Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

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Meanwhile, dinner guests can have that traditional cruise experience of two sittings at pre-arranged or walk-up tables in the ship’s magnificent tri-level atrium dining room. Menus include low calorie, healthy and vegetarian choices. Other options include a very decent and very quiet dinner in the Windjammer. This dining set-up is actually three buffet sections—American for the burgers and prime rib, Oriental for sushi, Thai and Indian fare, and fine Chinese cuisine, and Italian for pizzas, pastas and fantastic tiramisus. Two adjacent specialty restaurants require reservations and an added $25 (gratuities included) pp. That would be Portofino for Northern Italian fare and Chops for American steak.

Or, guests can brave the line at Johnny Rockets and get all-you-can-eat burgers and fries for $4.95, topped by a Ben & Jerry’s in the Promenade or free frozen yogurt by the pool.

getting out there! Port excursions run the gamut, from leisurely guided walking and shopping tours to daring hike and bike tours. Affordable—there is something for all price points ranging from $24 to $100—and fun, many of these excursions offer passengers a chance to experience an aspect of each destination they would likely not find on their own.

In Cabos San Lucas, that can be a snorkeling expedition by zodiac to two pristine coves, including guided interpretations of the natural surroundings and lunch. Or it can be Baja off-roading in a “monster truck” followed by a desert hike with an eco-guide; or hands-on coastal sailing in a racing yacht; an ATV tour of a ranch; a dune buggy, beach and swim excursion; or a Cabo Canopy Adventure into a UNESCO-protected wilderness in the high sierras of Southern California. The Cabo Canopy circuit allows participants to fly across the canyons in a thrilling series of ziplines 200 ft. up in the tree line. They also cross a “commando bridge,” test an “elevator Tarzan swing,” and try a 90-ft. rappel to the ground. All Cabo tours range from three to five hours and cost $78 to $98.

In Mazatlan, guests can visit the artisan factory town of La Noria and then head to the region of Vinata Los Osuna to learn the art of making tequila. Or they can grab a 24-speed trail monger and check out a 6.8-mile path of extreme terrain close to the “El Yugo” Estuary on two wheels. Drinks, fruit and guide are included. Kayakers can try the Kactus Island Adventure for leisurely kayaking around the calm and pristine waters of Goat Island. Excursions around Mazatlan run $29 to $66 and last three to seven hours.

Puerto Vallarta offers fabulous city and jungle excursions. These can be guided hikes into the foothills of the Sierra Madre; shopping tours to neighborhoods and scenic villages; tequila factory visits and walks to hidden swimming springs inside mystical jungle settings. Most excursions in Puerto Vallarta run four hours and range from $24 to $42.

Post-cruise excursions (there are no pre-cruise options) through Royal Caribbean come in two half-day options that will fill time between cruise and flight with plenty of entertainment. A Los Angeles Highlights tour takes visitors around L.A., pointing out such spots as the Music Center and Olvera Street downtown, Hollywood Boulevard and other iconic places along the way with lunch at the Farmer’s Market. A Malibu, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica excursion allows participants to stroll down famed Santa Monica Pier before heading off to Malibu and returning to L.A. passing the 20th Century Fox Film Studios and the City of Beverly Hills. A stop is made at One Rodeo Drive, the 5th Avenue of Beverly Hills before winding up at LAX.

The Mariner’s 7-night cruises depart on Sunday and can be had via special periodic promotions for less than $100 a day. Interior rooms through September and early-October start at $423 pp dbl. Outside rooms run $560 and balcony rooms are $656. Suites start at $1,111 pp dbl.