Seven Seas Mariner fulfills guests hierarchy of needs, and then some


ONBOARD THE RADISSON SEVEN SEAS MARINER -- A ship is a ship is a ship. The initial awe of the cruise experience -- the vessels sheer size, the beauty of the atrium, the array of onboard activities and the quality of service -- tends to fade as first-timers turn into repeat cruisers, as wonder turns into expectancy, as appreciation gives way to a sense of entitlement.

In a very broad sense, cruise ships are created equal. Its the passengers who differ. Some prefer Carnival, some cruise only Princess, some sail only Silversea, and so on. So lets take the experience to a basic, elementary level. What do most people like?

They like the personal touch.

They like good food.

They like choices.

They like a comfortable room.

Will this ship, the Seven Seas Mariner, pass the qualifying examination?

Dont call me Madam

When I entered the lobby of the Seven Seas Mariner, my home for the next seven days, the staff greeted me by name and handed me a flute of champagne. A small thing, but very nice. (Thats an A+.)

That sparkling wine and personal greeting was the start of my seven-day affair with food and drink on the Mariner.

First was the tea.

Each day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., the  Horizons Lounge presents a high tea with scones and clotted cream, tea sandwiches, tiny desserts almost too pretty to eat (I said almost), flambe demonstrations and the soft sounds of a piano.

Good food, lots of choices

The 50,000-ton Mariner carries 700 passengers, which gives people plenty of room to spread out. Surprisingly for a ship of this size, the Mariner has four restaurants.

The main event in the dining category is the Compass Rose Restaurant, decorated in rich woods with drapery in burgundy and blue. Etched glass partitions give the large room an intimate feel.

The Compass Rose also offers an impressive, almost dizzying amount of menu choices. In addition to the nightly five-course menu, there is a gourmet sampler dinner menu designed by the executive chef, a low-carb menu, a light-and-healthy menu, a vegetarian menu and a no-salt-added menu.

The offerings change every night along with the complimentary wine.

The La Veranda restaurant presents a casual buffet by day and sit-down service by night. The atmosphere and cuisine put me in mind of a Mediterranean bistro. Thats because the chefs draw their inspiration from the Mediterranean basin, with an ample range of antipasto, cheeses and entrees from north Africa, Greece, Italy, France and Spain.

Although the Compass Rose is the main restaurant, Signatures is the most formal dining room aboard the Mariner. Reservations are required. Signatures, which is connected with the French culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, serves an a la carte menu of traditional French-accented selections. The cuisine seemed a bit bland. (Escargot without garlic? Points deducted here.)

Latitudes is the smallest and most intimate of the restaurants onboard, and because of its tucked-away location, its nearly a hideaway -- though definitely not a hole in the wall. Its an upbeat room with a cheerful interior and a clean, contemporary style, and it has the most unusual menu offered aboard the ship. Latitudes fixed menu delivers up to four separate international nouveau sampler tastings.

Tuxes and long dresses are called for on formal nights. The rest of the time its elegant casual. Dont feel like dressing up? In-suite dining, with selections from the complete Compass Rose menu, is available from room service.

And this is no tired-entree-on-a-tray affair. A waiter arrives with a white linen tablecloth, napkins and crystal stemware. He pours the wine and serves the courses one by one, just as they are served in the restaurant. (A+)

The Mariners Internet cafe, on Deck 6, is next to the library. More important, its next to the ships nifty coffee machine gizmo, which pours out complimentary cappuccino and lattes with a push of a button.

On Deck 11, theres a spacious pool area, three whirlpools and -- whats this? Yet another spot to eat: the casual pool grill.

A comfortable room

The thing I liked best about the accommodations is that every room has a balcony. Whether its 49 square feet or 73 square feet, its a good spot for early-morning room service (coffee and croissants, perhaps?).

On the top end of the scale, the master suite (2,002 square feet) has two balconies, two bedrooms and two dining rooms, if you count the setup on the forward balcony. Categories B and up come with butler service.

The smallest cabins, Category H, are 301 square feet; but really, theres not a bad cabin onboard. Remember, theyre all suites.

The bath in my suite was large, with marble throughout. But in some suites with bathtubs there is an awkward, high step into the tub, which could be a problem for folks with mobility issues and for those who are more than six feet tall. Some of those tubs have been converted into showers or had that step lowered. (Thats an A for effort.)

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