First off, to give you some background, this was my second cruise (previously on NCL Sun, which was not even remotely comparable), and my husband's first.. My husband and I typically enjoy the all-inclusive vacations and have been to Belize,
Grand Cayman, San Juan, Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, St. Lucia, Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, and a few other places in Florida and Mexico/Caribbean. We love the AI aspect of not getting hit with a bill at the end, but wanted to have the opportunity to see more places since we can typically only travel about twice a
year. Plus, it was very nice to port out of Florida and avoid the long air travel associated with the remaining locations we would like to see.
After doing the AI and the cruise, there are aspects of each that I really enjoy. The cruise offers a lot by being able to travel to various locations within one trip. I wish they would include the tips
in with your price provided when booking, rather than separating it out. It is nice to pre-pay all you can and be done with it (which we did for tips and excursions). We took extra for tips, and used all that and more just because the staff was so incredible
We are accustomed to the alcohol being included, and that does get a bit pricey on the ship. The Cheers program was offered on our ship, but I don't drink enough, so it would not have benefited us. After
reviewing what we spent, it would NOT have been worth it for us in the end. The relaxation aspect is likely better on an AI, but the ability to have so much entertainment available at any given time on a cruise is also phenomenal. We truly enjoyed the shows, musical talent, and the comedy club. We intend to just
do a mixture of the two in the future because they do truly offer two different vacations.
What I learned from this cruise: I will not pre-book excursions for each port in the future. We will pick one or two excursions that really interest us, and do those. Neither of us cared for the feeling of being herded like cattle at each port, and I felt it was too much running around, relatively expensive, and rushed at times. I felt like we had to be at a certain place at a certain time, and I didn't care for that while on vacation. It would have been fine a couple times, but we probably planned too much. We both believe we would have enjoyed our time doing more activities on our own. Having said that, I also realize there are some islands, this would not be possible because they may be farther away or have less available right at the port.
The Liberty is a gorgeous ship and the staff is extremely attentive. I am very glad we chose her for our voyage, as we were very pleased. I hope not to offend, but a couple people in our group who have
cruised extensively did comment that their preference would be to pay a bit more for their cruise and keep out some of the people who otherwise would not have been able to be onboard. Personally, this didn't bother me in the least bit. There were a couple of obnoxious people, but I feel like that is anywhere,
so I would still go on another Carnival cruise. Again, this is why there are many ships available, because everyone seems to have their own preference. Everyone I met was extremely nice and I enjoyed every aspect of the cruise.
The staff on the ships are unbelievable. Everything is always spotless, you have everything available to you, and they just work their tails off. At the end, I wasn't sure whether to feel bad that they work so many hours because they don't have other options available to them, or whether I should keep booking cruises so they have money to send home to their families. We tried to talk with some of the crew just to learn about their lives and families. One of them admitted that if they had other opportunities available like we do, they would never be on the ship. Most are working 12-19 hrs per day, and never have a full day off during their 7 months on the ship. Although, some said they would be allowed a couple hours off the
ship. This broke my heart. I cannot imagine being away from my family for a 7 month period of time and being unable to see them. I wish that the lines were able to give these hard working crew members at least one day or Â½ day off per week. They work so incredibly hard, that I think anyone would agree it is very
much deserved. I'd do without my room being cleaned 2-3 times per day to allow them time to nap or do what they want!
Ok, so on with my review:
AIR Transport - Flew Southwest airlines from Indy
to Fort Lauderdale. Love the no baggage fees, especially since we had more than
normal due to suit/nice dresses, etcâ€¦
HOTEL evening before - Stayed at the Hyatt Place
in Dania Beach, near Fort Lauderdale, prior to the cruise. We arranged through Hotwire, and got the room for $71.00!! GREAT price for a nice stay, and rooms were very comfortable and offered large lounge couches in each room. Our group thought it was a nice place, and it did offer free continental, or hot
breakfast in the morning which consisted of everything from breads, danishes, bagels, eggs, French toast, sausage links, cereal and other items. Most of the other people staying at this location were porting out of Lauderdale on either Princess or RCL. We just decided to stay closer to the airport in case our flight
was delayed and then we wouldn't have to extend our travel even further. This allowed us to relax, eat dinner, and get our last minute items prior to the cruise. I agree that you should definitely arrive the day before. Otherwise, you are simply depending on too many things to go right, when you could miss
out on your cruise if something goes wrong. Allow yourself the extra day, you will feel relaxed and ready to cruise.
We were able to arrange transportation through Avanti Shuttle, which is used by the Hyatt. For 5 of us to MIAMI, it was $75 EACH way. Avanti also offers FREE transportation from the airport to the hotel
(on the ½ hr), and across the street to the shopping center. We found this to be extremely convenient, as we needed to pick up our wine, champagne, pop,water and a couple miscellaneous items. The Kmart has everything you could need. There are also many shops, if you forget shoes, or any other items. There
were a few restaurants to choose from that the shuttle would drop you off.
We ate at Dave & Buster's in the shopping area, and it was really nice. Great place to take kids (and adults) for all of the games they offer.
ARRIVAL to MIAMI PORT - We purchased Faster to the Fun for $49.95, and it was worth every penny just for this. We were escorted to drop off our luggage, and then taken to another line to show our cruise documents. We then went up to the main terminal, where we were given our sign & sail cards. We arrived around noon, and probably waited 20 minutes until we were allowed to board the ship. We were right after the platinum, gold and weddings. Our photo was taken, and we were off to our room!!
On the FTTF, I should have gotten a bit more information to understand how to utilize this while at ports. We didn't check, and waited in lines with everyone else.
Once you go balcony, I'm not sure you go back, unless you cruise frequently and it's not a big deal to you. We certainly enjoyed the balcony, just drinking coffee in the morning, watching the ship move into port, and to get away from the crowd on sea days. It was nice to have your own little piece of serenity. We were on 7th floor in 8C room, closer to rear of ship. We chose level 7, as I had read that most of the suites were
located in this area and you typically have better room attendants. Ours was attentive, and we had towel animals about every night.
STORAGE - Definitely put luggage under the bed, and you have extra space in the couch for shoes or other items you need to store.
LUGGAGE/CLOTHING - We took a lot of clothes, but I didn't regret it one bit. We used almost everything we took, and even bought a few extra items in ports (shirts, jewelry, sundresses). I do wish I had brought
a more versatile light sweater, because the air conditioning on the ship can make it very cool in some areas. I brought 5 pairs of shoes and wore all of them. Make sure you have dressy, casual, comfy and great sandals for walking.
PHOTOS - there were always photographers willing to snap your shots before dinner and while getting off the ship. I know some are annoyed by this at times, and sometimes it was annoying, but I was happy
this was available because we normally don't have professional photos taken. We probably spent a bit more on photos than I intended, but it was very worth it, they do a nice job!
POOLS - This is one aspect that surprises me with cruise lines. You put 3000 people on one ship, and the pools are really quite small. This seems like an area they could improve on. The only people comfortable getting in the pools were typically kids. I didn't get in the hot tub, but was told it was more like a whirlpool and not "hot.
LOUNGE CHAIRS - Even during sea days, although it was busy, we were always able to find a chair, albeit not by a pool! The serenity deck was my favorite because the loungers were so incredibly comfy. It
was also very quiet in that area. FYI, apparently all smokers hang out in the aft area of the ship (another lesson learned cough cough).
FOOD - FANTASTIC!!!
Guy's Burger was our first stop, and we ate it a couple more times thereafter. It's simple, tasty, and easy to get. You get in line, and they ask what you want, and there it is served. They offer a toppings bar where you can put anything you desire on your burger. The fries are also delish!! All 8 of us thought this place was top notch.
We ate in the main dining room each night so that we could catch up with our friends/family. We were seated in the Golden Olympian. We had anytime dining, but normally met at 7 pm. We have a fantastic
waiter, Bobby, and his assistant, Eric, was also so friendly and pleasant. We were fortunate because we sat at the same table each night and really got to know our wait staff. We had everything ranging from filet, mahi mahi, fettucchini, shrimp, fish, etc and every single option was delicious. You could not beat the main dining room, and I highly recommend that you eat there. I spoke to others who were eating from the buffet, and they said it wasn't quite as good. I only ate at the buffet a couple times for breakfast, and I
thought it was good. They do have the bacon police, but mine gave me more than I could have ever eaten, so I thought they were fair. Others thought they weren't. I think many people just have lost sight of what a portion size is!!
BLUE IGUANA - PLEASE try their breakfast burritos, they are so delicious!!! I could have eaten one every day, but I limited it to twice. SO wonderful! I liked that they were wrapped and you could go pick one
up and then take to your room to eat if you wanted. I also tried the chicken tacos which were also very good. They were quite small, so it was nice for a lighter lunch.
FISH & CHIPS - My husband LOVES fish & chips, so he was excited to try this place out. Unfortunately, he wasn't all that impressed. I tried it, and didn't care for it. Seemed rather greasy and tasteless, so I went and got something else that day. This was honestly the only "average" food that I felt we had throughout the week. Every single other item we had was just wonderful. .
ROOM SERVICE - very limited available items. We normally had coffee, apple juice, croissants and danishes delivered each morning when we were in port. It was easier, and lighter.
DELI - Had a nice turkey wrap which was very tasty and filling.
FOOD ALLERGIES - I suffer from nut/tree nut/sesame and coconut allergies, which quite frankly can be deadly. For those of you without this issue, be very thankful!! If you do, keep reading. First, I would
recommend that you contact the special needs department. I contacted them via email and received a generic message that they would be able to assist me. However, upon arrival to the main dining room, I was greeted by Alex (well that is short for her real name). She met me each night to go over the following
day's menu and what I would be selecting. They have over 90 chefs on this particular ship and some are dedicated to allergies. This food is apparently cooked in a different area to prevent issues of cross-contamination. To my surprise, I was even allowed to eat the warm chocolate melting cake. I
suspected I would have to avoid all desserts, but due to their careful consideration of guests, if you suffer from allergies, you can still have what is on the menu, it may just have modifications based on your food allergy. To say that this made my trip incredible is an understatement. I am always cautious and careful and basically don't eat many things because of the possibility of contamination. I've found out the hard way that it is not worth it. This truly put Carnival at tops on my list for keeping guests safe.
ICE CREAM - need I say more? It's available 24 hours a day in cone or dish. I think I had it three times, and it was fabulous.
We attended the first evening which involved the dancers, and they were very good, and very energetic and put on a nice show. We also attended the comedy club in the smaller lounge, and we really enjoyed that show. We attended the love and marriage show on the last day, and I HIGHLY recommend you attend this. It was very funny. There were also entertainers placed throughout the ship to enjoy. The Mardi Gras party was very fun. GET involved in the dances, it makes it so much fun, and someone will teach you if
you aren't familiar with the dances they do.
CASINO - We used the casino a couple times, and would win a little on the slots and then lose it. There are always wait staff around for drinks. It is a bit smoky at times.
PORTS - Eastern Caribbean - Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan & Turks
I was happy that most of the ports we didn't arrive at super early in the morning, so we were never rushed. However, the trade off to that was the fact that we didn't have as much time in some of the ports as we all would have liked. Nassau and St. Thomas felt a bit rushed. However, I still enjoyed all of the areas.
Nassau - DISCOVER ATLANTIS TOUR - I had been to Atlantis before, and really think it is a place that everyone needs to see at least once. The place is spectacular, and the grounds are just unbelievable. We
did the Discovery Atlantis walking tour, which I previously did while on NCL and had a much better explanation of everything and we also had more time in port.
Please note that I WOULD NOT recommend this to elderly people who have a difficult time walking. There are many stairs, and there was an older couple on our tour and the man was really having a hard
time. I was extremely disappointed with our tour guide. She told the couple they could basically do the tour on their own. I understand they are within time constraints, but this couple had also spent their money on the tour and I felt they deserved more. My husband and I stayed back with them for part of the
tour just so the tour guide couldn't leave us all completely. They finally stopped when we got to one of the last set of stairs and gave up. I am not sure that the information on this is descriptive enough to advise people of the amount of stairs. If you are not in port the entire day, I would also not recommend any of the tours involving the water park. Not enough time to enjoy for the price.
ST. THOMAS - Beach/shopping tour - The beach in St. Thomas is very beautiful, albeit a bit crowded. We encountered quite a bit of rain while we were there, but there were some places to get out of the rain if needed. You could also purchase drinks and food if you desired. We were then dropped off in the shopping area of downtown. I enjoyed purchasing from the locals while there. The majority of the
other businesses were simply selling jewelry and diamonds, and I honestly have no intention of buying such things while on vacation. Apparently many do, or all of these places couldn't stay in business!!
SAN JUAN - My husband did the zipline with his family/friends. They had a blast, however, they said that the hiking portion of the excursion really didn't explain the depth of what you would encounter as
far as going up and climbing. Apparently, several of the ladders to climb had missing boards, so it was somewhat difficult to navigate. They all agreed that the zipline itself was easy and they are glad they did it. a blast. However, if you have a bad knee or difficulty climbing, they thought it was best to avoid
this particular excursion.
Everyone in our group enjoyed San Juan the most. Some of our group got a cab to take them to the beach, the fort, and to downtown shopping $50 for 3 people!! They said it was their favorite excursion
on the entire trip! I've been to the fort and the views there are stunning. No words can describe how beautiful it is, so I would highly recommend going to the fort if you have not previously been.
SPA - I had a massage and facial while the hubs was zip lining, and it was very nice. I would do it again!
GRAND TURK - Catamaran sail & snorkel - This tour would have been great if there were not 90 people on the boat. I felt it was too crowded to really enjoy, and there were two other smaller boats that
arrived at the same location we were snorkeling. I'm not a huge fan of snorkeling, but it is nice when you have space to move around. It also started raining, so it made it really cold to be out. Now, when we arrived for the beach portion, I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the boat doesn't go onto the beach, so you can't even bring your towel to sit on the beach, so most just stayed in the water. It was fine, the turquoise water in Turks & Caicos is amazingly beautiful.
There were 2 ships in port, so Margaritaville was beyond packed. It seems like a nice place to visit, however, due to the crowding and congestion, I didn't find it very appealing. Service was incredibly slow, and it was extremely noisy and hard to hear others. I did like the shopping available at the port, and wish I would have had time to enjoy that aspect. I think if I ever return there, I will hop off the boat and get to
a lounge chair asap!
My aunt did the horseback tour and really enjoyed it. She said walking along the beach was very nice.
We had a great cruise. I felt the boat was really rocking, but it didn't bother me too bad. I do wish they had better signage for bathrooms.
In all, I'd definitely cruise with Carnival again.