The Liberty joins the Conquest Class of Carnival's Fleet of 21 ships. She is the first Carnival ship to cruise the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. From July to October 2005 the Liberty sailed out of Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy offering eight twelve day round trip cruises to Naples, Messina, Venice, and Livorno, Italy; it also sailed east to Dubrovnik, Croatia and west to Cannes, France and Barcelona, Spain. From these ports of call passengers were offered over 80 different excursions to famous destinations such as Capri, Venice, Pisa, Florence and even Monte Carlo, Monaco. This was the Liberty's maiden cruise itinerary, which Carnival augmented with pre or post cruise packages of one to three additional days in Rome. This is very attractive since Rome, the Eternal City, should never be a one day trip! We know this for sure after living in Rome, while on sabbatical in 1981. We found the academic year (9 months) not sufficient for the many beautiful attractions of Bella Roma. Three extra days will at least provide an overview of the grandeur that is Rome.
Significantly, on October 12, 2005 (Columbus Day), the Liberty made its first transatlantic crossing and began its inaugural season in the Caribbean. April 2006 the Liberty will return to the Mediterranean and her European cruise itinerary. This new Carnival itinerary is an exciting one for Americans and the Liberty was designed for it. Its decor celebrates artisans and their wonderful creations.
EMBARKATION -- With Sunday Traffic on I-95 at a minimum, Ft. Lauderdale is only twenty-five minutes from our home in Boca Raton, Florida --- an excellent place to live for "Frequent Floaters." The baggage drop off was peculiar; even though our auto was clearly marked handicapped, we were directed to the left; even though there were right side drop offs. After depositing our luggage, we had to cross over through traffic to get to the entrance. This was harrowing. Once on the other side, we were sent through the VIP entrance with the wheelchair. From here on boarding was a cinch. We were given assistance with the wheelchair after check in, and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. This was our third cruise on a Conquest Class ship in the past five months, so we are very familiar with its layout.
Thus, our first bit of business was to change reservations from the Silver Olympian Dining Room, which was all the way aft, to the centrally located Golden Olympian Dining Room. This would make our dinners more pleasant, since the only wheelchair accessible staterooms with balconies are located all the way forward in the prow of the ship. More on these logistics later. Our reservations were easily adjusted for us by the dining room staff, we went directly to the excellent buffet.
THE SHIP -- The Carnival Liberty, launched the summer of 2005, was christened by Mira Sorvino (Hollywood and Oscar fame). The Liberty was built at the venerable Fincantieri Shipyards in Italy. She is hull number 6,111 and is a beauty. Among the largest cruise ships in the world, she is equipped with 22 lounges and bars; a stunning 1,500 seat Venetian Palace Theater, plus a Seaside Theater for watching films and concerts under the stars (featuring a 270 sq. ft. Jumbo screen and a state of the art 70,000 watt sound system providing concert quality sound), a novelty at sea first seen on the Caribbean Princess. This cruise featured concerts by Tom Jones, Placido Domingo, and James Taylor among others.
The Liberty is 952 ft. long, and 116 ft wide and weighs 110,000 tons. She has 1,487 staterooms of which 60% are ocean view and 60% of these have balconies. Capacity is 2,974 (two passengers per cabin) and a maximum of 3700. Joseph Farcus, Carnival architect, commissioned a group of artists to create pieces which celebrate "great artisans and their works." In a series of 6' X 9' aluminum panels, made specifically for the ship's central staircases, artist Calman Shemi features iron workers, sculptors, glass blowers and jewelry designers at work. Artist Virginia Ferrara created 6' X 15' tropical views of South Florida with palm trees, floral and water allusions, which were placed by the stair landings. Luciano Vistosi's colorful blown glass pieces are illuminated from the rear. Placed near the swimming pools on Deck 9 are the bronze sculptures of Susanna Holt: an Anhinga bird drying its spread out wings in the sun; Sea lions lounging; and a standing Stag and Doe. The Anhinga is very appropriate to South Florida, but we wish it had been much larger like those over the El Rio Canal in our back yard.
Mr. Farcus carries out his homage to true craftsmen by exploring a particular craft in each room on board, which then is combined in the whole ship. The first expression of this is found in the Grand Villa Garden Lobby (9 decks tall) with the black wrought iron around columns and balconies in a "curlicue" pattern design. The same pattern is repeated in the 20 feet in diameter black wrought iron chandelier with torch lights which constantly change colors. The chandelier is best viewed from Deck 5 while the changing colors add ambiance. It is a tour de force of iron working! The potters' world is also displayed here with hundreds of terra cotta medallions and wall pottery jardinieres filled with lavender bougainvillea vines. The extensive use of marble and tile flooring throughout this ship make it easy going for those in wheelchairs.
Deck 0 houses the Medical Center and the tender facilities.
Riviera Deck 1 and Main Deck 2 are all staterooms.
Lobby Deck 3 forward has the beautiful Venetian Palace Theater with two gigantic Harlequin clowns flanking the stage. Decorations include classic Venetian masks worn during carnival season. There are Murano red and gold glass tiled walls and of course, the traditional striped poles where gondolas are moored. Excellent theater, except for those seats behind several columns which contribute to passengers playing "musical chairs" in order to locate seats with a clear view of the stage. Midship are the Information & Excursion Desks, and the Lobby Bar in the Atrium. Next, there are two small Dining Rooms ---- the Persian and Satin Rooms. The Golden Olympian Restaurant is located here with three huge Venetian Murano Crystal Chandeliers with interesting lavender flowers (daffodils?). There are 16 smaller matching chandeliers on each floor of the restaurant. There is a golden balustrade circling the room and a double staircase to Deck 4. Accent lighting above the chandeliers gives a warm red glow to the room, as if it were a red and gold 18th century theater! Fine flatware are showcased in vitrines around the walls. Next, going toward aft, is the galley followed by the Conservatory Atrium (three decks tall) and then the Silver Restaurant, decorated as the Golden, only the colors match the names.
Atlantic Deck 4 forward is the theater, then, toward midship is the Photo Gallery & Studio. Next is the Antiquarian Library only open two hours per day. After which is the Empress Club and the balcony of the Golden Restaurant. Aft are three highly individual rooms The Tapestry, Web and the Cabinet (this last features Cabinetry in the German Biedermeier style) and finally the second level of the Silver Olympic Restaurant.
Promenade Deck 5 forward is the balcony of the theater; midship are the Fashion Boulevard Shops, Formalities and the interesting Sports Bar featuring leather gloves worn in all sorts of sports (the many red leather boxing gloves are great). There is the Origami Sushi Bar (Excellent! Serving daily from 5:30 to 8:30pm). Aft there are three more bars each unique: Hot & Cool Disco, features body art and tattoos on body parts: hands, arms and legs. There is the Paparazzi Wine Bar with a series of Leica M-3 Cameras lenses, like those used by the Paparazzi of the 1950s. The Piano Man Bar has the undulating piano keys around the ceiling of the room and modern white leather chairs. WOW!
Upper Deck 6, Empress Deck 7 and Verandah Deck 8 are all staterooms.
Lido Deck 9 has staterooms forward, then the Stage, Tivoli Pool, and aft Emile's Buffet Restaurant, an excellent Pizzeria (pizza made on order too) & Grille and finally the Versailles Pool and Bar with a sliding dome.
Panorama Deck 10 forward has staterooms and midship the Coney Island Pool and Harry's Club, an upscale restaurant with a menu by the well known French Chef Georges Blanc. There are not enough positive adjectives to describe his contribution to the Liberty's cuisine. In Harry's (named after Harry Winston, jeweler to the rich and famous) neatly displayed in vitrines are dozens of copies of Mr. Winston's highly prized designs. Aft there is the Fish & Chips; away from the crowd, this is a nice area frequented by very few passengers.
Spa Deck 11 forward has some suites and the Spa and Gym; aft is the Sports Deck and the Jogging track.
Sun Deck 12 has the children's areas, the Kid's Pool and Camp Carnival. There is no Deck 13.
Sky Deck 14 has the entrance to the water slide. This is a big ship with many beautiful venues and lots to do.
SERVICE & FOOD -- Naturally, the most important person on board is the Captain because he spearheads the service on board. Captain Marco Nogara (Italy) is a very active and friendly commander. His bearing is one of an excellent host, but also one of authority. He has the appearance of just stepping off the cover of "GQ" Magazine. Hotel Director Guna Chellan (India) is very knowledgeable about the ship and her many amenities; he graciously answered all of our questions. Guest Relations Director Leslie Baland made herself available to all passengers. Her assistant Christine Budaha was a whiz at making our cruise a pleasure. When we just asked of a possibility --- it was done! Fantastic.
We dined the first evening on the main floor of the Golden restaurant with wonderful service from our waiters Dan and Ivan. However, Maitre D' Suresh, in order to accommodate a large family group, requested if he could moved us to the balcony of the Golden. Must be Karma, because we now had a beautiful table for two overlooking the grand staircase and two of the nicest servers: Lady and Lucio.
The dining staff Manager Branimir Plovanic (Croatia) enthusiastically told us about Monsieur Blanc's contributions to the new menus on board, and we certainly approved of the French influence and style. Magnifique! The portions and presentation were much improved. Carnival President & CEO Bob Dickinson has made a special effort to improve the level of cuisine on board, and we feel he has achieved it with the world-renowned Chef Georges Blanc, who has had for many years a three star rating by Michelin. We feel this was a great move since the Carnival Liberty spends her summers in Europe. President Dickinson has also started a new Presidential Wine Club which is for both novices and connoisseurs. It is sort of a Wine of the Month Club aimed at introducing members to various famous and new wines. Vincent believes that Carnival has an excellent wine selection.
The food on board is fresh, delicately seasoned and elegantly presented. Food and service in the main dining rooms and in Emile's Buffet and elsewhere on board is very good. In this review we will give the specifics on Harry's Club, Panorama Deck 10 ($30 per person fee). This is a must do for passengers on the Liberty. We have only seen one other restaurant at sea that was as elegant as this one: The Olympic on Celebrity's Millennium, which had the original wood paneling and wine cellar from the White Star Lines Olympic (sister ship to the doomed Titanic). At Harry's we had a wonderfully special evening: wined and dined and the lovely Hostess Isabella filled us in on the fabulous Harry Winston jewelry featured in the many vitrines and pointed out the gigantic "diamond" light necklace which surrounds the room and displays huge emerald cut "yellow diamonds" as pendants. Beautiful music, delicious food and excellent cuisine, it was just perfect!
There are two menus, a traditional A La Carte that Vincent enjoyed and the special "Degustation Menu" which Mary savored immensely. While the Sommelier Ciprian (Romania) and the excellent waitress Tina served us so elegantly, the eight courses from Georges Blanc's menus just kept coming. This is more of a taster's presentation: small portions of exquisitely prepared delicacies. If this is not your cup of tea, there is always the 24 oz. Porterhouse steak! Having dined in the degustation manner many times in Italy, we know it is for gourmets who really want to taste, not gorge. Here we go, the eight courses are as follows: 1. Chilled Asparagus soup. 2. Shrimp and salmon appetizers. 3. Creamy Lobster Bisque Veloute` with Brandy. 4. Succulent Chilean Sea Bass and olive cake. 5. Campari and Citrus Sorbet to cleanse the palate. 6. Chicken with Fois Gras, oyster and mushroom sauce. 7. Filet Mignon, and Beef Tartar with chilled Bernaise cream. 8. The Grand Finale, Chef's special dessert Chocolate Tartufe with fresh berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries) with sherbet. Vincent's appetizers, sides and veal chop were also perfectly prepared and served. But, every night in the main dining rooms the food and service were also wonderful. The new Georges Blanc contribution to Carnival is a culinary triumph. It brings new food opportunities to Carnival passengers, but still maintains some classic American standbys.
CABIN -- Stateroom #6208 is one of only two wheelchair accessible cabins with a balcony on board. All other wheelchair accessible cabins are obstructed view or inside. It is situated in the prow of the ship; even more forward than the Bridge. From our balcony we looked toward the rear above us to see the Bridge. This was most obvious when checking the Liberty Deck Plan. This cabin is as far from the elevators and ship activities as possible; needless to say it is not physically appropriate for people with limited mobility. Recently, we have cruised on three ships of this class and have decided that in the future the best way for us to cruise on these ships would be in a cabin close to the elevators, near the center, possibly a suite.
This cabin has an automatic door, which is very convenient. Upon entering on the left is a single armoire and straight ahead is the huge bathroom with an oversized shower with safety rails all around. There is a single sink with a mirror, but not enough shelves for toiletries. There is a queen size bed with two night stands. On the right side is a double armoire, a personal safe, refrigerator, TV, and a lighted mirrored vanity/desk with an upholstered stool. There are two coffee tables and an upholstered arm chair. The far wall is glassed with a door that opens onto the minuscule balcony with two chairs and a table and not much room for anything else. Fortunately, Alla our wonderful stewardess removed the table, so that we could more easily utilize the balcony.
The colors were red, orange and gold, the walls were decorated with two brightly colored Shemi paintings of artisans practicing their craft of printing. Alla surprised us with hand made towel animals and wonderful white puff quilts and linens with romantic maps and designs --- very chic! Thank you, Alla.
ENTERTAINMENT -- Cruise Director Brent Mitchell has a busy group. The main show "Wonderful World" on the first formal night was a terrific review of music and dance from around the world. The costumes were sumptuous and the featured singers Adrian Hull and Jassen Allen sparkled. The John Piazza Jr. Big Band sound is full and very enjoyable. During the cruise there were two featured entertainers, who were funny and worthy of mention: Comedienne Carol Hughes as the average house wife, and Jerry Goodspeed a clever ventriloquist. The variety of entertainment was a good mix. The "TODAY" at a glance is a list of events, times and places on a small handy tear out sheet. The "Fun Ship" lived up to its motto.
DEBARKATION -- The procedure was made simple and painless. Friday night, we put our luggage out at 11pm with VIP tags; we were told we could debark whenever we were ready after 8:00am. We had Continental breakfast in our cabin, and at 8:30am we called down to the Guest Relations Desk and a crew member came up to help us with the wheelchair. We were off, collected our luggage, through passport check and customs in less than fifteen minutes. We had an uncomplicated ending to a lovely cruise. PORTS OF CALL Day 1. FT. Lauderdale, FL Sail Away 5:00pm
Day 2. Freeport, Bahamas Arrive 7:00am Depart 3:00pm
Day 3. At sea
Day 4. Grand Cayman Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:30pm
Day 5. Costa Maya, Mexico Port was closed due to high Seas.
Day 6. At sea
Day 7. FT. Lauderdale, FL Disembarkation begins at 8:00am
SUGGESTIONS -- This was our fifth cruise on Carnival ships and every time we have returned we have found improvements. This time the upscale restaurant Harry's Club is definitely a plus in the rating of the ship. We had a wonderful cruise and we'll definitely cruise again on Carnival ships. However, the location of our stateroom was not optimal, since it was the first cabin at the bow, far from the elevators and the center of the ship which is an added problem for those of us with limited mobility. In addition we could not use the balcony much due to exposure to strong wind especially when the ship was in motion. In the future, if we book again on this class ship, it will be in a suite, since the location of wheelchair accessible cabins is inappropriate for us. We feel that Carnival, as well as Costa, have to put some effort in designing appropriate accommodations for disabled passengers in regard to comfort, location and number of wheelchair accessible cabins by emulating those lines, such as Princess and RCI, which offer more user friendly accommodation to the growing number of cruisers with limited mobility. Our next cruise will be on the CostaMediterranea on March 5th, and since this will be our third cruise on her, we know that the only wheelchair accessible cabins on this ship are either inside or obstructed view, thus we have booked a suite. Happy Cruising!