Mariner of the Seas is the 4th in the series of Voyager-class vessels that began service in 2002. Mariner is very similar to the Navigator, also featuring an ice skating rink, rock-climbing wall, in-line skating track, horizontal atrium, and inside-facing cabins with a promenade view. Like the Navigator, this vessel appeals to people of all ages — kids to seniors — and with nearly every taste and style, there are a few enhancements that won’t be found on the Voyager, Explorer or Adventure of the Seas. While the Portofino’s Restaurant is on all the sister vessels, you also get a chance to try Chop’s Grill. The sports bar found on the earlier ships has been replaced by Vintages, a bar for wine tasting and purchases, and the sports bar theme is given over to the 19th Hole Club. The balconies on this ship extend further out from the side of the vessel, allowing more light to the cabin, hydraulic lifts for the physically challenged have been added in locations not present on the earlier ships.
There are three miles of public corridors, but the hallways are run in such a pattern that you don’t get a sense of the full distance, plus excellent signage precludes anyone from getting too lost. The ship could have benefited having additional elevators as two banks of four elevators are there to service 3400 people over 14 decks. Wait times can be excruciating and patience needed.
The 500-foot-long, four-deck-high Royal Promenade is much like a real street, with a cherry-red British Morgan car parked outside the English Pub. The promenades are lined with cafes, a 24-hour eatery for pizza, pastries and sandwiches. Shops, including souvenirs, liquor and cigarettes, and others display their items outside on days at sea.
The Royal Promenade is four decks high and longer than a football field, has no windows but is always illuminated and serves as the venue for Mardi Gras-style parades complete with stilt walkers, a swaying inflatable dancer, streamers and confetti.
The Casino Royale, through which passengers must pass to get to the main show lounge, has wall to wall Vegas style action with nearly 300 slots and tables for blackjack, craps, roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker. The disco is jumping into the late night hours. Floor-to-ceiling seawater tanks teeming with Day-Glo tropical fish surround the Aquarium Bar. The well-stocked library provides seating along its glass wall for an overview of the Royal Promenade. The Viking Crown Lounge is perched 14 decks above the ocean. You can get married in port in the ship’s Wedding Chapel, bringing up to 60 of your closest friends and family.
The elegant La Scala Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat show lounge, features a Murano glass chandelier and a velvet stage curtain.
That ice rink you hear so much about is a two decks below the atrium and right in the middle of the ship.
Decked out with recliners, the pool areas are busy with activity and also are the staging area for fashion shows, events and planned games. For the action seeker one must go on the sports deck, where fitness fans work up a sweat playing ping-pong, basketball or rock-climbing. An interesting feature guest’s flock to is the open-air 9-hole miniature golf course. There also is inline skating on a well-padded track.
Royal Caribbean is known for small cabins, inside cabins are just about big enough to turn yourself around in, but there are quite a number of balcony cabins. Inside cabins measure 160 sq. ft; but outside cabins range from 180 to 265 sq. ft. and all suites from 299 to 1325 sq. ft. There’s plenty of storage. Standard amenities include color TV with CNN and movies; a safe; individual temperature controls; and hair dryers. There are tubs only in the highest category staterooms’ bathrooms; most have just showers with medicine cabinets.
The ship’s main restaurant features a crystal chandelier and a grand, two deck staircase. The three decks it spans are separately named for famous operas; Carmen, La Boheme and the Magic Flute. Another popular ship dining venue is Johnny Rockets, which carries a $3.95 per person service charge (soda fountain drinks are extra), and you might have to wait to be seated. The Lido deck restaurant for casual buffet-style meals is cleverly designed to look like two separate eateries, minimizing the sense of being overwhelmed by crowd size. Portofino, the alternative Italian restaurant, is an intimately lit quality venue, within its only complaint is the tables are quite close together.
Even on sea days there is plenty of room for everyone around the two pools. One interesting feature about the hot tubs is several are double sized, which makes room for more passengers. The main pool tiered decks surrounding an outdoor theater, where contests to live bands for dancing takes place.
The Solarium pool and whirlpools lie in a quieter, more laid back setting and is adults only. All of the major outdoor athletic activities, the rock climbing wall, golf, basketball, etc. are tucked into a sports center area that lies aft on the ship. The skating rink is tucked well down below. Some of the more specialized activities, rock climbing, rollerblading and ice skating are offered only at specified times so check your daily schedule for available hours. The ship’s jogging and power walking track winds around the main pool area.
One nice touch is the policy at Royal Caribbean to not layer on a lot of extra fees for equipment rentals. There is no charge for using everything from ice skates to roller blades.
The ship’s well-equipped gym draws serious workout buffs and your casual cardio workout guest with its full range of state-of-the-art machines. The two level Steiner Spa has a winding staircase and looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel. The Solarium’s outdoor pool area nestles behind the spa. There you’re surrounded by fountains, foliage, and statues, with a retractable glass ceiling overhead.
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to it’s youth and teen available programs on board. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids a feel for the performing arts. On each sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions. Another new activity is for those three to five years old include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for pre-schoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.
A new program for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years, in partnership with toy maker Fisher-Price, offers 45-minute playgroups for children accompanied by an adult, which involves storytelling, creative arts, music and a variety of Fisher-Price learning toys and games.
Private babysitting is also offered from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., with provided sitters available for children from one year old on up. The rate is usually between $8.00 and $10 per hour depending on the number of children in the family. A cash payment is made directly to the sitter, and arrangements are made through Guest Services at least 24 hours in advance.
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