I'm frustrated that there's no option for just generally cruising. If there is, I missed it and someone please let me know because the majority of my travels involve cruising. SO, the write up will be under one of our ports, Grand Cayman.
Anyway, the entire trip was from November 20 - 27, 2005.
We stayed at the Residence Inn in Cleveland, OH. It was adequate. We had to move rooms because our first one had a sewer break. Ew. Our flight into Orlando was uneventful and transfer through Royal Caribbean to Port Canaveral went very smoothly.
Seeing the ship for the first time really takes your breath away. After attending the mandatory muster drill, we set sail on the Mariner of the Seas.
Day 1 - AT SEA - we were skirting hurricane Gamma and the seas were ROUGH. It was also a little chilly out. That didn't keep us from having a good time. We explored the ship most all day.
Day 2 - LABADEE, HAITI - this is a private part of the island owned by Royal Caribbean. The scenery is breathtaking. When in Haiti, look for handmade metal art, Barbancourt Rhum, and beautiful local crafts. Being in a very "tourist" area, the prices were a little higher than I thought they would be, but still very reasonable for such cool souvies! As far as snorkeling goes, it wasn't really that great.
We had a good, fun beach day with local entertainment and beach BBQ.
Stingray City - I'm not so sure about this.
Day 3 - OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA - What more can I say about Jamaica. I love the island. I didn't care for "Island Villiage", which was this overpriced tourist trap immediately off the ship. We did the Chukka Farms zip line, which was simply awesome! There's nothing like zipping through the jungle. There are many zip lines in the Caribbean, TRY ONE! After zipping it was off to shop a bit. We had a margarita at Margaritaville. I searched the shops for Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee (accept no substitute) and found it more expensive than I remembered. Silly me, I bought the small bag and am regretting it.
DAY 4 - GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN - THANKSGIVING - Despite the rain and chilly weather, we headed to Stingray City.
What amazing creatures! We held and fed the rays. After playing around in the water, we headed uptown for shopping. Things are expensive in the Caymans. My husband and I went into the Bernard K. Passman Galleries and he bought me a very pretty necklace! Don't forget to stop there if you're in Georgetown if nothing else but to look.
Stingray City - cuddling with a large stingray.
DAYS 4, 5, 6 - AT SEA - We were supposed to go to Cozumel, but Hurricane Wilma ruined those plans and we sent prayers to the island of Cozumel. While they were almost ready for ships, one of our size just couldn't make it in do to the lack of dock and tenders. However, the cruise staff did an AWESOME job of keeping us busy. I even tried climbing that rock wall! I made it half way up.
FOOD - I've never had a complaint against cruise ship food; even on the mega-ships.
While nothing was out-of-this-world, everything was very good. The soups rank as excellent and the desserts are very yummy. We always eat in the dining room. Their special Thanksgiving menu was a nice touch and I ate my Thanksgiving turkey floating around in the Caribbean that year. (And I DIDN'T have to do dishes!)
SHIP - The Mariner was just beautiful! She really was a beautiful ship. With the yucky weather the first day, my husband and I spent hours just looking at the art on the different decks.
PASSENGERS - I will never, ever, never, EVER, EVER sail again over a major school holiday. While I love kids (I'm a teacher!), the ship was overwhelmed (over 1200 kids on board during our sailing) and the staff seemed like they didn't know what to do with them. The adults-only areas were not enforced whatsoever which resulted in 5 year olds snorkeling in the spa hot tubs.
Many adult activities were cancelled for family-oriented activities. Again, I love kids and I didn't mind they were on the ship, I just wish the staff had handled the influx of young ones better. They provided for kids and families, but not traveling adults. It certainly didn't ruin the cruise, though. I just know better and won't book over a major holiday again.
MY PERSONAL ADVICE (for what it's worth) - I didn't think I'd ever sail a mega-ship but I'm glad I did. My next cruise is on one of Royal Caribbean's smallest and most elegant ships in the smack middle of the school year, so it should be a completely different experience. If you're traveling with children, book the bigger ships! I would take my 8 year old on the Mariner any time! I'm sure during non-school vacation times, there's not as many kids. I would sail the Mariner again in a heartbeat! I'm sure going to miss the Promenade on this next cruise. However, I'll be happy to have an observation deck on this next one. I guess, overall, I do prefer the smaller ships to the monsters, but that's just my style and I'd never turn down ANY cruise!