This marks our first Royal Caribbean cruise vacation, and we were SO excited about it. We’ve been on SuperStar Virgo twice in 2010 and 2012, and the cruise duration was only 4D3N. This time, we’ve decided to indulge in a long cruise with Mariner of the Seas from Singapore to Laem Chabang (Thailand) and Phu My (Ho Chi Minh Vietnam). Here goes my long post on Mariner of the Seas review.
Mariner of the Seas used to be Royal Caribbean’s biggest vessel in Southeast Asia until Ovation of the Seas came along recently. I always wonder how much bigger Mariner of the Seas is as compared to Super Star Virgo. So, I did some background check.
Mariner of the Seas Review
I will divide the Mariner of the Seas review into several sections, so you can easily navigate to the one that interests you.
1. Check-in and Boarding
Prior to our trip, I’ve read horrible reviews about the long waiting time to check-in and board the cruise. So, we were mentally prepared it. However, our check-in and boarding process was done so swiftly and efficiently. Overall, we took just about an hour to board the cruise. So, the bad reviews turned out to be untrue (or perhaps they have improved it since then).
We did the online check-in with our travel agency and had all our boarding passes and luggage tags printed before we checked-in. There is a designated check-in time for every deck, so this helps to regulate the crowd and reduce the waiting time. Basically, the whole process looks like this:
Deposit check-in luggage before you enter the building -> queue at the counters for carry-on baggage scan -> queue at the check-in counter to get your SeaPass (photos will be taken here) -> queue at the immigration counter to stamp your passports -> voila! you can board the majestic cruise now!
At the check-in counter, you can link your SeaPass card to your credit card to pay for on-board expenses. Alternatively, you can also pay by cash. SeaPass card acts like your identity card while you’re on-board. You’ll use it for your room access, charge card and disembarkation at the destinations.
Overall, our check-in and boarding process was smooth and fast. Our rating: 5/5
2. The Cabin
We stayed in a Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom on Deck 6 with the size of 184 sq. ft. with a balcony of 50 sq. ft. The room comes with a king-size bed, a Pullman bed, sitting area with sofa, vanity area, wardrobe, and bathroom with shower. The cabin looked older than we’ve expected (even though the cruise was refurbished in 2012). The insides of the cabinets were rather dusty, so we had to clean the table and shelves before we unpacked our luggage.
A Pullman bed for Edison to sleep on (stuff toys are our own lol)
The bathroom has limited toiletries – only soap and shampoo (in dispenser) are provided. It would be good if they can provide hair conditioner and moisturiser too. During our stay, we noticed that our room was cleaned twice a day – which truly impressed us. The room attendant will clean our room in the morning and evening.
Every night when we returned to our room, we were greeted by a small gesture – towel animal of different design every night! One night, we couldn’t see any towel animal on our bed. We began to wonder and then caught by surprise when we saw a towel monkey hanging from the Pullman bed. Haha! He will prepare the Cruise Compass (daily program sheet) and Kids Daily Planner for us every night. He also responded to our requests promptly.
Even though the cabin was slightly old, we were VERY happy with the room service. Thus, we gave it a 4/5 rating!
3. Food Quality
One of the most important parts of a cruise is their FOOD, of course!
There’s a wide range of dining options on board. Complimentary meals include: 1) multi-course meals for breakfast/lunch/dinner at the Main Dining Room, 2) buffet-style meals for breakfast/lunch/dinner at Windjammer Café, 3) 24-hours snacks at Café Promenade, and 4) snacks/ice-cream at Dog House and Arctic Zone at certain timings.
There is also various specialty dining where you need to top-up a fee ranging from US$25 – $85 per person, for instance, Chef’s Table at Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table, Italian Dining. There’s also a paid fast-food outlet, Johnny Rockets on Deck 12, where you can enjoy burgers and fries overlooking the beautiful sea view.
Main Dining Room on Decks 3, 4 and 5
The Main Dining Room is a 3-storey dining hall that spans across Deck 3 (Rhapsody in Blue), Deck 4 (Top Hats and Tails) and Deck 5 (Sound of Music). Known for its attentive staffs and elegant décor, we enjoyed all our meals at Main Dining Room and the food quality truly exceeded our expectations.
For dinner at the Main Dining Room, you’ll need to choose between two seatings – 5:30pm and 8:00pm when you book your cruise. The table number will be assigned to you by the cruise and printed on your Sea Pass. Waiters are assigned to each table, so you can expect a personalised and fine dining experience for dinner. For breakfast and lunch, it’s open seating.
Dinner Menu at Main Dining Room – the food was great although the choices were limited
Over at Windjammer Café, the buffet spread was very impressive too. There’s a mix of Western, Chinese, Indian and Japanese food. However, the food quality was mediocre and the café was always very crowded. Edison loves Windjammer because he can indulge in fries every meal and he can explore the food on his own.
Cafe Promenade on Deck 5
At any time of the day, we can enjoy mouth-watering desserts and snacks at Café Promenade. Their cheesecakes are truly yummy! All in all, we were VERY happy and satisfied with the complimentary meals (we didn’t even bother to try the paid ones!) as well as the restaurant staffs. We gave it a 4.5/5 rating.
4. Activities & Entertainment
When I told my friends that I’ll be going on 8D cruise, their first reaction was “What can you do on a cruise for SO many days? Isn’t it boring?” Haha! Truth be told, I’ve prepped myself with lots of K-dramas and books. Obviously, I was worried about it too.
But then, we would be going for off-shore excursions for 3D, and we were left with 4-5 days on-board. Thankfully, there are endless array of activities and programs to keep boredom at bay. So, we reminded ourselves not to get “stuck” in our cabin all day.
There are 3 main pools including the Solarium, and 6 whirlpools. Swimming was fun but it was also VERY hot, so we came back 5x darker! #cry There’s also an outdoor jogging track, fitness centre, spa (fee applies), rock-climbing wall, ice-skating, basketball court, mini golf, video arcade (fee applies) and fun children’s program. There are also several duty-free shops and the most exciting one has to be Casino Royale!
Edison enjoyed himself a lot with the mini-golf on a green that overlooks the sea as well as rock-climbing. There are lots of activities lined up by the cruise throughout the day such as movie-screening at the pool deck and screening room, cross-word challenge, sudoku challenge, line-dancing, karaoke, Nintendo Wii, etc. If you need a quiet time, there’s a library too.
What I love most is the entertainment shows at night. Every night, there were entertainment shows at the Savoy Theatre (7pm for second seating guests and 9pm for first seating guests). Our dinner time was 8pm, so we went for the 7pm show. There were musical shows, ice-skating show and magic show. Among all, the magic show by Zlwin Chew was the one we enjoyed the most. All the shows are truly world-class standard and entertaining.
This category certainly deserves a full 5/5 rating!
5. Off-shore excursion
Our cruise docked at Thailand (Laem Chabang) for 2 days and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh) for 1 day. There are many off-shore excursions offered by the cruise. Whether you’re into sight-seeing, sports, shopping or kids-friendly tour, there’s surely something for you.
However, I found that their prices are slightly high. Thus, we didn’t join the off-shore excursions but we engaged private drivers on our own. We visited Pattaya for 2 days and I’ve blogged about it HERE and HERE.
Since I didn’t join the excursion, it’s not fair for me to give a rating too. Hence, I’ll skip the rating for this section.
We paid S$2,900 for an 8D7N cruise in a balcony class cabin (for 3 person). That averages about S$138 per person per night. For the food (more than 3 meals a day!), activities, night performance and comfortable cabin to stay, I’d say that it’s worth every penny. On top of that, we spent about S$1,000 for on-board expenses (including the paid WiFi service) and 3-day excursions on our own.
Overall, we felt that the price is reasonable and thus, a 4.8/5 rating for it. I’d give it full marks if they could offer cheaper Wifi service.
7. Overall Impression
All in all, we had a fantastic time on Mariner of the Seas. The food, services, activities and entertainment exceeded our expectations. The services on-board were impeccable too – especially the staffs in the Main Dining Room and our room attendant. The overall cleanliness on the cruise was acceptable. And the price was reasonable too.
I was SO impressed by the efficiency and professionalism by the crew members. Everything ran in an orderly fashion even though there were thousands of guests on-board.
Will we be back again? That’s a YES for sure! In fact, we’ve already planned to board Ovation of the Seas in future. For now, we just have to wait for the cruise to return to Singapore.
Now, I don’t think I’ve written enough about the cruise in this post. I will write a Mariner of the Seas Virtual Tour post to bring you around the cruise deck by deck. Please give me some time to work on it. Meanwhile, if you like to see more photos, you can head over to my Flickr album. And I hope you enjoyed reading my Mariner of the Seas review post.