This was our second cruise, first with carnival, celebrating our 11 year anniversary. My husband and I are both 28 and left the kiddies at home! I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post this but I paid $825, taxes include for an inside guarantee, and was assigned an inside room on the upper deck.
Pre-cruise hotel stay: booked the ft lauderdale beachside hotel (formerly BW) thru quickbook for a total of $77 (tax included). I only booked this hole in the wall hotel b/c it was on the beach and I figured no matter how bad the hotel was, I could always sleep on the beach! Well, upon arrival we were told they had overbooked (due to the air & sea show I had no idea about until a local friend pointed it out about a week beforehand..thank ya Adam!) and we were sent to the La Quinta and our stay was free. Nice! The La Quinta (tho not on the beach) was nicer and cleaner...and had an excellent continental breakfast! Make your own belgian waffles...yum! They were nice enough to put us in a King poolside. This hotel has a very nice pool/hot tub with a covered breezeway flanking the side adjacent to the parking lot. (helps the poolside view) Beware..there are lots of lizards (large ones) running amok on this property. Local wild life. I personally loved it, but I know some women are squeamish so I thought I'd point it out.
Embarkation: Port Everglades is absolutely INSANE. If you know this beforehand (as I did) and you are prepared, it's not so bad. Getting into the terminal is CRAZY, you have huge groups of ppl trying to disembark and meet up with tours, taxis, buses, porters, people trying to figure out where to drop off luggage...an absolute zoo! Be calm, be patient. Once we finally got into the terminal (beware, the exit actually crosses the entry so those ppl paying for parking and exiting are actually crossing your path) we pulled up curb side right where people were exiting customs. Buddy ran our luggage over, had them hunt down a manifest to verify our room was still correct (we were guarantee), plus he ran back to get tip money. All in all we were parked between buses and cabs for almost 10-15 minutes and the porters didn't start yelling until we were exiting for the parking garage. Once in line (11 ish), we moved in fits and stops. Sometimes we would stand for 10 minutes, sometimes we had to run to keep up with those in front of us. We overheard one luggage x-ray tech be upsettingly rude to about a dozen people that had "mistakenly" been told to stand in the VIP line. We chose to stand elsewhere..problem solved. Our onboard carry on included beer which was confiscated. The cordial (if not loud) tech offered to let us run it out to our car. We declined...we were getting on board darn it! After that the process was pretty smooth and only took about 10 minutes. We met fellow cruise critic pals Adam and Ora in line. After dropping off our carry on (the doors were propped open for cleaning..put luggage in the closet!) we headed up to lido to have lunch. The whole process took about 45 min.
The ship: Absolutely gorgeous but borderline garish. Don't spend too much time examining fine details. My favorite part was the art work that would mysteriously move on a day to day basis. I always stopped to have a look.
Shows: Well...I unfortunately didn't get to do many. Its an excuse to go back right? I intended to, but wound up having more fun with my cc pals and rarely made it! I did stop for a few minutes on its a wonderful world. From what I saw it looked really good! Pyrotech and everything...just too busy to stop! The comedian was okay. Heard the second one was funnier. The puppeteer was hilarious!! I was fighting to stay awake tho and had to leave early (too much daytime partying). The one show I saw in victoria's was lousy and a waste of time.
Food: I disagree with my companions on this point. I thought the food was quite good. My tip here is go to the most forward buffet, shorter line, less depleted selection. Everyone tended to stop at the first sign of food..made no sense. Esp avoid the outdoor buffet area...line was always long and there seemed to be flies circling. Breakfast got boring pretty fast but lunch was always different. And come on people! It's a buffet...if you don't like one thing..move on to the next! Funnily enough the most impressive item I found was the SPRING GREEN salad served up on lido during embarkation. Unbelievably fresh... after that it was mostly iceberg lettuce..not as good. definitely don't miss out on alternative dining! The Reuben was incredible and several times I picked one up and split it with Buddy while adding buffet fixings. Something tried and true with something new. Also enjoyed the sushi bar, better on some nights than others. Line up early! The nice thing about "food included": if you don't like it at first bite, put the fork down, push the plate away and get up and get something else. Some of my companions complaining about the food...well..lets just say they licked the plate clean. (I'm not saying they liked it..just that they had the opportunity to get something else!) Also, if you can't decide between two courses at dinner..don't hesitate to order both! I think buddy ordered two lobsters and a prime rib on formal night. I ordered two appetizers most nights b/c they were so hit or miss. Our servers were outstanding (Erna and ??? can't remember right now) Even asked to get me another entree when I didn't eat the duck (too salty). Please, don't miss out on harry's..the best $60 plus tip I've EVER spent. Buddy did indeed eat a 24 oz porter house from start to finish. And beware, if you order it med rare..you actually get it med rare! Note to self..order med next time. The food was FABULOUS and the company unforgettable. Adam, Ora, Ang., Keith, Tate, Shana...Love you guys! I really loved the onion soup (tho my companions didn't). It was like PURE ESSENCE OF ONION...and not too salty for a change. Heaven.Freeport: ah! Get off the ship, if only to get off. Town wasn't exciting..worth only doing once. ($10 roundtrip cab fare pp) The bar that opened earliest charged more than the ship (oh my!). We bought some souvenirs and headed to the beach behind port lucaya where it was TOO windy and I had the same three women try to sell me "island beads" on multiple occasions. We only stayed for about 20 min.
Grand Cayman: We walked to Paradise Rest. (turn right when you get off the ship) and payed $4 for a locker for about 20 min. LOVED IT. The $4 was worth the advice "the tarpon are as big as the lady but they have no teeth." Lol those things were like sharks circling. Hesitant to enter at first but had a wonderful experience and will come here again. After that it was off to Captain Marvins half day tour. Wonderful. That man won't live forever and he's quite a legend. Made three stops...really liked the reef but being with the stingrays was unforgettable. What I don't understand is how people view this as a one time experience. We will "visit" the sting rays EVERY time we go to GC in the future. Afterwards we met up at Margaritaville w/ cc companions. Overly priced but not so bad if you have the right friends ;)
Costa Maya: LOVED IT! Poor? yes. Lacking in activities? yep, most likely. But if you're looking for a good time and "good time" translates to good drinks, good people...this is the stop for you! We split a golf cart rental with another couple ($65 for the whole day). Luv ya Luke and Amy! The man renting the carts recommended a place called "crazy jungle lady's las vegas" at the very end of the road. Welp..we didn't intend to go there but managed to land there thanks to our driver (thats you Luke). This is someone's house with a very nice covered deck and right on the water. Well..we were a little scared at first (she screamed "Where the hell ya been?" when we pulled up!)and planned to have one or two drinks and then leave. BOY were we wrong! The margaritas were tall for $4 made with fresh lime and three shots of 100 yr old tequila each(i saw the bottle!). Two couples had MANY drinks, chips & salsa, and the guys got a pair of home made flamingo trunks each... all for less than $100 total. What a deal. Just so everyone knows, I have the record for most margaritas drank and walking out on my own accord = 5. Beat that! Never made it to cat's meow...although I had made that commitment months in advance (sorry guys). Did manage to stop at Tequila beach for an hour and a half before heading back. Nice place..just don't order anything unless you have an arm and a leg to barter with. LoL.Cabin: Great, huge, new, shiny, clean, well organized. Inside cabin.. the balcony was nice but we found making friends with ppl that have a balcony easier on our budget. :) Three closets, two with hanger bars. Really nice. Much bigger than our SoS, RCI cruise. But to be honest, we weren't here much. Our stewards, Snit & Sofia, were excellent. Snit even told me not to drink so much on my last night, lol.
Disembarkation: Quite smooth. We self toted but it seemed like forever before our floor was announced (trouble clearing customs apparently..set everyone off by at least 30 minutes). We waited FOREVER for an elevator..all the ones going down showed up full. My advice: Be standing in front of the elevators when they announce your floor for self disembark. Get on the elevator even if it is going up! Yes, its a short ride up but at least there is room for you and you go back down eventually. Customs was rather painless. I claimed "cuban coffee" and had it confiscated. Thought the embargo only applied to cigars and the lady in GC sure didn't attempt to correct me. Lost $8.50 right there. Lesson learned.
All in all I had a wonderful trip and feel like I didn't come close to taking advantage of all Liberty had to offer. Would book again in a heartbeat if a sweet deal came along!