After doing some research on this board decided to take the Carnival Liberty 8 day Eastern Cruise Dec. 9th with my husband and 3yr old son. I was looking for something that would have lots of ports and 2 or less sea days which this one did. Also was looking for something with great kids activities for our 3 yr old & the reviews about Carnivals "Camp Carnival" were very good.
Had booked the flights and hotel with Carnival and was put up in Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton Airport Hotel the night before which was quite nice and comfortable but didn't have a lot of food options in the hotel or in the surrounding area. Was there on my birthday so took the recommendation of the Guest Services desk and went to eat at the Rustic Inn which had incredible food. They served a variety of seafood and steak platters. They claim to have the "Best Garlic Crab Legs in the World" and they do. I am so glad we found this place. Transfers provided by Carnival went smoothly from airport to hotel to port.
Embarkation: Was pleasantly surprised how smoothly and quickly it went. Only thing I found frustrating was they handed out extra forms (bahamas entry docs etc) to fill out while waiting in line and everyone seemed to be scrambling to fill them out before they reached the counter. Once we got on ship found our room easily and had our luggage to our room within a few hours as they promised.
Ship: Carnival Liberty is a beautiful ship with an interesting, fun decor. We had an Oceanview cabin on Deck 1 Riviera and found it to be very roomy for the 3 of us. The bedding was incredibly comfortable and my 3yr old old slept better than he ever has. I am considering buying the Carnival bedding for ourselves which Carnival does offer. Found the ship overall easy to get around and a good variety of places to visit. I especially liked Jardin's Cafe which has 3 locations on ship for lattes & milkshakes. Rooms also supply shampoo & soap as well as many sample items in the room like razors for guest's use. Initially my husband and I said we would never send our son to Camp Carnival but after attending the orientation and having our son tour the room he asked to go. The staff made him feel comfortable, they had a wide variety of both children's activities as well as family events like the cookie making/ice cream eating contest. I would definitely recommend Camp Carnival for anyone with kids.
Food: The food was disappointing. We had taken an RCCL cruise 5 yrs ago and the food was outstanding so was very dissatisfied with the food on Carnival and agree with the many negative reviews I've read on this board. I spoke to many other passengers and they had expressed the same opinion on the food. The food in the dining room was bland and left me hungry for more flavor & taste. On most nights I found the food in the buffet line to be better than the dining room which it should have been the opposite. The buffet on Lido Deck was frustrating. Some buffet lines would shut down leaving passengers to search for a place to get food. The beverage machines would be consistently running out of juice and the dessert selection of sponge cake squares was boring & something I could have bought at my local grocery store. Most of the buffet line food was very tasty & it was nice to have a selection of food to satisfy all 3 of us. One night they had a "Grand Buffet" which I was hoping would be their Chocolate Buffet they advertise but was disappointed to find out that they had a small amount of food & heard other passengers asking "Is this all?" There wasn't anything "Grand" about it.
Dining room: We were booked for the early seating in the Silver Olympian & found it didn't live up to my expectations. I already mentioned the food and the service was not very good. Our server was friendly enough but she didn't seem to give that extra friendly touch we had on our previous cruise with RCCL dining room staff. She asked if we had a special occasion we were celebrating and I mentioned our 10 yr anniversary & my birthday and she said she would sing "Happy Birthday" and have a cake next night at dinner. Next night came and she had forgotten about this so we didn't have any recognition of our special occasions on this cruise. I was especially disappointed as I had made sure that our travel agent advised Carnival we had a special occasion & had also personally mentioned it to our server.
San Juan - We didn't arrive till 7pm when all the tours & shops had already closed but was able to walk through town & some shops stayed open. Was a good place to pick up snacks, drinks etc to take aboard. They had beautiful Christmas displays throughout town.
St Thomas - If you like to buy jewelry you will love St.Thomas. We did some shopping for souvenirs but didn't find any "great" deals. Took the Coral World/Magen's Bay excursion through Carnival. Had visited Coral World's website & read great reviews on this website so was looking forward to seeing it in person with my 3yr old. When we got there we were told we only had an hour to look around which turned out to be more than enough time. There wasn't as much to see as I had hoped and would not recommend going there. Next we were taken to Magen's Bay beach which was beautiful & we enjoyed a couple hours there. They had change facilities, chair rentals & restaurant facilities. Had I known I would have skipped Coral World & took a taxi to the beach for the day. Magen's Bay beach is a must see.
Antigua - Did our own thing and was glad. We found shopping for souvenirs expensive as well as other shops. Didn't buy much here. Heritage Quay had many individual vendors with booths all together in one building. They all had similar merchandise and it could get quite overwhelming trying to make your way through all the vendors pushing you to buy. Took a taxi to Dickenson's Bay. Cruise ship advised to use taxi service on the pier rather than get an independent taxi & they had a taxi booth that was easy to find. Dickenson's Bay is a short distance from the port & is a good place to spend the day especially with children. We didn't find it crowded. We rented chairs $5 & umbrella $10. You could also rent jet skis & other water equipment. There were also change facilities, restaurants & bars. Beware of some of the taxi drivers at the beach. We had arranged with our taxi to pick us up later. While waiting for her another independent taxi driver tried to convince us she had left & we should go with him. She had previously warned us they would do that so we waited for her.
Tortola - Took the "Baths" excursion. Didn't get much time to spend there but it is a definite must to see. You can also go on to Devil's Bay next to it which you reach through caves.
Nassau - Took the Dolphin encounter out at Blue Lagoon Island. It was short but was a great experience for our family. Was costly to buy pictures & video of our experience but will be a great souvenir.
Disembarkation - We ended up being the last group to be called to leave. It was nice that they had a variety of places where you could wait. Once we were off it went quickly & smoothly.
Overall, the ports we visited were fantastic, the ship was good but would not choose Carnival for our next cruise because of the food. It was certainly good value for the money.