This was our third RCI cruise, the first in the Med and we have cruised many times on other lines in the Caribbean, Alaska and western Mexico. I think RCI gives a good value and will probably cruise with them in the future, although the Crown and Anchor Club does not offer enough of an advantage for us to be loyal to them.
This was our first time on the Liberty and we thought it was fine, nothing exceptional. The ship was very clean and well maintained as far as the what can be seen as a passenger. Most of the crew members that we encountered were above average in their friendliness. Our cabin attendant (Anthony) and Waiter (Dennis) were excellent. The crew members that we encountered on the deck and in the bars were excellent as well. We thought the people that we dealt with at guest relations were less than helpful.
We were disappointed that the Windjammers did not have outdoor seating. The food there was no more than average buffet fare. The Promenade (indoor multi-story "main street") was a nice touch, we sampled most of the merchants there. We had a group of ten and would have stayed at the English pub, Hoof and Claw, for drinks longer if it weren't for the cigarette smoke. There are several designated smoking venues on the ship (like the casino) and the English pub is one of them -- too bad. The one time we tried the Cupcake Cupboard, we were not impressed with the dried out stale cupcakes. Ben and Jerry's was okay, but I think it would be better if they had a "home made" ice cream shop instead to match the theme of the Promenade. The stores along the Promenade sold the normal ship stuff, nothing you can't get at home for far less and can return it if it fell apart. Their sidewalk sales were heavy on watches and jewelry; without the wider range of sales we'll experienced on previous cruises. The bars were nice; the drinks were well made and of the usual cruise price and variety.
There is a nice running/walking track on the upper deck. It was fun to run and take in the beautiful sights of the port of calls. The gym was excellent with plenty of equipment and classes available.
We had a cabin that overlooked the Promenade. With the angle of the heavy glass that distorted the view, it was not worth the money and we would not bother with it again. This was the first time we had a cabin that did not at least have a view of outside. All but one cruise we had a balcony so we will go back to that in the future. We thought the cabin was small and not laid out very efficiently compared to other cabins we've had even on smaller, older ships.
We did the my time dining and never had a problem getting the time we wanted, probably due to the ship not being fully booked. The food at the main dining was good. Not great, just about average of what we've experienced on other cruises. I would compare the quality to be what you would find at an economy restaurant chain like the Olive Garden, although at least on the ship you can try a few different things just in case. What sets it apart was the excellent service and welcoming waitstaff that we had.
We did not go to the premium restaurants but did enjoy Johnny Rockets one night. The food at Johnny Rockets was typical diner fare; however, the experience was very enjoyable because of the friendly service of the wait staff team, and their impromptu singing/dancing.
Please don't go by us, as I'm sure most people found the shows entertaining. We went to Saturday Night Fever and walked out after about 20 minutes of bad acting, worse singing, but nice sets. That was enough "entertainment" for us and we decided to pass on the rest of the shows. Some of the "singers" were out by the pool one day with a pretty good band and it reminded us of when Simon Cowell compared failed American Idol performances with "cruise ship singers". It would have been nice to hear the band and have the performers making ice sculptures instead of singing. The one band we found on the first night at Olive or Twist was great!
We went on an RCI excursion, Bandol and Beaches, and we didn't think it was all that great. Our guide was average and the only thing that was interesting at the beach was there happened to be a car show going on, that saved the day. That first stop was the least interesting and overall the biggest disappointment of the cruise.
Our group went on the RCI Nice and St. Paul-de-Vence 4 hour tour and really enjoyed it. Beautiful and interesting, very good tour guide.
We took a private tour through Joe Banana Limo tour of Florence and Countryside. We had 10 people in two cars, our guide was Francesco aided by Matt. We told them what time we wanted to return to the ship when they picked us up, so they could tailor the tour as they saw fit. The drivers were both a lot of fun and knowledgeable. The highlight of the day (of the trip) was the vineyard they took us to for a private tour and a lunch that we will all long remember. Florence was remarkable however the hundreds of street vendors selling the same junk was a minus. We sampled the pizza and gelato but not too much because lunch was next.
Once again we took a private Joe Banana Limo tour, this time it was only 8 of us so we were in one van with our guide Philippe. Once again we told our guide as we left the dock what time we wanted to return to the ship.
Because of all the different sites to see, a tour of Rome is very fast paced and hectic. This is not the fault of the guide, there is just so much to see and so many people trying to see it at the same time. The streets are packed with cars, people, scooters and buses all trying to occupy the same spot at the same time. It was fun to watch the emotional drivers explaining to the other drivers why they should get out of the way but they never seemed to take it personal when you cut them off!
Our guide took us to lunch at Dino and Tony's restaurant. We thought it looked like a good mom and pop that would give us a true flavor of lunch in Rome. We were wrong. Although it did seem to be a favorite place for private tour guides to take their guests. I'm sure Dino and Tony treat them well. Our waiter asked us only what we wanted to drink, rushed to put out many glasses and then brought out only some of what we asked for before they took the glasses away to make room for what they had chosen for our lunch. The food was not flavorful at all and when asked, I told them it was not good. They then quickly cooked up a few pizzas for us at our request but they were pretty bland as well. We had had enough, left most of it and I went out to find Philippe because it was almost time to find our guide for the Vatican. Lunch turned out to be an additional 10 Euros each, definitely the biggest waste of money of the trip.
The Vatican guide was Dino and he was exceptional! After the tour we were returned to Philippe about 4:10, a few of us wanted to take a bathroom break and buy something at the gift shop and were back at the van for our ride back to the ship at about 4:25. At that time Philippe started to tell us that he is not responsible if he can't get us back to the ship on time. "I know my business, this is why I always head back at 4:00". Kind of hard to do if we don't even get back to you until after 4, plus you have to figure in a little time for people to visit the restrooms. Philippe, was not happy after we didn't care for the lunch he picked out for us and when he got worried about getting us back by the time we wanted, he was even more unhappy! I had given him an hour cushion, and I'm glad I did.
Philippe was very knowledgeable, just not the best at time management that day and easy to show his frustration to his guests. I hope he finds a better place to bring his guests for lunch but I doubt he will try.
Overall, we were very happy with Joe Banana tours and recommend them. If you get Philippe as your driver, you should watch the time and not rely on his management expertise. Who knows, you might love the lunch at Dino and Tony's, I'm sure others did.
We took the RCI tour to the Isle of Capri W/O lunch and although it was very crowded I'm glad we went, it was beautiful. Our guide Rosario suggested a place for lunch that was terrific! Rosario was knowledgeable and had a fun personality -- he's very well-suited for this role.
DAY AT SEA:
The day at sea was great! The ship didn't seem to be sold out, there was plenty of opportunities to find deck chairs and we had perfect weather to enjoy them. The day at sea provided as much, or as little, activity as you want. The crew was visible without being pushy about selling drinks or rounding people up for activities. We found room in the fitness center to run and use the work out equipment -- it's great that it's large enough to accommodate many people, even during the day at sea.
In Barcelona we stayed at Apsis Porta Marina Hotel prior to the cruise and Hotel Gran Torre Catalunya after. Both were excellent and I would recommend them.
The night before our cruise we walked from the Porta Marina Hotel to the Port Olympic pier area. The hotel sent us to a restaurant there for dinner -- outside and under a canopy roof. It was a wonderful dinner -- I wish we could remember the name of it. There were several restaurants there, definitely recommend that area for dinner. The waiter was wonderful to us and it got our group of ten off to a tremendous start to our vacation!
After the cruise we stayed a day to tour Barcelona and used the hop on hop off bus. The buses are double decker. When you get on, don't be surprised if the only open seats are downstairs. At the next stop, the attendant gives the downstairs passengers the option to move up to the top deck before new customers get on the bus. So we spent most of our time in the open air, and enjoyed the driving tour of Barcelona (with audio guide). We only got off once to see the Sagrada Familia. Absolutely incredible, highly recommended! Another big highlight of our vacation. We also had dinner and a Flamenco show with Barcelona Day Tours that was excellent and recommended!