Just got back from a 5 night cruise to the Western Caribbean aboard the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas. We stayed the night before the cruise at the Hilton Garden Inn Airport-Port Everglades. Lovely little place, very friendly staff, close to restaurants and a store for last minute shopping. My daughter insisted on taking a cab to the hotel from the airport (Hilton provides a free shuttle) - cost was $26 plus tax. We bought round trip shuttle (hotel to port and back to the airport after the cruise) in the lobby of the hotel for $36 for both of us. Very affordable and easy peasy. Once you get to the port, plan on tipping the folks that make sure your bags get on the ship. The check in time is from 12noon to 3pm - if you can, arrive closer to 2:30 when the lines have gone down. However, the hotel shuttle's last departure time is 11:45, which means you will get there in the middle of everyone else boarding - long, long lines. Of course, if you book a suite, you will be moved straight to the front of the check in line - no waiting whatsoever.
After the mandatory muster, you can begin to explore the ship and enjoy! It seemed to us as if they had every detail thought out. Each day there was a list of things to do on board and off, but for any questions or concerns, you merely had to visit Guest Relations and they were always most helpful. The food on Deck 11 was varied and delicious, as well as the delightful dinners served each night in the more formal dining room. We spent a lot of time at the pool/sunbathing and missed quite a few of the shows, but we heard they were great. The casino was fun as well - for some reason the penny slots seemed to pay out more than the others, but that could have just been luck? One couple we met won $4,000 on a penny slot the night before. :) They also have a nightly lottery drawing ($2 per ticket) as well as a drawing to "wipe your portfolio clean" (up to $2,000) You put your sail pass card in the slot machine and once you have earned 25 points, you are automatically entered. I used the services of the medi spa and was very happy with the Dysport and Pearlane treatments. If this is something you decide to do, please make sure to put ice on your face afterward so that you don't bruise, and take 2 advil for any discomfort. (and yes, it's well worth it!) Our cruise went to Labadee and we enjoyed an excursion, but we opted not to disembark at Famouth, Jamaica. If you like to have the pool and other facilities more to yourself, stay on board at the ports of call, much less crowded once so many disembark. The drinks served at the pool and other places were top notch. If you opt to buy the drink package, just make sure you really feel you will consume that many drinks per day. Most run about $7, and the (alcoholic) drink package is $55 per day. Unless you are very scheduled, you will most likely not get to even experience the entire ship and all it has to offer. The warm sun, the great food and drinks just seem to lull you into a state of utter relaxation - to the point you just want to read, nap and de-stress. LOL The ship is a marvel and everything is clean, well run and will make you feel so pampered. The staff is especially friendly and helpful but never intrusive. LOVED that!
Disembarkation runs very smoothly - you can get up, have a last delicious breakfast and head off the ship pretty quickly. They will even let you stay on the ship and relax if you have a late flight! There were lines again going through customs, but my advice would be to either take the early disembarkation time slots or the latest if your flight is in the late afternoon to avoid waiting. Customs itself was a breeze and the only other line was at airport security, but even then, they had folks helping you go to the head of the line if your flight happened to be leaving soon. It seemed to all go by way too quickly and we can't wait to book the next cruise.