Overall - an amazing time on Carnival Liberty!
Pre-Day 1 – Travel: I went on this cruise with a buddy. I flew in the night before (thank you, United airlines for the ability to spend $80 to upgrade to 1st Class) and we stayed at the River Park Hotel and Suites for a Hotels.com price of $159.00. The hotel is in shambles and it is not even remotely worth $65 much less $159, but this is Miami. The 'Free Continental Breakfast' is not. It is toast (only one 4-slot toaster working so the line is long), muffin, and frosted or unfrosted flakes and coffee.
Day 1 - Embarkation: We arranged a cab from the hotel to the cruise port for $18 for the both of us (rip-off considering the port is 1/3 of a mile away) but oh well.
We arrived at the port at 10:15am and were whisked to the Captain's Lounge (VIP Area) because I am Platinum with Carnival. By 10:30am we were aboard the ship (so I could guarantee that I had Cabana #5 on Half Moon Cay (my favorite Cabana - which I was able to secure!)
We immediately went to the stateroom (9218 Port Balcony Lido Deck) and met Puspa, our beautiful and very sweet Thai cabin stewardess. We unpacked in 5 minutes and went to buy our 'Cheers Program' so we could head to the Red Frog Pub for a cocktail. Come to find out, all of the POS systems were down so the Cheers could not be bought until later. It was back in operation after our first (paid for) cocktail.
The service at the Red Frog Pub was atrociously slow ALL CRUISE. It is as if that is where they are placing their slowest, most inexperienced bartenders. Even once they became familiar with our drink selection (Jack and Diet for me) they seemed to have no motivation. That is simply a management problem and needs to be addressed. I am guessing they are on their first contract. Muster drill was painless and well organized. We then met a group of CC friends at Lido bar aft for an informal Meet & Greet. We were happy that Sami and Edwin at the Lido Aft Bar were awesome and efficient. In fact, we usually would make the walk back there to get our drinks instead of dealing with the inept bar service at Red Frog.
We skipped dinner in the Main Dining Room that evening (as is typical for the sail away day for me) and enjoyed the DELICIOUS Guy’s Burgers. The evening was fun, as the sailaway party always is... Karaoke on this night was held in the Victoria Aft Lounge (also known as the location for the Punchliner Comedy Club on some nights) and was hosted by Kim (from China). I have cruised twice with Kim before and he wasn't his energetic self, although he was still great. I found out that this was his last contract, as Carnival is stepping away from 'dedicated karaoke hosts' and using main entertainment staff in that function. As usual, the first night was very sparse in the Hot & Cool nightclub (due to people being tired and/or drunk from their trip in and/or sail away). We wrapped things up with Pizza from Pizza Pirate, Lido deck aft. It was very good (and we come from Jersey and know great pizza - this was actually 'good'.
Day 2 - HMC: This itinerary is a bit rare in that the first full day is spent on my favorite island on Earth - Half Moon Cay! We were a little late getting to the island (as the night was extended until the wee hours of the morning). We arrived at Cabana #5 at around 11:00am and all was set up for us already. Chips, dip, fruit, veggies, veggie dip, 8 sodas, ice, air conditioning, misting fan, snorkel gear for 4, 4 floatie-mats for the ocean, and our own private shower. The only 'almost negative' part of the day was that the whole island lost generator power for about an hour. They did fire up a small generator for the DJ but that did not cover the AC, misting fan, or AC outlets for our music system (I always bring my own, as the DJs tend to play to 'the crowd' and my Cabana needs to have a beach/country/reggae vibe – NOTE TO SELF – bring a set of AAA batteries for your JBL iPhone speaker dock in case this happens in April). The day was amazing otherwise and I cannot wait for 34 days when I will be back there, same Cabana, aboard Splendor. Later on that day we made our first trip to the Golden Olympian dining room for Your Time Dining at around 7:15.
Day 3 - Day at Sea (St. Patrick’s Day): After a long night of great fun and fanfare (karaoke, dancing, Seth Gibson at the piano bar), Today was our day at sea. We slept in and woke up at around lunchtime to have a delicious Blue Iguana Burrito! Up to Serenity after that (which was camped and of course the 40 minute rule was not being enforced). Were it up to me, carnival should place cameras with timestamps above each serenity angle and when someone complains about camping – fast forward to see if the chairs have been used – if not, towels are removed and the new person gets the seats. HUGE Shout-out to DJ Spike who REALLY kept the party alive and played to all ages! I am SO IMPRESSED with him! This evening is the 1st elegant night so I donned my black tux, black vest, black shirt with green tie and green pocket square with green beads… Delicious lobster and shrimp on this evening… More piano bar and dancing through the early hours, then pizza at 4am!
Day 4 – St. Thomas: I love this island and since my travel buddy had never been, we opted for the cab to Magen’s Bay to just chill on the beach. Beautiful ride over the hill to the bay and the beach was nice as usual. Headed back after 3 hours and was able to get back on the ship before the rush… Dinner this evening was splendid again. HUGE props to the guitar player/singer Aaron from Philly who was so very amazing all week, but today even more so! Tonight was BOTH the Mardi Grad Party (Lobby Atrium) and the Electric White Night (Nightclub)… why have them both on the same night? Bah… it was fun regardless… piano bar, karaoke, dancing, etc… WEAR YOUR WHITE on white night and get $1.00 off all drinks in the nightclub!
Day 5 – San Juan: This is my least favorite port on this itinerary but since my cruise buddy had never been, we simply meandered the streets and shopped then hit Senor Frogs… boring. This evenings meal was splendid again and the night brought the same fun as the past few…
Day 6 – Grand Turk: Another favorite port of mine. We awoke to the awesome sight of Grand Turk off our balcony… such crystal blue waters… We headed to my favorite place on GT – Jack’s Shack. It is about ¼ mile up the left beach (just before the first pier) and is owned by Jack and his wife Janet (who also tend bar)… Relaxing, volleyball court on the beach out front, and truly AWESOME food! We then waited until 2 hours before ship sailing to hit up Margaritaville for the drunken festivities… Back to the ship at 4:30pm. Tonight is the 2nd elegant knight so I donned my classic tuxedo, white shirt, and hand-tied bowtie (real men do not wear clipons. We enjoyed great wine, great food, and new friends at dinner, then had another wild, eventful nightlife!
Day 7 – 2nd Day at Sea: The morning started off with waking up then me having to be at the Carnival Legends Show rehearsal at 11:45 (I auditioned and won the role of Garth Brooks). Another day-drinking fun time after that with DJ Spike keeping everyone entertained. The final dinner in the MDR was wonderful as well. On this night, my plans were different than most, as I headed to the Venetian Palace Theater to prep for the show. After the Legends show we gathered for drinks with many of our new friends then repeated our nightly cycles of fun!
Day 8 – Debarkation: Flawless, as I am Platinum with Carnival and we opted to Self Assist, we stayed on the ship until 10:00am eating Blue Iguana breakfast burritos… $10 share van to the airport and on our way home.
HERE ARE A COUPLE POINTS I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE:
1 - Cheers Program. It was a complete benefit for myself and my cruise buddy (as we drink fairly high quantities). Here are some KEY elements you need to know:
a. Regardless what people tell you, do NOT wait until the ship leaves port to buy your Cheers program. The tax does not apply to the purchase price of the program, but to whichever drinks you get while still in port in the US (~$.40 was added to my Scotch). The tax is charged to your S&S card.
b. Keep track of your drink number once over 10. If you hit 15 YOU ARE CUT OFF AT THE BAR AND CANNOT USE YOUR S&S CARD FOR ALCOHOL UNTIL 6am! This became evident on the first day (sailaway) when I was told I could not personally use my S&S for alcohol because I had hit 15. The next night Joe and I hit 14 then started buying drinks for each other (workaround).
c. Using the 25% discount (automatically applied) for wine DOES NOT count as a 'drink' of your 15 per day.
d. Even if you are '15 cut off', Room Service WILL serve you drinks charged to your S&S.
e. Each time you sign for a 'Cheers' drink, it shows $0.00 as your total. It ALWAYS pays to throw an extra dollar or two for your favorite bartender. I did this and my Nightclub bartender started pouring me doubles and charging singles of The Macallan Select Oak single malt Scotch!
2 - Electric White Night. Many people on the Liberty did not know that there is a White night on all 7+ day cruises and you get $1.00 off every drink if you wear something white. While I went all out and had a blast - so many people did not know about this cool party!
3 – Photos. They no longer put the photos on sale the day of debarkation so buy them as you find them if that is your plan.