One of the main concerns when it comes to vacationing this year is without a doubt the value that you get for your dollar. Royal Caribbean International provides the bang for your buck that you are looking for to go along with a vacation that you will remember for years to come.
When it comes to vacations, cruising is hard to beat when it comes to giving you it all. Where else is someone going to feed you, all day and night, take care of your entertainment needs, set up tours and activities for you and much more all while having a big smile on their face. There honestly is so much going on during a seven day cruise, you will find there is just not enough time to get it all in. This review is going to focus on the seven-night Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard the Mariner of the Seas.
ENTERTAINMENT – The assortment of activities on the cruise ship was endless, but on the Mariner the discussion has to begin and end with the ice show. Yes, there is an ice rink on the ship and they fill it with world class skaters who put on a show that is comparable to any ice show around. In addition, your nights will be filled with comedians, singers and an assortment of shows and if you want to be the star, there are dance clubs and the always popular karaoke. If you like gambling, the Mariner has a great casino with plenty of slots and table games to keep you busy and they offer up a couple of bingo games that provide some great prizes.
Don't worry about bringing the kids, Royal Caribbean will keep them busy and happy. They offer a club for every age group as well as an activity for every hour of the day. A great spot for kids or adults is the sports activities deck. There is a miniature golf course, a rock climbing wall and a full-size basketball court, which also works great for dodge ball.
DINING – The main dining room for dinner was a stunning setting and although some people have mixed feelings about a more rigid assigned type of seating, I found it to be a treat. It was very nice to get to know the rest of your table during the week and I always found that the evening dinner was something I looked forward to. You are always given several options at dinner and if you were not satisfied with what you were eating, the wait staff was always right there to get you a different dish and you certainly never left the table hungry. Royal Caribbean offered a few extras that you could take advantage of for an additional price. Chops Grille, a steakhouse, and the Portofino, an Italian restaurant, were available for the extra fee and you also had the opportunity to purchase a wine package that took care of your wine needs for the duration of the cruise. Breakfast and lunch were your standard buffet style eatery and they did a nice job with the variety that they put together over the week. The only real issue was if you were looking to grab a snack at some off-hour time, the 24-hour café was very limited in what they had to offer. The one nice thing to offset that was that they did offer a great room-service option.
SERVICE – On previous cruises that I have been on I have to say the service was mixed. This was not the case with Royal Caribbean, as I would give the service on the Mariner the highest rating possible. The stateroom attendant went above and beyond what you would expect, the service in the main dining room was that of a five-star restaurant and in general throughout the ship you were always treated with respect and class. It is amazing in a seven-day span that I could not think of one bad experience with anyone on the ship, you will leave your trip feeling as if you were treated like a King or Queen.
When you book your room I can not stress it enough, spend a few extra dollars and get yourself a balcony. You might not think you will be in your room that much or that you can go on the ships deck for the same view but there is nothing like ending the night or beginning your day by stepping outside to enjoy the view and fresh air from your own room. Also it is just so calming to have that door open while you sleep, allowing you to get that cool ocean breeze while the sound of the waves put you to sleep.
If you are taking this cruise hopefully one of your goals is to experience Mexico and Royal Caribbean makes sure that you hit three of the best spots possible. I do have to mention with all the recent publicity of safety issues in Mexico, the three cities that the Mariner docked at, there was never any sign of danger. To go further, these cities very much welcomed Americans and great hosts, so if this is a concern of yours, I would not worry about that if you are planning a cruise or visiting any of the following three cities.
CABO SAN LUCAS – If you want to spend a day at the beach for any of the three stops along this cruise, Cabo would be it. Not too far from where the cruise ship docks, this beach is very easy to get to and the best way to would be to take a water taxi. If you can’t find something to do on the beaches of Cabo, well you don’t want to do anything. There is so much going on it is really a question of what you want to do and whether you have enough time to get it all in. First off the beach is loaded with fun bars and great places to eat, you really don’t need to leave the beach for anything and if you are looking for souvenirs, don’t worry they will come to you with all the vendors on the beach. Royal Caribbean offers a shore excursion for anything that peaks your interest, but if you just decide to hang out at the beach there are people everywhere that are offering up any type of water activity you are looking for, jet skis, parasailing, glass bottom boats and much more. This bring us to another tip, you certainly can go through the cruise ship to set up your shore excursions, but you also can wait until you get on land and you will find some great money-saving deals and some of the vendors will bargain with you so you are more than likely to save some dollars. But as the ship points out, they are independent of the cruise line so if you take some type of tour just keep an eye on your watch as you don’t want to miss your departure time and do your best to find someone reputable. If you go through the ship, you know what you are getting, if you go on your own, well you are on your own.
MAZATLAN – Mazatlan while offering up many of the great tourism activities that you are looking for goes way beyond just the beach and sun. I found Mazatlan to give you a chance to experience Mexico in terms of the everyday experience. If you are looking to spend the day walking around and doing some shopping, the City Market is the place to be. It has been around since 1899 and whatever you are looking for, they will have it, you literally could spend your entire day there. The blocks surrounding the City Market you will find a number of fish markets. Now this is not what you are going to find in your local store, they have some of the most beautiful and tasty fish you will ever lay your eyes on and the great part is even if you are in town just for the day you can buy fish and there are a number of places that will cook it up for you at a great price. Mazatlan is the shrimp capital of the world and they live up to that title by the assortment and size of the shrimp they offer up.
If you are in Mazatlan just for the day or longer, I would have to say the can’t miss spot is the city of El Quelite, which is thirty minutes outside of town. A tiny town that really gives you a chance to see a more traditional and historical view of Mexico. From the bakery where you can see the Mexican bread pulled right from the oven, to the farming and amazingly friendly people, it does not give you a lot of flash but trust me you will leave having enjoyed the experience. If you are looking for some of the best Mexican food around you must stop at El Meson de los Laureanos. This authentic cuisine will ruin you for any other Mexican food. As good as the food is, the real treat is getting to meet the owner Dr. Marcos Osuna. Dr. Osuna has made the restaurant feel like you are dining in his own home and he has so many great stories you will want to book a room with him at his bed and breakfast just to extend the stay.
PUERTO VALLARTA – This is one stop I would suggest heading away from the ship. There is a beach near where the ship docks, but there seemed to be a number of all-inclusive resorts on that beach and trying to find some food and drinks was more work than I wanted for a day at the beach. There are great tours that you can arrange on the ship, but there are a number of activities you find as you get off the ship.
This is a great time to take a cruise as you can find a wide variety of deals, ranging from price cuts, to room upgrades and a variety of onboard credits. For more information on the different cruises that are available and for booking options, visit: www.royalcaribbean.com
Cruise ships are getting better with each passing year and Royal Caribbean is really looking to set the new standard in cruising as they are launching Oasis of the Seas this November. To learn more about this new ship, visit: www.oasisoftheseas.com
For more information on Mazatlan, visit: www.gomazatlan.com
For more information on El Meson de los Laureanos and to get a look at the menu, visit: www.senormazatlan.com/elmeson.html