This trip left Miami on June 23, 2012 on the 7 day "exotic eastern caribbean" itinerary. With stops in Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk it was all new to me. This was also my ninth cruise ever. With two previous on Carnival (smaller ships), four on Royal Caribbean (larger and smallest ships), and Disney Wonder. I love to cruise but I haven't gone during peak season since 2000. I took this cruise for four reasons. First because a my friends wanted to go at this time and I had another person who was single with cash to fill the other berth. I also wanted to see what the Fun Ship 2.0 concept was all about (Liberty is the first to roll it out). I haven't been on a large ship in a long time. And lastly I haven't been to any of the ports of call. Otherwise I would have gone on Royal Caribbean.
Starting at arrival at the pier you encounter the first line which took about thirty minutes to check-in our documents and have our passports scanned. We were given a number in green highlight and a boarding card with the number on it. Continued through security to get to the second line which only lasted twenty minutes. At the front of the line we were told to go to a specific counter were the agent had our Sign and Sail card in hand and a deck plan. I thought the process was efficient, but that was the end of it. Now we had to wait for almost an hour to wait for our number to be called to board through the one and only gangway. Guest are funneled through two escalators at opposite ends of the check-in hall to then take the first of many pictures any cruise. Then the two lines meet and cross the gangway to another line on the promenade deck to then take the security picture inside the ship. You are welcomed by a dark, packed, unorganized area with no signs. I had studied the deck plan before arriving so I knew where we had to go.
My cabin (7244) on deck seven port side was roomy with plenty of storage for clothing and luggage. The thermostat works and the A/C is quiet. Lighting is controlled by a switch by the door and by the beds. The nightstands have a lamp bolted to the top center of them. There is storage in the nightstand.
The beds are a bit narrow but very comfortable. I had to pull my bed a little away from the wall so as not to elbow the cabin next door. The room is located in an area where there is a service corridor. On a couple of nights I could hear crew talking and moving things. The room does lack power outlets. There is only one three prong jack by the "desk" makeup mirror, and that's it. The other is in the bathroom by the ceiling. I used a two prong open jack on a three way splitter behind the TV.
The 25 or so inch LCD TV was on the information channel and the services offered are pretty much standard as found on other ships. You can check your account, book an excursion, buy pay-per-view, and check the evenings dinning menu. Channels are limited. CNN, CNN Espanol, ESPN, Boomerang, TNT, and a movie channel are some of the few channels. There is also a view from the bridge cam, Lido deck cam, GPS map, and pay-per-view channels.
An electronic safe is located in a cabinet below the TV. It has a placard on it that says "Do not use Sign and Sail" which makes sense. If someone finds out what cabin you are in, they could get into the safe. I used my expired AAA card and hid it in the room.
The bathroom is roomy with the shower were you can preset your temperature and has a wrap around curtain. Plenty of towels but they were a bit rough. The full size mirror has six glass shelves for storing things. A retractable mirror with regular and magnifying sides is conveniently mounted to the wall. The light switch is located outside the room and you must step up into the bathroom.
The ship is large but it's the same Italian built styling as the older Carnival ships, without the neon. I found it to have low ceilings, narrow corridors, and many dark spaces. I'll review in order of decks starting from the top down. I didn't do everything but did use and went to most of the popular spots, which were usually crowded.
The Serenity areas deck 14 and 12 (it's really deck 13)are nice adults only quiet areas with wide padded hammocks and couches. Two whirlpools at the front of the ship offer a great view of the sea but offers no shade. All pools and whirlpools close at 11pm. The gym and spa on deck 11 are modern with the latest fitness equipment. One of few rooms which is well lit. The steam room and sauna have full glass ocean views which is impressive.
The main deck, Lido deck 9, where the main TV screen is has two new bars (Fun Ship 2.0) opposite each other that take up a lot of the deck space. Put in the beach hairs during the day and you have even less space to get around. Also located on Lido near the main pool is Guy's Burger Joint (Fun Ship 2.0). I tried three of the five burgers on the menu and enjoyed them. Well prepared with tasty thick cut fries and lots of hot toppings and sauces at the toppings bar. I have to agree they are "the best burgers at sea" sorry Johnny Rockets.
On the opposite side of Guy's is the Blue Iguana Cantina (FS 2.0), a Taco and burrito bar with fresh toppings. Didn't try but looked tasty. At the back of the ship is the Lido buffet, pizza, Deli and aft pools. All have long lines during the day and all close early. The pizza is still open 24 hours. And the bar is the last bar to close on the ship. So if last call is called in the club you get a last chance on deck 9 aft.
A tip to get anywhere on the ship quickly, use the cabin corridors on decks 8,7,6 and 2, they run the length of the ship.
Most of the ships activity is either on deck 9 or deck 5 Promenade. The casino, shops, clubs, bars, coffee shop, sushi bar, and upper deck of the theatre are on deck 5. Located by the gift shop is the self-service kiosk. An impressive machine that I used a few times. You can check your balance, break large bills, print you account summary, and deposit cash into your account. That alone saves at least one line at guest services.
Purchases made onboard have a price match guarantee. Bring a flyer or take a picture of a similar product with the price and they will refund the difference. I got a ten dollar refund for a Johnnie Walker four pack sampler when I showed them a picture. If you are going to St. Thomas, browse and get a base price but don't buy anything until you see the prices ashore. You can find it cheaper on the island. I bought a Citizen watch for 50% off, only 40% off onboard.
The DJ's in the clubs and up on deck 9 are the real deal. Professionals with mixing skills and current music made it enjoyable. Also onboard is a spanish music trio. They mostly perform in "The Cabinet Bar" deck 4 but also up on deck 5 by the casino. There was also a duet of piano music on deck 3 lobby which was pleasant to see and hear as you pass by the atrium.
On deck 5 aft in the Victoria Aft Lounge is where you'll find the Punchliner Comedy Club (FS 2.0). Four comedians were presented during the cruise and offered an early family show and three adult only shows afterward. Funny raunchy adult comedy mixed with signature drinks and you'll have a great time. Buy a $10 drink and you get a $5 match play stamp for the casino. But you must arrive early and wait in another line because the seats fill up fast! Every show filled to standing room only. After each show they would kick you out to clean up, if you're lucky and get on the back of the line for the next show you can get a seat, albeit in the back.
I had early dinner at 1830 in the Silver Olympian dinning room deck 3 aft, starboard table 405. Didn't like the location since it was near the doors and had an obstructed view because of the staircase. The food was mediocre but well portioned. Service was also just "OK", not really an interactive crew, just business. The music played in the background got annoying the second night when I noticed it was the same tracks replaying. Not really dinning room music more like elevator muzak, it lacked elegance. I guess my standards are higher. Desserts were great and so was the free espresso. Don't get the Bacon Mac and Cheese, it's too salty and has a mini portion of grilled chicken. The prime rib had to much fat, made it look bigger on the plate.
One failure I have to mention is the failure of Carnival to recognize special occasions. My friend was celebrating his birthday and our waiter had no clue. Not until we mentioned it to him did he go and make a whipped cream topped jell-o dessert with a candle. On Disney and Royal the wait staff would come to me and discreetly confirm an anniversary or birthday to bring the special cake (Disney) or cupcake (RC). I did fail to mention this in my survey I filed, I copied it in at the bottom of this review.
The evening shows in the theatre were great except for the first one which was about international music and dancing. The dancing was good but used sound effects for Tap, Flamenco, and Irish step dancing. The cast were on their last week aboard and replaced midweek with a new cast. The difference was like night and day. The last night is more like a talent show. Guest are auditioned to sing and act like famous signers in a show called Carnival Legends.
Also on deck 3 is the outdoor "exterior deck" on other ships this is the deck that wraps around the ship and is pleasant to go for a walk or run during the day. On Liberty it's a closed off verandah with benches on both sides of the ship that is only accessible by one door.
Two days after arrival I got an e-mail to fill out a survey, this is what I wrote in the additional comments section. Thank you for your time reading this review.
Complaints: What happened to the pen and stationary? The TV channels are very limited compared to other cruise lines. The tender service in half-moon cay is severely limited for the size of ship. I didn't have to get a number and wait to be called on other larger cruise lines. The 45 minutes to get back were worse waiting in the sun. Shore time in Puerto Rico is ridiculous! Please explain why the ship has to leave at 3pm but in Nassau it stays until 6 or 7am! Asked for the Brazilian drink Capirinha and either the bartender didn't know what it was or they did know (Ruben) and said they didn't carry the Cachasa. (Royal serves it). Asked for a Kamikazee as a drink and I got a shot. Asked several crew members about activities that were going to begin shortly and no one knew anything, the response was "I don't know". Ask anyone on Disney and they know what,where, and what time.
Had a headache and had to go to guest services (medical was closed) to BUY aspirin, its free on other lines. Couldn't find the guide to guest services and had to call and wait to get answers. Wanted a sandwich instead of pizza but the window closed at 11pm. Karl the cruise director was the worst of the 9 cruises I've taken. Not impressed with ship layout with low ceilings, narrow corridors, dark spaces. This is still classic Carnival without the neon. The captains "state of the ship" report at noon is useless and a waste of time. NO ONE cares about coordinates, speed, depth and wind direction when they are on vacation! I understood since I am a pilot and mariner but I didn't care because I'm not piloting the ship! Just keep it short and to the point, temperature, forecast, and is the ship going to rock.
The reception for past cruisers is poorly planned, it should be left for the day at sea.
Closing the pools and whirlpools at 11pm is a major failure for me. I like taking a swim late at night instead of or after clubbing. Royal closes at 2am.
Found many drunk 18 year old foreigners. I thought the minimum age the ship followed is 21.
Compliments: Guys Burger Joint is a hit, enjoyed three different burgers there. The DJ's were definitely experienced and entertaining with current music. (not on Royal) The Punchliner comedy club was great. The comics were very funny. The best overall was Happy Cole, his last show at 11:45 was the best of the cruise. The self-service kiosk on board is excellent. I used it several times to check my balance, deposit cash, and break large bills.
In summary, I was disappointed. Booked during peak season on a ship full of kids and teens. I know now to stick to the fall and spring where I always had a great time. This experience is not a deal killer, but Carnival is not my style anymore. I am accustomed to a higher level of service as found on Disney (the best) and Royal Caribbean. I believe that the prepaid gratuities are to blame. You can't expect excellent service when you know you are going to get paid a fixed amount. There is no incentive to go above and beyond.
I will recommend Carnival only to first timers.