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My Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of The Seas

Posted by thetraveldoctor on August 11, 2009


Alan & Lil on The Tender with the Mariner in the background

Alan & Lil on The Tender with the Mariner in the background

This is my second time on The Mariner of The Seas and my 87th cruise over all. With all these cruises under my belt, I feel that I have a good Idea of what makes a great cruise vacation.

My wife and I departed on July 12, 2009 from the Port of Los Angeles on Royal Caribbean’s  Mariner of The Seas. We were very excited to be on the Mariner again and were looking forward to a great vacation at sea. We sailed away from the dock at 5:45 PM and headed south from LA to Mexico in the crystal blue Pacific Ocean.

We Unpacked and settled into our stateroom.  We headed to the dinning room at 555PM, as we had first seating dinning. Royal Caribbean has instituted a “As You Like it Dinning” as an option for people that don’t like  early or late set dinning times. This option gives you the choice to come to the main dinning room at anytime between 6PM and 8:30PM and you are seated as if you were at a restaurant. I personally like the fixed seating at the same table, waiters and people at my table all week. We were seated at a table for 6 with two other couples. One couple was from the Chicago area and was also in the cabin next to us we discovered. The other couple was from Big Bear California. Really very nice people and we had a great conversation at dinner. But that’s what dinner on a cruise ship is really all about. Meeting new people, great food and great conversation. The food was excellent, which was nice to see that Royal Caribbean had not cutback on the quality of the food during these trying economic times.

After dinner it was off to the Savoy Theater for the welcome aboard show. We met our Cruise

The Parade on the Mariner of The Seas

The Parade on the Mariner of The Seas

Director Abe who gave us a rundown of what to expect during the upcoming week. Then we were entertained by a juggler and a comic, who were both very good. The evening ended with a great “Welcome Parade” on the Royal Promenade. So for the first day, things looked pretty good.

Since we had travelled with Royal Caribbean on more than 24 cruises, we are considered Diamond Plus members in their Loyalty program, which is the top tier of the program. Along with being in the top tier brings some perks, such as a special on board coupon book. Now it’s been 18 months since our last Royal Caribbean cruise and we were expecting the same perks in the coupon book we received in February of 2008. Well they have decided to change the coupon book and take away a lot of the “Perks” that they gave to their best customers. This did not make much sense to me. Why would you take away perks to your best customers. Things such as a free 8” X 10” photo is now gone and replaced by a 20% off coupon on a special type of 8” x 10” photo. Gone also is a free 30 minutes of internet usage, replaced by a $10 off coupon for internet usage. At a ridiculous $0.55 per minute (OUCH!) you will use that $10 credit up real quick, as the internet connection on this ship is so slow, you could finish the novel War and Peace before you could send your email.

Gone is the “Ship Shape” program. This program got people involved in the fitness activities aboard the ship. You would earn Ship Shape dollars for participating in the activities and you would then be able to redeem them for “Ship Shape” gifts at the end of the cruise. A really great program that I really was sorry to see it eliminated as I was on the ship that they started the ship shape program back in the 1980’s. I guess the one thing that Royal Caribbean eliminated that I was really sad to see go was the Mint and Saying on the Pillow at night. Did I eat the mint every night, no, but It was like a warm fuzzy that I had come to expect on Royal Caribbean ever since we sailed on our first cruise on the Song of Norway in 1978.

To be continued……..

Posted in airlines, airports, Art Auctions at Sea, Brilliance of The Seas, cancun, caribbean, Coach, cruise line, cruises, disabilities, economy, Europe, food, gas, islands, luggage, lunch, Mexico, Panama Canal, pillows, restaurant, royal caribbean, sailing, seniors, ships, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Grand Hyatt NY Gets An “F” For Accommodations!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on June 6, 2009


 

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

Grand Hyatt Hotel New York City

I just returned from a business trip to New York where I gave a presentation to a group of travel industry professionals. The conference went well, but that is not my reason for writing this. The problem was with the Hotel.

The conference hotel was the Grand Hyatt in New York City. This is a very large business hotel located right next to Grand Central Station on 42nd street. I was excited about staying at the hotel as I really enjoy the Hyatt brand. 

 

I arrived at 1250AM in stead of 1030PM as my flight was late from Chicago due to weather in the New York area. So I am now very tired, somewhat wet as it has been pouring rain for the entire trip from Newark Airport to the Grand Hyatt Hotel and I had to wade through the rain to get to the Super Shuttle Bus. I walk into the lobby of the Grand Hyatt and proceed to the Registration Desk. Now remember it is 1250AM on Thursday morning and there are at least 12 people waiting in line to check in. Now that would not be so bad, but there is only one desk clerk handling the check in and to add insult to injury, there are approximately 15 self service check-in kiosk that all say “OUT OF SERVICE – SEE DESK CLERK TO CHECK IN.” So now I am very tired, I have a bad headache and I am standing in a line that is not moving at all. 

 

20 minutes later I make it up to the desk clerk. I give him my name and my reservation number. He types it into the computer and then I see that look on his face that I have seen to many times before. You know the look of bad news at 115 in the morning. So he tells me that the room I reserved was not available. My heart dropped! I said you have to give me a room. He tells me that he has a queen size smoking room. I said to myself, “how bad could a smoking room be?” So I say to the desk clerk, I just need a room to sleep in, I will take the room. 

 

So he gives me the key card and I proceed to the 15th floor room I was assigned. I get to the room and open the door and walk in and then it hit me. This room REAKED of smoke! Oh did it stink, it just knocked you over. It smelled like someone chain smoked no-stop for a week! But again, I was so tired and I had this terrible headache and I just needed so sleep. So I climbed into the bed and fell asleep. 

 

When I woke up, I really look around the room for the first time. The window shade was all stained and looked as if someone threw a cup of coffee on it. The lights on the night stands did not work properly. The Desk lamp shade was broken and had a hole in it.  There was a floor lamp that was leaning over like someone bent the base.  And the final straw, the wifi in the room did not work.

 

I walked into the bathroom to take a shower. The bathroom look pretty good, so I get into the shower, close the curtain and turned on the water. I adjusted the temperature and then the tub started to fill up. Ok, so the drain was running slow. I hit the shower button and the shower turned on. It started to spray nicely around the curtain and on to the floor. I could not get a good flow onto me, but it did a great job of making a puddle on the floor of the bathroom, which I could not stop.

 

I was really frustrated by this time. I got out of the shower and threw two towels on the floor to soak up the water. I then dried myself off with a third towel, at least they gave me 4 towels and they were not the usual fluffy Hyatt towels, they were very scratchy and thin towels.

 

The service was just fair throughout the hotel. The public areas were very nice, but the service was poor at best. I stay in lots of hotel rooms during the year and this was a stay that I want to forget. I cannot recommend the Grand Hyatt in New York until they do something to improve the quality control of the rooms and the attitude of the staff.

Posted in bags, Credit Cards, economy, first class, food, Hotels, luggage, lunch, news, options, PC, pillows, restaurant, seniors, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations, Wifi | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tix4Tonight in Las Vegas – Save Big Bucks!

Posted by thetraveldoctor on May 12, 2009


 

The Las Vegas Strip looking South from Flamingo Blvd

The Las Vegas Strip looking South from Flamingo Blvd

I love to go to the shows in Las Vegas. Over the past 5 years I have seen some wonderful entertainment. From Elton John & Bette Midler at Caesar’s to Penn & Teller at the Rio, it has been some of the best shows I have ever seen.

 

Tickets to some shows can put you back a few hundred dollars. I am the kind of person that likes to find a way to save money on shows. When I am in New York, I like to go to the Time Sq “Hot Tix” booth and get last minute half price Broadway tickets. Well, they have a ticket service for last minute show tickets in Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s called “Tix4Tonight” and you can get tickets for loads of shows in Las Vegas for the current evening at up to 50% off the box office price. They also offer up to 50% off a number of Las Vegas Buffets and Restaurants for a $3 charge for the restaurants and $2 for the buffet’s. It is a great way to do dinner and a show for a great price.

 

Tix4Tonight Logo

Tix4Tonight Logo

Here is how it works. You show up at the Tix4Tonight in the morning. Some days the line forms early. They post the current days shows they have tickets for at 9:30AM on 3 TV screens. These list the Show, Hotel, Time of Show and Price. Pick your show and pay for your tickets. It’s that easy. Be advised that there is a $5 service charge added to all the posted prices. Once you pay for the tickets, you will receive a voucher that you have to exchange at the box office of the show you are going to see. I suggest you go to the show box office as soon as you can, but you can exchange the voucher up to 1 hour prior the show time.

 

Now here is the really nifty part. Tix4Tonight wants you to come back. So if you bring your ticket stub and receipt from the previous days show, you get to use the Tix4Tonight VIP line, so you do not have to wait as long to purchase your tickets and you get a $2 discount on your ticket purchase. Such A DEAL! I loved it. I purchased tickets for Howie Mandel  at the MGM for half price and got GREAT SEATS! I also purchased tickets for George Wallace at the Flamingo, Steve Wyrick at Planet Hollywood and The Crazy Horse Review at the MGM all for half price. And they were all great shows and great seats. I figured I saved close to $200 off the retail price.

 

Ticket booth at Fashion Sq Mall

Ticket booth at Fashion Sq Mall

So you are now asking, where are these Tix4Tonight ticket booths. Glad you asked that question. Here are the 6 locations. 1. Fashion Show Mall, strip entrance in front of Neiman Marcus, 2. North Strip Just South of The Riviera Hotel, 3. Showcase Mall, South Strip at the base of the Giant Coke Bottle, 4. Bills Casino on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Flamingo next to the Flamingo Hotel. 5. Hawaiian Marketplace, south strip across the street from the new City Center development. 6. Downtown at the 4 Queens Hotel at Fremont St. Experience.

 

Just remember that not all shows are available every night and midweek is better then weekends. But it is a great way to see some of the best shows in town for up to 50% off. I tried it and I just loved it. The people that work at the booths were great and very helpful. So the next time you are in Las Vegas, try Tix4Tonight you won’t regret it! Remember, you can take the Deuce Bus to any of the Tix4Tonight locations.

Posted in deuce bus, Deuce Bus Las Vegas, economy, food, free, Las Vegas, Las Vegas Strip, lunch, seniors, tickets, tours, Transportation, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Great Restaurant in San Antonio-Central Park Pizza of N.Y.

Posted by thetraveldoctor on January 16, 2009


 

 

Central Park Pizza of NY in San Antonio Texas

Central Park Pizza of NY in San Antonio Texas

When I was in San Antonio Texas this past December, I stumbled upon a great little Pizza & Pasta Restaurant. My wife and I were walking around the Downtown area just sightseeing and we found “Central Park Pizza Of N.Y. off the Main Plaza about a half block west of the Riverwalk on Main Plaza.

We were getting hungry and it was about 1PM so we decided to go into the Central Park Pizza Of N.Y. Restaurant. Upon entering you are greeted by a very basic sit down area with very basic wood tables that seat from 2 to 4 people and painted walls that remind you of New York. You continue toward the back where you place your order. They have a young, friendly and very accommodating staff that made us feel welcome.  There is a large menu board with all the offerings above the order area. They have everything from Pizza and Pasta to Hot Sub Sandwiches and Salads. The prices are very reasonable. You can get a 14” Cheese Pizza for $9.99 or one of their specialty Pizzas for $12.99 or the “ Central Park Special for $15.99. They also have daily specials, which I had. For $6.99 I had the Baked Ziti, which is served with Garlic bread and a drink. It was some of the best Baked Ziti I have ever had. My wife had the Three Cheese Calzone, which was also delicious. If you want a great  Hot Sub, for $5.50 you can have a Hot Sub Sandwich with chips and a drink. 

So if you want a good meal for a great price, and you are in San Antonio you have to try Central Park Pizza of N.Y. at 136 Main Plaza in San Antonio. You won’t be disappointed.

Posted in airports, emergency, food, free, Hotels, lunch, restaurant, Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas, Travel, travel agents, Uncategorized, Vacations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »