I couldn't wait to get on the boat. It had been many years since my last cruise, and the fact that I was so close I could see the captain in the bridge from the shore made me all the more annoyed that I couldn't get on the boat for another three hours.
My family and I had chosen to go on a cruise over Christmas with the recent passing of our father. We decided Christmas at home would be too much to handle, and we decided to get away for the holidays to distract us. We arrived in Galveston Texas on Sunday, December 18th to board the Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas en route to the Western Caribbean.
That excitement was soon quelled when we were told there was a Norovirus outbreak on the ship during the cruise just before ours. We were told we had to wait an addition three hours before boarding. I wanted so desperately to get angry and annoyed, but RC was doing their job. They had to clean our boat so we wouldn't get sick.
They shuttled us all to a convention center where we could register for the cruise, and provided us with sack lunches. Ham sandwich with chips and an apple, or vegetarian. There were some scattered sodas, but overall the appearance was awful and lacked professionalism. I'm sure it was the best they could gather in such short notice, but I feel like there is a plan arranged for scenarios like this. Either way it was a mess, and there were countless annoyed and angry customers.
Once on the boat, the annoyance seemed to disappear. RC has a beautiful ship with the Mariner of the Seas. It's truly a spectacular ship, and fun to walk through. I was impressed with all the boat had to offer, and the ship itself was the highlight of the cruise from RC's side. The ports are in their own category.
The first thing I noticed about the ship was the abundance of alcohol. I've heard cruises are like going to Vegas on the sea. If you don't gamble and you don't drink, it's probably not the best experience. I would have to agree. I don't drink or gamble, and constantly felt like an outsider.
There was a "compass" set out for each day's activities, and I was pleased with the number of activities that could occupy my time since drinking wasn't an option. I quickly observed that the majority of activities were geared toward the teens in their own three floors of the boat specifically for them, or "name that 70's tune" and other older generation games. Being in my late 20's, I felt a little left out.
Next there's the food. I must say that even though I had a great time with my family the food was a HUGE disappointment. There were three places to eat that were included in the purchase of the cruise: The Cafe Promenade, The Windjammer Cafe, and the main dining room. I was constantly disappointed by all three. The Cafe Promenade was open 24/7 and had a great assortment of sandwiches and desserts, but everything was quite average tasting. Expected for a mass-produced all-night cafe. The Windjammer was the buffet-style dining area where you can go and eat as you please. I had breakfast there once and never went back. The food was so terrible there I never ate there again. It was truly remarkable. People like to eat on a cruise and have comfort food, and so far I was 0-2 with my eating options. Lastly is the main dining room. The courses were average at best with a few winners, but overall I LOST two pounds for the duration of the cruise because I didn't want to eat. I was terribly upset at how bad the food was.
The staff was very pleasant and kind--always there to greet you and assist, but there was a huge language barrier. I didn't meet a single waiter who spoke fluent English, and I had the hardest time finding someone who could help a family member order vegan and gluten free. They tried so hard, and were so great to give so much effort, but the language barrier was ultimately too much to handle and my family member couldn't eat a whole meal a lot of times. Our stateroom attendant didn't speak much of any English, and it seemed almost comical at times that we couldn't communicate with a majority of the staff on the boat.
My brothers and I are sports fans and were so excited to learn there was a sports bar on board. Unfortunately, RC's idea of a sports bar is just another bar with three TVs that are turned to a sports channel. We were cruising over the NBA's opening weekend with several other NCAA college football bowl games and the ship didn't carry any of them. We didn't see any sports except for brief recaps on the ESPN Caribbean channel. My feelings on this are as follows: If your ship is full of 88% North Americans why on EARTH would you not carry American ESPN channels? That was also very disappointing.
Overall, the ship was great. The delay in departure meant we had to speed up to account for lost time, so the ship was going quite fast the first few days. That meant a lot more wind, and it made it uncomfortable to stay on the outer deck. Like I said earlier, the ship was the highlight of this cruise. Not the food or staff or anything else. The ship itself was marvelous. If you like to drink and you don't mind a hefty bar tab, and you don't mind eating EXTREMELY average to below average food, this may be a great cruise for you. I, on the other hand, didn't enjoy paying $1,200 to eat terrible food and read my book while others got slobbering drunk. I can do that for free at home.