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After 12 sailings on Mariner of the Seas, I’m convinced this ship offers the best value Royal Caribbean has to offer

17 Apr 2023

I get asked all the time which Royal Caribbean cruise ship is my favorite, and while there are lots of good reasons to pick different ships, I think Mariner of the Seas is without question the best value in the fleet today.

Mariner of the Seas aft

This week I'm sailing on Mariner of the Seas for the 12th time. I didn't even know I had sailed on her quite that many times until I looked up my cruise history, and I think a big reason I keep coming back is worth the ship has for how I like to cruise.

While I might enjoy a ship that has more onboard activities like Wonder of the Seas, or a ship with more for my kids to do like Odyssey of the Seas, Mariner seems to balance what you get for your the money spent quite well.

Mariner of the Seas in Nassau

Of course, value is an extremely subjective proposition, but here's why I think the onboard experience balanced with the price is worth considering every time for budget cruisers.

Cruise ship value

When I think about the value you get as a consumer on any cruise ship, I think about the cost of the cruise versus what you get to see, do, and eat onboard the ship.

On the extreme ends, a brand new cruise ship, like Wonder of the Seas, is on average going to have the higher price tag because it's a new ship and Royal Caribbean charges a premium for its newest vessels.  

Of course, Wonder of the Seas also packs in the absolute newest (and arguably best) things to do. In fact, there's a ton to do onboard.

On the other end of the spectrum is probably a Vision Class ship, such as Grandeur of the Seas.  

Grandeur is the oldest ship in the fleet and also doesn't have as many whizz-bang features and amenities as Wonder.  But it tends to be priced substantially less as well.

The Voyager Class ships (of which Mariner of the Seas is one) benefits from being having a big ship feel, but is old enough now that the prices are much lower than newer ships.

Generally speaking, as a ship ages and newer ships enter the fleet, the average price tends to cost less than in years past. Essentially, the price for Mariner of the Seas today is probably less than it was years ago.

When I consider a cruise on Mariner of the Seas, I see a great price without compromising too much on what you can do onboard.

Amplification was a game changer for Mariner

Mariner of the Seas back of the ship

I liked Mariner of the Seas before she was upgraded, but Royal Caribbean's Royal Amplification program hit a home run with the changes they made to Mariner.

In 2017, Royal Caribbean announced a ship upgrade program that would new amenities to many of its existing ships, including Mariner of the Seas.

Mariner of the Seas

The goal of the program was to add new pool deck attractions, bars, and dining options. By making these upgrades, it would offer more for guests to enjoy, provide added incentive to book an older ship, and generate additional revenue for the cruise line.

Mariner of the Seas received $120 million in upgrades:

  • Sky Pad bungee trampoline experience
  • The Perfect Storm waterslides 
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium
  • The Bamboo Room
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Jamie’s Italian specialty restaurant
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi specialty restaurant
Bamboo room on Mariner of the Seas

In retrospect, Mariner got one of the best upgrades across the fleet. While I think Oasis of the Seas probably came out with the overall best upgrades and I prefer the water slides that Navigator of the Seas got, Mariner is no slouch with its additions.

Activities all day and night

Water slides on Mariner of the Seas

One thing I like about Mariner of the Seas is the variety of activities onboard.

The sports deck has a FlowRider, water slides, climbing structure, hammocks, and even (a now defunct) SkyPad. There's also a great mini-golf course on the front of the ship.

From a family perspective, I wish it had a Splashaway Bay area for the kids, but as long as the kids can get wet and splash, they're content with any pool.

Adding escape rooms has proven to be a real hit with guests, and I've done the escape room twice on Mariner (it had been sufficiently long enough between visits that I forgot almost all the sequences) and it's a real challenge!

In the evening, I think this is where the layout of Mariner and venues really shine. The pub and Schooner Bar are, in my opinion, the best size and layout for these venues because it's big enough to have a crowd for the live music without becoming immense.

Ditto for Boleros, especially with the changeover to turn the other half into Starbucks. I never liked having half of Boleros on the other side of the Centrum and disconnected from the music.

Royal Caribbean traditionalists will also love the Viking Crown Lounge on deck 14. Fantastic views, and Ellington's is a great venue for late-night dance parties.

Dining favorites

Izumi hibachi on Mariner of the Seas

One of Royal Caribbean's goals was to bring new dining choices to its ships with the Royal Amplification program, and I really like the choices Mariner has now.

I could spend half this article waxing poetically about the virtues of Izumi hibachi because of how satisfying it is to dine here each and every time.

Teppanyaki dining has been incredibly popular and the venue on Mariner is quite large, as they tried to include as many hibachi tables as possible. Based on how often Izumi sells out, I'd say it was the right move.

Jamie's Italian

Of course Mariner has Chops Grille, and it has Jamie's Italian.  While I think Jamie's Italian has lost top billing among Italian cuisine on Royal Caribbean ships from the revamped Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, I never leave Jamie's hungry.

And then there's the Bamboo Room, which is a tiki lounge on the Royal Promenade and it's only available on Mariner of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

Bamboo Bar with people drinking

Maybe I'm a sucker for a tiki bar, but I really enjoy having drinks here with friends and just hanging out. Plus, they have a fun and different drink menu from other bars.

A look at Mariner of the Seas pricing

Mariner of the Seas docked in Labadee

If all of this sounds good, let's look at the prices for Mariner of the Seas that exemplify the value.

The price for any Royal Caribbean cruise will vary from sailing to sailing depending on how many cabins have been booked, time of year, and other factors, but it's rare to not see cheap rates when planning ahead.

Prices for a Mariner of the Seas 2024 cruise start as low as $290 per person when the ship is based in Galveston, Texas.

If you're looking a cruise sooner than 2024, there are still lots of deals for a 2023 cruise. An 8-night Bermuda cruise starts at $605 per person, and there's lots of 4-6 night Caribbean cruises with good prices too.

Varied itineraries

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

While based in Port Canaveral, you won't find cookie-cutter itineraries on Mariner of the Seas.

The ship is sailing a variety of short, medium, and a few longer itineraries.  Usually in the Caribbean you find either 3- or 4-night Bahamas cruises or 7-night sailings.  Mariner isn't doing those for the time being.

There are 8-night cruises to Bermuda, 5-night cruises to Mexico, 6-night cruises to Labadee and CocoCay, and 8-night Southern Caribbean cruises.

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

The more you cruise the Caribbean, the more you want to change up the places you visit.  I appreciate Mariner of the Seas has those kinds of options.

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas just finished a dry dock. Here's what they worked on and changed

15 Apr 2023

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas finished a multiweek dry dock earlier this month, but what exactly has changed?

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Every five years or so, cruise ships are temporarily taken out of service so that they can go in for maintenance work.

Unlike a Royal Amplification, Royal Caribbean doesn't discuss the details of a dry dock, which leaves many cruisers wondering what's new or different about the ship once it returns to service.

I boarded Mariner of the Seas today and walked around the ship to see what noticeable changes are present for anyone else sailing on her.

Dry dock vs Amplification

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

Depending on the cruise line's plan, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship could get a number of enhancements and changes. Or, it could simply go in for maintenance without real changes the average guest would notice.

There are two terms for these kind of services: refurbishment and amplification.

A refurbishment is when a ship is taken to dry dock for a shorter period of time to do primarily cosmetic changes and maintenance work.

Mariner of the Seas in dry dock for her 2018 amplification

During an amplification, the same cosmetic and maintenance work is done, but there are also enhancements made to the ship, such as adding new restaurants, activities, bars and more.

When Mariner of the Seas went in for dry dock in 2018, she had a $120 million Amplification, but this time around in 2023, it was a dry dock.

Mariner of the Seas updates and changes

Mariner of the Seas as seen from gangway

I walked around Mariner of the Seas to see what's new, different, or generally noticeable.

First and foremost, the outside of the ship has a new paint job.

Side of Mariner of the Seas

During a dry dock, the ship is taken out of the water so that not only can its engines, propellors, and other systems be attended to, but the hull can be repainted.  All that sea water and humid air from the ocean takes a toll on the aesthetics of the ship.

Speaking of the hull, Royal Caribbean also took the opportunity to fix a hole in the aft of the ship that occurred when a cargo vessel drifted into Mariner while in Freeport, Bahamas.

In April 2022, a cargo vessel made contact with the ship while Mariner of the Seas was docked in Freeport.

Mariner of the Seas with a hole

A small, superficial gash was left near the jogging track on the back of the ship and it was temporarily covered up with some steel. 

During the dry dock, this is now completely fixed.

Another change Royal Caribbean made to Mariner of the Seas (and every other ship that has a SkyPad) was to remove the trampolines and supporting equipment for the SkyPad.

SkyPad on Mariner of the Seas

Last month, Royal Caribbean announced it was getting rid of the SkyPad on all of its ships.

The SkyPad structure is still there, but the area is now being used for various complimentary activities such as bean bag toss and dance classes.

Skypad updated description

The SkyPad was also re-painted.

Both pool decks on 11 and 12 were re-surfaced.

Jogging track
Jogging track

Not directly related to the refurbishment, but the pool chairs have signs on them about not reserving them all day.

Chair hog sign

We've seen this on other cruise ships in the fleet as an attempt to prevent the chair hog problem, which has been an issue for many years.

Chair hog sign

The door on deck 13 to the sports deck was replaced. It used to be a heavy door with a handle and is now a sliding automatic door.

Sliding door

The water slides were re-painted.

Water slides on Mariner of the Seas

The ending area where you splash in when the ride is also remodeled.

Water slides on Mariner of the Seas

Speaking of aquatic fun, the FlowRider received a new pump.


Underneath the ship is where most of the maintenance occurred, with the ship's azipods, engines and other critical systems serviced.

One incredibly small change was the aft stairwell had their wallpaper replaced.

Wallpaper replaced

There were no changes to the cabins, and also no carpeting was replaced on the ship.

Since dry dock, Mariner of the Seas has been experimenting with a complimentary lunch open to all guests in the main dining room on deck 3.

Mariner of the Seas lunch
Mariner of the Seas dining room
Lunch embarkation day lunch menu

The goal is to alleviate pressure on the Windjammer buffet, but from what I've heard from crew members, it's still a test and not a fleetwide policy.

What happens when an empty cruise ship returns to service without any passengers

05 Apr 2023

Following a dry dock in Europe, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas concluded a transatlantic crossing without any passengers onboard, and yet, the crew still do a great deal of work to prepare for paying guests.

What happen on an empty ship

About every five years, Royal Caribbean's cruise ships go into dry dock for maintenance work.  This is when ships are taken out of the water and preventative work is done all around the ship.

In the case of Mariner of the Seas, she went back and forth between North America and Europe without any cruise passengers onboard. You might think the crew would have nothing to do, but there's a surprising amount of things happening on a ship with just the crew.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Director Marc Walker shared a glimpse of what happens via his Facebook page, and it's a fascinating peek behind the curtain of the work done to prepare for passengers.

Cruise Director Marc Walker

"Understandably you may think we don’t do much during dry dock, but there is a lot to do, especially our 8 day crossing back," he posted at the start of crossing home.

"We are now in dress rehearsals for the ice show and theater production shows, live music runs, all theme nights are now rehearsed and ready, many safety trainings and Royal standards being presented, and lots of dusting."

Through Mr. Walker's posts, here's a look at some of the things crew members do on a cruise ship even without any passengers to service.

Mock boarding day

Marc Walker on Royal Promenade

One one day of the crossing back to Florida, the ship pretended it was embarkation day so that crew members could practice the muster drill process.

Royal Caribbean's eMuster process means guests don't have to line up and hear safety information at their muster station.  Instead, they complete most of the process on their digital devices before reporting to their muster station so they are aware of where it is located.

The change to an eMuster process has been a revelation in the cruise industry, and a huge hit with passengers.

Since the goal of this return trip is to get everything and everyone ready for passengers, every process of the cruise experience needs to be refined.

Flush all the toilets at the same time


Part of the process to prep the ship for a regular day is to ensure all of its systems work well, including the toilets.

Mr. Walker noted on the second day of the return trip was, "super chlorination day", which means all the crew members need to run all faucets, showers and toilets manually,  "to make them nice and clean."

In fact, every 10 minutes starting at 7:30am, Mr. Walker would get on the ship's public address system to tell crew members to flush.

Dining room dry run

Main dining room staff preparing

As Mariner of the Seas gets ready to return to service, crew members need to get back into their routines, including the dining room staff.

In order to prepare the Main Dining Room staff for passengers, Mariner of the Seas treated a number of crew members to dinner in this venue, where other crew played the role of guests so that the wait staff can get practice.

Not only does this give the Main Dining Room a good exercise, but it also rewards other crew members with a meal in a venue they don't ordinarily get to enjoy.

Dance parties with no one in attendance

70s dance party crew backstage

The ship's entertainment staff needs practice too, so they practice the popular dance parties held in the Royal Promenade, even if there's no one really there.

Mr. Walker talked about the putting on these shows, "Tonight we performed our classic 70s Disco Inferno for the fabulous Mariner of the Seas crew. We have a lot of new Royals so as part of our simulation cruise, we are treating them to all of our shows and theme events, plus tonight we gave away some amazing prizes!"

Empowering crew members

Crew member advancement

Crew members on a ship may start out in one role, but many will advance through the ranks in part due to the cruise line's programs aimed at advancing their careers.

Mr. Walker highlighted the "Getting Started as a New Leader" program that promotes crew members from within, instead of looking to hire new managers outside the company.

"Myself, Natalie my assistant, and Gemma my Sports Manager today congratulated Sports Staff Natalia, and Cruise Staff Nenad and Milos for their certification. They are our future leaders - and really cool people!"

Prepare the shows

Center Stage crew and cast

Each Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a cast of performers, as well as an array of technicians, that produce shows for guests.

The featured show on Mariner of the Seas is, "Center Stage", and on the final night before Mariner of the Seas returned to Port Canaveral, the cast and crew held an opening night performance.

The cast for a show will be onboard a ship for a few months before a new cast comes onboard to replace them.  

"Here are all the amazing and talented cast, orchestra, stage stage, techs, and Miami install team. Yes it’s a lot for one show, but that’s how we roll," Mr. Walker noted.

"Very proud of them all."

backstage view of show

The "Gallery of Dreams" cast also got their opening night performance, and they put on the show for other crew members.

"The crew got to enjoy this show tonight which is something they don’t usually get to see," noted Mr. Walker.

Royal Caribbean cancels first Mariner of the Seas sailing after scheduled drydock

15 Mar 2023

Royal Caribbean will need a little more time to finish scheduled work on Mariner of the Seas.

Mariner of the Seas in dry dock for her 2018 amplification

Mariner of the Seas is currently in Cadiz, Spain undergoing dry dock for routine maintenance.

Guests booked on the first sailing back received an email today that the April 1, 2023 sailing has been cancelled.

"Mariner of the Seas is currently undergoing dry dock for routine maintenance and exciting, which will require some extra time for these upgrades to be completed."

"Regrettably, this means our April 1st, 2023 cruise has been cancelled. We know this news is disappointing and apologize for the impact to your clients' cruise."

It's not unheard of for a cruise following a ship's dry dock to be cancelled because of extra time needed at the dry dock.  While not common, it does happen from time to time.

Explorer of the Seas recently completed her dry dock work at the same ship yard last month and had no issues returning to service as scheduled.

Guests that were booked on that sailing have two choices:

Re-book any Royal Caribbean International sailing and receive a Future Cruise Credit.

Royal Caribbean will waive any non-refundable deposit change fees to change ship or sail date.

A Future Cruise Credit worth 50% of the original cruise fare paid to book a new cruise and sail by April 1st, 2024.

Reimbursement of up to $200 for non-refundable, pre-purchased transportation change fees incurred (such as a flight, train ticket, or rental car).

Cancel and refund.

A full refund of any paid portion of their cruise fare (including non-refundable deposits) and any pre-paid amenities to the original form of payment within 14 business days. 

A Future Cruise Credit worth 50% of the original cruise fare paid to book a new cruise and sail by April 1st, 2024.

Reimbursement of up to $200 for non-refundable, pre-purchased transportation change fees incurred (such as a flight, train ticket, or rental car).

What work is being done to Mariner of the Seas?

Mariner of the Seas is getting maintenance work done, and Royal Caribbean has not announced any changes to the ship.

Cruise ships go in for work about every 5 years, and it's an opportunity to keep them operating efficiently, as well as clean up and enhance public areas.

When dry docks do not entail major upgrades, such as the Royal Amplification program, the cruise line tends not to announce or highlight the work being done since it's not especially newsworthy.

Mariner of the Seas' Cruise Director, Marc Walker, shared photos of the work being done on Mariner of the Seas on his Facebook page.

Much of the work seems aesthetic in nature, focusing on public decks, pools, and venues.

The ship is also getting work done below the waterline, which includes repainting the hull and propellor maintenance.

One other minor note is the minor hull damage from when a ship accidently drifted into Mariner while in Freeport, Bahamas will be repaired.

Mariner's first sailing back now should be April 6, 2023.

Top 10 Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas hidden secrets

15 Aug 2022

Going on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas and want to know all the best kept secrets and tips for this cruise ship?

Mariner of the Seas docked in CocoCay

Mariner of the Seas has become a fan-favorite with all the fun things to do onboard, especially after her 2018 Royal Amplification where the cruise line added a variety of upgrades.

No matter your cruise style, there's sure to be at least a few less than well-known things you should know about Mariner of the Seas so that you can take advantage of these when you go on your cruise.

Here's my list of the top Mariner of the Seas hidden secrets that are often overlooked by other guests.

1. Peek-a-boo bridge


There's a place on Mariner of the Seas where you can "spy" into the bridge of the ship.

The bridge is where the ship's Captain and other officers work to navigate and control the cruise ship. Royal Caribbean has an observational window that allows passengers to see into the bridge.

Known as the Peek-a-boo bridge, it's located outside in front of the Vitality fitness area.


You can get to it by going up to deck 12 forward and walking outside towards the front.

2. There are two cabins for solo cruisers

If you are looking to go on Mariner of the Seas but are traveling by yourself, the ship has two cabins for solo cruisers.

Not that many Royal Caribbean cruise ships offer cabins for solo cruisers, but these smaller inside rooms are designed for someone on a cruise alone and the best part about these cabins is they do not have a single supplement fee. This means a solo cruiser isn't essentially paying double.

The two rooms are located behind the large round Loyalty Ambassador's desk on deck 2.

If you want to book a studio cabin, you'll need to act quickly as they sell out early.

3. Hidden little spot behind Starbucks

Whether you order a coffee from Starbucks onboard or not, there is an overlooked seating area to go to that is a great indoor spot to getaway from the crowds.

If you walk to the left of Starbucks, there is a seating area behind the kiosk that has chairs and tables, perfect for reading a book or talking with friends.

There are also large windows so you can see the ocean pass by from the chairs.

4. Visit the helipad

Perhaps my favorite spot on any Royal Caribbean ship is the helipad, and you can go there.

On Deck 4, the promenade deck has helipad access all the way forward. As you walk forward, you will see stairs going up a deck and that leads to the bow of the ship. 

From here, you have one of the best views for sailaway.

5. Quiet deck place to relax

New aerial photos of Mariner and Freedom of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Looking for comfortable seating outdoors that is perfect to chill?

All the way forward on deck 13 has some great seating that is far enough from the pools that you won't have much competition for a seat, and quiet enough you could even sneak in a nap between chapters of your book.

There are even comfy day beds you can snag! 

6. Find the Stowaway Piano Player

Stowaway piano player

One of the best not-so-well-known entertainment options that Royal Caribbean has recently added is the "stowaway" piano player.

The idea is there is a piano player with a far-out piano that will move around the ship and perform for guests but encouraging guests to not report him.  

The stowaway piano player will appear around the ship at different times during the cruise.

7. Balcony dividers can be removed

Balcony divider open on Mariner of the Seas

If you happen to have connecting balcony staterooms, most Voyager-class ships cannot have their balcony dividers removed.  However, on Mariner of the Seas that is not the case.

If you're interested in opening up balcony dividers on Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, the balconies are attached to the ships' hull and cannot be removed. But on Mariner of the Seas, the balcony dividers aren't attached and can be removed.

8. Try a few of the best alcoholic drinks onboard

On the run

Need a recommendation for drinks that stand out on Mariner of the Seas?

At the Bamboo Room, there is the "On the run", which is served in a “capri-sun” style drink pouch. Perfect for enjoying in the bar, or anywhere else onboard you take it.


If you want the best mojito, head down to Boleros. They'll use real mint and it will be the highest quality mojito on Mariner.

If you're a beer drinker, head to Playmakers and ask for the beers from Funky Buddha brewery. Playmakers is the only location that serves Funky Buddha brews, which is beer from a small South Florida company that offers great craft beer.

9. Pack socks and pants for ice skating

Did you know you can go ice skating on Mariner of the Seas?

Throughout your cruise there will be ice skating sessions offered, where Royal Caribbean provides ice skates and a helmet for no extra charge and you can hit the ice and try it out.

The only catch is you need to have long pants and socks in order to skate. Since most people on a warm Caribbean cruise don't usually pack these items, it's worth reminding anyone interested in trying it out to pack these clothes so you can hit the ice.

10. Alternate walking path

If you like to walk a few laps, there is a jogging and walking path on deck 12, but on sea days it can get very busy up there with a lot of other guests sunbathing and otherwise enjoying the sea air.

An alternative for walking would be the promenade deck on deck 4.

The promenade deck goes all the way around the ship, and more than half of this loop is in the shade.

The promenade deck is accessible on deck 4 from either the forward or aft elevator banks via the large sliding doors.

Did we miss any Mariner of the Seas secrets? Share them in our comments!

10 Things I learned on the Royal Caribbean cruise I just took

02 Aug 2022

Though I consider myself to be a seasoned cruiser on Royal Caribbean ships, I still learned some new things to remember for upcoming sailings. 

Take a look at the top 10 things I learned while I was on the Mariner of the Seas this July. Knowing a few of these simple tricks can help you during your next cruise!

Importance of the Royal Caribbean app

Before 2020, I had never needed to use the Royal Caribbean app on my smartphone while I was on a cruise. We always had our compass given to us in our stateroom, a physical menu in the main dining room, and an in-person muster drill. Now, Royal Caribbean highly encourages you to download the app before your sailing so you can access all this information online.

I like most aspects of the app, but I missed being able to receive a compass every night in our stateroom. Same in the dining room - I like to look at a physical menu rather than scrolling on my phone.

Luckily, both of these can be easily resolved by asking your stateroom attendant for a physical compass and your waiter for a physical menu. 

I have no complaints about the muster drill, though. It was so much easier and faster to do it on your own following the steps on the app.

Food options

Windjammer food on a plate

While I was aware that Royal Caribbean ships have plenty of food options, I learned a few interesting facts for those that are vegan or gluten-free.

To accommodate a gluten-free diet, the main dining room takes your order the day before so they can prepare your meal for the next evening. The dining staff tries their hardest to accommodate these requests, and it seems as though they can make almost any meal work. 

Dining room menu

As I was scrolling through the app one evening, I noticed there was a vegan menu in addition to the regular main dining room menu. If you only have a normal menu, you can ask to see the vegan menu.

Read moreVegetarian and Vegan Guide to Royal Caribbean

I had previously been on the Mariner of the Seas earlier in 2022, and it had a build-your-own omelet station at the Windjammer. This time around, it was not there, which I was sad about. On the bright side, they still made various pre-made omelets to choose from, such as ham and cheese, vegetable, and cheese.

Diamond Drinks

For those that love sweet treats like I do, this next tip will be important to remember.

I wanted to learn the differences between Ben & Jerry’s milkshakes and Johnny Rockets’ milkshakes. While you have to pay for anything from Ben & Jerry’s, I did not have to at Johnny Rockets.

In the past, the milkshakes were not included as one of my Diamond drink vouchers, but it was this time! The worker explained to me since the milkshake is under the $13 drink limit, it qualifies like any other cocktail or mixed drink.

Another discovery I made was the coffee drinks at Cafe Promenade. I did not think these drinks were included either, so I waited until the end of the cruise to ask if they were included. Low and behold, they were as well! 

Check-in time matters

Since I booked this cruise pretty last minute, I had only a few options to pick from when it came to the arrival time. I had the option of either 1:30 or 2 p.m. I went with the 2 p.m. slot because I did not want to be rushed to leave my hotel. In the end, it didn't matter what time I picked, because the line was so long!

While I was waiting in line, I could hear people saying they had an arrival time of 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, etc. I was shocked to hear this, but I later learned that this sailing was at full capacity and wasn’t located at its normal launching terminal. Those two things combined made for a 1.5-hour wait just to check-in. 

After finally getting on the ship, I found out that those that had an early arrival time did not have a long wait like I did. If your travel allows, sign up for an early check-in time so you can avoid the crowds and start your vacation sooner!

Rideshare apps to and from port

Ride share

This was my first time using a rideshare app to get to and from the cruise. I was worried the price was going to be extremely expensive to drive 45 minutes (I was at the Orlando airport going to Port Canaveral), but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my options. 

Each way, Lyft was cheaper, so I used this app. (Uber was at least another $50-$100 more.) It was easy to find a ride to the ship, but it was more difficult to get one after the cruise. 

After getting off the ship, I immediately put in a request for a Lyft, and it notified me that it was busy and may take a long time to have a driver pick me up. I did not mind waiting, but I had to request a driver two times before someone picked me up. It did take about 45 minutes in total to order the ride and have them find me at the port.

In the future, it may be worthwhile to schedule a Lyft or Uber to pick you up. Or, you can take the airport shuttle instead.

Dinner theme nights

I remember on past cruises how there would only be formal nights and casual nights. Now, there seems to be a new theme every once in a while! From Caribbean to Tropical, cruisers are encouraged to fit the theme when dining in the main dining room.

A big change I saw was formal night now being called “Dress Your Best.” There was certainly a range of different attires - some people brought their gowns and tuxedos, while others wore dresses or a nice top with dress pants. I usually went with the latter and wore business casual, as did most cruisers.

Ask your stateroom attendant

In addition to requesting a physical compass, I learned of two other things you can request from your stateroom attendant.

After three nights of sleeping with a lumpy pillow and waking up with a sore neck, I asked my attendant for a new pillow. That night, he gave me a feather pillow, and it was so much better than the pillows we were originally given.

Also, since the showers only have a 2-1 body wash and shampoo, I asked my attendant for some conditioner. He certainly delivered because he gave me plenty to use for the rest of the cruise.

Helicopter pad access

When the sun would set in the evening, I wanted to find a great spot on the ship to admire the views. I tried deck four, but some nights I just could not see the sunset. 

I then saw some stairs that led up to the helicopter pad. It was a little difficult to find the access point, but just head towards the front of the ship on deck four, and you should see the stairs.

Once I was there, I saw other people had the same idea. It was truly an excellent place to view everything that was happening. This place would also be great to go when the ship sails in and out of port!

Walking path substitute

The Mariner of the Seas does have a walking path on deck 12, but it is hard to use because it is surrounded by chairs and people. 

Deck four is a good place to get your steps in because there is a path that goes almost the entire way around the ship. To go all the way around, you would need to cut through the sliding doors near the front of the ship and walk to the other side. More than half of this loop around the ship is shaded, so it is the perfect place to walk with little to no interruptions.

Solarium tip

I always love to relax in the Solarium, and many others do too. That makes it hard to find a spot during the day because it is a busy spot among cruisers. I found that a great time to enjoy the Solarium is around 8 p.m. or later. There was no one in the daybeds, so I was finally able to snag one! It was so quiet that I could hear the waves as I relaxed. 

Another important tip I learned: while there are hot tubs in the Solarium, they may be closed when you first arrive. However, there is always at least one hot tub open 24 hours a day, either in the Solarium or outside on the pool deck.

Mariner of the Seas Guide & Review

07 Jul 2022

One of the most popular Royal Caribbean cruise ships for a quick getaway is Mariner of the Seas, which currently offers 5 and 8-night sailings from Port Canaveral, Florida. 

Mariner of the Seas anchored

Royal Caribbean’s ships are known for featuring onboard thrills that are sure to leave you wowed - and Mariner of the Seas is no exception. If you are considering a cruise on Mariner of the Seas, look no further than our planning and overview guide. 

You will find everything you need to know about Mariner of the Seas to ensure you are prepared to have your best cruise vacation yet.

Mariner of the Seas Overview

As the final ship built in Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class, Mariner of the Seas first hit the seas in 2003. During her debut, Mariner of the Seas was one of the first cruise ships to feature a rock climbing wall on the ship’s funnel and an ice skating rink onboard. 

At launch, Mariner of the Seas was one of the largest cruise ships in the world. While no longer the case, Mariner of the Seas is a perfect ship for weekend getaways. At 139,000 tons, Mariner of the Seas is considered a midsized cruise ship. The ship features 15 decks and holds nearly 4,000 passengers at full capacity.

One of the prominent features of Mariner of the Seas is its dazzling promenade deck, which spans the length of the ship and features shops, restaurants and bars. 

In 2018, Mariner of the Seas underwent an astonishing $120 million refurbishment. The ship was retrofitted with some of Royal Caribbean’s most popular thrills, like the SkyPad, Perfect Storm slide and Flowrider. The refurbishment also included the addition of new specialty restaurants and exciting dining options for cruisers.  

In fact, this huge upgrade was fueled by Royal Caribbean identifying a new trend in the cruising market: millennials looking for quick getaways. As such, Mariner's refurbishment was carefully planned to add countless onboard thrills for a cruise ship sailing to tropical locations, which is a game-changing experience for those wanting a short getaway vacation.

Mariner of the Seas Pool Deck

Mariner of the Seas pool deck

You won’t need to be docked in port to feel like you’re relaxing in a tropical oasis. Cruisers will find plenty of opportunities to relax, take in the sun and unwind with a cocktail on Mariner of the Seas' pool deck.

The top deck of Mariner of the Seas has two main pools with multiple hot tubs surrounded by sun loungers. Most of the time, you can find reggae-style music playing on the pool deck. There are 2 decks of chairs that surround the pool, so you can choose to be right next to the pool or on the top deck overlooking the open sea.

A large movie screen shines above the pool deck and plays everything from music videos to cinema hits under the stars. 

A double decker pool bar is nestled near the pool for easy access - perfect for those relaxing on a lounger. On the upper deck near the pool bar, guests can find trendy couches and even comfy, padded chairs. 

If you are looking for some diner-style grub, you can dine at Johnny Rockets on the upper pool deck (for a fixed-price fee). Those looking for a quick and complimentary snack can grab a hot dog from Boardwalk Dog House. You can build your own hot dog with multiple topping options and plenty of meats to choose from. 

Sweets lovers will love the all-you-can-eat ice cream machine on the pool deck. Nothing could be better than a cool, creamy cone on a hot vacation day!

Mariner of the Seas Solarium

At the front of the pool deck is the adults-only Solarium. Only guests who are 16 years and older can enjoy the Solarium, which makes this a wonderful place to indulge in some quiet time. 

Daybeds with canopies can also be found in the Solarium, which are complimentary. These are posh and comfortable spots to relax.

The Solarium features a pool surrounded by padded loungers and two hot tubs. Those looking to grab a drink will appreciate the convenience of the Solarium Bar, situated perfectly between the two hot tubs. 

While some cruise ships feature Solariums that are covered by glass domes, guests can enjoy direct sunlight onboard Mariner of the Seas in this space. 

Mariner of the Seas Dining Options

Main dining room table

If one thing’s certain on your cruise, it's that you won’t go hungry onboard Mariner of the Seas. With a combination of both complimentary and specialty dining options, you won’t have time to likely try all of the food available onboard!

Whether you choose to dine only at complimentary venues or treat yourself to an upgraded dining experience in one of the specialty restaurants, there’re endless options for grabbing a bite to eat. 

Mariner of the Seas Windjammer

Complimentary dining onboard Mariner of the Seas include the following:

Main Dining Room: Like all of Royal Caribbean’s ships, the main dining room offers complimentary meals in a classic sit-down style. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served daily in the main dining rooms. 

Windjammer Marketplace: Another staple on Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. The Windjammer servers up breakfast, lunch and dinner in buffet style. There’s infinite options here from burgers and pizza to international cuisine like curry. 

Cafe Promenade: Located in the central Royal Promenade, guests can find complimentary coffee, tea, pastries, snacks, pizza and sandwiches 24 hours a day. Perfect for your late night cravings!

Boardwalk Dog House: The first-ever food truck at sea serves up gourmet hot dogs for everyone to enjoy. Everything from sausages to hot dogs are available including a variety of condiments, salads and sides. 

Izumi hibachi on Mariner of the Seas

Specialty dining is also plentiful onboard Mariner of the Seas. Some guests prefer to dine only at complimentary venues while others appreciate the quality and service afforded through the specialty dining options. These restaurants serve the highest quality food available onboard, although guests will have to spend extra to visit these venues.

As the name suggests, specialty restaurants focus on serving one type of cuisine and doing it exceptionally well. If you’re looking to have a special celebration or indulge in a romantic dinner, consider booking a reservation at one of these restaurants.

Burger at Playmakers


Specialty dining options onboard Mariner of the Seas include the following options:

Chops Grille: Styled as an American Steakhouse, Chops Grille specializes in serving hand-cut meat with appetizers like Maine lobster, sides like gruyere cheese tater tots and desserts like tangy key lime pie. 

Jamie’s Italian: Thanks to a partnership with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s Italian transforms classic Italian dishes into a trendy Tuscan-inspired experience. Homemade pasta and an epic meat plank can be polished off with indulgent tiramisu. 

Izumi Hibachi & Sushi: Everything from fresh sushi to delicious teppanyaki is served at Izumi. This Asian-inspired dining option offers a variety of hot and cold appetizers, entrees and desserts. With a full hibachi experience, you will leave feeling both full and wowed. 

Garlic bread

Chef’s Table: One of the most premium dining options onboard, Chef’s Table provides an intimate opportunity for guests to enjoy a 6-course meal crafted personally by the ship’s chef. A white cloth dinner table spotlights a multitude of delicate cuisine offerings. 

Playmakers Sports Bar and Grill: Located in the Royal Promenade, this sports bar offers your game-day favorite bar snacks and drinks. You can enjoy a signature Playmakers burger and finish off with a five-scoop Touchdown Sundae or warm, gooey Campfire Cookie. 

Johnny Rockets: This 1950s diner-style restaurant offers American style favorites like burgers, fries, onion rings and milkshakes. 

Ben & Jerry’s: Offering plenty of iconic ice cream flavors, Ben & Jerry’s is available for purchase in the Royal Promenade and serves up cones, sundaes and milkshakes. 

Mariner of the Seas Bars and Lounges

Bamboo room on Mariner of the Seas

Cruising with Royal Caribbean means you will find a seemingly endless number of places to grab a cocktail. You can't say you went on a cruise unless you indulged in a fruity vacation drink! Mariner of the Seas has a huge variety of bars and lounges, each offering a slightly different vibe. 

Each night, you can find live music happening inside Mariner's bars and lounges onboard. The bars and lounges also host plenty of activities including trivia, crafting, karaoke and more. 

Schooner Bar on Mariner of the Seas

Bars onboard Mariner of the Seas include:

  • Schooner Bar (Piano Bar)
  • The Bamboo Room
  • Wig & Gravel Pub
  • Britto Pool Bar
  • Solarium Bar
  • Sky Bar 
  • Ellington’s Jazz Club
  • Viking Crown
  • Boleros (Latin-themed nightclub and bar)
  • Connoisseur Club 
  • The Plaza Bar
  • Cloud Nine
  • Casino Royale Bar
  • Star Lounge

For the best panoramic view, The Crown Lounge is the perfect spot to grab a cocktail. You can enjoy 180-degree views of the pool deck and open sea. On the other hand, Boleros is a great spot for live music and dancing. The Star Lounge is a transformative space that hosts everything from game shows to karaoke and nightly dancing. 

One of the most unique features on Mariner of the Seas is The Bamboo Room. This Polynesian-themed tiki bar is located in the Royal Promenade and serves up spirited sips with exotic fruits and spices. The throwback vibes and crazy good cocktails are not to be missed. 

Things to do on Mariner of the Seas

activities on Mariner of the Seas

I’ve sailed on Mariner of the Seas three times and each time was a wonderful and unique experience. This cruise ship is perfectly sized - not too big and not too small - and definitely offers a little something that everyone can enjoy. 

Even before her recent refurbishment, Mariner of the Seas had plenty of activities to keep cruisers busy; during her initial debut, she was the best that the cruise industry had to offer. After Royal Caribbean added some of its signature features during refurbishment, Mariner of the Seas now has enough amenities and onboard thrills to rival some of the newest mega ships at sea.

When you first look at Mariner of the Seas, you can’t miss the colorful Perfect Storm waterslides on the top deck. Made of two twisting slides, Typhoon and Cyclone sit three stories above the top deck and allow cruisers to go for a daring, dueling race from the top. You’ll even jet off the side of the ship while twisting and turning down the slides.

Sky Pad on Mariner of the Seas

Centrally located is the SkyPad, which offers cruisers a virtual reality experience while jumping on a gravity-defying bungee trampoline. The SkyClimber is nestled nearby and features an enclosed climbing structure. 

The sports deck is located on the back of the ship and packed with plenty of opportunities to be active, including a rock climbing wall, mini golf course, laser tag, basketball court and Flowrider surf simulator. There are also hammocks and swings that fill in the surrounding areas - the perfect spot to catch your breath.

Observatorium on Mariner of the Seas

Deck 15 is home to Royal Caribbean’s newest escape challenge called The Observatorium while Studio B Ice Skating is located on Deck 3. Additionally, guests can enjoy outdoor movies, the casino, trivia, board games, fitness classes, dance lessons, ping pong and crafting. 

Adventure Ocean

Adventure Ocean

Those cruising with kids on Mariner of the Seas will definitely want to check out Adventure Ocean. This is Royal Caribbean’s childcare program that accommodates even the littlest cruisers starting from 6 months old and all the way up to 17 year olds. 

Adventure Ocean on Mariner of the Seas focuses on giving kids the freedom and flexibility to follow their interests. Everything from craft stations to video games and science experiences are available for kids participating in Adventure Ocean. This is a great opportunity for your kids to have supervised fun and socialize with other cruising kids. 

Mariner of the Seas adventure ocean

The Adventure Ocean program is broken into 4 different age groups. This allows kids to have the most suitable programming based on age and developmental skills. Additionally, Teens have access to The Living Room, which is a trendy lounge meant to be a space for organized events or simply a fun spot for teens to meet and hang out. 

The breakdown is as follows:

  • Babies (6-36 mo)
  • Aquanauts (3-5 yrs)
  • Explorers (6-8 yrs)
  • Voyagers (9-12 yrs)
  • Teens (13-17 yrs)

Adventure Ocean is complimentary for ages 3 and up, however there is also a $7 hourly charge that applies after 10PM. Nursery drop-off is also an extra charge for babies up to 36 months. 


Theater on Mariner of the Seas

When it comes to entertainment, Mariner of the Seas has two main venues: the Royal Theater and Studio B Ice Rink. 

The Royal Theater will host a variety of shows that are sure to leave guests wowed. From comedians to musicians and magicians, the evening shows are dazzling. Mariner of the Seas has one big production show called Gallery of Dreams, which tells the story of a young artist who travels the world and brings his sketches to life. 

Studio B also has one main production show called Ice Under the Big Top, a fierce and spectacular ice skating show featuring acrobatics, clowns and romantic antics. 

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Themed parties, live music and club DJs also keep the entertainment flowing throughout the day on Mariner of the Seas at a variety of venues.

Wellness and Relaxation

Fitness Center

Mariner of the Seas features Royal Caribbean’s signature Vitality Spa and Fitness Center. Cruisers can indulge in a variety of spa treatments and attend various seminars in the Vitality Spa. Everything from massages to anti-aging treatments, wraps and acupuncture are available for purchase. 

Spa treatments are available for purchase both onboard and before boarding in the cruise planner. Guests can choose from a variety of treatments that vary based on length and technique. Of note, spa pricing is dynamic based on the sailing day and port. Sea days are inherently more expensive because of increased demand while port days usually offer discounted services. 

The Fitness Center is attached to the Vitality Spa and houses plenty of exercise equipment for complimentary use. Classes are also offered for an extra cost and include pilates, spin, sculpting and yoga. Cardio and strength training courses are available at no cost while spin and yoga are not complementary. 

Deck 12 also offers an outdoor running track for those looking to either run or walk along the top deck. 

Mariner of the Seas Staterooms

When you are booking your cruise on Mariner of the Seas, you’ll want to understand the different types of cabins available - and there’s a lot to choose from! Layouts and size can differ greatly onboard, so a little research can help you be prepared for what to expect when you board Mariner of the Seas. It’s also important to choose a cabin that fits your budget and your travel needs. 

Some people book staterooms with the intent of only using their cabin as a place to sleep and shower. Others like to use their stateroom more than that for relaxing and rejuvenating - the choice is yours. 

Regardless of which stateroom you choose, all cabins onboard Mariner of the Seas come with basic living amenities like a bed, shower, vanity and television. You will also find a chair or couch, closet, nightstands and cooler. North American and European outlets are standard in the cabin, although you will probably find it useful to have some sort of electronics or USD extender. 

Inside cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Interior Cabins

Interior (or inside) cabins are the most basic staterooms available onboard Mariner of the Seas. These cabins do not have any sort of window, meaning you won’t get any natural light. These cabins have all the necessities you need for sleeping and showering. While smaller in space, you will find ample storage. \

Interior cabins provide an excellent value option for budget travelers or those looking to splurge on dining, drinking and exploring on excursions. You can also nap at any time of the day!

Interior Promenade

One of the most unique features of Mariner of the Seas is the central promenade. A twist on the standard interior cabin is upgrading to an interior promenade cabin.

These are technically inside cabins with the same amenities, but feature a window overlooking the ship’s bustling promenade. 

Oceanview Cabins

One step above interior cabins is oceanview cabins. While similar in size, oceanview cabins have a porthole window that gives cruisers views of the sea. There are plenty of oceanview cabins around Mariner of the Seas that can be found in a variety of locations on the ship.

Balcony cabin on Mariner of the Seas

Balcony Cabins

The most picturesque cabin on any cruise ship is one with a balcony and Mariner of the Seas is no exception. These cabins each come with a private balcony overlooking the sea. Each balcony comes with 2 chairs and a small table. These are more expensive than oceanview and interior cabins, but you can still snag a balcony cabin for a reasonable cost. 


The biggest and most luxurious cabins onboard Mariner of the Seas are the suites. These will give you the most space on board with some amazing amenities included, like access to the ship’s concierge lounge and priority boarding.

Onboard Mariner of the Seas, guests can book 1 and 2- bedroom Grand Suites, along with the Owners Suites and Royal Suites with Balcony. These incredible cabins will cost a premium, but offer the best accommodations onboard Mariner of the Seas. 

Cargo ship hits Mariner of the Seas while docked in Freeport

20 Apr 2022

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship was hit at a slow speed while the ship was docked today. 

Mariner of the Seas was docked in Freeport, Bahamas on Wednesday when a cargo vessel made contact with the ship.  

It appears the vessel that hit Mariner was the Tropic Freedom vessel.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog writer Allie Hubers was onboard Mariner at the time of the incident, and reported another vessel hit the stern of Mariner.

The Captain of Mariner of the Seas immediately made an announcement that everything is under control.

Ms. Hubers said the Captain told guests, "a boat bounced into us on our stern."

A Royal Caribbean International spokesperson confirmed the incident and that Mariner suffered only "minor damage", "Today, in Freeport, The Bahamas, a cargo vessel made contact with Mariner of the Seas while the ship was docked."

"No one was injured on board, and Mariner experienced minimal damage. The ship will continue on its itinerary as planned."

Ironically, Mariner of the Seas was in Freeport today after a last-minute itinerary change was announced yesterday. Guests were informed instead of a sea day, Mariner was going to visit Freeport so the ship could undergo maintenance. No word was shared what sort of maintenance work was necessary.

Not a collision

If you want to get technical, the impact to Mariner of the Seas was not a collision, but an allision.

Commander Don Goldstein, Retired United States Coast Guard, pointed out that based on the photos he has seen, because Mariner was moored when it was hit by the other vessel, it made for an allision.

"Only the Coast Guard investigators and lawyers use that word, but it mean a moving vessel his a stationary vessel, dock, etc."

Royal Caribbean updates: Mariner cancellations, Johnny Rockets & more

14 Apr 2022

There's always things happening with Royal Caribbean, so here's a quick summary of a few changes this week that I've summed up in a new post.

Mariner of the Seas anchored

This week there's been a possible change in price for one specialty restaurant, new cancellations and a construction update to share.

If you ever have a news tip, feel free to email it to [email protected] for possible inclusion in a future update!

Mariner of the Seas 2023 cancellations

It appears Royal Caribbean has cancelled a number of sailings on Mariner of the Seas between May 2023 and October 2023.

Royal Caribbean says these cruises were cancelled in order to modify the itinerary planning. This means Mariner is still offering cruises, but the exact lineup of sailings have changed.  In short, Mariner is still offering similar itineraries from the same port, just on different days.

In an email sent to guest that had their cruises cancelled, the line explained, "We recently had to make some modifications to our itinerary planning, which impacts Mariner of the Seas’ May 2023 – October 2023 sailings. As a result, Mariner’s departures have been revised, and therefore, we’ve made adjustments to its itineraries. Unfortunately, this means your upcoming cruise has been cancelled."

"Mariner of the Seas will still be offering similar itineraries from the same port – just on different days."

Guests that had their cruises cancelled have the option to change to a different sailing within one week of what they had originally booked. 

Alternatively, they can rebook on another ship with no change fees, or take a refund.

Guests have until April 27, 2022 to make a decision.

Price hike at Johnny Rockets?

On at least one cruise ship, it appears perhaps the price has changed to dine at Johnny Rockets.

A member of the Oasis of the Seas Cruisers Facebook group shared that the cover charge has gone up to $14.95 per person to dine there.

Guests on other ships are reporting the price remains $11.99 per person.

Cayman islands set to expand cruise ship capacity

Cruise ship in Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands are about to lift their cap on cruise ship passenger numbers, which means upcoming scheduled visits to Grand Cayman look to be a go.

In March, the Cayman Islands opened their waters to cruise ships for the first time in two years, but they retained a maximum of 75,000 cruise ship passengers to visit.

The island will now move into the next phase of their restart plan on Monday, which means the restrictions on the number of cruise ships has been removed.

Galveston cruise terminal construction update

Another week, another cruise terminal construction update to share!

The Port of Galveston released a new drone photo of the construction progress being made with Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal in Galveston.

The new terminal 10 is taking shape, and today's update provides a bird's eye view of the 160,000-square-foot terminal opening this fall.

Allure of the Seas will begin sailing from the terminal in November.

Top things I ate on Mariner of the Seas

09 Sep 2021

When I look back to my first cruise ever on Mariner of the Seas last month, I think of the stunningly beautiful beaches, watching the sunset over the ocean from Deck 12, and, of course, the obscene amount of delicious food I consumed.

I’ll admit, I actually had quite high expectations for the food onboard prior to embarkation. Royal Caribbean heavily markets its dining options and I had heard a LOT about the food while editing videos on the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel.

So when I got onboard, I was ready to taste all that Royal Caribbean had to offer, and I was not disappointed. Here’s a look at the top things I had on Mariner of the Seas.

The Teppanyaki Experience

Mariner of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

Prior to my cruise, I had never experienced teppanyaki. This is a popular dining option on Royal Caribbean, where chefs cook in front of you at Izumi, the Japanese specialty restaurant onboard (Note: on some ships, Teppanyaki is a separate venue).

On Mariner of the Seas, Izumi is a combined sushi bar and teppanyaki area. Experiencing teppanyaki onboard is not only fun, since the chefs add entertainment and humor to the cooking experience, but the food is also extremely fresh. Our chef prepared vegetable fried rice, assorted vegetables flavored with teriyaki sauce, beef, and chicken. 

For dessert came the crispy sesame balls filled with sweet red bean. Don’t forget to pair all of this with my favorite drink at Izumi, “She’s a Geisha”.

If you are going to try one specialty restaurant on your next cruise, I would recommend reserving teppanyaki. Not only will you have a fantastic meal, but the experience will be a highlight of your sailing.

Campfire Cookie & Nachos at Playmakers

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

After a long day in the sun at Cococay, getting ready for a long meal in the Main Dining Room did not sound so appealing. Instead, we decided to head to Playmakers and share a few appetizers. Bar food is usually not my go-to option at home, so I was curious to try it out.

To be honest, I arrived expecting greasy, mediocre bar food, but I was exceptionally surprised by how fantastic the food was at Playmakers. We ordered four appetizers to share: the pile on nachos, a very tall crispy onion ring tower, chicken tenders, and Playmakers fries.

Topped with guacamole, cheese salsa, jalapeños, onion, and chopped tomatoes, the pile on nachos were by far my favorite, and they were a perfect appetizer to share around the table. There is also the option to “pile on” the nachos with either chili or pulled pork, so you really can’t go wrong.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

Playmakers did not disappoint when it was time for dessert, either, and you cannot eat at Playmakers without ordering the campfire cookie. Ooey, gooey, chocolatey, and buttery, the campfire cookie is Royal Caribbean’s take on s'mores and I am all about it. The campfire cookie is a skillet-based dessert that features a chocolate chip cookie base topped with toasted marshmallows. The cookie comes with a cup of vanilla ice cream and a small glass of milk for your dipping pleasure. 

Playmakers has an extra-cost, but I found the prices very reasonable, especially because the portions were enough to share with a group.

Breakfast at the Windjammer

Mariner of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1 | Royal Caribbean Blog

It may not be as “fancy” as some of the other meals I had onboard, but eating breakfast at the Windjammer is a quintessential Royal Caribbean experience and I just had to include it in this list.

You really can’t go wrong with heading to the buffet, especially in the morning on a port day. While I boarded Mariner of the Seas somewhat expecting a college dining hall quality experience, I was surprised by the freshness and diversity of options at the Windjammer.

The Windjammer has your standard American breakfast fare like eggs, bacon, and pancakes. However, there is also a “live cooking” station where you can order custom omelettes as well as an international section where you can find cuisines such as Indian or Indonesian.

One of my favorite breakfast choices were the blended smoothies and juices they had as a grab and go option. I was surprised to see these options available to everyone at the Windjammer instead of being available with a drink package or extra cost. A fresh watermelon or strawberry banana smoothie was a great start to my day.

Mozzarella Sticks at CocoCay

I think I’ve reached the point in this article when I come clean. Out of all the food I ate at Perfect Day at CocoCay, including a wonderful three course meal at the Coco Beach Club, the mozzarella sticks were my favorite thing to eat on the island.

Don’t get me wrong… the Coco Beach Club was excellent and probably the best meal option available at Perfect Day at Cococay. The hummus and pita were particularly incredible. And don’t even get me started on how good that chocolate brownie was...

That being said, I am obsessed with how delicious and cheesy the mozzarella sticks were. 

You can find these life-changing mozzarella sticks at the various Snack Shack locations on the island. In fact, a popular “secret menu” option at Cococay includes a generous helping of mozzarella sticks, the Snack Shack chicken parmesan sandwich. It is their signature chicken sandwich topped with marinara sauce and, you guessed it, fried, cheesy, and delightful mozzarella sticks.

I am grateful that these mozzarella sticks are only available at Cococay and not on the ship itself because I most certainly would eat way too many of these while onboard.

Everything at Jamie’s Italian

Having grown up in an Italian-American family, I woke up to the delightful aroma of my mom’s sauce nearly every Sunday morning. Saying I grew up almost entirely on sauce and pizza isn’t too far of an exaggeration.

Therefore, of all the specialty restaurants onboard, I was most excited to try out Jamie’s Italian. Jamie’s is one of Royal Caribbean’s specialty Italian restaurants onboard (the other being Giovanni’s Kitchen). I wouldn’t say Jamie’s is 100% authentic Italian cuisine, but I wouldn’t consider it Italian-American cuisine, either. The restaurant brings a fresh look at Italian food, which we tasted in its appetizers, main courses, and dessert.

Our table shared three appetizers. First, the ultimate garlic bread. It’s cheesy, it’s doughy, and it is downright unreal. You really can’t go wrong with garlic bread, but you CAN take it to the next level, and that’s what they did at Jamie’s Italian. Next, the truffle arancini. Arancini are crispy, savory fried rice balls that originate in Sicily, and they were as delicious as they sound. And lastly, the creamy burrata. I still daydream about this one…

Outside of appetizers, we each ordered fresh penne pomodoro pasta and eggplant parmesan. The eggplant parmesan was more of a gigantic eggplant boat, which I had never seen before, and it was cooked perfectly. I was impressed that Jamie’s makes all of their pasta fresh as this adds a huge increase in quality to the dishes.

Lastly, for dessert we ordered tiramisu, raspberry pavlova, and the rich, chocolatey epic brownie. And yes, it was all epic.

Overall, I was impressed by all of the dining options on Mariner of the Seas. Whether a specialty restaurant or complimentary dining option, Royal Caribbean takes pride in offering fresh, unique, and high-quality meals onboard its ships.

My recommendation for first-time cruisers is to look into purchasing a 3-night dining package. This usually comes at a reasonable price and gives you the opportunity to sample both complimentary dining as well as three separate specialty dining options. 

Wherever you decide to dine onboard, though, be prepared for excellent quality, top-notch service, and a beautiful evening at sea. And lastly… bring stretchy pants just in case.

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