We stayed for 3 nights in Barcelona at the H10 Universitat Hotel (in a tiny, claustrophobic room which proved to me that I would not enjoy an inside cabin, no matter how little time is spent in the room!) before boarding Liberty of the Seas from 22nd to 29th September 2012 for our first ever cruise, which was 7 nights around the Western Mediterranean. Barcelona is a bustling city and we used the hop-on, hop-off tour bus which allowed us to have an overview of some of the attractions and choose which ones we wanted to spend more time visiting. We had arranged a private transfer from the hotel to the port. Check-in was quick and hassle free and soon we were on board and heading to the Windjammer (renamed over the week by my husband to the FoodCrammer!) for a very pleasant lunch with plenty of variety. By the time we went to our cabin, our luggage had already arrived so we unpacked and headed out for a wander around the ship. The Liberty of the Seas is a really nice cruise ship, once you get your bearings -- thank goodness for interactive maps - very useful! Like another reviewer we were shocked by the bad manners and arrogance of some passengers who displayed no sign of appreciation for courteousness shown to them by cruise staff, and indeed by fellow passengers. On the other hand we came across some absolutely lovely people and they
Our cabin #8226 had a very nice balcony and a very comfortable bed! There was no noise either from the corridor or other cabins so we found it very peaceful. The interactive tv was hit and miss but we were able eventually to see what was happening. The variety of channels is very limited and, of course, very overly dedicated to Royal Caribbean information! Our cabin was kept immaculately clean by Menino for whom nothing was too much trouble and indeed the whole ship is kept very clean and well maintained.
We ate dinner in the main dining room each evening. The food was very good, not spectacular, though slightly repetitive but the service delivered by our waiter Victor and assistant waiter Gabriel was absolutely fantastic -- 2 lovely gentlemen! Breakfast & lunch were mainly taken in the Windjammer and, unlike some other reviewers, we found the overall quality and variety of food to be very good. We did take lunch in the main dining room on the last day of our cruise and it was delicious. We enjoyed breakfast on our balcony one morning -- very nice, but don't order scrambled eggs and expect them to be warm! We had pizzas from Sorrentos and filled croissants, rolls and pastries from the Promenade Cafe and we even gave ourselves an ice cream headache with Sprinkles! We didn't try Chops, Portofinos or Johnny Rockets as we didn't feel any necessity to do so.
The promenade area was very nice to sit and relax after dinner but unfortunately as the Hoof and Claw is one of the smoking areas on the ship, it was not particularly pleasant to be in -- a great pity as the music was usually good there. Olive or Twist and Schooners is where we found ourselves most often and the entertainment in the bars was of a very good standard though I would have preferred if the talented piano player had stuck to playing and singing the songs as they were originally written and not mistreat them with his "comic" improvisations. We did not use the Casino so we can't comment on it. We attended the shows, In the Air, The Ice Spectacular and Saturday Night Fever and thoroughly enjoyed all three. The Argentinian drummers didn't appeal to us so we skipped them. We really enjoyed all the Royal Promenade parades and entertainment on deck was also good - Royal Caribbean certainly makes a good deal of effort to ensure that there's always something going on -- even if it was something a bit cringeworthy and cheesy -- it was all done in good spirits!
We didn't use the Mini Golf, the Rock wall, basketball or the Flowrider - we prefer to spectate so we did spend time watching others having a go!! We found the pools were a bit too cold to really enjoy although the hot tubs were very enjoyable and relaxing. There were plenty of sun loungers although they are very close together -- not easy to negotiate if the free ones are somewhere in the middle of the line!
We didn't venture into the fitness area nor indeed the Spa facilities so we are unable to comment.
We bought a package Internet service in order to keep in touch with family (we have a child with learning difficulties so this is an important issue for us) and it was okay but to be truthful I found all of the packages very over-priced and, unfortunately on a cruise ship you have no choice.
All of our excursions off ship were organised by Royal Caribbean and, although it may have been more expensive than organising things ourselves, it took any pressure off us and that made it worth the money!
Toulon, France -- We didn't take any excursions here. We were just happy to have an lazy morning around the ship and then later travelled into Toulon on the little train. As it was Sunday, many of the shops were closed so there wasn't much to see but there were a few market stalls and the equivalent of an open air car boot sale so we wandered around and then made our way back to the ship.
Villefranche, France -- We decided to head to Monaco and Monte Carlo where we saw the Oceanographic Museum and the statue of Planet -- the monumental baby!! We then visited Monaco Cathedral, burial place of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, with its magnificent altarpiece, high altar, organ loft and the white marble Episcopal throne and walked onwards to the Princes Palace, official residence and headquarters of Prince Albert, the reigning monarch of Monaco. From there we headed to Monte Carlo, host to the famous Grand Prix and the Fairmont Hairpin bend, the Salle Garnier (The Monte Carlo Opera House) and the Casino, which we unfortunately couldn't visit as it was too early! We took a leisurely stroll around the Japanese Gardens. We had already decided that we will travel to Nice as a city break in the future. As we made our way back to the ship, the heavens opened and the French Riviera experienced a huge thunderstorm with flash flooding which lasted about half an hour and then the weather returned to glorious sunshine.
Livorno, Pisa -- We chose to visit Florence and Pisa. We travelled first to Florence where we enjoyed a guided walk through the city, visiting the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral, Bell Tower and Bapistery. At the Piazza della Signoria we saw the copy of the Michaelangelo's David before reaching the Ponte Vecchio. As we headed back to have lunch (disappointingly roast beef -- and not Italian fare!!) we passed a charming little shop dedicated to "Pinocchio" the little wooden puppet.
We headed back to our coach and drove towards Pisa where after a short walk we arrived at the Field of Miracles which contains the Campanile (the leaning tower), the Cathedral and the circular Baptistery -- absolutely magnificent.
Civitavecchia, Rome -- We didn't leave the ship at Rome as we will be travelling there for a 4 day city break in November -- can't wait!!
Naples, Italy -- We chose the Pompeii tour for this port as again, we would like to make a trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast at some later date. I was quite excited by this tour as I remembered studying the story of Pompeii as a child at school and, this may sound terrible, but I was a bit disappointed! Don't get me wrong, the uncovered architecture and frescoes were fascinating but there were two plaster casts of victims in glass cases housed in a fairly dark area which was bull of tourists -- nothing like what my childhood imagination had anticipated! The visit to the Cameo Factory was amazing - we witnessed the expert & delicate craft of cameo making.
Barcelona: We returned to Barcelona on a very rainy Saturday. Thankfully we had chosen a late disembarkation which allowed us a very leisurely breakfast and also gave us the opportunity to have a look around some of the other stateroom categories -- an inside cabin is definitely not for me!! We stayed overnight at the Amister Hotel (a fairly average experience but thankfully in a far larger room than the H10 Universitat!) before returning home.
Liberty of the Seas was a fantastic introduction to cruising and would definitely like to take another cruise. If and when we do, we would be happy to travel again with Royal Caribbean if the itinerary suits. Highly recommended!