Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas has a new home in sunny California and has made the cruising experience from L.A. to Puerto Vallarta just that much bigger.

The Mariner is the largest cruise ship to make its permanent home on the U.S. west coast and its 1,555 staterooms are proving to be the perfect product for a formidable drive market looking for a regional vacation to some foreign locale.

The Mariner, launched in 2003, is the latest and last of the popular Voyager fleet, which revolutionized the cruise industry by introducing such innovative amenities as the iconic rock-wall, an ice-skating rink, a full-size basketball and sports court, an inline skating track, and a fancy central promenade packed with shops, cafes, lounges and entertainment.

“California needed an innovative, wowing, spectacular ship and, well, California is ready for it,” says Vicki Freed, senior v.p. of sales, trade support and services, Royal Caribbean International. “There is a huge drive market there and it is an easy place from which people can take 7-day cruises from L.A. It is an easy destination to get to and we’re ready to demo to this audience just what this hardware is all about. The physical layout is so different from the competition with an ice arena, rock walls and the sophistication of the Royal Promenade—it is a happening place!”

The itinerary of the Mariner remains a classic 7-day sailing from the Port of Los Angeles to Cabos San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. A sea day at the start and two sea days on the back end give passengers time to orient and sink into the experience on the outset and relax and recover from all the fun at the end. While there are plenty of worthy excursions in these spots and certainly wonderful explorations to be enjoyed independently, Mariner’s marketers are putting their money on the cruise experience itself to draw the crowds.

“Although the itineraries are standard, it’s about the ship experience, really,” says Freed. “Voyager class has the Royal Promenade as its center for where action is. But the Mariner was the newest of this class and has two specialty restaurants that the others do not and so many other of its own unique features.”

The Mariner has 15 passenger decks and room enough to hold up to 3,835 guests. Nearly two thirds of the staterooms come with an ocean view and easily half of all staterooms have a balcony. Even the balconies here offer a departure from sister ships. Mariner’s verandahs extend out from the stateroom well beyond the overhang, giving private outside spaces much more sun and much more space. In fact, the ship is only slightly smaller (less than 20 percent) than the Freedom-class series and actually purveys a “small ship” feel inside a large ship’s girth.

That small ship experience can be described by the ship’s flow—from “pod” to “pod.” There’s the Royal Promenade, the heart of the ship attracting passengers with all manner of shopping and dining opportunities within a cavernous and highly themed space (almost a medieval look to it). From there, guests head to the theaters to see Broadway-style entertainment, Vegas-style ice ballets or cuisine demonstrations.

The pool area on Deck 11 presents the Windjammer Cafe buffet and two specialty restaurants plus a fun and whimsical pool layout designed by South Florida artist Romero Britto and an adults-only Solarium offering sanctuary from the party in a Romanesque setting offering healthy power drinks on tap.

From there it is up to the top decks for the Skylight Wedding chapel (accommodating up to 60 wedding guests); and two floors of complimentary sports attractions, including that scary rock wall towering above the sea (shoes, helmet, guide and ropes provided). A huge room for youth just below has specialized programs for kids, teens, toddlers, even infants, mostly free of charge.

In fact, for kids 3 to 11, the Mariner offers the Adventure Ocean program, with activities for kids 3-5 (Aquanuts), who’ll learn about local customs and do science experiments, 6-8 (Explorers), who’ll go on scavenger hunts and take part in theater games, and 9-11 (Voyagers), who’ll go on backstage tours and learn new sports. Teens also have their own space, including a teens-only club and lounge.