This is a pretty disorganized review of our Liberty pre-inaugural cruise on May 14, 2007.
The executive summary: Liberty is a destination resort all by herself. She's a beauty, too. I could easily be convinced to sail on her on a cruise with lots and lots of sea days or ports that I don't care about, but if she's sailing to places I want to see, I would spend my days in port and my nights racing around trying to take everything in. My personality, I guess - I can't leave undiscovered nooks & crannies, and there were lots of them on this ship!
Embarkation: After spending the night pre-cruise at the Hyatt Regency Miami (nice beds, but under renovation & I was awakened by hammering at 8:00 am) Carol and I took a cab to the port, arriving at about 10:30. In spite of having no real documentation other than an invitation from RCI, we were able to check in quickly. Boarding had just started as we were checking in, so we were able to go directly on to the ship.
Cabins: We were assigned OV cabin 2338, in the same neighborhood as most of the Cruise Critics. Although we were happy just to be onboard, I confess that I greatly missed having a balcony to get some fresh air at will or to escape from the crowds. On the positive side there was a drape that pulled all the way across the cabin to provide some privacy for a late or early sleeper. We never met our cabin steward. He or she didn't impress - left dirty glasses & dishes in the cabin, refolded wet towels that had been on the floor (that gave me the willies) and would pile the bed pillows up onto the sofa at night, rendering it useless (they fit nicely right behind the head of the beds).
RCI put many cabins on display, including the top suites, and we saw them all. At one point we went from the Family Oceanview near the bow to the Royal Family Suite on the stern. Halfway down the hall there should have been a sign: "If you were on Radiance, you'd be home by now"!
The cabins are all nicely decorated, with very luxurious bedding and towels and the flat screen plasma TVs. I turned mine on as I left the cabin on disembarkation day just so I could say I saw it. There was far too much to cover to spend time watching TV!
I'm normally an aft cabin fan, but the superstructure of the ship gets in the way of all of the cabins' views, at least from Decks 6-9 (didn't see any aft cabins on Deck 10). Because the side cabins have very spacious balconies, I would probably save myself the walk and book one of those instead.
Bars: There were too many bars to visit on a two-night cruise, although I did my best. My favorite hangout was the Wipe Out Bar, where we could watch the surfers on the Flowrider and have a fabulous view of the ocean. The bartenders, Roger and Armando, took good care of us. The Sky Bar, Pool Bar, Schooner Bar, Catacomb (disco, actually) were the other venues I sampled, and they all had great service.
Dining: We ate in the dining room for dinner, which was open seating. The food was good, although the service was a bit disorganized. More on that below...
I snacked at the Windjammer, which has a good layout for traffic flow and very tasty offerings, and had pizza at Sorrento's which was ok. RCI pizza just doesn't compare to Princess - we had just disembarked the Diamond, so I had a fresh recollection there!
Chops and Portofino are located on the same deck as the Windjammer. Both are gorgeous restaurants, although they were only open for certain groups for dining on this cruise. I could see spending my dinner times in there!
Cruise Critic We had a good-sized group, and arranged to meet at the Sky Bar at 3:00, which was a good thing: the invitations to "our" party hadn't been delivered to our cabins, so somebody in our group kindly fetched them from Guest Relations and brought them to our gathering. The party was held in Cloud 9, located off the Viking Crown Lounge on Deck 14.
Richard Fain, Adam Goldstein and several other RCI key personnel attended the party and spoke a few words. I didn't hear many of them because I was at the other end of the room looking for a shrimp that had leapt off my canapE, rescuing it before it was ground into the carpet. And somebody (you know who you are) was snickering loudly at me, drowning out the speeches anyway. Oh, and my ears were filled with vodka at that point.
RCI gave us a nice gift - a plastic gym bag (good for the pool or beach) containing an RCI computer mouse, Liberty commemorative pin and a Royal Champions mug. The Royal Champions are a new category of something, basically those of us who are die-hard RCI fans and who publicly promote the line. At least, that's what I think it is...
Day 1: After the CC gathering we did something, but I really should have written it down earlier because now I can't remember what it was. Anyway, we then met at Bolero's (much smaller and less to my liking than Bolero's on the Monarch as it is bisected by a large stairway) and went to late seating. We had been assigned early, but didn't make it in time, and it was open seating, so there was no problem accommodating our tardy group. Our waiter was a little stiff, but our assistant waiter was a dream. Wine kept flowing, port was offered up, and Adam Goldstein worked the room. I do believe he hit every table - the man moves quickly! The food was the usual first night offering - lamb shank, shrimp, etc. The lamb was better than we've usually encountered.
After dinner we went to the Schooner Bar to see Matt Yee. He is hilarious, and can get otherwise dignified people (who have consumed far more alcohol than they would if they had to pay for it) to do some pretty silly things.
I tried my hand at the casino, broke even and walked away for the evening (I made a whopping $16 the next night, so I'm a WINNER!). It was 70's night in the Promenade, and the Village People appeared on the walkway above. They then came down to join the crowd and, like moths to a flame, found my roommate and started dancing with her. Sadly, I wasn't close enough to get a good picture, but her smile nearly cut her face in half!
I spent the rest of the night at Catacombs, not getting to bed until after 5:00. If I do say so myself, I think I best illustrated our CC group's motto of "Sleep is for the Weak." Not sure that's a good thing!
Day 2: After awakening around 11, I spent most of the afternoon at the Wipe Out Bar watching people on the Flowrider and chatting with some fellow passengers who had been at Catacombs with us. Amazingly enough, we all felt pretty good.
We had a busy evening planned for formal night - we attended the Diamond Plus party at 5:30 (mostly horrid appetizers, but a great combo band - I missed having DH to dance with - and of course more free cocktails), went to the ice skating show at 6:30, which was phenomenal, did something before dinner, but I can't remember, then went to dinner, late seating again. The food was just so-so. My filet was overcooked just a touch and wasn't as tender as on the Monarch, but it disappeared anyway. We left before dessert (service was slooooow) in order to see Matt Yee again, then headed off to the production show, which was simply amazing. The special effects were terrific, and the singers, dancers & orchestra were excellent.
Catacombs was dark for the night so we wandered down to Studio B for the post-80's party. It was basically a high school dance format - people were dancing on the rink (covered with a floor, of course), and there were quite a few men were standing around on the perimeter looking longingly at the action. I grew bored eventually, won my big jackpot in the Casino, & went back to the cabin about 2:30 am.
Disembarkation: Because this was a cruise to nowhere, we didn't have to clear US customs on the way out. They began calling for people to leave at 8:00. My little band all had late-ish flights, so we relaxed in the Schooner Bar until the Captain came on and politely told us to get the hell out. We grabbed a cab to the airport (RCI had shuttle busses available but we didn't feel like dealing with the crowd) and were there in 20 minutes or so.
It was a wonderful, albeit brief trip. I still prefer the Radiance class of ships - I felt a little closed-in on the Royal Promenade (I just didn't feel like I was cruising), and the ship has so much to offer that I would probably never disembark in port, which IMHO defeats the purpose of cruising. But I enjoyed myself immensely (yes, you can have too much fun), and wish to thank both RCI and Cruise Critic for arranging this boffo event!