We've been very satisfied with our 2 Carnival cruises that we've taken so far. They have been far superior to the lone cruise we did on Norwegian. My wife and I decided to go on another cruise for our 10th wedding anniversary. We did the cruise with Norwegian for our honeymoon, and needless to say, it was a learning experience that nearly soured us from cruising again.
We flew in to Miami on Friday via Delta, and spent the night at the Embassy Suites Miami International Airport. Very nice hotel. Large suite with separate bedroom and living room areas, flat screen TVs, sink, etc. The atrium/courtyard area is an open, 10 story view of the koi pond and buffet area below. We dined at the restaurant in the hotel. Decent food, but lacked any wow factor. Our flight out of Miami, however, was rather abysmal. Since we booked our flights through Expedia, the return flight home got changed from a direct flight to a one-stop (no other direct flights were available.) On top of that, the return flight times changed 6 more times before we flew home. The only benefit was that since it took so long to debark the ship, we didn't miss our flight due to a delay.
This cruise was actually a repeat of our previous cruise with two exceptions - my wife wasn't pregnant this time, and we weren't detoured to Key West, Florida by way of the H1N1 flu outbreak. We previously cruised on the Carnival Valor, starting in Grand Cayman, then Roatan, Belize, and finally Key West. The Liberty is a sister ship to the Valor, so we were fairly familiar with the layout and amenities before we even got on board.
While on board, we relaxed quite a bit, enjoying the trivia, and a couple of the shows. The comedian Edge was the highlight of the shows. My wife was a dancer for 13 years, and thought that the dances were pretty below par this time around. A nice perk (one we didn't partake in) this time around was the fact that room service was complimentary. Our room was always well maintained and clean. One critique I did have, however, was the fact that with the thermostat turned as low as it could go, our room never got cold. I actually had to call maintenance multiple times because the fan actually stopped working. We ate at the early seating in the Golden Olympian dining room. Our waiter was very good, and very personable. The drink server, however, failed to impress me. More than once, it took longer than 30 minutes to get a Diet Coke. The food was excellent, and there were always staples available if the day's specials weren't appealing. The portions, for some of the food, were rather meager, and we ended up ordering 2 or 3 of them to make up for it.
We started out at Cozumel. We decided to book the Amazing Secret River tour.
WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE EXCURSION!!!
If you have the opportunity to take this excursion, do it! You will definitely love this tour. You are ferried to Playa Del Carmen on the mainland, and then transported to the site. It's a bit of a slow, rough ride to the location, due to the fact that the roads cannot be paved above the underground caverns. You'll don a short wetsuit, aqua shoes, and a cave explorer's helmet, and then set off into the caverns. Crystal clear water, unbelievable formations, and great fun! The tour has a paid photographer that takes every one's pictures along the way, since they don't allow you to bring your own camera for your safety. The packages are a little on the expensive side, but the memories are worth it.
Our second stop was in Belize. This was a tendered port. We chose to do the Zip Line and Cave Exploration excursion. Unfortunately, they created a new package that includes cave tubing a couple of months before we sailed, so we didn't know about the option before we got there. The employees all recommend that package as it's the best value for the money. Again, this one is a long commute to the location, with about 15 miles of unpaved, rocky, bumpy roads. They use an old school bus equipped with air conditioning, so at least you're only shaken up by the time you get to the park. The zip lines are nice and straightforward. I'm afraid of heights, and I had no problem with them whatsoever. The biggest traverse was our first one, in which we were probably 75 feet above the forest floor - pretty view. Our tour had 4 traverses in the jungle, and 2 more in the caves.
Beware of the caves. You'll want bug spray for the jungle, and good hiking shoes for the caves. Very cool looking, but occasionally cramped quarters. The ground is often wet, and *VERY* slippery due to moisture mixed with mud. I ended up rolling my ankle pretty badly and was hobbled the rest of my cruise because of it, but still a fun tour. They also provided lunch for us, which was unexpected, as we didn't see it in the excursion description. Bonus.
Our third and fourth stops were both spent scuba diving. These stops were Mahogany Bay (Roatan) and Grand Cayman, respectively. We booked a Certified 2-Tank Dive in Roatan. This was the first time that we had been to the new pier in Roatan - very nicely done! As my wife and I were first time divers in the ocean (we were certified, but haven't been diving anywhere since) we chose to book a private dive master to go with us in Roatan. We were part of a group of 8 divers that dove Overheat Reef and the Green Outhouse. It was definitely worth it to have had a dive master booked separately. We coordinated through the excursions desk when we boarded the ship, but the message was not relayed clearly to the tour group. Make sure if you choose to book a private dive master that the excursion desk understands that you want a private dive master.
The dives in Roatan were definitely fun. Our dive master was trying to point out little things like crabs and shrimp, but we were too busy enjoying the fact that we were actually diving to really be concerned with those little things. If you're an experienced diver, these would likely be rather boring dives.
At Grand Cayman (again, a tendered port), we had planned to do a shore dive and then Stingray City. Unfortunately, our Stingray City tour had to be cancelled due to multiple ships being in port at the same time, causing the tour time to be pushed up, overlapping with the dive. This dive was along the reef just minutes south of the pier. Very nice and relatively shallow by comparison to other dive sites (maybe 50 feet at the deepest.) This would be a great beginners dive, but rather boring (again) for an experienced diver.
Overall, it was a great cruise.
Our debarkation, however, was a catastrophe. Customs decided that they were going to be very picky and delayed everyone getting off the ship. Carnival is good about asking for transportation information, but I highly doubt that it was used well. We were slotted in group 18 to debark. Our scheduled time was between 0815 and 0830. At 1000, we stopped and asked someone when we would be able to debark, as we had a 1300 flight. From what I could tell, rather than organizing the debarkation groups based upon travel information, we were organized by deck and location. Obviously, all the VIPs and tour groups are allowed to debark first, but once the crew was made aware of the customs delays, they should have changed their process and gone by travel requirements before debarkation group.