WE did the Mariner in January, and ate at both Chops and Portofino's. We thought they each were outstanding. I am a long time HAL cruiser and have always enjoyed the pinnacle on HAL, I thought portofino's and Chops were every bit as good and the price for what you get can't be beat.
I came in late to this topic but I am unclear why there are some that are surprised that you have to pay some extra fees for some of the specialty restaurants. This is not just a RCCL phenomenon. Princess has the same option and even Disney makes you pay to eat at Palo's. We ate at Portofinos and loved it. The extra fee was well worth the money. If you haven't paid the small extra fee to eat at some of the specialty restaurants on the various cruise lines, you might be missing something. And you can now book well in advance of your cruise. RCCL has changed that and is now allowing you to make your reservation 90 days in advance of your sail date. We just reserved a spot in Chops and we don't sail until early December on the FOS.
We read elsewhere that one couple had booked Portofino for the first night onboard. They said it was particularly nice to enjoy a wonderful meal and watch as the ship set sail to begin their long awaited cruise. We're giving it serious thought but I'm not a huge fan of Italian so wondered what their typical menu might be like.
We had dinner at Portofinos on our last Bermuda cruise on Formal night because we chose not to dress up in formal attire on this cruise. Portofinos turned out to be the best meal on the entire cruise! Everything was excellent. On our cruise next August to Bermuda on Explorer, we have already decided to have dinner there again. It was well worth the extra $20 per person!