Let’s get this over with out front: I love Mariner of the Seas.  While MrsMJonTravel and I still continue to prefer RCL’s smaller Radiance Class ships, our cruise aboard Mariner could not have been better.  The only possible improvement I can think of would be to have the time to get right back aboard as soon as we disembarked!  I fully intend to sail on Mariner again, same itinerary or not.

Check in and Boarding

We began our embarkation day at the Renaissance Long Beach.  After enjoying coffee and breakfast at the nearby Starbucks, we returned to the hotel to relax for a bit.  My in-laws were joining us for this cruise and our rendezvous point was our hotel.  Father in law arranged limousine service through Prime Time Shuttle for our ride to the pier.  The limo arrived right on schedule at 11am.  The courteous driver dealt with our plethora of oversize luggage easily enough, and we were on our way.

Royal Caribbean utilizes the San Pedro docks at the Port of Los Angeles as opposed to the Long Beach pier.  San Pedro is a short ride from downtown Long Beach.  I didn’t time the ride, but I’d be shocked if it were more than 15 minutes.  Traffic was no issue on a Sunday.  We pulled up to Berths’ 91-92, where we were immediately met by a porter who managed to load all of our luggage onto his already half-loaded cart.

We proceeded into the terminal with our pre-printed Set Sail pass and Passports in hand, and cleared security within minutes.  Just past security we were met by RCL representatives passing out health declarations (one for each guest) as well as an info sheet on Mariner.  The same rep directed us to our check in area.  The lines are divided up by your deck number as well as separate check in for Suite, as well as Crown & Anchor Diamond and Diamond Plus members.  As Diamond members we were sent to that line, but I don’t think it saved us any time.  The lines were very short at 11:30am.

Check-in was as swift as it always is, with one minor snafu.  Names other than ours were coming up on the agent’s computer screen for our cabin.  I secretly hoped this was because we’d been upgraded, but alas, he had mis-typed the cabin number!  All was well, and soon enough, we were on our way to cabin 1688 on deck 10, our first aft balcony!

The ship was already boarding when we arrived, and soon after check-in, we were onboard the beautiful Mariner of the Seas.  You spend more time outside walking to the ship in LA than you do in Miami and this afforded me the opportunity to check out the ship’s exterior.  Mariner is obviously well cared for (as I’ve found all RCL ships to be) and her white paint, glass balconies, and towering Viking Crown were gleaming in the California sun.

You board onto deck 4 at San Pedro, just one deck down from the beautiful Royal Promenade.  We had pre-booked our wine package as well as our Portofino reservation online, so we had very few first-day duties to accomplish.  Other than a visit to the spa for an appointment, we were ready to sail!  And by this time, it was only 12 noon!  We had a full 5 hours to enjoy Mariner before sail away.

We enjoyed lunch in the Windjammer before heading down to Boleros to order our first cocktail of the cruise.  Our cabins would not be ready for another 15 minutes, so we just camped out and enjoyed the drinks and the live Latin music.  Yes, the band was already playing at Boleros!  In keeping with tradition, here’s a shot of the first cocktail.


Our Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle held an embarkation day happy hour at 3PM at the Sky Bar.  It was fun meeting our fellow cruisers before the official “Meet & Mingle” which was held on Monday.  I’m always happy to socialize with other experienced cruisers, and we had a really good group.  Soon enough, it was time for muster drill.  But before we go, here’s a shot of the Viking Crown taken from the Sky Bar.


I’d noted the large “D26” printed on our room key/onboard charge card known as a SeaPass on Royal Caribbean, and had read about recent improvements to the muster drill process.  These improvements did not disappoint.  We simply proceeded to station D26 where we were met by crewmembers that demonstrated use of the life vests.  No muss, no fuss…and most importantly, no trek back to the stateroom to get your vest.  They have them at the muster stations and will hand the vest to you there if you need it.

We also heard from the famous Captain Johnny Faevelen for the first time during muster.  All the good comments were true, as we found Captain Johnny to be one of the best we’ve had.  Frequently visible around the ship, Captain Johnny was extremely personable and it was easy to see why he has such a great reputation.  Rumor has it that he’s going to Allure of the Seas, so there’s one more reason to sail on Allure when she sets sail next year.

Our Stateroom

I’d read about cabin 1688 on cruisecritic.com prior to our cruise so I knew it was substantially larger than other D1 staterooms.  It’s location, along with that of it’s opposite cabin, 1388 on the starboard side, left some extra space and unique angles.  I didn’t know it at the time I booked it, but it’s a much sought after cabin, and now I know why.  Simply put, it’s huge!  And so is the balcony.  You can get an idea of the uniqueness of the space from these pictures.  I’ve added a short video of the cabin to YouTube.

And here are a few shots around the cabin.

Cabin 1688 Shot 1Cabin 1688 Shot 2Towely

I’ve read that once you try aft, you won’t go back.  I have to say, we really did love our aft balcony.  Not only for the extra space, but it seemed more peaceful, less breezy, and just better.  There was very little noise, only the waves and the wake of the ship as she sailed along.  I did note some usual vibration you get in any cabin close to the back which I can only assume is related to the propulsion system (nautical minded folks feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong about that).  However, it was not anything near bothersome and certainly not a deterrent to us staying in the same cabin again.  Here’s a photo taken from our balcony on one of the sea days.  I love listening to the wake of the ship!


Around the Ship

There is so much to do aboard Mariner that it’s completely possible to not do it all during a 7-day cruise.  The center of the ship is the Royal Promenade.  The Promenade is home to several shops as well as the Wig and Gavel Pub, Champagne Bar, and our personal favorite, Vintages, Royal Caribbean’s own wine bar where we enjoyed a wine tasting on one night and a few flights of wine on others.  Here’s a shot of Mariner’s beautiful Royal Promenade located on Deck 5.

Mariner's Royal Promenade

Mariner has all of the typical Royal Caribbean favorites including the Schooner Bar, Viking Crown (home to Ellington’s and the 18th Hole Sports Bar), as well as Casino Royale.  There’s also a Boleros Latin Nightclub, and a really neat late-night lounge called Dragon’s Lair.  The Dragon’s Lair happened to host the nightly Diamond VIP event (more on that later).

Mariner is equipped with a large gym, co-located with the spa on Deck 11.  A unique feature of the Voyager class ships is the Peek-a-Boo Bridge which gives you a birds eye view of what’s happening on the ship’s bridge.  Unfortunately, this feature didn’t make it to the Freedom Class ships as there were apparently too many wannabe mariners tapping on the glass all the time hoping the bridge officers would pose for pictures.

Walking around Mariner, you’ll find a big focus on Brito Art.  It’s very unique, and really added something to the ship.  Here are a few shots.


Ports of Call

Mariner’s 7-night itinerary includes 3 ports and 3 sea days.  Day 2 is spent at sea, followed by calls in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta.  Then there are 2 more sea days before returning to Los Angeles.  Personally, I could do 7 days at sea on this beautiful ship and not get bored, but the ports were all new to us and we enjoyed them very much.  Cabo San Lucas is the only tender port of the cruise.  Tendering is never fun, but I’m estimating we only waited in line 15 minutes or so before we were off the ship and on the tender though it always seems longer if you’re in line.  Our shore excursion didn’t begin until after noon so we had some time to stroll around the port area. Cerveza’s and chips & salsa were the breakfast of choice.  Here’s a real classy shot of yours truly enjoying the local brew.


We were back at the pier around noon to meet our shore excursion group.  We chose horseback riding on the beach for this port, and it did not disappoint.  Air-conditioned transportation was provided to the ranch about half an hour out of town where we met our guides and our horses.  We spent an hour riding along the beach.  Here’s a picture.


Afterwards, we waited back at the ranch enjoying $2 dollar Corona’s until the bus ride back to the ship.  Check out our beautiful sunset departure from Cabo.


Mazatlan was our next port of call, and it was one of our favorite cruise destinations.  It had the distinction of being a beautiful spot and offered one of the better shore excursions we’ve ever done through the cruise line.  We booked the excursion “Salsa, Salsa, and Margaritas” through Royal Caribbean, and both of us agreed that it had to be the best excursion we’ve done.  We made salsa, danced salsa, and made (and drank) margaritas.  What a deal, huh?!?!  We made fresh salsas and guacamole as well as traditional Mexican Margaritas.  Our instructors were simply awesome.  The only non-awesome thing….  check out the chef hats.


Afterwards, we toured the city on foot and eventually hired a taxi to take us around the city on the suggestion of our server at a local restaurant.  Our gracious driver showed us the sights of Mazatlan from one end to the other.  Eventually, we wound up high above the city in a rather well to do area that turned out to be a great place to take pictures.


Isn’t Mariner beautiful?


Puerto Vallarta was our final port of call for the cruise.  What a beautiful place!  Again, we chose to book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean, and we surely picked a great one.  We purchased a beach resort day, and it could not have gone better.  Our guide gave us the history of the area as we were transported to the resort, which made for a great way to pass the time during our half-hour ride.  Soon enough, we were at the resort.  Royal Caribbean contracts with the Barcelo Resort for this excursion, and what a great partner they are.  The resort is beautiful!  The price included full access to the facilities, pool and beach, all drinks and food.  We had an awesome time!  So great that MrsMJonTravel has encouraged me to be on the lookout for long weekend deals so we can go back.  We dined at the beach front buffet which was wonderful, suprisingly so.  The mahi mahi was excellent!  Here’s the view from lunch.



Just gorgeous!  The day was over way too soon.  We departed at 3PM and headed back to the ship.  Several of us got off the bus in downtown for shopping and sightseeing.  The area was quintessential old Mexico, and very nice.  We didn’t do much in the way of shopping while we were there, but did find a nice spot to enjoy a cold Pacifico before heading back to the ship.  Here’s the view from the patio.


Soon enough it was time to head back to the ship.  Sadly, this was our last port of call.  But at least we had 2 glorious days at sea to look forward to!


We spent the next 2 days at sea, and they were wonderful.


Crown & Anchor Society Benefits

This was our first cruise following the changes to Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor benefits in September 2009.  We missed Concierge Lounge access and the Diamond Lounge available on the Freedom Class of ships, but Royal Caribbean really did a good thing by offering a nightly Diamond event.  Mariner’s event was held in the Dragon’s Lair lounge during our cruise, and hosted by Rowenda from the Philippines.  She did such a terrific job of taking care of us that several Diamond Plus folks who remain eligible for Concierge Lounge privileges joined us at the Diamond event each night.  Wine and champagne are served free of charge, while beer and other alcoholic beverages are available at a discount from the regular price.

We attended the return guest party as well as the Platinum, Diamond and Diamond Plus party and really enjoyed both.  Crown & Anchor gifts are no longer offered, but I can’t say that we missed them.  Ships that haven’t had Concierge Lounges now offer a nightly Diamond event, and offer a great opportunity to socialize with fellow cruisers.  Personally, if you take a holistic view of cruising across the entire RCL fleet, I think the changes represent an improvement.


We dined in the main dining room on 5 nights, Portofino and Chops Grille 1 night each.  Our dining room servers were truly wonderful.  Frankly, they were so good that we felt like we were cheating on them by dining in the specialty restaurants!  That said, Portofino and Chops were both just fabulous.  I mean…indescribably good!  Our table assignment was 319 on deck 3 in the Rhapsody in Blue Dining Room.  If you have the pleasure of experiencing Ryan as your server, please tell him we said hello!  The dining room is beautiful.  See if you catch the “Sound of Music” theme in the artwork.


Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  And our cruise aboard Mariner was definitely a good thing!  As Diamond members of the Crown & Anchor Society, we were offered priority departure from the ship.  Our beige luggage tags were called around 8:45AM, and we could have been escorted from the Crown & Anchor departure lounge, but we chose to wait until the last possible moment as our rental car wasn’t due for pick up until noon.  We waited until almost 10AM when the staff was starting to remove the coffee pots and pastries.  After collecting our things we proceeded to the gangway on deck 4, and walked off the ship with no waiting.  Our bags were waiting for us inside the terminal.  After collecting them, we proceeded to the customs & immigration line, and after a wait of no more than 10 minutes we were walking towards the taxi line!  It just doesn’t get any easier than this.

Final Thoughts

Mariner of the Seas is a beautiful ship.  The last of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class of ships, Mariner is obviously well cared for.  The ship’s beautiful artwork, wonderful crew, and of course, Captain Johnny Faevelen, really make for a cruise vacation second to none.  There are activities on the ship that I haven’t covered because I never got there.  The rock climbing wall, the sports deck,  all kinds of evening shows and entertainment, the ice show, etc.  If you’re thinking about booking this beautiful ship, what are you waiting for?  Do it!  I can’t wait to take another cruise aboard Mariner of the Seas!