OUR CARNIVAL LIBERTY EXPERIENCE Eastern Caribbean 03/29/14-04/05/14
Miami, FL; Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; St. Thomas US Virgin Islands; San Juan Puerto Rico; Grand Turk Turks & Caicos, Miami, FL.
The opinions expressed within this review are those of my family, our friends and specifically me on this vacation. They come from our experience on Carnival Liberty. I apologize in advance if I offend and/or cause anxiety from those readers who do not like what I have to say or feel I am taking too long to post and/or finish. If that is the case, please stop reading now, no need to put yourself through any undo dourest.
I am writing this review because over the 344 days or 11 months and 10 days or 49 weeks and 1 day, (yup you guessed it we booked this far out, first time for that and still not sure I liked it too much other than the OBC we got for filing the Early Saver forms). I had a lot of time from booking to when we left for Florida, to research and read a lot about Carnival Liberty- just about Carnival in general and what people seem to like and/or dislike (and I mean a heck of a lot!!). So, I thought I too should try to give back to my fellow CCer’s, this isn’t my first review because I have written one for each of our other cruises-this one is different because it’s my first picture review (I have practiced inserting pictures on the CC test forum, so I hope I can do this).
I plan to begin with our early, early, early, morning (did I mention it was early) departure from our home city Buffalo, NY (sounds better with town but we are truly a city) and our one day & night stay in Fort Lauderdale pre-cruise, our experience on Carnival Liberty & what we did each day, our post cruise excursion through Carnival (fully paid for using OBC we received from price drops) and return to Buffalo with some final thoughts.
OK with all that said, we all know the best laid plans are not what usually occurs – call it Murphy’s Law, call it Life but somehow, someway what we want, might not always be what we get……….. So, let the games begin! (LOL, I have always wanted to say that).
We found out in January that we would have the new American Table and American Feast menus on our voyage. We had looked at them online and everyone would be keeping an open mind- thank you baby Jesus!
This trip consisted of myself (42), my DH (51), DS#2 (17) the graduate from high school and the reason for this cruise, DS#3 (15), DS#4 (13 to start but the birthday boy during the cruise). My DS#1(23) decided to stay home. He had to work and would move back into the family home to take care of the family dog while we were away. We also had DS#2’s BFF (17) another high school graduate and his mother (56). Meeting us in Miami would be my BFF (42) and her DS (15 but turning 16, right after we get back from this cruise). I only give you the ages as I found it helped me to try to understand whether my DSs, DH or I would enjoy something based on the posters ages in other reviews.
As my signature announces this was our second cruise with Carnival and fourth cruise overall for DH & I, second for DSs. My BFF, this was her second cruise-both with Carnival and everyone else had never cruised before. Prior to the cruise I had signed the boys up for Circle “C” and Club o2. They loved NCL’s clubs but that was 6 years ago, I truly hoped they would like what Carnival had to offer (but more on that during the review).
**Footnote ** because I graduated with my Bachelors degree in May ’13, DH let me book a balcony, as I opted to not have a party and/or any gifts, instead using that money to upgrade from an interior (when cruising with so many we look to cut our cost ). I just wanted to be able to enjoy my morning coffee, fresh fruit & one/two (multiple) glasses of wine/spirits (in the evening, of courseïŠ). I thought it was a great trade off and well worth it. I worked full time outside the home, while I completed my degree. I am very proud of what I accomplished, not for me but in showing my sons that you can do anything you put your mind too. I promised my mother I would get my degree, so completing it -although she is no longer with us (she passed right before I started school), I kept my word thus showing another lesson to my sons in keeping your word. It’s so funny how life works out (any way I digressed- sorry about that)!
We also had a scare with DH being diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms (several blood clots in both lungs) in early February, so we were happy he was on the mend and would be able to join us (If he hadn’t been able to come we would have had to eat his fare because we opted not to take the insurance- I know, I know, we should have bought it but I never thought we might need it-best laid plans right but I digress again….:-(.
We did book the cabins with DH in the balcony with one son and me in the interior with two sons-this way both cabins got to partake in any past guest price drops since we booked Early Saver. Once we got on the ship DH & I went to guest services to get extra cabin cards, as I would be switching with DS#2 to stay in the balcony and he would go to the inside cabin.
Originally I was going to save my notes for the end but once I started to put the review together I decided to move them to the front.
• I actually started writing my review 60 days out from our trip- in a word document. I was afraid I would forget some preliminary details that I wanted to make certain I added. This helped me keep track of those little details-plus I brought it with me in a notebook so I could jot down notes while on the trip.
• I used packing lists (excel spreadsheets) to keep everyone straight. I’m a little “type A personality” [if you haven’t figured that out already] so this really helped me with the packing for five people.
• I packed one swimsuit in everyone’s carry on going down to Fort Lauderdale. I wasn’t sure if the hotel was going to let us check in early-remember we were arriving EARLY to FLL and if the weather permitted I wanted to begin our vacation immediately. (Well again best laid plans). Hotel actually let us check in when we arrived and NO RAIN!!!
• I did over pack, I always do. Even though I pulled out several outfits and repacked several times before we left.
• I brought Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer and baggies to place the TV remotes in-at the hotel & in the cabin-nasty germs on them.
• I wiped down the surfaces of each cabin-drawers, desk top, phone and unpacked the balcony & inside cabin, you can never be too careful and yes I have done this every cruise, just a little OCD about germs. Plus DSs would have lived out of their suitcases for the week had I not.
• I brought different sized Ziploc bags to seal sand & shells in. I always bring sand back from any beach I have been too-my collection has sand from California to New York and the Dominican Republic, along with the Caribbean islands we have visited on cruises. I also bring them for those odds & ends you need along the way, like extra fruit from the buffet to have on the balcony or packing wet clothes in when leaving, or even dry cereal we use to get the fish to come close when snorkeling.
• I brought OTC meds for everything from heartburn to diarrhea to cough syrup, a small sewing kit that includes a nail kit, band aids & Neosporin- just in case.
• We had sun tan lotion/sunblock from 0-80 SPF and Aloe lotion just in case we got too much sun. It is expensive in port & on the ship; I would rather spend my money on other things.
• We had power outlets (Belkin) with charging ports, battery operated alarm clocks-all for each cabin, duct tape and clear packing tape, and yes I have had to use it on trips before, you live and learn.
• I packed soap and shampoo (the boys have sensitive skin, as do I) but please be aware that Carnival does supply you with two dispensers in the shower labeled shower gel & shampoo, should you like to use them instead.
• I packed a flat iron for my hair; it’s naturally curly so it was a must to get it to look decent for elegant night.
• I printed out our luggage tags on a color printer, packed them in my expandable file folder and attached them prior to leaving the hotel with clear packing tape.
• Yes, I use an expandable file folder to organize each day of the trip. I had a file pocket for packing lists in the front; then flight info; hotel confirmation; shuttle confirmation; boarding passes, passports & birth certificates (just in case). DSs carried their school IDs as well as Drivers Permit & Non driver NY State ID cards with them; Bon Voyage purchase receipts (which I had to call to get them to email to me); Cabana rental info & map (printed off the CC forum); copy of confirmation from Godfrey regarding the tour in St Thomas; walking tour & trolley map for San Juan; and copies of coupons for Jack’s Shack in Grand Turk (and you thought I was lying when I said I was type A w/OCD).
• I have envelopes for each day with spending cash. We took $3,000 for our family of 5, allotting so much for each day depending on what we did. I also had two envelopes labeled receipts for each cabin so I could keep track of our spending onboard. Each cabin also got $25 in singles for tipping when ordering room service.
• We used our debit card for our onboard account (I know how some feel on these boards-please do not flame me- as this works for my family). We have done this on every cruise we have taken- with 3 different lines and never had a problem. We just advise our bank(s) that we are leaving out of the country, when we are leaving & how long we will be gone, as well as where we are going on which day and have never had any issues-one card for the onboard account and the other for purchases on land (should we not have enough cash) and yes we have two different banks which equates to two different debit cards. We have never seen several charges or holds to our account-it has always been for the amount of our onboard account-I guess we have been lucky.
• We assigned a spending limit for our sons, $75 each-they don’t really drink soda, so the free lemonade & tea were fine with them but they like non-alcoholic frozen drinks & Milkshakes, so this way they could order them themselves without having to find Mom or Dad to get it, plus I didn’t want any surprises from fun times in the arcade-just in case. They only spent about $40 between the three of them.
• We brought refillable water bottles, coffee mugs with lids, sugar free flavor packets, and flavored non-dairy coffee creamer. The ship has Sugar, Sugar Cane, Equal, Splenda and Sweet & Low packets.
• We ordered room service most mornings- 4 coffees & 4 teas gave us a carafe each (DH only drinks tea) and I would make my coffee with my French Vanilla creamer & Splenda in the cabin. The ship does have a coffee shop if you want to purchase flavored coffee (I am too frugal, so I bring what I need). That coffee shop (Jarvin Café- deck 5) is where you can get Milkshakes.
• I made signs for our doors-makes it so much easier to remember which one we are in since they all look alike. “We be cruising” –that was our theme this cruise. I even surprised everyone with t-shirts made by Vistaprint only cost $8.33 each shirt, so it was a bargain.
DEPARTURE DAY (Friday March 28)
We had an EARLY Southwest flight from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to Fort Lauderdale (yes I did book it but at the time I booked it I was just thinking let’s get this vacation started ASAP and this was before the winter from hell arrived). Yes, we live in the Northeast, Buffalo none the less and are supposed to be used to snow but even us hardy folks are just tired of it already. It was a direct flight, less likely to lose our luggage-right?
Excitement is in the air at our household. Grandpa will be driving the five of us with our luggage to the airport, a short 4-6 minute commute. DS BFF & mother will meet us at the airport. My boys have never really flown (unless you count the Boys Scouts Aviation badge in a small propeller plane at the Clarence Airfield). Any way- they are so excited, I don’t believe anyone has slept since Wednesday night into Thursday and I made them go to school all day on Thursday, while I took a half a day from work to finish some last minute errands & pampering (mani & pedi- I know-such a mean Mom-LOL).
Our flight was scheduled for 6:10AM (yes that is AM, which is EARLY), so we are hoping to be at the airport by 4:30am, according to what I have read the check in counter for Southwest opens 180 minutes before the first departure (which would be 2:45am -there was a 5:45am flight before us but security doesn’t open until 4 am) so I tried timing it so we would not be at the airport too early, nor too late-best laid plans rightïŠ. We all need to check luggage. Each of us will be taking full advantage of the two bags fly free plus a carry on. We all have opted for EB (Early Bird check in). So Thursday morning I went into Southwest’s system to check us in and printed off our tickets. I also downloaded the Southwest app on my phone so when we get back to Miami, I can check everyone in for our return flight.
ARRIVAL BEST WESTERN PLUS FORT LAUDERDALE AIRPORT/CRUISE PORT
1221 W State Rd, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
We picked this location (1) because of what other CCer’s stated on the Florida thread-some good some bad, (2) trip advisor reviews-again some good, some bad- and (3) because the price was what we could live with-THIS WAS MOST IMPORTANT. We had two rooms for the seven of us-two queen beds each room. The most important factor though was just getting a room because there was a Music Festival at Bayside in Miami that weekend, so we could not stay in Miami. Flying into Fort Lauderdale was cheaper than Miami and I couldn’t chance not having a place to stay, I really wanted IC or Holiday Inn Bayside but they were sold out and Marriott-Downtown Miami was way more than I wanted to spend (somewhere around $300-400 a night per room). We had stayed in South Beach for DH 50th Birthday cruise but again I couldn’t get the hotel we stayed at before for a price we could live with.
The Best Western has a free shuttle from the airport, free Wi-Fi (important for teenagers who are going to have to shut down their phones into Airplane mode in the morning) and a shopping plaza with a grocery store (for wine/soda/juice and last minute item pick up). We had places to eat dinner close by (literally right out their front door). So since we would not be renting a car, this seemed like a great place for us to chill for the day before a cruise. I had found in my research a Sports Bar close by (in the strip plaza) called Slackers where I heard the food would be good & not too expensive and if we did an early dinner the boys should be able to go in (seeing that it is a bar). I also looked into Lester’s Diner (which is supposed to be famous) as an alternative-about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Let’s see what everyone decides for dinner.
Brunch Plans- we just walked over to Wendy’s for a quick bite to eat. Food was hot and ready fast (just what growing boys need). All the boys went back to take naps and us girls went to check out the shops in the plaza. There are lots-Big Lots, Subway, Dollar Tree, Slackers, a shop like Marshalls/TJ Maxx (I just cannot remember the name), grocery store-Winn Dixie, Dunkin Donuts (at the far end), nail shop, a Cuban café, a Thai restaurant (don’t know the name).
Dinner Plans- We went to Slackers, don’t be fooled by the exterior. The food was good. Since it was Friday-they have an All you can eat Fish Fry (tilapia/fries/coleslaw)-only ate one serving but it was good, there were a couple of us had that, others had Philly cheese steak with fries, a cheeseburger with fries and the full slab of ribs (DH said they had a little kick to them).
THE NEXT MORNING AT THE HOTEL:
(“B” DAY- Boarding)
They also have a continental breakfast included in their rate so we didn’t have to purchase breakfast which was a savings, with boys this can add up quickly! I went quickly down the street to Dunkin for a quick cup of coffee (we had free vouchers-told you I’m cheap) and I needed to stop at the Dollar store for another water bottle (seems DS15 forgot his in Buffalo).
BOARDING: Carnival Liberty Port of Miami
(Saturday March 29)
We booked transportation from the hotel to POM with QLS Transportation for the seven of us. We had used them on our last Carnival cruise and thought they were wonderful. Pick-up was scheduled for between 10 -10:30 am. Since we all had FTTF we wanted to get onboard as quickly as we could, drop our carry-ons and head to Guy’s Burgers.
I also needed to put in our pick for the cabana, soda requests and fin sizes for the snorkel equipment. So, getting to the port early was important to us and all the other shuttle services stated they didn’t start pick-ups until 11am. We also wanted to go to guest services and get extra key cards for the balcony & interior cabins. This way I could get into the balcony & DS#2 would be able to get into his home away from home for the week- the interior cabin.
We had cabins (6449) Balcony; (6463) Interior; DS#2 BFF & mom as well as my BFF had interior cabins close by (#6471 & 6459).
Pictures of the balcony cabin (taken that evening since I forgot to take it when we boarded):
I had pre-ordered from Bon Voyage a liter each of Baileys and Barcardi Limon to go with my diet soda.
I had birthday decorations put up in not only our inside cabin for DS#4 but BFF’s inside for her DS. They both were very surprised so it was worth it. (forgot to take a picture of this-sorry but I thought it was worth the $35-you can order it with cake delivery for $40- if you order separately its $35 & $10 (cake). I did have to go to Cherry on Top to have the decorations put up for DS14 after we boarded they confused his cake order for Wednesday with having the decorations put up then. (Just a slight hick up)
In January I decided to surprise the boys by ordering the Family Beach bag from Bon Voyage, asking that it get delivered once the ship was under way. Having three beach days I thought they might like to have a few “toys” to use.
I also ordered the Sweet Treat for DS#2 BFF, couldn’t leave him out of getting something in the room, LOL.
I hadn’t seen my BFF since July when her and DS come back home for a visit during 4th of July week. She booked everything through Carnival since she was coming from Atlanta- cruise, flights and transportation so we told them to just look for us once they got on board.
Lunch: Guys Burgers of course
Sail away party- the most fun I have had on any cruise. Brittany was great and I believe my boys stayed out on the dance floor at every party.
Dinner: We all had Anytime Dining (confirmed) with all our bookings linked via our great PVP. It was interesting, I tried to remember to take pictures (sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t-sorry). The food was hit or miss. Always hot, fried calamari for the table good, flat bread with ricotta, arugula, mushrooms and onions- it was ok (only ordered it this night). Shrimp cocktail, good, flat iron steak –today good but small, Mahi Mahi good (under the ports of call).
HALF MOON CAY, BAHAMAS 9am-5pm
(Sunday March 30)
We had rented a cabana before (for DH 50th Birthday cruise) so we are excited that everyone else would get to experience it. Having FTTF for us & DS#2 BFF cabins, we let my BFF use the cabana tickets to get on the tender quickly. I purchased two snorkel sets (US Diver) through Amazon prior to us coming so that DH & DS’s could snorkel from the shore here, at Coki Beach in St Thomas and when we get to Grand Turk. With the four they provide and the extra two we had enough for all the guys to go out at once. We ladies had decided it would be a relaxing day on a mat or lounge chair with a drink of the day. With the cabana rental you get fresh cut up fruit, tortilla chips with sour cream, guacamole, & salsa, eight sodas & two bottles of water with ice in a cooler, 4 floating mats, 4 snorkel sets with fins and 4 beach towels.
Well, best laid plans….woke up to white caps and a sinking feeling that all my planning was for naught as this stop was going to get cancelled…and that’s exactly what happened. Our captain- Giuseppe, came over the loud speaker to advise that it was too dangerous to anchor and tender over to the island, we would receive a credit for port charges ($20 & change) & excursions already paid for—I realized that meant lots of pics & DOD (looking at the glass half full instead of half empty)
Pre-breakfast: Room Service of course, great coffee on the balcony.
OK…where did I leave off……………….. yes, now I remember- Deck 10 near the aft (Starboard side), it was windy but with the sun beating down on me it felt good.
Lunch: Decided to try Fish & Chips (since it is right there on deck 10)- couch fritters & fried oysters. Actually the oysters were not exactly what I was thinking they would be. They are finely chopped & mixed in a patter with spices and chopped pepper/onions like the fritter, only issue I could see was they do not cook them long enough (kind of mushy in the middle). BFF said the fish and chips were good (I should have gotten that). The garlic dipping sauce was great for the fries though! So I went and tried a burrito-chicken on a jalapeno wrap-it was good but a little too much breading (if I’m being honest).
Dinner: From the grill our table had Pork chop, chicken breast (all said to be good). Junkanoo Pot (Bahamas Port of Call Menu)-chicken (dark meat), mussels, shrimp, scallops, pineapple chunks, over yellow rice (sticky)- this dish is spicy but very tasty. Double baked potato (had to ask for toppings-again seems to be a theme as my BFF had to ask the first night as well), green beans (with bacon & onion), rice pilaf (very sticky white rice-didn’t taste so great according to DH). Tonight we tried “Cruiser” the drink- it was great!!!
Adult Comedy Show- Will Marfoni, has cerebral palsy and speaks about having it in his show but let me tell you, he is one funny guy, I thought he was great, my BFF not so much. If you might get offended by religious jokes (he might not be for you), if your offended by sex jokes (he might not be for you) but I have to tell you Moppet (she works for Carnival & is in charge of the comedy club) is very honest that if you are easily offended
They have ice cream on the lido deck that does not offend and you might won’t to partake of that instead of staying for the show. Pictures/videos are not allowed during the show either, just so you know.
We hit the lido deck for the Redfrog Caribbean Beach party this night as well-it seemed to be about over when we got there, which was OK we got pizza & lemonade -some also got hot dogs from Good Eats (DH) who then needed a Pepcid before bed-LOL!
FIRST (Second) SEA DAY & ELEGENT NIGHT
(Monday March 31)
So will we make it to brunch and use our free drink coupons……………
Pre-breakfast: Coffee & Tea delivered to the cabin, croissant with butter and a yogurt.
Breakfast: Went to the Emile’s (buffet) at 10am thinking I was just telling everyone DH & I are headed to the dining room for Brunch- NOPE, he decides we are already there so let us just stay. I get an omelet (Elmer is great by the way he makes my omelet every time I have one) with spinach, ham, peppers (they have all sorts of goodies-ham, bacon, cheese (mozzarella & cheddar).
After breakfast we decided to see if we could find any loungers to lay out-none to be found that did not have a towel, book or flip flop sitting on them, and of course this is without a person also sitting in them- chair hogs in full force!
We headed up to deck 10 again, not as windy as the day before and laid out for a while. The boys, we only saw them when we got them up to eat breakfast on port days & at dinner, other than that they did their own thing-playing basketball, hanging out with new friends in o2.
Lunch: Since I tried fish & chips yesterday it was time to head back to Guys- OMG, these things are addictive but I can only eat one –Straight up with extra donkey sauce (spicy mayo). I have to tell you that toppings bar is great!
Being Elegant Night we go back to the room a little early since I need to flat iron my hair (which is a chore). I use product to get it straight (or at least to resemble straight for a little while). Takes about 30-45 minutes to part each piece and flatten it out. Prior to the cruise I knew we would do a family pic (although it’s not complete since I am missing one of my DS this trip) and yes I preplanned our outfits to coordinate- LOL!.
Dinner: OK, it’s Elegant night so we all know that means….Lobster & Prime Rib night in the MDR. There is a small wait tonight, yes we got a pager and tonight we all get to sit together at one table-YEAH. I have to tell you after reading others reviews of the “new menus” we thought we would have s mall refreshment sitting on our tables like others have stated they received- NOPE nothing, just water and a smaller menu selection than the day before. What we found out was you could still order the items from the grill, as ordered a flat iron steak to go with my lobster tail (yes the shrimp are still included with this dish) so I could have surf & turf.
This is the night the kids had a kids menu placed in our already folded napkins on the table. FYI- normally the person walking you to the table brings your menus with you, not tonight they are already on the table. Chicken nuggets and what my DS15 called “better pizza than the lido deck” prevailed. The desserts did not look appetizing, I think there are only two listed with Warm Melting Cake being one of them (sorry I do not like it-reminds me of my undercooked Easy-Bake oven cake as a child). The banana split I got from the kids menu was great and DH asked for three scoops of sorbet, which the rest of the adults also asked for. We got another “Cruiser” drink tonight, along with the bottle of wine DH brought into the dining room with us and yes we were charged the corkage fee of $10.
Tonight we checked out pictures, stood by the Casino on deck 5 for Guess that Motown Song & party (no chairs available, as we were late after changing clothes). Had we arrived on time, I think we might have gotten a ship on the stick as we knew most of the artist and songs-LOL!
After that we went just hung out and then headed to the Adult comedy to see Jason Blanchard-who I thought was funny as well. Again if you are easily offended-don’t go! Forgot to mention tried the Punchliner (Blue) drink, very tasty-sour but packs a punch. Of course then it was time for pizza, lemonade, hot dogs-found out they have chips where the hot dogs are-you just have to ask for them!
I’ll apologize again as I forgot my camera in the cabin today and as I just went through all our pics I noticed I did take pictures of food for the 2nd elegant night, so bear with me.
ST. THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS 8am-6pm (Tuesday April 1) - Godfrey Tours
I had booked Godfrey Tours because of all my fellow CCer’s comments & suggestions and again I checked trip advisor. For $30 each we would get picked up at the port and driven downtown to shop (2 hrs.), a tour of the island including Mountain Top & views of Magens Bay, dropped off at Coki Beach (2 hrs.) and then dropped off at the ship, all the while he would supply us with cold water & soda. DH & I had done a tour of the island back in ’10 (with Elvis) but we paid $25 and only got a tour and 10 minutes at Coki with no included drinks. So I thought this would be a better way to spend our time & money. We booked via Godfrey’s website on 5/9/13 and received a confirmation on 5/11/13 that we were all set for 5. Once BFF & son booked, I changed it to 7 without any problems. I had scheduled a 10 am pickup as we were in port from 9am – 6pm. With a 10am pickup we should be back at the ship by 4 pm, plenty of time-right? Since we arrived early today (no tender to Half Moon we got there at 8am instead of 9am). They were waiting for us with a sign (couldn’t have asked for a better tour or guide).
Dinner: OK dinner time. They sat us at a 4 & 5 person table again. Apps- calamari for the table but I seem to be the only one eating it (more for me). We ordered from the grill-pork chop (still very good), chicken breast-also good, DH had the salmon fillet, he said it was good just small. I tried the Port of Call selection-Island Chicken Curry was tasty but came with sticky rice again and I am not a fan of the sticky rice. We also had whipped potatoes, which I was told was very tasty. Dessert tonight I believe left a lot to be desired-pie was Pumpkin but it wasn’t that great.
Entertainment: Went to the Mardi Gras Celebration in the Lobby Atrium-OMG party, party. We had a large church group from Mississippi on our cruise and they came decked out for Mardi Gras but the best was the man (who happen to be across the hall from us) who danced with his cane to win a ship on the stick & bottle of champagne!!!
We then hit up Live Latin Music near the casino for a little bit and headed over to the Victoria Lounge to see Live Karaoke- Karen tore it up!!!
Picked up some popcorn from the Dive-In Movies (didn’t have any flavor). Got pizza of course, then headed to my balcony to finally open that bottle of Baileys for a nightcap, life is good!!!
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (Wednesday April 2) 7am-3:30pm DS#4- 14th Birthday
OK, so today I had decided since we took the kids out of school for 6 days to do this trip it was going to be an educational day; we would ride the free trolley to go see the Forts, speak Spanish for the most part since everyone had either taken it or was still studying it and walk around-OK- let’s see if we can stick with that plan.
Seeing that today is DS#4’s 14th birthday and none of us have ever been to PR we’re all a little excited to get off the ship and look around. I especially wanted to try a Guava Colada and some authentic Mofungo (mashed plantain with some sort of protein (chicken/beef). I’m not really a foodie- as long as it tastes good (very subjective), I’ll try it but I have limits- it cannot still be alive, be furry or look disgusting, JMO.
Breakfast: Lido Deck-Emile’s Buffet (I am seeing a trend here), fruit & an omelet from Elmer.
OK…. so all my plans went out the door once we docked. It was hot when we finally made it off the ship-no line, no waiting but hot & humid. Tour guides yelling as we walk out the terminal-they started at $25 in the outside area but still in the terminal, then it goes to $20 a little further down but once outside go to the left- we paid $10 per person, air conditioned bus for a tour of San Juan/Old San Juan. It was a fabulous tour and we got to see a lot we went with SJ Happy Tours (they wear blue shirts).
If you have any questions please ask and I’ll try to answer them.
Puerto Rico, beach stop- this area was located in the area known as Condado, San Juan. The beach stop was also an opportunity to shop at a little gift shop that had restrooms. We did purchase some items here (very reasonably priced tank tops for the boys).
Next stop (El Morro) we had the opportunity to stay behind if we wanted to go inside and take the free trolley back to the ship, we opted to just take photos and have him take us to the shopping district instead.
Then it was time to head off again. We learned that Puerto Rico is known for the Three B’s- Baseball, Basketball & Boxing. Also that Carmelo Anthony, who plays for the NBA (NY Knicks) has built a basketball court for the kids of San Juan to play on (his father is from PR).
We then got dropped off for shopping. They had a craft bazaar going on with handmade items for sale at the Christopher Columbus Plaza. I actually purchased earrings for some coworkers here. The streets are very narrow streets but great shopping to be had.
After walking over to the CVS for a newspaper (DS14 needed it for extra credit for Spanish class) & shopping at Duty Free for Don Q rum it was time to head back on the ship, I never got my Mofungo but the kids did get pastillos from a street vendor near the CVS.
FYI-this Duty Free does give the free alcohol “bumper bags” for packing your bottles in your luggage.
Lunch: yes I had a Guys burger (again).
Dinner: OK dinner, singing time & cake-YEAH. Marinated pork-tasty but a little dry, second piece tasted better than the first and the fried plantain on top was awesome. Main also from the Port of Call: Pescado Asada -Red snapper with sofrito (red based not green)-it was OK. I didn’t like the potato-polenta mixture under the fish but the fish was good. Mains: Chicken Milanese, Sides: Double Baked Potato; Green Beans- BFF had these thought all tasted good. Also tried - Mains: Chateaubriand- According to DS BFF Mom (that is a mouthful)- this was very tender and good. She wished it had of been on the menu every night. The boys ordered Cesar salads with flat iron steaks almost every night. If they didn’t order that they ordered from the Kids menu-pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, etc. OK now I need to apologize because I didn’t taste the cake. Tonight I got ice cream with pie. What was supposed to be rhubarb pie-nope didn’t even come close. The crust was tasty but the filling not so much. I ate the crust & ice cream.
GRAND TURK, TURKS & CAICOS 11am -5:30pm & SECOND ELEGENT NIGHT
(Thursday April 3)
DH had a plan for this day. This would be our third trip back to Grand Turk and we always go and stay at Jack’s Shack for the day. The atmosphere is what he likes and he can snorkel off the beach- some like it, some don’t -to each his own, DH LOVES IT. So with free rum shot coupons in hand we will get down there…..here is the issue we have never taken the kids with us to Grand Turk…so best laid plans—right. Margaritaville has a vibe that I know our boys are going to want to experience plus they have girls and a pool, we are traveling with 5 teenage boys remember.
Breakfast: you think you already know………. fruit, bacon, toast and coffee only-fooled you, no omelet for me (the line was just too long, people had finally found Elmer).
DH is excited we are going back to Jack’s. With coupons in my beach bag and everyone ready to get off we head out. Weather is awesome. Now just so you know this is our third trip to Jack’s so DH & I are used to the walk, the others-not so much. I heard are we there yet, almost as much from the other adults, as I did from the kids.
Yes the chairs cost, yes the umbrella costs but we had two ships in port and the cruise port free chairs are on top of each other, so I will pay to have some room to spread out. We had the beach blanket again for the boys with an umbrella over it, then four loungers with an umbrella between them.
There are now the floats now available. Cost is supposed to be $10 per Adult/$6 per child but everything on the islands is negotiable. I have to tell you- you really need to be a strong swimmer and have upper body strength to be able to swim; then climb up. A few of the boys did attempt it.
The boys had purchased a football at Coki Beach, they used it here as well.
After a nice relaxing day on the beach-yes I got my Wobble on with another lady also on the Liberty and a plate of jerk chicken with a rum punch (wait was a little longer than normal for our food but all was good). We ordered bottles of water to walk back with. Did a little shopping in the Dizzy Donkey- on our last two trips here we have bought a gift for DH assistant from here so we picked up another necklace & earring set.
I really would like to take a trip and just stay on Grand Turk but I think once the ships leave it might be a little dead.
Dinner: We all get to sit at a table together-YEAH (I think). The boys are silly tonight and have finally learned they ALL can order non-alcoholic drinks with their sign & sail cards (not everyone was aware they had charging privileges-LOL).
YEAH tonight is the second night the waiters danced (they only danced twice this cruise). We had App: Lobster Bisque - Missing lobster/seafood…..large breadcrumb/crouton on top-hard didn’t even try to eat as I like my teeth. The flavor was missing in the soup…not sure exactly what it was but it wasn’t my favorite dish tonight. App: It was some sort of tenderloin dish, cannot remember the exact name nor can I find it in my notes (sorry). BFF ordered it and didn’t like it, it was a cold app & very red (rare), she didn’t realize this when she ordered it. So the waiter brought her out a Cesar salad (this salad was a blessing in a pinch). FYI the Pizza Pirate (24 hr) also serves cesar salad (doesn’t taste exactly like the dining room but it’s there if you want some). The pizza in the dining room is not like the 24 hr pizza, this has crust and is not charred like the other, according to my DS15. App: Stuffed Mushrooms- Still taste good, just like they did on Destiny 2 years ago. App: Pasta Dish-forgot to write the name down. DH said it tasted good, seasoned well but he doesn’t put salt or pepper on food-just so you are aware. We got the New York Strip Loin tonight it tastes just like they did under the old menus. One of the boys tried to branch out and ordered the Shrimp Creole under the Port of Call Main section-came with four shrimp.
Dessert: the kids left right after dinner to head up to Club o2, we decided to try some dessert. We tried the sticky bun with sauces. The bun itself is not flavorful but the sauces (white-is great, chocolate not so much) are really good. The bun was missing cinnamon, nutmeg-something. This seemed to be the theme of the week but I guess when cooking for the masses you really cannot season to everyones taste buds.
Entertainment: OK so after dinner & dessert we head up to see “Wonderful World” in the Venetian Palace, we sat in the Balcony this time. It was an OK show, I had never seen it. The lead female singer-Ruby Sayre (very strong voice); lead male singer-Alan Swadener (not so much).
We then went to The Punchliner, as two new comedians had come aboard to perform. Happy Cole was hilarious (even if my BFF didn’t like him). Again if you’re easily offended –don’t go or at the show with your parents DO NOT SIT WITH THEM, he embarrassed a group of young people who sat with their parents as he talked about what parents do with each other once children leave the home and we become empty nesters.
Of course you know what time it is after the show-Pizza time, LOL. Then a night cap of Bailey’s on the balcony and off to bed we go.
Up next is our last sea day, packing and then off the ship for our post cruise excursion to South Beach. Thank you everyone for following along so far, more to come!
SECOND SEA DAY & LAST NIGHT
(Friday April 4)
Will we chance it and head back to the brunch today……..
I informed everyone the night before that I would be using my free drink coupon at brunch today-PERIOD, with or without DH with me. I had heard such great things about this brunch and wanted to experience it for myself. So after getting ready and grabbing our excursion info for tomorrow (we needed more luggage tags zone 3- they only gave us 3 per cabin-LOL); off we went (yup DH decided to come along).
It was located in the Silver Olympian Dining Room (3 aft), which means I can go down 3 flights of stairs and be right at the entrance. There was a short line to get in and we opted to sit with others as the wait for a two person table was longer. We sat with two other couples and a mother/daughter group on their annual mother/daughter vacation-very nice people.
OK I am going to apologize again (I keep doing that), in the hurry to finally go to brunch I forgot my camera in the cabin so sorry no pics of food.
I can tell you the bread basket looks wonderful-the items in it muffins, breads, rolls, all very nice looking. I decided to try the lemon pound cake-missing sugar and the flavor of lemon, very dry. So I ordered a “Cruiser” drink with my coupon-yup it’s 5 o’clock somewhere-LOL. Then DH ordered the same and the mother/daughter (the mother actually drank hers and finished her daughters-LOL).
I ordered steak-n-eggs entrée with the béarnaise on the side. It was cooked perfectly! DH ordered the fat stack pancakes (blueberry), two eggs (over medium), and pork link sausage- lets just say his eyes where bigger than his stomach because he did not finish it all!
I also ordered the caramelized cheesecake- which I shared with DH, now this was very good (wish I could have ordered it during the week at dinner).
Once done we headed to the excursion desk, checked out photos, picked up t-shirts at the Fun shop and then I started to pack up the boys cabin. Since I have to repack for 5, I cannot wait until late to start this process.
We do head back to the Fun shops for the watch sale at Noon and pick up a watch set for DH (he had eyed it all week and finally I make him purchase it).
Being after one they are all ready for lunch but since we ate at the brunch I am not very hungry. Everyone goes and does them-some getting Guys, Fish & Chips, Mongolian Wok (which is good, I tried BFFs), buffet, etc., I opt for fruit only.
We head back to the Fun shops to pick up my Bella Perlina Bracelet -I too had been eyeing it all week and DH said I should buy it, he’s so good to me.
Then I grab my stuff to lie out at the aft pool. We luck out and find four loungers in the sun. After a nap, I decide I need to pack some more of our stuff before dinner. How did I get all this stuff in originally? LOL.
Dinner: We decide we have had enough of the MDR and go to Emile’s Buffet instead. Salad, some of the entrées- steamed mussels, creole shrimp, cornmeal crusted tilapia, all very tasty.
I also decide I want ice cream today so a cone is in order, everyone follows suit and gets one!
Entertainment: The boys hit the Carnival Legends show as one of their friends mom-Karen (from karaoke) will be performing. I head back to the cabin after listening to some Latin Music, need to put finish with the packing and put out those bags.
DEBARKATION & POST CRUISE EXCURSION (Saturday April 5)
Our sad, sad day has arrived. We must say goodbye to Liberty and all the friends we have met on this vacation ïŒ.
But let us not end it too soon; we are going to go do the South Beach Experience with drop off at Fort Lauderdale Airport through Carnival for $49.99 per person, booked while on the ship. The boys are looking forward to Ocean Drive and possibly seeing someone famous! I love the fact that I got enough OBC to pay for this excursion from Early Saver rate drops. Since I had read several reviews on Carnivals website that stated they wished they had been given a map of South Beach, prior to leaving I printed off a few from the internet so we would know where we were, plus I requested a map from AAA on the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Vicinity.
We hand out envelopes to Putu and his assistant(s) one male/one female (not sure their names as they never introduced themselves) but they took care of us for the week and you have to show your appreciation for those that do you right.
Breakfast: Well an omelet of course from Elmer. We give him an envelope with a small token of our appreciation for taking such good care of us this past week. Everyone eats, we hug and laugh with the Atlanta crew as they have zone 19 and will get off after us.
We are supposed to meet for our excursion in the Venetian Place by 7:45AM. We get there and are walked off the ship at exactly 8AM; the final sound of that ding is heart-breaking. ïŒ
We get a porter and gather all our luggage, we know all too well the wait with a porter is shorter than without. So quick stop with customs, he only asked our full names while holding up our passports to our faces and quick welcome home and off to the bus we went.
South Beach Experience:
There was a bike race going on so we had to take a little detour to get to South Beach (s0me main streets were blocked off). I also realized that we didn’t go to the Holocaust Memorial in San Juan-that was actually Miami, sorry about that mistake. We got to see Millionaires Island (Fisher Island, FL) then it was time for the drop off part. We can now enjoy a walk around South Beach, we head down Ocean to see if Wet Willie’s is open for business for a nice alcoholic slushy but they are still closed-DANG. If you ever make it to South Beach/Wet Willie’s try a “Call-a-cab with Shock Treatment & Attitude Improvement”- trust me they are really good! Walked by Mangos, great Latin dancing in the evenings:
Had to do a little souvenir shopping, the boys wanted to check out True Religion, we have one at home and I know jeans cost $400- no way!!! Had to head to the beach as our last trip it was raining and we never got there. Before we knew it time to meet back for pickup, more touring on the way to dropping off people at Miami International Airport, then Fort Lauderdale.
FLL to Buffalo via Southwest, again we had a direct flight home, so we should have no problem with missing/lost luggage-right?
Our flight was scheduled for 4pm, with all seven who flew down from Buffalo together, flying back on another direct flight through Southwest.
Lunch: Kids decide to grab a bite at the Cuban restaurant in the terminal; the adults opt for chips-LOL!
Flight home: No issues the flight goes well. Once we get into Buffalo -it’s a balmy 32 degrees when we land- it was 84 in Miami. We gather our stuff and head to baggage claim only to find the airline was broken one of our pieces of luggage. It’s in a plastic bag and taped up- the zip is almost torn off- Southwest blames TSA –TSA blames them, then Southwest advises they do not cover zippers but will pay for any missing items from the bag, with proof it was actually in the bag-LOL. I’m just ready to go home- they are not going to ruin my fun, relaxing vacation! So a quick call to Grandpa for pick up and home we are bound.
I want to first, say thank you to all the CCer’s who answered not only my questions but questions of others that I hadn’t even thought to ask but gave me needed information prior to this cruise, you are a wealth of knowledge and I am grateful that you took the time to help me.
Carnival Liberty, the crew and Brittany as the CD were great. We all enjoyed ourselves and although the American Table/American Feast menus were some hits and some misses, this could have occurred with any other cruise line, on any other ship. We did not go hungry by any means. As a matter of fact, everyone in our party gained 5 pounds-even though we took the stairs almost everywhere!
The Club o2 staff where great with my boys and yes the boys gave out envelopes to them the last night -from their own money, as they all got together and decided they deserved it! I have to say it was a proud moment for DH & I when we realized what they had already done.
My hope is that you gained some additional insight into Carnival Liberty and enjoyed reading about our vacation. Please join us for our next cruise adventure in 2017.