offered excursions for Grand Bahama Island, including beach tours, dolphin encounters and city guides. We opted to just do our own thing in port rather than book anything last minute, although we did consider booking a resort day pass.

Easy Going Morning

I always sleep amazing when I am cruising. Between the ship slowly swaying and our inside cabin being pitch black, it’s so easy to get a good night’s rest.

Angie and I enjoyed a nice morning onboard the ship starting with breakfast at the Windjammer. It was fairly busy, but we didn’t have to wait in any lines. I was worried it would be packed with long lines given we are sailing almost at 100% capacity. Perhaps most people had an earlier start than we did at 10:30am, but we didn’t have any issues finding a table.

I discovered on our last cruise that I could order my morning latte (a necessity) at the Windjammer bar with one of my Diamond + drink vouchers. There is a Starbucks onboard, but I would rather take advantage of my vouchers than pay out of pocket for a latte at Starbucks.

Breakfast was great - we’re pretty much always pleased with the Windjammer breakfast. Angie indulged in a cinnamon roll and meat lovers omelet while I had a strawberry yogurt parfait. We both are obsessed with the cranberry strudel bread, which seems to be a Royal Caribbean staple over the years. Sometimes it’s topped with almonds and other times it’s sprinkled with coarse sugar. Either way, the bread is best enjoyed with a large slab of butter.

After finishing breakfast, we went back to our cabin on deck 8 and got ready for the day. I appreciate that our cabin is pretty centrally located - it’s never too far from any of the activities or dining options. Of course, it’s a bit of a long trek from Deck 1 when you return to the gangway.

Our cabin was already cleaned by the stateroom attendant and we found a tray of room service breakfast that we hadn’t ordered. I may (or may not) have enjoyed the mimosa that was accidentally delivered to our cabin after telling our stateroom attendant that the room service must have been delivered incorrectly. She encouraged me to enjoy the drink, so I didn’t hesitate!

We usually take the stairs when we cruise. One of the main reasons we choose to do so is because the elevators are always busy, especially this time around. The few times we’ve taken them, we stop at every deck and have to wait for a more empty one. A little bit of exercise isn’t the worst thing for us either!

Freeport Shopping

Angie and I walked right off the ship into the Freeport port, which appeared to have a really nice shopping area. We could see a bunch of little souvenir shops surrounding an outdoor Senior Frogs.

The weather was a comfortable 75 degrees with light gusts of wind and low humidity. I can imagine in the summer months that it gets much hotter, but today it was perfect.

We enjoyed souvenir shopping in the port area and even sampled some rum cakes that were made locally. Any day that includes rum cake and free samples is a great day in my book!

Because we were originally meant to be at sea today, Angie and I had a few things onboard that we were planning to try. After shopping and walking around the nice port, we decided to head back to the ship so we could make our way through the to-do list.

“We must have hit an iceberg!”

Upon returning to our stateroom, we found a fruit plate that was addressed to Allie Hubers from the Crown and Anchor Society. Angie jokingly questioned why she didn’t receive a fruit plate even though she’s the same status as I am.

Shortly after, we hear a knock on the door and we are gifted another fruit plate which is also addressed to me. Angie scowled, although we were both laughing at the abundant recognition that Royal Caribbean was giving me.

As we were eating said fruit, we felt the ship unexpectedly jerk back and forth. I immediately figured that must have been the scheduled maintenance that Mariner apparently was needing.

Angie joked “That was weird! We must have hit an iceberg!”

Of course, icebergs were nowhere to be found in the Caribbean and we were docked at the port…. so what could that jolt have been?

Well, not too long after, the captain announces that another ship has unfortunately bounced into us while we were docked. He assures everyone onboard Mariner that we are not to worry and everything is fine, although the ship would need to be inspected to ensure it's safe to continue sailing.

Our bonus port day suddenly got even more interesting!

Angie and I nearly ran to the top deck to check out the action - this was the moment that cruise blogging turned into investigative journalism! We saw a few people watching below from the top deck as a tug boat helped keep the cargo ship away from us.

I asked the gentleman next to me if he had seen the incident happen - he asked me what I was talking about. I informed him that the captain said we were struck by another ship - he seemed surprised and had no clue! There was a ship officer on the top deck who I also spoke with; he wasn’t concerned and joked that he has lived at sea so long, he has seen it all.

Click here to read more about the incident.

Overall, it was pretty obvious no one onboard was very concerned. The belly flop competition on the top deck was absolutely packed with people cheering and drinking. The FlowRider was also quite busy; by the way, I heard yesterday that there was a long line to surf, but I noticed today they had the divider up so two people could surf at once.

I told Angie we should check out the jogging trail on deck 4 since that would probably offer a better view of the cargo ship. The crew had blocked off the back of the ship by this point and told us we couldn’t be there, so unfortunately we didn’t get to see much. Aftermath photos show that this is where the ship ‘bounced’ into ours, so it makes sense why we couldn’t continue walking to see more.

Afternoon Activities

The original plan was to get back onboard so we could try out the SkyPad. Since I’ve heard a few grumblings of long lines, I thought it would be good to get there early.

The breaking news of our ship being struck by a cargo ship had derailed our afternoon plans. After realizing we wouldn’t get to see much more of the collision action, we opted to try out the SkyPad. We had dressed appropriately with closed toed shoes and removed our jewelry.

Sadly, the winds were too strong to do the SkyPad so we weren’t able to bounce today. I suppose that makes sense, as the wind seemed to be causing other problems today too (i.e. a cargo ship bouncing into us).

All the commotion and investigating made me hungry, so we opted for a quick lunch at the Windjammer. Given how busy the pool was, it was nice that the Windjammer was pretty quiet again. There was a little crowd of people who were watching as two tug boats attempted to safely move the cargo ship.

As I savored my go-to hot dog and fries, we could see more clearly that the cargo ship’s bridge had sustained some damage.

A small group of us watched as the tug boats safely moved the cargo ship while a pilot boat hovered nearby. That seemed to be the end of the commotion, although we couldn’t really see Mariner’s damage from anywhere public on the ship.

By this time, it was almost 3:00 PM and Angie wanted to check out the free massages. We found a small line outside of the spa forming but it moved fast. Really, this was more of a ‘free sample of a massage’ rather than a ‘free massage’. Angie opted for a 2 minute hot stone massage while I had just a normal mini massage.

Of course, they asked if we wanted to book any spa treatments. A quick glance at the treatment sheet showed plenty of lovely options, but most of them costed more than our cruise fare alone so we politely declined.

A Happy Hour Campfire Cookie

Other writers from RoyalCaribbeanBlog have raved about the campfire cookie at Playmakers, so this was at the top of my list of things I needed to try.

The promenade was busy with Cafe Promenade having a line that wrapped around the corner all the way back to Ben and Jerry’s. That was longer than the day prior, and we overheard a few other cruisers grumbling about the wait.

As a first-timer to Playmakers, I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to order at the bar and find a seat or if we would be seated and order at the table. I still am not sure the answer to that, but we ordered the campfire cookie from the bartender. He told us the kitchen was pretty busy and it could take up to 45 minutes.

I was a bit surprised by the wait time, but we told the bartender we would grab a drink at The Bamboo Room and return after to indulge in our cookie. We had really liked The Bamboo Room yesterday and the tiki bar was nearly empty when we walked inside.

This time around, I tried the Royal Zombie, which came in an adorable tiki cup and had hints of black licorice flavor. Angie was feeling less adventurous and opted for the same piña colada again. We sipped on our delicious drinks and once again enjoyed the ambiance.

We walked across the promenade back to Playmakers to hopefully indulge in our campfire cookie. After another 10 minute wait, our cookie was finally delivered to our table.

I think heaven opened and angels sang from above as we took our first bite into the ooey, gooey, chocolatey cookie goodness. It was insanely delicious and certainly lived up to the hype. Our cookie was served (we think) with Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream, which was the perfect accompaniment to the warm cookie.

Main Dining Room

Since we ate at Chops Grille last night, we went to the main dining room for the first time tonight. We had scoped out earlier that our table had 6 seats… meaning we would be seated with random people.

I was a bit surprised by this, as I haven’t been seated with strangers in the main dining room for years!

We were fashionably late to dinner since we didn’t realize it was formal night and we needed to change. We eyed our assigned table from afar and found it was filled with 4 older folks - totally fine but we weren’t feeling like sitting with strangers at dinner or making small talk.

We asked the hostess if we could be seated elsewhere. He said the dining room was full and he could seat us with other passengers who are closer to our age if we wanted. Luckily, he was able to find us a private table where the passengers were dining at a specialty restaurant.

Angie and I enjoyed a nice dinner overlooking the main dining room. As we were getting seated, the captain announced that the ship would be leaving port as scheduled. He explained only minor cosmetic damage was done from the cargo ship and Mariner was seaworthy and safe to sail. Great news!

Dinner was great tonight. Angie and I both enjoyed the beef tenderloin as the main entree. Angie said the pumpkin soup was a very good starter. My French onion soup tasted different than normal, but I still enjoyed it. For dessert, we both chose the Grand Mariner soufflé. This is our dad’s all-time favorite dessert, so we had to indulge for him!

I will say, I miss the more personalized service you receive on longer voyages. It’s been a while since I’ve done a short cruise, but I do feel like this is less intimate than other voyages. Normally, we get to know the crew members and they also get to know us - which is something I miss on this shorter cruise.

After dinner, Angie went to the Royal Theatre for the headliner show, which featured Royal Caribbean singers and dancers with a live band. This isn’t my favorite kind of show, so I relaxed in the cabin instead.

The show was called Production Showtime: Gallery of Dreams. Angie reported that it was an upbeat show with worldly themes from Austria, Morocco and the ‘Wild West’. The show was enjoyed by people of all ages, kids and elderly alike.

Angie also reported back that the cruise director told the audience we might be late getting into CocoCay tomorrow because of the wind. For how much wind has been impacting our cruise, I really don’t feel like it’s *that* windy outside! We will see what adventures tomorrow brings.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

In:
20 Apr 2022

Reporting live from Mariner of the Seas! It’s the first day of our 4-night sailing from Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay. The first day is always filled with so much excitement and anticipation.

As we drove up to the port, we could see both Mariner and Anthem of the Seas in the distance. Busy day in port for a Tuesday!

Our boarding time was 1:30 this afternoon. Upon arrival, the parking lot appeared to be more full than our last cruise from Port Canaveral onboard Harmony of the Seas in late February.

We were prompted to park in an open lot that was a bit further than the parking ramp that we had previously parked in. It was $85 to park for the duration of the cruise.

Checking In

After showing our negative covid test and vaccine card, we walked inside the terminal to go through security.

I was curious to see if we could ditch our masks during the check-in process, as last night the news broke about the CDC’s mask mandate being overturned. As such, all of the airlines dropped their masking requirements but I had yet to read any news about cruise travel being impacted.

We were almost immediately prompted to put on our masks while showing our travel documents outside the terminal, so that question was quickly answered. 

Signs indoors also instructed cruise passengers that masks were required in the terminal. Masks are currently optional onboard, but the vast majority of passengers are not wearing them.

Check-in was a breeze, and we were on our way to board the ship!

Stateroom Impressions

By the time we boarded, it was almost 2:00 PM and the staterooms were ready. This was great news, as we opted to carry on our luggage for this short cruise rather than giving our bags to the porters.

Since we booked an inside guarantee cabin, our stateroom was assigned right before the cruise departed. We will be staying in cabin 8371, which is located at the very back of the ship. We found our stateroom, unloaded our luggage and spent some time getting settled.

This inside cabin oozes with nostalgia for us. As a family, we cruised many times onboard Voyager Class ships for nearly a decade, so this cabin truly feels like home. These ships brought our family everywhere from Canada to Greece and around the Caribbean multiple times. Recent cruises for us have been on newer ships, which certainly have more modern cabins with updated interior designs.

This cabin has everything we need to be comfortable though; in fact, it feels a bit roomier than our inside cabin onboard Harmony of the Seas a couple months ago.

Angie and I didn’t pack too much for this cruise since it’s only 4 nights, but there’s plenty of space and storage. We barely filled up the closet with our clothes, so I don’t think we would need a bigger stateroom for the two of us even if we were cruising on a longer voyage.

It was quite windy today when we boarded the ship, so we were worried about whether our cabin location would make us feel the swaying of the ship more intently. We usually prioritize a midship cabin to limit motion, but we didn't want to pay extra to choose our cabin. Luckily, we haven’t felt the seas being rough, but I will keep you updated if my opinions change on that.

Itinerary Change

For the first time in all my cruising years, our sailing has a last minute itinerary change! Of course, this has become more common with the pandemic, but we were surprised to find an updated itinerary in our cabin.

Instead of having a sea day tomorrow, we will be docking in Grand Bahama Island. The letter stated that Mariner of the Seas needs to have some “regularly scheduled ship maintenance,” so this is a logistical stop, but we are able to get off the ship or book excursions if we choose.  

This is interesting for a few reasons, as the change appears to be pretty last minute. Regularly scheduled ship maintenance is necessary I am sure, but I figured these logistical needs were built into the itinerary or performed on the ship’s turnover day in Port Canaveral. I’ve inquired about the maintenance to multiple crew members. They’ve all been surprised to learn of the itinerary change themselves, so I haven't uncovered the need for the maintenance. 

Needless to say, we are excited to explore a new port! Neither of us have visited Freeport, Bahamas so we plan to explore the port on our own.

Getting Acquainted

After settling into our cabin, we finished our virtual muster drill safety requirements. I hope Royal Caribbean keeps the virtual muster drill forever, as it’s infinitely better than the traditional drill where everyone crams together on deck 4 and ‘learns’ how to put on the life jacket.

As with any cruise, we couldn’t go more than a few hours without eating so we grabbed a quick lunch at Cafe Promenade. Angie and I both enjoyed our sandwiches. She also tried the cheese pizza and felt it was equivalent to Sorrento’s pizza, which is her go-to lunch option when cruising.

I noticed immediately while sitting inside the cafe that the ship felt much busier than the last few times I’ve cruised. We didn’t have any issues finding a seat or waiting in a long line to get food, but the overall atmosphere felt more crowded.

The Bamboo Room

One of the things I was eager to try is The Bamboo Room, which is a tiki bar located in the promenade. Bright neon lights and greenery made this tropical venue easy to find. The bar had a very fun and inviting ambiance adorned with more neon lights, wicker lampshades, teal booths and floral wallpaper.

The bar was fairly busy, which was fine for us as we looked over the extensive cocktail menu. Specialty drinks seemed to included a multitude of rum and other liquors. There were so many quirky cocktails that we had a hard time choosing which ones to try!

I tried the ‘On the Run’ cocktail while Angie tried a classic piña colada. Mine was served in a Bamboo Room plastic bag, which was a fun twist on the traditional cocktail glass! The cocktail was priced at $14, so I had to pay the extra $1 since my Diamond + drink coupons only cover up to $13 per drink. The up-charge was well worth it! We both loved our drinks and definitely enjoyed the island vibes.

One of my favorite parts of cruising is getting to talk to the crew members and asking about their families or home country. The Bamboo Room bartender was very chatty with Angie and I while fixing our drinks. When I asked where he was from, he responded he was from Ukraine. I asked if he had family back in his home country, to which he said yes he did. He briefly mentioned that his family is in a safer area, but it certainly made my heart heavy for him. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for him to be so far from his family during this time. We told him we would be back to The Bamboo Room to try more drinks; but I also added I would be thinking of his family and sending prayers for their safety. He was genuinely grateful and said he looked forward to seeing us again.

Sail Away

Our ship was scheduled to depart Port Canaveral around 4:00 PM, so we had to check out the pool deck for the sail away party. Did you even cruise if you don’t wave goodbye to the port from the top deck?!

The pool deck was turnt-up with a DJ busting out some very classic, upbeat party tunes. There were lots of cruisers dancing with a drink in hand. The pools were pretty busy with kids swimming and also enjoying the fun atmosphere.

Again, it was much busier than the previous cruises I’ve done; granted, my last 2 cruises were sailing at 25% and 50% capacity. I noticed a small line coming from both the pool bar and Solarium bar. Because this cruise was so cheap and booked last minute, I assumed the ship would be sailing with a lower capacity as well.

According to the crew, we are sailing with 3,500 passengers, which is just below sailing capacity.

We’re also sailing at the tail end of spring break following the Easter holiday, so there are tons of families and college kids onboard. Normally, I feel like Angie and I are some of the youngest cruisers onboard - especially as we’ve been sailing on longer voyages to more unique destinations in recent years. What a change of pace!

These short getaway cruises attract an entirely different cruising population and the atmosphere feels much more party-like. Even the Solarium felt more lively than normal during sail away.

Angie and I both commented on the Solarium’s noticeable upgrades to feel more trendy and modern. There were multiple canopy beds intertwined with the lounge chairs and a greenery backdrop. These canopy beds looked super comfortable, so we are hoping to snag one during this cruise if we can.

As the ship sailed out to sea, we realized it was almost time for dinner. Time flies when you're having tiki drinks and head bopping to The Electric Slide. 

Our normal routine while cruising includes a quick visit to the Diamond Lounge before heading to dinner, so we made our way up to Deck 14 to check it out.

The Diamond Lounge had a small selection of hors d'oeuvres with limited seating, but felt like it was pretty busy. We normally prefer when the lounge has a more intimate experience and you can get to know the staff and other cruisers.

Since we can use our Diamond Plus drinks at any bar now, Angie and I opted to just grab a cocktail before heading to Chops Grille.

Dinner at Chops Grille

Because this cruise was so cheap, we were able to treat ourselves and spend a little extra to enjoy a more upscale dinner at Chops Grille.

We took advantage of the pre-cruise deal for Chops + 1, which was on sale last week when planning our cruise. This dining package allows us to enjoy Chops and another specialty restaurant during our cruise.

Growing up, we never ate at the specialty restaurants onboard. Our parents always said we had already paid for food in the main dining room with our cruise fare, and we were very satisfied with the food and service we received when cruising. As cheap college students, my husband and I also found the main dining room to offer a very nice dinner experience each night and never felt we needed to spend extra for food.

Within the last 5 years, we’ve all grown to appreciate the specialty dining experience while cruising. We normally choose to go when the main dining room has a lackluster menu or we want to switch up the nightly routine. The BOGO deal for Diamond + cruisers is also a nice perk that makes specialty dining more affordable.

Tonight, our Chops Grille dinner started with a warm plate of bread, which included pretzel rolls and onion buns. We both ordered the bacon starter, which is a thick cut of pork with a light drizzle of sweet & spicy glaze. For the next course, I ordered the fried goat cheese salad and Angie tried the wild mushroom soup. Both were excellent.

For the main course, I ordered the petite filet mignon and Angie ordered the roasted chicken. A steakhouse isn’t exactly the best place for Angie since she doesn’t like beef, but she has always loved the chicken entree.

My steak was very tender and flavorful. We love most of the sides, so we ordered mashed potatoes, asparagus, giant guerre tots and Mac and cheese. The tots are our absolute favorite!

Dessert is also a highlight for us, so Angie and I ordered 3 different ones to try: key lime pie, warm chocolate cake and cheesecake. The warm chocolate cake was the winner, with its ooey gooey molten center, followed by the key lime pie. The cheesecake didn’t do it for me, which was the only disappointing part of the meal - but we certainly didn’t leave hungry.

Ice Show

We ended our evening with the ice show, which was called Ice Under the Big Top. We love the ice shows, and this one did not disappoint! We scurried our full bellies from Chops down to Studio B for the ice show and arrived with just a few minutes to spare; unfortunately, this means we got stuck behind a giant pole because the venue was packed.

There was no main headliner or welcome abroad show in the Royal Theatre tonight, which was interesting. Instead, they were playing a movie, Sing 2. This didn’t appeal to me or Angie, although I am sure some of the families enjoyed.

The ice show was circus themed with some elaborate, dazzling costumes. It was certainly a show that anyone would enjoy, with some segments catered more towards kids and others simply showcasing the incredible skating skills of the performers. The littlest cruisers were very interactive with the cast members, often cheering and dancing in their seat.

Live Blog Preview: Mariner of the Seas

In:
18 Apr 2022

It’s that time again to pack my suitcase, find some sunscreen and swab my nose for a negative covid test! My next Royal Caribbean adventure begins on April 19 when I’ll be boarding Mariner of the Seas for a 4-night Bahamas sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida. 

Each day, I will be live blogging my cruise to share our experience onboard Mariner of the Seas! I am very excited to share my cruise experience with y'all.

Our itinerary includes one sea day and stops at both Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas. Nothing like a short and sweet cruise to break up a normal work week!

This cruise was actually very cheap for an inside guarantee cabin, costing us just $62 a night. Since I live in northern Florida, the trek down to Port Canaveral is well worth the drive for this quick getaway cruise.

We've already been assigned our cabin, which is located near the back of the ship according to deck plans. Since it's a short cruise, I'm not too concerned about the cabin location.

We booked this cruise only 2 weeks ago, making this officially a ‘last minute cruise deal’ in my book. I've never booked a cruise this close to departure, but I love the feeling of being more spontaneous than I typically am in life.

My normal cruise buddy (my husband) is currently deployed, so I will be cruising with my sister. We are looking forward to having a sister cruise, something we’ve never actually done before in all of our years of cruising together as a family. 

Fond Memories

I am super excited to be sailing on Mariner of the Seas. The first time I sailed on Mariner of the Seas was 16 years ago in 2006 with my family; in fact, that was one of my first Royal Caribbean cruises. Mariner of the Seas was a shiny new ship back in 2006 and I remember being in awe of our cruise ship having an ice skating rink!

The most recent time I sailed onboard Mariner of the Seas was in January 2017 with my (now) husband back when we were in college. With a full month off during our J-term, we were so excited to sail around Asia and experience an entirely new part of the world together.

We took a wonderful 7-night Southeast Asia itinerary from Singapore to Thailand and Malaysia. We visited an elephant sanctuary, explore temples and visited floating villages. After exploring the culturally rich ports each day, Mariner of the Seas was so comfortable to return to each night. 

Needless to say, I have very fond memories of sailing on Mariner of the Seas. I’ve always been a big fan of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class ships. I personally think they are the perfect size with just enough bells and whistles.  

The Cruise

I haven’t taken a quick getaway cruise in probably 10 years! Since I've never lived that close to a port, we always did a 7-night cruise to make the trip worthwhile. In fact, it seems over the years we’ve been taking longer cruises rather than short ones, so I am interested to see how the atmosphere is different when the sailing is much shorter. 

My sister and I both work remotely - so we will be testing out the internet capabilities and VPN connectivity while sailing as well. I've had good experience with the internet speed on other Royal Caribbean ships, so I am hoping Mariner of the Seas will be no different.

Our first port after the sea day is Perfect Day at CocoCay, which has quickly become one of my favorite Caribbean ports because of its lively atmosphere and ultimate convenience.

I love all the swimming pools, the swim-up bar and all the fun amenities that are offered on the island. This time around, I want to try the floating bar off South Beach. We ran out of time during our last visit to CocoCay, so I definitely need to make my way out there. 

After our visit to CocoCay, we will sail to Nassau. I’ve visited Nassau, Bahamas a few times on previous cruises, but never done anything that memorable during our time in port.

This time around, we are looking forward to trying a resort day pass at RIU Palace! Our pass includes unlimited drinks and snacks, along with access to all the resort’s pools and hot tubs. It should be a fun and relaxing day in port. 

Three things I am excited to try onboard

During our 4-night sailing, we are planning to try some of the new additions made to Mariner of the Seas. Back in 2018, the ship was refurbished and refreshed, with some exciting new venues and activities added. It’s been 5 years since I sailed onboard this cruise ship, so I am excited to see the upgrades, additions and enhancements that were made. 

Playmakers

We’ve been hearing great things about Playmakers, which is one of the newer dining options onboard Royal Caribbean’s ships. I have yet to sail on a ship that features this new restaurant, and apparently they have a killer cookie skillet for dessert! I am a sucker for all things sweets and desserts, so I have high hopes for this dessert especially.

The Bamboo Room

I had no idea this new bar addition was even available onboard Mariner of the Seas until I did a little research. Royal Caribbean describes this Polynesian-themed bar in the ship’s promenade as having ‘throwback vibes and crazy good cocktails’. I love all things that incorporate throwback vibes AND crazy good cocktails, so I am excited to sample some of the tiki bar drinks. 

SkyPad

One of the coolest additions to Mariner of the Seas since my last sailing is the SkyPad, which is a virtual reality, bungee trampoline experience. Apparently this onboard thrill is considered ‘out of this world’. I’ve always loved bungee trampolines, so this will be a fun experience I think.

We'll see you later this week when I blog live from Mariner of the Seas!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day

In:
26 Aug 2021

The last day of our cruise is a sea day, and we had some amazing weather for our final day.

I woke up to clear skies and a bright shining sky. Since the distance back from Nassau to Port Canaveral is a trivial distance, the ship can afford to follow the good weather while still being able to make it back with plenty of time.

For breakfast, I decided to try the main dining room for breakfast to change things up. I really enjoy the ambiance of the main dining room for breakfast.

With the sun shining, I grabbed my laptop and went up to the pool deck to enjoy a beautiful morning on deck.

Having a sea day for the last day of the cruise is my preferred way to wrap up a cruise, because it allows you to enjoy a relaxing day at your own pace.

I also took this opportunity to walk around the ship a bit. First up was the Sky Bar, which has the best views of the pool area.

When I made it down to the Royal Promenade, I found one of the health protocols in place, where the crew were limiting the amount of guests in the shops to ensure it was socially distanced.

I made a coffee run to Starbucks along the way.

Next up, I went up to my favorite hidden gem onboard, the helipad.

Guests can access the helipad during the cruise, and it has the best views of the ocean and the ship.

For lunch today, we dined at Izumi hibachi. Izumi is one of those restaurants I can go to every sailing because of how fun the experience is and how good the food is.

The chef did a great job with presenting and preparing the food, and I left stuffed but satisfied.

I originally thought perhaps I would go lounge by the pool, but a nap was calling my name so I decided to head back to the room to recharge for the afternoon.

After I got up, I headed outside again to enjoy the tail end of the afternoon. It was so relaxing to be outdoors with a nice breeze and the ocean passing by. It is one of those cruise moments I missed being able to do during the shutdown.

The activities staff had a classic rock trivia session up in Ellington's Bar at the Viking Crown Lounge, and I was quite proud of how many songs I knew based on a riff or two.

With the clear skies, we were also treated to a beautiful sunset at sea.  

Another spot I had to go to one more time was the Bamboo Room. Between the decor and fun drink menu, it is a great spot to meet up for drinks.

Dinner tonight brought us to Jamie's Italian.

I had to go with my favorite order of eggplant parm, and the food was so darn good.

Bonus points for the epic brownie, which was so much better than I remember.

That wraps up my cruise on Mariner of the Seas. It was fantastic, and I look forward to sailing on Mariner many more times since she sails just an hour from my house.

I hope you all enjoyed this live blog. The next live blog kicks off in less than two weeks when I finally get to sail on the brand new Odyssey of the Seas.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau

In:
25 Aug 2021

The third day of our cruise brings us to Nassau, Bahamas for a day in port. While we had excellent weather yesterday, it was a little bit more hit or miss today.

No one can control the weather, so it's just the "luck of the draw". According to Royal Caribbean's Chief Meteorologist James Van Fleet, an upper level low is moving through The Bahamas today.

Luckily, it was just a short passing shower here and there, but it mostly stayed dry.

Something I could see clearly from my balcony was the progress being made on the new pier.

Nassau is re-doing their entire pier, which is why there's a handful of canceled stops in Nassau coming up for some ships. Hopefully things will progress quickly because the new renderings look great.

I thought about disembarking the ship, but decided to stay onboard to catch up on some RoyalCaribbeanBlog, and I couldn't have asked for a better office for the day.

Before I could do any work, I had to get coffee and something to eat.  I headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast. 

They had my favorite new variety of Indian breakfast curry available, sambar. Mixing that with a little bit of bread and it really hits the spot.

I picked the pool deck for my office. There are a few different kinds of tables and chairs on either side of the deck, and it allows for a nice breeze along with plenty of people watching whenever I need to sit back for a moment.

Docked next to us was Freedom of the Seas once again.

As lunchtime came around, I was once again in the Windjammer to enjoy the wonderful pasta station.  In the back of the Windjammer there is sometimes a cooking station available, and it is worth a stop every time.

In the afternoon, I decided in the interest of this live blog to do something a little more interesting.  I headed back to my stateroom to change and then went up to the sports deck.

First up, was the water slides.  I had ridden the slides on Mariner years ago, but decided it was time to try them again. 

Just like at CocoCay, there are no lines for the water slides right now with limited capacity. 

The slides were fun, and the blue slide definitely moves faster than the yellow slide.

The breeze was stiff, so I decided to "warm up" in the hot tub back on the pool deck.

I thought I was just going to go in the hot tub for a little bit, but I enjoyed my time so stayed longer and then lounged by the pool for a bit.

After I changed, I found the stowaway piano player playing on deck 4 near the Schooner Bar.  Like so many of the great entertainers onboard, I am always impressed how many songs they know and how they can play all of them so well.

If you can find the stowaway piano player on your ship, be sure to stop by for a minute.

Dinner tonight brings us to a Royal Caribbean staple, Chops Grille.

Chops ia stalwart of the specialty restaurant lineup, and I don't think I've eaten at Chops since being on Adventure of the Seas.

Since I had filet mignon yesterday, I decided to go with the lamb chops as my main dish.

First up was the tuna tartare and wild mushroom soup.  These are always my go-to dishes at Chops.  

My table mates went with another fan favorite of the grilled black pepper bacon and they really enjoy it.

When my lamb came out, I was surprised how tender it was. It had been many years since I had the lamb, and it was a great non-fish alternative to a steak.

I have a Pavlovian response to dessert at Chops, where I must order the red velvet cake. It's just one of those signature dishes I associate with the restaurant.

For our evening entertainment, it was back to the pub to enjoy bar songs.

Tomorrow is a sea day.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Perfect Day at CocoCay

In:
24 Aug 2021

Another day on a cruise, another day visiting Royal Caribbean's always impressive private island in The Bahamas.

On all the sailings I have been on since cruises restarted, I have had Perfect Day at CocoCay circled as the highlight of the itinerary. I love the diversity of activities, and relaxing nature of the island.

Our ship pulled in alongside Freedom of the Seas, which was also in port.

Some readers were curious if two ships were allowed to dock at once at CocoCay, and the answer is yes. The "one ship per CocoCay" rule applies to test cruises, but not the revenue cruises.

Originally I had no plans for my day here, but at the last minute I got invited to check out the floating cabanas at the Coco Beach Club. There were two good reasons for me to go for this plan: somewhere comfortable to write blog posts, and an opportunity to eat lunch at the Coco Beach Club.

I had a quick breakfast in the Windjammer with a cup of coffee before heading down to the gangway.

What is it like at Perfect Day at CocoCay with two ships? Pretty much the same as one ship during this era of limited capacity.

I heard Freedom of the Seas actually had less passengers onboard than us on Mariner, but even on the high end of estimating, that meant there were maybe 2,000 passengers total on an island designed to accommodate 9,000 - 12,000.

The weather was beautiful today, and there was a strong breeze that made it very tolerable to be outside since the heat was not quite so oppressive.

At the cabana, the combination of shade and breeze made it so comfortable to catch up on some blog posts.

I took a walk along the beach of Chill Island to see what the vibe was there.  It was a really nice day to be outside and hanging by the water.

For lunch, it was time for one of the top Royal Caribbean restaurants at the Coco Beach Club.

The hummus is so good, I asked for a double helping of it to enjoy. It is something I wish I could box up and bring home.

I would go as far as to say the filet mignon is the best steak on any Royal Caribbean ship.

Suffice to say, the meal was great.

After lunch, I went for a dip in the infinity pool and then back to the cabana to relax and do a little bit more work.

Luckily there was never any rain, or even hint of rain today.  A much nicer day compared to our start in Port Canaveral.

All aboard time was 4:30pm, so I headed back to the ship to shower and get ready for dinner.

Originally our plan was to eat dinner at the main dining room again, but our late lunch (1pm) was still very filling so we decided to push back out dinner plans and go to Playmakers.

Before dinner, I went up to the Diamond Lounge to see how busy it was up there. All the tables were full, so it looks like people still enjoy hanging out there.

The hors d'oeuvres are great (shoutout to the veggie eggrolls). No photo of the seating area because there were a lot of people watching me and it got awkward quickly.

To mix things up, we went with a bunch of appetizers to start with and just munched on those.

The nachos (veggies only, no sour cream) was my favorite of the bunch.

Of course, no meal at Playmakers is complete without the campfire cookie which is Royal Caribbean's take on a s'more.  It will change your life for the better.

Following dinner, I headed down to the Schooner Bar for piano music and an evening drink.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau.  Let me know in the comments your favorite thing to do in Nassau.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
23 Aug 2021

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas set sail on it first revenue sailing since the cruise industry shutdown, and I will be live blogging from onboard this first sailing.

With Mariner's return, exactly half of Royal Caribbean's 26 ships are back in service, marking an important milestone in Royal Caribbean's return to service.

I booked this cruise earlier this summer when the restart plans started to shape out, and being that Mariner sails from Port Canaveral and I live in the Orlando area, getting onboard was a simple task.

As fate would have it, I ended up on Mariner's test cruise as well a couple weeks ago, but I rarely need an excuse to go on any ship these days. While this is my sixth sailing I have been on since the restart, that euphoria I think everyone feels to finally be back onboard is still there.

I had a 1pm check-in time for this cruise, so I departed my house a little before noon and made the roughly one hour drive to the port.

The check-in process was super easy, and I cannot stress the importance of doing as much of the check-in before your cruise.  It saves so much time, and I'll have a more in-depth blog post tomorrow explaining everything you should do.

Speaking of doing things before the cruise, I got a negative antigen test from CVS on this past Saturday.  CVS is the easiest option to get a test because they start taking reservations as far out as two weeks before your cruise.

While I printed out my negative Covid test result, I forgot it at my printer. Luckily, CVS emails and texts you a copy, so I was able to use a digital copy of the negative test result (you need the physical vaccine card, no digital copies of that accepted).

Once onboard the ship, I went straight to my room.  The nice thing about this being the first revenue sailing is all the rooms are ready already, so no wait. 

One change between the test sailing and this revenue sailing is guests are given tracelet contact tracing wristbands.

Royal Caribbean is also clearly mixing up the vaccinated wristband designs, with this week's band being a white silicon design instead of the blue satin wristband from the test cruise.

I have a ocean view balcony for this cruise, and it is your standard Royal Caribbean balcony room. There is space to move around, and of course that private balcony to enjoy whenever you want.

I headed up to the Windjammer for a late lunch. The garlic fried rice they have is really good.


In terms of protocols, things are about the same as any other ship right now. Masks in public areas, but you can remove masks when outside, or in fully vaccinated areas. No masks needed at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

The new vaccination policy to match The Bahamas requirements does not begin until September 3, so there are still adults who are unvaccinated onboard.

One thing I neglected to see on the test cruise was the Adventure Ocean space.

Adventure Ocean is open on this sailing, and they allow families to sign up for sessions in advance to ensure there is a limited capacity.

The staff said kids would be limited to 4 sessions per sailing. Each session is 3 hours long. 

The nursery limit is 4 kids at a time.

At this time I remembered to do the emuster, which allows me to complete the ship's safety drill via the Royal Caribbean app.

The crew members working the muster stations are always so happy and enthusiastic, it is a nice welcome onboard.

Speaking of the muster drill, evidently there were some guests slow to complete the safety drill, so our departure from Port Canaveral was delayed until around 6pm or so.

I missed sailaway because I was eating dinner in the main dining room this evening.

In case you missed it, RoyalCaribbeanBlog's video editor, Jenna, is onboard as well and this is her very first cruise. I figured dinner in the main dining room was a must-do for her first night on a ship.

Service was great and very attentive. I went with the mushroom soup, spaghetti bolognese and of course a serving Indian curry.

The Indian curry is not on the menu, but there are always alternative options for various reasons, such as vegetarians, and anyone can request them.

After dinner, I went over to Studio B to check out the ice skating show onboard.

The ice shows are a fun performance, and the show started exactly as I walked out of dinner. With the ship sailing at reduced capacity, getting into a show at the last minute is possible, whereas it likely would have been at capacity on a sailing pre-2020.

After the ice skating performance, my plan was to simply walk through the casino to break some larger bills (the casino is a good alternative to guest services for getting change), and I decided to play roulette.  There was no one at the table and a $5 minimum.

I ended up breaking even, but I got to play for about an hour.  Not a bad return on my investment, as it was fun playing the numbers.  It was especially fun when a few of my numbers hit!

I walked up to the pool deck to catch the last glimpse of twilight.  The weather all day has been cloudy, and it was quite windy on the pool deck. That's okay, I'll trade bad weather today for good weather tomorrow at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Our itinerary is CocoCay, Nassau, sea day.

Tomorrow should be a fun day relaxing around the island again!

Mariner of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 2

In:
12 Aug 2021

The second day of the Mariner of the Seas test cruise takes us to Royal Caribbean's private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Being that I have been here a few times, I aspired to do something different this time around.  Erica from Cruise.Blog challenged me to find 5 things to do at CocoCay that I've never done/seen/eaten. Challenge accepted!

The ship docked quite early and was cleared to let guests off at 8am, although I slept in a bit and was off the ship a bit before 9am.

I figured to find something different, I would head in the direction of Chill Island, as I tend to gravitate towards things on other side of the island.

Immediately I ran across my first new thing: hammocks.

There are hammocks all around the island, but I think the best hammocks are near the bridge that leads to Chill Island because they are under a number of palm trees that provide a lot of shade.

With the cooler temperatures of the morning and a nice breeze, it was really relaxing and I could have easily taken a nap here if I stumbled upon these later in the day.

Being in the area, I walked down the beach of Chill Beach, which is really beautiful and with few guests around that early, it was a nice morning stroll.

The next thing I tried that was brand new was to go to Harbor Beach to try the marine bean bags.  

The beach bags are not new, but I remember seeing them in the past but never tried them out.  These things are really comfortable, and I would much rather slump into one of these than a standard beach lounger.

Harbor beach is another overlooked gem of the island, as it has little to no waves and usually gets far less crowded than Breezy Bay or Chill Island.

With two new things down, I wanted to do something a bit more active, so I headed to the sports court of Breezy Bay where they have a few games you can play.

These games are complimentary and include volleyball, bean bag toss, jenga and more.

I was drawn to something completely different that I had never seen before: wall golf.

Essentially, you put a golf ball in a wooden circle at the bottom of the golf course. The circle is controlled by two strings, which you pull to move the circle left, right, and up.

The goal is to move the ball around the course without falling into one of the hazards and successfully into the hole. 

I am happy to say years of video games gave me a superior edge in this game because my hand-eye coordination was on point.

By now the temperature was starting to rise and I was ready for a cool down, so I headed to Oasis Lagoon.

Oasis Lagoon is my favorite spot to chill, and the pool was so under crowded because of how few passengers are onboard it was like having the pool bar to ourselves.

Time for number four on my challenge, and I decided to eat lunch at Chill Grill.  While I have walked around Chill Grill, I'm not entirely sure I have actually stopped for a meal here (usually I go to Snack Shack for lunch). 

The Portobello sandwich was a surprise hit because it tasted more like an eggplant parmigiana sandwich than I expected. 

I also really loved the taco bar, which was very similar to the burritos you can make at El Loco Fresh.

For my final part of the challenge, I decided to swim out to the floating bar.

In fairness, I had been to the floating bar, but it was in its old location before the Coco Beach Club was built and I am pretty sure this version is larger than the old floating bar.  So I'm going to count it for this challenge!

There was such a strong breeze on the floating bar that it was quite comfortable being out there because the hot temperatures did not feel as oppressive.

After a full day at CocoCay, I was feeling not only content but sleepy.  So I headed back to the ship for a shower and nap.

For dinner this evening, we went to Izumi to have sushi.  

Izumi on Mariner of the Seas is primarily a hibachi option, but there is a sushi bar as well.

Overall, the two night test cruise went off without any issues that I noticed and I really enjoyed being onboard.

Royal Caribbean will have other test cruises in the future, including Oasis and Liberty of the Seas coming up in a few weeks. I hope everyone that gets to go on those test sailings enjoys the experience as much as I did.

Next up for me will be a return to Mariner of the Seas for her first revenue sailing on August 23.  Look for more live coverage from that sailing!

Subscribe to Mariner of the Seas Live Blog