My family of 4 cruised on a 5-day cruise on the Liberty of the Seas on March 29, 2014. Together as a family, we had cruised on the Disney Dream and RCCL Freedom of the Seas previously.
Embarkation: We got an email that embarking wouldn't begin til 12-3:30. We planned to get there earlier, but traffic was very slow-moving in Port Everglades. Once we dropped off the luggage, parked the car, and got through line, we checked in and boarded around 12:40 and were able to get into our room by 1pm.
Pool: The big screen by the pool showed a lot of soccer games as well as NCAA games throughout. the cruise. I was glad to see that they didn't have people "check out" pool towels or charge you for missing pool towels like they used to do. It took til the day 4 before they showed any movies on the big screen at night; I wish they did that more. As is lacking on other RCCL ships, I also wish they would heat pools in the evening.
Room: Our family was sharing one room - including my husband, and boys aged 9 and 11. On Freedom, we were in an outside stateroom, but this time had a D1 stateroom with a balcony and it felt so much roomier. There was a good amount of shelf space in the closet, and the use of a pull out sofa and the positioning of the queen bed because of the balcony really made the room feel large. The cabin steward pulled out the sofa at dinner and put it back in the morning; it was more comfortable than a regular fold-out sofa on the mainland. Our cabin steward was great about rearranging the layout of the bed, working with our schedule, making towel animals, and keeping everything neat and tidy. The refrigerator supplied didn't seem as cold as I would expect but wasn't as full with mini-bar food so we could fit 5 bottled water in there for our own use. The flat screen TV was clear and viewable by all beds, and the desk area was roomy for all our electronics, cruise compasses, etc.
Belize City: Barrier Reef Snorkeling Wonders - I was worried about going ashore in Belize since I heard about lines getting onto tenders; the night before we were told that shore excursions would be given priority and people not on a RCCL excursion would likely not get on a tender until 10am. On our cruise, they had many early shore excursions meet at 8:30 in the Ice Skating Rink and were given a number corresponding to our excursion. We waited for a little over 1/2 hour, and then were the first excursion to leave the room. We boarded a tender which took us directly to the Barrier Reef excursion at Rendezvous Caye. The ride took about 25-30 minutes each way; on the way there, we were told about some islands in the surrounding area. At the excursion, we were divided into groups. My family went in to the Beginner so it would be slower and less demanding than the others. Although many people were in the beginner group, besides spacing ourselves, I found myself surrounded by clear waters and able to see fish and coral. My 9 year old got tired and was able to ride on one guide's canoe alongside the group. My other son had his googles loosen and was given a replacement. They also stopped at one location where people could choose to get on the beach, or continue with the snorkeling. On the beach, you could buy food like burgers, hot dogs, and drinks; sit on the beach or the shade; play volleyball; or just swim in the water. Definitely bring water shoes, since the caye is made from dead coral and it is a bit rocky there. On the ride back, we were offered water and fruit punch.
Cozumel: Cozumel Bottom Fishing. We had been to Cozumel before, and decided to try something different that my fishing-loving sons would like. The excursion met at the end of the pier at the duty free shop, and on time, we walked over to the fishing boat and boarded. We were taken about 20 minutes away and throughout the 3.5 hours, we were moved to different locations moving back to the pier whenever they felt fishing was slow. We were offered sodas, water, and chips throughout the trip, and soapy water to clean our hands. The crew also provided cut bait fish, helped untangle lines, bait hooks, help cast, and remove fish from hooks, as needed. Together, the 8 people on the boat caught about 10 fish ranging from 8" to 1.5' long.
MDR: We really enjoyed eating at the main dining room. Our waitstaff was great. They kept us in bread and resolved our indecision at picking courses by giving us multiple appetizers or desserts. They remembered what we liked, and were friendly throughout. I was surprised that the head waiter never came by on the first night and do wonder if that is related to the required gratuities.
We did go to the main dining room for lunch once and they seemed a little difficult about having us get up from our chairs to check the buffet offerings before ordering. Breakfast there was very comfortable, and my oldest thinks the corned beef hash was better there than in windjammer.
Windjammer: In general, there are many items in Windjammer that are consistently there during all lunches and all breakfasts. I guess that may provide comfort to some (like my kids) but makes me just want more variety. I think it is more a problem at breakfast for me. We did enjoy getting cookies, prawn crackers, and sushi each evening.
Chops Grille: My kids loved Chops Grille on our trip on Freedom, so we had to go their again. My oldest is a fan of the Green Peppercorn Sauce for the steaks, and my youngest likes the bacon-wrapped chicken. I don't know if we did a better job with eating lite during the day, but the sides seemed smaller or like we were able to get through them. I personally especially liked the crab and shrimp cake, mushrooms, asparagus, and ham and cheese potatoes.
Activities: We did honestly find ourselves doing a lot of trivia. I was surprised that we actually won trivia games, since usually it takes a near perfect score to win and we managed to win 3-4 games with usually less than perfect scores. We actually also had nice prizes ranging from key chains, rectangular magnet frames, travel wallets, and cups. I do wish there was more variety in activities available for parents to do with their kids.
Encore Ice Show: I liked the ice show on Freedom better, because I think it was more fast-paced and captured the kids' interest more. I guess we also saw more falls than expected. Overall, it was good.
Up In the Air Show: We liked the aerial routines at the beginning and the aerialists who used ribbons most of all. We did think the cargo net routine a little unusual. We did find the women dressing in male body suits (to appear flat chested) and men looking like mermaids (moreso than mermen) seemed a little unusual as well. Seating in the platinum theater had obstructed views seats, so it is probably best to get seats on the 3rd floor or early enough to get your pick of the 4th floor.
1. There was one evening trivia event that no activity coordinator. I had asked the wait staff after 10-15 minutes and was surprised that they just replied that they didn't know and didn't try to find anyone. I later went to the service desk which had a line; I was told to get in line after they knew my question asking where the activity leader was. I finally talked to another customer service agent who called the activity team to resolve the issue. After 30 minutes, the person showed up with nicer prizes.
2. Adventure Ocean seemed to combine the 6-8 and 9-11 age group a lot, even at at sea days when my kids it was too crowded to fit in there. Even at the beginning of the cruise they said they expected that. I wish when possible they would split up the groups to allow more age-appropriate activities. I also wished they made more use of the sports courts to allow the kids to do outdoor activities together like I had seen on Freedom; often the sports courts are taken over by older kids and adults. In general, it seems like there is a lot of focus on the 12-17 crowd but not enough for the 9-11 age group or for families who want to spend time with their older kids.
3. Beverage Plan - On Freedom in 2013, we ordered the fountain drink plan for our kids because when we boarded we say they had the coke machines where you could choose from 100 varieties of carbonated and non-carbonated drinks. We prepaid for the plan on Liberty, but on this ship, they only offer Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Ginger Ale (and maybe a couple of others). I'm not sure if the Coke machines still exist on other ships, but there should be clarity in advertising this in the pre-planner. Customer service was good about refunding my youngest's plan who doesn't like soda.
4. I went to another event on Cozumel day, but no one was there. It seems like the activity coordinator and people at the bar should be able to answer questions about events that don't occur or are cancelled.
5. We went to a 3D movie in the Platinum Theater and my son left his iPod in the arm rest. When we went back, we weren't allowed in the theater to search because it was locked with them preparing for the Saturday Night Fever show. I went to Guest Information and all I could get from them was the cleaning crew would turn in everything, the theater would most likely open at 6:30, and they logged my name, room, and item description in a book; I wasn't comforted by this since two people around me had also lost iphones. We left dinner and made it to the theater around 6:25 where the theater was open and found the ipod thankfully. I just wish customer service could do more immediately for me.
Overall, we did expect this 5-day cruise on the Liberty of the Seas to be similar to 7-day Freedom we took the previous year, since Liberty is a sister ship, but the service seemed different and activities a little less. Still, overall, our family was able to relax during the whole cruise and we enjoyed ourselves during this spring break vacation.