Mariner of the Seas Live Blog

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

In:
22Mar2019

The last day of our back to back group cruise is here and it is our first sea day! After six days of cruise fun, we took things a little easier to start today.

We woke up to fabulous weather, with the sun shining and warm temperatures.

We had a leisurely breakfast in the Windjammer, followed by a nice morning walk around the ship. The kids enjoyed the morning session at Adventure Ocean while my wife went up to the sports deck for a bit to do some people watching.

For lunch, it was back in the Windjammer and the highlight was the make your own gyro station.

Next up we tried our hand at afternoon trivia, where we lost. I did learn that goats have rectangular pupils!

Our first meet of the day was for a bar crawl around the ship, where we hit up the Sky Lounge (pool bar), Bamboo Room, Schooner Bar (along with a stop for trivia again) and then Boleros. 

We booked an early dinner and took the kids to Izumi Hibachi. 

Hibachi is always a hit with our family, and it is a terrific meal as well.

To round out our group cruise activities, it was time to record a podcast episode with everyone who cruised with us. We got to share stories and talk about what we liked about Mariner. Look for that podcast episode next week.

Overall, we had a really great time on Mariner of the Seas and we were extremely fortunate to have had the distinction of being the first ship to dock and disembark in CocoCay, as well as to check out the new venues that opened.

The weather was mostly great, and the crew had so much enthusiasm and hospitality towards us all. 

Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the group booked on each leg of this sailing. I am honored to have had the folks in this group spend their vacation with me and my family, and I know we all had a great time together.  I already cannot wait for our next group cruise on Anthem of the Seas over July 4th!

I loved the updates Royal Caribbean made to Mariner of the Seas, and together with the amplified Navigator of the Seas make for a dynamic duo of great weekend cruises.

When considering these three and four night sailings, do not hesitate to try them out yourself. Heck, do what we did and book a back to back to have ample to time to see it all, especially with Perfect Day at CocoCay coming up!

As always, thank you to everyone who followed this live blog and helped make this fun for me to recall each day.  Our next live blog kicks off in May on Harmony of the Seas!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - CocoCay

In:
21Mar2019

As I mentioned in yesterday's live blog entry, when we went to bed the night before we assumed our visit to CocoCay had been cancelled and we would spend the day in Nassau.

At around 7:45am or so, the Captain made an announcement that woke many of us up to inform us that the weather forecast had dramatically improved and that we would indeed visit CocoCay. He indicated we would depart immediately and arrive at CocoCay around noon.

I cannot recall an instance of a stop being cancelled and then uncancelled.  Nonetheless, everyone onboard was quite happy to have the opportunity to visit CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas quickly departed Nassau and we were on our way to CocoCay. 

There was not a ton of time or activities scheduled for the couple hours before we arrived, so we spent some time lounging on the pool deck. After, we started getting ready for the beach.

We arrived at CocoCay right around 11:45am and the ship was cleared by local authorities around 12:30 or so. Of course, with such a late arrival time, everyone wanted to depart immediately so it made for slow going to disembark. We eventually got off the ship and onto CocoCay.

Walking down the pier, I quickly took notice of a few changes made since our last visit, primarily related to the progress being made behind the construction walls.

Our plan was to head right to the Oasis Lagoon pool, and I was quite happy to spot umbrellas added to the area.  

We spent our day in and out of the pool, enjoying a relaxing day at Oasis Lagoon.  Once again, it seemed everyone I spoke with was quite impressed with the state of CocoCay and excited to see the next stages open.

The all aboard time was 7pm, but we had reservations for the escape room on Mariner, so we departed CocoCay a bit earlier than I would have liked.

Back onboard, we showered and dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean before heading up to deck 14 for the Observatorium escape room.

The escape room game on Mariner of the Seas is unlike the one on Harmony or Anthem or Symphony of the Seas.  We tried our best, but failed to escape in time.  Regardless, it was a fun challenge and I recommend it to others to try, especially if you are in a group.

Dinner brought us to the Windjammer, followed by some time at the pub prior to another round of The Quest in Studio B.

I am happy to report our group, represented by captains Claire and Michael, where triumphant in winning the Quest once again!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Nassau

In:
20Mar2019

We are back in Nassau for our first full day of the second leg of this sailing. Having been in Nassau two days earlier, it was kind of interesting to be back in a port of call quite so quickly.

I had booked a shore excursion for today to try out a flight simulator experience that I booked via Royal Caribbean.  Yes, flight simulator and yes, I am that geeky.

The excursion is run by Jetline Simulations, where they take you into a full Boeing 737 NG simulator to try to fly the airliner from gate to takeoff to landing and to gate again.

You get the full experience of flying the plane, from programming the flight computer, to adjusting the flaps, to taking off and landing.

They allow you to pick from a variety of airports to fly to or from, and it was a ton of fun.  I loved every second of it, and the staff were terrific too!

After the excursion, I headed back to the ship for lunch and to meet up with the family.

We had lunch in the Windjammer and then my wife went to the salon for a haircut, while I took the kids to play mini golf, and play around the ship.

My fun with the kids included a requisite stop at Ben & Jerry's for some ice cream.

We were scheduled to be in Nassau until midnight, so a few of us from the group opted to have dinner in Nassau at a place called Meze Grill.

It was about a 10 minute taxi ride away, very close to the Baha Mar resort on the western end of the island.  

The restaurant was quite lovely, and it had that industrial chic look that a lot of happening spots in the United States tend to have.  Their menu is what I would consider to be nouveau American. Steaks, pasta, shrimp, salads, are typical of the menu.

It was a great meal, albeit a bit pricey. Nonetheless, it was a good time and I was glad to try it out.

We walked back onto Mariner and enjoyed a great view of the ship.

Once onboard, the Captain announced that unfortunately due to the weather forecast we would have to cancel our scheduled stop tomorrow in CocoCay.

As you might imagine, many of us were disappointed to hear that news.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, the Captain announced we would indeed head to CocoCay and be there by noon! Tomorrow's live blog will have more CocoCay fun!

Stray Observations

  • Since the ship was staying in Nassau so late, the ship received special clearance to open up the shops and casino by 7pm.  Usually when in port, shops and casino must remain closed.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Turnaround day

In:
19Mar2019

The second leg of our cruise begins today and that means a turnaround day in Miami.

When you do a back to back cruise, you get to stay onboard and then be escorted by Royal Caribbean through the re-boarding process. In my case, I had to actually disembark on my own because I had a meeting to go to in Miami.  As a result, I went down to Guest Services to get my new SeaPass card for the next sailing, along with my consecutive cruiser card.  This would allow me to bypass some of the normal embarkation process later.

I walked off the ship at around 8am and it was a very smooth process, thanks in part to the efficiency of Terminal A. 

Following my meeting, I returned to Terminal A and was able to bypass the regular check-in process for a special line for those that are doing consecutive cruises.  Shortly thereafter I was back on Mariner of the Seas for my second sailing!

Back on the ship, we celebrated the start of leg two with some drinks at Playmakers.  To my surprise, I evidently forgot to purchase the drink package for this leg, so bought it at the bar.  

Despite being a consecutive cruiser, there is still a lot to do on embarkation day.  We started off at the pool to take advantage of the lower crowds, but then had to still check-in for Adventure Ocean and arrange our dining plans.

We had lunch at Playmakers, which took a bit longer than I thought it would. Nonetheless, the food was great and I really enjoyed the nachos and chicken sandwich.

Muster drill came and went and it was time to sail away…again!

A few of us headed down the Bamboo Lounge for some drinks and I decided to try out the small plates on the menu.

As a sushi fan, the ahi tuna was my favorite, but the pork sliders were highly rated.

For dinner we decided to keep it casual tonight and hit up the Windjammer. Great spread and they always have my favorite, which is Indian curry.

After dinner, we played love music movie trivia (obviously my wheelhouse) and then hit up the Pub for some drinks and Jenga! A fun time was had by all, especially Michael Poole.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Nassau

In:
17Mar2019

Our second port stop brings us to Nassau, Bahamas and it is St. Patrick's Day as well!

Before our celebration of St. Patrick's Day could commence, we needed to jump-start our morning with some good old coffee.  Luckily, Mariner of the Seas features a standalone Starbucks kiosk.

Drinks are not included with the drink packages at any Starbucks kiosks, but I am more than happy to pay for top quality coffee to get me going.

We had breakfast in the Windjammer at around 9:30, and then dropped the kids off at Adventure Ocean.  Adventure Ocean is open non-stop while the ship is in any port, so the kids got to play while we celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

Prior to the cruise we found an Irish Bar very close to the port that was easily walkable called Shenanigans.

We headed over there and they opened a few mintues after 11am.

As you might imagine, an Irish Bar on St. Patrick's Day is a hub of activity, and we enjoyed a few drinks while celebrating together.

Shenanigans was great, but the drink prices were quite steep.  By the afternoon we walked around Nassau a bit, with a pit stop at Senor Frogs and Pirate Republic Brewing.  After that, it was time to head back to the ship for some much-needed pizza!

Onboard, we picked the kids up and relaxed in our rooms for a bit. I took my oldest daughter to the Perfect Storm water slides, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I took in the sights of Nassau as our ship set sail back for Miami.

Being St. Patrick's Day, there was a lot of decorations on the Royal Promenade in celebration of the holiday. In addition, there was a special edition of St. Patrick's Day trivia.

Dinner this evening was at Jamie's Italian, and the service was impeccable.  Of course, the food was great too and like so many other visits to Jamie's, we had a lot to food on the table at any given time.

After dinner, many of us from the group headed down to the Pub on the Royal Promenade to enjoy music, drinks and a couple rounds of Jenga!

Stray Observations

  • Since we are staying onboard for the next sailing, a letter was delivered to our room with instructions on what to do tomorrow when one sailing ends and the other begins.
  • Speaking of turnaround day, it is definitely a weird feeling when you know it is the last day of a cruise but since you are not getting off the ship, there is no feeling of dismay associated with the end of a cruise.

Tomorrow is turn-around day in Miami.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - CocoCay

In:
16Mar2019

Our second day on Mariner of the Seas is taking us to the beautiful private island of CocoCay, and today we have a real surprise.

Our visit today marks the first time a Royal Caribbean ship is able to dock and disembark guests via the new pier.  After months of anticipation, the pier is operational and I was excited to disembark in a much simpler fashion.

The pier was not the only big change, as three new venues were in a “soft opening” for guests today that are part of the massive Perfect Day at CocoCay makeover: Oasis Lagoon pool, Chill Grill and Snack Shack.

I posted a ton of photos of these three venues here, so be sure to check them out if you have not seen them yet.

Oasis Lagoon is as impressive as it is large. It was fully open, including its giant swim up bar and water features.  As a “pool guy” (as in I prefer pools over the ocean), Oasis Lagoon might just be my new favorite spot! 

My daughters loved splashing at the pool, and we spent our afternoon enjoying the new venue.  I do hope they add more shade, because there is little to none to be found. Of course, this is a soft opening so changes are to be expected.

I am pretty sure when we come back to CocoCay next week we will spend most of our day at Oasis Lagoon.

During lunch I checked out the spread at Chill Grill, and was delighted to see more than just the typical CocoCay lunch fare.  In addition to hot dogs, burgers and ribs, there were Cuban sandwiches, build your own tacos, salsa bar, and more.  Great spread!

Prior to the cruise I booked a cabana and it was my first time trying a cabana at CocoCay. In years past, the cabanas were located elsewhere but these new cabanas are located just about in the middle of the beach area, with private beach and swimming area, exclusive buffet lunch, and the usual cabana amenities. 

I was able to snag the cabana for a steal of a price during a Cruise Planner sale, and it was worth every penny.

Weather-wise, today was perfect.  High temperatures in the low 80s, a gentle breeze and barely any clouds. 

Having walked CocoCay and checked out some of the progress being made, it is getting exciting seeing all of this come together.

All aboard was at 4:30pm and I think I got back onboard at 4pm, which is so much later than usual.  

The kids I think fell asleep before their head hit the bed for a nap while we got ready for dinner.

I promised my kids some time to check out the signature activities, so they got showered and changed quickly and we headed up to the SkyPad.

Luckily when we got there it was open exclusively to The Key guests, so we had no wait.  My oldest got to do try it out, while my four year old was too young/small to do the SkyPad but the staff allowed her to sit down and put on the virtual reality headset so she could see what her big sister was seeing. 

After the SkyPad we fed the kids and dropped them off at Adventure Ocean.

We had no dinner plans, but were able to get into Chops Grille and use our Diamond Plus BOGO free offer. It was a great meal and our waiter was terrific.

After dinner we enjoyed some beverages in the Bamboo Room, followed by The Quest!

The Quest is best described as an adult scavenger hunt, and I am proud to announce Michael and Sara from our group were victorious in representing our group and winning it all!

Stray Observations

  • This was a sign on some food to be delivered to the island, but I wanted to have a copy to affix to myself when I am stuck at home and missing a day like today.
  • Speaking of clever signs, I like this one too.

Tomorrow we will be in Nassau, Bahamas.

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

In:
15Mar2019

Our next Royal Caribbean cruise is here and we are boarding the recently refurbished Mariner of the Seas for three sailings in a row!

We started off our day by staying in a Hampton Inn and Suites in Coconut Creek, which is about an hour north of downtown Miami.  Great hotel and served its purpose for a good pre-cruise hotel.

We hopped in the car in the morning and got to Terminal A at PortMiami by 9:45am and to my surprise the terminal was already open and allowing guests to check in.

We had completed the check-in via the Royal Caribbean app, so check-in was a breeze and boarding began right around 10:30am.

The last time we were on Mariner of the Seas was 10 years ago for our honeymoon, so returning to the ship is a bit of a homecoming for us.

In addition, we purchased The Key for this sailing to try it out.  For embarkation they invited Key guests to board in the same group as Diamond Plus and Diamond.  Since I’m Diamond Plus, it did not benefit us much.

One really nice benefit of The Key is you can drop off carry-on luggage and they will deliver it to your room.  I really loved this perk, because typically we end up hauling a bunch of things around until the room is ready.

Another Key benefit is we get lunch at Chops Grille.  I had just done Chops for lunch on Brilliance of the Seas last month, so I had a decent frame of reference for this meal.  The food was as good as always, but unfortunately the service was quite slow.  

After lunch the kids were biting at the chomp to do something more their speed, so we put on our swim suits and enjoyed a bit of pool time.  It was a bit rainy, but the sun was starting break through.

By this point the rooms were ready, so we went up to our room on deck 8.  We have a balcony stateroom towards the aft of the ship, and will be our room for the next three sailings. Our stateroom attendant, William, is terrific and very attentive.

Following muster drill, we started out enjoying sail away on a now much sunnier day on the helipad, but moved to the pool deck to get a bit of shade.

Being a three-night cruise, there is a lot of activities packed into the first day of the cruise.  Ice show, 70’s night, balloon drop, just to name a few. 

I took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner before dropping them off at Adventure Ocean promptly at 7pm.

Next up was the ice show in Studio B. I cannot recall if it is the same show that we saw 10 years ago, but we got great seats.  With The Key, there was reserved seating but I found available seats that I preferred elsewhere.

The show was fun, and I generally enjoy the ice skating shows.  Good performers and a fun premise.

After the show it was up to the main dining room for dinner.  The waitress was able to bring my a serving of Indian curry, along with my favorite dish on the menu – spaghetti Bolognese.

Since we had second seating dinner at 8:30pm, once we were out of dinner it was time for music around the ship.  In lieu of the 70’s party on the Royal Promenade, we headed down the Schooner Bar for some sing along favorites.

Stray Observations

  • Cafe Promenade has a line for pizza and a line for everything else. 
  • Embarkation day cake is the best kind of cake.
  • We had a missing suitcase for quite a while, but luckily it showed up after our stateroom attendant tracked it down.
  • If you happened to be a Diamond Plus or higher, someone figured out you could buy a Voom package on day one and get a first day discount combined with the Diamond Plus discount for a grand total of $2 for the duration of the 3 night sailing.

Mariner of the Seas 2019 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

In:
11Mar2019

It has been over ten years and a Royal Amplification since the last time I sailed on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, but I am making up for lost time with not one, not two, but three sailings on her in a row!

My sailings on Mariner of the Seas coincides with the first RoyalCaribbeanBlog Group Cruise of 2019, with a great group of fellow Royal Caribbean fans as we enjoy a back-to-back cruise experience on the feels like new Mariner of the Seas.  I will share a daily update of everything I did onboard during this three- and four-night consecutive sailing from Miami, Florida.

The Cruise

This is not my first time on Mariner of the Seas, but it has been quite a while since the last time we sailed on Mariner.  Mariner was the ship my wife and I celebrated our honeymoon on, over ten years ago when the ship was sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida.  No kids, no mortgage, and not even a Royal Caribbean blog back then!

The reason for picking this cruise was about knocking a few things off our bucket list.  First and foremost, Royal Caribbean has garnered a great deal of praise for the incredible upgrades made to Mariner of the Seas in 2018.  Following a $120 million upgrade, the ship now features some really fun new features that our family cannot wait to try.

In addition, we have never really done a back to back sailing, where we keep the same room and continue cruising after one sailing ends.  As a cruise fan, that holds a great deal of excitement.

Of course, we also picked this sailing for sentimental reasons and being able to return to the ship my wife I enjoyed so much a decade ago. This is not an anniversary celebration, but it does allow for a bit of reminiscing.

It almost goes without saying that this is a group cruise too, which means we have a contingent of fellow Royal Caribbean fans joining me and I could not be happier.  There is just something so fun about seeing friendly faces all around the ship, and being able to share in the experience in person is second-to-none.

Stateroom

We reserved connecting balcony staterooms for this cruise, one for my wife and I, and one for my kids.  I love my children and enjoy cruising with them, but we have learned that when it comes to sleeping and children, it is ideal to have a second room.  Plus, it provides an additional full bathroom.

Quite often I am asked by RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers for stateroom recommendations for families and I usually point out the two room option, in lieu of one large room for everyone.  Two rooms provides more space and separation, as well as likely being more economical.

Our rooms are located on deck eight and should provide exactly what we need for this sailing, a home base of operations for sleeping, showering and napping. With everything going on onboard the ship and in port, I do not anticipate spending that much time in our rooms.

Itinerary

As mentioned earlier, we are booked three consecutive sailings, so we will experience one itinerary twice and an additional itinerary.  

  • March 15: 3-night Bahamas sailing (Miami, CocoCay, Nassau)
  • March 18: 4-night Bahamas sailing (Miami, CocoCay, Nassau, Sea Day)
  • March 22: 3-night Bahamas sailing (Miami, CocoCay, Nassau)

Three things I am excited to try

Consecutive cruiser experience

A big part of picking this week to sail was about the idea of finally getting to try a back to back cruise experience.  No one likes or wants their cruise to end, so the best part of a back to back cruise is that feeling of not being depressed at the end of the first sailing.  Since we are actually doing three sailings, we get to experience that twice!

As a cruise fan, I have read from others who enjoyed back to back sailings and I think it will be a nice change of pace to mix up what would have otherwise been a standard seven night sailing for the week.

New features on Mariner of the Seas

Without a doubt the enhancements Royal Caribbean made to Mariner of the Seas have caught our attention.  From the new water slides, to new dining venues, to bars, there is a lot to be excited for onboard Mariner.  

I think the fact we are doing a few sailings in a row will allow us to get a good opportunity to try as much of it all as possible, and we have already pre-booked a few of the new features.  

I am personally excited to try the Sky Pad, escape room, water slides and Bamboo Room.  I am certain there will be other new favorites to discover once onboard.

CocoCay

A huge appeal of these short weekend sailings is the opportunity to sail to Royal Caribbean's private destination of CocoCay.  While the island is still in the process of being transformed into Perfect Day at CocoCay, I cannot wait to enjoy some simple relaxation time.

If I am not mistaken, I have not been to CocoCay since spring break of 2017, so it has been quite a dry spell between visits to CocoCay (I seemed to have spent the better part of two years of cruising visiting Cozumel instead). 

With that in mind, we have cabanas reserved at CocoCay for the first leg of the sailing. In fact, thanks to our friends at MEI Travel, everyone who booked into our group for this RoyalCaribbeanBlog Group Cruise is invited to join us in the cabanas we reserved. 

What's Next

Our Mariner of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, March 15th, and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!