We will also be on the Mariner Jan 04 and are a couple in mid 40s but we are bringing two 17 year old girls (our daughter & her friend) and our 20 year old son and his girlfriend!!!! And we are very EXCITED!!
I just got off the Mariner's 1st Western Caribbean cruise the first week of December and I can tell you that you'll have a fabulous time! The ship is beautiful and I can share a few tips...
My first tip is: check your seapass at check in for your table number. A Zero even if it's several zero's is not a table number. For instance we had table number 000 and were never advised that their tables don't start with zero's (hence we were not assigned a table). Wish I was advised this at the port check in cause I would have known to see the head Matre De ASAP as soon as he opened up for chnages and or reservations. We booked our cruise four months in advance and according to our confirmation were gtd. first seating which because of not getting a table number we almost did not get. Long story...did not make for a great first night aboard the ship. Needless to say, we finally got seated for dinner at 6:45pm after arguing with the Matre De upon arrival at the restaurant for 1 hr. First seating started at 6pm. Maybe they have all the restaurant seating problems worked out by now, but I can tell you for a fact that mine was not the only horror story reguarding seating not being booked on that cruise.
Second tip is: try to avoid Johnny Rockets on the day at sea day's until after 1pm. They open at 11:30am and my first experince with this place was on our first day at sea. I had asked someone what time they opened at 10:45am and was informed 11:30am. So, hubby and I walked around until closer till their opening lunch time and upon returning to the restaurant found a line already formed. Yikes, glad we decied to come back to the place about 5 minutes prior to 11:30am. We got in to the place, but barely as we were the next to the last couple to be seated (all booths were taken ...inside and out) so we took a bar seat. The appitizer of onion rings and fries were immediatly served, but it took a while for someone behind the counter to take our order. When he finally took our order and brought our sodas (which yes you do pay for) we sat for and I am not joking 45 minutes before we got our food. The couple next to us complined to the manager (who happend to be standing right in front of us the whole time at the shake machine that they never got their food). Meanwhile I counted at least four rotations at the booths behind us. We of course jumped in and complained too that we hadn't gotten ours yet either. Seems in my opinon that they did not have a process in place for counter orders. The waitors were doing the tables just fine (cause that's about the only thing they did) but, at the counter no one was assigned to do orders, so the cooks and whoever else seemed to be behind the counter just did waht they could. Obviously they had a hard time doing more than one job at a time. But, I must say after that day we eat their all the time (not on day at sea days) got a booth and had no problems. Day at Labadee we had the place to ourselves during the noon hour , sides a few crew members.
Third tip...remind room service to bring all requested items. Their was not a day that went by that I ordered room service that they didn't forget to bring me my side items and we tipped! Soup...but no crackers, Burgers or sandwich.....but no chips, and the worst..cheese plate and no crackers. No how are you suppose to eat Brie with no utencils and or no crackers.
I am sure their is more but I have to go, cause the computer will log me off in a second here (it thinks I am idle in forums). But, these are all pretty minor and I would go again in a heartbeat, so have fun!
We sailed the 2nd western sailing. It was wonderful! You will absolutely love the ship. We had excellent service in the dining room...the food was good. A couple of nights we ate in the Windjammer and I have to say it was great!
The "only" complaint we had was that the breakfast in the Windjammer was awful. Chewy bacon, greasy sausage, tasteless eggs. I would have gone for the omelet which they prepare for you but the line was always too long. Lunch and dinner were very good though.
The ice show is a "must see". We don't usually go to the shows and have missed the ice show when on board Voyager and Explorer. It was excellent!
We had to miss Grand Cayman as the waves were too high for the tenders to safely dock at the pier. It was a sea day instead.
Our cabin steward was very nice and efficient and seemed to sneak in whenever were out to prepare out room.