My husband and I were extended a special invitation through Cruise Critic to attend the May 14, 2007 two day Pre-Inaugural sailing of the Liberty of the Seas; this review will not focus so much on our experience during those two days as it will on general information for those planning to cruise the Liberty of the Seas in the near future. We are from Northern California and are not affiliated with the travel industry. Royal Caribbean put on an awesome show and we were very grateful for the invitation.
The Liberty of the Seas is the newest baby in Royal Caribbean's fleet - and a sister ship of the Freedom of the Seas. If you have ever been on any Voyager class vessel, you will find it very similar. It's a little larger and has a few extra features, like the Flowrider, but in general, much of the ship's design is identical to that of the Navigator or Mariner or Explorer or any other Voyager/Freedom class ship out there. If you love Voyager class ships, you'll adore the Liberty of the Seas!
As you read my comments, please keep a few things in mind. First, remember, this was an invitation only sailing meant to impress the travel industry. Staff was on their best behavior and food preparation and quality were very high compared to what I typically see on other Royal Caribbean ships; it was a free cruise with an open bar. Because the ship is brand new (it even had that new car smell when you first boarded the ship), everything around you - public areas, staterooms, deck space, etc. was sparkling.
Since we are from Northern California, we made the decision to take a three night cruise aboard the newly refurbished Majesty of the Seas prior to this voyage. Interestingly enough, we had outside staterooms on both ships and the same dining room menu on both sailings.
We flew into Miami on a red-eye out of Northern California and made arrangements to take the cruise line bus to the port. We arrived around 12:30pm - our flight was almost an hour late. Finding a Royal Caribbean rep in the baggage claim area was a breeze. They had us on a list, and they were aware that our flight was late. After getting our bags, we were escorted to the bus. Interestingly enough, our bags were loaded into a large truck and were not to be seen until after sail-away! We got the last two seats and were off to the Port of Miami to board the Majesty of the Seas.
I am only passing along this info as I believe the same system will be in place if you opt for cruise line transportation to the Liberty of the Seas. I wouldn't recommend the cruise line bus normally, but we knew coming in the day of the cruise, this was our best bet. Could we have opted to take a cab or shuttle? Sure. Even if it was false security, the fact we were arriving the same day as the cruise made the cruise line shuttle seem more secure. Would the ship wait if the bus broke down? Not sure. But I kind of like to think it would!
Embarkation for the Liberty was quick and easy, but the ship was not sailing at full capacity, so again, I will refer to the boarding procedures we experienced for the Majesty. Because we are Diamond members, we had no wait at all. We arrived much later than is the norm for us - around 1:30pm - and were greeted by long lines. But like I said, because of our Crown and Anchor past guest status, there was no line to speak of and were on the ship in under 20 minutes.
The check-in area for the Liberty is huge. Because we were disembarking off of the Majesty of the Seas, we arrived at the Liberty's terminal very early - around 9am. The check-in and boarding process began around 10:30am - that would normally be our preferred time for check-in after spending the night in Miami. We happened to be among the first to board the ship - we tagged along with the Media group and were on the ship by around 11:00am. We didn't encounter an embarkation day photographer, but that will slow down the boarding process. All in all, your best bet is to arrive at the port early. With 4000 plus guests, it's going to take a while to get on and off this ship! Luckily, the terminal has air conditioning and is large.
We were assigned cabin 2616 - a standard outside stateroom. The room was comfortable and had adequate storage for a seven night cruise. There were two large half circle windows in the cabin above the bed - we opted to have the beds together, but they could also convert to two twin beds. As you would expect, everything was clean and new. The bed was very comfortable - crisp white European style bedding with a comforter completed the package. We had a small pull-out couch, and a coffee table. There was a small closet, but enough drawer space to easily accommodate 7 nights worth of clothes. There was a hair dryer in one of the drawers - it worked well, but it's the kind that has the button you must keep depressed to work. This is pretty much the same type they have on most Royal Caribbean ships, but since it's new, it worked very well.
The bathroom had a shampoo dispenser that had shampoo & conditioner printed on it, but all it had was shampoo. The special shampoo and soap were okay, but if you are used to salon quality shampoos like Paul Mitchel, you won't like it, in my opinion. There is a lot of storage and the bathroom design is identical to other Voyager/Freedom class ships. The towels are to die for - thicker and more absorbent than those on other ships, but heck, they are brand new! No telling if they will be like that when you cruise, but we can only hope!
For the sake of comparison, we also had an outside cabin aboard the Majesty of the Seas. Our cabin window was different, but the over all look to the room was very much the same. The bathroom was also configured the same, but had a shower curtain instead of shower doors, as you see on most Voyager class ships and the Liberty.
I would venture to say our room aboard the Majesty was a little bigger with slightly more storage, but it was a high end outside cabin on Deck 9 whereas the one we had on the Liberty was a basic model on Deck 2. On the Majesty, we had bottles of lotion, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner as well as the shower dispenser of shampoo (the kind you see on all other Royal Caribbean ships). We saw none of this on the Liberty, but you might. Remember, we were on a special sailing with limited amenities. Not everything we experienced will be identical to what you might.
Our dining experience aboard the Liberty of the Seas was not typical of any other Royal Caribbean ship we have been on lately. We sailed aboard the Radiance in September 07, the Explorer in late December 07 and on the Majesty just days prior to this Pre-Inaugural. We have logged in 24 or more (I don't recall the exact number any more) cruises on Royal Caribbean including multiple voyages aboard the Mariner and Navigator and although the food has always been good, the food quality and preparation on the Liberty was far superior, in my opinion. I hate to say it, but I suspect it had something to do with the fact this was a Pre-Inaugural voyage. Maybe not; I'll let you be the judge. Suffice it to say, my husband and I were impressed and enjoyed our dining experience very much!
Keep in mind the ship was not sailing at full capacity and they were there to impress. Our dining room menu aboard the two night pre-inaugural was identical to the menu on the Majesty. But the cuts of meat were of higher quality, the items were served fresh and HOT, and up in the Windjammer, the selection was better (much, much better than aboard the Explorer in December or the Majesty just days before). Some examples: there was large shrimp every afternoon in the Windjammer - I have never seen this on any other cruise with Royal Caribbean for lunch - only once saw some on the Mariner at dinner.
I don't want you to think that the food on other Royal Caribbean ships was terrible. On the contrary, I've always found what I liked and although it's not what I would consider to be 4 or 5 star cuisine, it's quite good. But the meals served on our two day Liberty cruise as well as what we ate in the Windjammer, was markedly improved - it blew the others out of the water! Tender cuts of meat cooked to perfection in the dining room and lots of higher end items in the Windjammer. You should note that food is very subjective - what may impress me may not be the case with you. Regardless, others in our company were just as impressed.
Some people we ate with complained about the service in the dining room, but that's because of the open seating system they had in place for our sailing - you will have an assigned table at an assigned seating time. The waiters we spoke to were all very polished and pleasant - I doubt you'll find a bad apple in the bunch. Dinner was a little hectic, but we got lucky and met some very nice people at dinner.Entertainment
This is where Royal Caribbean really shines! We saw the Ice show and one production show; we also had an opportunity to check out many of the lounge entertainers on the ship and I came away very impressed. The guy at the piano bar, (correct me if I am wrong - Matt Yee I believe is his name), seems to have a loyal following. We got there early and watched his act - very polished. I can't say I am into sing-alongs, but he was very entertaining, and by the numbers of people present, very popular.
There was a guitarist in the Hoof and Claw Pub on the Promenade who was very good. He didn't have what I would call an act but he was familiar with contemporary music and was very funny. The classical guitarist in Boleros was also very good, but he didn't play very often. The purpose of these pre-inaugurals is to give you a taste of what you can expect. From what I can see, they entertainment on the Liberty will not disappoint.
Like all Voyager and Freedom class ships, there is a lot to do. Two days was not enough to do everything! The flowrider was a lot of fun, but ladies, you should plan to wear a one piece or a tee shirt over a two piece bathing suit, because when you wipe-out you could lose your top! And guys, make sure you tie on your trunks!
The pool area is large and includes a kiddie water park - a great place for kids to play. There is no shortage of activities - they have a regulation size volleyball court and basket ball, and miniature golf. Suffice it to say, this class of ship is made for more active people and families on the go.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Just about every aspect of this pre-inaugural would make me want to book a cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas. I am totally sold on the Voyager/ Freedom class ships!
Luckily, I found the ship to be great, but I have to say that there were several areas on the ship that got very crowded - namely the Promenade during the Parade (a not to be missed show). It was impossible to find a good place to watch the parade - we had seats in the front at the Hoof & Claw Pub and people stood right in front of us. Unless you push yourself to the front, tower above everyone, or are watching the parade from your Promenade View stateroom, it's hard to see anything. Same thing happened at the 70's party they had there.
As I am familiar with other Voyager class ships, you can expect other area so of the ship to get very crowded - including the pool areas when the ship is sailing at full capacity, which from what I understand will be the norm.
That's really the only negative I can really find about this class of ship. I love the design and I love the layout. But I didn't see any major design changes to overcome some of the crowding issues on Voyager class ships. The food these days isn't what it used to be, but there is more to a cruise than the food. And if you are like me, you too will find plenty to choose from.
While at the lifeboat drill, a foul smelling odor permeated the deck - we never found out where it came from or why. But that just goes to show you these kinds of problems don't just affect older ships! The problem seems to have been corrected, as I never noticed the smell later in the cruise. But that wasn't a good thing to have happen at a pre-inaugural!
Luckily, that's the only ugly I could find.
I would cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas in a heart beat if it offered a more creative itinerary in the Caribbean. If I choose to cruise, I do so based on the itinerary, not necessarily the ship though I can see where in Liberty's case, the ship can be considered the destination!
As I stated earlier, the cruise line made every effort to show off the Liberty to us in the best light possible; it did not sail at full capacity, the food quality was absolutely the best we have had recently and the entertainment top notch. Like the other pre-inaugurals I'm told, in attendance were mostly travel agents. Because I am already a huge fan of Voyager class ships, I wouldn't hesitate to sail on this ship and if given a choice, I'll always go with a Voyager class ship. I feel comfortable on this type of ship, though I realize not everyone does. We are very active and prefer many of the sports activities these types of ships off us. Between ports of call, it's nice to have so many choices on days at sea normally not available on other ships.
We came across a few people who could not imagine themselves taking a cruise on such a large ship. But all agreed that this particular ship was very impressive, Most people we met who had never been on a Voyager class ship were in awe of the Liberty. Those who were familiar with Voyager class ships all felt very much at home. The design, to my surprise, was nearly identical to other Voyager class ships - with a few extras here and there.
Please note that I am no expert - I work in education and lead a few cruise groups every year. We enjoy cruising, but that's not the only type of travel we engage in. Itinerary is by far the most important factor for us; as we get older, we are finding cruises more to our liking than "live aboards". We are okay logging in 6-8 dives while on a cruise - gone are the days of logging in 24-30 dives in 7 days! As we get into our mid-40's, we are finding the activity level on these Voyager/Freedom class ships perfect for us and our family.
Any questions? Please don't hesitate to ask!