Carnival Liberty - Western Caribbean: Carnival Liberty Cruise Review by Cruzman
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Liberty - Western Caribbean
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
To say that this cruise was atypical, is quite an understatement. Our cruise was scheduled to sail 11/19/2006 to Freeport, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya, but because of a significant outbreak of a Noro type virus on the transatlantic crossing from Italy, the sailing was delayed for two days to allow time for disinfecting the ship. We were advised by CCL the week prior and they were quite generous in offering to refund our entire cruise cost should we decide to cancel; or we could opt to sail on Tuesday, 11/21, to Key West and Cozumel (4 days), and receive a 50% refund and a 50% discount on a future sailing. In addition, CCL offered to refund the additional cost of hotel expenses for the additional 2 days pre-cruise (up to $200 per person). We obviously chose the latter option.
We had previously reserved a room at the Amerisuites on 17th St for Saturday, but since they were fully booked for Sunday, we were able to secure a room at the Bahia Mar (right on More the beach) for Sunday and Monday. All things considered, I would have preferred to have remained at the Amerisuites where the room included a microwave, fridge, and wetbar; not to mention free Wifi Internet access. The room at the Bahia Mar had none of these amenities and Wifi access cost an additional $10 per day; they even charged $10 per day to park your car.
Our pre-cruise stay in FLL was further convoluted by the unusual weather that must have followed us down. The area was experiencing the coldest weather since the previous February. It was very windy with high temps in the 60's. Needless to say, our beach time was severely affected, lol.
DAY ONE AND EMBARKATION:
We arrived at the pier on Tuesday at 10:30 AM; dropped off our checkins and parked the car. Since we are "Platinum" guests, we were expecting priority checkin, but it never happened. Embarkation personnel gave the impression that they weren't sure that they were even supposed to be there. Some CCL personnel were processing passengers with one procedure, while others were using a different tact. It seemed that the right hand knew not what the left hand was doing. Bottom line; we boarded the ship at 12:30 PM, standing in all the lines as everyone else did; so much for VIP Checkin.
Since the crew had had two days to prepare, all cabins were ready for occupancy as soon as we boarded, so we went directly to our cabin # 8401 and dropped off our carry-on's. This was a cabin with a balcony located on Verandah Deck, just below the Lido buffet. Although ship's deck plans do not indicate such, there was a sofa that was made up into a third bed at night. There was plenty of room for the 3 of us. Since we were all hungry, we proceeded up one flight of stairs to Emile's Restaurant. I noticed right away that some things were quite different for a typical cruise ship buffet. First, the ship was exceptionally clean; even more so than I have previously experienced on 25 prior cruises. There were staff members stationed throughout the buffet area with spray bottles of disinfectant with which tables were sprayed each and every time a table was bussed. There was no salad bar, and all of the food stations, including beverages, were fully manned by crew members adorned with plastic mittens on hands. In other words, there was absolutely no self service for anything. Even the soft serve ice cream was served by a member of the crew and there were no cones; bowls only. There were disinfectant stations everywhere, and the "Fish and Chips" never opened during the entire cruise. I heard many complaining, but these changes seemed altogether reasonable in view of circumstances experienced on the prior sailing. We decided to simply adapt and make the most of the situation, which we did.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the ship, checking out our dining arrangements and just settling in. We were scheduled to sail at 4 PM, but lifeboat drill didn't begin until 5, so we didn't sail until nearly 5:30. After the drill, we returned to our cabin and found that luggage had been delivered and we unpacked and prepared for dinner.
We had requested and were assigned main seating (6:15) in the Golden Olympian Dining Room at a table for four. As is typically the case, service was a little slow the first evening, but it was nonetheless a positive experience. I had the Mahi Mahi which was delightful, but the desert ...., you will just have to experience it to believe how heavenly the creme brulee' is.
There was only one show scheduled in the main show lounge this evening, 10:30 PM for both dinner seatings. At this venue, we were introduced to the famous John Heald. In spite of some comments that we had read, we found him to be quite spontaneous and incredibly funny. John's humor, and a brief performance by the Liberty singers and dancers made this a very enjoyable evening of entertainment.
DAY TWO, KEY WEST:
We arose at 7 AM to find that we were already docked in Key West. A trip out on the balcony suggested that it was to be a day with very nice weather; it was 70 deg F with bright sunshine. When all were appropriately dressed, we made our way to the Silver Olympian Dining Room for breakfast. I had the eggs benedict and found the experience quite gratifying; good coffee too! Since we were the only ship in town on this day, we were docked downtown and walked right off the ship and everything seemed to be within walking distance. We did some shopping on Duval St and then took the Conch Train Tour of the city. Key West is lovely and we would have loved to have had more time there, but the ship sailed at 3PM so our time was limited.
This was to be formal night on the Liberty, and the festivities began with the Captain's Cocktail Party which was held in 3 different locations; The Victoria Lounge, The Stage, and the Hot & Cool Dance Club. This venue was also atypical in that it was more like a meet and mingle, rather than the structured setting with which I am most familiar. As near as I can determine, the Captain and staff were not even there; they were introduced later in the evening in the Venetian Lounge.
The dining room menu was impressive, and included entree's such as lobster and prime rib. I had the lobster and it was wonderful! Dining room service was much better on this evening and I was pleased to note that just about everyone was dressed appropriately. The after dinner production show in the Victoria Lounge was excellent. Dunno where Carnival finds them, but they always seem to be incredibly talented!
DAY THREE, COZUMEL:
Since our scheduled arrival time in Cozumel was not until noon, we slept a little late and then had breakfast once again in the Silver Olympian. Afterward, we did some hot tub time and later some onboard shopping. Shops carried typical cruise ship fare, although much of the inventory remained from the season in the Mediterranean.
We were quite surprised to learn that we were scheduled to dock at the Punta Langosta Pier in Coz. Upon arrival, I observed the Explorer of the Seas docked at the International Pier, while the Silver Shadow and Carnival Inspiration were docked at Punta Langosta. The Legend of the Seas was at anchor a few hundred yards west of the pier. We did dock at the available space (kinda tight; kudos to the Captain) and passengers began heading into town by 12:15PM. We grabbed a sandwich onboard before heading into town. The area around the Punta Langosta pier has experienced a dramatic recovery since the hurricane of last year and we were pleasantly surprised at the result. Lots of very nice shops in the new mall; Carlos & Charlies, as well as Senor Frog's is right there. The two women in my bunch decided to make this a major shopping event, so I mostly tagged along. I did purchase some t-shirts in Carlos & Charlies, lol. Some of the scheduled tours had been cancelled due to windy conditions, but that surely didn't hamper the efforts of a couple of shopaholic women. For many, this was a party til you drop day, and it was quite obvious from the bar activity that I observed, lol. The Liberty was not scheduled to sail until 11 PM, so there was plenty of time for this kind of activity. Meanwhile, I'm lugging around the result of all of the bargaining ability of two women; oh what we men must sometime tolerate, lol.
We were back onboard by 5:30 and after storing the loot, we had another wonderful dining experience on the Golden Olympic. We didn't attend the Hypnotist show in the Venetian Palace on this evening, opting instead to watch NFL football on the outdoor movie screen; YES!
DAY FOUR, AT SEA
The dreaded last day has arrived, and most slept in (especially the Cozumel party crowd, lol). We had breakfast in the Silver Olympian and spent much of the day trying to experience as much of what the beautiful Liberty could offer as was possible. After our farewell dinner, we packed everything up and tried to get some sleep as a long drive back to Mobile (about 11 hours) was in store for Saturday.
Carnival has got to work on their disembarkation procedure in FLL! Again, as a Platinum guest, I'm told that I have priority disembarkation; NOT! I made a trip to the purser's desk to ask about the disembarkation procedure and was told that my best bet to disembark early, was to "self assist" which would begin around 7AM. I asked about my so-called priority disembarkation for Platinum guests and was told that there was no such priority for "self assist"; just get in line with everyone else. So, that is what we did; "self assist", which began at 7:10 AM, and resulted in our leaving the terminal area at 8:55 AM. We drove out of the parking garage at 9:05 AM. Normal disembarkation according to luggage tag colors had not even commenced by this time; dunno when those folks finally got off the ship.
I cannot be certain, but the overall atmosphere on this sailing of the Carnival Liberty was quite unlike any other Carnival cruise ship on which I have previously sailed. The exceptional efforts made by the staff and crew to insure that no further Norovirus outbreaks occurred may have been a part of it, but I sensed a different atmosphere onboard. It was more akin to the atmosphere I've experienced on Princess ships; more gentile, more laid back; even the "red vs white vs blue" passenger contest was nowhere to be found; not that I missed it, lol. Ship's decor had to have been a factor also; Joe Farcus must be maturing in his "old age", lol.
I confess that I did hear some of the most incredibly unreasonable complaints and requests from some passengers on this sailing. I was at the Purser's Desk on embarkation day to get a minor issue with my S&S card resolved. I was behind a lady, who, as a member of a small group occupying 7 inside cabins on Main Deck, wanted to upgrade to outside. When told that there were no available OV cabins on the ship, she was adamant that there had been 13 OV's available just 2 days prior (according to her TA), and Carnival must have "given" those cabins away to local residents to fill the ship; therefore, these passengers should be asked to vacate those cabins for her group because her group had obviously paid more for their cabins. On another occasion, a family was requesting compensation because they felt that this cruise had not lived up to their expectations. I suppose that these are the Carnival bashers of the future.
No, this was certainly not my best cruise experience, but given the circumstances, I certainly didn't expect it to be; but, I and my 2 ladies had a great time anyway! As it now stands, our expectations will be much higher when we board the Liberty once again in April when an 8 day cruise to the Panama Canal is on tap. Meanwhile, we plan to sail on the Holiday from Mobile in February for the fourth time (great little ship Less
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