BACKGROUND: I am a 43 year old married woman on my fifth cruise. I usually go with friends, but this time I brought my DH on his first cruise. I can usually be found in a deck chair reading a book by day and then eating & having a few adult beverages by night! Since it was DH's first cruise, I decided to go on a 5 night to "test the waters" so to speak. I have cruised on RCC's Navigator, Radiance & Oasis previously, so I thought we'd try the Liberty. (BTW: Oasis is my favorite!) Liberty is very nice & clean, and the staff is excellent.
BOARDING: We arrived in FLL the night before & stayed at the Double Tree Bahia Mar on A1A. We got to the cruise port at 10:45 AM and were happily aboard by 11:30. Since terminal 25 is on a cul-de-sac, the drop off location is very chaotic early in the day. People are still getting off the ship and waiting for transport as people are arriving; however, once we gave our bags to the porter & headed inside the terminal, it was smooth going.
Once on the ship, we headed to the Promenade Cafe rather than the Windjammer to avoid the crowds. We then toured the ship and had a cocktail while we waited for our room to be ready. 2 bags were delivered to our stateroom at 3 PM and the last one around 6. We were a bit concerned for a while as I have never waited that long for baggage, but since it was so chaotic at drop off, it's no wonder! Muster was a breeze. We sat in the dining room for about 20-25 minutes and then we were on our way.
INTERIOR STATEROOM 9665: I do not recommend this room. It was my 5th cruise & this was the noisiest room ever. (I've stayed in a junior suite, a balcony room, and then 2 interior rooms. They are usually fine & I love sleeping in the dark room!) It was an adjoining room (also a first), and the adjoining door was unlocked when we arrived. We could not get it locked until around 6:30 that night. We locked up our valuables in the safe, but we could hear the couple in the next room at times throughout the cruise. Also, this room is located next to the very loud & squeaky staff elevator. Not great for the early morning snoozing!
FOOD: We did My Time Dining and ate in the MDR on the first and last night only. (It was fine. Yeah, the usual "fine.") Prime rib on night one & braised lamb shank on the last. On nights 2 & 4, we ate at Chops. It was excellent! Great food and great service. The food is actually cooked to order, so it's hot and fresh. Over the two nights we had the crab cake appetizer, onion soup, a petite filet, veal chop, & the short rib. All were excellent! The "not-so-traditional Caesar salad" was a bit strange because none of the romaine was chopped up, but it was tasty. Dessert one night was a crÃ¨me brule. Deelish! We ate at Portofino on night 3, and that was my favorite! The Carpacio was awesome, Caesar salad was delicious and the veal saltimbocca with mushroom risotto was the best!! So worth the $20 up charge! The tiramisu and petit fours for dessert were wonderful. I highly recommend both of these dining options. Such a nice change to the MDR. (BTW: these places are all you can eat for that up charge...excluding alcohol & cappuccino.) I am not a fan of the Windjammer...which I would rename the People-jammer. Blah food in a frenetic setting...not a fan. Ate there once for breakfast (had eggs cooked to order) and twice for lunch (hot dogs one day & stir fry the next). For all other breakfasts, we had room service breakfast. No charge, no lines, no people. We selected our delivery time and it was spot on each day. We ate at Johnny Rockets for lunch once (the Original Burger, fries & onion rings) and it was also worth the $4.95 up charge.
I will say that they really need some more pool-side/day-time dining options. Aside from the bowls of apples & oranges available in the Solarium and the self-serve ice cream by the main pool, there was nowhere to eat in a wet bathing suit! And, once you dry off, it's the Promenade Cafe (pizza & mini sandwiches that were the same all cruise), Sorento's (more pizza), or the Windjammer (which is just not good).
Also, while we did enjoy our deck time, the pools are chilly and only one towel station was open all cruise which led to a very long line to exchange your wet towels.
PORTS: After reading so many reviews, we decided to stay on the boat in Belize. And based on our conversations with those who ventured forth, I think we made a good choice. It's a really long tender ride and it was so choppy, we heard that the water was blowing over the bow! However, life on the ship was so peaceful; we loved it! In Cozumel we went to Nachi Cochem, an all-inclusive beach club. $50 each for all you can eat & drink. You get your own little tiki hut and chairs. There's a pool & hot tub as well as the ocean. Very relaxing.
ENTERTAINMENT: We are not show people, so no reports there, but I can say that there are only a couple of smoke-free bars on board. One is Olive or Twist (Viking Crown Lounge deck 14). This bar had the best venue with the best band, but it was almost the best kept secret. Only one or two elevators go all the way up there, and I swear people just don't know it exists! We were able to watch the captain maneuver between the buoys and reefs from there on our departure from Belize (which takes two hours of navigation to get to open water). We caught a great sunset from there on our way out of Cozumel & the rock n roll band was great! Good fun. Bolero's was packed each night, and looked like fun, but it was too smoky for me. The English pub also allows smoking, and while you can sit out on the promenade away from it, the singer wasn't that great so we didn't stay. Schooner bar had a good crowd and we went there a couple times, but since it is attached to the casino, it's also quite smoky. We were aboard for the NFL Wild Card weekend, and it was great fun to watch the playoff games on the big screen poolside on deck 11. We also watched a couple down at the On Air club which is also smoke free.
I also finally discovered Vintages wine bar on this cruise. Loved it! You can try some really great wines (that are not usually served by the glass). With the simple swipe of your Sea Pass card, you can have one ounce, 3 ounces, or a glass. They also serve nice little antipasto tapas with the wine. I wish more bars on the ship did this. It's nice to have a snack & a glass of wine before dinner.
Overall, our dining & entertainment was excellent on this ship. The Solarium was serene, the weather was great. The staff was amazing and we had a great time. I may even be able to convince DH to join me on a future cruise! However...
DEBARKATION: Was a nightmare!! Worst one ever! The reviews I read said this as well, and they were right indeed!! My advice? Get up at the crack of dawn and carry your own luggage off as soon as they start letting you!! Take the elevator directly to deck 1. If you are later, hop an elevator heading up so that you can then fit in one that is heading down. Head right down to deck 1 and then find your happy place as you wait in the world's longest immigration line ever! We left our cabin at 9 AM carrying our own bags. There was no way to get an elevator down (they were all full to capacity), so we rode one all the way up and stayed in it all the way down to deck 1. We were off the boat at 9:20, and I thought, hot dog! We did it. Wrong. We didn't clear customs until 10:45 AM. It is a long, winding line that is outside next to all the beeping fork lifts and the smell of diesel. It was an awful ending to an otherwise pleasant cruise. I will never again take a ship that leaves from terminal 25.