Carnival Liberty Cruise Review by aiptasia: It's a mixed bag on the Carnival Liberty
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It's a mixed bag on the Carnival Liberty
This was actually my first cruise. My Wife is an experienced cruiser and has been on several cruises in her younger years. She has tried for a few years now to get me to go on a cruise with her and we found ourselves taking advantage of a very discounted price to the Western Caribbean for a week. I was stoked to book our excursions and found a few that were right up our alley. We booked the Amazing Race scavenger hunt in Cozumel, the Altun Ha Mayan ruins excursion in Belize, Catamaran Snorkel dive in Roatan and the Beach Snorkel excursion in Grand Cayman. The costs of our excursions were actually more than the cost of the cruise for the two of us.
The ship itself is massive. It's over 300 yards long from bow to stern so we did quite a bit of walking for the entire cruise. Orienting yourself to the ship and exploring what it has to offer was best suited to our first day at sea out of Miami. We were able to easily adjust our 8pm dining option to the 6pm golden dining room with More no issues and the majority of the cruise was smooth sailing from port to port. Our last day of cruising back to Miami, the ship encountered a storm front and we had to sail through ten to twelve foot swells. The ship stabilizers were easily able to handle most of the wave action although they did have to net the pools to prevent overspill and there was a "code bright star" called on the serenity deck for a woman that fell in high wind and injured her foot.
The good: Carnival caters to families and a younger crowd. Expect age ranges from children to adults with the average ages being in their 30's to 40's.. They have traditional as well as open dining options. An itinerary with a tear off info/time sheet is handily delivered to your cabin each day, as well as your excursion tickets. Their staff is international and constantly within reach.
The bad: The food is terrible and monotonous even though the dining staff was excellent and friendly. They tended to re-purpose a lot of meals as ingredients in subsequent dishes. According to my Wife, the staff isn't as prompt and seemed to run fast and loose. Examples: Wrong luggage delivered to our room, high roller VIP tags and ID's for another couple were mistakenly delivered to our room (we aren't players club gamblers), the cruise directors didn't start their shows on time (or in one case, a 9:30 am trivia contest, at all.. nobody showed to conduct it), restaurants seemed to open five minutes or so late, drink prices varied for the same drinks in each bar all over the ship, etc. Another annoyance I have is that they only had two vocalists for the evening shows, both of which were merely average singers. It became tedious to hear the same couple sing all of the songs in every show. More variety with performers that can both sing and dance would have been better.
The best: The breakout restaurants are the best. While we didn't splurge on the Diamonds steakhouse or the chef's table, we did often hit the Mongolian stir fry and the Guy Fieri hamburger joint. At 2,000 calories per burger, they didn't disappoint on flavor. Less
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The cabin was fine. The staff were able to combine our two twin beds into a single king (per request online) and the bed was firm and comfortable. The bathroom was small but the toilet worked well and was located outside of the shower stall. The shower was European style, drained well but we were disappointed in having no toiletry items delivered to the room. Instead, you're faced with body wash and shampoo containers installed in the shower itself. No soaps next to the sink, so washing your hands or face became a back-and-forth procedure. Our steward service was adequate, slow to clean the rooms but quick and charming turn down service with custom towel folding into sea characters and two milk chocolates every evening, along with the next day's itinerary. What we hated about the cabin was that the walls were very thin and we could hear not only many a loud, drunk guest scream and laugh their way down the halls at all odd hours of the night, but we could also hear the loud microphone of the casino announcer blare out about each slot tournament and high roller success story. The cigarette smoke from the casino also tended to waft up the stairs and bombard you the minute you stepped outside of the stateroom into the hallway.
Port and Shore Excursions
We decided to take the Belize City Bus and Altun Ha tour instead of the boat to Altun Ha. Belize was as hot as blue blazes and we didn't pack any bug spray, so a journey up river on a boat sounded like a bug fest to us. The tender boat into Belize City was a little bit of a rough ride and took about a half hour. We quickly made our way through the shop gauntlet to the bus and had three guides and our driver transport us through the highlights of Belize City to the countryside. We took in a lot of local flavor getting to Altun Ha which was right up our alley. The people of Belize were very nice, waved at us frequently and spoke both perfect and local Creole English. We were encouraged to try such local delicacies as "Royal Rat," green iguana and cashew wine.
Altun Ha is one of the smaller Mayan ruins sights but it is one of the most interesting. Three of the four pyramids are climbable by the tourists and they had some interesting Mayan carvings outside on the flagstones. The steps are very narrow and the temperatures can be sweltering. Drink plenty of bottled water, use sunscreen and if you have climbing or balance issues, stay in the main courtyard. The guides filled us in on the Mayan culture, explaining that Altun Ha was a trade city founded about 200 BC and was abandoned around 1100 AD. Only about 50% of the site has been excavated including the main burial chambers and surrounding village. Archaeology Students from the USA are helping the Belize government explore the site.
Amazing Cozumel Race
Well, the morning of our arrival in Cozumel, we found a note slipped under our door by the cruise staff saying they'd cancelled the excursion due to lack of participation. This was a disappointment to us as The Amazing Race is one of our favorite shows and we wanted to test our mettle a bit vs. other passengers. Instead, we ran the gauntlet through the lame Disney-esq shops and hired a cab for 1/3 of the price of going through the cruise staff to tour the island for four and a half hours. Our guide spoke perfect English and took us to a tequila farm, a turtle and iguana freshwater springs park, around town to see how the locals lived, the west coast of the island where marine biologists were marking green turtle nests, a few beach stops and then back to the main shopping area. All in all, a nice Cozumel tour.
Grand Cayman is a British protectorate and their national bird appears to be the construction crane. It is very modern here and everyone speaks English. Based on the British pound, the shops are more expensive here and the island itself is very affluent. We booked the shoreline snorkel dive at a very reasonable price, which was a 2.5 hour snorkel dive about a quarter mile from the cruise ships along the rocky coastline. Our driver had us at the dive spot within two minutes and we had a very calm, chill scuba instructor named Ty from B.C., Canada. The dive equipment was top notch and I was allowed to free dive with the instructor instead of use a snorkel. This suited me just fine.
The reef dive here was the 3rd best in Grand Cayman. A thriving, healthy coral reef just off the coast about 20 yards out. We saw several species of plate & brain corals, acropora, staghorn, fire coral, all colors of calcarious algaes and at least 40 species of fish. We saw tarpon, a very small black tipped shark, green parrotfish, blue parrotfish, red parrotfish, boxfish, puffers, sargent majors, damselfish by the dozens, eels, sea urchins, sea eggs, sea cows and all kinds starfish. Our guide, Ty, would dive and point out unique species of animals and bring up a few for us to handle underwater (urchins, brittle stars, etc.). This was a very relaxing dive and we got quite a variety of amazing photos while we played Jaques Cousteau for an afternoon. This was one of the best dive spots i've ever been to and as it turns out, our cheapest excursion booked through Carnival ($39 each). I hope Carnival keeps this excursion as the Dan Foster dive shop intimated that once their contract ends, Carnival doesn't plan to renew. You might have to book through Royal Caribbean or another Cruise line (or just on your own) and experience this dive for yourself.
My Wife describes Roatan as being vastly different than she remembers. The port at Mahogany Bay is very new and modern and completely enclosed into another Disney-esq collection of shops and restaurants. Most of which you would be able to find in your local shopping mall. This was a severe disappointment to us as we prefer to be immersed in local culture, even if that culture is very poor and doesn't speak good English. Think of us as Anthony Bourdain-type travelers. While very safe and secure, the Mahogany bay port itself didn't appeal to us at all. I guess for worried travelers that can't handle indigenous peoples at ports of call, this is what they want. Not us. The beach here is very recently man made and a short walk down a steep hill. For a fee, you can ride a chair lift style ride for $12 down to the beach. We had about an hour to kill before our catamaran snorkel dive and we found a little nature trail to climb around on across from the Liberty, and hiked that. The snorkel dive was pretty crowded with about sixty cruisers onboard from both the Carnival Liberty and the Carnival Magic. No de-fog was given for our masks and when I jumped off the boat, I got a lung and sinuses filled with sea water and a flooded mask. I panicked and wound up spending the rest of the dive on the boat getting the salt water out of my lungs. My Wife continued with the swim and the reefs were mostly dead at both dive spots. The highlight of the dive was a single reef lobster picture on our olympus camera. Very disappointing dive.