This cruise completed our wish to cruise on all five of Royal
Caribbean International's (RCI) Voyager Class ships. Once labeled
the "Eagle" class, Mariner of the Seas Captain Tor Isak Olsen
informed us that they are now referred to as the Voyager ships.
These innovative ships, include the Voyager, Explorer, Adventure,
Navigator and the newest, the Mariner of the Seas, launched in
November 2003. They are both the ultimate in technology and
interior design: These two features combine to give cruisers "a
vacation like no other on earth!" Where else at sea can a cruiser
rock climb, ice skate, golf, in line skate, play basket ball or
volley ball, swim, go to a Las Vegas style show, and then stroll
down a Euro style promenade, enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine
at a sidewalk cafe --- all in one day, without leaving the ship?
All of this is possible on the Voyager class ships.
The many balconied staterooms on board provide views of the seas
and the skies that are incredible. This trip we saw a delicate
crescent moon accompanied by the brightest object in the dark sky:
on Day 3 was a spectacular combination of pink stratus clouds
interspersed with an intense baby blue sky. The rising red sun
changed into a golden ball and then into a blinding white sun all
in a matter of minutes. Just an ordinary beginning to another day
Leading up to this trip we were a bit apprehensive since the
first port of call was in Haiti and rebels had been rampaging in
the north of this island and were heading toward Port au Prince.
The first notice we received on board was that Labadee, Haiti had
ben replaced with Nassau Bahamas. RCI, true to its reputation,
places the health and safety of its passengers above all. Another
instance of this attitude was when high seas prompted Captain Olsen
to skip Georgetown, Grand Caymans since tendering was unsafe.
EMBARKATION Port Canaveral, FL has grown over the past three
years and now includes a covered parking garage (not like the open
field parking we used in 2000, with a warning at that time to
remove all food from the vehicle in order to avoid sugar or fire
ant infestation). Baggage drop off was slow, since the luggage was
separated by deck with the expectation that this speeds delivery to
staterooms. With over 4,000 people on board the logistics are
tremendous. We arrived on the pier at noon and boarded by 12:30 pm.
There was assistance with the wheelchair, and we saw friendly faces
all around. After leaving our carry on luggage in our stateroom, we
proceeded to the Windjammer Cafe` for the buffet lunch. There was a
gigantic fresh fruit display that was so beautifully arranged that
no one would disturb it, but a crew member repeatedly asked the
passengers to help themselves, which we did.
SHIP Captain Olsen states that, "When we build several ships
that look alike, the decor contributes to the vessel's identity.
All the ships are beautiful; they each have their own theme and
personality (p. 106 Vision of Art, 2000). This is instantly
apparent to passengers: the colors, art work and names of the
various theaters, lounges and Casinos lend atmosphere which
expresses the "soul" of each individual ship. And, so it is with
the Mariner of the Seas. Sigurd Skaugen was the owner of the
Norwegian shipping company that joined with the Anders Wilhelmsen
Company, along with the US based Larsen Shipping Company to form
RCI in 1968. Mr. Skaugen believed that the soul of new ships is
created through the use of "innovative fantasy" (p. 19). RCI built
its first ship, the Song of Norway, specifically for cruising and
she was an instant success.
Now having cruised on all of the Voyager class ships, for us it
was easy to find our way around the Mariner, but it was not as
complete a de ja vu as could be expected. These sister ships, even
though they all look the same on the outside and have been
constructed with the same deck plans, they are so interestingly
different in interior decoration and art work that the fun comes
with discerning the various differences among them.
The ship's vital statistics are a gross tonnage of 138,000; her
length is 1,020 ft.; beam of 157.5 ft.; draft of only 29 ft., and a
top speed of 22 knots. Passenger capacity is 3,114 and a crew of
1,180. This cruise the Mariner sailed fully booked.
Deck 2 forward has the Screening Room and the Conference Center
and Category I outside staterooms.
Deck 3 forward has the Savoy Theatre, a classically simple decor
of teal blue, maroon, black and gold with a striking curtain
displaying a line of eight dancing couples in formal attire. Very
dramatic. With only six columns, virtually all seats have an
excellent view of the stage.
Toward midship is the entrance to the Dragon's Lair Disco
guarded by two stone dragons and fiery wall sconces. Leaded stain
glass windows depicting maidens defeating dragons, gothic arches
and a vaulted ceiling held up by gargoyles and the many
accouterments of knighthood like shields, crossed swords and
halberds all contribute to a chivalric atmosphere and days of yore.
Two Larger than life size paintings by Simon and Sally Dray
(England) depict "The Amorous Maid" and "The Lovelorn Knight."
Midship is Studio B Entertainment Complex where fantastic live
ice shows take place. Next is the Photo Gallery with great pictures
of Hollywood icons: Douglas Kirkland's photos include Jack
Nicholson with a lighted match (1975); Ann Margret on a Harley
motorcycle (1969); and Orson Welles (1983). Some other intriguing
photos were Drew Barrymore in boxing gloves and wearing Everlast
shorts, by Seliger (1993) and Julia Roberts by Sante D'Orazio
Aft is the main floor of the "Rhapsody in Blue" Dining Room. The
entrance way dramatically faces the triple tier staircase: There is
a bronze statue of a dancing couple from "The Sound of Music" Maria
(Julie Andrews) and Von Trapp. The three deck dining room is
opulent (more later).
Deck 4 forward is the balcony of the Savoy Theatre. Next is the
Schooner Bar with its by now familiar pungent odor of creosote on
the ropes. Here are also found the familiar Ebbings's collages
(textiles, ceramics and ropes), shaped like huge portholes. There
is a model of the schooner Boston and seven naval paintings
portraying the Schooner Era by Harald E. Nissen (Norway, 1950). We
particularly enjoyed the large haunting portrait of what seemed
like a prow figurehead of a beautiful blond lady in a sea blue
There is also much wonderful art to be seen in the stair wells.
This stairwell had some whimsical work like Hanne Tyrmi's (Norway)
aluminum kitchen objects, and Studio Sem, Silvina Spravkin's
(Italy) "A Hard Night's Sleep" pillows of marble, and "Almost
Clean" marble sheets and washboard.
Midship is the Casino Royale with a State Fair theme mural by
(Zsiba & Smolver) and flanking the entrance are posters
featuring a Carnival Strongman, a Prize Bull, a Dancing Girl, and a
Cowboy and a Cawgirl. This is a large casino with many venues and
games of chance. Walk aft and you will find the bottom of the
Centrum and Boleros Bar with its many fantastic, enormous blown
glass flowers. The staircase here leads to decks 4 and 5. It is all
glass and birch wood balustrades (light and airy). The chairs and
sofas are colorful prints recalling Picasso and the 1960s.
All the way aft is the middle tier of the dining room, "Top Hat
& Tails." The entrance to this lovely room has two displays of
formal wear reminiscent of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astare: a white
waltz gown and a black formal tails. The chairs are extremely
comfortable with arms. There is a central crystal chandelier of
monumental proportions, and it is complemented by many semicircular
ones on every level. The mahogany wood on the balconies adds beauty
to this area.
Deck 5 forward has the low ceiling, intimate "Lotus Lounge"
decorated with statues of Chinese Ladies with folded arms and red
lacquered columns with gilded ginkgo leaves. This room was used for
the Crown & Anchor Society and the Captain's Receptions. Next
to the exit is the Connoisseur Club (fine cigars and liquors). It
is filled with beautiful dark leather couches and chairs and the
scent of fine cigars. Here we met with Environmental Officer Peter
Roy, who spoke about RCI's Ocean Fund and Compliance & Audit
Programs. This is right up Vincent's alley as retired Professor,
Director of Environmental Safety & Health at Florida Atlantic
University. Mr. Roy spoke of their weekly environmental meetings
and he impressed us with his knowledge and enthusiasm.
Next to the elevators is located the sculpture titled "The
Mariner Story" this gift from the workers at Kvaerner Masa Shipyard
in Finland depicts the "TeamWork" necessary to construct the
Mariner of the Seas. Look up at the forward Centrum and see a World
War I dog fight between five planes including Snoopy's Sopwith
Camel and The Red Baron. Take the elevators to Deck 10 and view
them up close. Back on Deck 5 walk toward aft through the entire
Royal Promenade which is four decks high and the most innovative
feature afloat. Imagine a city street with boutiques, cafes and
refreshment areas and parades daily; this week was Mardi Gras, so
it was especially busy! This concept allows for strolling and
inside cabins which now have windows overlooking the Promenade:
This is unique to the Voyager class ships and not to be seen on any
other line. The Aft Centrum areas of these ships have original
suspended mobiles of huge proportions, which are visually awesome,
many of which designed by Larry Kirkland.
Toward aft is the Guest Relations Desk, Shore Excursions and the
Champagne Bar with its shoe art (a clever reference to drinking
champagne from a lady's slipper). All the way aft is the top
balcony of the Dining Room "The Sound of Music."
Decks 6, 7, 8 & 9 are mainly staterooms. Adjacent to the aft
elevators on Deck 6 is located the Business services and on Deck 7
is the Library (well stocked, open stacks, honor system), which is
user friendly. Every day pick up a trivia sheet, but alas trivia
games have been discontinued. Deck 8 has the Computer Room "RC On
Line." Deck 9 has the Concierge Club for Crown & Anchor Diamond
members and Suite occupants. This was wonderfully managed by German
Inostroza (Chile). He was extremely competent and helpful in many
Deck 10 has the navigation bridge, staterooms and suites.
Deck 11 forward has the Peek-A-Boo Bridge, from which passengers
can see the inside of the navigation bridge, and the Solarium with
its two huge hot tubs and a lap pool. Here are terra cotta urns
filled with laurel, boxwood, podocarpus and ivy trimmed neatly into
topiaries. Very nice! On top of the colonnade are a lion and a
lioness. There is modern art by Romero Britto, and murals of mosaic
by Barsanti of Petrasanta, Italy. The centerpiece is a larger than
life bronze statue by Luigi Galligani (Italy) "Portatrice d'Acqua"
(a full figured female water carrier), she is flanked by two huge
bowls of fruit by Sinclair (Britain). Galligani also sculpted the
two terra cotta busts of "Circe" and "Calypso."
Midship toward aft are the two specialty restaurants, the Chops
Grille and the Portofino. The Chops Grille serves superb meats
(beef, veal) and fish (Filet of Dover sole, salmon). We suggest
skipping lunch if you plan to dine here, the portions are huge:
Boston clam chowder served in a tureen size bowl, sautéed
mushrooms, a family size tomato salad and, above all, a very big
veal chop. Don't forget dessert, the Mississippi Mud Pie is the
best. Hotel Director Richard Nentwich invited us to the Portofino
Restaurant, a lovely dining room with dark Mahogany paneled walls,
decorated with Magnolia flowers. We had a long leisurely dinner and
Richard pointed out many interesting facts about the Mariner and
its operation. Try the Carpaccio for appetizer; Mary had the
excellent shrimp. The grand finale to a superb meal can be the
Tiramisu. These two restaurants have a nominal fee of $20 per
person. Aft is the Jade (Asian Cuisine) and the Windjammer Cafe`,
buffet style dining with many stations including the following:
Salad, Pizza, Pasta, Meat Carving, Desserts, and Fresh Fruit
displays (peaches, strawberries, pears, oranges, grapes, melons,
etc.), all excellent.
Deck 12 forward has the Ship Shape Fitness Center and the
Mariner Day Spa, with a beautiful view of the ocean for those using
the treadmills and cycles. Aft is the Adventure Ocean youth
facilities with the "Teen Only" area. Located near here is Johnny
Rockets a 50's style burger joint with red naugahyde and chrome
everywhere. They serve great chili, French fries, onion rings,
sodas and floats. The mood is set by the juke boxes playing Rock
and Roll. It's lots of fun and a nice trip down memory lane for
those of us who came of age at that time!
Deck 13 aft has the sports court, full basket ball court, golf
simulator, 9 hole mini golf and even an in line skating track and
the Rock Climbing Wall.
Deck 14 has the 19th Hole Sports Bar with barstools with
handles, so fans won't fall off. There are three monitors with
games simulcast from around the world. Go out on the deck and stand
next to Daddona's (USA) fiber glass and steel sculpture titled "For
the love of the game." It is an amply endowed female spectator
wearing yellow flowered, bulging shorts. Ellington's night club,
also on 14, is a nice place for relaxing with a great surround
view. There are also two game and card rooms located near the
Deck 15 has the Skylight Chapel, perfect for on board
This ship has many fascinating things to see and do. This simple
outline cannot do justice to the beauty and artwork which abound in
its many public areas and lounges.
CABIN Stateroom # 7604 is a wheelchair accessible room, when
entering on the right is the large bathroom with a 4'x4' shower, a
corner medicine cabinet with several shelves, and tile accents and
safety rails well positioned. There is a hide-a-bed sofa and a
comfortable upholstered chair and a large glass top coffee table.
There is also a console holding the TV, refrigerator and personal
safe. Next there is a mirrored vanity desk and chair.
When entering on the left, there is a triple armoire, a king
size bed with two night stands, and the far wall to the balcony is
all glassed. There are both sheers and blackout drapes, good for
the hot Caribbean sun. Hung on the walls are two signed prints by
P. Birchall. The colors are teal and blue and the wood is light
birch. The overall impression is one of freshness and comfort. The
balcony has two chairs, a little table and sufficient space for a
chaise lounge that our steward Stephen set up for Vincent's
convenience. Thanks, Stephen for a week of excellent service!
FOOD & SERVICE The food and service is always a product of
the top personnel's vision. Hotel Director Richard Nentwich's
Austrian background in restaurant and hotel management makes him
set the bar high. Undoubtedly, his cordiality and gentlemanly
attitude reflect well on the performance of the personnel. He is
also very observant and shares his ideas.
Executive Chef Bartol Cabrera has served in famous positions
such as New York's Waldorf Astoria and on the Q.E. II. His training
with Master Chef Rudi Sodamin is evident; he oversees the
preparation of over 12,000 meals served per day, not including
snacks; yet everything is fresh and beautifully plated.
Maitre D' Dominique Claudel (France) is both elegant and very
accommodating. At table #449A, we were served ably and pleasantly
by Osman Olmez (Turkey) and the lovely Neringa Laurinaviciute
(Lithuania). The food temperature was just right and the pace of
each meal was perfect!
We dined well at both Chops Grille and Portofino. However, the
best dining aboard is always at the Captain's table, and this time
the Master of the ship, Captain Tor Olsen out did himself. He takes
personal interest in the menu: an entree of shrimp and lobster
served over spaghetti (al dente), in the shape of a lobster, was
from a recipe that the Captain had forwarded to the Mariner's Chef
from another RCI Chef. Vincent was very impressed, and he is a
tough critic. Of course the high point of dinner is always dessert,
and once again it came specially for us from the Portofino: Frutti
di Bosco in zabione (wild berries in a foamy custard). All that
could enhance this feast would be lively conversation and that was
amply provided by Captain Olsen and his interesting guests.
There is something memorable about sitting in the middle of a
huge gorgeous room with balconies of polished mahogany wood under a
crystal chandelier weighing tons and being serenaded by the crew
singing "O Sole Mio." It was a perfect formal evening; we will
Whenever you need something on board, look for Chief Purser
Francois Chevalier (what a marvelous name!). This pleasant and
helpful gentleman assisted us with information for this review,
while making us feel welcome. He along with Concierge German went
the extra effort to answer all our questions.
RCI's Crown & Anchor Society makes sure that repeaters know
that they are special --- this is the best reason to return to RCI.
Loyalty Ambassador Dean Hay knows all repeaters by name and even
our dream destinations: the Galapagos for us. Suffice it to say
service and food are excellent on board the Mariner of the
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Kirk Detweiler is both young and
energetic. There are so many activities on board the RCI Voyager
class ships that are not available on any other line. The Ice
Skating Rink is the setting for a spectacular show (Olympic quality
skating) "Under the Big Top" with stunning costumes. The opening
number was all silver and white, then the "Cossack Song" was
performed in bright red and gold with flying skirts and Russian
hats. We saw many triples and graceful spins performed by the
international cast including the following: Matt Kessinger, Ice
Captain, Sean Rice, Danny Clausen, Jeff LaBrake, Carl Des-Rosiers;
and the Russian girls: Marina and Tatiana and three North American
girls: Jodeyne, Molly and Azumi. They were superb and got a
Athletes will love this ship: rock climbing, in line skating,
golfing, gym exercising, swimming, dancing lessons, dance parties
and don't forget the upper arm workout at the Casino. The Savoy is
the setting of several very good shows. Of course, the Piano
Melodies in the Schooner Bar and the Classical Guitar music by
Pedro Espedido were especially wonderful. If all this makes you
want to rest, for that there are plenty of quiet peaceful areas
PORTS OF CALL There were two changes in the itinerary, first
Labadee, Haiti was deleted due to political unrest and replaced by
Nassau, Bahamas; then Georgetown, Grand Caymans was dropped due to
unsafe tendering conditions.
Day 1. Port Canaveral, Florida Departure: 5:00 pm.
Day 2. Nassau, Bahamas Arrival: 9:00 am Departure: 5:00 pm Some
interesting shore excursions offered here are as follows: The
Historic Harbor Cruise and Discover Atlantis (2.5 hrs., $42), which
includes a narrated history of the harbor and a visit to the famous
resort; The Pirates and Dungeons City Tour (2 hrs., $29), includes
a visit to the Pirates Museum and Castle.
Day 3. At sea.
Day 4. Ochos Rios, Jamaica Arrival: 8:00 am Departure: 5:00 pm
These are two of the interesting excursions: The Enchanted Gardens
and Dunn's River Falls (4 hrs., $43), visit lush gardens and then
climb the famous falls; The Beach Horseback Riding (4 hrs., $86), a
horseback ride through bamboo trails and on the beach with a stop
Day 5. At sea, we skipped Grand Cayman due to high seas and
Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrival: 9:00 am Departure: 7:00 pm Some
interesting excursions: The Tulum Mayan Ruins (6.5 hrs., $75), this
is the official guided tour of the archeological site; The Cozumel
Reef Snorkeling (3 Hrs., $44) takes you to one of the best reef
areas in the world, and includes complimentary Rum Punch and
Margaritas after snorkeling.
Day 7. At Sea.
Day 8. Port Canaveral. Arrival: 6:30 am Debarkation: 8:00 am
CONCLUSIONS This was our 17th cruise on a RCI ship and at the
party for repeaters (frequent floaters, as we have been called by
some RCI captains), we were honored by Captain Olsen as the couple
with the most RCI cruises aboard this ship and given a bottle
champagne. This and other courtesies, including the invitation to
the Captain's dinner, make us feel very welcome on this and other
RCI ships. The repeaters' program that RCI has instituted with the
Crown & Anchor Society is among the best in the cruising
industry, offering, at various level of membership, benefits
including special services, cruise discounts, value coupon
booklets, embarkation and debarkation preferences, etc.... This is
a major incentive for us to cruise frequently on RCI ships. We have
already booked three other cruises: the Transatlantic Eastbound
Crossing on the Brilliance of the Seas, April 30th, the
Mediterranean Cruise on the same ship, May 14th, and finally the
Transatlantic Westbound Crossing on the new Jewel of the Seas,
We do cruise on ships of other lines (this was our 43rd cruise),
and we intend to continue our cruising activity very intensely in
the foreseeable future. We are addicted to cruising! We have had
good and great cruises, but not yet a bad one (we hope it never
comes). However, we are looking for a perfect cruise (we keep
moving the bar higher and higher) and we'll be cruising until we'll
find it. Happy Cruising!