My wife and our three kids (daughters aged 19 and 17, son aged 13) cruised on the Carnival Liberty for an 8 day Southern Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral from June 20-28, 2014.. Overall the experience was a lot of fun – but since this is a review – some of my comments may seem a bit harsher than I intend because after all, how bad can it really be when you are on a cruise?
We traveled to Florida from Seattle – so the trip was a long one. We arrived two days early since we wrapped a Mouse vacation around the cruise . The embarkation process was extremely smooth. I dropped the family and the bags at the pier, the porters whisked away the bags – and then I returned the rental car and was shuttled to the pier. The process was impressively efficient. The fact that we were leaving on a Friday rather than the traditional weekend day meant less chaos at the piers – which may have contributed to the ease of boarding.
We had adjoining balconies on the 8th floor. The rooms were really nice – the relatively few bucks to upgrade to a balcony is definitely worth it. On the down side - there was a really bad smell in the hallway for our entire trip – as if the septic system was flawed or malfunctioning? The rooms themselves didn’t smell – and since our room was right near the elevators/steps – we were able to minimize the offenses to our nostrils.
The worst part of the trip was the lifeboat drill. The problem is – they say what time it’s going to start – then they don’t really start it until about 15-20 minutes late. One issue may have been the inordinate amount of stragglers that arrived late – most with drinks in hand. Standing shoulder to shoulder, four rows deep in 95 degree heat with 98% rel humidity for over a half hour - for what could be done in 10 mins – is no fun.
We went with the anytime dining option which worked well for us since we have trouble getting five people anywhere on time. We only had to wait for a table once – and the waiting is easy since there is plenty to do while waiting. We’re a bit of a traditional family when it comes to meals – we make a point of eating together whenever we can – so we ate together in the dining room every night – and also ate breakfast together in the dining room every morning – but lunches were mostly a free for all. The food was ok. The appetizers were excellent (I usually ordered 2-3 per meal). The main dishes were pretty good – but not great. My daughter likes pasta and usually ordered their pasta – which I though was really good. They tended to overcook their beef – so I suggest ordering down one level of doneness – except on the prime rib. As for the desserts – the melting chocolate cake was really good – but the other ones we tried were somewhat disappointing.
On the Lido deck - the 24 hour pizza place is pretty good. Guy’s Burgers are fantastic. I thought the Mongolian Wok is below average. My daughter liked the Fish and Chips. We really only used these places for lunch – and a late night snack.
The main pool gets really loud – the DJ spins a lot of dance songs and they do pool games here and there. While I get the pool games, I found the DJ to be rather irritating. Maybe it’s just me – but on a Caribbean cruise – I really prefer having, say, a guy with a steel drum and a guy with a keyboard playing by the pool. The adults only pool is toward the rear – and it’s a lot more calm but with no music at all it’s bordering on geriatric. Many of the other on-ship “activities” are just promotional gimmicks to push their spa services, art auctions, etc
The casino was more crowded than any cruise I’ve ever been on. Someone told me there was some type of promotion for Carnival gamblers – so that may explain it. I’m not a big gambler - I passed few a couple times, but found the atmosphere incredibly unappealing.
Unlike other cruises – I never really found a bar that I really loved. The piano bar is a cool concept – but I thought the player had a pretty bad voice. The dance club was pretty dead – except for a few of what looked like 18-22 year olds. It seemed like the only music that people wanted to dance to were line dances – so we heard a lot of the Wobble, the Cha Cha slide, etc
The major on ship entertainment consists of a large theatre for the musical acts, and a comedy club. Some of the musical numbers were elaborate and quite good. They advertise one show as a Sinatra, Sammy Davis type show – but it’s really a Sammy Davis type show – with a couple Sinatra songs – sung in a Sammy Davis style. Not meant to be a criticism – just a clarification – and I thought the performer was quite good. The only musical performer I really didn’t care for was the featured male singer – I didn’t find his voice or his presentation to be very good. The comedy clubs were kind of hit and miss – one was so bad we walked out of it – but the others were pretty good.
Aruba – we rented a Jeep and cruised the island. We stopped at a couple of beaches – Eagle and Arashi. I really liked Arashi – not overly commercial – good snorkeling on one end of the beach – and easy swimming (less rocky) on the other. We also spent some time in the Palm Beach area – shopping, etc. – which is really nice. Overal a really fun island.
Curacao – the hard thing with this itinerary is that we were in Aruba from 1-9 PM on Monday – and the next day we hit port in Curacao at 9 AM. We were pretty tired from an energetic day on Aruba. We took it easy in Curacao and just hung out in town near the dock. Shopping in a touristy area isn’t that enjoyable for me – so I didn’t particularly love it.
Grand Turk Yes – it’s it stop set up for cruise ship customers. But it’s a blast. Margaritaville lets you use their massive pool and chairs for free. We bought a few Margaritas at the swim up bar and had a blast. The beach has chairs, under umbrellas – for free. The ocean swimming is great, the snorkeling out at the reef is really good. It surprises me that I’ve read so many poor reviews of this port. It seems that if you choose to go on a cruise for a vacation – this type of stop should be right up your alley. I loved it.
At first, our ship was the only one in port for a few hours and the place was really great. Then, we saw a Princess ship cruising it – and once docked the place got very busy. The funny thing is – the Carnival Cruise passengers were mostly an older crowd. The Princess boat had a ton of families with children – and they made the pool MUCH less fun. I would have thought it would have been the other way around.
The process was pretty smooth. We were in one of the last zones to get off – so we had to wait till after 10:00. It took about a half hour to get off and through the Customs line. But overall – a pretty smooth process
We had a lot of fun on the cruise. I was surprised by the relatively few children on this cruise – and the amount of gamblers. Another thing that really caught my attention was the number of people on this cruise that were insanely obese. I don’t know if this is typical – (my last Caribbean cruise was about 20 years ago) or what was going on - but it was noticeable and somewhat disconcerting. With that said – the price for this cruise was very reasonable (again, I recommend the balcony rooms ) and overall was a fun trip.