Just back from the march 31-April 7th sailing of the carnival liberty's exotic eastern cruise. I was traveling alone with my 10 year old as my husband who has cruised before was unable to get away. In general it was a lot of fun and my daughter in particular had a good time but there are definitely a few things I would do differently the next time.
As I mentioned in some other postings we used fly away which landed us in ft lauderdale at 2 pm. When we got our flight information I had significant concerns but carnival was absolutely unyielding when it came to adjusting the flights. The only choice we had was to hope for the best. Fortunately we had a good pilot in so much as there were major thunderstorms in Southern Miami when we landed. The plane literally dropped through one small opening in the clouds and we landed only 5 minutes late. The ft lauderdale airport was packed so my daughter and I ran to a bathroom and hurried downstairs. We had prepaid carnivals transfer service and I was expecting to meet a group of professional competent people who would know where we should go. Instead sadly there are about 10 of the most incompetent and least organized carnival employees we met all week. On getting to the desk I told them who we were what ship we were on and the port. The guy with the clipboard told us to get our luggage and come back which we did then he told us to sit. It is 215 at this point we have a 45 minute ride to Miami and the ship sales at 4pm. The first guy I had spoken with seemed to have forgotten the conversation in the short interval it took to get the bags because he stared blankly when I returned. The main takeaway I have of this service is no one is in charge, no one wants to actually talk to customers and none of them are taking responsibility to get people to the right place. After talking to 3 more people and getting lined up twice we finally went to a bus.
2 things to note, carnival despite charging a lot for this service does not have a roster of passengers and is not looking for anyone. I had to show them my receipt which I had printed but I was surprised they had no record. The clipboards are apparently for crossword puzzles. Of course the lack of urgency by the airport Carnival staff meant the poor driver had to make up for it. He loaded our bags in the bus like a crazy man and broke the wheel off one of our bigger suitcases. There were actually two ships of passengers on our bus both ships sailing at 4 pm. And it was pouring. There was lots of traffic. The driver got delayed and was calling it in but he said we may miss the ships. Lucky for us he stopped at the liberty first and about 5 families got off the bus to get in the terminal building, he raced off with the rest of the passengers with the other ship, but I think part of the urgency was to avoid discussing my broken luggage. I paid the luggage handlers $20 and asked that they make sure our bags made it on board ( they did) and went in the terminal. In 5 minutes we were on the ship but needed to go right away to a muster drill. The muster drill was okay. If I had to gripe it had to be the people who are prompt and show up on time are the most crushed and wait the longest to leave. That said it was fine. I liked that kids under 12 have to wear a bracelet so parents can find them in an evacuation emergency.
Finally we made it to our room which was a beautiful balcony room on the lido deck. We loved it. Benny our room steward greeted us right away. It was great to finally peel off the wet clothes we traveled in and put on some shorts. At that point we had been traveling for 7 hours and it was 2pm our time. My daughter was starving so we ran through the rain still coming down on the lido deck
I know my daughter was hungry because the first food we came to she was willing to eat and it was guys burgers. I had read a lot about the burgers and was eager to try them. They were good. They had lots of tasty toppings and great fries. The one thing that may upset foodies is they are all well done. I think if you go into thinking you are going to have a pretty good meal you will. It is not however a gourmet meal. We were able also to sit and watch us pull out of port. I had big ideas of taking lots of pictures but the rain did not cooperate. After lunch we decided to explore the inside areas of the ship and buy our bottomless bubbles cards. A word about bottomless bubbles, they were a great value for us. It was easy to get a soda anywhere and the cups were quite large. Also my daughter was able to get Shirley temples with the card. I found the bar staff at the red frog and blue iguana to be great at getting us taken care off, in the dining room it was a bit more sporadic.
As a first time cruise the ship is impressive. It's large and nicely decorated in sort of a viva las Vegas way. Our bags were not in our rooms in time for dinner, we went about 7pm . It was only a few hours after our lunch but were we're both really tired. And the farewell party was moved to an indoor bar because the rain continued. The dining room was nice. We had anytime dining which worked out well. I felt really under dressed and sort of a general damp frizzy mess. To add to the overall felling of being hugely inappropriate my ten year old lost a molar during dinner. This was a good thing since it was really bothering her to the degree that it was no fun to eat. But nothing like being in the dining room surrounded by not damp people who clearly had their luggage and to have your 10 year old hand you a bloody tooth during appetizers. The travelers on either side were very nice about it.
After a good nights sleep and unpacking we were ready for half moon cay. We had breakfast on the lido deck. We had the tortilla eggs at the blue iguana which were the tastiest eggs on the ship IMO. The omelet bar over cooks and the scrambled buffet eggs were also over cooked. One morning there were mini quiche which were good. There was a nice array of cereals and citrus fruits everyday as well as melon. No berries. There was also a sweet starch every day waffles, pancakes, or French toast. I was impressed that they offered real butter. I also thought the ham was very good.
We had a snorkeling excursion planned for half moon cay and despite sort of middle of the road reviews it was great. We had brought our own gear but they would not allow us to wear our vests, we had to wear their vests. We did use our own masks and fins which I think was worth it. This was our first snorkeling trip ever however we did take a lesson at a scuba school at home before we left for the cruise which was great since we knew exactly how the gear should fit and how to make adjustments while floating. The staff was very good. Very worth while. From there we had lunch on the island and hiked to find chairs. It's a beautiful beach however not much shade and all the clam shells were rented by the end of our excursion. As a result despite using sun screen I got burned. My recommendation for northerners who go after a long winter use 2x as much sunscreen as you think and nothing under 30 SPF. 50 for the kids. Also the line was horribly long to get on the tenders so we went to the bar and had some virgin strawberry daiquiris while waiting. After 3 pm I would recommend that the line is too long and unshaded just go to the bar and wait for the line to catch up to you.
Other excursions we did were in st Thomas, where we went to Megan's bay, the nicest beach on the trip and blackbeards castle which was really fun. In puerto Rico we went to the fort and the rainforest which was great, and on grand Turk we snorkeled and saw the sea rays which was just awesome. Beach in grand Turk is beautiful as well.
Camp carnival was a bit hit or miss for us. My daughter is 10 and while some of the activities like the scavenger hunt was fun portions were a lot like baby sitting. She ended up picking a couple activities like the twilight swim and otherwise had more fun hanging out with mom. Tweeners are difficult so I don't think this was the fault of carnival. Basically they are too old for standard babysitting and too young to hang out with the teenagers. In that vein the mini golf and the cartoon movie night were great for us. She also liked the waterside and the pools. We both enjoyed dressing and going to the dining room for dinner. The second night we got papaya as a waitress and she was awesome. Accommodating personable and did a great job. She had a lot of people who liked to sit in her section which was nice as well . We frequently saw the same people.
We loved having a room with a balcony. I get up much earlier than my child so it was great to have the balcony to go out to while she sleep a little later in the morning.
I did go to the shopping seminar while my daughter did the scavenger hunt. I was pretty crispy so sitting inside seemed good. The seminar was not a ports discussion however, it was a glorified away presentation. There were good coupons in this folder they sold but you do not need to go to the session to buy the folder.
The food was fine. I think if you are looking for a great experience it's not that. It is a good experience and you can always find fresh salads, and fruit. The dining room has better food although in my opinion the seafood was their weakest offerings. Including the lobster tail. They tend to over cook it. I had excellent pork roast, beef roast and lamb dishes.
The biggest disappointment was probably our fellow cruisers. Our ship had a large group of spring break high school and college kids from Michigan. The biggest problem was the parents however, who were constantly drunk and sort of inappropriate. We pretty much stayed away except for the last sea day. After not being able to find a chair to watch my child swim I perched on a bench for an hour. Finally moving some sandles from a chair and taking it after an hour. This woman approached me, she and her friend had reserved 10 chairs for people who were not out of bed. I mentioned chairs un attended for 30 minutes were up for grabs and I was watching my child in the water. They were mad but I stuck to my guns and kept the chair. We were out there for about 7 hours and in that time they only used their 9 remaining chairs for 1 hour while lots of people had no where to sit. Later in the afternoon we left. The deck party got going and their was lots of dancing which is cool, but there were lots of adults dancing and jumping in the pool which at the same time was full of small kids. After watching several kids get fallen on I made my daughter stick to one side of the pool. Security tried to manage it but ultimately it was not very kid friendly. Marco polo games and drunk spring breakers is an odd combo.
The most ironic thing was a couple hours later I was at customer service exchanging some travelers checks and the dad of this huge group was down trying to get them to remove the tips for the room steward and the dining room from his bill. His argument was that they were not in the room and never dressed for the dining room. I was appalled. In my option if you don't want to pay the tips stay at home.
All in all the cruise was lots of fun. I think I might try a different cruise line but carnival did in my opinion a good job and worked hard to meet our needs. It was great to finally see the Caribbean and try some new activities. My biggest issue were the hard parties on board and their need to indulge morning noon and night. Also there is no newsstand on board so bring reading material with you and no drug store on board so bring lots of sunscreen along.