After arriving at the port in two hours before the scheduled departure time, we were dumbfounded by two huge white cruise ships, towering over city buildings like two giant clouds. One of them was our '
' and the other ship belonged to the 'Carnival' company.
It takes not more than 10 minutes to get from the car park to the boarding terminal, but with suitcases, a baby carriage and a car seat for my daughter we decided to take advantage of the free shuttle.
Then all the baggage is taken for inspection (tags were sent in two weeks before to home), the weight is not limited, as the number. But alcohol is banned. Some cruise lines allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine, but not RCC.
After checking in the baggage people line up to go through the metal detectors (like at the airport). The next step is filling up the health form. Here we overtook a couple of hundred passengers, as we had printed this form from the website and filled up the papers at home. Penultimate step: get the cruiser's pass ('seapass') - a plastic card linked to your credit card with which you will be able to pay off for everything on the ship, even for slot machines. Seapass is given to everyone, including infants. Finally, a photo for the database, and welcome aboard!
First impressions - as if we found ourselves in a 7-star hotel. Everything shines, sparkles, and is so polished that you feel yourself ashamed for your perfect (seemingly!) kitchen sink.
The ship 'Mariner of the Seas' was built in 2003 in Finland, and is the fifth cruise ship of the Voyager class, owned by
, second largest cruise company in the world. In winter and spring the ship sails from the American Galveston to the Caribbean countries, in summer and autumn - along Asia and Mediterranean. Sister ships of the 'Mariner of the Seas' are 'Voyager of the Seas', 'Explorer of the Seas', 'Adventure of the Seas' and 'Navigator of the Seas'.
Maximum speed: 24 knots (44 km/h).
Fuel consumption at maximum speed: 2800 gallons per hour.
'Mariner' has 14 decks and the ship can take on its board 3114 passengers and 1185 crew members.
The ship is equipped with three azimuth thrusters (Azipods), located in column with a 360° turn. This device replaces the wheel and allows you to moor in straitened conditions, without involving a tug.
Continuing the tradition of the Voyager class ships, 'Mariner' offers cabins with a balcony for very reasonable prices (775 of 1557 falls into this category). Also, there is a choice of suites, external, internal and unusual atrium cabins overlooking the
Standard internal cabins, with an area of 14 sq. m, are decorated in light colours. Two-thirds of the room are occupied by bed with a 'queen' size, plus there is quite a roomy sofa, on which it is convenient to arrange sleeping space for the child. Also, each cabin has a flat-screen TV set with interactive interface, with help of which you can order breakfast in the room, or connect to any video camera on the ship to see what is going on on the Boardwalk, for example, or what kind of view is there now from the rostrum...
Mini fridge is usually filled with bottled water and juices (prices are like in the ship's bars). Your cabin steward can be asked to clean the fridge, for you to fill it it with something yours; the reaction on such request is always normal.
Cabin is cleaned twice a day by cabin steward (stateroom attendant) with whom you meet in the first hours after arrival on the ship. These are real aces of their business, which are able to operate the vacuum cleaner with one hand, and with the other at the same time make fun animal figures from the towels.
Our steward, middle-aged Romanian Horia, never repeated, and every day pleased our daughter with a seal, or a pig, or even a sophisticated monkey, with legs pinned to the hanger, and decorated with mom's sunglasses. The child was delighted!
The interior design of the 'Mariner' was performed under the guidance of Clarissa Parrish - the artist, master of wall painting. She also helped to decorate the interior of 'Oasis of the Seas' - the largest at the time of construction passenger vessel in the world, carrying 6 million passengers. In addition, flights of steps of the ship are decorated with very fun and unusual works, purchased on various world auctions.
Rhythmic panels of shirts-collars:
Different tours (art tours) are held on the ship, covering the most interesting and valuable exhibits - paintings, sculptures, photographs. Real floating Museum!
Knitted swan lake:
A caravan of elephants-cranes:
For children 'Mariner' offers several programs depending on age. In the 'Aquanauts' group (3-5 years) they play the theater and grind the alphabet; 'Explorers' (6-8 year olds) compete in bingo, make their own surfboards and put scientific experiments. 'Voyagers' (9-11) play in 'capture of the flag', and when tired - compete in table football.
Adolescents are also divided into groups: Tweens (12-14) climb on the upper deck and yell at karaoke, and cool 15 to 17-year-old (so cool that they don't even have their own names) - make their own dance parties and arcade battle.
For the youngest children (6-18 months) there is a separate room with toys named Royal Babies Nursery, where they can only be with a parent. And for children from 1,5 to 3 years there is the Royal Tots program, in which are held daily 45-minute play session with a caregiver (parents are also required for each child).
Age limits are really monitored. For example, we had hoped to give our daughter, which at the time of the cruise was 2 years and 10 months old, in the group for three years old, but there it was - if there are still 2 months to three years left - hang out with the babies, and none of persuasion will be effective. In this case, only nanny can help you: for $18 per hour she will stay with your child (from 12 months) right in the cabin, while mom and dad watch the show or enjoy life in the bar.
Every evening in our cabin appeared the newspaper 'Cruise compass' with a detailed schedule for the next day: when and where shows and concerts are held, when different restaurants and cafes are opened, where you can entertain your child, participate in some contests, etc. Entertainment on the ship is so active that without this schedule it is really hard to keep track of everything.
What we liked: ice performance 'Ice Under the Big Top' (on the ship there is a skating rink, where you can even skate in those hours when there is no show) - costume good-quality 50-minute performance. All the artists, by the way, live on a ship for many months floating along the sea.
'Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers' is a great musical show, at the highest level, a sort of Vegas-style.
But there also were quite a mediocre events, if not worse. Talentless, vulgar Comedy show with jokes below the belt and toilet humor made me want to leave after 5 minutes of viewing. Disgusting contest called 'Belly Splash', when the participating men were asked to jump from the edge into the pool on the belly, to produce the loudest sound. You know, if there were smart, handsome guys with tight muscles, no 'splash' is needed. But there was such a waxworks exhibition - just turn off the lights - with flabby bellies, reaching to the knees. My sense of beauty had suffered from the aesthetic damage.