This is our second cruise. We traveled with three children- 14, 15 and 7 and an extended family in a few cabins. For those of you new to the Liberty, I'll share a few 'tips' and observations. For 1st time cruisers, I'll share a short list of what I wished that I had known (or remembered) before leaving for this cruise.
Embarkment was a breeze. Fast and efficient. Quick tip- the Carnival transfer process at the airport was a bit disorganized and behind schedule. If the process is not moving as fast as you would like, take the initiative to get a cab, avoid the crowds and go directly to the port. Our cost- for 6 people and two cabs- cost far less than the $60 dollars charged one way for Carnival. And.. we were ahead of the 200+ crowd following on the transfer buses from the airport! As a result, we breezed aboard in 15 minutes or less. Disembarkment was efficient. At the very latest, you are off the ship on the return by 10:15. We made our 12 noon flight with time to spare. Cabs are waiting at the Ft. Lauderdale port and < $20.
The ports and shore excursions for the 6 day Western Caribbean: Junkanoo Beach (Freeport,Bahamas) was a total waste of money. One word of advice.. don't!. The beach was dirty, open cans, trash, waste. Food for lunch was awful. No running water in bathrooms. A 60 year old 'dj' playing music (with random commentary) that he thought the tourists wanted to hear. Loudly. We called a cab and left early. The good news... a complaint (with handy digital pictures as proof) resulted in a timely apology, a letter and a fair rebate/response from Carnival. I was pleased with the outstanding resolution/customer service. Bravo to Carnival for a quick and satisfactory response. My advice to you is just to stay on the ship and save your money for the other great islands. My advice to Carnival- 'mystery shop' all of your excursions on this island. Unfortunately, this first awful experience tends to taint the overall Carnival experience.The rest of the islands was great. Grand Cayman snorkel adventure (reef and sunken ship) was OUTSTANDING!. Friendly crew, great attention to client safety, training (for newbies like me). All members of the crew checked in with you to make sure you were ok and having a great time. The water was clear, fish was large, colorful and the views were outstanding, the equipment clean and experience great. Other family members also did the stingray tour and enjoyed it greatly. My teenagers were complete newbies for both and they took extra care to ensure their safety and comfort. Costs: You will lose about 20% on the U.S. dollar in Grand Cayman and bottled water can be very expensive at restaurants (8.95!). Most pricing is in U.S dollars but be aware of the conversion rate for local restaurants. Buy your bottled water on board the ship.
Costa Maya dolphin tour was BETTER than the tour in the Bahamas. This is a full swim, you are in the water longer and have a more 'in depth' experience (lecture, video, experienced trainers, time in water with dolphins). Watch out, though.. this is an expensive tour. Expect to pay an additional $100 dollars for a mere 8 pictures on a CD. It is worth it-but the pictures are a bit of sticker shock. Many complained-just be prepared for the cost in advance. A bit disorganized, but the staff worked overtime to compensate with helpful service. Worth the $$$'s. The tour also included time on a wonderful beach, open bar, reasonably priced lunch and free water sports. Expect a 1/2 hour ride, though, on an air-conditioned bus. This was truly a highlight of the trip.
Overall- Despite Bahamas, this was a truly fun cruise. Well worth it! Balcony room was spacious, great views. If you are traveling with a family, have the steward open the balcony to adjoining rooms. You will LOVE the Liberty- spacious, spotless, good shows. Great martini bar, lattes and chocolate covered strawberries at the coffee bar. Arcade for kids was spacious, reasonably priced and lots of fun for the day at sea. Saltwater pools, multiple hot tubs and the best feature- movies under the stars (large screen with 1st run movies). This was a hit with both kids and adults to relax under the stars after dinner. Good deck space- go up to top floor for privacy and saving chairs generally not a problem unless you wanted to be right next to the pools. Great family vacation.
Dining room food was better than last cruise (Miracle) but still uneven in consistency. Still a work in progress. The 'must do' is truly the Harry Winston Supper Club. Absolutely worth the very small upcharge per person. The meal was OUTSTANDING and was on par with the $$$$$ restaurants that I often frequent in New York and Boston. Great presentation, white glove service, 5/6 course meal, prepared to order with a great view and music. We took 3 kids (6pm reservation), dressed up and all had a wonderful time. This is a must do for well behaved families or couples looking for a special time!So- here are my 'tips': 1) Pack- then take out half of what you packed and zip the suitcase. Each floor has 5-6 washer/dryers ($2.00- bring quarters). Fast and easy. Put a kids load in and go have breakfast. 2) Do plan for the 1 or 2 'formal' nights and be super casual for everything else. Formal at Carnival is flexible- the only rule is no shorts at dinner- and the range is from very dressy resort to elegant gowns. You can be comfortable within either range. Nice sundresses/pants for regular nights. 3) Don't pack towels. Carnival does a great job of providing good quality pool/beach towels with replacements as often as needed. 4) Anticipate (or ignore) your desire to purchase lots of professional pictures. This can be an expensive cost (up to $21 per picture). It's hard when you look your best- and have cute kids- so either budget for it or limit your selections. 5) Bring a small extension cord. There are only 2 outlets per room. and 6) avoid sticker shock by checking your sign and sail account via the TV is you are on a budget. We went all out so it was not a problem but still was great to keep track so that the final tab on the last day of the cruise wasn't a surprise and 7) Have fun but do set guidelines - late at night, most children under the age of 16? probably should be in the cabin- for your children so that the cruise is a great experience for all. Be smart. Don't let the hot tub or elevators be your absentee babysitter.
One caution... For those parents who purchase drink cards for children( and who give them a bit of freedom on the boat) be aware that children must go UP TO THE BAR (with drinking customers) to get soft drinks. During the day- this is ok. At night- I would exercise extreme caution for the obvious reason. I did mention this as a potential risk to Carnival in the evaluation. There truly should be a child only zone for soft drinks to eliminate ANY potential issues.
Finally- have fun. This a great boat. Customer service has clearly been improved. Friendly service + personable crew = happy cruisers and a happy boat. You could really tell the difference. Overall, I'd give the boat a 5+ and would think about sailing with Carnival a third time.