Whenever I board a cruise ship for the first time, I am always curious about how our cabin will look. Although the most important factors in choosing a cruise are usually itinerary, cost, and the ship, many of us still want comfortable accommodations.
Years ago, cabin features were way down the list of decision-making factors. However, times have changed. Cabin amenities have increased, and new ships have larger cabins and more balconies because cruisers have demanded it. In 2001, the first all-suite, all-balconied cruise ship--the Seven Seas Mariner--was launched. I cruised on the Seven Seas Mariner in December 2001 (Caribbean cruise), January 2006 (Amazon River cruise), and again in August 2008 (Alaska cruise). Let's take a look at the different cabin categories.
Deluxe Suites (Categories D-H)
These are the lowest priced, smallest suites on the Mariner. At 301 square feet (252 square feet in the suite and 49 on the balcony), these suites are certainly the nicest "steerage" accommodations I have ever seen! (Of course, on a 6-star ship such as the Mariner, there are NO inside, 4-bunked, steerage accommodations!) Of the 350 cabins on the Mariner, about 300 fall into the deluxe suite category. These balconied-suites ring much of the outside of the ship on decks 7-10, and six of the suites are wheelchair accessible. Some of the deluxe suites can easily accommodate three passengers.
The deluxe suite has enough outstanding features to warrant its name. The private, teak-decked balcony is large enough for two comfy cushioned-chairs and a small table. The room has a walk-in closet with shelves, drawers, lots of wooden hangers and a safe. The well-lighted, marble-lined bath is filled with mirrors, a full size tub and shower, and a large sink/cabinet combination. The king-size bed can be split into twins. Curtains can be drawn to separate the bedroom area from the sitting room. This especially well-thought-out feature is wonderful for those of us with mates who have different sleeping habits! The sitting area has a loveseat, armchairs, and a beautiful desk/credenza combination with a TV and VCR. There is a small table that can be used for room service. A refrigerator comes pre-stocked with beverages, and soft drinks and bottled water are replaced daily. Lighting is well-placed and gives the room a nice glow in the evening hours. For those of us who love to read in bed (and have a mate who doesn't), there are separate reading lamps on each side of the bed.
The 12 Horizon Suites are found on decks 7-10, with 3 suites across the stern of the Mariner on each deck. These suites are larger than the deluxe suites, at 522 square feet (359 square feet in the suite and 163 on the balcony). The suite also has a larger walk-in closet, and a separate desk and credenza. The bed alcove is separated from the sitting area by curtains, much like in the deluxe suite, but the layout of the suite makes it seem more like a different room. The baths are almost identical in both suites, as is size of the refrigerator. The horizon suite has a full-size sofa and a coffee table large enough for informal dining for two. The primary difference to me (other than price and size) is the balcony. The horizon suite balcony is large enough for two comfy cushioned chaises, two chairs, and a table, with lots of space left over. These chaises allow you to stretch out on the balcony and sunbathe (or sleep), rather than have to go to the pool deck.
Some cruisers might find the aft location of the horizon suites a potential disadvantage. Since the suites are located at the stern of the ship, you have to walk a-ways to exit the ship at the reception area or go to the theater or observation lounge. For those with mobility problems, you might want a cabin more centrally located. On the other hand, being away from foot traffic means the horizon suites are certainly extra-quiet both day and night (although those on deck 10 may get some noise from La Veranda Restaurant on deck 11). In addition, every step helps walk off those extra calories, and you are just one deck below La Veranda restaurant or pool deck bar if you want to "run up" and get an early morning bite or cup of coffee and didn't request room service. Being at the stern of the ship means you never are on the dock side or the harbor side while docked, and you get a partial view of both. (Note: Some cruisers love the dock side, while others love the harbor side. The Mariner seemed to give both starboard and port cruisers "equal time", rotating the docking position at each port.)
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