Mariner of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas: Built for fun & relaxation
The newly amplified Mariner of the Seas from Royal Caribbean underwent a $120 million refurbishment in 2018 — and the enhancements make all the difference. Many of the renovations involve new features to attract families and younger cruisers. A surf simulator, two waterslides, a virtual reality experience and many new restaurants and lounges breathed new life into this venerable ship, which debuted in 2003.
This Voyager-class ship also contains original innovations such as a skating rink that now doubles as a laser tag course on some days. Offering three- and four-day Bahamas cruises out of Miami, Mariner of the Seas boasts amenities that you won’t find on any rival cruise lines offering similar itineraries. Plus, with Royal Caribbean launching its brand new Perfect Day CocoCay in 2019, these short cruises will be one of the best values in cruising from Florida.
Who will like sailing on Mariner of the Seas
Even though our trip was a three-day sailing during the summer, the passenger make-up included a mix of couples, more seasoned cruisers and families. Although short cruises can tend to attract a party crowd, we didn’t feel as if this cruise had that “booze cruise” feel. Given the diverse amenities targeting cruisers of all ages, we would recommend Mariner of the Seas to almost any type of cruiser looking for a short escape. If you’re not sure if cruising is right for you, Mariner is an excellent choice.
Where Mariner of the Seas sails
Home port: Port Canaveral (Orlando, Fla.)
Destinations: For the most part, Mariner of the Seas makes mostly 3-, 4- and 5-night jaunts to the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Top dining options on board
Mariner of the Seas features a number of complimentary and upcharge dining venues. Like all Royal Caribbean ships, the Windjammer Café is open most of the day serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other casual alternatives include the Dog House and Café Promenade offering complimentary light snacks throughout the day.
For dinner, the main dining room offers a three-course meal that changes each night of the cruise. Passengers can choose from My Time Dining or a set dinner time with the same table assignment and waitstaff each night of the cruise.
For specialty dining, the new Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade offers solid pub fare at a la carte pricing, with food service starting most days in the late afternoon. The ship also boasts three specialty dining restaurants. Chops Grille is the line’s signature steakhouse and serves up a perfectly seared filet. There is also the new Jamie’s Italian restaurant and the Japanese Hibachi experience at Izumi, both of which were welcome culinary additions to the ship.
Where I went and what I loved
Like many mega-ships, Mariner of the Seas is a destination itself. From the family-friendly mini-golf course to the enhanced sports deck, there were plenty of activities to keep you entertained while enjoying the Bahamian sun.
The Sky Pad was all we expected and more. The virtual reality headset gives the already exhilarating bungee trampoline experience a completely new dimension. Perhaps our favorite addition to Mariner of the Seas was the Bamboo Room. The theming, décor and drink menu were all perfectly executed. The new attractions are spread throughout the ship, which means the crowds were kept to a minimum during most of the cruise.
Our two stops on this quick getaway were the cruise line’s private island of CocoCay and Nassau, the Bahamas. The weather at CocoCay made for the ideal beach day. We lounged around the South Beach area of the island for hours enjoying the sun and sipping on the port’s signature drink, the Coco Loco. We spent the day in Nassau aboard the ship so we could enjoy the outdoor spaces with fewer people.
Activities on board
Outdoor activities on Mariner are great for families or big kids like us. In addition to the Sky Pad, mini-golf and waterslides, the ship also has a sports court, rock climbing wall, a Luckey Climber for the little ones, and some new hammocks and swings for chilling near the attractions.
There is a main pool in the center of the ship, as well as the adults-only (age 16-plus) Solarium with its own pool and bar.
The Schooner Bar is one of our go-to venues for live piano music and some of the best martinis at sea, including my wife’s favorite lavender daiquiri and my properly made sidecar. There was also pub music in the Barnacle and Barrel pub on the Royal Promenade, which is a great central viewing spot for many of the evening events occurring on the Promenade.
Along with all of the new additions to the sports deck, families will find plenty of other activities for their little ones. In fact, the ship’s Adventure Ocean is one of the largest children’s areas at sea, especially for a ship sailing these quick getaways. It is also located right next to the arcade, which itself is impressive and large. There was also the new movie screen on the pool deck which played evening movies that were all family friendly.
Entertainment on board
Along with the musical acts in the onboard lounges, there was regular entertainment in the main theater.
The shows in the Royal Theater included two comedians who opened the cruise instead of the typical Welcome Aboard show and a Police tribute band. Of course, there were also other Royal Caribbean fan favorites like the X Versus Y game show and the adults-only Quest game show.
There was a themed party each night of the cruise. From the ’70s Disco Street Party to the ’80s Party, the Promenade was a very active place during the evening. On one night of the cruise, Studio B even turned into Red, “the Ultimate Night Club Experience.”
There are five types of cabins on Mariner of the Seas: balconies, suites, outsides, insides and the atrium-view that looks onto the Royal Promenade.
All cabins come with a choice of a king or twin beds, a flat-screen television with interactive services, a wide range of channels and pay-per-view movies. Other features include a desk/vanity, seating areas with loveseats or full-length couches and mini-fridges.
This was a last-minute trip, so we booked a guaranteed balcony. We ended up getting assigned a “spacious balcony” aft on deck 10. The cabin had plenty of room for a three-day cruise. It was surprising that the rooms did not receive any attention during the recent upgrade. Still, everything was in working order and the size of the room felt larger than some other balcony cabins.
Once you book your cruise, pay attention to your email. Royal Caribbean often runs pre-cruise sales discounting cruise add-ons like Wi-Fi, beverage packages, shore excursions and even specialty dining when you book prior to the trip. These savings can run anywhere from 10 to 50 percent off depending on what and when you purchase.
Best bets on shore
CocoCay in the Bahamas is a private island that is the ideal beach day. In 2019, the island is getting a serious upgrade with a brand-new water park and additional amenities including new restaurants, a zipline and even a tethered hot air balloon. Our hope is that part of the island still maintains its current quiet and relaxing vibe so those looking to enjoy some sun and beach can still do so. Of course, we are also looking forward to testing out all the new thrills even if that means paying an up-charge for them.
On a quick splash-and-dash to the Bahamas, you get to wear what you want. The cruise line has even gotten rid of formal night on Mariner of the Seas. The second night of the trip is now considered “Wear Your Best” night, which is all up to your interpretation. Still, for the main dining room and specialty restaurants, pants and a collared shirt are advisable for men, while a nice pair of capris or casual dress/skirt is appropriate for women.
Travelers of all ages could be found onboard Mariner of the Seas, with a slight increase in the number of families than you might typically find on a weekend cruise. Of course, the time of year also contributes to the passenger makeup. Most cruisers were on board to relax and test out all of the ship’s new features.
Tips & gratuities
Like most major cruise lines, there is a daily gratuity. Depending on your cabin category, these range from $13 to $17 per person. All beverages and specialty dining purchases have an additional 18 percent service charge. If you opt for a beverage package or dining package, you will be charged the service fee on top of the daily rate. As usual, we did provide additional tips to our servers at the specialty restaurants, as well as our stateroom attendant who did an excellent job making sure our room was always tidy.
We opted for a Deluxe Beverage package to cover our alcohol purchases, along with other upcharge items like lattes, soda and bottled water, and we were certainly not alone! We were happy to see, though, that, the crowds were more well-behaved than on other short cruises.
The new amenities on board are a lot of fun; however, they are probably the reason that many people booked the cruise. You should expect some lines if you want to test out the new slides and Sky Pad. That said, if you plan to show up a bit early, your wait times will be shorter.
While the ship underwent a major update, there are still some areas that could still use some TLC. These include the staterooms and some of the public areas such as the theater and dining rooms. All said and done, even if all venues were not updated, they have been well maintained, and the ship still feels 15 years young!
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Interested in a cruise on this ship?
Top highlights on this ship
- Broadway-style entertainment in the Main Theater
- The Bamboo Room delivers top-notch Polynesian-inspired cocktails
- The Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade serves up a wide selection of beers and pub favorites like chicken wings and nachos
- Spa treatments in the Vitality Spa
- Sports on the basketball court, ice-skating rink or mini-golf course
- The 21st century amenities were worth the wait, including the virtual reality enhanced Sky Pad and the black light enhance Battle for Planet Z laser tag