When planning our cruise I really found the reviews on Cruise Critic helpful, so I would like to return the favor with a review of Carnival Liberty's western Caribbean 6/9 sailing. Remember, these are just my opinions!
We booked this cruise to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary; traveling were my parents (young 70's), my brother and his wife (early 40's), my husband and me (late 40's) and 3 boys, 19, 16 and 12. Everyone has been on cruises before except my brother and his wife. This was our first time on a Carnival cruise.
We had a car service take us to the port from our home in south Florida. We arrived at the terminal around 12:15 and were on the ship in ½ hour. No lines during any part of the embarkation process, we were constantly moving from station to station. Our Sail and Sign cards were activated in the terminal, a very smooth embarkation.
Carnival Liberty, while being rather sedate by Carnival standards, is a bit much for my taste. There is a lot to catch the eye, lighting, decorative grill- work, bright colors, neon, almost too much, causing a bit of sensory overload. The ship was maintained to a high standard, I saw constant cleaning, wiping of rails and glass, vacuuming, even shampooing of carpets. There was very little wear and tear on a 2 year- old ship. There were tissue dispensers located in all the restrooms near the door so you wouldn't have to touch the door handles after washing your hands. Some areas of the ship felt very crowded and congested; lido deck, promenade area, casino, but there were many areas to escape to when you wanted a bit of space and breathing room.
The adults had balcony cabins at the very fore of the Verandah deck. While we were a far walk from many activities, this floor was extremely quiet without any hall noise at all. The corridor dead-ended into a crew area and had very little foot traffic. We could see into the bridge from our balcony. My kids were across the hall in an inside room. When we first entered our room I thought there was no way we would fit all of our possessions into the room comfortably, but the cabins had ample storage/cabinets/closets with plenty of space under the bed for suitcases, and made maximum use of floor space. The bathroom was small but functional, with well- located shelving and plenty of very hot water. My husband used the spa style showers in the gym whenever possible. I wished the balcony was a bit deeper, but really enjoyed sitting out there and watching the ocean. We were able to get to our rooms just after 1:30. Our room stewards were excellent, calling us by name after the first day and keeping up with the mess that 3 teenage boys generate.
We were seated in the Silver Olympian, 8pm seating on the second floor. The service was excellent, both friendly and professional. The food served ran the gamut from excellent to barely palatable. The bad (steaks, some chicken dishes) were cheerfully replaced when we asked. I would recommend the salmon and other fish dishes, the soups and most desserts. My son had the chocolate melting cake every night and loved it, but to me it just tasted like under-cooked cake. Most guests followed the suggested dress code in the dining room and I saw very few if any shorts. Many people wore jeans on non-formal evenings. We ate both breakfast and lunch in the dining room and enjoyed it much more than the Lido buffet.
I only ate at Emile's buffet on embarkation day and for breakfast on a port day. The lines seemed to move very quickly and there were a large variety of foods to choose from. It was one of those congested areas on the ship that I tried to stay away from. I also questioned the hygiene of my fellow passengers there. I was behind a woman in the line and watched her pick some items out of the serving trays, with her fingers! Needless to say, that put a damper on my appetite. My boys liked the hamburgers and hotdogs at the grill, said the pizza was just ok, and enjoyed the deli sandwiches. Never tried the fish and chips.
We enjoyed the sushi on the promenade and would meet before dinner for a sushi appetizer and drink. The sushi bar is opened from 5:30-8:30 and the line gets longer as the week goes on and people discover its there. The tea service on sea days is very nicely done, with delicious finger sandwiches and petite sized desserts.
We attended a few shows, Rock down Broadway, the hypnotist and the passenger "talent" show on the last evening. The dancers/singers were entertaining, but not up to Broadway standards by any stretch. The hypnotist was funny, I still wonder why people go up on stage and do such embarrassing things, maybe they really are hypnotized?? My fellow passengers did not exhibit too much in the way of talent, but the show was funny. The theater is very nicely appointed and roomy, with only a few seats obstructed by support poles.
The lido deck nightly outdoor movie was a real treat. It is such a different perspective out there in the evening with the breeze blowing and the strings of decorative lights illuminating the night. It would be nice to see more first run movies, but it was an enjoyable family activity.
My oldest son participated in two black jack tournaments and left some of his hard earned summer job money in the casino. I played craps one night and left some money there too. My parents were the big winners in our family and took home the rest of the family's lost money! The casino was pretty smoky throughout the day and evening.
We booked a vow renewal ceremony through the purser's desk as a surprise for my parents. Carnival did a very nice job with this; including a short ceremony performed by the captain, a champagne toast with engraved flutes, flowers for my mom and dad, a commemorative certificate with photo and a wedding cake. Carnival also had a ship's photographer there who got some very nice family pictures. The captain stayed and had a drink with my family and gave my father all sorts of interesting information about the ship. We then went to Harry's Supper Club for a special dinner that evening. Harry's did a great job and was worth the $30 up charge per person. We had excellent service from an all female staff; hostess, server, wine steward, who made my parent's anniversary a special experience. There was entertainment provided by a husband/wife duo which sang/ played romantic music spanning the decades. My parents got a chance to show off their dancing.
We used the gym on sea days. It's well equipped, with weight machines, free weights, treadmills, bikes, steppers and ellipticals. There is sanitizer and towels to clean off the machines before you use them. A machine was usually available without much of a wait. Another option is the small track on deck 12 for running/walking. If you never use the elevator, and always take the stairs, you can get a good workout in for the week. I only used the spa for a nail polish change, which was grossly overpriced at $18.
On sea days we sunned on decks 11 &12. There is a great breeze up there, a bar on deck 11 on the starboard side and always chairs available. The lido pool was very crowded and hot on sea days. There were too many kids and adults in the spas and pools.
We picked the Liberty for its itinerary and really enjoyed the ports we visited. In Costa Maya part of the family toured the ruins with Ivan from Native Choice. We really enjoyed his informative tour. We hit some bad weather on the return from Chacchoben (the only rain we saw all week) and this put a damper on our plans to beach it in Mahaual, but we met the rest of the family at Tapas for lunch and enjoyed beers and authentic Mexican food, despite the rain. Three other family members went scuba diving with Blue Ocean Safari in Mahaual and said the reef was beautiful. Their 2-tank dive was ½ the price of the Carnival excursion.
In Costa Rica we did a white water rafting tour with Danilo Hall. Again, $20 per person less than the Carnival tour, more river time, and most importantly, the personal touch. We had a private van for just our family, water, drinks and fresh fruit and the knowledge of Danilo and his assistant Shanty of their country. We also took a quick tour to a wild animal sanctuary where we got to interact with monkeys who were injured and being nursed back to health for release in the wild. Back to the port in plenty of time to pick up some coffee, prices at the port were cheaper than a local grocery store. Pick the dark roast rather than the light; it has a more robust flavor.
In Panama my husband and oldest son took the Carnival golf trip to an historical course built for employees of the Panama Canal. At $170 per person, this was not an economical choice, but my husband really wanted to play golf on this trip. He told me the course was on par with a municipal course, not a private club. Additionally, on a 7-hour excursion, the golf pro/ Carnival did not provide any drinks or food, with no provision to stop for lunch. They felt the excursion was overpriced. The rest of the family toured with My Friend Mario and went to the rain forest, pirate fort and Gatun Locks. This tour was our least favorite of the private tours we did, we felt it was a bit disorganized and our tour guide gave us very little in the way of information on Panama and the places we visited. The locks were very interesting to see in action and we watched two ships pass through.
There are 4 sea days on this itinerary, which in retrospect may have been too much. Next time we cruise we will try a more port intensive itinerary. One or two days at sea would have been enough for our group.
We returned to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday and were off the ship by 9:30. They never called our color and when we called the Purser's desk to check, she told us to just disembark when we wanted. There was a bit of a line to get off and some disorganization. Luggage was easily located and customs a bit of a joke. I didn't see anyone being stopped for inspections.
I would sail Carnival and the Liberty again. I felt the trip was good value for money and a nice way to get extended family together for a vacation that allowed everyone to be together yet break off to pursue their own interests. We had a very enjoyable cruise.