We recently traveled on the Carnival Liberty out of Miami July 6-13. Overall, Carnival continued to live up to their reputation as the Fun Ship which is why we continually choose to travel on Carnival. We recently tried out the Norwegian Star out of New Orleans over Easter Spring Break for a 7-day cruise and though we had fun on that, we couldn't wait to travel on Carnival again and booked this recent cruise immediately upon our return from the Norwegian cruise.
That being said, there were a few bumps along the way but nothing that would discourage us from traveling on Carnival again. The main complaint was that we did not get to travel to our port of St. Thomas because of Tropical Storm Chantal. Carnival instead took us to Nassau - a place I've been to before and was not impressed with. Though disappointed with the change, I understand that safety is paramount and overall, I feel lucky that we were able to go to an alternate port.
Cleanliness of Cabin and Ship - the Carnival workers are tireless in their maintenance of the rooms and ship. On Norwegian, our room was not made up on 3 separate nights and we had to continually beg for extra towels - even have to resort to raiding the linen carts - that was irritating. My son looks forward to the nightly towel animals and Carnival does not disappoint in this respect. Our room was always spotless and it was nice to return to a made up suite each day and night. In addition, the decks were always clean and free of debris. On Norwegian there were always cigarette butts and beer cans around and it was at times like walking through a dumb as we traveled through the pool area. Not the case on the Carnival Liberty. The decks were always pristine in spite of the enormous amount of people who were always at the pool area. The Red Frog Pub and the Blue Iguana Bar/Cantina were the spots to be! Always people there having a great time.
Food/Dining Service - We had dinner in the main dining room the first 3 nights and then gave up and hit the buffets. Normally, the waiters on Carnival are very timely in their service but after the first 2 nights of arriving late to shows because of slow service we gave up. We would arrive at our table promptly at 6 with the expectation of being able to make the 7:45 comedy show - not the case with our dining service team. They always seemed to be frantic and irritated and the timing of food was off as we would wait 20+ minutes in between courses. Maybe we are just fast eaters... The food was good though.
Buffets - not much of a selection and oddly - the buffets always seemed to be closed. I've never experienced a cruise where we had to search for food... Don't go expecting to eat at 5-5:30 - the buffet is closed until 6 and then starts to shut down around 8:30. I highly recommend the Blue Cantina Burrito Bar - that was outstanding - but it is only open from 12-2:30. Why couldn't that be open for dinner as well? We had burritos every chance we could - they were outstanding!!! If you like Chipotle - these were some serious competition for them. My daughter loved Guy's Burger Joint -but that was only open till 6.
Carnival Kids Club - In the past, my daughter (now 15) couldn't wait to go and didn't want to leave. I wanted my son (7) to have the same experiences - but not the case. The camp always seemed to be closed in the afternoons and they would not always do the activities planned because "not enough kids were there." That irritated me - if you schedule an activity and a child goes expecting to be able to participate in that you should do it regardless of how many show. A lot of times he said they just watched movies and played video games - I did not like this electronic form of babysitting. On the other hand, my daughter (15) had a blast at the teen club. There were, according to Carnival, 257 teens signed up for the club and though I'm sure not all of them participated - she made a lot of new friends and did a lot of activities with them.
Ports of Call - Half Moon Cay
This was a beautiful beach. The tender boat there was a quick ride and the port was developed by Carnival. The beach was clean, beach chairs are provided, the water was aspectacular turquoise blue and clear and though all we did was hang out on the beach and swim - we had a great time. Carnival provided a lunch buffet on the island but we didn't know about it until we went back to the ship.
San Juan - If I can offer one piece of advice in this review it is DO NOT BOOK AN EXCURSION through Carnival unless you want to spend a ridiculous amount of money. Carnival offered a combination excursion to the Spanish forts El Morro and San Cristobal for $54.99 for an adult and 49.99 for a child which according to them included transportation in an air conditioned van. Save your money and walk across the street to the free trolley which will take you there and you can pay $15 for 4 people, ($5 a person - my 7-yr old was free) get into both places and there is a tram/trolley that will take you there and give you a little sightseeing tour along the way. The forts were spectacular, beautiful, interesting and historically significant. A must-see!!
Grand Turk - Again, save your money on the excursions. We went to the taxi area and found a driver who when asked to take us to a beach with great snorkeling took us to Pillory Beach. It was $8 a person for the taxi. He said he would pick us up whenever we wanted - we said come back at 3. There was snorkeling available there - a boat would take you to an area called the Outer Edge - it was $45 a person. We did that and boy were we glad we did. The snorkeling was AMAZING!!! Hundreds of beautiful, brightly colored fish all around us. My daughter swears she saw a small shark - not sure if she did or not, I'm glad I didn't see it. Carnival takes people out to the same area on a Catamaran but they want $175 a person for 45 minutes of snorkeling. We were out there for about the same amount of time but for much less money. The Outer Edge is spectacular - it's a giant coral reef and then there is an edge that just drops off to 7000 feet down - all you see is deep, dark, blue water. Highly recommend this experience. Our cab driver returned for us an hour early - we were glad he did because there was a storm getting ready to come in - we were able to do a little shopping in the port before the skies opened up.
Nassau - Ugh - the toilet bowl of the caribbean. What a dump. There were 3 other ships in port at the same time so it was really crowded. The people there are very aggressive which I don't like. We went to the Pirate Museum - walked there from the ship. We paid $32 for the 4 of us. Carnival wanted $50 a person and though they drove you there, you had to walk back. The museum was interesting but don't go expecting to spend more than an hour there. It was grey and gloomy that day so we didn't try to go to a beach. But, that's not a normal port on the itinerary.
Carnival Spa/Gym - my husband and I worked out every single day because we could. On Norwegian the equipment was either broken or always in use with no one montoring how long someone was on it. On the Liberty everything was working and there was plenty of equipment open -the treadmills, elliptical machines, bikes, weights, everything was great.
Carnival Shows - meh - they were ok. Was disappointed on the last night that the show didn't start til 10:30 - way past my bedtime so I didn't see it. On another night it was a magician doing card tricks - it was ok. One night they had a show that was exactly the same as what I had seen on the Carnival Legend a year before - music and dance from around the world. One show was hosted by the Cruise director Karl with a K and he sang songs from musical decades - that show, though cheesy, was fun and he did a good job singing.
Overall, though the weather didn't cooperate at times, we had a great time. The food was good, we enjoyed ourselves in the ports, the ships was clean and we left disappointed that we couldn't stay longer. We are in the process of locating another cruise to go on soon. I think the measure of a good cruise is when you can't wait to go on another and that is the case with us!