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Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 8 - CocoCay

25 Jul 2022

Today is our last day on the Mariner, but what better way to end the cruise than in CocoCay?

Patty and I woke up at 10 a.m. this morning and headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. We were able to get a great table that overlooked the colorful entrance of CocoCay.

Also visiting CocoCay today was Allure of the Seas. We had a feeling the island was going to be busy, so we got off the ship as soon as we were done eating.

Our first stop during our (perfect) day at CocoCay was Chill Island, which you can get to quickly by taking a left once you get on the island. Here you can find tons of seats and umbrellas for sunbathing and relaxing by the sea. There are also daybeds here you can rent for a fee if that is more your style.

It was a very hot day (85 degrees but felt like 95), so I wanted to stop and get a drink at The Wacky Seagull. Someone ahead of me ordered a Miami Vice (also known as a Lava Flow); it looked so good that I had to get one too. Patty and I sat down and enjoyed the views while I savored my drink.

We started going towards the Oasis Lagoon so we could cool off in the water. There were multiple shops along the way for those that enjoy shopping. The Chill Grill is also near Chill Island. We decided to check out the food they offered, and boy were we surprised to see how much food they had!

The Chill Grill had burgers, tacos, hotdogs, sandwiches, fruit and various desserts. It was a much larger selection than Royal Caribbean’s other private island, Labadee. Patty and I decided to split a cuban sandwich and ribeye cheesesteak sandwich.

I could hear the music bopping from the Oasis Lagoon, so I knew we were close! The lagoon was busy when we first got there, and it stayed that way most of the afternoon.

All the beach chairs were claimed by towels so it was hard to find an empty one to put our stuff down. Luckily, Patty didn’t have to wait too long, as a couple decided to leave when she was near them. The seats were right by the lagoon and had the perfect view of the swim-up bar.

Celebrating the fact that we found chairs, I visited the swim-up bar and got myself a Bahama Mama. It helped me stay cool in the heat for sure. A lot of the group cruisers were hanging out here so it was fun to see them and chat. This was my first Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, and I met lots of friendly people that have made my first experience memorable.

I love jamming to the music at the lagoon, so that makes this place my favorite spot on the island. The DJ does an excellent job of playing current and older pop songs to get people hyped and excited.

As I mentioned, we were worried the island was going to be busy since there were two cruise ships. This was not the case because the island is larger than it looks. There are many places to go and spend your day, almost like a resort. This was my third time at CocoCay, and every time I visit, I find new spots or things to do!

The heat was catching up to us, so we chose to head back to the ship and give ourselves plenty of time to shower and get ready for dinner.

I had heard from an employee that I can get a Johnny Rockets shake as part of my Diamond Plus status, so I wanted to go see if this was true. Johnny Rockets is only open from noon to 5 p.m., so I had to go before dinner. Turns out the employee was right, and I got an Oreo shake for free! I wish I would’ve known about this sooner.

We didn’t want to forget to look at all of our professional pictures and buy some, so we did that since we were close to the dining room. We decided on our welcome aboard picture and another from a photoshoot.

Matt was sitting with his daughters at a table of eight, so he invited my mom and me to join them. It was a lovely dinner with great company!

Patty ordered the crispy coconut shrimp as an appetizer. We both got the cheese tortelloni as the main dish. I thought this was super good and different than how it has looked in the past. As I was eating it, it occurred to me that it tasted like mac n cheese, in a good way!

Dinner had two of my favorite desserts - the summer fruit pavlova and dark chocolate brownie. Both were a-ma-zing and I so wish I could bring home some leftovers (but there were none to be had).

The Farewell Variety Showtime featured both Adam Kario, the juggler and comedian from last night, and Jeffrey Allen, who had performed towards the beginning of this sailing.

Adam put on a great show and brought someone up to help him with an act, and that was fun to watch. The crowd even gave him a standing ovation. Jeffrey is an Elton John impersonator. While I did not know any of the songs he played, I could still appreciate his musical talent.

After the show, it was approaching 8 p.m., and it was time for the sunset. We made our way to the helicopter pad at the front of the ship. There were about 20 other people up there taking pictures of the sunset as well. It was beautiful for our last night at sea.

Since this is the last night of the cruise, we had to pack to leave. Patty and I are not light packers, so we had to dedicate a chunk of time to getting ready for tomorrow's long day back home.

There was still one more event I wanted to attend at 9:45 p.m. - The Battle of the Sexes game show. The host asked for five women and five men to come up on stage to represent each team. They then had to compete in certain challenges, like making a paper airplane and seeing who could throw theirs the farthest and choreographing a synchronized dance with a handkerchief. It was a fun show, but I had to leave early to finish up my packing.

That’s a wrap on our Mariner of the Seas group cruise. Thank you for following along with us! Our next group cruise is in December on Wonder of the Seas. In the meantime, happy cruising!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

24 Jul 2022

Although it was a day at sea, my mom and I had a busy day!

We both have slept in every day of this sailing, and today was no different. Patty has been wanting to try breakfast in the main dining room, so she hurried down to deck three before it closed at 9:30 a.m. I on the other hand went to the Windjammer because I needed to eat quickly.

Patty told me she was very impressed with how fast the service was in the main dining room because she arrived, ordered, and ate in only 25 minutes. She started off with a bran muffin and a fruit plate. For the main course, she got Eggs Your Way with sides of bacon and cheese grits. She was shocked by how big of a bowl the cheese grits were. The food was all very good, she said. Patty enjoyed being waited on and would do it again even if she had limited time to eat breakfast.

At 10 a.m., the group cruisers gathered in the conference room to hear Matt record a podcast for his channel. He described what he did at each port and his overall experience on the group cruise thus far. After that, he answered a few cruise questions people emailed him. It was fun to be a part of his episode.

I had been eyeing the frappuccino drinks at the Cafe Promenade, so I ordered a caramel one to try. I didn’t know if there would be coffee in it so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It did have coffee in it, but it wasn’t too strong of a taste so I was happy about that.

While I was getting my drink, the Veteran's Gathering was taking place. It was a special event, and I could tell many felt the same way. 

Next up on my agenda was the Ladies Pamper Party in the salon. I have been to this event multiple times on past cruises because I like to feel a little pampered every now and then! The event was busy, as all the seats were taken when my mom and I arrived.

The employees sampled various cleansers, toners, moisturizers, etc., and described to us how to apply them to our face and neck. I have the same old skincare routine, so I enjoyed switching it up and experimenting with new products.

One of the products they used was the sunglow bronzer, which I have been using for at least 10 years when I purchased it on a previous cruise. The employees applied it to those that wanted to try it, so Patty and I had that done.

At 1 p.m., the group cruise had a private ice skating event in Studio B. After signing a waiver and getting geared up, we were able to hit the ice. I was very rusty at first and had to get used to the skates before I was comfortable to slowly maneuver myself around the rink.

Even Matt came on the ice for a short while!

Love & Marriage was at 2 p.m., which I thought was an odd time because it’s usually at night during production showtime. Nonetheless, we attended the event with a strawberry daiquiri and lava flow in hand.

This show is one of my favorites, so I was excited. I have seen the show so many times that I can predict almost every question they ask the couples! The newlyweds won this time around.

We had some time to spare before afternoon trivia, so Patty and I relaxed on deck four and watched the waves. Deck four has become one of our favorite quiet spots on the Mariner.

Patty likes to walk laps, and she said she prefers walking on deck four rather than deck 12. Deck 12 is busy with sunbathers and group gatherings that prohibit her from a constant walk.

Deck four is far less busy; even without a walking path, she gets a good workout in. Another plus is that for at least half of the time, she is in the shade versus in the sun on deck 12.

Patty and I had not been to general knowledge trivia yet on this cruise, so we were intrigued to see how we would do. We actually did not do too bad (I thought) and scored 9/20. We knew we did not win, so we left before they announced the winners (who got a perfect score).

Since we were right by the casino, I wanted to test my luck. My family says I am the lucky one of the group, but that was not the case today. I did not bet much, but I lost it all and was left with a measly 0.24 cents. I left the casino with nothing to brag about, but I still had fun.

By this time, we needed to get ready for dinner. Tonight was “dress your best” night which is the equivalent of the old formal night. I find it interesting how they changed the terminology, but I can see why since people may not want to get dressed to the nines for dinner. I would estimate that only 25% of guests dressed in formal attire while most of us were business casual.

Upon seating at the table, you are expected to scan a QR code and use your phone to look at the dinner menu. My phone wasn’t easily accessible, so I asked for a physical menu which I appreciated. On this cruise, I realized I miss getting the physical menu every night, but I understand their reasoning to limit germs.

I started with the roasted tomato soup while Patty got the Asian-style pork tacos. The main course was chicken cordon bleu for me and tagliatelle pasta for Patty.

She told me she missed having meat during her dinner, so she also later ordered the grilled lamb chops. I helped her finish her pasta.

Dessert consisted of tres leches, crème brûlée and the apple blossom à la mode. They have the apple blossom every night, but I just had to order it because I know how good it is. It was a great choice!

By the time we finished dinner, it was already time for the 7 p.m. headliner show “Center Stage.” I thought it was just the singers and dancers, but there was also a juggling & comedian act in the middle - The singers and dancers opened and closed the show. It was nice that we got to see a variety of entertainment that everyone could enjoy.

Right after the show, there was an 80’s party happening in the Royal Promenade. Similar to the 70’s disco inferno, there was music and dancing to all things 80’s. Patty and I watched the show for a little while, then we went to the Bamboo Room to share a mojito. The mojito in the Bamboo Room is excellent in my opinion.

I had some time before the 10 p.m. game show, so Patty and I went up to the Solarium to relax in one of the daybeds. These are always occupied during the day, so we were happy to finally enjoy one tonight. We couldn’t even feel that we were moving and it was peaceful to hear the rhythm of the waves.

The game show was Adult Majority Rules. They had a regular Majority Rules earlier this cruise that I attended. The one tonight was a completely different version. It was so funny; I think I laughed the most I ever have during a game show.

Immediately after, there was adult karaoke. I listened to a few singers - some were great and others not so much. I can’t judge though because I cannot sing myself!

Tomorrow we will be visiting one of Royal Caribbean’s private islands, CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - St. Croix

23 Jul 2022

Today's port of call was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ship arrived at 7 a.m. and had a scheduled departure of 12:30 p.m.

Knowing we did not have much time in port today, Patty and I decided to wake up earlier than usual and head up to the Windjammer for a quick breakfast. I had my usual while Patty switched it up with some yogurt and biscuits with gravy.

Once we lathered up with sunscreen, we wanted to get off and walk around the port, which seemed to be the common theme among other cruisers. While at the Windjammer, we could see a beach nearby, so we first wanted to stop there.

As we were walking off the ship and into the port, I could hear music in the distance. This is nothing too unusual, but as we walked closer, I noticed it was just a man blaring music from speakers and not actual musicians. I thought this was interesting, but hey, it was a hot day to be outside doing live entertainment.

The last time I was here was in January 2015. The port looked exactly as I remembered. We had not gone to the beach, so I was unsure how to get there. However, it was quite easy to find, as it was just around the corner from the main square.

Frederiksted Beach was conveniently located less than a 10-minute walk from the port. There were lounge chairs and umbrellas all around. It was busy today, and many families were enjoying the ocean and sunbathing. We also stumbled upon a perfect picture opportunity with Mariner in the background, so we had to take some photos!

We wanted to see some of the shopping, so we made our way back toward the main square. Another person had his computer plugged in and playing music for all to hear. There were the typical pop-up shops here, such as t-shirts, jewelry, local art and other knickknacks.

As we walked a little farther, I noticed a small group of people gathered around a pen. Upon further inspection, I noticed four small puppies. They were so cute and loved by everyone that saw them (including me).

They were from the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center: “providing and promoting the humane treatment of animals in our community.” The last time I was in St. Croix, the same organization was there with puppies. One of the workers told me their breed is unknown, but they were a couple months old.

After taking a few more photos and enjoying the scenery, Patty and I were ready to head to the ship and cool off. It was 90 degrees and humid. We were in the sun a lot yesterday, so we were burnt and not wanting to get even more burnt.

We had been wanting to try the main dining room lunch on board, so we did that as soon as we got back. We were seated right away, and next to the window which I liked. Since my mom’s phone wasn’t working, they were able to give her a physical lunch menu while I looked on my phone.

I ordered the mozzarella sticks for an appetizer while Patty got the Manhattan clam chowder and insalata caprese. For the main meal, I got the chicken sandwich and Patty got salmon. Lastly, I got the Floating Island, which was meringue in a vanilla creme sauce with caramelized sugar on top. Overall, we enjoyed the lunch and service. We also had nice conversation with a couple seated next to us.

As soon as we finished lunch, the ship was leaving St. Croix, so we watched the sail away from deck 4.

Patty was sleepy from the night before and took a nap. She told me how she woke up last night to some rough waters, so she did not sleep as well as she would’ve liked. Luckily I slept right through it!

As Patty was napping, I wanted to do some work, so I tried to find a place to sit with my computer. I wasn’t sure where to go, but as soon as I saw the Starbucks, I knew that would be a good place to go. There was seating all around, even behind the counter, so it was easy to find a quiet spot.

The Wi-Fi onboard has been pretty good this sailing. There are moments when it’s slow, but it works for the most part. I had a few small issues with the Surf & Stream but I was able to get my work done.

We had not gone to the Diamond Lounge yet, so we wanted to stop by before our 5:30 dinner. The lounge was pretty full (but that isn’t saying much because it’s small to begin with) but we had no problems getting little appetizers and our drink order in. I got the chocolate martini and Patty tried a mango mojito - both were very tasty choices. I actually liked my mom’s more than mine!

In the main dining room, I started off with the baked potato soup while Patty had the seafood puff pastry and escargot (she orders this every night). For the main course, I had the lasagna al forno and she had the beef stroganoff. Our waitress, Carol, did warn us that it had pickles in it and therefore wasn’t as popular, but Patty wanted to try it anyway. We appreciate her honesty when we are trying to decide what we want!

For dessert, I got the English trifle and Patty got the coconut layer cake. We were very pleased with our meal and the friendly service.

We had just enough time to make it to the 7 p.m. show: The Magic of Puck. We got there 20 minutes early so we got good seats in the aisle on the main floor. The show was packed, so I was glad we got there when we did. Puck was on season seven of America’s Got Talent, so I knew he would not disappoint. He did an excellent job with his tricks and audience engagement.

The night was still young, and there were two game shows I wanted to attend: The Perfect Couple and The Liars Club. They were both in the Star Lounge back-to-back.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at The Perfect Couple - I thought maybe this was replacing Love & Marriage. I would be disappointed if they got rid of Love & Marriage because that is my favorite show on Royal Caribbean cruises! Once I was at the gameshow, I quickly remembered that this is different.

Three couples participated in three challenges to see which couple was most compatible. I was rooting for the older couple, and they ended up winning!

I had to wait about 20 minutes before the next game show, so I stayed in my spot since it was still busy. I am wondering if they should have these gameshows in the Royal Theatre since they seem to be popular and we are sailing at full capacity.

The Liars Club is where three employees attempt to convince the audience they know the definition of odd words. For example, the first word was “slangwhanger.” The three employees gave various descriptions (trigger happy, a shy and quiet child, or a loud and obnoxious speaker), then the audience voted who they thought was telling the truth. It was a fun time and many laughs were had.

Tomorrow we will be at sea before arriving in CocoCay!

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - St. Kitts

22 Jul 2022

Hi everyone! My name is Angie. I am one of the Social Media Managers for Royal Caribbean Blog. I am going to be taking over the rest of the live blog for this sailing!

Today we arrived in St. Kitts. Joining me on this cruise is my mom, Patty, who loves cruising as much as I do.

We pulled into the port around 10:30 a.m., so we had plenty of time to enjoy breakfast in the Windjammer. We even got to see the mountainous and lush St. Kitts scenery while eating.

I always go for a sticky bun (they have different flavors every day), an omelet and cranberry bread (one of my all-time favorites). The last time I was on the Mariner in April, I was able to create my own omelet, but I could not this cruise. The standard ham and cheese combo is a good alternative.

We had an excursion today - “Catamaran Fan-ta-sea to Nevis with Snorkel and Beach” - with those of us on the group cruise.

We were instructed to meet the group outside at the white tents at 11 a.m. Since everyone was getting off the ship at the same time, it was quite busy and we weren’t sure if we would make it on time.

By 11:30 a.m., everyone had gotten off the ship and we were ready to board the 65-foot catamaran. It was a short walk to the catamaran, and I was glad we didn’t have to go on a bus ride to get there.

Since I am prone to motion sickness, I took some Dramamine and I was ready to go!

Once on board, we made our way about seven miles to Shitten Bay (I swear that is the real name). Here, we were able to snorkel or stay on the catamaran and enjoy the views. I opted for the snorkeling while Patty stayed on board and took photos.

I had a fun time swimming around and seeing all the different kinds of fish, rocks, coral, etc. I saw tons of Sergeant Major fish as well as Trumpetfish. One of the workers even dove down to show us an octopus hiding under a rock, a rainbow fish, and some pretty shells.

We snorkeled for about 45 minutes, then we had lunch on the catamaran. The menu included jerk chicken, mac n cheese pie, sweet potato pudding, rice and beans, and a lettuce salad. Drinks were also included. I had some fruit punch while many had soft drinks, rum punch, or beer.

After lunch, they took us to Nevis, a nearby island, which was about another four miles away. They dropped us off on the beach where we could do our own thing for an hour. There were plenty of lounging chairs with umbrellas, but I assumed they would cost extra. To my surprise, we sat down and no one asked us to pay. After being in the sun for quite a while, I wanted to get under some shade, especially since I burn easily.

Not long after sitting down did we get bombarded by locals trying to sell us stuff - jewelry, hats, dresses, t-shirts. I was not looking to buy anything but Patty was suckered into buying two hats for $15. It ends up she did alright negotiating because someone else on our excursion paid more from the same salesman.

A dip in the cool, clear water and some lounging beach time went by fast, as the catamaran was soon back to pick us up and head back to the ship.

We had a leisurely, hour-long trip back to the starting point. It was choppy waters at first, but then the last half was smooth sailing. I laid down in the front of the catamaran and relaxed while enjoying the beautiful landscapes.

This excursion was a fun experience! All four workers were friendly, helpful, and personable. One took extra care of the passengers that needed additional assistance. Another was great with the kids and gave them snacks and seashells. Captain Phil and his crew were always smiling, offering drinks, and asking if we needed anything.

As we were leaving, one of them gave me a magnet of a frog that said “Nevis” on it - it was very cute.

We arrived back at about 5 p.m. The ship was leaving at 5:30, so we did not have time to shop around. My mom always likes to get a t-shirt or two, but there was no time, so we headed back to the Mariner.

We have 5:30 dinner in the main dining room, and we were able to get there just a little late since we had to drop off things in our cabin and rinse off. Our waiters, Carol and Frederick, are always so accommodating and never make us feel bad if we arrive late.

Dinner was good as usual! My mom loves seafood, so she ordered the escargot, shrimp cocktail, and seafood cake. For the main course, I chose the chicken parmesan while mom decided to get the New York strip steak.

Dessert was tasty, as I got the Mississippi Mud Pie. Mom got the no-sugar-added dark chocolate custard. We also decided to share the lemon curd tartlet. All were great choices, but mom did say she wished the custard had some whipped cream on top.

After dinner, we tried to attend the 7 p.m. ice skating show, but it was too late as the person at the front said the venue was full. However, I did notice others going in since they had people saving them seats. We had to wait and try the 9:15 show instead.

To pass some time, we checked out the casino. As Diamond Plus members, we have $6 free play on any machine in the casino. Patty chose to play some Jacks or Better poker. It entertained her for over an hour; she doubled her money at one point, but then lost it all. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

Once it was almost time for the ice show, we got there early to snag seats. The venue was packed; there were even people standing behind the seats to watch the show. The show was “Ice Under the Big Top” and included lots of elaborate and colorful costumes and sets. It was an upbeat way to end a great day!

Tomorrow we will be in St. Croix.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - San Juan, Puerto Rico

21 Jul 2022

Next up in our port visits takes us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, but not until a bit later.

San Juan

The schedule has is in San Juan later in the day, so the first half of the day is more akin to a sea day.

I started things off as usual, grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks and going up to the pool deck. The morning breeze and lower temperature makes sitting in the adirondack chairs my favorite spot on Mariner of the Seas.

The Crown and Anchor Society Top Tier event was held today in the Royal Theater.

The Top Tier event is where the ship's staff thanks the cruisers onboard with the most loyalty reward points. It's nice to be recognized for being a loyal customer.

Immediately after we went to Cafe Promenade for a "pizza brunch" event, where chit chatted with a slice of Sorrento's Pizza.

After the event, we headed to the main dining room for lunch. 

Since we weren't due into San Juan until later in the afternoon, I decided a nap was a good idea.

Mariner of the Seas pulled into San Juan right around 3pm, and docked downtown.

We had no tour booked, so let everyone else disembark first, and then walked off the ship to start our explorations. 

Read more7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

It's very easy to walk around San Juan because the ship docks downtown and Old San Juan is fairly small.

We walked from the ship in the direction of the two Spanish forts, with a stop along the way anytime the kids spotted a stray cat.

Even at 4pm, it was very hot out still, so when we got to El Morro, it was great to have a very strong breeze to cool down.

We wanted to have dinner in San Juan, and tried one restaurant we had been to in the past, but they were at capacity. They recommended La Mallorquina, which happens to be the oldest restaurant in San Juan.

Their menu was primarily Puerto Rican food, but they had just enough variety for the pickier eaters to enjoy.

I went with mofongo, which is made with fried green plantains that are then mashed with garlic and topped with your favorite type of meat. 

Once the sun set, it became far more comfortable outside. We took the kids to Himalaya Ice to enjoy ice cream before heading back to the ship.

Back onboard, we went to watch sailaway. Whether sailing in or out, San Juan is very pretty. Since it was night, we got to see the city lit up on our departure.

We wrapped up our night with music in the pub.

Tomorrow we will be in St. Kitts.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Labadee

20 Jul 2022

The first port of call on our Mariner of the Seas cruise is at Royal Caribbean's private destination in Haiti, known as Labadee.

Mariner of the Seas in Labadee

This was a full day visit, so we got the kids up and going with breakfast in the Windjammer so we could get off the ship and enjoy our day.

I booked cabana at Barefoot Beach prior to the cruise, which is the area of Labadee reserved for suite guests. About a week or two before the cruise, the cabanas here appeared on the Cruise Planner site.

When we got onboard the ship on the first day, I stopped at the Shore Excursion desk to ask if this was going to be a problem since I was not in a cabana. The staff informed me they had decided to open up the Barefoot Beach cabanas to all guests to book, so we were good to go.

The ship was cleared at 8:30am and we walked off around 9am.

The sun was shining and we headed to Barefoot Beach. 

There are three types of Barefoot Beach cabanas: Beach, Hilltop and Over the Water. We booked an over the water cabana.

Cabana number 4 is to to the right of the beach, and has steps adjacent to the cabana leading into the water.

The water temperature was perfect, and as the morning went on, the temperature started to rise and being in the water became a necessity.

At 11am, the group met up at one of the bars to enjoy the signature cocktail of Labadee, the Labadoozie. 

Unlike the cabanas at nearby Nellie's Beach, lunch was served in Barefoot Beach at a buffet towards the back of the area.

You'll find your typical beach lunch here, with chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. I recall the Barefoot Beach lunch had different options, like lobster or steak, but not today.

We ate lunch, and then took my oldest daughter to try something new to us: Sip and Paint.

Available to book through Royal Caribbean, there is about a 90 minute painting experience where you can paint a object while enjoying beach cocktails.

It's located on a hill near the entrance area, which has a fantastic breeze that made it incredibly comfortable despite the afternoon heat. I wouldn't have minded a hammock up there for a nap.

Each person has a choice to paint a clay pot or a wooden boat. Paint and a smock are provided, along with stencils.

Adults are served rum punch, while kids get fruit punch.

This was a nice change of pace from the usual beach day fun, and my daughter really enjoyed getting a creative break inbetween beach time.

After the painting, it was back to the beach to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.

Unfortunately, my oldest daughter got stung by something while in the water. It wasn't clear if it was a jellyfish or beach lice, but it hurt her quite a bit.

The lifeguard showed up immediately with vinegar spray, but it didn't help.  So we took her to the nearby first aid station.

To my surprise, there was a doctor on duty who triaged the situation and cleaned the area on her leg, and used hydrocortisone cream on it before giving her benadryl and motrin to help with the pain. No cost for the care.

It a little while, but the pain started to subside a bit, but going back on the ship so she could properly shower and use more of the hydrocortisone cream was the best idea.

They took her on ATV back to the ship and the hot water of the shower helped a lot.

We went to the main dining room for dinner. Since it's a group cruise, there are a series of tables together for everyone in the group to dine together.

Whenever I eat in the main dining room for dinner, I ask for Indian curry and they had two wonderful vegetarian options. One was chana masala (chickpeas) and the other was something else that I did not know the name, but it was wonderful.

I also sampled one of my favorite things on the main dining room menu, spaghetti bolognese.

I also couldn't resist a bowl of French onion soup.

After dinner, the kids went to the room to watch some movies and the adults were back in the pub on the Royal Promenade to see the pub singer, Darla. A good time was had by all.

Tomorrow we will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Stray Observations

I really love Mariner's elevators show which floor is next.

The wifi speeds on Mariner are nothing special, but it's been very serviceable. Certainly good enough to get the basic internet stuff done.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

19 Jul 2022

We began our cruise with a sea day with a bright sky and lots to do onboard.

Sea day on Mariner of the Seas

I was happy to see quite a lot of activities offered onboard, so we started off with breakfast in the Windjammer once I could get the kids up and going.

There's a waffle station for breakfast, which is fantastic.

With the sea breeze on the pool deck, it was a nice start to the day and a lot of people decided to head up to the pool deck.

There's a Starbucks kiosk on Mariner of the Seas, so I decided to get an iced coffee from there. It's not included in my drink package, but I greatly prefer their iced coffee taste to what Cafe Promenade.

Our morning was fairly quiet, and we had our first group cruise event, where we played a Royal Caribbean edition of "Super Password", the classic 70's and 80's game show.

We had a conference room rented for our group, so we held our version in there.  For fun, here's a copy of the clues you can challenge your kids to:

  1. Parade
  2. Walkway
  3. Sorrentos
  4. Pub
  5. Neighborhood

Can you guess it? Royal Promenade!

At lunch, we had a private meal in the main dining room and got to enjoy the same lunch menu as The Key guests receive, which is essentially Chops Grille.

I had the steak burger, and it definitely hit the stop.

I headed back to the room after lunch to relax for a bit and then it was time to do a bar crawl around the ship.

A fun group cruise event is to go from bar to bar and explore the ship, while having a drink in each bar and hanging out with each other.

We ended up going to seven bars in a little over an hour. The bar service on Mariner has been fantastic. Little to no waits at all.

Dinner is our second night of the three night dining package, and we headed up to Jamie's Italian.

I think the best part of the menu at Jamie's are the appetizers.

When we got out of dinner, I headed to the casino to spend a little money. The craps table was very kind to me, and I did well for myself.

Our evening entertainment was in the Royal Theater to see "Gallery of Dreams". I'm not sure if I've seen this show before, but it's a collection of popular songs that the cast sing and dance to. 

There was a lot of energy, and at the very least, I knew the words to almost all the songs.

Tomorrow is our first port stop, and we'll be in Labadee.

Stray Observations

I met Captain Panos!

There was silent disco held on the Royal Promenade for families in the afternoon

In case you're wondering, Playmakers had the right TV feed to be able to show the homerun derby.

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation

18 Jul 2022

It's time to sail on one of my favorite ships, Mariner of the Seas!

Royal Promenade on Mariner of the Seas

We're onboard for a 8-night cruise that visits a lot of ports, and this particular cruise has been a sailing we've been planning since last summer.

Mariner is based out of Port Canaveral, Florida, which is a little over an hour from our home.  Because we had a lot of friends coming in for this cruise and staying near the port, we decided to start our vacation a day early and we stayed at the Cape Crossing Resort & Marina the night before the cruise.

It's not on Merritt Island (one bridge before Port Canaveral when coming on the main highway from Orlando), but it was perfect for our family, since they offer apartment style accommodations.

Mariner was sailing from Terminal 5, which is unusual. Royal Caribbean ships in Port Canaveral usually sail from Terminal 1, but there were 2 other Royal Caribbean ships in port today.

We had a 10:30am boarding time, so upon arrival we parked the car in the adjacent garage and then walked in to check-in. One difference between Terminal 5 and Terminal 1, is you pay when you leave the garage at Terminal 5.

The check-in process was easy enough, and we only had to wait perhaps 15-20 minutes in the waiting area before boarding began. They boarded everyone based on Crown and Anchor Society status, which was a nice change of pace.

Once onboard Mariner, it felt very familiar walking onto the Royal Promenade. It's a ship we've sailed so many times that it has a homely feel to it.

My first stop was the specialty restaurant booking kiosk on the Royal Promenade to make our dining reservations. I booked a 3-night dining package, and you always want to book dining reservations as soon as possible when you get onboard.

Next up was lunch in the Windjammer.

In addition to booking dinners, we also took care of a few other "housekeeping" duties, such as completing muster drill. We watched the safety video and listened to the ship's emergency alarm on our phone, and then just had to report to the muster station to prove we knew where it was. The emuster process couldn't be easier.

The kids wanted to expel some energy, so the next stop was to the hammocks, climbing area, and swings on the back of the ship near the sports deck.

At 1pm, Adventure Ocean opened for registration.  Basically, you sign your kids up for Adventure Ocean and provide any necessary information to the staff.   If your kids are new to Adventure Ocean, it's also an opportunity to meet the staff and see the play area.

Our cabins were ready at 1:30pm. We have two connecting balcony cabins on deck 7, near the forward elevators.

The cabins looked great, and it has just enough living space for us to enjoy. 

Our first official RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise meetup was at the Bamboo Room to say hello to everyone.

The Bamboo Room is such a fun bar, and this was our first opportunity to meet new people that we've never sailed with, as well as see past cruise friends.

Our luggage was delivered to the room, so we unpacked all of our stuff before sailaway.

We headed up to Ellington's in the Viking Crown Lounge to enjoy sailaway. Our group had reserved the space there, and we had the perfect (climate controlled) view of sailaway.

While I prefer the conveniences of Terminal 1, being further back in the port meant a lovely view when we departed since we got to pass all the other cruise ships in port.

Dinner took us to Chops Grille.

We had a large group for dinner (12 in total), and the service was fantastic. The meal progressed nicely, and the food was terrific.

After dinner, we went to the pub for music. The pub singer onboard, Darla, came highly recommended from many other cruisers and she did not disappoint.

Tomorrow is a sea day, and we have a lot of fun activities planned to really get the cruise feeling going.

Stray Observations

The new drink package cups are also here on Mariner of the Seas.

I spoke with the hotel director, who indicated the ship is at 98% crew member staffing. All the bars and restaurants we visited have had minimal waits.

Here is the onboard pricing for the deluxe beverage package if you waited to book onboard. It's always a good idea to book a Royal Caribbean drink package online before the cruise.

Mariner of the Seas 2022 Live Blog - Cruise Preview

14 Jul 2022

This weekend I'm headed back onboard Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas for an 8-night cruise.

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

This is not just another cruise for me, but the first RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, which means a number of people that love Royal Caribbean just as much as me will be joining me.

Each year we have two group cruises, and this is our first one in 2022 (the next is in December on Wonder of the Seas).

I will share a daily update of everything I did onboard during this eight-night sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida.

The cruise

Mariner of the Seas has been based in Port Canaveral for a number of years in a row at this point, although this is the first time in quite a while it's not a short cruise.

My cruises on Mariner since 2019 have been three- and four-night sailings, but she's transitioned to five and eight night cruises instead (Independence of the Seas does the 3- and 4-nighters now).

The last time I was on Mariner for this long was my honeymoon cruise from Port Canaveral back in 2008. Back then I had no kids, no mortgage, and not even a Royal Caribbean blog!

I picked this itinerary because of the port intensive nature.  We'll be visiting five ports in total, including both Labadee and CocoCay.

We will visit St. Croix, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Kitts during the sailing. 

Plus, you have all the fun things to do onboard, including a number of upgrades that were added  to Mariner of the Seas in 2018.


Mariner of the Seas in Nassau lit up

When you mix in the great community of friends that will be joining me as part of the RoyalCaribbeanBlog group cruise, it's going to be a wonderful experience to have so many friendly faces onboard.


Balcony cabin on Mariner of the Seas

We reserved connecting balcony staterooms for this cruise, one for my wife and I, and one for my kids.  

This is one of my favorite strategies for cruising with kids, as it allows separation from them and an extra full bathroom.

Considering the price of a suite was too high on this cruise, I found the two-room strategy to not only be economical, but provide enough space.

Both cabins are located on deck seven and should provide a room with close proximity to the Royal Promenade and only a few decks walk up to the pool deck.

With all the fun with friends we'll have onboard, I don't think we'll be spending that much time in the cabin.


Labadee aerial

The fact we get to visit two Royal Caribbean private islands was a major draw to this itinerary. Add in a couple Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and you've got a great lineup.

At CocoCay, we rented an Oasis Lagoon cabana and at Labadee, I'm trying an over-the-water cabana at Barefoot Beach.

Labadee barefoot beach cabana

Recently the Barefoot Beach cabanas showed up as bookable by anyone in the Cruise Planner, so we'll see how that works out since I'm not in a suite.

In San Juan, we don't arrive until 3pm. No excursions booked here, because we will just walk around Old San Juan and grab dinner somewhere. When I tried this strategy earlier this year, it was tough to find a restaurant with availability and air conditioning, so perhaps we will hop in a cab to find a restaurant and make a reservation in the next couple days.


In St. Kitts, we have a private shore catamaran snorkel and swim shore excursion exclusively for everyone that booked the group cruise with MEI Travel.  Every time we do a group cruise, we try to work in some fun events exclusively for us, and I think this will be a great tour.

Finally, we will visit St. Croix. Last time I was there was in 2013, and we have odd hours here (7am - 2pm), so I think we will just walk around the port area.

Dining Plans

For dinner on this cruise, we'll do a combination of specialty dining and main dining room.

I enjoy the main dining room, but I find it nice to work in specialty restaurants as well. We bought the 3-night dining package, which will allow us to check out a few of our favorite restaurants.

As with any dining package, we have to wait until we board the ship to make a reservation. I think we'll try for Izumi Hibachi, Jamie's Italian, and probably Playmakers. Or we'll go to Chops and stop by Playmakers another day and pay cash.

Read moreTop things I ate on Mariner of the Seas

I also elected to purchase an unlimited drink package for this cruise. With so many social functions onboard with friends, it made perfect sense for me.

What's Next

Our Mariner of the Seas cruise begins on Sunday, July 17.  We're actually driving out to Port Canaveral the night before the cruise and staying at the Cape Crossing Resort & Marina.

After each day of the cruise, I'll share the experience with a live blog post and I encourage you to post your comments and questions so I can answer them.

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!

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

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!

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