During our holiday, I asked my hubby if he’d write the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas experience and he gamely agreed – so here’s his input about our wonderful cruise experience.
[EDITED Disclaimer: Please note that this review is based on our family’s experience of the cruise. We were not paid to write this post, and we certainly paid for the cruise ourselves. Should you have a different experience on the cruise ship, please take it up with Royal Caribbean directly. Thank you.]
Well, it’s the December holidays again! Given my profession, I really cannot forgive myself for not taking a break from work, from stress, and from the mundane work life in Singapore. Having ventured to Taiwan last year (our first overseas trip with the naughty duo) on a group tour (yes, the trip that my wifey still hasn’t blogged about), we considered planning our own free-and-easy tour to Taiwan again this December. However, we gave up the idea after going through some hassle of surfing the internet for the lodging and places to visit, plus the fearful thought of lugging the duo along without the support provided by the tour agency and fellow tour-mates, so we decided on a cruise this year, to relax and to enjoy ourselves!
Having tried Star Cruise twice in my life, we were quite put off by the limited variety (and quality) of facilities, the claustrophobic bedrooms and the long queues for sub-standard food. So this time we decided to give Royal Caribbean cruises a try. We booked a 5 Night Spice of SE Asia Cruise for two (adjoining) Superior Ocean View Staterooms with Balcony (at the time we booked, this was more worthwhile than booking a family room for four people).
Our cruise at a glance:
Name of Ship – Mariner of the Seas
Day 1 – Depart Singapore @5pm
Day 2 – Port Klang from 8am to 5pm
Day 3 – Penang from 8am to 5pm
Day 4 – Phuket from 8am to 8pm
Day 5 – cruising back to Singapore
Day 6 – arrive at Singapore @8am
So OFF we go! First by waiting for a cab down to Marina Bay Cruise Centre…
Things to do before the cruise
These are some essential and recommended points before your big day:
- When making reservations, remember to indicate your choice of the dinner timing (main seating at 5.30pm, second seating at 8.00pm). I wasn’t aware of this option when I rushed through the phone reservation and was allocated the second seating. Late dinner can be better for those who would like to snack between lunch and dinner, whereas early dinner would be more ideal for families with young kids who would like to sleep early.
- Settle the online check-in process at their website. At the end of this process, print out the SetSail passes. Remember to print, cut out and attach the luggage tags to your luggage bags. The luggage tags are found in one of the pages of the SetSail pass.
- Confirm and print out the cruise documents. ( 💡 printing these out is actually optional as we didn’t use it at all in the end). But look out for the recommended check-in time for your deck. This arrangement is to minimize overcrowding at the check-in time.
- Bring along a few power adaptors. The correct adaptor would be those with two flat, parallel pins (like the number “11”) towards the power point, and the usual 3 pin holes for your appliances. We went without these adaptors but easily purchased one at Port Klang for MYR10 as those available for rental at Guest Services were all taken already. So not to worry.
- Pack a mixture of casual wear, sports wear, and a set of formal attire for one of the night’s dinner. Some people really do dress like they’re going for the Oscar awards, but some would settle for the simple long-sleeve shirt and tie. That’ll do too. Do bring along any special costumes, attire (such as gowns) or your favourite props if you want to do photo shoots on board. There’s professional photography onboard and these are quite popular – we usually see a queue for the shoot!
- Bring along your sun protection stuff (shades, sunblock, hats) as the sun could be really strong at the pool deck and if you disembark at the various destinations.
- Lastly, you may want to get ready some US$ if you want to visit the Casino. If not, you can still obtain credits using your SeaPass Cards if it is linked to your credit card, but at a service charge of 5%.
The moment we arrived at the departure area, we could deposit our check-in luggage even before entering the building. Upon entering the building, finding the way to the correct counter for checking in was easy enough. The check-in queue was substantial but there were many staff at the counter who worked efficiently to get all the guests checked in. At the check-in counter, each of us was asked to pose for a facial photo before we were issued the SeaPass cards. I opted to link my SeaPass card to my credit card for on-board purchases at this point in time. ( 💡 you should opt for this if you want convenience, or simply choose to pay by cash if you are uncomfortable with the idea). Don’t underestimate these cards. These were multipurpose cards which served as identity cards (when you disembark at the destinations), room access cards, and charge cards.
You’ll have to clear the usual immigration procedures before boarding the ship. Once boarded, guests will be ushered for a welcome photo. After the photo-taking, wristbands will be given to children (up to 11 years old) and they have to wear these throughout the cruise. These bands indicate the muster station number assigned to you. So in the event of an emergency, your kids would be ushered to the assigned muster station if they were not by your side during the emergency. Once done, you are free to roam around the ship. We headed straight for our rooms then.
Setting sail! View of Singapore from our stateroom balcony:
Our cruise experience can be summarised in the following few categories:
Safety – The crew has definitely considered the safety of the passengers with much thought. The wristband for kids is an excellent safety measure, for example. A mandatory safety drill is also conducted before departing so that every guest knows where to go to in case of an emergency. If you wonder why they took a photo of your face at check-in, you will soon know that it’s used for identification when you use your SeaPass card to get down and up the ship.
Quality Food – The supply of complimentary food is arranged in a thoughtful manner as well, so that there is always food available at some place or another. The variety of food is good enough for most people too. Even at their buffet-line restaurant (called Windjammer at Deck 11), the quality of food is commendable.
The service by their F&B crew is also great as they ensured that the empty tables are cleared quickly and that the empty food trays are replenished quickly. Windjammer is where you will usually take your breakfast and lunch if you miss the Main Dining Room timings or if you prefer buffet style dining. The pool deck’s food area (Dog House) serves BBQ food on some days at certain times. There is also a free soft-serve ice-cream serving point (Arctic Zone) that runs for many hours a day. Snacks are also available at the Cafe Promenade all day round.
The highlight of food on board would be dinner – which promises a fine dining experience for you and your family, at allocated dining tables so you never need to queue to get a table. The waiters serve only their own allocated tables so you have very personalised service throughout your dinners at the main dining room.
This restaurant 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). This is where you will usually take your dinner, and sometimes breakfast and/or lunch (depending on your own preferences, but it’s Open Seating for breakfast and lunch).
The crew occasionally enhances your dining experience with some performances:
Quality restaurant food is served here with a menu for you to choose from, although I must say that the puddings tasted more like mousse.
With all that said about food on board the Mariner of the Seas, I’d like to conclude that the quality dining experience here way exceeded my expectations!!!
Great rooms & Great view – The rooms, at least for the ones we had, were surprisingly spacious and well-decorated. Frankly, comparing all my holidays and staycations I’ve ever had, this cruise gave me the best quality sleep. It could be the bed, or the fact that the kids were not disturbing us; I’m not sure. The small but nice balcony also provided a good space for me to enjoy the scenery in the day and the cool breeze in the night.
The gorgeous views from Deck 12:
The professional room attendant (who even has his own business card!) comes in about three times per day to clean and tidy up the room and he can be reached with your room phone by calling his extension. And there’s a new towel animal every night waiting for us on the bed, folded by the room attendant –
Numerous activities for the family – There are really a lot of things to occupy yourselves with on board this ship. We were entertained with the DreamWorks Move It! Move It! Parade first thing after we set sail, and there were various Meet and Greet opportunities with the cartoon characters throughout the cruise.
The Sports Deck has table tennis tables, basketball courts, and a futsal court. These facilities are full-sized, functioning ones which some cruises do not have. There is even a rock-climbing wall here, which you can do as many times as you want within their operation hours (about 2 to 4 hrs a day) so long as the queue is not too long. This proved to be a little tougher than the wall we scaled at The Cliff.
There are also mini-golf and inline skating sessions on some days. The most wonderful facility would probably be the ice-skating rink!
Smaller than the usual ones we see in Singapore, this rink still provides guests with sufficient space to have fun skating by limiting the number of skaters to 50 at any point in time. By the way, the skating is really, really HOT (as in it’s popular), so please arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time to get a place.
Relatively swimmable pools – When I cruised with Star Cruise, I gave up the idea of swimming when I looked at their pathetic pools. However, on the Mariner of the Seas, there are four pools to soak in, two deeper pools for swimming (1.35-1.6m), and there are a few whirlpools and a pool for swimming that are kept exclusive to adults (the Solarium) so that you can relax and/or swim without the noise of children. I can’t say that the pools here are 50m competition pools but they are at least adequate for some decent water play and fun for the family. There isn’t a wading pool that we normally have at swimming complexes that are about 80cm or so, so the only parts that the kids could play in were the extremely shallow parts (covering only about the feet) and the jacuzzi pools, but they enjoyed themselves nevertheless.
There is even a large screen TV here that screens programs almost all-day long, with some newer movies at selected times (e.g. Avengers Age of Ultron). Extremely breezy on the deck at night, watching a movie there is really comfy.
World class entertainment shows – Every night, there would be some shows arranged for all guests at the Savoy Theatre (at 7pm for second seating guests and 9pm for first seating guests). The special ice-skating performance – Ice Under the Big Top – had a schedule for guests to follow to ensure that all guests would have watched the performance at least once during the cruise. All performances are of good standard and truly entertaining. Rest assured that your evenings would be well spent!
Exclusive Care for Children – You can enrol your children (at least 3 years old and toilet-trained, i.e. diaperless) for the Adventure Ocean programme on Day 1 at Deck 12 (walk in through the arcade) for FREE. From Day 2 onwards, you can simply drop off your children, according to the slots that they offer (which is most of the day; they even had a pyjamas party!).
There are dedicated staff to look after your children and to entertain them with round-the-clock activities. Kids of different age groups are also separated to ensure that the programme caters better to their needs. You can even choose to let your children take their meals with the other kids. If you do, the crew there will bring all the kids to Windjammer for their meals. What can you do in the meantime? I’d suggest you and your partner go for a workout at the gym (which is what we did), spend some quiet moments at the pool deck, go for spa or get a massage (but chargeable), or disembark to the shore destinations without your little ones.
Most things are covered – By paying for the full cost of the cruise, you’ve got most things paid for already. While there are some chargeable stuff such as Specialty Dining (e.g. Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table), massage, photo shoots, alcohol, beverages, shopping, and Royal Caribbean organised shore excursions, I must say that most of the other complimentary services and products are already more than enough. There is usually no pressure to spend on such chargeable stuff, although you would see some crew going around to advertise for their restaurant meals. Just give them a smile and a gentle shake of the head; they won’t push you any further. Honestly, I’m quite impressed with the way they have provided sufficient complimentary stuff for guests, and yet creatively enthusing guests with their chargeable stuff. For us, we mainly spent some extra bucks on Illy coffee at Cafe Promenade because we didn’t quite like the free coffee provided on the ship.
And we also had some fun at the arcade:
Shore excursions – we didn’t opt to go for any of the Royal Caribbean organised shore excursions as those are chargeable and we didn’t fancy spending too much time on-shore anyway so we just explored a little on our own.
We didn’t do very much at the various destinations, but we still enjoyed the entire experience.
On the day of departure, breakfast was served particularly early so if you intend to get something to eat, do remember to get up a little earlier. Even Cafe Promenade’s breakfast timing ended at 9am. We left our luggage outside our rooms the night before so we waited for our turn to disembark – and everything was very orderly and efficient.
Overall, I’d say that my little family of four had a marvelous time. There were plentiful activities that suited our preferences, I got to spend quality time with my family and we-time with my wifey, and the service onboard was impeccable. As the Cruise Director said during the farewell show, on the Royal Caribbean ships, they don’t say goodbye because they know their guests will definitely be back – and so, till the next time!