Fresh off a massive $120 million renovation that introduced a number of new features to the ship -- the Sky Pad virtual-reality bungee trampoline, FlowRider surf simulators, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade -- and added dining venues and 40 more cabins, 15-year-old Mariner of the Seas has a crisp, fun "new ship" feel.
It's also quite lively, with the hub of activity centered on the fabulous Royal Promenade, a bright, colorful and Instagrammable stretch of Deck 5, where something is happening -- '80s-, '90s- or disco-themed dance parties, or live music -- any time of day.
Royal Caribbean went the extra mile to ensure the ship looks great, and it does. On the Royal Promenade, The Bamboo Room -- a new Polynesian bar serving updated Tiki bar classics -- is visually striking with bright, bold, leaf-patterned wall coverings and a retro-chic sign outside. But outside is where the ship's 2018 "amplification" is most apparent. The giant yellow dome of the Sky Pad is unmistakable, and the twin corkscrews of The Perfect Storm racing water slides -- which appear to hang off the side of the ship -- are appealing as well. Everywhere onboard there's something that catches your eye.
Though Mariner of the Seas is a smaller ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, it never felt small. By that same notion, it never felt too large. Space is used well, and it's evident Royal Caribbean spent time looking at how to keep passengers out of each other's way. We floated from place to place, ate, got drinks, played mini-golf and watched movies by the pool, and the only time we stood in line or really even saw lines was at the Sky Pad, FlowRider and water slides, and those moved quickly. Even in Windjammer Marketplace, the ship's buffet, we found there were few issues with wait times.
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Overall, Mariner of the Seas was a delight. Every part of the ship delivered on its promise and our one regret was that our sailing was only two nights. We could have used more time to enjoy the "have fun, you're on vacation" energy that emanated from everyone onboard.
The vast majority of passengers on Mariner of the Seas hail from the United States, especially the Miami drive-to market. Expect to hear a lot of Spanish onboard, with signage in English but most announcements provided in English and Spanish. Our fellow passengers were younger, with a good number of young families and millennials onboard.
Daytime: The dress code on Mariner of the Seas is casual during the day, with everyone dressing for the climate of the destination they're sailing in. In warmer climates, you'll see plenty of people in shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits.
Evening: Dress was casual at all times on our sailing, even in the evening; the only exceptions were in the alternative eateries, where the dress codes are smart casual (cocktail and summer dresses for the ladies, nice shirts or even sports coats for men). Expect one formal night on short cruises, or two on longer sailings, where people dress up nicer though rarely in full suits or gowns.
Not permitted: No caps, tank tops or bathing suits are permitted in the main dining room or specialty restaurants, and footwear is always required. Shorts are not allowed during dinner, except in the buffet.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Royal Caribbean.