Pete & I were invited to a very special Pre-Inaugural sailing on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas. Liberty is the second of three Freedom Class ships, which are currently the largest passenger ships at sea!! Liberty made her first revenue sailing on May 19, 2007 and we sailed on her less than a week before that! What a truly special invitation!
Pre-Inaugural sailings are usually filled with VIP's, Diamond Plus (many, many cruises with Royal Caribbean), and travel agents, etc. This year, Royal Caribbean chose to thank many of their internet "cheerleaders" with special invitations. The Royal Champions, as we are now called are made up of cruisers who love Royal Caribbean and share their experiences, suggestions and reviews on websites such as Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. I am an active member on Cruise Critic and was included in the 38 members that were invited to sail as RCCL guests! Wow!!
This was not your typical cruise by any sense of the word. The excitement of being on a brand new ship is amazing! The cruise was a 2-night "Cruise to Nowhere" out of Miami, FL. This gave us just a short time to explore this massive ship, but we did the best that we could to get it all in. Just enough to get a taste of it and create the NEED to return on a full voyage in the future.
The cruise was a gift from Royal Caribbean, so our only out of pocket expenses were airfare, hotel, and any spa treatments or casino activity. The cruise, drinks, specialty coffees, Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry's, internet, video games, parking at the port, and other amenities that are normally charged a fee were included - including my temporary tattoo of the Crown & Anchor logo! They even made sure the crew was taken care of by paying our tips for us (cabin steward, wait staff and even bar staff!) This was a great "deal" for everyone, as we got to experience the ship and they also got a "shake down" for the ship and crew. And I do believe that the bar staff was the hardest working group on this cruise. They were extremely busy and FANTASTIC!!
After flying to Miami on Mother's Day, we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn that is across from Bayside and the Port of Miami. We received a bay view, so we could see the ships coming & going. After checking in, we went across the street to Bayside for some shopping and dinner at Hard Rock Cafe. We originally planned to meet a group of Cruise Critic members for dinner. However, I suspected that we would be too tired from our early flight to make it - and I was right. Since we had not slept the night before (well, we got one hour of sleep!) and had come in on a VERY early flight, we were in bed early that evening.
We woke up to the view of our beautiful Liberty of the Seas outside of our window. Just in front of her was her very little sister, Majesty of the Seas. You can't fathom the size of this ship until you see her right next to one of the smallest in the fleet. It is a beautiful sight. We got ready and went down to meet our Cruise Critic friends in the lobby. Those that had driven had offered to drive the flyers to the port. What a nice gesture!! The kindness of some of the members of Cruise Critic never ceases to amaze me.
We checked in and then waited a short while before we were allowed to board the ship. The terminal at Miami is a very nice terminal and found the staff equally nice. Once we were allowed to board, the excitement was almost too much to handle. This ship is just gorgeous! I often caught myself standing there staring with my mouth wide open. It still had that "new car" smell.
We dumped our luggage in our stateroom. We were in cabin 2610, which is a Deck 2 Oceanview. If you are taking notes on cabins, this one has the larger porthole, as opposed to the Lifesaver sized porthole window that Nancy & Cathy had. ? The stateroom was of average size for Royal Caribbean, small but efficient. The flat screen TV was a nice touch and is a space saver. The upgraded bedding was wonderful and the bed was VERY comfortable. They have put shower doors in all cabins, so the shower curtains that attack you while showering are gone for good - at least on this class of ship! Yeah!! We only saw our cabin steward once, but again - this was not a normal cruise and we didn't spend much time in our cabin at all. The motto with our Cruise Critic group was, "Sleep is for the weak" - and we did our best to live up to it.
After checking out our stateroom we went up to the Windjammer for lunch. We love how the Windjammer is laid out so that you can go to different stations without having to wait in line like a cafeteria. The food was yummy. We didn't return to the Windjammer until the morning of debarkation. In order to give the dining room staff a proper shake down, the Windjammer was not open for dinner on either night. Off we went to explore the ship and take lots of photos!! The ship is laid out so nicely, we never felt lost. That is truly amazing on a ship this size!! It was very easy to navigate.
After exploring the ship, we met up with Cruise Critic friends and the Sky Bar. Everyone was so very nice!! It was great to put faces to names. Many of us had worn our Liberty logo shirts or buttons that Brenda was so KIND to make for us. (Did I mention the generosity of so many Cruise Critic members?) The pins & shirts made it easy to spot everyone, even before the gathering. After the Sky Bar, we went to explore a bit more and then get our life jackets for muster. Royal Caribbean holds their musters out on deck and require you to wear your life jackets for the duration. Did I mention this was in Miami? Very humid and made for a hot 45 minutes. Note to futures cruisers on ANY ship: Please go to muster when you are asked to. Please don't meander in when you feel like it. It only delays the fun for the others that did show up on time. ? After muster we went up to change for a very special sail away party followed by dinner!!
The Royal Champions were invited to a special sail away party up in the Cloud Nine/Lucky Sevens Lounge area - the highest lounge on the ship (next to Olive or Twist.) They had refreshments for us as we enjoyed the view while sailing out through Government Cut. Since it was raining at this time, we appreciated the private area. As if this wasn't enough, we were greeted & thanked by RCCL President - Adam Goldstein, Chairman & CEO - Richard Fain, and other officers. Ken Rush, one of the best cruise directors on the sea also came for a visit. What an honor to have them here for our gathering!! It really does show how much Royal Caribbean values their customers and really does listen to what we have to say. We were then gifted with a wonderful logo duffel that included the ever popular Aqua Mouse, a maiden voyage pin and my personal fav - a coffee tumbler made especially for the Royal Champions!!!
After the sail away party, Pete & I headed for dinner. Oh! First we tried to catch the parade at the Royal Promenade. Another note: be early or miss out. We did our best to see it, but it was tough. If you want to get a good view, either book a promenade room or get there early. What we saw of it looked fun. It was the Soca-Licious Parade. I believe there was a Pirate Parade on other Pre-Inaugural sailings.
We ate in the Deck 4 dining room, which is named Michelangelo. The dining room on this ship is the most stunning area of a ship that I have ever seen. It is simply magnificent and the crown to this masterpiece is an opulent chandelier, which I believe was priced at $750,000!
We had a wonderful dinner on our first evening. Our waitress was Adina (formerly of Sovereign of the Seas.) She did a wonderful job and we enjoyed chatting with her. Dinner was delicious! We had no complaints whatsoever.
After dinner we did some more exploring and visited the shops. Sadly, the duty free liquor store was not open so I missed an opportunity to pick up some Sheridan's. The rest of the stores were open. They are very good at pointing out that we were not spending money on drinks and such, so should easily be able to spring for some pretty jewelry. Works for us! Pete bought me a beautiful pink sapphire ring for our upcoming 15th anniversary. Thank you honey! I also found it is easy to purchase the Scrapbook Page Kit. The images weren't exactly my style, but I will make use of them. And any scrapbooker knows how hard it is to pass up scrapbooking supplies that were designed specifically for your ship!
The entertainment for the evening was Tito Nieves, but we did not attend. When you are on a short cruise on a ship this size, choices have to be made. We explored some more, which is our favorite thing to do. We ended up at Schooner's toward the end of Matt Yee's performance. We had heard that he was a "don't miss", and that is true! The place was packed, spilling out into other areas nearby. He was hilarious. Word of caution: If you go to a Matt Yee performance - do what he says or he will call you out and make you pay. ?
We then headed off to our cabin. We missed the fairies that change the day on the elevator floors! Darn! Had a great night's sleep and we were up at a decent hour the next morning. We wanted to make sure we got to the dining room for Eggs Benedict.
On our way to the dining room on Tuesday morning, we ran into our friend Henry! He is just as adorable as ever and we were glad to see him on the ship. Breakfast in the dining room was quick & yummy.
We did some more exploring and then attended the Common Ground seminar. We then went out to the pool area. The H20 Zone was not up & running due to wind. Apparently, those that were sitting by the pool didn't want to get wet... That was a disappointment since it was our only full sea day. But we made the best of it by getting a drink and chatting with friends, Karen & Jerry. Then off to the Flowrider!!!
I must preface this with the statement that my husband does not like the fly. We have never sailed the Caribbean because of this. However, when presented the opportunity to sail on a Pre-Inaugural of a brand new ship, he put that aside without hesitation. With that said, after playing on the Flowrider for a couple of hours, Pete declared that the Flowrider was worth the flight to Miami from California! It really is fun!
Of course, the guys wouldn't do it until they saw how I did. So, I went up and signed my life away to get my wristband that allowed me to ride. The crewmember took one look at my bikini top and suggested I find a shirt. Nancy mentions in her review that it is a fire hose - and she is quite right! I quickly stripped Pete of his shirt. Sorry about your sunburn, honey. Next time, I will bring my own shirt - I promise.
I waited in line a bit hesitantly, yet completely geared up to try this. I knew that if I didn't at least try it, I would be soooooo sorry when I got home. While I waited for my turn, it started to pour down rain! I wasn't about to leave and I was hoping they wouldn't shut it down. Glad to say - they kept it up and running thru the many rainstorms that we sailed thru that afternoon. Then my turn came. I have to tell you - it was so much fun! I felt like a little kid again! I urge anyone to try this! I was barely done when Pete was handing me the camera so he could go sign up. Again - this guy reads every thing that is put in front of him with a fine tooth comb. But he had no problem signing, initialing and speeding thru the release so he could get his turn. Just before his turn, they decided that they needed to put the divider up so they could speed the line along. After Pete's turn, he was hooked! We took another turn each with video and then put the camera away so we could just have some fun! We were out there for about 2 hours and loved every minute of it. When it rained, the lines would shorten up - which we didn't mind at all. Definitely give this a try the next time you are on a Freedom Class ship. You won't regret it. I have a few bruises, but they are minor and worth it!
After Flowrider, we put our name on the list for Johnny Rockets - went back to Wipeout for a drink and then had lunch. Johnny Rockets was fun. The food was good and the service was wonderful. It was now close to our early dinner time and we just had lunch. They had no problem with us electing to go to late dinner that night. We went to the ice show before getting ready for dinner. It was amazing!! If you sail on this ship - go to this show. It was amazing what they can do on such a small surface on a moving ship. Go early and get a good seat. Studio B is not very big and if you aren't in a prime spot, your view will be obstructed.
Dinner was wonderful. We were seated next to our Cruise Critic friends that we had kept running into all day - so they invited us to their table. It was a wonderful evening of food & conversation. Hi Karen & Jerry!!
Later that evening we went to the show, Somewhere In Time. Although we did not stay for the entire show, what we saw was good. Great costumes & sets.
Other notes about Liberty:
** Sorrentos was yummy. We ate there a couple of times. Give it a try. The pizza is much improved over what we had on Legend of the Seas.
** Ben & Jerry's - well, that speaks for itself. Yum
** The Royal Promenade is simply wonderful. It is the focal point of the ship and makes orientating yourself easy. At times, you can easily forget you are even on a ship.
** This ship handled very nicely - with very little movement. Pete feels the effects more than I do - and he was quite impressed. Granted, we didn't go out very far and never got up to full speed - but the movement was minimal.
** We tried to hit as many bars as possible. At last count, I think there were close to 25. We managed more than a fair amount of them, even if it was just to order a soda. Bolero's is the happenin' place and you must order a Mojito there. Yum! The Love Connection is still my fruity fav! The best was from the Wipeout Bar near Flowrider.
** Ken Rush was the CD - although I believe that he will be moving on quickly. He did not get a chance to show his stuff, so we look forward to having him as CD on another ship soon.
** We did tour the staterooms - see pics for specifics. I think the oddest thing we saw during the tour was the horrible view from the Presidential Suite. ??? There is an odd amount of gray space that is not used. If you are looking to get a traditional water view from any of the aft cabins, this probably won't be the best ship to attempt it. The bubble of the aft on this ship is not conducive to a nice water view.
** The Adventure Ocean and Teen Area are amazing! Each group has their own area and teens actually have two areas. Loved their own dance floors with their own bars where they could order non-alcoholic drinks & snacks. We were very impressed with the rooms and think RCCL has really put a lot of thought into these areas.
** There was no way to try it all in 2 days.... I would be hard-pressed to try it all in 7 with ports involved. Once again, the crew is the star. We have sailed on other lines. With all of the differences & similarities, it always comes back to the crew. RCCL has the best crews on the water and they truly do make a difference!
** We are very tempted to book this ship or one of her sisters, Freedom or Independence (unveiling next year) - although we are a little concerned about the crowds. This sailing was not full and since it was basically adult only (I think we saw 2-3 children of officers) - we didn't feel the full effects of a normal crowd. Would booking this class (instead of a Voyager Class) in hopes of spending a fair amount of time on Flowrider be trumped by the large amount of kids & teens? Will tendering be a nightmare? Hard to say. I was of the school that said that I wouldn't like the large ships. But we sure did enjoy Liberty! We booked a NextCruise while onboard, so just need to decide WHERE & WHAT ship! Such a problem to have, isn't it?
My review would not be complete without thanking Royal Caribbean & Cruise Critic. It was such an honor to be invited for this special sailing. We will always remember it! Many scoffed at the fact that some of us that were invited were "just Gold members" - we know how very special the invitation was and did not take it for granted. And you accomplished something that I wasn't able to - getting my husband to fly to Florida! Thank you for that too!