I am a first-time cruiser and had heard mixed reviews about Carnival, but decided to try it myself anyways. I am a good-natured person who is not hard to please and generally has a good time wherever I go. I had fun on the Carnival Liberty, but it was more because I made it fun with the person I was with, rather than being overly impressed by the ship.
Embarkation: We had never been on a cruise so we had no idea how embarkation worked, but it was very easy. A lot of other reviews said it took forever, but that wasn't the case with the Carnival Liberty when I went 10/20-10/27. We were on the ship in no time and didn't have to wait in many lines, though we did get there early. I don't know how it was for people who got on later.
Staff: The staff was SO friendly and really left an impression on me as a first-time cruiser. Our steward especially really made us feel welcome and always anticipated any needs we had. We liked Jacques, our cruise director, and actually enjoyed when he would come over the PA, though he was very repetitive. I understand he has to be though because people don't listen.
Cleanliness: Everything was impeccably clean and I always saw employees cleaning hand rails, elevators, etc.
Guy's Burger Joint: Best food on the ship. Quick service. Awesome burger.
Comedy: The punchliner comedy show we went to was hilarious, but the space wasn't big enough to accommodate all the people that wanted to watch. Due to Hurricane Sandy stirring up rough waters we had to skip Grand Cayman and so we were unable to pick up the last couple night's comedians, which was a bummer.
Excursions: The excursions we booked were definitely fun, though expensive. We did an all-inclusive beach trip in Cozumel and had a blast. Because of the weather we couldn't kayak and the water wasn't as pretty as it normally is. The sun was shining and it was beautiful, but the waters were a little rough. We didn't do an excursion in Belize, though next time I think we will. We did our own city tour and it was just pretty poverty stricken. In Roatan, we were supposed to scuba, but it was cancelled due to low visibility. Instead we switched to snorkeling. It was a lot of fun. The water was great. Clear and blue. We rebooked scuba for Grand Cayman. See below.
Passengers: I think because Carnival is affordable it attracts some real low-grade, mannerless people. The first day we embarked we were sent to Emile's on the Lido for buffet lunch and people were acting like they had never been fed before. People were cutting, pushing, and being all around rude. I thought that maybe everyone was just hungry from the journey and that it would get better later in the cruise. I was wrong. This is how it was every day at the buffet lunches and dinners. I was appalled by the rudeness of people and their desperation to get mediocre food. It also seems they have no etiquette in getting on and off elevators or moving through doorways. People barge into you on the elevator when you are trying to exit. It is common sense for people to exit the elevator before people enter, but the passengers on board the Liberty couldn't grasp that concept. Also, I am a lesbian and I have NEVER been stared at and talked about so much in my life. Definitely made things really uncomfortable for my partner and me. I felt like a leper.
Food: I was expecting decent food aboard a cruise ship, but I was really disappointed with the food aboard the Carnival Liberty. I was thinking that it was just the buffet at first and understood that, but the restaurant dining was mediocre at best as well. The food was flavorless. Every dish tasted the same. Chile's sirloin is better than the Filet Mignon on board. And apparently the chef's can't figure out how to cook a steak to order. I ordered mine medium and it was more medium rare. My partner ordered her's medium as well and hers was completely rare. Even the waitress saw it and was like, "I am very sorry that's not medium at all." By then end of the cruise, we were just avoiding the dining room at all costs.
Hurricane: Out of the ship's control, of course, and I do not fault Carnival for it. However, we had to miss a whole port, which was a major bummer. I understand this is pretty common in cruise travel. Still doesn't lessen the disappointment of not being able to go to Grand Cayman and scuba. Our scuba excursion had been cancelled the day before in Roatan due to "weather" and so we rebooked in Grand Cayman. We couldn't even leave the boat in Grand Cayman due to "rough" waters. The tenders were already lined up when the captain said we would just be heading back to Miami. I feel like Carnival should have given us a free drink credit or something for having to miss the last and best port. But they don't do that.
Overall, though I have no previous experience to compare it to, I would say the cruise was average. Many of my friends and family are avid cruisers and it didn't sound like the cruises they had been on. I think next time I will choose a different cruise line to try it out before saying I will never cruise Carnival again. I don't think I will choose Carnival Liberty again. I want to see the clientele on different cruise lines before I say I will only do lgbt cruises. I definitely felt the homophobia and stigma aboard the Liberty. But it could have been a one time thing. We did meet a couple of friendly people. But for the most part, people just wanted to stare.