travel

Mariner of the Seas Dec 2014

Image source: Wikipedia. I couldn’t have possibly taken a photo of the boat when I was ON the boat… and from the Cruise Centre you don’t get a nice view of the boat).

Last month we went on a fantastic cruise holiday. We took the Mariner of the Seas to Port Klang on a 4D3N trip.

It was so different from the last time we cruised with the boys 3 years ago, when they were almost 4 and not even 2 years old; and especially since we left Scout at home. I know some of you might balk at the fact that I left one of our kids home, but she had the undivided attention of both her grandparents, which in a way is better than having to share the attention of both her parents with 2 other older brothers? At least for a weekend lah 🙂

Anyhow, having one less child to take care of made it a breeze! And the boys are at an age where they were better able to enjoy themselves. When the daddies were busy, and the other kids were napping, the boys and I gamely went around the ship doing our own things, watching 3D movies, exploring, etc. What a nice change in pace! I think all mothers need a break from young dependents every once in a while 🙂

Off to a performance! Or movie! Or whatever!
Off to a performance! Or movie! Or whatever!

 

I’m not going to bore you with repeating what you can find out from the brochures, but I hope some of these tips and experiences will help.

Parking

You can park at the cruise centre for as little as $45 for 4 days, or rather that’s what one of my friends paid! Totally worth it if you live far away and want to skip the taxi queues. On the day we arrived the queue wasn’t too long, but according to our taxi uncle, the cruise centre operator is nowhere near efficient as the uncles who man the taxi queues at the airport who ensure that the taxi queues super fast. Also we had docked that morning with another cruise ship, so yes, there were more people to fight for taxis with 😀

Luggage tags

On the first day we arrive at the cruise centre at almost 1pm and check in and board immediately. You can check in online and then print a luggage tag, but it’s just easier to get the tags when you reach the cruise centre. We boarded and headed straight for our amazing room!

Accommodation

On our previous trip we had a deck 2 ocean view stateroom. Then we only had 2 kids, but my mother was rooming with us although officially she was in the next room’s headcount. The Pullman beds in some of the staterooms are quite a novelty for the kids. So although with the 5 of us it was a little bit of a squeeze, it was cosy as well. Except for the bathroom which felt really small. You can hardly move around in the shower stall!

Source: Cruiseweb.com

SO, on this trip, we took advantage of a Kids Go Free offer, and booked early for a suite room, which is twice the size of the ocean view rooms, and is almost half the size of my entire home!! I really really loved the room! Probably even more so after having stayed in a normal pigeon hole of a stateroom!

royal caribbean, RCI, grand suite

Although the kids liked the space, they did say they prefer the ocean view staterooms for the Pullman beds. Typical of kids, eh? Maybe if we had the whole family of 5, connecting staterooms rooms would do too, but it definitely wouldn’t be as spacious as a suite!

Tip – get on the RC mailing list and act fast when there’s an offer!

Grand suite sofa bed
This was the boys’ sofa bed, which was super comfy!

 

Photography

The photo package was USD$249 for unlimited hard and soft copies of photos, and on the first day they were handing out coupons for a discount of $50 on the package. Single prints of 8 x 10″ are about $24.99. There are many photography stations throughout the day, and photo taking is non obligatory, so don’t feel shy to pose for photos so that you have more options later. They have backdrops and studio box lights for formal portraits (even a blank white backdrop), and some meet and greets; otherwise the photos without the studio lights tend to be hit or miss. The photography stations were understandably more popular on formal night, but there are moments when photographers are less busy, so don’t feel shy to make use of it! We definitely wish we had taken more photos, in the end we only purchased 2.

 

Activities

Royal Caribbean, mariner of the seas
So many things to do! So little time!

 

Although there are kids clubs for kids from 6 months to teens, there are really so so many activities each day that we never ever dropped the boys off there! In fact, there are so many activities that I would have loved to do!

Some of the activities like ice skating we had to give a miss because they were just too popular, and I didn’t want to waste an hour (or more!) queuing for it. I mean, just to sign the indemnity form for ice skating you have to queue for like an hour if you’re unlucky? Anyway, there are so many skating rinks in Singapore now right? The line for just signing the indemnity forms was crazy long on the first day (they were open 3-4pm), and on this second day (after we ported at Port Klang) after breakfast it was a much shorter wait and right after that Shrek came out for photo ops just next to the ice skating area, so there were hardly any queues.

Mariner of the seas pool side
Romero Britto Pool side – we enjoyed swimming at the pool quite a bit!

There are SO many activities going on each day, I wish that the ship would give you the itinerary of the ENTIRE trip at the start of the trip, instead of only the night before (I think they’re ready at like 6pm?) so that you can better plan your activities, e.g. leave ice skating to the last day or go on the first day, etc.

 

Entertainment

There are many performances to watch each day, and I love that some of them are things we normally wouldn’t be bothered to bring the kids to at home. The Centrestage performance was especially enjoyable with the Orchestra because they had songs from all genres,  including snippets of a few John Williams tunes, and the boys could recognise the Star Wars tunes. There was a comedic/dance/acrobatic performance by a duo who was on Ukraine’s Got Talent (or similar?) and David DiMuzio who is a YouTube sensation. Overall, great family entertainment, and not too stuffy so if one of your kids gets fussy you can just up and leave without feeling embarassed.

Pool side entertainment
Pool side entertainment

What you cannot miss is the ice skating performance. Ice Under The Big Top was absolutely fantastic! We have never seen a life ice skating performance before, I think it was almost an hour long, and very interesting. The performers really put a lot of effort into it. Some of the reviews I’ve read always mention that the performers slip up, but I wouldn’t be able to skate to save my life, let alone on a moving ship??

Ice under the Big Top, Mariner of the Seas
The fabulous ice show!

We watched the 845pm show and there were already people queuing from 730pm (or earlier?!) which I guess you can do if you want the choice seats, but it’s a pretty small arena and I think if you get there 10-15minutes before the doors open you’ll be fine.

Shrek and Fiona joining the other cast members at one of the performances
Shrek and Fiona joining the other cast members at one of the performances

There are so many things to do, but as expected when there are something like 3000 guests, you might need to queue for some of the activities, which might be difficult if you have toddlers. It was less crowded when we were docked and people were out on excursions.

Tip – Don’t get overly stressed and make yourself queue for hours (Singapore also got ice skating right?), you are there to enjoy your time together as a family!

Mariner of the seas dinner performance
Even the waiters gave a performance!

 

Food

Mariner of the seas, Rhapsody in Blue
Lots of kids options. And you can order as much as you want, just in case they don’t like what they were served.

There is food 24 hours a day; when I told Mittens that, he was in absolute awe! And if you don’t feel like jostling with the crowds, you can always order room service! If you are on a diet though, don’t go on a cruise. You will be miserable.

With so many people onboard, meal times can feel a little like a food court. And also on occasion the lifts can take ages, but taking the stairs was a good way to get some exercise to work off all the food we ate. We walked a lot, up and down the stairs. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it with a stroller or small toddler in tow!

Prior to my last trip on the Legend of the Seas about 2 years ago; I had read so much about how wonderful the food was, mostly from media tastings for food bloggers. Maybe then the kitchens made special effort for them, but during the actual trip I was quite disappointed. So I came to Mariner of the Seas with low expectations. Overall there were hits and misses; I really disliked the breakfast at Rhapsody in Blue, and felt it was better at Windjammer, but some of the Rhapsody in Blue dinner dishes were impressive! It isn’t a gourmet cruise, so we weren’t too fussed about the food.

 

Shore excursions

On our previous trip, we had a stopover in Malacca. We had to queue to board a smaller tender boat to reach the shore, then walk to Jonker Street. Although it is not a long walk, it was very hot, it was a Saturday so Jonker Street was certainly crowded, and I had to carry an infant around. So I really did not enjoy the trouble.

This time round the cruise stopped at Port Klang, which is at least 1 hour away from KL city. And since it was only a short cruise of 4D3N, we wanted to enjoy the cruise as much as possible and not waste any time on shore excursions.

Royal Carbbiean, Port Klang, Mariner of the Seas
Enjoy the view of Port Klang, boys, that’s the most you’ll get to see of it!

 

Parades

mariner of the seas
This was about all I could see of the parade. Boohoo!

The Dreamworks Parade is at the promenade, and we sadly missed most of it because by the time I dragged the boys out of bed from their afternoon nap and for a swim, it was so late! I considered abandoning the husband and boys just so I could catch it, but of course I didn’t 😉

The Promenade on Deck 5 is rather small, so do go early to claim your space. Unless you’re HUGE fans of Madagascar and Shrek, I think the whole Dreamworks thing is an added bonus, but I wouldn’t go on the cruise just because of that. Especially if you have a younger son who is terribly afraid of the characters, which was annoying because he either looked miserable in the meet and greet photos or was bawling his eyes out or refusing to let us even get near them.

 

Onboard credit

As we “recommended” our friends to join us on this cruise we were able to get $25 worth of onboard credits! So if you’re traveling in a group I suggest you check out this option. Better than nothing, eh? I happen to find out to spot the little section on the website to fill the details in, after online check in. They don’t advertise it much!

 

Onboard communication

We travelled with another family, and we did bring along a pair of walkie-talkies, but we never got around to using it. If we didn’t run into each other we’d just meet at dinner time and hang out afterward. I did see some people with walkies though, which is probably a good idea if you want

 

 

Mariner of the seas art
I also liked how there was plenty of art all over the place

 

Overall, the closest holiday comparison I can think of is Club Med, because they also have activities and performances and all inclusive meals. But a Royal Caribbean cruise is like a Club Med amped up, because there are so many more activities and way more performances. And there’s also the added bonus of convenience – no need to take a ferry (I really hate those), or fly anywhere; just hop onto the ship and you can visit another city while you’re at it!

We only cruised for 4D3N, and I would happily stay for another 2 nights. Or more! We are already looking forward to our next cruise holiday!

 

Dreamworks, Mariner of the Seas
Night performance, with a guest appearance by Alex!
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