When I say our Honeymoon was "made possible" by CruiseCritic, I mean from beginning to end CruiseCritic was there for us and surpassed our expectations for our Honeymoon in every way! From selecting our cruise to booking shore excursions with fellow cruise critics, CruiseCritic took our Honeymoon to unimaginable heights!! And most importantly we made life-long friends on the boards thanks to the roll-call (shouts out to Madonnafan1, Saramac, Ryebread, and the whole CC crew! Much love!)
OUR CRUISE CRITIC EXPERIENCE 5+++/5
We weren't taking any chances with our Honeymoon and we started with these all important cruise reviews. We selected Royal Caribbean and the Liberty of the Seas based on hours of reading reviews and researching Western-Med cruises (while avoiding potential honeymoon disasters with MCI and Costa). We booked with our favorite Agent, who got us a room upgrade to Superior Balcony, and surprised us with a Newlyweds Package (our stateroom was decorated from top to bottom with Congrats decorations) which we found out our Agent actually paid $160 for!
After booking the cruise I forgot about CruiseCritic for a while and started looking at shore excursions with Royal. $250 or $350 per person for the Rome tours made me look elsewhere very quickly, and before I knew it I had a 100 Tabs open looking at TripAdvisor's top tours for each port. Frustrated by $450-$600 tours for 2, I went back on Cruise Critic for advice.
It was then on the CruiseCritic boards that I discovered the Roll Calls... BEST DISCOVERY EVER! The best group of cruisers we could have ever met, many of whom were very experienced and full of incredible advice. Of course the best part was being able to hook up with other couples to share on private tours! We really REALLY lucked out with two great Hosts who went over and beyond the call of duty organizing our France and Italy tours, Madonnafan1 and SaraMac you guys are the best thank you! (more on the tours later)
The Royal Caribbean embarkation was the best I've ever experienced, no long line ups and a very helpful customer service rep had us on our way. This is the opposite that we were expecting as this is the second largest ship in the world, but line ups were almost never a problem. We arrived at around 11, were on board by noon, and our room was ready at 1pm. Just enough time to walk around and discover the ship before heading up to the Windjammer!
When all cruise lines are so top notch with dining, it is hard to compare Caviar to Caviar. However on cruise critic we had heard the main dining room food quality left something to be desired, so much so that Royal had replaced the menus and made a press release to that effect. However I must say the choices on the main dining room menu left much to be desired.... Pork Chops, Chicken, Singapore Noodles ("in Rome! excuse me??" says my wife), Roast Beef and low quality grilled steaks are not items we would order on a cruise. It seemed as though the reason for this lower quality was to up sell customers to the specialty dining restaurants. I still got my escargot and Lamb, but many dishes were substandard for a top notch cruise. I'm sorry to say our best meals were off the ship, and that has never been the case before. The windjammer buffet was good for breakfast and for a rushed dinner, and we never tried the specialty restaurants.
Public Rooms: 5/5
The Liberty is a beautiful ship and her interior makes you forget you are at sea it is THAT huge. The Royal Promenade needs to be experienced. It is massive! We would always hit up Sorrento's for late night pizza, seafood salads, fruit salads, etc. My wife also enjoyed the Cupcake Cupboard and I disagree with the previous CC review, the cupcakes were not stale, perhaps you had them later in the day/night? The Cafe promenade was our meet up place each morning and we always went by there for tea and hot chocolate at all hours.
We saw all the main stage shows, Saturday Night Fever, Up in the Air, as well as Encore! which was the ice dancing show on the Liberty's ice rink. We enjoyed these acts much more than we've seen before on Princess ships, which tend to be excuses to play popular songs with no story line. The Royal Caribbean performers were all top notch with some great singers and we particularly enjoyed Up In The Air (trapeze artists that were so great!) and the Argentineans the last night who had us up on stage to have roses whipped out of my wife's hands and my mouth!
Finally, David (down in the Schooner lounge) was the BEST lounge pianist I've ever met. As we walked the lounge he instantly changed his songs to match us, he could tell we were honeymooners so he played us love songs while talking to us and asking us questions. We enjoyed the experience so much we grabbed some seats and enjoyed David's music all evening. When he finished I told him I am a Jazz Piano player, and he said "come by sometime this week and we'll play 4 hands!". On the last night we went with a number of our great CC friends to see David. He let me have the whole piano to wail away on before he joined me for a fantastic rendition of "Going to Kansas City" and let me grab some very enjoyable solos! I've always wanted to play piano on a cruise ship, so a dream come true! To say the least it was a cherry on top of an already amazing Honeymoon!
We insisted on a Balcony as we enjoyed our last cruise's complimentary balcony so much (thanks to our amazing travel agent!), and we were not disappointed. We enjoyed the privacy of our own balcony with some great views, the room inside was spacious which was well appointed with some great closet space, and a sizeable head (bathroom) with the largest shower i've seen on a boat.
I hate to take a point off as we had some incredible service, unfortunately there were many times when we would get the bare minimum scripted customer service that was so forced it was uncomfortable. We got this from our main dining room waiter and a number of waiters at breakfast. Our stateroom attendant John was great although very nervous at the beginning, but warmed right up through the week. We loved his towel creations which he integrated with our Newly Weds decorations, so cute! He also talked to us like a person and not a scripted robot, so we tipped him the most! Finally our assistant waiter was top notch and we actually preferred him to our main waiter! He was much more natural and friendly, and was a rockstar pouring my coffee seconds before I'd think about ordering it.
Fitness & Recreation 5/5
We got a phenomenal first experience with the Hot Tubs hanging off the side of the 11th deck during the sail away from Barcelona. We managed to get many hot tubs in, including a great hot tub/pool session after our last tour with our amazing CC group. We didn't experience the Fitness rooms as we were exhausted from our excursions. However my wife had 2 GREAT experiences at the Spa, a facial and a pedicure.
Shore Excursions: 5/5
We got a Royal Caribbean excursion our first day (port: Toulon) to Marseilles, and although it was a larger group than our private tours after, our tour guide was great and we had a fantastic time soaking in Marseilles. Of course in comparison to our private tour the next day with Sylvie, well there was no comparison.
Cannes/Nice/Monte Carlo: Our first private tour was organized by Madonnafan1 on the Cruise Critic Roll Call, and was with Sylvie Di Cristo from Alpes Guides Interprètes, who was the best guide my wife and I have ever experienced. Sylvie was the best host of the French Riviera that we could have ever asked for. She was a sophisticated modern day Sophia Loren, she knew the area like the back of her hand, and told us details and history that showed such a level of mastery that we were honestly jaded by the experience every other day. Unlike all the other tours that made you choose 2 of the 3 cities, we got to experience Cannes, Nice AND Monte Carlo, highlights including Cannes Film Festival HQ, Ratatouille for my wife in the Nice market, and a top notch tour of downtown Monte Carlo including inside the Casino (smaller than I expected considering it was the only Casino in Europe for 20 years, only 10 card tables and maybe 16 slot machines!)
CC members please look up Sylvie for the French Riviera, you won't be dissapointed! Her details below!
Sylvie Di Cristo
Alpes Guides Interprètes
NEW WEBSITE: www.FrenchRivieraGuides.net
Our next 3 tours in Italy were organized by SaraMac, who is a powerhouse organizer and got 54 passengers on 3 days of tours with Joe Banana Limo Services in Florence/Pisa, Rome and Pompeii/Almafi Coast/Sorrento. Our first day in Pisa/Florence was great thanks to SaraMac taking us to a 2nd generation 32 year old Italian restaurant called Il Profeta (meaning it's perfect, which it was!) that literally had a rose sauce that brought a tear to my wife's eye! No joke! This was the highlight of my wife's trip and we will always have SaraMac to thank for this unforgettable meal! Unfortunately the tour guide on this first day was the weakest of our trip, and there were quite a few awkward silent moments rather than helpful tour guide info.
Our second Italy day in Rome was great, and we got in all the sights we were hoping for despite some protests in Rome that day which we encountered at the Pantheon. We were given only 30 minutes for the Coliseum and the driver drilled into our heads that we would not make it inside, but I was having none of that! My wife and I bargained with a tour guide who brought us to these guides on Segways that gave us City Passes for 22 Euros each which included a line bypass for Coliseum and 2 other sites (which we didn't have time for), so we got 20 minutes in the Coliseum including the 2nd floor! Our driver was in shock when I told him we got up to the second floor, as he told us the lines were 1hr +. We had a great guided tour through the Vatican Museum, although the crowds were horrendous from 12 cruise ships being in port that day.
Our last day in Pompeii, the Almafi Coast, and Sorrento was fantastic and we loved our guide. He gave us a Thesis at the beginning of the tour: life 2000 years ago in Pompeii is very similar to life today. Throughout the tour he continued this Thesis, and then concluded with this Thesis at the end. From all the tours I heard about I think we had the best take on Pompeii. Although the road through the Almafi coast was beautiful, it also gave me motion sickness but we had enough breaks that I powered through. Sorrento was a perfect ending to our shore excursions and we enjoyed a real authentic Italian thin crust Margarita pizza, homemade Gnocchi and another amazing pasta dish at La Basilica Ristorante Pizzeria, followed by an authentic Sorrento Limoncello. We then enjoyed a Trip Advisor recommended Gelato at Sorrento Che Delizia, which was so close to the real thing (that we had just drank) that it felt like I was getting drunk off the Gelato! Joe Banana overall was 5/5 as well, however the tour with Sylvie was still unsurpassable and one we will never forget!
Value for Money: 5/5
Considering that this was a Western Med cruise, we were very satisfied with the cost particularly the savings we experienced thanks to our tours organized on the CC boards, which made our trip 1000x more fulfilling and enjoyable! I feel sorry for those having to pay $250+ for Florence and Rome shore excursions with Royal, there is a better way!!
On the whole our honeymoon was a massive success and it was thanks to Cruise Critic giving the Liberty a 94%, and then helping us get the most out of each port! Royal Caribbean is definitely top notch and we would sail Royal again, although we are interested in Celebrity which is Royal's upgrade for our next cruise. I will say that Royal Caribbean is definitely at an advantage over the Carnival group ships, and I hope it will always remain independent and maintain its high standards!
Overall it was the best Honeymoon we could have asked for, and we have the Cruise Critic community to thank for that!! Thanks so much CruiseCritic for making our Honeymoon better than we could have ever imagined!!