This was our 4th cruise over a 20 year span, and our first with Royal Caribbean. This was to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and our children had joined us and had interior rooms close to ours. I had thoroughly researched various cruise lines and ships and based on the reviews and our desire to visit Belize on a 5 day trip, decided on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.
Embarkation: Very Slow.(2 Hrs?) This may have been due to the fact that there were 3 ships in port that day, and the 3 mile trip from the airport to the cruise terminal took close to 30 minutes alone. This was probably also a result of the recent government budget reductions and the U.S. Customs and Border Protections staffing reduction. We dropped off our luggage and waited in a very long line for close to an hr to an hr and a half.
Ship Appearance: Very impressive. I had viewed many pictures of the ship in advance, and would have to say that it is a very large ship with many amenities, and very well maintained. It is for the most part very well laid out, and easy to get around. My only complaint is that there should be at the very least one more cluster of elevators and stairwells. There were only 2, and since our room was a balcony room on the very back of the ship, it was a long walk(100+ yds) just to the elevators. Once at the elevators, it was mostly useless unless you wanted to wait for a minimum of 3-4 minutes, and then stop at each level!.
Cabin: Ours was a balcony (9404) and was quite roomy with a great view! Being on the rear corner of the ship, one could see approx 270 degrees of the horizon! I was very impressed with this. The cabin was about as big as a lot of hotel rooms, and the closet and drawer space was sufficient.The bathroom was nicely laid out with a circular shower that when the doors were open, gave the appearance of a larger room. The shower was really nice, and plenty of vanity space. The balcony was a good size but we actually didn't use it as much as we thought we would, although it will be hard to go back to an interior room should we decide to cruise again. Our attendant was very friendly, but just average or below, in keeping things picked up when we weren't around. We were used to more attentive service from previous cruises. There was only one evening where we found a towel animal on our bed. Our children's rooms were interior rooms and were very roomy and comfortable also, and had excellent room stewards who kept their staterooms spotless! Most of our group took advantage of the Room Service, and I would say that it is just as advertised. You pick the 30 min time frame that you desire your food, and they will call just before they deliver it. Since we had a balcony room, we decided to enjoy most of our breakfasts in our room and balcony. The food was delivered promptly and was hot. My only complaint was that you could get bacon, eggs, toast, hashbrown potatoes, but NO waffles. Not a big deal though as the view made up for any shortcomings. Additionally, you can forget about having this service on the morning of disembarkation, as it seems they want you off the ship as soon as possible.
Food: After all the reviews I read, I had low expectations for the food, but thought that a lot of people were too critical. After a few breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer, I'd have to agree and say that the food was marginal at best. About what you would expect from a buffet I guess. It kind of reminded me of a Golden Corral buffet. We chose My Time Dining for our dinners in the main dining room, and although the service was really good, the food lacked in quality. When comparing with previous cruises that we have been on with Celebrity, and Carnival (also small ships in comparison) we decided that it was probably a trend in dining, and that it is almost impossible to provide 5 star dining to 3500+ guests. What used to be the number one thing in cruising, has now turned into a mediocre meal, similar to dining at an Applebees, Olive Garden, (insert your favorite local casual dining eatery). We were also anxious for the 'My Time Dining' as this was our first cruise that offered that. We were quickly disappointed however on the 2nd day when we arrived at the Dining Room at 7:00 and we were asked if we had reservations. I told him no, and he said that it would be 8:00 to 8:15 at the earliest that we would get seated. I told him what was the point of 'My Time Dining' if you were still supposed to make reservations, and he said that a lot of people like to eat in the 7:00-8:00 time frame and they were not able to accommodate everyone.
Also, while eating in the Windjammer, my daughter tried to get her water bottle filled, and was told that they weren't supposed to fill them, so she had to go and bring back several cups of water to the table and pour them into her bottle herself. Another notable comment to make was that while we were eating at the Windjammer we noticed some fighting among staff members where one walked up to evidently a subordinate member and told him quite loudly "You are nothing here, NOTHING!". He did this not once but twice that we saw. Another aspect of the dining staff was that they were very attentive, but not very friendly. In previous cruises they all had very outgoing personalities and would offer quite a bit of conversation, however this time around, they seemed to be just doing their job, and maybe that is appealing to some cruisers, but we've always appreciated getting to know our servers well.
Specialty restaurants - We ate at Portifino, and the food was really good! This is the caliber of food that we should have received in the Dining Room in my opinion, and not have had to pay the $20 per person charge. Johnny Rockets was also a very good burger joint, but again, should have been complementary and not have a $5 cover charge. A side note on Johnny Rockets, is that although the food is covered by the $5 charge, the drinks are not. Several family members chose Sundaes for desert, and I chose a Chocolate Shake. When I got the bill, the Sundaes were covered by the $5 cover charge, while the shake was an additional $5. After seeing this, I told them that I had purchased the premium drink package and asked if it was included since it was a drink, they said that it was not! The Cupcake cupboard was another premium shop that we visited, and although they weren't bad, they were certainly not worth the $$. Sorento's Pizza was a complimentary restaurant, and the pizza was good, but not worth writing home about. The midnight buffet that used to be served on cruises years ago has long been abandoned as have the days of ice sculpture, Lobster, and Crab Legs. In order to make cruising appear to be a cheap vacation, cruise lines have all done away with all the past traditions and have resorted to all kinds of gimmicks in order to pick up revenue. I personally would like to see higher up front cruise prices, and make it all inclusive once again. As a side note on all the restaurant servers/workers, I would say that they were all polite and did their job adequately, however most if not all did not seem to enjoy their jobs. They were not friendly at all, nor did they try to engage in any casual conversation. In fact it seemed like they tried to avoid any verbal interaction at all with the passengers. We witnessed this in the dining rooms, and restaurants, with the exception being our waiter from Turkey in Portifino, and a very nice waitress in Johnny Rockets.
Drinks: We purchased the premium drink package at $55 per day and found it hard to drink enough to break even even at the inflated drink prices. Just a heads up for those of you wondering about prices. Gratuity is added to each drink, and beers start out at $5.50, wine at $6.50, and mixed drinks, cocktails $7.50+. Not as many waiters hounding you to buy drinks around the pool, as the drink packages have probably cut into their gratuities??
Kids Club. We had our 2 yr old grandson with us in our group, and we did not take advantage of this, although we were able to get a few toys on loan. The play area for them is not real large, and not staffed very well, so not sure about the availability of services.
Fitness and Spa: Very well equipped and maintained. No complaints except for the spa prices being high. As the cruise went along however, prices dropped significantly. Not sure why they don't start out lower, and do a larger volume. I took advantage of the track on deck 12?, and it is very nice although slightly crowded if you go from 8-9am. 4.5 laps per mile so a larger track than all of my previous cruises.
Pictures/Internet/Ship Tours: The pictures are another thing that is priced out of line anymore. With all the cell phones and digital cameras these days, most people can take a really nice picture and not have to fork over the $40+ for them. See also charges for Internet service. This also is way out of line and should be adjusted accordingly. Most of the excursions we took off the ship offered free internet at their place of business! I also inquired about a tour of the ship, and was told that they limit the size to 50 people and that there were a few slots left. I said 'Great', and then she replied that the cost would be $150, to which I replied, 'No Thanks'. A tour of the ship used to be complementary, but I guess those days are over as well.
Shows: Awesome! We saw Up in the Air, Saturday Night Fever, and the Ice Show. All were very entertaining. Saturday Night Fever was very professionally done, and could've been something straight off Broadway. The Ice Show featured a couple from the UK? and they were unbelievably good! They looked like Olympic caliber skaters, they were THAT good! The comedian was also very good. I would rate the Entertainment on the Liberty as the best I have seen of any cruise line. One slight disappointment however was the seating for the ice show. We had heard that you needed to make reservations in advance to make sure that you would get a good seat. We had also heard that those people with reservations would be seated first, and then those waiting in line for a last minute chance to watch the show would get in. Since we had made reservations before we left for the cruise, we showed up about 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the show, and they were not even checking to see if people had made a reservation. People were just filing in, and by the time we got inside, about the only seats left were in the far corner and in the back. Not sure why we even made reservations!
Activities: Plenty of activities going on during the cruise. If you get bored, its your own fault. We took advantage of the Rock Climbing Wall twice during the cruise as this was one of the shortest waiting lines. It was well organized and very safe in my opinion. We did not have enough free time to try the ice skating, however if you do decide to do this you will need to wear pants(no shorts), and socks. The FlowRider was almost impossible to do, unless you wanted to wait in line for hours, and even then the availability is limited. On the first day for instance the hours were 1:30pm-3:30pm Boogie Boarding, 5-6 Surfing, and 6-7 Boogie Boarding. So very hard to even attempt, and even then it looked as though most people had a difficult time in mastering it. We played Bingo once, and that was enough. The cost was $22 and we thought there were going to be playing 13+- games for a prize of $300 per game. What it actually turned out to be was that you received a single digital Bingo Game Card that would automatically check off the squares for you and play all 13 or so cards that you had for ONE game of Bingo for a prize of $300! Quite the ripoff!
Debarkation: To sum it up, they are quick to get you off the ship, but then you get to stand in a huge line in a warehouse waiting to pick out your luggage, and then proceed to another huge line in customs. Expect 1-1 1/2 hr wait to get into a Taxi.
Summary: We had a really great time and made some wonderful memories with our kids that will last a lifetime. Will we go on another cruise again? Maybe, but not for a couple of years(we typically have been celebrating every 5th yr Anniversary's. There really are many other vacation options anymore, and some inclusive resorts that offer a much better deal than this. We really do enjoy Cozumel, so maybe we will fly in to a Mexican all inclusive resort, and take a day trip to visit Cozumel. The days of old time cruising are over, the personal attention and fine dining have been replaced by 'Cattle Boats' herding the masses through the food troughs and treating the passengers more like a revenue stream than anything else. I am exaggerating of course, but the Cruising I once knew and loved is no more!