Many people base a lot of their enjoyment of a cruise on its food. Some are after quality, some quantity, some 24 hour accessibility and the most vocal crowd is after all three. Food and drinks are a big part of a cruise, and before I embarked on the Mariner of the Seas, I had seen that the reviews were a bit mixed. From my experience on this ship, I believe many of the main issues were that the menu has many Asian options over the typical RCCL Western fare. This is not necessarily a bad thing! The issue was the drinks options as the ship had many of its bars closed when stationed in China. This seems to be slowly being rectified as the ship now cruises from Singapore.
Drinks: We opted to buy a premium drinks package each about 3 months prior to our cruise. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, as we paid $66AUD/day/person. Onboard the price was $92USD/day/person. Buying the package early saved us a lot of money. Drinks are about $8-$12USD a cocktail + a 15% gratuity, so we only needed to have 4 or so cocktails a day to make the package worthwhile. The package includes all drinks up to $12USD, including wine by the glass. The package also included unlimited soft drinks and a refillable cup, however this ship lacked refill stations. On most RCCL Ships there are soda refill stations that allow use via a microchip in the base of the refill cup. On this ship, you had to front up to a bar to get a glass of soft drink, so it was easier not to carry the refill cup and just get it in a normal glass. The package also includes all premium coffees, juices and bottled water. Please note that it only includes the small bottles of mineral water, so opt for the small bottles when ordering at dinner, otherwise you will be charged. It should also be mentioned that the bar staff give you very confused looks if you ask for a milky cocktail. They will make you one, however you may have to instruct them on how it is done!
Before buying a drinks package, calculate your expected intake against the cost to make sure it is good value. We would not have used enough at the higher price to make it viable.
Food: The food on the Mariner of the Seas was a mixture of the usual RCCL fare and dishes of Asian influence. Overall I found the food to be quite good, particularly the red meat, which was primarily Australian grown. However, not all the food was to my taste, but you cannot expect everything to be perfect, especially when trying new foods.
Main Dining room: We had anytime dining, rather then the set dining times. Many people were unaware that this could be requested as an option, so always take the time to ask! There was a mixture of Western and Asian dishes every night. Highlights included the fresh salads, the scallops, the slow cooked beef, the rack of lamb and the crème brulee. Service in the dining room was outstanding, thank you to Ginny and Jan! I do not recommend the breakfast service, even though many people swear by it. I found it much slower then going to the buffet and the poached eggs were extremely vinegary.
Buffet (Windjammer): I always enjoy the buffets on cruise ships. I like how quick and convenient they are and that there are a variety of options. There was a variety of Western and Asian options for all meals as well as gluten free and vegetarian. The Windjammer was outstanding for breakfast, yes it was busy and yes the options were almost the same everyday, however they had one brilliant station I could not pass up. Every morning you could have eggs to order, and every morning they came out perfect! For lunch and dinner there was a decent selection, often with lots of fresh salads and vegetables as well as roasted meats, pasta and rice dishes.
Promenade Café: Open 24 hours a day, I visited this café more times then I should. All food options are complementary and generally include basic bakery items, jelly and pizza. These tend to be carb based foods that at 3am after a couple drinks, are exactly what you want. The pound cake was stunning for afternoon tea.
Johnny Rockets: 50’s American Diner style eatery on deck. This venue has a $6.95/person cover charge, however for this amount you can order as much as you wish! I really liked this option and ate here a couple of times when the main dining room options didn’t take my fancy. I love the booth dining and the 50’s and 60’s rock music. I recommend the beef burger, the fries with liquid cheese and bacon bits, the Fanta Float and the caramel sundae.
Giovanni’s Table: We only tried this paid restaurant, and it was well worth it! For $25 each you can order anything from the menu, and the table service was wonderful. The food was well worth the additional price, with some of the best scallops I have ever eaten. We also had a cheese plate, beautiful slow cooked osso bucco with polenta and one of everything off the dessert trolley! This included a couple types of cannoli and various panna cotta type desserts.
Overall I found the food on the Mariner of the Seas quite good. The Service from the wonderful staff made it even better! There needs to be a little work on the drinks packages, however this seems to be happening.