My experience on the Carnival Liberty seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise was very good as follows:
PREPARATION & EMBARKATION: We flew to Miami a day ahead, took the tri-rail north and stayed at a less-expensive hotel. The next day we again took the tri-rail south to the airport station where we got a cab to the port, arriving a little later than we usually do, at about 1:30. The lines were long, but moved quickly. Our cabin was ready when we came aboard. We prefer to wheel our own luggage onto the ship, avoiding porter tips and possible loss. Sadly, I've seen cases of lost luggage on several cruises; that would ruin things for me and since we have small rolling suitcases and boarding bags, it's a cinch to roll them on ourselves.
BALCONY: This was my fifth cruise, and my first balcony cabin. I'm 58 years old and traveled with my husband, along with my sister and her husband (in the room beside us). Cabin 6276 and 6274 were not adjoining cabins, but the balcony divider could be folded away making a much larger space for the four of us to share. Having a balcony really changed the cruise for me. For example, instead of being elbow-to-elbow during the sail-away party, we were sitting on our balcony enjoying bon voyage canapes. For us, the balcony slowed things down and put us apart from the raucous music, dancing, etc. going on above us. Sometimes I did feel that I was missing something by not being part of that melee...but not much and not often.
REST OF THE ROOM: Our room was spacious and comfortable, with plenty of closet space and other storage. Our room steward, Ernesto, gave perfect service, that is, he was nearly invisible. It felt as if some good fairy visited our room, making the bed, refilling the ice, exchanging towels, and making towel critters. The bed was extremely comfortable and I slept well every night.
THE SHIP: The ship is beautiful, clean, and well-cared for. The decor is dark and rich with lots of metallic gold and silver, especially in the dining rooms which are way over the top, decor-wise, but still impressive. There were sufficient deck chairs every time I was on top and the pools (two of them) were not inundated. The general age on this particular cruise seemed to be a little older crowd (possibly because school was still in). The ship was easy to navigate, but it might because I have twice sailed on another Carnival ship almost identical in deck plan. I really enjoyed the Serenity area. One evening, my husband and I got up in the wee hours and snagged one of those huge papasan chairs in the Serenity area and snoozed and watched the dawn.
DINING ROOM: We always eat as many meals in the dining room as possible. This allows me to make good, more healthy choices. It's very easy to overeat on a cruise (I always do), but making sound choices keeps me from jacking my blood sugar up so high (I'm diabetic). We chose anytime-dining which put us in the Golden Olympian dining room. The comedy brunch was held in the Silver Olympian dining room, so we got to experience that, too. The food in the dining room was excellent. I don't remember a single dish that wasn't delicious. The four of us enjoyed the time laughing and re-visiting our day's activities and then enjoying amazing food.
BUFFETS and other FREE VENUES: We ate a few meals at the buffet and found it very good. I personally don't like trying to hold a plate and reach the food, etc., but it was certainly acceptable and much higher quality offerings than the local all-you-can-eat restaurant. I do tend to overeat more in these venues. My husband really liked the Guy Fieri Burger Joint and ate there several times. I tried it once and it was great. We also tried the Wok, which was entirely acceptable and the Fish and Chips. The line at the Fish and Chips was lengthy and the food was a little greasy, but I feel that's to be expected of fried food. My husband thought it was great.
PUNCHLINE BRUNCH: This was fun, with a really wacky menu -- french toast coated with cereal, mac'n'cheese with chicken or steak, and other fun options on this smaller menu. We were able to redeem a drink coupon here that Carnival sent to us, I suppose, in lieu of the VIFP club party which used to be offered to all former Carnival cruisers. Perhaps the higher-ups in the VIFP hierarchy are still offered a cocktail party, but we enjoyed our drinks. The coupon could be redeemed for just about any cocktail, soda, or premium coffee beverages.
CHEF'S TABLE: My husband and I sprung for the $75/each Chef's Table and it was one of the highlights of our cruise. We got to meet the executive Chef, tour the galley, and then enjoy a 7-course special meal with bottomless wine glasses. We also received a photo (taken during the meal and presented at the end) AND the recipe for Chocolate Melting Cake, Carnival's signature rich and gooey dessert. I recouped some of the costs of the cruise by selling this to my brother-in-law -- no, I'm kidding about that part, but it was really cool to get this as a little benefit. I would definitely do this again and count it as an "onboard excursion."
ROCKY SEAS: This was the first time that I've experienced really choppy seas. Really choppy. The dance revue was cancelled one evening because it was just too rough for them to dance safely. Actually, it was switched with another night, so we didn't miss anything. The crew made many accommodations to satisfy passengers even though the ship was really rocking and rolling. We learned during our Chef's Table experience that even some of the newer crew members were ill and had to be excused from duty. The men in our party didn't suffer; my sister and I were slightly nauseous, but I found that a Bonamine tablet took care of that almost immediately and allowed me to fully enjoy time on the ship. We heard that many were unable to visit the dining room and the Chef made special arrangements to assist those who were unable to enjoy special meals (the lobster!) which was served on one of those rocky evenings.
ENTERTAINMENT: We visited the theater several evenings and enjoyed the productions, but I admit that I was winding down during that time and had trouble keeping my eyes open. I always admire those with dancing and singing talent, especially with the challenge of a moving ship and I thought they did an amazing job. There were several comedians and I heard a bit from them before the dance production and during the Punchline buffet. I didn't snort with laughter, but I smiled often and generally enjoyed their efforts.
MEETING OTHER CRUISE CRITIC MEMBERS: We missed the meet'n'greet, but caught up with another roll call member (actually she caught up with us) during the cruise. We put out 50 magnets (stuck them to the door/doorjamb) which were all gone before the last sea day.
DISEMBARKATION: This was smooth and uneventful. We arrived back in Miami on time. We wheeled our own luggage off and waited in line for a cab to take us back to the airport.
WRAP-UP: Before my first cruise, a gal I met online told me that a cruise is what you make it, and I've found this is so true. The Liberty offers tremendous opportunities to experience a wonderful vacation even when seas are rocky, excursions are cancelled, or other passengers or even staff drop the ball. I encourage others to plan ahead, decide even before you step foot on the ship to choose to have a good time, be flexible, and avoid letting minor disappointments unseat your attitude. Happy cruising!