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Review of Royal Caribbean: Is it right for you?

Ships I’ve sailed on: Mariner of the Seas

SUMMARY: Royal Caribbean is know for their very large ships. Mariner of the Seas had lots of outdoor activities on the pool decks, Flow Rider for surfing, giant slides, go karts, ropes course. There was almost no seating in the shade. Small, crowded buffet area with no outdoor seating. Average food, but LOTS of dining options that cost extra. Very large interior cabins with excellent service. Private Island has lots of activities and a large pool with swim-up bar. Great for families with kids.

Royal Caribbean Design and Impression

Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas inside shopping street
Main Street on Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas

We’ve only been on one Royal Caribbean cruise, which was in fall of 2022 on Mariner of the Seas. We went because their itinerary included Bermuda, which we had never been to. It was amazing! We spent two nights at port there which gave you a chance to see so many things on the island as well as take some excursions. They absolutely had the BEST cruise director that we’ve ever seen. He was so funny! One thing we liked is that he would hold broadcasts on a particular TV channel to make announcements and have guest speakers. 

The indoor shopping street was lackluster and didn’t hold a candle to the MSC Meraviglia’s indoor street. There was a small cafe that was included, which had some small dishes and pizza, but the line was always pretty long. Everything was an additional fee. The Sports Bar was nice for watching games, but the food there was also an additional fee.

Sky Lounge

Sky lounge on the upper deck
Sky Lounge on Mariner of the Seas

We usually expect ships to have some sort of large sky lounge with a view out the front and large windows where you can read, play board games or have a drink. Mariner of the Seas did have this, however, it was tiny! It was always full since there were so few quiet places to sit and have a drink. Unless you staked a seat out early in the day, you’d be out of luck. We only found empty seats one time during our 8 day cruise.

Shade vs Sun Outdoor Seating

Mariner of the Seas sun vs shade decks
Hey Royal Caribbean, this is how people are using your 3000 lounge chairs

The worst part for us about the Mariner of the Seas was that the decks were SO packed with “stuff” like slides, Flow Rider, rock climbing, water park activities, that there was almost no place to sit. All they had were thousands of lounge chairs in the sun. Most of them were empty and people were crammed into the shady seating on deck 4. You’d think they’d notice at some point and create more table seating in shaded areas. There were almost NO tables with chairs anywhere up on deck. Everything was lounge chairs. So you couldn’t eat anywhere outside on deck. It was really strange.


Mariner of the Seas Helipad on the bow of the ship.
Helipad in the very front of the ship

One part of the ship that we loved was the helipad. There were rarely people up there, so it was a quiet, beautiful place to sit and look directly off the bow of the ship. They had park benches surrounding the helipad that you could sit on. To get there, you have to walk to the front of deck 4 and then up some stairs. There is no elevator that puts you on that deck. 



Royal Caribbean food options
Dining Buffet and Johnny Rockets on Mariner of the Seas

The food on Royal Caribbean is nothing special, but it’s not as horrible as Carnival. Like many of the other cruise lines, they had no vegetarian protein options. The buffet is too small for the ship, so it’s quite overcrowded. I’d recommend going only at off-peak hours. There is no outdoor seating anywhere near the buffet, which compounded the issue. There was so little seating in the buffet during our cruise, that frequently people had no place to sit and the attendants had to wander the dining area asking if we minded if others sat at our table.

The buffet area was very poorly organized, causing back-ups and congested areas that made it impossible to get through to the seating in the back. The whole thing was quite strange, especially because the ship was only 65% full. 


Royal Caribbean mudslide drink
Mudslide Drink

Their drinks were really good. I’m a Mudslide kind of person, so I tend to compare them from one cruise line to another. MSC comes in last with a pathetic version of no chocolate syrup or garnish of any kind, it’s just a bland, tan-looking slushy. But Royal Caribbean came in with a stunningly beautiful display that tasted as good as it looked! (Holland America needs to blend theirs more…too icy!)


Royal Caribbean interior cabin
Royal Caribbean Interior Cabin #9289

The best part about this Royal Caribbean ship was their interior cabins. By far the best we’ve ever experienced. We cruise so often that sometimes we opt for the less expensive interior cabins and just hope for an upgrade. We didn’t get one on this trip, but were really fine with it. The room was as big as a balcony cabin, and included a couch and decent size desk with a chair. They had curtains that partitioned the bed from the couch/desk area, which was nice if one of us wanted to sleep. The bathroom was small with a tiny round shower. But it worked ok for us.  

Using an HDMI Cable with Your Laptop to Watch DVDs

The TV options were pretty bad. Many cruise lines have started charging for movies. On this ship, they were charging $10 for on-demand movies, otherwise there was maybe two channels of weird stuff and that’s it. We always bring our laptop, an HDMI cable and a bunch of DVDs. It can be tricky to make it work on some of these systems, you sometimes have to be creative. On this system, you have to press the remote “input” option over and over as you start the TV so that it brings you to the input screen where you can change the HDMI input to wherever you plugged in your cord. 


Their bedding was the most comfortable of any ship I’ve been on. I usually find that the beds are pretty hard (especially on NCL), but this was like heaven, with soft sheets, nice duvet-style bedding and good quality pillows. 

There was a nominal charge for room service per delivery (I think it was $7.99). But we ordered a lot of it. The menu was SO good! We would order a bunch of stuff and share it so the fee was worth it and we didn’t have to fight the crowds at the buffet.

Royal Caribbean’s Private Island: Coco Cay

Beach front at Royal Caribbean's Coco Cay
Beachfront at Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay

Their private island is amazing! It has a pier, so you are assured of actually being able to go. They have a hot air balloon that you can buy tickets to go up in. Their very large pool has tropical foliage in and around it, plus a swim-up bar. There are several beaches to enjoy all of which have rocks around with presumably something to see underwater. We tried to snorkel, but there were so many jellyfish that we had to get out. There is a tram that takes you around the island and back to the ship. If you want to walk, it’s a pretty long way. 

Royal Caribbean's private island Coco Cay
Royal Caribbean’s Private Island Coco Cay


Mariner of the Seas deck activities
Surfing on Flow Rider | Kids Area | Pool Deck

This ship was not one of our favorites, and probably won’t be back on Royal Caribbean. Their food was terrible, and there was only one area on deck 4 where you could sit in a chair in the shade. If spending a lot of time in the sun and making use of their outdoor activities is your thing, then you’ll love it. I know our kids would really enjoy Royal Caribbean. They don’t care about the quality of food or crowds, but would be thrilled to spend their entire day surfing on Flow Rider or tackling the ropes course.


  • Ports of Call (Bermuda)
  • Leaving from Port Canaveral
  • Large Interior Cabins
  • VERY comfortable bedding
  • Flow Rider
  • Ropes Course
  • Private Island


  • Almost no shade seating outside
  • No outdoor seating near the buffet
  • Bad, tasteless food
  • No vegetarian protein options
  • Boring interior design