First of all, the answer is yes. We did have that much fun again, on a truly memorable week at sea. Now for the details.
EMBARKATION: Smooth as ever-Carnival really has this down to a science. Despite their pleas to not show up to the terminal before 1pm or so, we had a very early flight into Ft Lauderdale, and didn't feel like killing time on our own, loaded down with luggage. So we came on down to the port about 11-11:30, using the SAS shuttle (which was simple and reasonably priced, check them out online). We instantly had our luggage taken and started the various lines. Within an hour we were finished with it all, and relaxing on the Liberty. A thunderstorm came up soon after we boarded, which was perfect, because we enjoyed watching it from inside! By the time we sailed away, the sun was out and rain wasn't to be a factor for the rest of the week.Our bags showed up at our room before 3pm.
THE SHIP: We sailed on the Glory a year ago, and despite the Liberty being a few years newer, and the recipient of the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrade, it was very similar. The layout and decor were instantly familiar, and we had no problem finding our way around. Our room was just down the hall from the gym and spa, on the 11th deck, a standard balcony room. Plenty of space and storage, and spotlessly clean. This high and this far forward on the ship, you could definitely feel the motion of the ocean, but for us that's fun. Not an area I would pick if you have any tendencies toward seasickness. Our room steward Made (Moddy) was, as usual, friendly and ever-present, and always greeted us by name. Please don't skimp on the tips, these folks work hard. The public areas were clean also, and the usual mix of loud party atmosphere and out of the way nooks and corners. You can truly find your level of fun. Some of our favorites were air hockey in the arcade, and Dive-In movies by the Lido pool most evenings. Hey, we're traveling with a 9 year old, we're not exactly in party mode. We brought our own ping pong paddles and balls so we could play at night, and the miniature golf was fun as usual (though incredibly windy).
THE PORTS: Half Moon Cay - Almost unbelievably clear turquoise water, and the most powdery white sand of the week. Beautiful, breathtaking. Go a litte further down the beach and you'll leave the loud crowds behind, and can almost feel like you have it to yourself. No snorkeling or sealife to speak of, this is just like a big, mindblowing warm bathtub. Carnival's free, provided buffet lunch? Just OK, but what the heck? I'm fairly easy to please. The tenders were quick in the morning but boy, do some long, hot lines form for them in the afternoon to return to ship. St. Thomas - Our favorite of the 4 ports. We were determined to do some snorkeling, and my online research had led me to choose Coki Beach. We walked past the Carnival excursions meeting places, found the taxis, and our driver asked us what we were interested in. After hearing snorkeling, he said, "you must go to Secret Harbor!" So we rolled with it and said OK. Which was a great decision, because Secret Harbor is incredible! I hesitate to include it cause I want to keep it for ourselves, but it's about a 20 minute cab ride from the pier, a beautiful crescent of beach with swaying palms. There is an attached restaurant for lunch, and a super-friendly dive shop that rents snorkeling gear and directs you to the best places. A calm, protected cove, no problem with current or waves. Not to mention the photogenic iguanas. We saw maybe 50 people total, and only a few with blue Carnival towels. This is truly a hidden gem (as far as the cruise crowds go). San Juan - Very fun in a more traditional, sightseeing-type way. We walked all day, explored El Morro fort (beautiful and a real bargain to tour at $3 pp), walked Old San Juan, and took tons of pictures of the colorful buildings and narrow streets. My son fell in love with all the stray cats and filled his SD card with pictures of them. And if you take one thing away from this review, please, PLEASE go to Cafe Puerto Rico for lunch and order the Mofongo Relleno. They're in Old San Juan, near the Cristobal fort (they have a website). I'm still thinking about this dish a month later. Grand Turk - Split up from the family here, and went scuba diving with Grand Turk Dive Co. A great outfit, laidback and professional. 2 great dives, lots of sealife, and the thrill of the wall. Floating off the top, looking down, and knowing that it's 7000 feet to the ocean floor. That's a hard feeling to describe.
THE FOOD: Plentiful and varied. Something for everyone. Guy's Burger Joint didn't disappoint, really delicious cheeseburgers. I never even got around to trying the specialty burgers cause as soon as I got to the grill my eyes would glaze over and I would grab the first cheeseburger they handed me! The Blue Iguana was also tasty. Great spicy breakfast burritos. As far as the main dining rooms, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Generally good, with a few standout dishes, and a few disappointments. Some highlights were the lasagna bolognese, the sweet and sour shrimp, and the tiramisu. And for us, the dancing in the dining room never gets old. Cheesy I know, but so what? If you can handle the glacial pace of the line then the Mongolian Wok was good, and the 24 hour pizza was actually delicious. The perfect food to chow down on during a movie by the pool. We did breakfast all three ways: in the main dining room, through the buffet line, and by room service. And it was all good; it's breakfast for God's sake, hard to screw up. And we might have eaten just a few ice cream cones during the week (that means almost every time we passed the machine).
ENTERTAINMENT: We liked the Punchliner Comedy Club but have only gotten to the earlier, family-friendly showings cause of our son. But it's still live comedy, very fun if you're ready for a good time. The main show we went to in the Venetian Palace was Edge presents The Evolution, a hybrid comedy/juggling act that I thought was hilarious. I've already said how much we like movies by the pool under the stars. I can't really comment on the bars or casino cause that wasn't the type cruise we had. Not that I'm against it! Did quite a few trivia contests, and played bingo (and lost) twice. And, strangely enogh, a Q&A session with the cruise director and assistant cruise director turned out to be incredibly interesting. They were funny and surprisingly honest, and it was a great glimpse into the inner workings of the ship and crew.
DEBARKATION: Just as smooth as getting on, but inevitably more depressing. Your suitcases go into the hallway outside your room by 11pm the night before, and you get them in the terminal (conveyor belts just like the airport). There's plenty of time for breakfast and a last stroll around the decks, then it was off the ship before 10, and the slow, depressing march back to real life. Until July 6th, then HELLO, CARNIVAL DREAM, HERE WE COME!!!